10 Movies Like Nope That You Must Watch: To say that Jordan Peele’s third film, Nope (2022), is just your run-of-the-mill sci-fi horror film would be to grossly undersell it. The film follows Otis “OJ” Haywood, Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya) and his sister, Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), as they struggle to keep their family business, Haywood Hollywood Horses, afloat before an unidentified flying object begins to abduct their horses and terrorize the surrounding valley of Agua Dulce. Both the siblings’ ranch and Jupiter’s Claim, the local theme park run by former child actor Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), play unwanted host to an unrelenting terror that only knows one thing: survival. However, rather than submit themselves to the roles of helpless victims, OJ and Em decide to treat this nightmare as a financial opportunity, going to any length they can to capture their “Oprah shot” and save their business from going under. In the process, they hire tech store clerk Angel (Brandon Perea) and eccentric cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott) to help them see their mission through.
Nope is a film heavy on the atmosphere and even heavier on the vast array of influences Peele incorporates into the narrative. Combining the best elements of the science fiction, horror, neo-Western, and satirical comedy genres, the film simultaneously remains true to the social conscience that Peele has effortlessly melded into each of his films. He’s certainly not the first filmmaker to come along in this regard, but he has undeniably become one of the most effective. In this particular case, he takes things a step further than his previous metaphors for racial and class-based conflicts by calling out the entirety of the entertainment industry for the exploitative practices that almost always play a role in getting that one perfect shot. That Peele can make an ambitious blockbuster that carries the weight of expectation as much as any franchise film would, and still make a profound statement about how consumption is just as apparent in the making of entertainment as it is in the viewing of it, is a clear indication that he is the right filmmaker at the right time. Given the all-seeing eye, Peele offers toward the industry he calls home, here are ten films to check out if you love Nope as much as we do.
1. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Serving as the forebear for most of the science fiction films that succeeded it alongside fellow classics like The War of the Worlds (1953), The Day the Earth Stood Still is also a film that has aged significantly better than most of its contemporaries due to its portrayal of humanity. A more conventionally-minded film of the day would’ve captured its Cold War metaphor by envisioning life on Earth as a peaceful oasis disrupted by an unwelcome slew of invaders meant to be confronted and terminated, but Robert Wise’s film finds the courage to cast humanity as its own greatest threat. The humanoid alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) and his robot companion Gort (Lock Martin) arrive in Washington, D.C. to find the United States already in turmoil and the rest of the world just a few steps shy of becoming a battleground. The two are neither peaceful explorers nor dangerous invaders but are simply there to deliver a message encouraging authorities to cease their international conflicts or reckon with mutually assured destruction.
The evolution of the science fiction genre has invited a greater degree of subtlety when it comes to allegories, which explains why a film like Nope thrives on the myriad of readings it offers fans of Peele’s work to dissect. By comparison, The Day the Earth Stood Still is perhaps the farthest the genre has ever been removed from subtlety, and its simplistic production design is as sure an indicator of its age as anything, but the film’s resort to introspection at key moments guarantees that it continues to hold quite a bit of staying power over 70 years after its release. That Klaatu and Gort are welcomed by some and rejected by others only underscores its message further, as the two ultimately leave the ball in humankind’s court. The posting of the planet as a wayward mass of people who have squandered their potential and are in need of salvation from a higher power is a simple insight, but one that has had major ramifications for science fiction as a whole. The Day the Earth Still is ultimately a film with a liberal agenda to counter the largely conservative output the genre had heretofore leaned on, as it invites the viewer to question their place in what is clearly not an idyllic world, and, just as Peele does in Nope, how they can make sense of the unexplainable.
2. Fire in the Sky (1993)
Taking a semi-logical next step from contact to abduction, Robert Lieberman’s Fire in the Sky, much like the memoir it’s based on, is a film that is best taken at face value on some days, but not as much so on other days. Blurring the line between science fiction and biographical drama, the film is based on the experiences of Travis Walton, an Arizona lumberjack who was allegedly abducted by aliens while on the job in 1975. Although the truth behind Walton’s claims remains heavily up for debate, that doesn’t stop Fire in the Sky from taking him at his word and playing his experiences out, as fictionalized as they may or may not be. Knocked backward by a beam of light from a UFO, Walton (D.B. Sweeney) is left for dead by his co-workers, including his brother-in-law Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick). When Rogers returns to the scene moments later to confirm Walton’s death, neither his body nor the flying saucer is anywhere to be found. The ensuing investigation finds Rogers and his friends accused of murder, but affairs are soon complicated by Walton’s sudden and unexplained return five days later.
Depending on how one views a film like Fire in the Sky, it’s either a display of attention-seeking falsehoods packaged into a palatable viewing experience or a claustrophobic thriller about trauma, paranoia and the need to be believed. These are all themes that Jordan Peele has explored to a great extent in all three of his films, and they especially comprise much of the thematic heft in Nope. It’s only fitting for the film to invite an equal amount of veracity and skepticism in its mirroring of Walton’s journey, but its surprisingly disturbing portrayal of extraterrestrials ensures that it’s satisfying either way. The pivotal set piece revolves around a flashback Walton experiences amidst a mental breakdown, and it’s here that strong use of practical effects enhances the hostility of Walton’s forced medical examination by his otherworldly captors. That a sequence like this can be entertaining for escapists is what makes it all the more horrifying in the eyes of those who believe the events of the narrative actually took place. It makes a strong case for the film’s place within the alien zeitgeist, a position that was likely boosted by the airing of The X-Files (1993-2002; 2016-2018) not six months after the film’s release.
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3. Jaws (1975)
Speaking of terrifying things that happened in 1975 — don’t worry, there’s a lot more believability to this one — if there’s any one film that feels the most narratively and tonally similar to Nope, it’s Steven Spielberg’s original summer blockbuster. Considering that Peele’s feature is, on the surface, a wickedly entertaining popcorn thriller in and of itself, it makes perfect sense that his tribute to spectacle should evoke shades of the granddaddy of them all. Take out the great white shark and sub in a UFO with an equally ravenous desire to scoop up anything in its path, and there’s not much of a difference. But that’s as much a point in favor of Nope as it is in Jaws. The two films’ structures and character beats are remarkably parallel, but never in a way that’s at the expense of Spielberg’s legacy being damaged or Peele being deemed unoriginal. From the shocking death that preludes the story to the tune of a bone-chilling musical score onward, both films play host to well-conceived characters who learn more and more about their animalistic adversary with each kill it makes, and what follows are two equally engaging stories that put the classic “man v. nature” conflict to great use.
With the Haywoods filling in for Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), Angel possessing the same kind of tech savviness as Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and Antlers embodying Quint’s (Robert Shaw) gruff exterior and scarred interior, everyone’s motivations are roughly on the same page. More than that, Peele’s Spielbergian homage is on point in his employment of the “less is more” suspense tactic, which he brilliantly subverts by taking to the cloudiness of the sky rather than drowning his audience in the watery unknowns of the ocean. Perhaps most impressive, however, is how Peele manages to repackage the hidden anti-capitalism message of Jaws into a much more blatant and sizzling takedown of those who don’t seem to care about the consequences that come with putting on a show. Much of the naїvete and ignorance that plagues Amity Island’s witless mayor, Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton), finds a new host in Steven Yeun’s Jupe and his arrogance toward the success of Jupiter’s Claim, along with his belief that the UFO plaguing the town can be reasoned with. Peele demonstrates a sophistication in his storytelling that is rarely seen in big-budget blockbusters anymore, making him all the more of an obvious choice to give summer filmgoers a much-needed shakeup while honoring the critical steps Spielberg took to pack the theaters in the first place.
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Of course, Jaws isn’t the only Spielberg classic that Peele pulls from in his vision of first contact, and we’d be remiss not to include the film that practically wrote the book on how to portray a visit from outer space with nuance and grace. Peele doesn’t exactly provide the voracious Jean Jacket with the same kind of humanity that Spielberg does to Close Encounters’ friendly outsiders, but what he does do is capitalize on the simple motif of ordinary people contending with extraordinary circumstances, which has formed the crux of many of Spielberg’s greatest films, if not all of them. Lineworker Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss in his second consecutive collaboration with Spielberg) is stuck in a loveless marriage, a chaotic household, and a routine existence that lacks all manner of meaning. But everything changes for Roy after he witnesses a UFO sighting and becomes determined to figure out what the experience is supposed to mean. He’s joined by Melinda Dillon’s Jillian Guiler, who’s out to find her son after the boy is beamed up in one of the film’s most iconic sequences, and together the two discover that what they saw is much greater than either of them realized.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is one of Spielberg’s most personal films, as he draws upon childhood experiences rife with toys, escapist entertainment, the turmoil of volatile and negligent parenting, and a restless desire to adventure away from all of it. As such, its unwavering optimism toward first contact is the mark of a filmmaker who had yet to fully mature into what he is today, and Spielberg himself has acknowledged that the film would be entirely different had he made it at a later time in his life. Nevertheless, Close Encounters is a film that captures both the wonderment and personal sacrifices of obsession in the same vein that Nope’s irreverent band of photographers leads the viewer on a perilous journey to capture that one perfect shot. From John Williams’ peerless talent for musical composition to the newfound significance provided to both Wyoming’s Devils Tower and a bowl of mashed potatoes, the film is true to Spielberg in its universality and has a little something for everyone of all ages. It’s as much a fully realized fairy tale for adults as it is a promising bit of reassurance for kids that, even if we’re not alone, there’s much that still needs to be seen to be believed.
