15 Movies Like Mortal Kombat (2021) On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

A young bisexual woman attends a shiva, caught between her parents and their expectations, her ex, and her sugar daddy. Rachel Sennott’s Danielle is yet to find her path in life and everyone is determined to remind her of that. Taking place almost entirely in real-time, the film’s sharp wit is contrasted with constant anxiety, complemented by Ariel Marx’s horror-like score, full of discordant pizzicato that sounds like every last bit of sanity snapping. 

It’s a sex-positive take on 20-something life, treating bisexuality as wholly unremarkable and passing no judgment on Danielle’s sugar daddy income. Its specificities about Jewish customs and traditions are non-exclusionary, while its social claustrophobia is achingly universal. It’s comforting in the way it portrays the social horrors we all face, the feeling that everyone but you has life figured out, and that – ultimately – those who matter will pull through, eventually. One of 2021’s best.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ariel Eliaz, Cilda Shaur, Danny Deferrari, Deborah Offner, Dianna Agron, Fred Melamed, Glynis Bell, Jackie Hoffman, Molly Gordon, Polly Draper, Rachel Sennott, Richard Brundage, Rita Gardner, Sondra James, Ted Seligman

Director: Emma Seligman

Rating: Unrated

German writer-director Christian Petzold tells a story of a fateful encounter trapped in a love triangle. Thomas, Laura, and her husband Ali quickly become enmeshed in a three-way relationship rich with desire, pressure, and betrayal. Another Hitchcockian tribute by Petzold, Jerichow has all the elements of a neo-noir, but it's set in broad daylight. The plotting, the secret love affairs, the femme fatale with no back up plan: all the necessary ingredients for a chaotic tale, wrangled by desirous tensions, to say the least.  A film whose mystique is rather haunting, but far from spectral, Jerichow doesn't conceal its clear references to "The Postman Always Rings Twice".

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andre Hennicke, Benno Fürmann, Claudia Geisler-Bading, Hilmi Sözer, Knut Berger, Marie Gruber, Nina Hoss

Director: Christian Petzold

, 2019

This emotional and moving story is about a mother of four who is forced into homelessness in Dublin. With her husband working in a demanding restaurant job, Rosie is left to take care of the children while trying to find anything resembling accommodation. She starts by seeking the help of the city council, but every facility she calls is full or refuses to welcome them.

As a viewer, the heartbreaking reality of the situation sinks in quickly: Rosie and her husband are priced out and there are too many people in their condition. Their car doesn't fit them. But to her children, relatives, and school officials, Rosie keeps up appearances and doesn't compromise on her overwhelming child care tasks. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Clare Monnelly, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Johanna O'Brien, Killian Coyle, Lochlann O'Mearáin, Moe Dunford, Molly McCann, Natalia Kostrzewa, Pom Boyd, Sarah Greene, Toni O'Rourke

Director: Paddy Breathnach

, 2020

Mayor follows Musa Hadid, the mayor of the de-facto capital of Palestine, Ramallah, over two years as he tries to make his constituents’ lives better under occupation. With shootings, sieges, and a wide array of life-threatening situations taking place, his focus remains on cheesy Christmas decorations and funny city-branding attempts.

The director follows the mayor everywhere, including in his home and with his family, examining the toll of the unique job. Ramallah is portrayed like it were any other capital—except for the daily reminders that it’s very far from that.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: David Osit

This mortifying stop-motion fairy-tale is inspired by the very real horrors of Chile’s Colonia Dignidad: a cult colony turned torture camp under the Pinochet regime. Presented as colony propaganda, the tale tells the story of Maria, a girl who runs away from the safety of the colony into the forest and takes refuge in a house with two pigs. What transpires is a gut-wrenching allegory for the rise of fascism, colonialism, and white supremacy. 

The staggering animation which seamlessly shifts mediums from paper mâché to painted walls is a bewildering sight to witness. But it’s the synthesis of this boundary-pushing art and the underlying horrors it depicts, that make this stand as an unmissable cinematic event.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Amalia Kassai, Natalia Geisse

Director: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña

Michael Jackson’s death triggers the sudden unraveling of a young imam’s buttoned-up life in this idiosyncratic Egyptian character study. The news of the singer’s passing sets Khaled (Ahmed El-Fishawy) straining against reawakened memories of his youth as a mullet-sporting MJ fanatic, before his joyful creative spark was stamped out by two disparate forces: a mocking, macho dad who punished Khaled for his vulnerability and the conservative uncle who took him under his wing.

