55 Movies Like Léon: The Professional (1994) (Page 3)

Staff & contributors

, 2011

Realistic, intimate, and compelling, Elena is a movie that makes you think a lot after you finish watching it. It is an inherently Russian movie, however there is something about how the story is told that makes it a universal family drama. A woman from a modest background to which she still has a lot of attachement is married to an old wealthy business man. Upon learning that the man might write her off his will, she feels pushed to get her hands dirty to honor her responsibilities towards her original family. The question of right and wrong when faced with extreme situations is at the heart of this aesthetically slow-burning family drama.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandr Kazakov, Aleksandr Slastin, Aleksey Maslodudov, Aleksey Rozin, Anastasiya Sapozhnikova, Andrey Smirnov, Anna Gulyarenko, Ekaterina Tarkovskaya, Elena Lyadova, Igor Ogurtsov, Ivan Dobronravov, Ivan Mulin, Larisa Khalafova, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Nadezhda Markina, Oksana Semenova, Olga Lapshina, Vasily Michkov, Vasily Zotov, Yana Lvova, Yaroslav Zhalnin, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev

Rating: Not Rated

Clive Owen stars as a struggling writer who reluctantly accepts a lucrative offer to work as a croupier at a London casino. His characteristic aloofness, hatred of gambling, and sharp observational skills allow him to remain uncompromised and able to catch any attempt at cheating within his field of vision. But when a savvy professional gambler he shares an attraction with asks him to participate in a heist in an uncompromised way, he’s forced to consider playing the angles. Owen’s coolly detached performance is a marvel, and the depiction of the London casino scene is detailed and gritty, both of which make for compelling British noir.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alex Kingston, Alexander Morton, Barnaby Kay, Clive Owen, David Hamilton, Eddie Osei, Gina McKee, Kate Hardie, Nicholas Ball, Nick Reding, Ozzie Yue, Paul Reynolds, Rhona Mitra, Sheila Whitfield

Director: Mike Hodges

Rating: Unrated

Slow, contemplative, but captivating, Baraka uses no narration, dialogue, or text to connect its images. The documentary stitches together shots with different subjects from different locations around the world. At first, it seems very peaceful—gorgeous, high-definition shots of nature paired with a soothing, resonant score that lulls you into hypnosis—but as the film progresses, director and cinematographer Ron Fricke presents more scenes with people, from the cities to the countryside, to places rarely documented on film. Depending on how you look at it, Baraka will either feel like just a compilation of screensavers or a profound meditation on how intrinsically connected everything is. It’s totally breathtaking either way.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Ron Fricke

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner just doesn’t give up. After a 2011 scandal that had him resign from office, Weiner tries to make a comeback in this documentary that follows his 2013 mayoral campaign. His passion for public service is indisputable, and despite his shortcomings, it’s hard not to root for his go-getter attempts at a second chance. To this end, he wins and fails, with each outcome feeling more dramatic and consequential than the last. Things culminate upon the revelation of a fresh, new scandal, which disrupts his unlikely rise as a top candidate as well as the film’s production flow, which then takes a turn for the better (or worse, depending on your sympathies for Weiner). 

Fast paced and brilliantly stitched, Weiner is a compelling account of a man who won’t back down, and of the people surrounding him who suffer from his obstinacy. The documentary is proof that even in our hypercritical age, it’s still possible to both humanize and criticize a “canceled” subject, all while maintaining level-headed humor and allure.  

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Bill de Blasio, Donald Trump, Howard Stern, John Waters, Jon Stewart, Lawrence O'Donnell, Stephen Colbert

Director: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman

Rating: R

Set between the years 1977 and 2005, this Polish drama goes through various stages in the life of the controversial surrealist-expressionist painter Zdzisław Beksiński. The extensive video archive left behind by the artist was used to craft an intimate portrait of three interdependent people: Beksiński himself, his suicidal and neurotic son, and his wife.

Beksiński is superbly played by veteran actor Andrzej Seweryn, known for his appearance in numerous Andrzej Wajda films. Even though the film focuses less on Zdzisław's painting career and more on his relationship with his family, it will definitely inspire you to dig deeper into both his tragic life and impressively dark body of work. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agnieszka Michalska, Aleksandra Konieczna, Alicja Karluk, Andrzej Chyra, Andrzej Seweryn, Danuta Nagorna, Dawid Ogrodnik, Magdalena Boczarska, Zofia Perczynska

Director: Jan P. Matuszynski

Rating: N/A

This is a hard movie to describe, but I’ll do my best without giving too much away. The movie takes place in three separate segments that eventually come together. Half of the story takes place in Germany, half in Turkey, with almost all of the central six characters spending time in both countries while either searching for each other or trying to redeem themselves. Daughters search for their mothers (and vice versa) and one character’s actions will eventually bring everything more-or-less full circle. The film is as much about the characters though as it is about the cultural exchange happening between the two countries. If you have even a passing interest in films from this part of the world, I recommend giving this one a try.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ali Akdeniz, Baki Davrak, Cengiz Daner, Erkan Can, Feridun Koç, Gürsoy Gemec, Güven Kiraç, Hanna Schygulla, İdil Üner, Lars Rudolph, Nejat İşler, Nurgül Yeşilçay, Nursel Köse, Önder Çakar, Öznur Kula, Patrycia Ziolkowska, Tuncel Kurtiz, Turgay Tanülkü, Yelda Reynaud

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: Unrated

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is compassionate and diminutive, but her social awkwardness hinders her as she attempts to navigate young adulthood. After recently being hospitalized for self-harm, Lee is determined to prove she is capable of autonomously taking care of herself. She begins working as a secretary for E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a meticulous attorney.