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5. Independence Day (1996)
Here’s a selection for those looking for the complete opposite of Peele’s work. For every film like Nope that has a set of questions to ask of its audience as they attempt to decode a multilayered narrative, there’s a film like Independence Day to offer two-and-a-half hours worth of big dumb fun that requests next to nothing of the audience as they simply sit back and take everything in. One of the grandest guilty pleasures ever to grace the silver screen, it’s not hard to see why Independence Day quickly became one of the highest-grossing films in history upon its release, what with its epic ‘90s action sequences, revelatory CGI, and some of the biggest stars of the day leading the whole thing. Taking the standard “what if” approach of most alien invasion films and bloating it rather than expanding it, it’s a film whose flaws are as clear as day. The overabundance of characters who play absolutely no role in the outcome of the story, the thinly sketched nature of the story itself, the cheesy dialogue, the over-reliance on plot conveniences. The list doesn’t have much of an end in sight. So why did we pick it? Because anyone who spends their time letting these flaws hamper their experience is watching the film for the wrong reasons.
For as nonsensical as it may appear to be, Independence Day is a blockbuster with a lot of self-respect. Not only is it a film that knows exactly what it is, but it’s also one that couldn’t care less what anyone thinks of it. Making a bonafide superstar out of Will Smith and while reaffirming the irresistible screen presence of Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, and Brent Spiner, the film is a hammy bit of wishful thinking as the American government and military put personal agendas aside and work together to fight for their independence from an extraterrestrial. That being said, it knows how to have a ton of fun on its own terms. From the way it exploits the Area 51 conspiracy to its own benefit to how director Roland Emmerich allows certain genres to completely dominate each act, the shifts in tone from disaster flick to sci-fi flick to big Hollywood action spectacle may be noticeable, but they’re bombastic enough that audiences have no choice but to just let them transpire whether they want them to or not. And hey, it’s one of Emmerich’s few films that’s actually good. That’s gotta be worth something, right?
6. The Host (2006)
In a lot of ways, Jordan Peele’s work can be viewed as an American answer to Bong Joon-ho’s affinity for informing his audience about their most disastrous follies by stretching the limits of a chosen genre. Like Peele, the South Korean filmmaker has never hesitated to call long-established institutions out for the detrimental damage they have quietly inflicted on an already broken society. For as triumphant as Bong’s western breakthrough with films like Snowpiercer (2013), Okja (2017), and the four-time Oscar winner Parasite (2019) has been, The Host remains an equally strong effort in this regard, especially considering his takedown of his home country’s political indifference in the face of American intervention. What’s particularly biting about this creature feature are the effortless lengths to which Bong goes to portray the bursting of the monstrous Gwoemul out of the Han River as inevitable. After all, the opening sequence of the film sees an American military officer instructing his Korean assistant to pour gallons upon gallons of formaldehyde into the river. If that’s not gonna kill whatever life exists under the water, how is it not gonna morph it into something Western powers, for once, can’t control?
The Host zeroes in on a family man (Song Kang-ho) who sets out to rescue his daughter after she’s kidnapped by the Gwoemul and held captive in the sewers, but the film’s lens is never permanently fixated on this conflict. Rather, it examines what the existence of the river monster says about the entirety of the country and beyond. What’s perhaps so threatening about the Gwoemul is that its threat level is captured as the logical endpoint to man’s misguided desire for power, which, on a quieter day, would involve cleaning out someone’s bank account and displacing them from their livelihood. Bong suggests that any threat that silently persists is as costly as a giant that disrupts the peace and eats a few people for good measure. If that doesn’t scream Jordan Peele, then little else does. Like Peele’s rendezvous with immortality hopefuls, pissed-off doppelgangers, and now a relentless UFO, The Host takes its outlandish premise seriously and makes it feel entirely real, complete with all the chaos and paranoia befitting a medical thriller. In both filmmakers’ minds, the danger is only as real as we’re willing to make it, but at the same time, the hardest part about confronting this danger is recognizing that it is one.
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7. Attack the Block (2011)
It’s quite a disservice to what Attack the Block accomplishes in just under an hour-and-a-half that more people haven’t thought to seek it out for themselves; if they did, they’d understand it for what it is: a thoroughly effective sci-fi horror comedy that astutely foreshadows the creative developments undergone by all three genres during the 2010s. Opening on young nurse Samantha (Jodie Whittaker) as she is mugged by a group of juvenile delinquents in a public housing block in South London, the encounter is swiftly interrupted when a hoard of ravenous aliens land on the planet during a meteor shower and begin to invade the city. Much like the Haywoods in Nope, the group’s leader, Moses (John Boyega in his film debut), rather than taking shelter from the attack, turns the situation into an opportunity, killing the creature and keeping its body for proof, which he believes will bring him fame and fortune. Of course, the remaining aliens don’t take too kindly to this at all, and soon Moses and the rest of his friends are off on misadventure after misadventure over the course of one fateful night as they band together to protect the city from extraterrestrial terrors.
Attack the Block immediately stands out both in its casting of several actors of color in critical roles and in its characterization of lower-class teenagers as unlikely heroes. It’s that social component of the film that gives it a foundation from which to build an enticing game of survival with stakes that feel real even if giant gorilla-like aliens are involved. True to the spirit of most alien invasion films, writer-director Joe Cornish goes to deliberate lengths to draw parallels between Moses’s gang and the green-teethed beasts that have been set loose on their community. Over the course of the film, the viewer’s first impression of Moses is complicated by the leadership role he takes in confronting the aliens. Introduced as a nameless, faceless ruffian, he meets his match in the creatures that threaten the sanctity of what little a remorseless, quick-to-judge society has offered him. It’s by no means a coincidence that Cornish upends what would otherwise be a standard sequence of events in a life of crime (a person of color facing arrest for a misdemeanor whose severity is up for debate) with something as unexpected as an alien invasion. Cornish guilefully misdirects the viewer by underscoring the all-too-real truth that there’s more to the story. Just as Peele would eventually do himself with his filmography, Attack the Block puts the narrative back in the hands of the oppressed.
8. Get Out (2017)
Before anyone understood how much of a master Jordan Peele was at using pitch-black comedy and genre features to construct a shockingly real window into how damaged American culture still remains, he had to prove just as much first. But Get Out did so much more than that: it practically turned Hollywood on its head and earned Peele a Best Original Screenplay Oscar in the process. What began as a strange anomaly that arrived seemingly out of nowhere has since evolved into a standard for what horror filmmaking and social satire can and should accomplish in today’s political and cultural climate. The film centers around Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya in his breakout performance), an African American man who travels with his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Alison Williams), to meet her parents at their private estate. At first, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy’s (Catherine Keener) overly welcoming nature, complete with gestures like “I would’ve voted for Obama for a third time if I could,” read as attempts to get over the shock of their daughter dating a black man. It’s not too long before the viewer is awakened to some hard truths about themselves just as Chris is awakened to the sinister trap he’s been led into.
It’s evident that a considerably larger budget allows Nope to be seen as a more ambitious film than Get Out, but whereas the former is able to subtly maintain its racial and social commentaries hidden beneath an expansive premise, the latter, with its modest budget and simpler production, places its subtext at the forefront with nowhere for anyone to ride and hide from it. For as long as racism has been a subject on film, the issue has largely been manipulated in a way that de-emphasizes it for the sake of exposing uninformed white audiences to its prevalence, thereby allowing them to assume they don’t have as much to feel sorry about as they think they do. This is precisely what makes the treatment of liberal racism in Get Out all the more earned. Whereas traditional horror audiences are encouraged to root for presumably innocent characters as they are placed in a dangerous environment, Get Out reverses this scenario in order to capture how liberals’ hyperbolic embrace of black people and their assumed knowledge of black struggles quietly contribute to the reinforcement of white supremacy. It’s a notion that has plagued humanity for centuries, but the brilliance of the film, along with Peele’s other two films, is how he is able to present his ideas as truths, and in a way that convinces the viewer they never saw it coming.
