8 Movies Like Free Guy (2021) On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

Even a straightforward documentary on the New York East Village visual artist David Wonjarowicz (pronounced VOY-nuh-ROH-vitch) would be thrilling, given the energy and the irreverence of his artworks especially during the AIDS epidemic from the 1980s to the 1990s. But director Chris McKim goes above and beyond, essentially imagining how Wojnarowicz would have directed his own film. McKim treats the movie like a collage in itself, expertly blending footage and sound together not just to capture the artist's fury, but to remember how deeply he loved, transcending space and sickness. As an account of the underground New York art scene at the time, a profile on a supposed enfant terrible, and a tribute to all those who lost their lives to a disease accelerated by discrimination, Wojnarowicz is a beautiful, complex tapestry.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: David Wojnarowicz, Fran Lebowitz, Nan Goldin

Director: Chris McKim

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Carolan, Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Andrew Bennett, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Jonny Woo, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

A portrait of an Alabama high school wrestling team springboards from a sports documentary into an encompassing exploration of the American working class and institutional racism. The film operates on both levels as it zooms in on the lives of four students and their friendly yet overbearing coach. From the opening moments, Coach Sribner makes it clear that the State Championship is about much more than sport. A failing and underfunded school system all but ensures that a sports scholarship is one of the few chances for these youth to have access to higher education and a path out of poverty. 

This is further exacerbated by the racial dynamics at play, as we watch these mostly Black youth experience casual racism as well as institutional harassment from the police. Even their well-meaning coach is not exempt, he at once can acknowledge his white privilege but is not above baselessly accusing one of the boys of stealing his sunglasses. Herbert’s up close and personal style is immersive and passionate and builds to an exciting sports film climax while maintaining a piercing awareness of the severe economic realities that hollow out any victory on the mat.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Chris Scribner, Jailen Young, Jaquan Rhodes, Teague Berres

Director: Suzannah Herbert

Vivid, sweeping landscapes surround the simple beauty of a Mongolian family navigating the pressures of globalization while still practicing their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Ostensibly it's about the charming, captivating relationship that forms between a young girl, Nansal, and a dog that she finds. However, the magic of this slow, enthralling film is that it captures the brilliance of familial relationships and power of culture and stories through this simple backdrop. And it is a simple film; everything you can learn from this film comes through its gentle storytelling that invites you to recognize the beauty and profundity that exists in everyday lives.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Babbayar Batchuluun, Batchuluun Urjindorj, Buyandulam Daramdadi, Nansal Batchuluun, Nansalmaa Batchuluun

Director: Byambasuren Davaa

Rating: G

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I'm Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I'm Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck, Hans Löw, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Inga Busch, Jürgen Tarrach, Karolin Oesterling, Maren Eggert, Mignon Remé, Monika Oschek, Sandra Hüller, Sebastian Schwarz, Victor Pape-Thies, Wolfgang Hübsch

Director: Maria Schrader

Rating: R

Even those who aren't baseball aficionados should find something interesting and human in this straightforward, brainy documentary Fastball looks at the titular type of pitch not just from a place of scientific curiosity but as a symbolic goal that players all over the world chase after. Through many clear-eyed discussions and testimonials, we begin to see how a large part of the sport has been structured around the idea of understanding speed—and how some careers have been made or broken by trying to catch up with the greats. But in the end, Fastball takes a surprisingly subjective position on the matter; instead of definitively stating who's the fastest on earth, it affirms that everyone has their own legends they look up to, pushing them to be greater.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bryce Harper, Chris Cooper, Denard Span, Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Justin Verlander, Kevin Costner, Mike Schmidt, Nolan Ryan, Tony Gwynn

Director: Jonathan Hock

This documentary is about a unique program in Chicago called CeaseFire whose sole aim is to stop violent deaths in poor urban areas. CeaseFire is staffed by ex-gang members and ex-convicts who try to intervene in conflicts in their community, particularly those that may escalate into extreme violence or death. In these neighborhoods though, violent conflict can result from something as minor as someone making a funky comment about someone else’s shoes. This makes total success for a project like CeaseFire nearly impossible. It is not a totally depressing film though as the program and its practitioners are all pretty amazing, and director Steve James (who made Hoop Dreams) has unparalleled access to these struggling communities.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Amanda Palmer, Ameena Matthews, Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Steve James, Tio Hardiman

Director: Steve James

Rating: Unrated

Escape from Mogadishu follows diplomats from the North and South Korean embassies as they put aside their differences and work together to escape from an outbreak of civil war in Mogadishu, Somalia. Director Ryoo Seung-wan provides thrilling, high-budget action, especially intense car chases and suspenseful escape scenes that pump you with adrenaline and leave you on the edge of your seat. However, the Somali side of the story leaves much to be desired. Only existing to kill or be killed, the depiction of the Somalians is distasteful, and the country it’s set in seen as nothing more than a senseless warzone.

It’s in crafting a political thriller where Ryoo strikes a chord, following the tradition of South Korean films and dramas that question the current South/North relations. It’s also the aspect that pushed this film to win awards, given that it’s based on a true story from the 1991 civil war in Somalia, albeit with blockbuster flair. Sure, it’s a highly fictionalized story, but the political tensions and heightened atmosphere make good entertainment. And, as with all Korean thrillers, you’ll have to get on a certain wavelength of melodrama to be fully on board with the bonkers yet emotional escape.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ahn Se-ho, Han Chul-woo, Heo Joon-ho, Jeong Man-sik, Jo In-sung, Joo Bo-bi, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim So-jin, Kim Yoon-seok, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Jin-hee, Park Kyung-hye, Park Myung-shin, Yoon Kyung-ho, Zo In-sung

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan