10 Movies Like Avatar (2009) On SHOWTIME

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Prophet’s Prey is a documentary on the sect known as Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints and its leader, Warren Jeffs. Claiming to have inherited a direct connection to God, Jeffs has used this pretext to control a closed society of thousands of individuals on a shockingly personal level, as well as marry dozens of underage girls and harvest the community’s financial resources on behalf of “the church.”

The subject is deftly handled by filmmaker Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil). Here she presents most of the story via interviews with the people whose tenacity was instrumental in exposing  Jeffs. Woven throughout the film, too, is the haunting, disembodied voice of Jeffs himself, in recorded words to his followers, along with film footage of present-day FLDS communities. What emerges is the picture of a terrifying madman who still wields a disturbing amount of power over thousands of active congregants. Absolutely riveting.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, History

Actor: Nick Cave

Director: Amy J. Berg

Rating: TV-14

There’s a lot of good to be found in the charming, poignant, and endlessly quotable Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. It follows a documentarian named Dean, who has as his subject the one-inch talking shell that is Marcel. Marcel looks after an empty house along with his grandma Connie, and together they run a delightfully intricate system subsisting on electric mixers, tennis balls, and the occasional human hair.

Despite his small size, Marcel unwittingly makes big observations about life and the world around him, often moving Dean (and this writer) close to tears. It’s a simple film with a grand message, with lots to say about the importance of participating in life as opposed to merely observing it. But ultimately this is a movie with a precocious talking shell at the heart of it all, so really, what’s not to like?

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Kids

Actor: Andy Richter, Avan Jogia, Blake Hottle, Brian Williams, Conan O'Brien, Dean Fleischer-Camp, Isabella Rossellini, Jamie Leonhart, Jenny Slate, Jeremy Evans, Jessi Klein, Joe Gabler, Lesley Stahl, Nathan Fielder, Peter Bonerz, Rosa Salazar, Samuel Painter, Sarah Thyre, Scott Osterman, Shari Finkelstein, Thomas Mann, Victoria Justice

Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp

Rating: PG

An arguably tough watch, The Accused fluctuates between crime and courtroom drama, eschewing any kind of sentimentality in its storytelling. No place for pity where trauma reigns: the fact that the film is based on a real case of as gang rape means little in a world were that's still a daily occurrence. The Accused knows it well and invests its two protagonist with all the anger in the world, hoping the justice system will be on the right side of history at once: that of women. Two amazing leads set the bar very high: Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis who plays prosecutor Kathryn Murphy. Together, they make a powerful duo of heated performances that embody the contradictions of being a woman under patriarchy.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Allan Lysell, Andrew Kavadas, Ann Hearn, Antony Holland, Babs Chula, Bernie Coulson, Carmen Argenziano, Christianne Hirt, Dana Still, David Sheridan, Denalda Williams, Deryl Hayes, Frances Flanagan, Freda Perry, Garry Chalk, Garwin Sanford, Jerry Wasserman, Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Kevin McNulty, Kim Kondrashoff, Leo Rossi, Linda Darlow, Marsha Andrews, Michele Goodger, Mike Winlaw, Pamela Martin, Peter Bibby, Peter Van Norden, Rebecca Toolan, Rose Weaver, Scott Paulin, Stephen Dimopoulos, Stephen E. Miller, Steve Antin, Terry David Mulligan, Tom Heaton, Tom McBeath, Tom O'Brien, Veena Sood, Walter Marsh, Woody Brown

Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Rating: R

The idea of representation in movies is often limited to superficial gestures of putting on screen people who look a certain way. Kokomo City is a reminder of cinema's possibilities when one really tries to queer filmmaking itself, with genuine queer voices driving a production. This documentary is messy and incredibly playful in its style—in ways that might read to some as lacking cohesiveness, or as tonally inconsistent. But the way director D. Smith is able to capture the dynamic energy of a series of conversations makes these powerful, funny, tragic anecdotes and dialogues feel truly grounded in people's everyday experiences, and makes the plea for protection of trans lives all the more urgent.

Throughout Kokomo City, this collection of individuals goes off on various tangents that never become difficult to follow. They speak about the nature of sex work, hidden desires felt by traditionally masculine male clients, and various degrees of acceptance within the Black community. And between these statements alternating from impassioned to emotional to humorously candid, Smith injects cheeky cutaway footage, layers text on screen, and plays an eclectic rotation of music throughout. It's about as real and as three-dimensional as these trans lives have ever been shown on screen.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Daniella Carter, Dominique Silver, Koko Da Doll, Liyah Mitchell, XoTommy

Director: D. Smith

Rating: R

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Andres D. Bautista, Benigno Aquino III, Bongbong Marcos, Etta Rosales, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Leni Robredo, Mary Yturria

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Rating: R

Appropriately for its literary focus, The Lesson feels, in places, like the gripping adaptation of a bestselling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, though, its initial cleverness peters out in a contrived ending that ironically feels like it belongs to the pulpy airport fiction that one character accuses another of writing.

