8 Movies Like God's Crooked Lines (2022)

Staff & contributors

, 2021

In the first few minutes of Mass, hushed tones, solemn movements, and awkwardly averted eyes hint at an unspoken tragedy that haunts everyone in the film. The four main characters discuss it during a sit-down, but even then it remains unspeakable; such is the dedication of first-time full-length director Fran Kranz in depicting the reality of tragic events. Not much is done in the way of plot twists and shocks, but in place of those, Mass makes clever use of close-up shots and unmoving settings to portray the privacy and paralysis of grief. For this reason, Mass often feels like a masterful play brought to life, but also more than that, a brilliant portrait of healing—or at the very least, coping with the everlasting aftermath of loss. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ann Dowd, Breeda Wool, Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Michelle N. Carter, Reed Birney

Director: Fran Kranz

The Kings of the World is a surreal coming-of-age movie that follows Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny, and Nano, street kids who are on their way to claim land that’s rightfully theirs. Their one goal is to finally make a home after living without one for so long, but they’re hindered by the inevitable tragedies that befall kids of their kind: impoverished, alone, and abandoned.

The title is ironic, but it also hints at their state of mind: these boys are unstoppable, rabble-rousers who live like there’s no tomorrow. They tear down private property and invade inns not out of spite, necessarily, but out of a knowledge that whatever they do they’re gonna be put down anyway, so they might as well live without rules.

Tackling powerful themes like land restitution and youth neglect, The Kings of the World is one of the most agonizing movies you'll ever see. It’s also Colombia’s official Best Foreign Language Film entry in the 2022 Academy Awards.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Brahian Acevedo, Carlos Andrés Castañeda, Cristian Campaña, Cristian David Duque, Davison Florez

Director: Laura Mora

Rating: TV-MA

The Swimmers tells the true story of sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini (played by fellow sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa), Syrian swimmers trained to compete at the Olympics. When their athletic goals and overall safety are threatened by the increasing presence of war, the girls decide to take a chance and migrate to Europe, where they hope to live out their dreams and reunite with their family someday.

The Swimmers is a touching family drama that does right to center on the love and tension between the siblings. Yusra and Sara’s relationship perfectly encapsulates the envy and resentment but also the deep love and loyalty that are present in every sister bond. It’s tender in these moments, but it can also be equally searing—as a refugee drama, it chillingly tracks the complicated and inhumane processes of fleeing one’s country for a safer future.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Ahmed Malek, Alfredo Tavares, Ali Soliman, Ali Suliman, Daniel Eghan, Dritan Kastrati, James Floyd, Kinda Alloush, Manal Issa, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nahel Tzegai, Nathalie Issa, Roderick Hill

Director: Sally El Hosaini

Rating: PG-13

On one level, Alcarràs is a story about land, about how inextricable it is to livelihood, about how ownership of it has bred conflict since time immemorial. Director Carla Simón emphasizes this even more by hiring actual Catalan farmers as the leads. We’re not just watching the Solés sing and fight for their land, but Alcarràs natives who are also very much at risk of losing what’s theirs in real life. The acting comes off as natural because it is. 

But on another level, Alcarràs is also a story about family, in particular about how family ties run so deep, they’re bound to coil around each other under the ground they’re rooted in. Like a family portrait come to life, Alcarràs shows us the beauty and the peril of loving your family and the legacy they leave behind as much as the Solés do. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Berta Pipó, Jordi Pujol Dolcet

Director: Carla Simón

, 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

In this office comedy of errors, Javier Bardem plays Blanco, the titular boss, but whether he is actually good is what the movie wryly examines.

As head of a small manufacturing company, Blanco treats his employees intimately, going so far as make their problems his own. He believes this is why his company is nominated for an excellence certification, but as he waits for the possible award, cracks start to appear in his “work is family” facade as everything that could go wrong, starts going wrong. The Good Boss is an anxiety fest for Blanco to be sure, but a winning tragicomedy for us all.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Almudena Amor, Celso Bugallo, Daniel Chamorro, Fernando Albizu, Francesc Orella, Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Mara Guil, María de Nati, Nao Albet, Óscar de la Fuente, Rafa Castejón, Sonia Almarcha, Tarik Rmili, Yaël Belicha

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Rating: Not Rated

, 2016

Arch-provocateur Paul Verhoeven received widespread acclaim for his assured and darkly funny adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s award-winning novel, his first film in the French language. 

It’s a controversial revenge thriller about a domineering businesswoman who is raped in her home by a masked man. Refusing to let the attack affect her life, she refuses to report the incident and tracks down the assailant herself.

Verhoeven directs the material with confidence and a troubling lightness of touch, while fearless Isabelle Huppert gives one of the best performances of her long and illustrious career. Some people found Elle empowering while others felt it perpetuated misogynistic attitudes. Either way, it makes for a passionate post-viewing discussion.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alice Isaaz, Anne Consigny, Anne Loiret, Arthur Mazet, Caroline Breton, Charles Berling, Christian Berkel, Eric Savin, Fleur Geffrier, François Nambot, Hugo Conzelmann, Hugues Martel, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Douchet, Jean-Noël Martin, Jean-Yves Freyburger, Jina Djemba, Jonas Bloquet, Judith Magre, Laurent Lafitte, Loïc Legendre, Lucas Prisor, Marie Berto, Nicolas Beaucaire, Nicolas Ullmann, Oury Milshtein, Raphaël Kahn, Raphaël Lenglet, Stéphane Bak, Vimala Pons, Virginie Efira, Zohar Wexler

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

In the sea of mommy-horror films, Run Rabbit Run would float somewhere in the middle. Despite Sarah Snook's imposing commitment to playing a mother haunted by her past, the story doesn't meet her halfway with a memorable script. The dynamic between mother and daughter gets stuck in an exhausting loop of sudden bursts of anger and angst followed by glaringly quick reconciliation. Twists and scares are present as Snook's character, also named Sarah, confronts the dark and disturbing truths of her past, but it feels more mandatory than useful. The potential for transforming gripping familial tension into horror is lost in a meandering mother/daughter fight.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Damon Herriman, Genevieve Morris, Greta Scacchi, Julia Davis, Katherine Slattery, Lily LaTorre, Naomi Rukavina, Neil Melville, Sarah Snook, Trevor Jamieson

Director: Daina Reid