11 Movies Like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (2020) On Netflix

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Ma Rainey's Black Bottom ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

This adaptation of a tragedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson might retain the mostly minimal setting of its source material — two rooms in a Chicago recording studio — but the searing performances at its heart more than warrant the translation to the big screen. A ferocious Viola Davis plays the titular ‘Mother of the Blues’, a fiery artist whose diva-ness is powerfully revealed to be a matching of the same transactional energy with which she’s treated by her white managers. On a steamy day in the roaring 1920s, one of Ma’s recording sessions morphs into a tinderbox of debate on art, race, and these exploitative power dynamics that exist at their intersection. As her band awaits her characteristically late arrival, its members tease, and then bicker, and finally erupt at one another. The youngest musician, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), is the most hot-headed — in his older band-mates’ eyes, he’s an arrogant young upstart with delusions of grandeur, but Levee’s ambitions are powered by real pain, as revealed in a blistering monologue. The film is unabashedly stagy in many respects, a quality that can work both ways — but, ultimately, the crackling current that runs through Davis and Boseman’s acting gives the movie all the blazing, goosebump-inducing immediacy of a live performance.

From Aaron Sorkin, the creator of every liberal's favorite 2000s political drama, The West Wing, The Social Network, and the master of the “walk and talk”, comes the dramatization of a sadly true American story from the mid-last century. In 1968, different groups from all over the country travelled to Chicago to protest the Vietnam War at the Democratic National Convention. The Chicago police greeted them in full riot gear, purposely attacking the peaceful protesters. Five months later, eight of them (charges against Black Panther leader Bobby Seale were dismissed) were arrested for inciting riot. As the title suggests, the film details the trials that followed, which highlight the still ongoing battles within American society and politics: racism, ineptness, corruption, complacency, you name it. On a lighter note, while you wouldn't necessarily call this an ensemble cast, the number of unlikely familiar faces in this film is off the charts: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sascha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne. It also features some of the greatest supporting actors in American TV history like John Carrol Lynch, Frank Langella, and the amazing John Doman aka Bill Rawls from The Wire.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Alex Henderson, Alex Sharp, Alice Kremelberg, Ben Shenkman, Blair Lewin, Brady Jenness, Brendan Burke, C.J. Wilson, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Damian Young, Danny Flaherty, David Fierro, Eddie Redmayne, Edward Fletcher, Frank Langella, J. C. MacKenzie, James Pravasilis, Jeremy Strong, John Carroll Lynch, John Doman, John F. Carpenter, John Quilty, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Juliette Angelo, Kate Miller, Kathleen Garrett, Keeley Morris, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Kevin O'Donnell, Larry Mitchell, Lex Elle, Mark Rylance, Max Adler, Meghan Rafferty, Michael Keaton, Michelle Hurst, Mike Brunlieb, Noah Robbins, Sacha Baron Cohen, Shawn Parsons, Steve Routman, Tiffany Denise Hobbs, Wayne Duvall, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Rating: R

While quite testing for viewers, this is one of the craziest, most high-energy movies you'll ever watch. In this incredible German drama, child actor Helena Zengel plays Bernadette aka Benni, a traumatized 9-year-old child who tends to lash out and has been repeatedly suspended from every school she went to. Benni is a so-called “Systemsprenger” (which is the original German title). A system crasher is a child so uncontrollable and aggressive that, over time, she falls through the grid of special schools, foster care, and social work facilities. Despite the best efforts of her designated social worker, Frau Bafané, played by Gabriela Maria Schmeide, she is turned down by everyone, testing the patience of her surroundings, wherever she goes. A trip with Micha (Albrecht Schuch), a tough boxer and anger-management trainer, turns out to be the last resort. Directed by Nora Fingscheidt, System Crasher is intense, punky, and wild with an almost eerie sense of authenticity. Its devastating effect is helped along by its unique, hyperactive camerawork. Much like the social workers themselves, you might have a hard time keeping professional distance to all this. This intense drama will stay with you for a long time.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Albrecht Schuch, Axel Werner, Barbara Philipp, Bärbel Schwarz, Bruno Thiel, Cederic Mardon, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Gisa Flake, Helena Zengel, Imke Büchel, Jana Julia Roth, Julia Becker, Lisa Hagmeister, Louis von Klipstein, Maryam Zaree, Matthias Brenner, Melanie Straub, Moritz Thiel, Peter Schneider, Roland Bonjour, Steffi Kuhnert, Tedros Teclebrhan, Till Butterbach, Victoria Trauttmansdorff

