35 Movies Like Elemental (2023) On Netflix UK

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Elemental ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Seven years after Zootopia, Pixar takes another crack at a racial prejudice metaphor — but, while the analogy is less creaky here, it’s still an awkward one, as diametrically opposed elements like fire and water stand in for human beings. The gaping flaws in its central concept aside, Elemental does wring something compelling out of its story: an exploration of second-generation immigrant guilt.That might seem like an oddly specific and complex topic for what is ostensibly a kids’ film to grapple with, but this is the Pixar of Soul and Bao, not Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Ember (Leah Lewis) is an anthropomorphized young flame whose parents migrated from their home in Fireland to run a store in the NYC-like melting pot of Element City; she’s keenly aware of the sacrifices they made to give her a better life and believes the only way to repay them is to abandon her own dreams and run their store. This is the one part of Elemental’s metaphor that really lands, but it’s unfortunately sidelined to make way for an inter-elemental romance between Ember and a water-man that only pulls the focus back onto the film’s biggest weakness. Still, its emotional specificity and beautiful animation prevent it from being a total washout.

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Seo Yeon-woo, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

When reminiscing about the film industry, most period films focus on the big names – the stars, the directors, and the producers that back them – as they’re more likely to have plenty of source material. Once Upon a Star is interested in the little people, the small town distributors that bring the movie magic to the locals. Centered on a cinema projection troupe, the film celebrates the old way of distribution, who, unlike today’s streaming, travel from place to place to set up outdoor cinemas with live dubbing. And through each projection of classic Thai masterpieces, the connection they have with each other, between both the troupe and the audience, recalls the intimate nostalgia of watching a movie together. It’s a unique take from director Nonzee Nimibutr, one that’s a stunning love letter to the film industry he hails from.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jirayu La-ongmani, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Nat Sakdatorn, Nuengthida Sophon, Samart Payakaroon, Sornchai Chatwiriyachai, Sukollawat Kanarot, Waratta Watcharatorn, Yothin Mapobphun

Director: Nonzee Nimibutr

There are only two main characters in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande: Nancy, a retired teacher who was recently widowed, and Leo, an adept sex worker with a mysterious past. They're almost always in one place and work on a single goal: pleasure. But despite the seeming monotony, the movie is crackling with wit and sensuality every step of the way. It doesn't waste any time getting to the heart of the matter. Nancy and Leo go back and forth about their past, with Nancy divulging much about the stigma of aging and Leo about the stigma of sex work. They also dive into the shame attached to pleasure, ultimately revealing more than just their naked bodies to each other and to the audience.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Daryl McCormack, Emma Thompson, Isabella Laughland, Lennie Beare, Les Mabaleka

Director: Sophie Hyde

Rating: R

Given the title, it isn’t surprising that Falling in Love Like in Movies would be a metanarrative with the main romance mirroring the filmmaking and the filmmaking reflecting the main romance. It’s a familiar approach, and at first, Falling seems to follow the inevitable ending where the couple falls in love, but right on time, in around Sequence Four, writer-director Yandy Laurens chooses a more honest, less chosen path– a path that plenty of previous romance films hasn’t examined– that still falls within the eight sequence screenplay structure Bagus talks about. While Bagus is pitching his film to Hana, and to his producer, Jatuh Cinta Seperti di Film-Film pitches a new way of thinking about love, grief, and of course, filmmaking.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Abdurrahman Arif, Alex Abbad, Dion Wiyoko, Ernest Prakasa, Julie Estelle, Nirina Zubir, Ringgo Agus Rahman, Sheila Dara Aisha

Director: Yandy Laurens

Third World Romance is what it says in the tin– it’s a love story that blooms in the rundown side of the capital of a developing country. The plot is familiar, especially for people familiar with Filipino rom coms, but writer-director Dwein Baltazar approaches this with a grounded approach. With fancy dinner dates substituted with shared packed rice meals and emotional apologies interrupted by their shifts in the grocery, Bree and Alvin carve out a love that still feels passionate, perhaps made even more so, as they navigate a city where they are disenfranchised. Charlie Dizon and Carlo Aquino’s excellent performances keep their characters’ struggles real, but also make their love feel joyful in spite of that.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Ana Abad-Santos, Archie Adamos, Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Donna Cariaga, Gardo Versoza, Iyah Mina, Jun Jun Quintana

Director: Dwein Ruedas Baltazar

, 2022

Stutz is Jonah Hill’s loving tribute to his therapist Phil Stutz, a smart and empathetic man who’s dedicated his entire life to helping people. The conversations between them, deeply personal and vulnerable, are meaningful in themselves, but Stutz also works as a helpful instruction on how to be your best self and as a metanarrative on telling honest stories on a medium as seemingly artificial as film (it is similar to Bo Burnham’s Inside in that way).

