10 Best Movies That Don’t Have Any Plot

Updated June 13, 2022 • Staff

Often when people say a movie has no plot, they mean that it's character-driven. That's why if it sounds like an insult when someone complains about lack of plot, it probably means that just don't like character studies or weren't in the mood for one. I once wrote about this exact thing in an article, and a cinephile friend messaged me back saying: "the best way to get me to watch a movie is to tell me it has no plot". I couldn't agree more. And as writer Patrice Nganang put it: “there are stories that simply do not need a plot.” Some worldwide favorites didn’t have a plot as part of their structure. Notably: The Tree of Life, Dazed & Confused, Breakfast Club, Napoleon Dynamite, Big Lebowski, Garden State, Burn After Reading and Lost in Translation. More recently, Her, Youth, and A Separation have become great examples. See, the plot thickens… Terrible puns aside, plot is rarely an indicator of quality (or popularity). The movies in this list are not about what happens, they're all about the characters. I absolutely love each one of them, and I think you will too.

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10.

Youth (2015)

Youth is a film about Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a famous composer vacationing at a resort in the Swiss Alps with his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), an accomplished filmmaker, and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). While Fred shuns his work (including an opportunity to play for the Queen of England) and muddles himself in disillusionment, Mick works fervently on his final film, intended to be his life’s crowning achievement. Their remaining time is spent intermingling amongst the guests and reminiscing upon their lives, their achievements, their failures and their undying yearnings. From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Youth is another charming work offering an array of eccentric characters and quirky scenarios, while also serving as a touching examination of age, wisdom and ultimately personal reckoning.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Aldo Ralli, Alex Beckett, Alex MacQueen, Alexander Seibt, Anabel Kutay, Anna Marie Cseh, Beatrice Curnew, Beatrice Walker, Carolina Carlsson, Chloe Pirrie, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Jones, Eugenia Caruso, Gabriela Belisario, Harvey Keitel, Heidi Maria Glössner, Helmut Förnbacher, Ian Keir Attard, Jane Fonda, Jasmin Barbara Mairhofer, Josie Taylor, Julia Danuser, Laura De Marchi, Loredana Cannata, Luna Mijović, Madalina Diana Ghenea, Mãdãlina Ghenea, Mark Gessner, Mark Kozelek, Melinda Bokor, Michael Caine, Paloma Faith, Paul Dano, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Portia Reiners, Rachel Weisz, Rebecca Calder, Robert Seethaler, Roly Serrano, Sonia Gessner, Sumi Jo, Tatiana Luter, Tom Lipinski, Veronika Dash, Wolfgang Michael
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Rating: R
9.

Columbus (2017)

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city - a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can't mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who's also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don't mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Alphaeus Green, Jr., Caitlin Ewald, Erin Allegretti, Haley Lu Richardson, John Cho, Lindsey Shope, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey, Reen Vogel, Rory Culkin, Rosalyn R. Ross, Shani Salyers Stiles, Wynn Reichert
Director: Kogonada
Rating: Not Rated
8.

Our Little Sister (2016)

Hirokazu Koreeda can do no wrong. The director of Shoplifters and Still Walking is a master of dissecting complex family dynamics through a handful of events. In Our Little Sister, three close sisters who live at their grandmother's house learn that their absent father has passed. They travel to the mountains to attend his funeral and meet their half-sister, Suzu, for the first time. Suzu is invited to live with the sisters and join their bond.

This movie is a true-to-the-form slice of life, it's almost drama-free. This absence of plot is an absence of distractions: the sisters are all that matters to Koreeda. His only focus is on how this family becomes bigger, sees past grief, and how the group of close-knit sisters that grew up together can make room for a new addition.

Our staff rating: 8.5/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family
Actor: Haruka Ayase, Ichirō Ogura, Jun Fubuki, Kaho, Kaoru Hirata, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Masami Nagasawa, Masumi Nomura, Midoriko Kimura, Mikami Saya, Oshiro Maeda, Ryō Kase, Ryohei Suzuki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Shinobu Otake, Suzu Hirose, Yuko Nakamura, 中春优子
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda
Rating: PG
7.

Oslo, August 31st (2011)

This masterpiece from Norwegian director Joachim Trier is a clear-eyed movie that takes place in one day in the life of a 34-year-old. Anders, a recovering drug addict, gets to leave his rehab facility for the first time to take a job interview. He visits friends, tries to meet his ex, and goes to the interview. With every interaction, you get to know him more and understand that what he's going through is shared with everyone he meets. At 34, Anders feels it is too late to turn his life around, and so do his friends. He just happens to be a drug addict.

Our staff rating: 8.6/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aksel Thanke, Anders Borchgrevink, Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olav Brenner, Ingrid Olava, Kjærsti Odden Skjeldal, Malin Crepin, Øystein Røger, Petter Width Kristiansen, Renate Reinsve, Tone Beate Mostraum
Director: Joachim Trier
Rating: Not Rated
6.

Nebraska (2013)

Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says "is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself." Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that's not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I'll tell you that it's a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You'll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.

Our staff rating: 8.7/10
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Actor: Angela McEwan, Anthony G. Schmidt, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Dern, Devin Ratray, June Squibb, Mary Louise Wilson, Missy Doty, Rance Howard, Stacy Keach, Tim Driscoll, Will Forte
Director: Alexander Payne
Rating: R
5.

Drive My Car (2021)

In Drive My Car, a widowed artist travels to Hiroshima for his latest production. There he meets a young woman enlisted to drive him around the area. They forge an unexpected bond and soon share pithy observations and long-buried secrets, which culminate in a touching scene of catharsis and forgiveness.

