Chani (Zendaya) and Paul (Timothee Chalamet) gaze upon his legion of supporters as their eyes glow blue in one of Paul's visions from the first 'Dune' movie

If the Long Wait for ‘Dune: Part Two’ Is Getting To You, Here Are 15 ‘Dune’-Like Movies To Get You Through

Paul Atreides hurry up, please.

The release date for director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, the second part of the cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s genre-defining novel of the same name, is coming closer and closer—you know November will be here before anyone really realises it. 

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Still, as someone who’s been vibrating at a frequency that could shatter glass to see how the story of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides ends ever since she stepped out of the theater after Dune in 2021, it’s never too soon for me. As if I haven’t read the book twice. I know how it ends. It’s that gosh-darn cinematography. And Zendaya. And the promise of Florence Pugh as Princess Irulan, too.

So if you happen to be in the same situation and need some Dune-like movie recommendations to help you get through these final months before Dune: Part Two, you’ve come to the right place. Here are fifteen titles—divided into thematic categories—for you to choose from.

First and foremost, some sci-fi

Star Wars (1977–ongoing)

Of course, the entirety of the Star Wars saga and narrative universe had to be the very first title on this list. By now, it’s well-known that Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune, which kicked off the series of the same name, had a heavy influence on George Lucas as he was creating Star Wars

You can definitely see traces of that inspiration, especially in the Original Trilogy—even though of course many elements were carried on to the Prequel and Sequel Trilogy as well as other related media. Like the fact that there’s always a desert planet in the backstory of our heroes, Tatooine for both Anakin and Luke Skywalker and Jakku for Rey, or the entire concept of the Force and the way in which Jedi and Sith are able to use it, which owe much to the powers Frank Herbert described the Bene Gesserit to have. 

It could also be argued that Dune and Star Wars also both fall within the same genre, which is not “proper” sci-fi as much as space opera—with elements that would usually be found in fantasy stories transported in a more typical sci-fi fantasy. So if you’re looking for something that can give you that same Dune feeling, then it might be time for a Star Wars rewatch.

Arrival (2016)

There are two reasons you might get some Dune-like vibes from Arrival. The first one is that, of course, Arrival falls within the broader sci-fi genre with a heavy lean towards drama as it explores the story of a linguist, played by Amy Adams, who is tasked with figuring out a way to communicate with extraterrestrials creatures that have arrived on Earth in order to prevent an armed conflict. The second is that the man behind the camera on Arrival is the same as the one on Dune—they are both directed by Denis Villeneuve, who clearly has a thing for sci-fi as some other entries on this list will testify.

Interstellar (2014)

Like so many of Christopher Nolan’s works, Interstellar has been very polarising with people loving it or hating it ever since its release in 2014. What’s certain is that it’s yet another textbook sci-fi movie, on which actual physicists consulted to make the science part as realistic and as accurate as possible. Of course, it also features the signature Nolan Obsession With Time™ which makes you ask yourself whether you’ve really understood the characters’ timelines. We are talking about wormholes, though, so a bit of time twisting is to be expected. 

The story follows a former NASA pilot, played by Matthew McConaughey, who embarks on a mission traveling through a mysterious wormhole that has appeared near Saturn—the group of astronauts he’s a part of hopes to discover a planet that could sustain human life since the Earth has reached the end of its natural resources. Interstellar also features Dune protagonist Timothée Chalamet in his second-ever feature-length movie appearance, playing the young version of the protagonist’s son.

Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 (1982 and 2017)

One might argue that Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling as a replicant “blade runner” who hunts rogue replicants, is the more Dune-like of the two—it was the last movie Denis Villeneuve directed before embarking on the Dune project, after all, and the incredible cinematography that depicts this future version of Earth is very much reminiscent of how Arrakis was brought to life.

Still, you can’t jump straight into Blade Runner 2049 without mentioning Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford—an absolute pillar of sci-fi that has had a wide impact on the genre and has shaped many of its sub-genres, like cyberpunk. Rewatching both will definitely fill some of that “greatest example of sci-fi put to screen” need as we all wait for Dune: Part 2.

Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water (2009 and 2022)

If you want a sci-fi story that brings you to a completely new world filled with beauty and danger and unique creatures you can create an emotional bond to so that you can ride them, then a stop at James Cameron’s Avatar franchise is a given. 

The first Avatar movie, which came out in 2009, told the story of Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully as he arrives on the world of Pandora, light-years away from Earth, and his encounter with its indigenous population, the Na’vi. The sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, came out in 2022 and explores a new side of Pandora, introducing Jake and his family to the water clans—because this is James Cameron, so some water content is to be expected.

There are several similarities one could trace between Avatar and Dune, even though the tone of both franchises remains vastly different—the fact that humans exploit the resources of the planet they find themselves on (even though Pandora is technically a moon) disregarding the lives of said planet’s indigenous population, for starters, and the undeniable reality of Jake Sully and Paul Atreides being both examples of the white savior narrative.  

