43 Movies Like Guy Ritchie's The Covenant (2023)

Staff & contributors

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

, 2022

Adapted from the Japanese film Ikiru, which in turn was adapted from the Russian story The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Living is a parable about, well, living. Specifically, it's about the importance of wonder and the magic of the mundane. It's also about legacy and the stories we leave in our wake, which live on long after we're gone. This familiar premise could have very easily been turned into another trite and cheesy movie that warns you to make the most out of your life, but thanks to a lean script, assured camerawork, and powerfully restrained performances, Living is elevated into something more special than that. It’s a technically beautiful, well told, and profoundly moving film, with Bill Nighy giving a career-best turn as a repressed man aching for meaning in his twilight years. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Rawlins, Aimee Lou Wood, Alex Sharp, Barney Fishwick, Bill Nighy, Celeste Dodwell, David Summer, Edward Wolstenholme, Eunice Roberts, Ffion Jolly, Grant Gillespie, Hubert Burton, Jamie Wilkes, John MacKay, Jonathan Keeble, Lia Williams, Matilda Ziegler, Michael Cochrane, Michael James, Nichola McAuliffe, Nicky Goldie, Oliver Chris, Patsy Ferran, Richard Cunningham, Robin Sebastian, Rosie Sansom, Thomas Coombes, Tom Burke, Zoe Boyle

Director: Oliver Hermanus

The story of the Von Erich family is excruciatingly sad, but Iron Claw doesn’t dive right into the tragedy. Instead, it takes care to paint a picture of a close-knit family that’s filled with just as much warmth, jealousy, affection, and resentment as the next bunch. Durkin masterfully draws you into their circle so that everything that happens next is sure to cut deep. The choreography, chemistry, color—everything is carefully and beautifully set up, but the casting is what stands out the most. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the inspired move to pair Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons as brothers and partners. On the internet, people have been dubbing The Iron Claw as “Little Women and The Virgin Suicides for men” and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from the sibling bond over glory and growing pains, all these films are also powerful explorations of gender. Iron Claw is a vicious takedown of toxic masculinity, while also being a searing family drama and an incredible showcase for Efron and company.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Brian Hite, Cazzey Louis Cereghino, Chad Governale, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chelsea Edmundson, Christina Michelle Williams, Garrett Hammond, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Jeremy Allen White, Jim Gleason, Jullian Dulce Vida, Kevin Anton, Kristina Kingston, Lily James, Maura Tierney, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Harney, Michael Papajohn, Mike Dell, Ryan Nemeth, Scott Innes, Stanley Simons, Zac Efron

Director: Sean Durkin

Rating: R

, 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

Kill Bill meets Bend It Like Beckham in this wild ride about a martial arts-obsessed British-Pakistani teenager who views her older sister’s impending marriage as a catastrophe to be averted at all costs. Aspiring stuntwoman Ria (Priya Kansara) can’t stomach the idea of free-spirited Lena (Ritu Arya) giving up on her creative dreams to marry a nauseatingly perfect man — not least because art school dropout Lena is her hero for refusing to conform to their community’s traditional ideas about respectability and success.

Polite Society makes room to sensitively explore Ria’s disappointment and the loneliness of rebellion, but writer-director Nida Manzoor doesn’t stop there, throwing in a sharp allegory disguised as a zany twist. Rather than upending our expectations for upending’s sake, the surprise metaphor refigures the movie as perceptive cultural commentary on the age-old devaluation of women as mere vessels for the next generation. What’s more, Manzoor takes the analogy full circle to thoughtfully imagine how this kind of dehumanizing misogyny might have affected previous generations, suggesting that the real villains lie offscreen. Movies as inventive and intelligent as this don’t come around often, but one that’s this funny, visually bold, unabashedly feminist, and full of stars-in-the-making is rarer still.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akshay Khanna, Ella Bruccoleri, Eunice Huthart, James McNicholas, Jeff Mirza, Jenny Funnell, Nimra Bucha, Rekha John-Cheriyan, Ritu Arya, Seraphina Beh, Shobu Kapoor

Director: Nida Manzoor

There's a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder's main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn't want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of "Forevering," a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It's rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror's final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alicia Silverstone, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach, Kiah McKirnan, Melanie Liburd, Sasha Kuznetsov, Tim Hopper

Director: Jennifer Reeder

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Director: Maryam Touzani

There’s a scene early in the documentary when present-day Michael J. Fox, who famously suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, swaggers along a street and greets a fan, only to stumble at that very moment and have people surround him with concern. Instead of giving into their pity or pretending nothing happened, he cooly tells the fan, “It was so nice meeting you, you knocked me off of my feet!” 

This brief moment tells you all you need to know about the ‘80s icon—Fox refuses to be a victim. Still is his brilliant and admirable attempt at telling his well-known story on his own terms. It covers everything from his childhood and early work in Hollywood to his life-changing roles in Family Ties, Teen Wolf, and most memorably, Back to the Future. It also sheds light on Fox's life as a husband, father, and Parkinson's sufferer. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) does a genius job of using faceless reenactments and cuts from films and TV shows to accompany Fox’s narration, which pumps the film with a dynamism that matches Fox’s resilient spirit. 

