8 Movies Like 12 Years a Slave (2013) On Netflix

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This is the true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Black man in Oakland, California, who was shot dead by police in the morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Incidentally, 2009 was also the time when smartphones started going mainstream, and so the incident was not only captured by CCTV but also many private cell phone cameras. The murder went viral.

Grant is superbly played by Michael B. Jordan in what now counts as one of his breakthrough roles, when many only knew him as Wallace in the now-legendary crime drama The Wire. Director Ryan Coogler went on making two more movies with him, including Black Panther in 2018.

Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and compassionately told, Fruitvale Station surpasses the sadness of its subject matter and amounts to an extraordinary celebration of life. A must-watch.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahna O'Reilly, Alessandro Garcia, Ariana Neal, Caroline Lesley, Chad Michael Murray, Chris Riedell, Christina Elmore, Denzel Worthington, Joey Oglesby, John Burke, Jonez Cain, Keenan Coogler, Kevin Durand, Laurel Moglen, Liisa Cohen, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Melonie Diaz, Michael B. Jordan, Noah Staggs, Octavia Spencer, Ryan Coogler, Trestin George, William Armando

Director: Ryan Coogler

Rating: R

Being an intimate, black-and-white portrayal of just two people, it is worth mentioning the two leads in the very first sentence: Blue Jay stars the incredibly versatile Sarah Paulson, who most of you will know from her depiction of Marcia Clark in The People vs. O.J., and Mark Duplass from Creep. In this incredibly intricate dialogue-driven drama, he is of course named Jim, a regular guy with some issues, who runs into his high-school sweetheart Amanda at the grocery store. She is only in town briefly because her sister is having a baby. Amanda agrees to have coffee with him, later they get beer and jellybeans, and find themselves recreating silly tapes at his late mother's house that they use to make when they were still at school. This could quickly become a soppy affair if it wasn't for the heart-felt realness of the acting, for lack of a better term, and all the fine details that the two leads bring to the screen. The chemistry between them is something to behold!

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Lehmann, Clu Gulager, James Andrews, Mark Duplass, Sarah Paulson

Director: Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Batty, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charissa Shearer, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Florence Keith-Roach, Frankie McCafferty, Gary Lilburn, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Marie Jones, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Nika McGuigan, Paris Arrowsmith, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: PG-13

This documentary starts with Alex Lewis, who gets into a motorcycle accident and wakes up in the hospital not knowing who he is. He doesn’t remember anything (not even what a bicycle or a TV is, or who his mother or father are), but he remembers his twin brother, Marcus. When Alex gets back into his childhood home, he’s full of questions, and Marcus is full of answers. However, slowly, Marcus realizes his power to reshape Alex’s version of their past. Marcus leaves one important detail from Alex’s life that makes this documentary (as if it wasn’t already) such an insane story. I know I said it’s a sad movie, but it’s also fascinating and, ultimately, humanizing of the brothers’ experience.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alex Lewis, Andrew Caley, Evan Milton, Kathleen Rainey, Laura Obiols, Marcus Lewis |

Director: Ed Perkins

Rating: TV-MA

, 2012

Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Alanoud Sajini, Dana Abdullilah, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Rafa Al Sanea, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Waad Mohammed

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Rating: PG

, 2016

Lion is the award-sweeping movie based on the true story of a kid in India who gets lost in a train and suddenly finds himself thousands of kilometers away from home. 25 years later, after being adopted by an Australian couple, he embarks on a journey through his memory and across continents to reconnect with his lost family. Dev Patel plays Saroo, and Nicole Kidman plays his Australian adoptive mother. Two truly amazing performances that will transport you to the time and place of the events, as well as its emotions spanning tear-jerking moments and pure joy. An uplifting, meaningful, and beautiful movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abhishek Bharate, Anna Samson, Arka Das, Benjamin Rigby, David Wenham, Deepti Naval, Dev Patel, Divian Ladwa, Eamon Farren, Emilie Cocquerel, Garth Davis, Keshav Jadhav, Khushi Solanki, Lucy Moir, Menik Gooneratne, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nicole Kidman, Priyanka Bose, Riddhi Sen, Rooney Mara, Sachin Joab, Sunny Pawar, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Tegan Crowley

Director: Garth Davis

Rating: PG-13

Though it starts off somewhat slow, I was delightfully surprised at how much I loved this movie. A 28-year-old man ventures through Europe with a buddy, ending in Copenhagen, where he hopes to contact the last of his family. There he enlists a local girl to help him. An interesting relationship unfolds as they take a captivating journey through Copenhagen in search of William’s grandfather. The tag line of the movie is “When the girl of your dreams is half your age, it’s time to grow up” and William really does have to grow up when he’s faced with his own personal tumult. The girl is played by Frederikke Dahl Hansen, who gives an exceptional natural performance, which adds even more to the abundance of charm in this film.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Asbjørn Krogh Nissen, Baard Owe, Christian Brandt, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, Gethin Anthony, Gordon Kennedy, Hélène Kuhn, Martin Hestbæk, Martin Hestbæk, Mille Dinesen, Olivia Grant, Sebastian Armesto, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Silja Eriksen Jensen, Tamzin Merchant, Zaki Nobel Mehabil

Director: Mark Raso

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

, 2015

This  exploration of the complex and loving relationship between a mother and her son will take you through a variety of emotions: it's uplifting, disturbing, provocative, sad, and hopeful. We don't get many of these middle-class-budget films anymore, and this one might be one of the category's best.

A kidnapped girl (Brie Larson) has a son after being raped by her abductor. She tries to provide a "normal" environment for the kid in the room where they're being held captive until they can escape. Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in Room, so make sure to also check out Short Term 12, an equally impressive performance by her in an equally amazing movie.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Amanda Brugel, Brie Larson, Cas Anvar, Chantelle Chung, Graeme Potts, Jack Fulton, Jacob Tremblay, Jee-Yun Lee, Joan Allen, Joe Pingue, Justin Mader, Kate Drummond, Katelyn Wells, Matt Gordon, Megan Park, Ola Sturik, Randal Edwards, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Rory O'Shea, Sean Bridgers, Tom McCamus, Wendy Crewson, William H. Macy, Zarrin Darnell-Martin

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Rating: R