55 Best Character-driven Movies On Kanopy (Page 4)

Staff & contributors

If you're less about adventurous plots, and more about the emotional journey and relationship arcs, we've got you covered. Here are the best character-driven movies and shows to stream right now.

Find the best character-driven movies to watch, from our mood category. Like everything on agoodmovietowatch, these character-driven movies are highly-rated by both viewers and critics.

In Between is a beautiful and poignant film that offers a sensitive and nuanced exploration of the lives and experiences of three Palestinian women living in Tel Aviv. The film follows their struggles to reconcile their traditional and cultural identities with their desire for independence, freedom, and self-expression. The stunning visuals, evocative and emotional score, and brilliant performances of the cast combine to create a powerful and moving portrait of resilience, sisterhood, and hope. Profoundly human and deeply affecting, In Between offers a fresh and important perspective on the complex realities of life in Israel and Palestine.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amir Khoury, Firas Nassar, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Mouna Hawa, Samar Qupty, Shaden Kanboura

Director: Maysaloun Hamoud

When it comes to darker subjects such as suicide, an emotionally resonant, minimalistic film like this leaves an impression. The film follows Mr. Badii, a middle-aged man contemplating suicide, as he drives around Tehran searching for someone willing to bury him. Abbas Kiarostami's meticulous framing creates a sense of intimacy and introspection, allowing the audience to delve into the profound existential questions raised. The sparse dialogue, breathtaking landscapes of Tehran, and the use of natural warm lighting enhance the visual beauty and contemplation of the film. Poignant and hopeful in just twenty-four hours and one car.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Homayoun Ershadi

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

On his first day of class in the remote village of Lunana, the city teacher Ugyen asks his students what they want to be when they grow up. One of the children, a young boy named Sangay, answers that he aspires to be a teacher “because a teacher touches the future.” Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, however, subverts this thematic by spending most of its runtime showing how the villagers touch Ugyen’s heart through genuine acts of kindness, forcing him to rethink his long-term dream of becoming a singer in Australia.

Not only does Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom succeed in its heartfelt dramatization of a Gen Z finding his place in the highlands, it also serves as a propagandistic validation of Bhutan’s “happiest country in the world” epithet. In doing so, the film presents the Bhutanese mountains in as breathtakingly picturesque a manner as possible, limning a paradise through the grassy meadows and children’s faces.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Kelden Lhamo Gurung, Kunzang Wangdi, Sherab Dorji, Ugyen Norbu Lhendup

Director: Pawo Choyning Dorji

Rating: Not Rated

Watch this if you like weird movies. And don't be fooled by the first half, which serves just to set Jesse Eisenberg's character and the monotone life he leads. It's the calm before the storm, during which that character is attacked by a violent gang and decides to take self-defense classes in an unusual club. This is a movie about modern manhood and how it can lead to some pretty strange situations. Great performance from Eisenberg as usual.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Apollo Bacala, Caroline Amiguet, Dallas Edwards, Davey Johnson, David Zellner, Frederic Spitz, Hauke Bahr, Imogen Poots, Jason Burkey, Jesse Eisenberg, Josh Fadem, Katherine Smith-Rodden, Leland Orser, Lena Friedrich, Louis Robert Thompson, Mike Brooks, Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada

Director: Riley Stearns

Rating: R

This taut chamber piece about NSA whistleblower Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name) is based on the FBI’s account of her interrogation one June day in 2017. “Based on” doesn’t quite capture Reality’s exhaustive commitment to the facts, though, because this movie is essentially a dramatic reading of a verbatim transcript of the FBI agents’ recording that day. The only time it breaks with reality is when it reaches a redacted portion of the transcript, at which point characters glitch out of view, leaving us staring into the blank set around them. Otherwise, every cough, false start, and even every off-topic remark is recreated with exacting precision here, lending the film a paradoxically stilted, slightly stagy air. But rather than pull you out of the proceedings, Reality’s palpable artificiality only immerses us into the uneasy tension and surreality that its anxious protagonist must have been feeling that day.

That anxiety is contagious, thanks to the movie’s clinical style and central performance. The camerawork is largely unblinking, moving in uncomfortably close on Reality (Sydney Sweeney) as two FBI agents (Josh Hamilton and Marchánt Davis) subject her to their bizarre hot-cold interrogation, which ranges from seemingly friendly inquiries about her dog to jugular-aimed questions about the allegations against her. Sweeney shoulders all this pressure remarkably well, deftly keeping us as much in the dark as Winner tried to keep the FBI in — which makes not knowing the real story a benefit, rather than a barrier, to watching Reality.

Outside of Sweeney’s commanding performance, Reality feels somewhat limited by its absolute loyalty to the FBI’s transcript, though. Much of the film’s 83-minute runtime is dedicated to recreating the text, which leaves only a few minutes at the end for it to express its own point of view on Winner’s actions. Though these scant moments make for a compelling reframing of the charges against Winner, they feel overshadowed by and separate from the movie’s rigorous devotion to the transcript, which ultimately means Reality can’t quite transcend its status as merely an interesting filmmaking curio.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Allan Anthony Smith, Benny Elledge, Bill Maher, John Way, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis, Sydney Sweeney, Tucker Carlson

Director: Tina Satter

In Fatih Akin’s In the Fade, Katja is seeking justice after the killings of her Turkish husband and their young son in a terrorist bomb attack. Diane Kruger in the role of Katja delivers a powerful and rather grueling performance, for which she was awarded Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival. Her grief is vivid and forces viewers to bear witness to her inescapable pain. In the Fade also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, beating astonishing films such as Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless. This moving story about a fearless woman determined to take justice into her own hands to fight the cruelty of others delivers a message that needs to be heard.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adam Bousdoukos, Aysel Iscan, Denis Moschitto, Diane Kruger, Edgar Selge, Hanna Hilsdorf, Henning Peker, Johannes Krisch, Karin Neuhäuser, Laurens Walter, Numan Acar, Samia Chancrin, Şiir Eloğlu, Ulrich Brandhoff, Ulrich Tukur, Uwe Rohde, Yannis Economides

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: R

, 2021

CODA has all the trappings of a predictable, feel-good family drama. You’ll recognize immediately the talented teen, the family pulling her back, the cute love interest, the do-gooder mentor, and the swirl of coincidences that blend them all together in one sweet story. But CODA is so irresistibly heartfelt, well-acted, and vital (all the deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors), that you can’t help but be won by its charms. 

