Best Parallel Universe Movies: From ‘Sliding Doors’ to ‘Spider-Verse’

Stories about parallel universes may be science-fiction no longer. NASA actually found evidence of a parallel universe. It has something to do with particles that come from a universe created simultaneously at the Big Bang, but moving through time in reverse. Forbes puts it in less salacious context.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
L-R: Peni Parker, Gwen Stacy, Spider-Ham, Miles Morales, Peter Parker and Spider-Man Noir | Sony Pictures

Parallel universes have been a trope of science-fiction movies, and some other genres. They may just be regular old fiction if NASA’s discovery bears out. Here are some of the best movies about parallel universes you can enjoy while they’re still fiction!

The One – Parallel universe Jet Lis

Jet Li plays a villain who travels to all the parallel universes to kill his parallel selves. Each one he eliminates makes him a little more powerful, sort of like Highlander but he has to travel to other universes to do it. The last Jet Li, though, isn’t going down without a fight. It ends with Jet Li fighting himself! 

Parallel Universes in The One
Jet Li and Jet Li | Columbia Pictures/Getty Images

Cool World – An animated parallel universe

Cool World should have been a grown-up Who Framed Roger Rabbit? There’s a parallel universe that is full of animated characters called doodles. Artist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne) turned it into a best selling comic book series, and then his heroine Holli Would (Kim Basinger) lures him in. She’s just using him to get into our world though.

This movie is a mess of both story and tone, because it’s hamstrung from going as dark as it wants to. There is a kernel of a fascinating idea there though. Jessica Rabbit was seductive. What if it wasn’t a Disney movie? Brad Pitt plays a human cop policing the Cool World.

Stargate – A parallel universe influences our history

Scientists discover a portal in Egypt and Col. Jack O’Neill (Kurt Russell) leads an expedition with Dr. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) through it. They end up in a whole world of Egypt that presumably influenced our Egyptian history. Unfortunately, the evil ruler Ra (Jaye Davidson) still lords over the other end of the stargate.

Coraline – Manufacturing two universes

Neil Gaiman’s book came to life through stop motion animation from Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick. Coraline (voice of Dakota Fanning) discovers a world parallel to her own, only everyone their has their eyes sewn shut. Yet, she gives serious consideration that this version of her parents are better. 

Another Earth – The Sundance version of parallel universes

Another Earth was a microbudget film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It really couldn’t show elaborate parallel universes, so it focused on the human drama caused by the discovery of one. A planet Earth appears visible in the sky and people wonder what the other version of themselves are doing. Maybe they can make a big budget sequel, Another Another Earth, where they can actually visit the second one.

Another Earth: Brit Marling
Brit Marling | Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images

Sliding Doors – Parallel choices

This Gwyneth Paltrow classic isn’t really science fiction, except it explores two possible outcomes. If she catches the train, she catches her boyfriend cheating on her. If she misses it, she stays in the relationship unaware he’s been unfaithful. The audience may think they know which one has it better off, but the parallel universes of Sliding Doors surprise you.

Parallel Universes in Sliding Doors
Gwyneth Paltrow | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Doctor Strange – Marvel’s take on parallel universes 

This Marvel superhero’s power allows him to visit parallel universes. Those universes can provide a quick escape, or an epic fight scene traversing the realms. That power also allowed him to see the only universe in which The Avengers could defeat Thanos and bring back half the universe. We can’t wait to see what he discovers in The Multiverse of Madness.

Coherence – Parallel universes just like ours

This is another microbudget indie film like Another Earth, but this one gets deep into the thick of the parallel universes. A passing comet causes quantum decoherence that splits the universe apart. As a dinner party comes to grips with it, they start to suspect some of them are from other universes. This one is a real mind bender. 

Monsters, Inc. – Parallel universes for kids

The Pixar classic technically has parallel universes too. The world of the monsters exists behind all the bedroom doors of our universe’s children. Pixar’s early movies were all about the secret worlds that exist within ours, be they toys, bugs, monsters or fish. 

Mr. Nobody – Exponential parallel universes

This movie posits the theory that any time you had a choice to make, you’ve actually made both of them. So there exists a universe in which you made each choice, like an exponential Sliding Doors. It’s metaphysical and profound. When the film spans childhood to old age in the future, you can start to imagine how many simultaneous universes it contains. 


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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – It’s in the title

The animated Spider-Man movie is just a joy. When Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) opens the multi-verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) meets all the other Spider-men and women. Characters like Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) are a treat, but there is actually a real message about seeing the possibilities of your own life should you make different choices, for better or worse.