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Sam Neill is having a very bad time in In the Mouth of Madness, with crosses sharpied on his face. Image: New Line Cinema

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The best movies and TV like the Alan Wake games

There’s an ocean of choices

Toussaint Egan is a curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

The long-awaited sequel to Remedy Entertainment’s action-horror cult classic Alan Wake has finally escaped the Dark Place of development hell, and it is glorious.

Picking up 13 in-game years after the original, Alan Wake 2 follows both the cult horror writer and a new protagonist in the form of FBI profiler Saga Anderson as they battle the machinations of a deranged murder cult and the possessed minions of Alan’s evil doppelganger, Mr. Scratch. Apart from brushing up on the events of the first game and all that’s transpired since, the release of Alan Wake 2 offers a wonderful opportunity to dive back into the movies and TV shows that inspired the story and characters of the series.

Like Hideo Kojima, Remedy Entertainment creative director Sam Lake is an avid and omnivorous lover of books, films, and television, seldom neglecting an opportunity to pay homage to the influences behind his work and talk at length about how they’ve informed his creative process. With that in mind, we’ve assembled a list of some of the best movies and TV that have either inspired the Alan Wake games or resemble them so strongly that fans would be remiss not to check them out or revisit them.

Let’s dive in!


Mads Mikkelsen as the Stag Man in Hannibal. Image: NBC

Year: 2013-2015
Showrunner/creator: Bryan Fuller
Cast: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas
Where to watch: Hulu

Saga Anderson, the deuteragonist of Alan Wake 2, is a talented criminal profiler much like Hannibal’s Will Graham, routinely diving into the minds of suspects to unearth clues and connections that can aid her in the investigation of the brutal ritualistic killings surrounding the fictional town of Bright Falls, Washington.

In the Mouth of Madness

Sam Neill as John Trent stepping through a hole that resembles a rift in a page of text in In The Mouth of Madness. Image: Scream Factory

Year: 1994
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Sam Neill, Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow
Where to watch: Criterion Channel, Tubi

Although not explicitly cited as an influence, Alan Wake 2 and this movie share a surprising amount in common when viewed side by side. Both Remedy Entertainment’s latest game and In the Mouth of Madness center on investigations into the disappearance of famous writers whose works have taken on a life of their own, blurring the line between fiction and reality as their respective protagonists march on in a search for answers that may or may not destroy them in the process. They also both delight in surprising their audiences with fourth-wall-breaking scenes heavily inspired by the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft.


(L-R) Matthew Fox, Terry O’Quinn, Evangeline Lilly, and Jorge Garcia standing in front of a concrete hatch surrounded by a tropical forest in Lost. Image: NBC

Year: 2004-2010
Showrunners/creators: Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Naveen Andrews, Emilie de Ravin, Matthew Fox
Where to watch: Hulu

Lost was a bona fide cultural phenomenon during the early 2000s, introducing a whole generation of viewers to the joys and frustrations of their particular brand of “mystery box” storytelling. It only makes sense, given the time when the original game came out, that Sam Lake and company would cite the series as an inspiration behind the mystery of Alan Wake’s universe. “They do the pacing very well,” Lake said about the show in a 2010 interview with GamesBeat. “That was something we were talking about when writing Alan Wake.” Lost also inspired the structure of the original game’s story, which divides each of its levels into six “episodes.”


A close-up shot of a hand holding a polaroid photo of a man (Guy Pearce) with tattoos on his chest pointing to his heart and smiling in Memento. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Year: 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Where to watch: Prime Video, Pluto TV, Plex

Sam Lake has cited several Christopher Nolan films as influences on Alan Wake 2, including Memento and Inception. Speaking to IGN, Lake said, “Inception plays a role [in the dreamlike nature of the Dark Place]. Him struggling to understand and remember, I feel Memento is a great detective story kind of trying to understand and trying to piece together what has happened. Him being the narrator and kind of not a reliable narrator from the perspective that he doesn’t have the full picture. Even Fight Club I think is this kind of a pretty anxious horror-esque, urban story and a psychological thriller.”