Not a lot is said in this three-hour film, but when words (and signals) are shared, they are always underlaid with simple but transcendent truths. Drive My Car is a gripping film that explores love and loss in its own quiet way, at once intense and intimate.

Our staff rating: 8.9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Ahn Hwitae, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Jin Dae-yeon, Masaki Okada, Park Yu-rim, Perry Dizon, Reika Kirishima, Satoko Abe, Shoichiro Tanigawa, Sonia Yuan, Toko Miura, Toshiaki Inomata
Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Rating: Unrated
4.

Samsara (2012)

The Sanskrit word Samsara refers to the wheel of life and roughly translates to “continuous flow”. And, indeed, Samsara takes us on an entrancing journey, chronicling the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death, and re-birth that life, big and small, goes through—at least according to the religions that were born on the Indian continent. Shot on 70mm film and utilizing computerized camera movements as well as time-lapse photography, this film by American director Ron Fricke delivers absolutely breath-taking visuals. Whether it's awe-inspiring vastness or the close-up of a human face, its narration-less narrative integrates every aspect of human and natural life regardless of scale or location. The scope of this effort is truly awe-inspiring and the clarity of it has to be seen to be believed. An unusual and magical film!

Our staff rating: 9/10
Genre: Documentary
Actor: Balinese Tari Legong Dancers, Ni Made Megahadi Pratiwi, Olivier De Sagazan, Puti Sri Candra Dewi, Putu Dinda Pratika
Director: Ron Fricke
Rating: PG-13
3.

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Koreeda's troubled childhood often serves as the inspiration for his poignant Japanese dramas that deal with loss, the meaning of being a child, and of being parent. In Like Father, Like Son, Ryota Nonomiya (Masaharu Fukuyama), a hard-working architect, who is married to his work, comes home from work. He receives a call from the hospital where his son Keita was born and learns that he was switched at birth with their biological son Ryūsei. His wife and him are not only faced with the prospect of having to switch the two six-year-olds back, but also with the rickety family his 'real' son grew up in—and his aversion to what they stand for. But who is real and who isn't? Must they be switched back? The age-old question of nature vs. nurture and the relationship of love and biology is at the heart of the parent's struggle. As always with Koreeda's works, the result is soft-spoken, sensitive, and symphonically directed. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Our staff rating: 9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Arata Iura, Hana Kino, Hiroshi Ôkôchi, Ichirō Ogura, Isao Natsuyagi, Jun Fubuki, Jun Kunimura, Kazuya Takahashi, Keiji Nakazawa, Keita Ninomiya, Ken Ochiai, Kirin Kiki, Kōichi Kitamura, Lily Franky, Machiko Ono, Maki Yoko, Masaharu Fukuyama, Megumi Morisaki, Meguri Hiroo, Natsuki Inaba, Pierre Taki, Rina Endou, Shogen Hwang, Tetsushi Tanaka, Tomomitsu Adachi, Tomoya Nakamura, Yamamoto Shuri, Yo Yoshida, Yôko Maki, Yuri Nakamura, 福山雅治
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda
Rating: Not Rated
2.

Still Walking (2008)

Koreeda is a master of the tender gaze. He deals so softly, elegantly, and emphatically with the characters in his films, it will make you feel like you're watching life itself in all its complex, emotional splendor. Maybe this is particularly true for this movie because it has been inspired by Koreeda's memories of his own childhood and the passing of his mother. Still Walking is a quietly toned movie spanning a period of 24 hours in the life of the Yokoyama family, as they gather to commemorate the passing of their eldest son. At the center of the story is the father, an emotionally distant man who commands respect both from his family and community. Opposite from him sits the other son, the black sheep, who seeks his father's validation. Directed, written, and edited by Koreeda, this dynamic is one of many in this slice-of-life movie about how families deal with loss. And, however distant the culture or setting in Japan may seem to the outsider, you're bound to recognize either yourself or your family among the tender scenes of this masterful drama.

Our staff rating: 9/10
Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Hiroshi Abe, Hotaru Nomoto, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Shohei Tanaka, Susumu Terajima, Yoshio Harada, You, Yui Natsukawa
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Rating: Not Rated
1.

After the Storm (2017)

There are many movies by the much-celebrated Japanese auteur director Hirokazu Koreeda on A Good Movie to Watch. Why? Because, like all the movies we showcase here, his work is often little-known, but unbelievably good. After the Storm is no different. Much like his other works, notably Like Father, Like Son, Shoplifters, and Nobody Knows, it deals with the topic of family dynamics, regret, and disappointment. But his movies are never dramatic downers but delicate dioramas, understated in tone. Once a successful writer, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is now a private detective who spends the little money he makes on gambling instead of paying child support. His ex-wife and son are increasingly alienated by his behavior until one day, during a storm, they all find themselves trapped in Ryota's childhood home. Subtly touching on notions of inter-generational bond and tension –⁠ Koreeda's works are mesmerizing and stick with you long after you've finished watching.

Our staff rating: 9.1/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Aju Makita, Daisuke Kuroda, Hiroshi Abe, Isao Hashizume, Kanji Furutachi, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Maki Yoko, Makoto Nakamura, Mickey Curtis, Rie Minemura, Satomi Kobayashi, Shôno Hayama, Sosuke Ikematsu, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Yôko Maki, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Yuri Nakamura, 蒔田 彩珠
Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda
Rating: Not Rated

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