It’s not long before both Lee and Edward realize they’re attracted to one another’s opposite natures: Lee’s obedience and Edward’s dominance. They begin a mutually consensual BDSM relationship, with both experiencing a sexual and emotional awakening. 

The premise may sound familiar: 50 Shades of Grey is widely acknowledged as, at the very least, owing its title to Secretary. But while 50 Shades of Grey portrays an unhealthy, toxic, and superficial idea of a BDSM affair, Secretary maintains that consent must be at the core of any relationship. And ultimately for Lee and Edward, BDSM becomes a way for them to communicate and overcome their individual pain, and unite stronger as a vulnerable, loving whole.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alison Tatlock, Amy Locane, Christina Gray, Erin Cressida Wilson, Ezra Buzzington, Herbert Russell, James Spader, Jeremy Davies, Jessica Tuck, Julene Renee, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Lacey Kohl, Lauren Cohn, Lesley Ann Warren, Lily Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Joy, Michael Mantell, Osgood Perkins, Oz Perkins, Patrick Bauchau, Sabrina Grdevich, Stephen McHattie, Steven Fierberg, Steven Shainberg

Director: Steven Shainberg

Rating: R

Somehow an art house film, horror, and romance all in one, Let the Right One In explores the boundaries of its genres with unprecedented finesse, and offers a stunning alternative for those disappointed with recent vampire love stories. From its haunting minimalist imagery to its incredible score, it is persistently beautiful. The film follows twelve-year-old Oskar and Eli, drawing on numerous aspects of traditional undead lore, and still manages an impressive feat in feeling entirely fresh and devoid of cliche. Those in search of a terrifying movie might need to look elsewhere, but if what you're looking for is simply a great watch, don't pass this one up.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Anders T. Peedu, Henrik Dahl, Ika Nord, Johan Sömnes, Kåre Hedebrant, Karin Bergquist, Karl-Robert Lindgren, Lina Leandersson, Malin Cederblad, Mikael Rahm, Pale Olofsson, Patrik Rydmark, Per Ragnar, Peter Carlberg, Tom Ljungman

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Rating: R

Starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner and Patricia Clarkson. Lars and the Real Girl is a funny and thought-provoking look at the psychology of loneliness and the healing power of love. I rented this a few years back because of Ryan Gosling - he had just blown me away in Fracture so I was trying to catch up on his other movies. It was an unexpected gem. One of the sweetest movies I have ever seen - it was kind of like a fairy tale. With a blow-up doll. Yes, that's right.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alec McClure, Angela Vint, Annabelle Torsein, Arnold Pinnock, Aurora Browne, Billy Parrott, Boyd Banks, Doug Lennox, Emily Mortimer, Joe Bostick, Joshua Peace, Karen Robinson, Kelli Garner, Lauren Ash, Liisa Repo-Martell, Lindsey Connell, Liz Gordon, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Nancy Beatty, Nicky Guadagni, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Schneider, R.D. Reid, Ryan Gosling, Sally Cahill, Tannis Burnett, Tommy Chang, Torquil Colbo

Director: Craig Gillespie

Rating: PG-13

Film direction—at least in the traditional sense—is all about establishing control. In Even the Rain, however, the crew led by director Sebastian faces a problem larger than what they can manage when they become embroiled in a local conflict over water supply while shooting a period film in Bolivia. The situation escalates into a violent uprising between the residents and the Bolivian state forces, which then endangers the completion of Sebastian’s film.

Even the Rain exposes the hypocrisy of urban filmmaking, questioning its exploitative and selfish tendencies. “Some things are more important than your film,” the actor Daniel bluntly tells Sebastian in one scene. This meta-commentary extends to the audience and encourages us to reevaluate the importance we put into films, especially with regards to the current socio-political context.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Carlos Santos, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Dani Curras, Daniel Currás, Daniel Currás, Ezequiel Díaz, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Karra Elejalde, Leónidas Chiri, Leónidas Chiri, Luis Bredow, Luis Tosar, Milena Soliz, Najwa Nimri, Pau Colera, Raúl Arévalo, Sonia Ovando, Vicente Romero, Vicente Romero Sánchez

Director: Icíar Bollaín

Rating: Not Rated

Dear Ex is a family drama that explores LGBT+ issues in contemporary Taiwan. As much as it is a movie about how people cope with loss, it’s a powerful, heartwarming, and intimate portrait of the relationship between Jay and Song Zhengyuan and all the obstacles they face.

While the themes of Dear Ex are heavy, the director makes the viewing experience easier for the audience thanks to humorous and witty dialogue. Meanwhile, the history between Jay and Song Zhengyuan’s relationship unfolds in a very beautiful, almost poetic way, and by the end of the movie, we understand that everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness. The way the characters effortlessly show that love is something beyond genders is admirable, and it is great to see how everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness whether it's from themselves or from others by the end of the movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ai-Lun Kao, Clover Kao, Danny Liang, Fang Wan, Hsieh Ying Shiuan, Hsieh Ying-xuan, Hsin-Ling Chung, Hsu Chih-yen, Joseph Huang, Mag Hsu, Roy Chiu, Spark Chen, Ting-Chien Wu, Yang Li-yin, Ying-Xuan Hsieh

Director: Chih-Yen Hsu, Hsu Chih-yen, Mag Hsu

Rating: TV-MA

Certified Copy starts straightforward enough as it follows an unnamed shopkeeper (Juliette Binoche) and a writer (William Shimell) taking a stroll around picturesque Tuscany, debating the merits of authenticity and simplicity. They’re strangers flirting under the guise of an intellectual debate, and for a while, you think you’re watching a film like Before Sunrise, that is until a mysterious, almost magical, shift occurs, and suddenly, you’re witnessing something entirely different. For better or worse, director Abbas Kiarostami never makes it clear what happens, and that very mystery gives you a lot to think about. Are they pretending to be copies or is it the other way around? Neverending questions run through your head as you watch them banter, but whatever actually happens might be beside the point. At the moment, you get deeply felt, wonderfully rendered, as-real-as-can-be performances from Binoche and Shimell, and you can’t help but surrender.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Moore, Agathe Natanson, Gianna Giachetti, Jean-Claude Carrière, Juliette Binoche, William Shimell

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Rating: NR

In my own wished-for parallel universe, French actors Vincent Cassell and Emanuelle Devos are voted the sexiest actors alive. I find them both transfixing and appealing in every role they’ve performed, and they are quite the pair here. Devos plays Carla, a put-upon assistant at a property management company. While good at her job, there is little room for her to advance her career, as she is one of the only women at her company and also has a hearing deficiency. Into her humdrum life walks ex-convict Paul (Cassell), who Carla hires as a personal assistant. It turns out that what Paul lacks in secretarial skills he makes up for in other ways. The first half of the film plays almost like a dark workplace comedy, before taking a dangerous turn towards psychological crime thriller. Overall, it’s a dark and sexy character study of two mismatched outsiders who turn out to complement each other perfectly.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bernard Alane, Bô Gaultier de Kermoal, Celine Samie, Chloé Mons, Christophe Van de Velde, Christophe Vandevelde, David Saracino, Emmanuelle Devos, Francois Loriquet, Nathalie Lacroix, Olivia Bonamy, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Perrier, Pierre Diot, Serge Boutleroff, Serge Onteniente, Vincent Cassel

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

This emotionally rich biopic spans Reinaldo Arena’s lifetime, from his childhood and early embrace of the Cuban Revolution to his deportation via the notorious 1980 Mariel boatlift, and subsequent death in the United States. The story of Arenas’ life is told through using his own words, over director Julian Schabel's beautifully crafted images. In his first-ever English-speaking role, Javier Bardem renders a strong dramatic performance for which he deservedly received wide acclaim. Before Night Falls is a finely crafted portrait of a creative yet self-destructive poet who has to face the clash between his identity and the political environment surrounding him.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alfredo Villa, Andrea Di Stefano, Diahnne Abbott, Diego Luna, Francisco Gattorno, Héctor Babenco, Javier Bardem, Jerzy Skolimowski, John Ortiz, Johnny Depp, Marisol Padilla Sánchez, Maurice Compte, Michael Wincott, Najwa Nimri, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Olivier Martinez, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Rene Rivera, Santiago Magill, Sean Penn, Vincent Laresca

Director: Julian Schnabel

Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) is a patriarch of an upper-class white family insulated from the roiling protests and violence in their suburban household outside of Johannesburg. When his gardener’s son is arrested, du Toit’s complacency is tested and he becomes embroiled in the devastating political reality outside the comforts of his gated world. 

Although it falls into the somewhat blemished category of films that center white protagonists when covering Black struggle, it does so with a piercing critical lens that confronts white denial and complicity. Euzhan Palcy’s direction is striking, depicting racism and violence with uncompromised clarity, while her unfettered dedication to getting this made even brought Marlon Brando out of retirement. Keep an eye out for him playing a beleaguered civil rights attorney - a role which notched him his final Academy Award nomination. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Andrew Whaley, David de Keyser, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Ndhlovu, Gerard Thoolen, Janet Suzman, John Kani, Jürgen Prochnow, Kevin Johnson, Leonard Maguire, Marlon Brando, Michael Gambon, Paul Brooke, Richard Wilson, Ronald Pickup, Rosemary Martin, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, Susan Sarandon, Susannah Harker, Thoko Ntshinga, Winston Ntshona, Zakes Mokae

Director: Euzhan Palcy