Stutz is at once experimental and comforting, a real gem especially for people with an interest in psychoanalysis and alternative psychiatry. It’s at its best when the two men deal with uncomfortable truths in the kindest of ways, and it's sure to be something people will return to often for advice and solace. Fun fact: the documentary was co-produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Jonah Hill

Director: Jonah Hill

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

After Jackie and Spencer, the dark satire El Conde is a surprise new entry in Pablo Larraín’s stacked filmography. Already, the film has prominent differences– it’s shot in black and white, starting with narration from an unseen and posh Englishwoman that makes the film’s events feel like entries in Bridgerton’s scandalous newsletter. The subject is far from the beloved wives of presidents and princes– it’s centered around a notorious Chilean dictator who remains unpunished for his crimes. However, as his fictional vampire version deals with his rightfully ruined legacy, El Conde proves to be a witty satiric twist to Larraín’s usual themes. Through familial squabbles over ill-gotten wealth, confessions and exorcism conducted by a nun, and certain foreign interventions, El Conde paints an everlasting greed that continues to haunt Larraín’s homeland.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Aldo Parodi, Alessandra Guerzoni, Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Catalina Guerra, Diego Muñoz, Dindi Jane, Eyal Meyer, Francisca Walker, Gloria Münchmeyer, Jaime McManus, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso, Marcial Tagle, Mateo Iribarren, Patricia Rivadeneira, Paula Luchsinger, Stella Gonet

Director: Pablo Larraín

Rating: R

Funny, refreshing, and heartwarming, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah gives the seminal girlhood film Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. a Gen Z update. Stacy and her friends are constantly on social media and watch each other for potentially politically incorrect terms, but they also struggle with period pain, crushes, and falling out with former friends. It’s a confusing time in a kid’s life, and  You Are So Not Invited, like Are You There God? before it, honors that. It never condescends, never strays far from the child’s perspective. It’s jubilant and heartwarming, and (to me at least) it’s always fun to see real-life families play themselves in movies. Judd Apatow experimented with this structure in his semi-autobiographical films Knocked Up and This Is 40, which first gave us a glimpse into his daughter Maude Apatow’s acting prowess. I feel You Are So Not Invited will do the same to its young star Sunny Sandler, whose effortlessly funny and charming performance will surely carve a path for a promising career in the future.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Sandler, Allison McKay, Beth Hall, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Bunny Levine, Dan Bulla, Dean Scott Vazquez, Dylan Chloe Dash, Dylan Hoffman, Idina Menzel, Ido Mosseri, Jackie Hoffman, Jackie Sandler, Jean Edwards, Joseph Vecsey, Luis Guzman, Michael Buscemi, Miya Cech, Nigel Downer, Oscar Chark, Sadie Sandler, Samantha Lorraine, Sarah Sherman, Sunny Sandler

Director: Sammi Cohen

Rating: PG-13

Freediving is a particularly cinematic sport because it taps into something beyond what the human body is capable of. Skilled divers hold their breath for long enough to reach more than 100 meters deep, and watching footage of that incredible feat is exhilarating, to say the least. The Deepest Breath capitalizes on that very spectacle—being exposed to death and conquering it—and banks on using archival footage of world records and training. It's a smart move, as it keeps the spectator on edge, but it can also be a cruel way to put thrills over ethics. The editing is kept suggestive, but sometimes, shamefully, at the cost of misrepresenting Alessia Zecchini and toying with the viewer's expectations to the point of callousness.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alessia Zecchini, David Attenborough, Natalya Molchanova, Stephen Keenan

Director: Laura McGann

Rating: PG

With its grounded approach, A Day and a Half feels real, even if the exact events are fictional. Inspired by a couple of lines from a 2008 news article, Fares Fares crafts an intimate family drama for his first directorial debut, built in the bones of a hostage thriller. As a thriller, Fares consistently maintains its suspense, camera eyeing the gun present in most of the film. However, as the cop Lucas tries to defuse the situation with hostage-taker Artan, and the situation escalates to the National Task Force, Artan and Louise confront their broken family, lines opened by improvised hostage negotiations. While Artan’s understandable reasons shouldn’t absolve him of his actions, A Day and a Half effectively builds tension, only relieved at its slightly unrealistic but cathartic ending.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexej Manvelov, Alma Pöysti, Annica Liljeblad, Annika Hallin, Daniel Guldstrand, Fares Fares, Richard Forsgren, Stina Ekblad

