10 Non-Wes Anderson movies that are similar to “Asteroid City”

Movies Similar to Like Asteroid City

Wes Anderson is one of the greatest living directors, and every time his new movie is announced, the fans rejoice to witness his unique visual style. It is well known that Wes Anderson has a penchant for constructing meticulous symmetrical shots with clever comedic writing that has established a niche among the audience. Even the giant actors in Hollywood have, time and again, gladly turned up to feature in blink-and-miss cameos for his films.

There is usually a lot going on in a Wes Anderson film, and “Asteroid City” is no different. Each frame is meticulously curated, and the ensemble of talented actors perfectly executes the structured chaos that Wes is famous for. Set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955, the itinerary of a junior Stargazer/Space cadet convention is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events. Wes Anderson has a unique and individualistic style that no other director in the world can mirror. But here is a list of 10 movies similar to the themes and style of Asteroid City that you need to watch.

1. Nope (2022)

Movies Similar to Asteroid City - Nope

“Asteroid City” can be easily termed as the Wes Anderson-inification of “Nope”. The movie is about residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny, chilling discovery. Just like the movie “Asteroid City,” Jordan Peele’s “Nope” utilized aliens as a way to comment on society’s obsession with spectacle and virality.

The flying saucer itself is the alien here. The shots of the alien gliding along the ground towards OJ are impressive and tense. “Nope” makes lots of references to Spielberg movies like “Close Encounters” and “Jaws,” something that Wes does a lot in his movies as well. With aspects of Asteroid City centered around a theatre play written by one of the main characters and Scarlett Johanssen’s Midge Campbell being described as a famous actor, one can assume the movie could delve into similar themes and topics as the sci-fi action flick “Nope.” Similar to “Asteroid City,” the movie shows how adults suffer abuse and deal with loneliness while trying to keep things running.

2. Mars Attacks! (1996)

Movies Similar to Asteroid City - Mars Attack

“Mars Attacks!” is absolutely one of the greatest alien invasion movies from the 1990s, with a great ensemble cast and features director Tim Burton’s undiluted love for flying saucers. If “Mars Attacks!” is Tim Burton’s homage to all the cheesy, weird, and wonderful B-grade sci-fi films of the 60s, “Asteroid City” is Wes Anderson’s homage to Tim Burton’s films.

In “Asteroid City,” Anderson uses “Indian Love Call” as a song cue after the interrogation sequence, while primary teacher June Douglas (Maya Hawke) is attempting to reassure her inquisitive young class after the alien encounter. “America remains at peace!” she insists, offering an interesting echo of the “Mars Attacks!” aliens, whose human language was limited to “We come in peace!” Though “Asteroid City” does move into a slightly more militaristic-slash-touristy frenzy around the alien’s fleeting visit, it never goes anywhere near the chaos of “Mars Attacks!”.

3. Matinee (1993)

If you are looking for movies like “Asteroid City” that have a similar sense of atomic age anxiety mixed with a moving, metaphorical theme, Joe Dante’s “Matinee” fits the bill. In the movie, a showman introduces a small coastal town to a unique movie experience and capitalizes on the Cuban missile crisis hysteria. It’s a kitschy horror extravaganza combining film effects, stage props, and actors in rubber suits.

It is a perfect companion film to “Asteroid City” since it has so many things in common with it- jokes, homages, stock shots, and recreations done to uplift your mood. Joe Dante is one of the rare artists whose satire ultimately chooses optimism over cynicism.

4. Arizona Dream (1993)

Emir Kusturica’s “Arizona Dream” is an uproarious and whimsical film. Set in the 1950s desert town somewhere between California and Arizona, “Asteroid City” takes place in the post-WWII Atomic Era when science fiction and the pursuit of knowledge and technology captured the public imagination; some would say it served in a vacuum of crumbling dogmas.

If the hippie look of the film seduces you, you need to watch “Arizona Dreams,” which presents the mysterious Arizona desert as the setting for a kooky story about dreams, reincarnation, and the purity of existence. Johnny Depp is brilliant as Axel, a soul-searching aeronautics adventurer at the center of a love triangle. Director Emir Kusturica suffered nervous breakdowns while filming the movie since it delves with dense metaphysical and existential angst, similar to “Asteroid City.”