The Lesson’s early chapters (another way the movie’s form mirrors its content) crackle with tension, as Oxford grad and aspiring writer Liam observes the icy dynamics of the Sinclair family, whose son he’s been hired to provide university admission tuition to. The Sinclairs are still grieving the loss of another child, a process made more painful by the brittle ego of their patriarch — JM (Richard E. Grant), a celebrated author who happens to be Liam’s literary hero. Liam’s career ambitions complicate his position: he’s as much an enthusiastic student as he is a teacher here, and among the screenplay’s many suggestions is also Tom Ripley-style envy. The Lesson ultimately scuppers this complexity, though, as the writing eventually abandons its psychological study aspirations and swerves into melodrama, leaving the cast struggling to make it all believable. Still, while the ending may disappoint, there are juicy, intelligent ideas to be pondered over — not quite a bestseller, then, but definitely not airport fiction either.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Crispin Letts, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy, Richard E. Grant, Stephen McMillan, Tomas Spencer

Director: Alice Troughton

Rating: R

Galaxy Quest may be a parody of the sci-fi franchise, but it’s also a huge fan of it. It forgoes cynical takes for smart odes to the genre, all while retaining an endearing sense of humor about it. It’s silly and self-aware, and it has a lot of fun letting us know that they’re in on the joke. You can watch for the interesting premise, but you'll stay for the laughs and the promise of a genuine thrill ride. Everyone is a blast to watch, but Sigourney Weaver and Sam Rockwell deserve special praise for being outright hilarious, elevating Galaxy Quest from B-movie to camp classic status. 

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alan Rickman, Corbin Bleu, Daryl Mitchell, Dian Bachar, Enrico Colantoni, Heidi Swedberg, Isaac C. Singleton Jr., J.P. Manoux, Jed Rees, Jennifer Manley, Jeremy Howard, Jerry Penacoli, Joel McKinnon Miller, Jonathan Feyer, Justin Long, Kaitlin Cullum, Kevin McDonald, Marcio Rosario, Matt Winston, Missi Pyle, Morgan Rusler, Patrick Breen, Rainn Wilson, Robin Sachs, Sam Lloyd, Sam Rockwell, Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen, Todd Giebenhain, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Dean Parisot

Rating: PG

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a disgraced doctor-turned-immigrant cab driver who inadvertently stumbles upon London's black market organ trade. Audrey Tatou and Sophie Okonedo also star as fellow "illegals" struggling to make ends meet in the shadows of England. This film is about illegal immigrants, it is told from their perspective, and because of that it becomes so humane that it indulges in social commentary. It's a really interesting, sometimes thrilling, watch.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Audrey Tautou, Barber Ali, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Damon Younger, Darrell D'Silva, Deobia Oparei, Israel Aduramo, Jean-Philippe Écoffey, Jeffery Kissoon, Josef Altin, Kriss Dosanjh, Michael Mellinger, Nizwar Karanj, Noma Dumezweni, Paul Bhattacharjee, Ray Donn, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Sotigui Kouyaté, Zlatko Burić

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: R

At one point in The Whale, Brendan Fraser’s Charlie —  a morbidly obese, reclusive teacher — describes an act of abject cruelty as “not evil” but “honesty.” Darren Aronofsky seems to believe the same about his movie, but alas, he's gravely misled, because The Whale is flooringly glib. From the outset, the film actively and incessantly tries to choreograph audience disgust for Charlie, all so that it can pull off a manipulative “he’s human, actually” swing later on — a “twist” that won’t work if you, you know, already accept people’s humanity irrespective of their appearance. 

Cinematography, makeup, and score all conspire to paint Charlie as grotesque: the camera laboriously over-emphasizes his size and mobility issues, while histrionic music chimes in to frame trivial moments (like Charlie reaching to pick something up from the floor) as grand, tragic dramas. Even if you ignore all its needless cruelty, The Whale — which is adapted from a play — can never shed its stagy origins: the writing frequently reaches for transcendence, but its efforts are as subtle as its evidently retroactively-shoehorned-in-title. If it’s as sincere as it purports to be, this is one of the worst movies of recent years, and if it’s not — which is almost preferable — then it’s a landmark exercise in trolling.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allison Altman, Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Jacey Sink, Sadie Sink, Samantha Morton, Sathya Sridharan, Ty Simpkins

Director: Darren Aronofsky