Sheikh Jackson mostly takes place across two intertwining timelines: Khaled’s free-spirited adolescence and his adulthood, which has so far been defined by a self-flagellating, fire-and-brimstone brand of Islam. These two strands form a neat illustration of the binary options Khaled was led to believe he had to choose from — but, as the movie’s title hints, he might not have to choose at all, a revelation that doesn’t come easy because it flies in the face of everything he’s been taught. Free from the judgemental impulses of Western cinema when it comes to characters like Khaled, Sheikh Jackson is both an introspective portrait of the universal struggle of defining one’s own identity and a refreshingly nuanced look at how that experience might play out in the modern Arab world.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahmed Al Fishawy, Ahmed Malek, Amina Khalil, Basma, Bassma, Dorra, Hazem Ehab, Ibrahim Farah, Maged El Kedwany, Mahmoud Al Bezzawy, Mahmoud Gomaa, Omar Ayman, Salma Abu Deif, Yasmin Raeis, Yasmine Raeis, حازم إيهاب, محمود البزاوي

Director: Amr Salama

Emily (Evanna Lynch), a strange, unique girl does not receive the long awaited letter from her father on her birthday. Sick of worrying, she decides to break away from home to visit him in the psychiatric institution where he stays. The plan requires the help of Arden (George Webster), a boy from school who is ready to drop everything and accompany her on a journey that quickly becomes as adventurous as it is heartfelt. In this film, director Simon Fitzmaurice take will take you on a trip through the beautiful Irish landscape to find nothing else but simple and true love.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ali White, Ally Ni Chiarain, Barry McGovern, Cathy Belton, Declan Conlon, Deirdre Mullins, Evanna Lynch, George Webster, John Travers, Martin McCann, Meghan Jones, Michael Hough, Michael Smiley, Millie Donnelly, Stella McCusker

Director: Simon Fitzmaurice

Rating: Not Rated

Featuring real, in-the-moment footage of operations to rescue young queer individuals from the continuing anti-gay purges in the Chechen Republic, Welcome to Chechnya makes for a demanding but essential call to action. There's a genuine sense of fear that pervades the documentary, not just for those being rescued after being forcibly outed, beaten, and trapped by the people around them, but for the filmmakers themselves, whose operations are built on meager resources and desperate, spur-of-the-moment decisions. It's a remarkably courageous film—one that also presents new ways of keeping sensitive subjects safe through the thoughtful use of deepfake technology, keeping their identities hidden while allowing them to freely express themselves.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ramzan Kadyrov, Vladimir Putin, Zelim Bakaev

Director: David France

This fun comedy-drama is about Bridget, a 34-year-old who hasn't quite got it all figured out, but at least she’s trying: after terminating an accidental pregnancy, she gets herself a summer gig as a nanny for a fearless six-year-old by the name of Frances. 

Tackling a myriad of "taboo" topics including abortion, menstruation, and depression, the movie visually normalizes human experiences that remain underrepresented in mainstream cinema. And writer Kelly O’Sullivan, who also plays Bridget, has a screenplay that manages to do it all without feeling didactic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bradley Grant Smith, Charin Alvarez, Courtney Rioux, Danny Catlow, Francis Guinan, Hanna Dworkin, Jackson Evans, Jim True-Frost, Kelly O'Sullivan, Lily Mojekwu, Mary Beth Fisher, Max Lipchitz, Meighan Gerachis, Ramona Edith Williams, Rebecca Buller, Rebecca Spence, Rebekah Ward, Roger Welp

Director: Alex Thompson

Rating: N/A

From the sheer size of Frederick Wiseman's documentaries (both in length and scope), it should be clear that his goal isn't necessarily to have us retain every piece of information he gives us in all of this film's board meetings and press conferences. This is a film interested in the macro view of how a city works, and Wiseman's attention to detail even in his old age (he's 94 at the time of writing this) is truly inspiring for any aspiring documentarian. City Hall doesn't necessarily tell us anything we might not already know about the coordination between a local government unit and its constituents and citizens, but Wiseman gets us to think of the grand design of it all—which is both wondrous and horrifying to behold.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Marty Walsh