5. Bagdad Cafe (1987)

Movies like Asteroid City - Bagdad Cafe

It might be an unpopular opinion, but “Bagdad Cafe” primed me for the “Asteroid City” experience. The comedy-drama revolves around a German tourist, Jasmine, who finds herself stranded in the Mojave Desert and slowly begging to connect with a makeshift community centered around a local cafe.

The director uses this story of culture clash and ultimately bonding with a stranger to give an outsider’s view of the US. It takes an elliptical and often cryptic approach to the narrative and makes it a quirky tale about an oddball community. Just like in the movie “Asteroid City,” doing nothing is a central theme of “Bagdad Cafe.” We see characters in a motel cafe in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do except live on.

6. White Noise (2022)

Wes Anderson’s former collaborator Noah Baumbach takes on the Herculean task of adapting the dense Don DeLillo novel of the same name. It is an absurdist satire of our collective existential dread. A lot is going on in the movie.

The CGI explosions, a Spielbergian kind of holy terror, and jump-scare dream sequences all have a persistent sense of Deja vu, which is oddly similar to “Asteroid City” as we see imprints of Wes Anderson’s earlier movies in it. The movie revolves around a near-dystopian incident of exposure to an Airborne toxic event, forcing the protagonists to confront their fear of mortality. 

7. Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (2022)


The newest Linklater animated movie is a rotoscoped tour with Wes Anderson-induced nostalgia and whimsical visual style. In the movie, a man narrates stories of his life as a 10-year-old boy in 1969 Houston, weaving a fantastical account of his journey to the moon.

The movie is less compelled by the mission to the moon and more with remembering the sweet, effervescent string of Kodachrome memories from the childhood of someone whose growing-up years were spent under the shadow of a space mission. Like in “Asteroid City,” where a bunch of super smart kids’ journey to science conclave is put to shadow by an alien invasion, here we see a suburban kid’s quest to over-achieving in his fantasies.

8. Aranyer Din Ratri (1970)

Four friends from Calcutta with distinct personalities make a holiday excursion into the forest, where a series of minor incidents connect their respective reactions to their new environment, revealing deeply about each of their psyches. In the second act of Anderson’s desert-bound adventure, the eponymous city is abuzz from an extraterrestrial encounter, with the U.S. president deploying “Scrimmage Plan X” and enforcing a full quarantine on the town while investigations and interrogations are underway.

But beyond that, “Asteroid City” features a direct reference to the Satyajit Ray classic. Paying homage to Satyajit Ray’s sweeping “Aranyer Din Ratri,” the brainiacs of Anderson’s film play a memory game, trying to recall the names of esoteric famous people in a certain order. Both the iconic memory game and people spending their vacation at a deserted location far from the hustle and bustle of civilization make it evident that Ray remains a huge inspiration for Anderson.

9. Rear Window (1954)

“Rear Window” can be a perfect double feature to be paired with “Asteroid City” as cast member Jason Schwartzman revealed that Wes Anderson had a video library of movies to rent that were used as reference or touchstones in “Asteroid City” during the filming and the Hitchcock’s classic was prominently present there.

The scenes of Augie and Midge conversing at the window and Angie taking pictures of Midge from the window are reminiscent of “Rear Window,” where a professional photographer, Jeff, breaks his leg and while confined next to his apartment window, he observes his neighbors. In a series of staged tableaux, Johansson’s Midge flags how she is styled after Grace Kelly in “Rear Window.” The image of the window is a recurring one in “Asteroid City”

10. The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013)

“The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet” is a movie that has a similar plot to “Asteroid City.” A ten-year-old scientist secretly leaves his family’s ranch in Montana, where he lives with his cowboy father and scientist mother, escapes home, and travels across the country aboard a freight train to receive an award at the Smithsonian Institute.

Similar to “Asteroid City,” where a bunch of kids travel to a desert town to attend a Junior Space Cadet convention. “Amelie” director Jean Pierre Jeunet’s whimsical sensibilities and magic realism helped create an immersive movie about the adventure of a genius kid. Both auteurs, Jeunet and Anderson, transport their brand of whimsical visual storytelling to the fast-moving countryside of America, where the rural milieu works harmoniously with their postmodern embodiment of auteurist tricks.

Rohit Saha

Identifies as a reluctant writer. Loves oxford commas. Perpetually forgetful about adding them. Hates any assignment that requires him to add sub-headings. Detests tags but calls himself a raconteur. Winner of the Chidananda Dasgupta Memorial Award for Best Film Criticism 2021 by FIPRESCI INDIA.