Director: Fares Fares

You could take away a lot of parts in Reptile, and it would still make sense. It’s the kind of film that leans on sound and style to justify overlong takes and teeth-grittingly predictable scenes. But all is forgiven when del Toro, who also co-writes and co-produces the film, appears on screen. He has a simmering, captivating presence that demands you keep your eyes on him even when little, if anything at all, happens. Silverstone, Eric Bogosian, and Ato Essandoh are likewise enthralling, but Justin Timberlake unfortunately does not hold the same staying power. The film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that he plays a complex, layered man when, in fact, Timberlake relays nothing but surface-level thrills. But Reptile is at its strongest when it gives us del Toro in all his forceful glory. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Africa Miranda, Alicia Silverstone, Allison Smith, Amy Parrish, Ato Essandoh, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Dyer, Dani Deetté, Deena Beasley, Domenick Lombardozzi, Elena Varela, Eric Bogosian, Frances Fisher, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Gregory Albrecht, James Devoti, Jesse C. Boyd, Jp Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Karl Glusman, Kurt Yue, Lee Perkins, Matilda Lutz, Matt Medrano, Matthew Cornwell, Michael Beasley, Michael Pitt, Michael Rene Walton, Mike Pniewski, Monique Yvette Grant, Owen Teague, Sky Ferreira, Thad Luckinbill, Tiffany Fallon, Victor Rasuk

Director: Grant Singer

Rating: R

Craig Foster’s bond with an octopus takes the spotlight in this heartfelt documentary set in the cold seas of South Africa. The title hints at the nature of this bond: the tentacled creature shows the human outsider the ropes in her watery den.

Both parties have an endless curiosity about one another, giving the filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed much fuel for this sentimental doc. My Octopus Teacher features Foster diving in the ocean every day and waxing poetic through voiceovers about the remarkable ability of a wild animal to connect with him. This all takes place amidst his obsessive mapping of said animal’s habitat during what appears to be a mid-life crisis. It’s beautiful, yes, both visually and in its message of nature being something we can connect with to find meaning, but much of the story revolves around what Foster feels the octopus is doing in relation to him, and not about what it’s doing, period. The documentary becomes an exercise in making something that exists peacefully in its own little world all about some guy.

For a film that centers on an unlikely emotional attachment, it does explore the ocean and present the adventures one can embark on due to curiosity. Despite its faults, it manages to be informative and shows off gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Genre: Documentary

Director: James Reed, Philippa Ehrlich, Pippa Ehrlich

King of Clones tells the story of Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist once praised as a national hero for his pioneering work in cloning. However, Hwang's reputation was shattered in 2006 when it was revealed that he had falsified data in his research. The documentary follows Hwang's rise and fall, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of scientific research and the ethical challenges that it raises. Through simplified explanations and testimonies from beneficiaries and journalists that exposed his fraudulent activities, the film remains accessible without losing its narrative. It also opens the conversation on the progress of cloning technology and the implications of not having ethics that can be agreed upon among the scientific community and the general public. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: George W. Bush, Hwang Woo-suk, Jung Ho-seok, Kim Dae-jung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Tae-hyung, Park Ji-sung, Roh Moo-hyun, Son Heung-min

Director: Aditya Thayi

Rating: PG-13

A deep dive into African-American cinema in the 1970s, Is That Black Enough for You?!? may at times feel like an extended audiovisual Wikipedia article, but it convincingly sets up its ideas in breezy, entertaining fashion. And it successfully argues that Hollywood today just hasn't cashed in on the wealth of innovative Black art that already existed 50 years ago. At the center of this talking heads documentary is director and narrator Elvis Mitchell, who elevates the assembled footage with frank commentary that isn't afraid to make things personal or to throw shade at other filmmakers who've made a career out of appropriating Black film traditions.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Antonio Fargas, Billy Dee Williams, Charles Burnett, Elvis Mitchell, Glynn Turman, Harry Belafonte, James Signorelli, Laurence Fishburne, Louise Archambault, Margaret Avery, Mario Van Peebles, Roscoe Orman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sheila Frazier, Stan Lathan, Suzanne de Passe, Whoopi Goldberg, Zendaya

Director: Elvis Mitchell