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Sure, the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending wasn’t exactly a critical success—but if you’re looking for some relatively light-hearted sci-fi entertainment, then it’s definitely the movie for you. Plus, the visual effects and lavish costumes are nothing to scoff at. The story follows Mila Kunis’ Jupiter Jones, a housekeeper on Earth who discovers she’s actually galactic royalty and the owner of the entire planet, caught in the middle of a power struggle to obtain the resources to create a youth serum for the galaxy’s elite. 

Treasure Planet (2002)

Treasure Planet might not be one of the best-known Disney animated movies, but this little jewel, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements, has always been one of my personal favourites. And while you might think it doesn’t have much to share with Dune, I have to tell you to think again—besides the obvious fact of both titles falling within the wider sci-fi genre, they also feature a hero that could be considered a “Chosen One.” Of course, Paul Atreides is a Chosen One in a very different way than Jim Hawkins, but the trope remains the same.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Of course, no list of sci-fi recommendations could be considered complete without mentioning Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another pillar of the genre, as well as a pioneering project when it comes to special effects, the movie follows the journey of a group of astronauts to Jupiter where they should investigate an alien monolith—their ship is equipped with the sentient supercomputer HAL 9000, who plays a major role throughout the story, especially when it begins to malfunction and crew members decide to shut it down.

The movie uses dialogue sparingly and relies on imagery and soundtrack to get some of its complex themes across—something that Dune does as well, to an extent, especially when it comes to Paul’s visions. And this leads us right to the next segment of this list.

Want some mind-numbing visions?

The Matrix (1999-2021)

Visions and pre-ordained destiny—as well as breaking free from said destiny—are both major parts of Paul Atreides’ story, what with him being the Kwisatz Haderach born after generations of Bene Gesserit scheming. So of course The Matrix saga—consisting of four films, the first three of which were directed by both the Wachowskis, while the fourth one was helmed by just Lana Wachowski—deserves a spot on this list. One of the classics of the cyberpunk subgenre, the film is set in a distant future in which Earth is dominated by machines who have subjugated humans and control their minds by making them live in a simulated reality called the Matrix.

The premise of The Matrix is also somewhat similar to that of Dune, even though of course the outcomes are much different—while in The Matrix it is the machines who have won their conflict against humans, in the universe of Dune it was the humans who triumphed against the machines several centuries before the birth of Paul Atreides in what is known as the Butlerian Jihad.  

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Another sci-fi work helmed by the Wachowskis, Cloud Atlas follows multiple characters and storylines as they occur at various moments in time, with every member of the cast playing more than one role. Cloud Atlas was a pretty polarising movie pretty much since its release, but it does have that same grand scope of different eras and different timelines being connected to one another that Dune also has—and will have as Paul steps more and more into his role as Kwisatz Haderach.

Finally, some miscellaneous recs

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

In Dune, the desert of Arrakis could very well be considered a character alongside Paul, Chani, Lady Jessica, and the others. It’s so important—with its treasure of melange and its secrets about sandworms—that it ultimately gives the title to the entire saga since in-universe “Dune” is the nickname by which Arrakis is most known. There are other movies where the setting—and a desert specifically—is such a fundamental part of the story that they end up playing their own role, and one of them is the fourth instalment of the Mad Max franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road. Starring Tom Hardy as the titular Max and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, who begrudgingly join forces to escape a warlord through a post-apocalyptic desert after Furiosa has saved the warlord’s five sex slaves. 

Furiosa is in search of the “Green Place,” a plot point that is reminiscent of several Dune characters’ hope for Arrakis to become a green and lush planet like many others in the galaxy.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

One of the first animated movies out of Studio Ghibli, Nausicaä takes place in a post-nuclear future in which the titular character, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, becomes a key figure in a conflict with a nearby kingdom that’s trying to destroy the Toxic Jungle—a poisonous forest filled with giants insects created in the apocalyptic disaster that shaped the world Nausicaä lives in. It might not be set in a desert, but there are several similarities between this Hayao Miyazaki-directed movie and Dune—the main one being that the protagonist shares a connection with the creatures of the Jungle that other people don’t understand and try to destroy. Sounds very much like what is going on with the Fremen and the sandworms on Arrakis, if you ask me.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

I know this might raise some eyebrows, but stay with me here. Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Norman Jewison, is the screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera of the same name—which debuted on Broadway in 1971. As the title suggests, it’s based on the Gospels and follows the last days of the life of Jesus Christ, from his arrival to Jerusalem to his crucifixion.

The entire movie reflects on the role of Jesus as the Messiah, with Judas serving as a counterargument to Jesus’ message, worrying about the consequences of their movement. This theme opens and closes the story, with “Heaven On Their Mind” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and it’s very much something that finds its way in Dune as well—with Paul wondering about the effects his crusade will have on the universe and grappling with the idea of being a messianic leader for Arrakis and the entire galaxy.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)


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Author
Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.