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Of the four adaptations of Jack Finney’s “The Body Snatchers,” Philip Kaufman and screenwriter W.D. Richter’s San Francisco-set interpretation for the 1970s is arguably the most effective in its marriage between science fiction and horror, as well as in its presentation of the social commentary it strives for. Exploring a quietly resilient evil capitalizing upon the innocent’s trauma and fear of the unknown until it can’t be stopped in the same vein as Nope and Get Out, it’s also a remake that truly harnesses the best of both worlds. It finds just the right balance as it meshes an intriguing sci-fi premise with the claustrophobic atmosphere and unsettling camera movements befitting a horror film to tap into the paranoia that lingered in post-Vietnam America. Invasion of the Body Snatchers centers on an altogether different and far more disturbing type of alien invasion, in which extraterrestrial beings disguise themselves as pods with pink flowers that trap humans like prey before spitting out a perfect duplicate devoid of heart and soul. The film thrives on the gradual suspense that Kaufman slowly builds up through his focused direction, creating a world in which the battle has already been lost and the only thing the characters can do is run for their lives as the city begins to erupt in silent terror.
This tension is made all the more palpable by the genuinely shocking moments of physical horror interspersed throughout, courtesy of the unsettling special effects and sound design, both of which hold up tremendously well today, as well as the talents of the committed ensemble. Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams compliment each other well as a pair of health department agents powerless to stop the invaders from attacking from right under their noses, while Veronica Cartwright and Jeff Goldblum bring a strange levity to the film as the oddball Bellicecs, showcasing the same kind of scatterbrained intelligence they would eventually bring to Alien (1979) and Jurassic Park (1993), respectively. Their will to survive is admirable, but it’s nothing compared to the nihilistic apathy that coats Invasion of the Body Snatchers right up until that terrifying final shot. Since the Haywoods are obsessed with getting the perfect shot, they just might find what they’re looking for if they, or anyone else for that matter, have the stomach to get through this unnerving tale of annexation unscathed.
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10. The Thing (1982)
It’s not at all surprising to see Jordan Peele decline any declarations that he’s the greatest horror maestro of our time on the grounds that John Carpenter would be dethroned. With a film like The Thing, it’s clear to see how Peele’s sensibilities align him as one of Carpenter’s many disciples. Quite possibly Carpenter’s greatest work to date — my sincerest apologies to the Halloween fans — The Thing deftly creates a greater feeling of paranoia and fear, and a stinging sense of isolation, with each passing minute until things literally and figuratively explode. With a group of researchers in the Antarctic playing host to an extraterrestrial creature that can assume each of their physical appearances, The Thing honors the roots of its source material and previous adaptations, but Carpenter’s take transcends everything that came before. Fusing the inherent mistrust among the characters with some legitimately frightening practical effects and ingeniously well-timed uses of a flamethrower, Carpenter’s direction is a masterclass in tension construction and character refinement on a Hitchcockian level that always drives home the idea that the ensemble is truly trapped. Of course, when the set is as intricately designed and the actors — nothing beats an A-game Kurt Russell and a young Keith David, the latter of whom would have a small but important role in Nope — are as committed as they are here, it’s fair to say he’s in good company with this achievement in mind.
In crafting an antagonist that is, by no means, limited to a single design, the work of effects artist Rob Bottin, who amazingly was only 22 at the time, is practically a dissertation on what practical effects can accomplish when granted the freedom to exercise their maximum potential. However, the moments in between, when the Thing’s identity isn’t as obvious, are just as riveting, with Dean Cundey’s cinematography demonstrating that what we don’t see is more terrifying than what we do, and Ennio Morricone’s unnerving, pulsating, synthesizer-based score hanging heavier in the air, beating to the tune of our own hearts as the atmosphere reaches its boiling point. A work of horror that you don’t really escape from even if you survive it, The Thing is also one of the genre’s most dysphoric and nihilistic. There’s no resolution, there’s no absolution, and there’s no hope. But with all of these things, it is, more than anything, breathtaking.