Urgent, clever, and exciting, Still is one of the rare celebrity biographies that serves a higher purpose than just recounting a famous person's life. Anyone who understands the importance of constantly moving and evolving will appreciate this film's existence. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, David Letterman, Donna Lysell, Eric Stoltz, Gary David Goldberg, Gene Siskel, Hannah Galway, Jason Calder, Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Justine Bateman, Larry David, Meredith Baxter, Michael J. Fox, Michael McDonald, Muhammad Ali, Rick Pearce, Robert Zemeckis, Roger Ebert, Shayn Walker, Siobhan Murphy, Steven Spielberg, Thomas F. Wilson, Tracy Pollan, Woody Harrelson

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alessandro Cremona, Anna Ferrara, Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ermanno De Biagi, Federico Majorana, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Michelangelo Dalisi, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Stella Mastrantonio, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R

, 2022

Of the three Brontë sisters—all of whom are accomplished writers in their own right—it’s Emily who remains the most enigmatic to this day. She died early and left in her wake just one work: her first and only novel, Wuthering Heights. The book shook England back then; it was rugged and sexual and violent, and the film honors that by filling the gaps in our knowledge of Brontë’s life with the excitement of her work. Emily, the film, may be historically inaccurate, but it is wildly enjoyable, even if it is pure fantasy. The cinematography is sensual and the sound production screeching; the vibe is equal parts erotic and eerie as Emily loses herself in the mysticism of the moors. It seems apt that a film about Emily leans more toward arthouse than commercial, but it’s also impressive that director Frances O'Connor is able to achieve all this while maintaining a universally romantic appeal about it.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Alexandra Dowling, Amelia Gething, Emma Mackey, Fionn Whitehead, Gemma Jones, Gerald Lepkowski, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Paul Warriner, Philip Desmeules, Sacha Parkinson, Veronica Roberts

Director: Frances O'Connor

Rating: R

This HBO mockumentary is part-pastiche of the mythologising sports documentary, part-zany comic creation of its own. Tour de Pharmacy tells the incredible untrue story of the 1982 Tour de France, the most chaotic iteration of the race that never happened. Of the original 170 cyclists, all but five were disqualified for bribing the deep-in-debt president of cycling’s governing body (Kevin Bacon), leaving only Italian-a sensation-a JuJu Peppi (Orlando Bloom); secret female racer Adrian Baton (Julia Ormond and Freddie Highmore); frustrated nephew of Jackie Robinson, Slim (Daveed Diggs); a roided-out Austrian (John Cena); and Marty Hass (Andy Samberg), a Nigerian cyclist despised by his country.

Tragedy, scandal, and surprising romance unfold across the documentary’s chronicling of the race’s 21 stages, with plenty of digressions along the way — from a riotous interview with the head of the sport’s anti-doping agency (played by Nathan Fielder) to an animated explanation of red and white cells that devolves into a surreally bloody civil war. The humor zooms between the high-brow (French New Wave references delivered by JJ Abrams) and the R-rated from scene to scene, making this breezy mockumentary a wild ride of its own.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, TV Movie

Actor: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Andy Samberg, Chris Romano, Chris Webber, Danny Glover, Daveed Diggs, Dolph Lundgren, Edgar Wright, Eric Nenninger, Eugenia Kuzmina, Freddie Highmore, J.J. Abrams, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Buck, John Cena, Jon Hamm, Julia Ormond, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Clash, Lance Armstrong, Maya Rudolph, Mike Tyson, Nathan Fielder, Orlando Bloom, Phylicia Rashād, Rebecca Dayan, Seth Morris, Will Forte

Director: Jake Szymanski

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

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn't waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we've come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it's sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Lisa Tønne, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Morten Svartveit, Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Sam Ashraf

Director: Eskil Vogt

The Murder Case of Hana & Alice is a charming and whimsical anime film that tells the story of two teenage girls who team up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a classmate. The film is beautifully animated in a rotoscoped style giving it a unique and dreamlike quality. Hana and Alice, who is new to the town, decide to team up to solve the case. 

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, and part slice-of-life make for a refreshing and unpredictable viewing experience as the film commits itself to each. The cast makes the story funny and heartwarming with their well-timed quips and well-written dialogue. This is a truly unique and enjoyable animated film about a beautiful friendship budding most unexpectedly.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Anne Suzuki, Haru Kuroki, Kaku Tomohiro, Midoriko Kimura, Ranran Suzuki, Ryo Katsuji, Sei Hiraizumi, Shoko Aida, Tae Kimura, Tomohiro Kaku, Yu Aoi

Director: Shunji Iwai

Who knew that behind the puzzle Tetris lies a political thriller of a backstory that is just as fun and challenging as the game itself? Tetris, the film, is a playful telling of the game behind the game, a surprising account of the otherwise unbelievable events that had to happen in making Tetris available to the masses. 

Between the 8-bit editing, the immensely likable lead, and the cat-and-mouse chase between heroes and villains, there is much to like about the movie. You put it on out of curiosity (how the hell does a brick game have this much back story?) but you stay for the intrigue, the playfulness, and the irresistible urge to see who wins the race.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Vodovoz, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi, Ayano Yamamoto, Ben Miles, Bhav Joshi, Dmitriy Sharakois, Greg Kolpakchi, Ieva Andrejevaitė, Igor Grabuzov, Irina Kara, Jenni Keenan-Green, Ken Yamamura, Len Blavatnik, Matthew Marsh, Miles Barrow, Moyo Akandé, Niino Furuhata, Nikita Efremov, Nino Furuhata, Oleg Shtefanko, Rick Yune, Rob Locke, Roger Allam, Sofia Lebedeva, Taron Egerton, Toby Jones, Togo Igawa

Director: Jon S. Baird