18 Movies Like Inception (2010) On Crave Canada

Staff & contributors

This French-Canadian slow-burner, written and directed by Denis Villeneuve, will pull you in with one of the best movie beginnings of all time – and its outstanding ending will leave you shaken. To fulfill their mother’s last wish after her sudden death in Montreal, the two twins Jeanne and Simon must travel separately to an unnamed Middle-Eastern country (with strong resemblances to civil-war-torn Lebanon) to deliver letters to close relatives they never knew they had.

The twins’ quest into a dark and staggering family history makes them experience themselves and the violence of war like they had never imagined. Their ordeal is interrupted by a series of flashbacks telling the story of their mother, Nawal Marwan, before leading them to uncover a deeply disturbing secret. Based on Wajdi Mouawad's 2003 play of the same name, this melodramatic war thriller takes a poetic and poignant look at how families are shaped by atrocities – even long the after wars that produced them have ended.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, War

Actor: Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Ahmad Massad, Allen Altman, Baraka Rahmani, Baya Belal, Dominique Briand, Hamed Najem, Hussein Sami, Jackie Sawiris, John Dunn-Hill, Karim Babin, Lara Atalla, Lobna Azabal, Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Majida Hussein, Maxim Gaudette, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Mohamed Majd, Mustafa Kamel, Nabil Sawalha, Nadia Essadiqi, Rémy Girard, Rémy Girard

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Rating: R

Nothing Compares weaves a poignant story about one of the most misunderstood artists of our time, Sinéad O’Connor. The iconoclast first made waves in the '80s with her catchy music, but she quickly reclaimed the reins of her own fame and used her platform to champion marginalized causes, long before pop stars were expected to do so. 

The documentary zeroes in on this part of O’Connor's life: what prompted her to music and how she used it as a tool of activism. The answers are multi-faceted and handled here with extreme grace. Like the many from her generation, O’Connor struggled with religion and abuse, such was the Catholic Church's hold on Ireland at the time time. 

The film contextualizes her once-shocking moments and reveals how they were all grounded on things she cared about. It’s a beautiful piece of work that reassesses and redeems a wronged artist who was ahead of her time.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Chuck D, Gay Byrne, George H. W. Bush, Joe Pesci, John F. Kennedy, John Maybury, Kathleen Hanna, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, Peaches, Pope John Paul II, Sinéad O'Connor, Skin, Tim Robbins

Director: Kathryn Ferguson

Rating: Not Rated

Riceboy Sleeps looks like a fairy tale. Taken in 16mm and colored to pastel-grain perfection, it’s a captivating picture that moves like a happy memory. And occasionally, the action matches the air. Mother So-young (Choi Seung-yoon) and son Dong-hyun (Ethan Hwang) share a fierce, us-against-the-world bond as they strive to make it in a Canadian suburb without a lick of help. 

The film is beautiful that way, but it also importantly doesn't spare us from the harsh-edged realities of immigrant life. There are assimilation attempts, cultural divides, and on Dong-hyun’s part, a perpetual longing to know about an unknowable past. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but it’s also a tear-jerker, as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. 

Coupled with writing and performances that are resonant but restrained (they never verge on melodrama), Riceboy Sleeps makes for a powerful debut and a truly unforgettable watch.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aiden Finn, Anthony Shim, Bryce Hodgson, Choi Jong-ryul, Eric Keenleyside, Ethan Hwang, Hunter Dillon, John Cassini, Kendra Anderson, Lee Yong-nyeo, Ryan Robbins, Sean Poague, Vanessa Przada

Director: Anthony Shim

Robert Downey Jr's triumphant return to film, this movie is a satirical take on film noir and detective movies in general. The screen chemistry between Gay Perry the private eye, played by Val Kilmer, and Downey Jr's robber turned actor, Harry Lockhart, is hysterical, and the film's tongue in cheek nature is witty, smart, and delivers. Directed by the man who directed Lethal Weapon, the action is top notch, the laughs are pretty much constant, and the mystery is compelling. It's mind boggling that nobody saw this when it came out.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ali Hillis, Angela Lindvall, Ariel Winter, Ben Hernandez Bray, Bill McAdams Jr., Brendan Fehily, Brian Simpson, Cole S. McKay, Corbin Bernsen, Daniel Browning Smith, Dash Mihok, David Newsom, Evan Parke, Harrison Young, Indio Falconer Downey, Jake McKinnon, Joe Keyes, Josh Richman, Judie Aronson, Kathy Lamkin, Larry Miller, Laurence Fishburne, Lela Edgar, Martha Hackett, Michelle Monaghan, Nancy Fish, Robert Downey Jr., Rockmond Dunbar, Saida Pagan, Shannyn Sossamon, Stephanie Pearson, Tanja Reichert, Teresa Maria Herrera, Val Kilmer, Vincent Laresca, Wiley M. Pickett

Director: Shane Black

Rating: R

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona's footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you'll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that's not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona's modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn't make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino, Dalma Maradona, Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Bonadeo, Maria Rosa Maradona, Pele

Director: Asif Kapadia

Rating: TV-14, TV-MA

If Katrina Babies seems like a somewhat disjointed account of the myriad responses to Hurricane Katrina and the U.S. government's horrible, anti-poor response to the disaster, director Edward Buckles Jr. uses this structure with much more intent. For once this is a documentary that feels like citizen reporting and not a sanitized report from experts who have little to no real personal stake in the subject. As the film swings from one talking point to the next, you get the sensation of just how much the people of New Orleans are still trying to comprehend; the loose structure brings to this film a sense of helplessness that, for some, just can't be overcome.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Arnould Burks, Calvin Baxter, Cierra Chenier, Damaris Calliet, Quintina Thomas Green

Director: Edward Buckles

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, Myles Brewer, Nathan Fielder, Orlando Bloom, Phylicia Rashād, Rebecca Dayan, Russ Walko, Seth Morris, Will Forte

Director: Jake Szymanski

Even if it seems like nothing really "happens" for much of The Secret Garden, its characters paint quite the moving picture of neglected children and their indomitable capacity to find hope in the world. Director Agnieszka Holland tells this story with just the right amount of whimsy: at times it's spooky and magical, but everything is grounded in the charming performances of the film's young actors, who are allowed to be difficult, smart, and sorrowful whenever they need to be. It may be old-fashioned, but watching it in this new decade—when we're all trying to guard our kids from sickness and death—makes it feel all the more relevant.

Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrea Pickering, Andrew Knott, Arthur Spreckley, Colin Bruce, David Stoll, Eileen Page, Heydon Prowse, Irène Jacob, John Lynch, Kate Maberly, Laura Crossley, Maggie Smith, Peter Moreton, Walter Sparrow

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Rating: G

The single-take conceit of this high-camp whodunnit set in the world of competitive hairdressing is not without its knots. Without the charity of a cut, it falls on the screenplay to pull us through the film’s murder mystery in real-time, and the result contains more than a few inorganic segues, despite the cast’s best efforts at smoothing things out. What’s more, when the mystery does eventually unravel, it feels unsatisfying in a way that even a heavy round of conventional editing couldn’t resolve.

And yet, with its very game cast; razor-sharp one-liners; inspired hairdos; Robbie Ryan’s wheeling, smartly perspective-hopping cinematography; and a wry chamber-piece premise — in the midst of a cutthroat contest, a senior stylist is found with his scalp removed — Medusa Deluxe still bristles with passion and wit. It’s abundantly clear that first-time director Thomas Hardiman and his crew are as ostentatiously die-hard about their film as the catty characters are about their hair design, and the sheer force of their enthusiasm is enough to zhuzh up even the plot’s flattest moments. A feature debut doesn’t often come without flaws, but it’s equally as rare for one to be as boldly ambitious or as irreverently fun as this.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Clare Perkins, Darrell D'Silva, Harriet Webb, Heider Ali, John Alan Roberts, Kae Alexander, Kayla Meikle, Lilit Lesser, Luke Pasqualino, Michelle Parker, Nicholas Karimi

Director: Thomas Hardiman

Though it doesn't proceed like most animal/nature-centered documentaries that you've seen, the Oscar-nominated All That Breathes is instantly memorable in the way it de-centers the human perspective from its all-encompassing study of New Delhi, India. The wildlife rescue team that features prominently in this film still only becomes a vessel through which director Shaunak Sen explores the environmental and political hazards being faced by the nation today. It's a movie that definitely challenges you to think for yourself, as any talking heads or on-screen explanations are traded for truly stunning shots of New Delhi as a biome teeming with life among the dirt. For those who want their documentaries unconventional, this is excellent stuff.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Shaunak Sen