Brad Pitt as Detective Mills shining a flashlight in a dark room lit by red bulbs and decorated with photos in Seven. Image: Warner Home Video

Year: 1995
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
Where to watch: Hulu

When it came to bridging the gap between Alan Wake 2’s detective fiction ambitions and its supernatural horror roots, Lake and principal narrative designer Molly Maloney cited this serial killer thriller as one of their biggest inspirations. “When I look at Saga, I see a lot of Seven,Maloney said in an interview with IGN. “She is a consummate professional, she’s very talented at what she does. She’s here with her partner, Alex Casey, trying to solve this increasingly impossible seeming series of mysteries. I mean, it’s not that they’re being funny, but there’s a pleasant back-and-forth that really reminds me of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, didn’t feel dissimilar.”

Seven is definitely a good example of the merging of detective fiction with horror,” Lake added. “Serial killer stories overall often come really close to a horror film while being very much a detective story as well.”

The Silence of the Lambs

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) staring at Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), his reflection visible in the mirrored glass surface of his prison cell in The Silence of the Lambs. Image: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Year: 1991
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn
Where to watch: Max

Both Lake and game director Kyle Rowley have directly cited Silence of the Lambs as a chief inspiration behind the character of Saga Anderson. Early in production, the development team sought to create a new protagonist who could serve as a foil to Alan Wake and a talented investigator and criminal profiler not unlike Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling.

Taxi Driver

Robert De Niro slumped in a theater seat with his hand resting against his nose and temple in Taxi Driver. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Year: 1976
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks
Where to watch: Available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu

Taxi Driver directly inspired the look and feel of Alan Wake 2’s depiction of the Dark Place, a malevolent shape-shifting dimension where the protagonist has been imprisoned for over a decade. “I inhaled American pop culture as a kid, and New York was the beating heart of it,” Lake told horror director Mike Flanagan during a panel discussion at Tribeca Festival 2023. The “neon-y, borderline gothic vibe” and urban isolation of Scorsese's 1976 masterpiece were a huge influence on the look and feel of the Dark Place’s nightmarish vision of New York, which also derives inspiration from Alan Wake’s in-universe crime novels.

True Detective season 1

(L-R) Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson standing in the wreckage of a dilapidated, burned down church in season one of  True Detective. Image: HBO Home Entertainment

Year: 2014
Showrunner/creator: Nic Pizzolatto
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan
Where to watch: Max

“One of the first things that came to us when we were thinking about creating a concept of an FBI agent coming with her partner to investigate these murders was season one of True Detective,” Rowley revealed to IGN. “The kind of dynamics between the two detectives there and how they work together to solve that case was something that’s very compelling to us. And then obviously just stylistically wise, again, it’s got a lot of ritualistic elements to it that we could lean on quite well.”

The game also shares a number of aesthetic similarities to the series, especially Saga’s visions while profiling subjects, which employ double-exposure photography that strongly resembles that of True Detective’s mesmerizing opening titles.

The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone. Image: Image Entertainment

Year: 1959-1964
Showrunner/creator: Rod Serling
Where to watch: Paramount Plus

The influence of The Twilight Zone on Alan Wake and Alan Wake 2 is most visible in Night Springs, a fictional in-universe analog for Serling’s own series that features several short episodes which appear at various times throughout the first game. Night Springs also serves as a bridge between Alan Wake and 2019’s Control, with the character of Alan Wake having written several episodes of the series early on in his writing career, including the script for an episode called “Over the Threshold Darkly” which eerily mirrors the events of Control.

Twin Peaks / Twin Peaks: The Return

(L-R) Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks: The Return. Image: Showtime

Year: 1990-1991 (Twin Peaks); 2017 (Twin Peaks: The Return)
Showrunners/creators: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick
Where to watch: Paramount Plus (Twin Peaks); Showtime (Twin Peaks: The Return)

Perhaps more than any other work cited on this list, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s supernatural mystery drama towers over all others as the most prominent influence on not only the Alan Wake series, but on Lake. The fictional Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks is a direct inspiration behind Alan Wake’s own Bright Falls, the Dark Place is a heavily inspired by the extradimensional liminal space of Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge, and even the character of Cynthia Weaver in the original game is directly inspired by Margaret Lanterman, the so-called “Log Lady” in Twin Peaks. That’s not even delving into the parallels between Alan Wake 2 and Twin Peaks: The Return, which picks up 25 years after the events of the original series and follows its protagonist escaping from a sinister alternate dimension to face off against his evil doppelganger.

Also, both Alan Wake and Twin Peaks feature tons of coffee — with some damn fine cups, if you ask the right people.

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