Director: Nora Fingscheidt

Rating: 12

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis, Jacob Ming-Trent, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Peter Y. Kim, Radha Blank, Reed Birney, Stacey Sargeant, T.J. Atoms, Welker White

Director: Radha Blank

Rating: R

On their drive back from a Tinder date that was only average, a couple are pulled over by a racist police officer. Things escalate unexpectedly and the couple, one of whom is a lawyer aware of the corruptedness of the system, start a life on the run together. This thrilling set-up mixing social commentary and romance is a movie that's actually many movies in one. And almost as if to cut in-between the different tonalities, there are so many quiet and beautiful shots of the couple: silent, still or dancing - these moments are true cinematic magic. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Andre De'Sean Shanks, Andy Dylan, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine, Brian Thornton, Bryant Tardy, Chloe Sevigny, Colby Boothman-Shepard, Daniel Kaluuya, Dickson Obahor, Flea, Gayle King, Gralen Bryant Banks, Indya Moore, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Jodie Turner-Smith, Joseph Poliquin, Karen Kaia Livers, Lucky Johnson, Melanie Halfkenny, Robert Walker Branchaud, Soledad O'Brien, Sturgill Simpson, Thom Gossom Jr.

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Rating: R

This new documentary is about the exact scale to which social media is harming us, as testified to by people from the industry: ex-executives at Google, Instagram, Facebook, and even the ex-President of Pinterest. All have left their companies for (incredibly valid) ethical concerns that they share here.

It's a blend of interview footage and a fiction film that follows a family who feels more distant because of social media. This allows to see the implications of what the interviewees are saying in real life but quite frankly it also serves as a welcome break from the intensity of their words. How intense? One of them predicts civil war within 20 years.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Catalina Garayoa, Chris Grundy, Gavin White, Kara Hayward, Laura Obiols, Skyler Gisondo, Sophia Hammons, Tristan Harris, Vincent Kartheiser

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Rating: PG-13

Dick Johnson Is Dead is a heartfelt and unconventional portrait of how one can live life to the fullest even in their darkest days. Kristen Johnson’s follow-up to the highly acclaimed documentary Cameraperson, Johnson shows that her skills are no fluke as she crafts a witty film where she masterfully balances surreal tonal shifts to create a compelling experience. While it does have a repetitive nature, the final thirty minutes are heartbreakingly comedic, and make this one worth a watch!

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ira Sachs, Kevin Loreque, Kirsten Johnson, Mary Page Nance, Michael Hilow, Vasthy Mompoint

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Rating: PG-13

, 2021

Minari is a film written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung, about a Korean-American family in search of the so-called American Dream. It is an intimate drama that is powerful yet quiet, and filled with moments of innocence. With dreamlike scoring, unique characters, and a captivating climax, this movie tugs on the heartstrings, and serves as a great reminder of the beauty of gratitude.

Thanks to these, plus winning performances across the board, Minari earned plenty of nominations at the 2021 Oscars, with Youn Yuh-jung eventually bagging the Best Supporting Actress award—a monumental first for South Korea.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alan Kim, Ben Hall, Chloe Lee, Darryl Cox, Debbi Tucker, Ed Spinelli, Eric Starkey, Esther Moon, Han Yeri, Jacob Wade, Jenny Phagan, Kaye Brownlee-France, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Skip Schwink, Steven Yeun, Tina Parker, Will Patton, Youn Yuh-jung

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Rating: PG-13

This Eddie Murphy comedy had all the ingredients to be both a famous movie and an award-winner, but neither happened. It tells the true story of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian who became famous for creating a character called Dolemite, a pimp, and who later attempted to make his own movie based on the same character. Murphy plays Rudy, but there are also other recognizable faces in supporting roles: Chris Rock, Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, Snoop Dogg, and many others. It's above all a funny movie, but being Eddie Murphy's first R-rated movie since 1999, it's also a realistic portrayal of both 1970s L.A. and the struggles of being a black filmmaker at the time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: A.J. Tannen, Aaron Craven, Akono Dixon, Aleksandar Filimonović, Amy Keys, Baker Chase Powell, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bob Odenkirk, Brandon Stewart, Bubba Ganter, Chelsea Gilson, Cheryl Francis Harrington, Chris Rock, Claude Phillips, Cole S. McKay, Craig Brewer, Craig Robinson, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dale Gibson, David B. Lyons, Demetrius Hodges, Denise Milfort, Eddie Murphy, Erik Kilpatrick, Garland Whitt, Gerald Downey, Henry Monfries, Ivo Nandi, Jamaal Lewis, Jernard Burks, Jill Savel, John Michael Herndon, Joshua Weinstein, Kazy Tauginas, Keegan-Michael Key, Kezii Curtis, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lamar Usher, Leonel Claude, Li Eubanks, Luenell, Michael Peter Bolus, Mike Epps, Milan Carter, Monique StaTeena, Phil Abrams, Quartay Denaya, Ron Cephas Jones, Sade E. Moore, Saudia Rashed, Snoop Dogg, T.I., Tasha Smith, Tituss Burgess, Tommie Earl Jenkins, Toni Duclottni, Wesley Snipes

Director: Craig Brewer

Rating: R

The movie follows Martha (Vanessa Kirby), a young wife who loses her baby in a failed home birth. She tries her best to trudge through the aftermath of loss, but her coping attempts prove to be near impossible, not least because her husband Sean (Shia LaBeouf) and mother Liz (Ellen Burstyn) continually domineer every aspect of her life.

Pieces of a Woman is harrowing and heartbreaking, with the actors giving their all in this realistic and revealing drama. But it's Kirby's performance as the unraveled yet apathetic Martha that is the film's immediate standout, rightfully earning her a Best Actress nomination at the 2021 Academy Awards.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Benny Safdie, Ellen Burstyn, Frank Schorpion, Gayle Garfinkle, Harry Standjofski, Iliza Shlesinger, Jimmie Fails, Molly Parker, Sarah Snook, Sean Tucker, Shia LaBeouf, Steven McCarthy, Tyrone Benskin, Vanessa Kirby, Vanessa Smythe

Director: Kornél Mundruczó, Kornél Mundruczó

Rating: R

Craig Foster’s bond with an octopus takes the spotlight in this heartfelt documentary set in the cold seas of South Africa. The title hints at the nature of this bond: the tentacled creature shows the human outsider the ropes in her watery den.

Both parties have an endless curiosity about one another, giving the filmmakers Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed much fuel for this sentimental doc. My Octopus Teacher features Foster diving in the ocean every day and waxing poetic through voiceovers about the remarkable ability of a wild animal to connect with him. This all takes place amidst his obsessive mapping of said animal’s habitat during what appears to be a mid-life crisis. It’s beautiful, yes, both visually and in its message of nature being something we can connect with to find meaning, but much of the story revolves around what Foster feels the octopus is doing in relation to him, and not about what it’s doing, period. The documentary becomes an exercise in making something that exists peacefully in its own little world all about some guy.

For a film that centers on an unlikely emotional attachment, it does explore the ocean and present the adventures one can embark on due to curiosity. Despite its faults, it manages to be informative and shows off gorgeous underwater cinematography.

Genre: Documentary

Director: James Reed, Philippa Ehrlich, Pippa Ehrlich

Toni Collette, Jessie Buckley, and Jesse Plemons star in this mind-bending drama from Charlie Kaufman, the writer of Being John Malkovich.

The Young Woman, as she is known in the movie, takes a day trip with her boyfriend to his family’s secluded farm in Oklahoma. On the way, she thinks about breaking up with him.

But once there, she meets her boyfriend’s unusual mom (Colette) and everything gets progressively weirder for The Young Woman. The dialogue of the movie is complex and so reference-heavy that it begs either a second viewing or a handful of explanation articles online.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abby Quinn, Anthony Grasso, Ashlyn Alessi, Colby Minifie, David Thewlis, Dj Nino Carta, Gus Birney, Guy Boyd, Hadley Robinson, Jason Ralph, Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Oliver Platt, Teddy Coluca, Thomas Hatz, Toni Collette, Unity Phelan

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Rating: PG, R