Director: Frederick Wiseman

, 2020

Bull is a gritty and haunting drama featuring a phenomenal performance by Rob Morgan as a bullfighter. In a poor Houston suburb, he plays an aging and lonely black man doing everything he can to survive. He brushes off unrelenting racism, rides even when it's life-threatening and raises chickens to sell them. His next-door neighbor is a grandmother taking care of her daughter's kids while the daughter is in jail. One day one of these grandaughters harms the chickens and vandalizes Abe's house, prompting them to clash.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Havard, Rob Morgan, Sarah Albright, Troy Hogan, Yolonda Ross

Director: Annie Silverstein

, 2019

If you like movies without plot, you'll love Korean master Hong Sang-soo's work in Grass. Sang-soo likes to write the script for his characters and not the other way around: he hires actors, then writes a script that would fit them every morning of the shoot.

The result is a personal movie that feels improvised and experimental, despite being quite simple: it's about a small café and a woman who observes the interactions of the guests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, B-Real, Damian Marley, Gi Ju-bong, Gong Min-jeung, Han Jae-yi, Han Jai, Jin-young Jung, Ju-bong Gi, Jung Jin-young, Kang Tae-u, Kang Tae-woo, Ki Joo-bong, Kim Min-hee, Kim Myeong-su, Kim Myung-soo, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Yoo-young, Lee You-young, Seo Young-hua, Seo Young-hwa, Shin Seok-ho, Snoop Dogg, Steven Hager

Director: Fab 5 Freddy, Hong Sang-soo

Rating: N/A

Besides the futuristic tech that pops in and out, there’s not a lot about The Kitchen that signals it as a sci-fi film. Neglected housing projects and violent raids have become too common to count as dystopian, so it often feels like The Kitchen could’ve gone without labeling itself as part of the genre (the real world is bad enough). But underneath those layers is a subtle but sublimely tender story about father and son finding each other amid the rubble of real life. First-time directors Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, The Black Panther) and Kibwe Tavares delicately balance the personal and the political, never undermining the former as many socially aware films do. If Kaluuya and Tavares had fleshed the world it built a little more and removed the parts, such as the sci-fi elements, that did not work out, then Izi and Benji’s story would have been memorably devastating, instead of just affecting.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: BACKROAD GEE, Demmy Ladipo, Ewart James Walters, Fiona Marr, Henry Lawfull, Hope Ikpoku Jnr, Ian Wright, Jedaiah Bannerman, Kane Robinson, Karen Williams, Lola-Rose Maxwell, Neville Watson, Rasaq Kukoyi, Rhys Yates

Director: Daniel Kaluuya, Kibwe Tavares

Rating: R

Hotel Salvation is a touching movie about a father asking his son for a last wish : let him die in the Holy city of Varanasi. This Indian drama will let you discover a modern Hindu philosophy, the power of the scenic Varanasi and the bonds of family. It faces the question of death in the light, gentle and humorous way that perfectly illustrates the contradiction in question: celebrating life while surrounded by death.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adil Hussain, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Lalit Behl, Navnindra Behl, Palomi Ghosh

Director: Shubhashish Bhutiani

Rating: Not Rated

A documentary about the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation, the energy-trading and utilities conglomerate that gained worldwide attention in 2001 upon its headline-grabbing bankruptcy. Detailing the massive amount of fraud and malfeasance committed by the organization’s top executives, the film delves into the many intricate strategies and "special purpose” entities that were manufactured in order to hide enormous losses and debt from shareholders and the general public. It’s a fascinating and distressing examination of hubris and greed, with so many ethical considerations laid aside in the pursuit of financial gain. The film is as pertinent today as it was when it was released in 2005—perhaps even more so in this post-financial collapse era of increased distrust in corporate agendas.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Kaseweter, Amanda Martin-Brock, Andrew Weissmann, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Boxer, Bethany McLean, Bill Clinton, Carol Coale, David Freeman, Dick Cheney, Gray Davis, Henry Waxman, Jim Chanos, John Beard, Joseph Dunn, Kevin Phillips, Max Eberts, Peter Coyote, Peter Elkind, Philip Hilder, Reggie Dees II, Tim Belden

Director: Alex Gibney

Rating: Not Rated, R