Aside from its big heart, the film’s decision to express itself mostly through ASL and music is an impressive technical feat as well. Altogether, these elements make for a refreshing, enjoyable, and simply heartwarming watch. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Amy Forsyth, Armen Garo, Ayana Brown, Bryan Sabbag, Courtland Jones, Daniel Durant, David Newsom, Dominic Andersen, Dominic Cannarella-Andersen, Emilia Faucher, Emilia Jones, Erica McDermott, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Gary Galone, Jason Pugatch, John Fiore, Jose Guns Alves, Kayla Caulfield, Kevin Chapman, Kiara Pichardo, Kyana Fanene, Lance Norris, Lonnie Farmer, Marilyn Busch, Mark Pettograsso, Marlee Matlin, Mary Ann Schaub, Melissa McMeekin, Molly Beth Thomas, Owen Burke, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Rebecca Gibel, Rena Maliszewski, Sarah Clarke, Stone Martin, TJ Ciarametaro, Tony Viveiros, Troy Kotsur

Director: Sian Heder

Rating: R-16

Vive L'Amour is a slow-building film that dives deep into the loneliness and longing of urban life, weaving together the lives of three lost souls searching for connection and meaning in a bustling city. Though the film's slow pace and minimal dialogue brilliantly convey the characters' inner turmoil, there are times when the (probably purposeful) lack of direction doesn't quite land. You might also find that director Tsai Ming-liang's evocative cinematography does not hold up this sparse yet bloated plot. Still, Vive L'Amour encapsulates the signature solemn air of Taiwanese cinema, presenting a contemplative exploration of human relationships and urban alienation. It may be polarizing, but one thing is for sure: it will leave you introspective and moved by its profound examination of the human condition.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Lu Yi-Ching, Yang Kuei-Mei

Director: Tsai Ming-liang

You know Anthony Hopkins as the evil Hannibal Lecter, but in this film he gives a warm and heartfelt performance portraying real life New Zealand motorcycle legend Burt Munro who set a land speed record in 1967 on a hand-built 1920 Indian. It's a story of never giving up on your dream even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Hopkins' performance turns what could have been just another schmaltzy formulaic story line into true gold. You'll be cheering for Burt/Anthony by the end!

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Murphy, Alison Bruce, Annie Whittle, Anthony Hopkins, Antony Starr, Bruce Greenwood, Charles Pierard, Chris Williams, Craig Hall, Diane Ladd, Eric Pierpoint, Greg Johnson, Iain Rea, James Gaylyn, Jessica Cauffiel, Latham Gaines, Mick Rose, Patrick John Flueger, Paul Rodríguez, Saginaw Grant, Tessa Mitchell, Tim Shadbolt, Todd Emerson, Walton Goggins, Wesley Dowdell, William Lucking

Director: Roger Donaldson

Rating: PG-13

Pawn Sacrifice is a period drama about famed chess player Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), following Fischer’s rise from his childhood in Brooklyn through to his famed matchup with Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the 1972 World Chess Championship. The film captures Fischer’s adolescence as a time of burgeoning mastery of the game, while struggling in a fatherless home and beset by early signs of mental illness. Set during the height of the Cold War, tensions between the United States and Russia play a critical role in the story, as they fuel many of Fischer’s fears and anxieties over perceived Russian spying and surveillance. His paranoia reaches a fever pitch in Reykjavik, Iceland, the site of his famous duel with Spassky for the world championship, leading to a remarkably compelling finale. Writer director Steven Knight and director Edward Zwick have crafted a striking depiction of a real-life genius grappling with fraying sanity, and Maguire is stunningly evocative as the abrasive and acerbic Fischer. For the viewer, no advanced knowledge of chess is necessary to enjoy this vivid depiction of one man’s historical achievement in the face of profound mental disturbance.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aiden Lovekamp, Al Vandecruys, Alain Goulem, Aleksandr Gorchilin, André Sogliuzzo, Andreas Apergis, Arthur Holden, Benoit Priest, Bobo Vian, Brent Skagford, Brett Watson, Carlo Mestroni, Conrad Pla, Dennis Staroselsky, Edward Yankie, Edward Zinoviev, Ellen David, Eric Lee Huffman, Eugene Nomura, Evelyne Brochu, François Ducharme, Glen Bowser, Igor Ovadis, Ilia Volok, Joe Cobden, John Maclaren, Jonathan Dubsky, Katie Bird Nolan, Liev Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Lydia Zadel, Mark Slacke, Matt Keyes, Michael Stuhlbarg, Natalija Ugrina, Nathaly Thibault, Norman Lehnert, Peter Janov, Peter Sarsgaard, Raphael Grosz-Harvey, Richard Jutras, Robin Weigert, Roc LaFortune, Sam Stone, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Shawn Campbell, Sophie Nélisse, Spiro Malandrakis, Tobey Maguire, Vitali Makarov, Vito DeFilippo, Zach Fraser

Director: Edward Zwick

Rating: PG-13