A documentary told entirely through animated avatars can be a hard sell, but instead of playing into the expected jokes, director Joe Hunting takes this digital environment extremely seriously, and that makes all the difference. He doesn't downplay how absurd it is to see what are essentially 3D characters going on dates and having bellydance classes together, and yet Hunting still takes time to emphasize how freeing this virtual existence is for all involved. It's disappointing that the film never addresses the many real concerns people have about purely online relationships (deception, exploitation, and abuse, among others), but as a positive and perhaps overly romanticized view of this new, 21st-century social space, the documentary remains fresh and vital.

Genre: Animation, Documentary

Actor: DragonHeart, Dust Bunny, DylanP, IsYourBoi, Jenny0629

Director: Joe Hunting

Rating: R

This Canadian drama produced by Clint Eastwood is based on the true story of Saul Indian Horse, a famous indigenous hockey player who survived Canada’s residential school system. As recently as 1996, indigenous children were taken away from their families to attend brutal assimilation boarding schools.

Indian Horse, by virtue of being based on true events, is not an against-all-odds story. The main character goes through a series of ups and downs between the 70s and 90s, when the movie is set, which reflect the recent history of abuse that Indigenous communities suffered in Canada.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ajuawak Kapashesit, Anders Yates, Edna Manitowabi, Emily Klassen, Forrest Goodluck, Irene Poole, Jill Frappier, Johnny Issaluk, Martin Donovan, Melanie McLaren, Michael Murphy, Michiel Huisman, Skye Pelletier, Sladen Peltier, Will Strongheart

Director: Stephen S. Campanelli

Rating: Not Rated

This documentary... man, where do I even begin? It captures the lives of the Friedmans and how their world turned upside down when their father, Arnold, and brother, Jesse, were both convicted of sexually abusing children. The filmmaker interviews victims, family members, and experts to strike you with the two sides of the story. The Oscar nominated film shows real footage from the family which makes it even more of an authentic experience. I won't tell you much more about it- but let me just say, this documentary will leave you speechless.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Arnold Friedman, David Friedman, Elaine Friedman, Jesse Friedman, Seth Friedman

Director: Andrew Jarecki

Rating: Not Rated

Shot almost entirely in one take and on a tiny budget, and yet the central performance in this movie is still better than most big-budget dramas I’ve seen this year.

Two indigenous women, one upper-class and the other impoverished, meet on the day that the rich one gets an IUD and the other one, pregnant, finds herself kicked out of her home. They spend a few hours together: they talk, they take cabs, walk, etc; and you as a viewer, follow them throughout their intimate yet difficult moments.

If you like subtle movies that showcase how people live and interact with one another, beyond plot-obsessiveness, this is for you.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aidan Dee, Anesha Bailey, Anthony Bolognese, Barbara Eve Harris, Charles Jarman, Charlie Hannah, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, James Angus Cowan, Jay Cardinal Villeneuve, Kathleen Hepburn, Lissa Neptuno, Paul Jarrett, Sonny Surowiec, Tony Massil, Violet Nelson

Director: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn

Rating: TV-MA

To call Going to Mars a somewhat shapeless documentary isn't a criticism. If anything, its flexibility of structure feels entirely appropriate for the woman at its center, who doesn't necessarily defy categorization so much as she remains on the pulse of history as it continues to shift in unexpected ways. Nikki Giovanni is a person who knows who she is and knows that she stands for the essential dignity of Black people, and it's inspiring to see how she not only remains hopeful and articulate through every critical moment, but that she insists on being ambitious for what Black people deserve to achieve in the future. As her son tells her at a speaking engagement, Giovanni doesn't just dream of going to space; she feels that it is her people's imperative to be there.

Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson tell her (still ongoing) life story in a strikingly impressionistic way—cleverly playing with archival footage, but more importantly having Giovanni's candid words blending seamlessly into her poetry. This is a credit to how connected to the milieu Giovanni's work actually is, of course, but the film does a very good job defining her as someone who can bring beauty and grace out of every experience.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Kai Giovanni, Nikki Giovanni, Novella Nelson, Taraji P. Henson, Thomas Giovanni, Touré Neblett, Virginia Fowler

Director: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson