6 Movies Like Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Notes on a Scandal ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Acerbic diary excerpts provide the narration for this taut psychological thriller, but don’t be fooled: as Notes on a Scandal teases, single schoolteacher Barbara (Judi Dench) might not be filling these pages with the truth — at least, not intentionally. There are early tells that she might not be as reliable a narrator as we expect, given her reputation as a no-nonsense battleaxe: for one, her characteristic surliness dissolves alarmingly quickly upon meeting Sheba (Cate Blanchett), an idealistic young art teacher. Notes on a Scandal doesn’t overplay this hand, though: until its explosive climax, the psychological drama is mostly read between the lines, as we watch Barbara enthusiastically pursue a “friendship” with her younger colleague. What makes Notes doubly gripping is that Barbara isn’t the only one hiding dark secrets: as she soon discovers, the married Sheba has begun a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student. That disturbing revelation gives Barbara an upper hand, a means of manipulating Sheba into validating her delusions about their relationship. What follows is a gripping twin character study, one that plays out in the heightened realm of a melodrama as their sordid secrets become entwined. Darkly camp and spanning just 92 perfectly paced minutes, this is an intense immersion into two very ugly psyches.

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Batty, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charissa Shearer, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Florence Keith-Roach, Frankie McCafferty, Gary Lilburn, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Marie Jones, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Nika McGuigan, Paris Arrowsmith, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: PG-13

This is a touching saga based on the plight of the women labelled as "fallen" that the Magdalene Laundries housed in Ireland. The movie grips you by the throat right from the first minute and the sense of injustice to women that characterizes the entire length of the film only rarely eases up to give you room to appreciate the emotional complexities that each individual character represents. The stories of Margaret, Bernadette and Rose and the people they meet inside the Magdalene Laundry will force you to ask time and again during the movie, "Why?" and "Who are they to?". You will share in Bernadette's sense of outrage, in Rose's compassion and Margaret's acute fear of the church, of speaking up and asking for justice. So much so, that you may even find yourself identifying with (or at least understanding) Crispina's questionable grasp on reality. Worst of all, the devout Catholic establishment that this was, hypocrisy and corruption ran through its every vein, adding to the shock and resentment that builds towards the, for the lack of a better word, captors of our protagonists. The Magdalene Sisters is a tribute to one of the forgotten chapters in a long history of injustice to women and an absolutely moving one at that. It does not fail to utterly horrify while it also warms your heart.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anne-Marie Duff, Britta Smith, Chris Patrick-Simpson, Daniel Costello, Dorothy Duffy, Eamonn Owens, Eileen Walsh, Eithne McGuinness, Frances Healy, Geraldine McEwan, Mary Murray, Nora-Jane Noone, Peter Mullan, Phyllis MacMahon, Stephen McCole

Director: Peter Mullan

Rating: R

Equal parts touching and comical, this portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London features twin daughters who couldn’t be more different—the brainy and good-natured Natalie, and her sneering, layabout sister Nicola. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky) expect the slow, dreamy representation of British society from one of the country's best and most renowned directors.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alison Steadman, Claire Skinner, David Neilson, David Thewlis, Harriet Thorpe, Jane Horrocks, Jim Broadbent, Moya Brady, Paul Trussell, Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

, 2008

The 2008 film Doubt offers a haunting peek into the crisis of pedophilia within the Catholic church. Featuring an all-star cast of Amy Adams,  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, it is more than just a fictional tale. With performances that will make you question your intuition and cast a shadow of doubt on your own instincts, Doubt is a difficult film to grapple with. 

I fell in love with this film very early on into the duration of it because it was so honest and it allowed the characters to navigate the nature of their suspicions. With Doubt, however, comes denial, and Viola Davis’s eight-minute monologue is simply smeared with it. Doubt is a fantastic story that has left me stunned for over a decade. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alannah Iacovano, Alice Drummond, Amy Adams, Audrie Neenan, Bernadette Lords, Bridget Megan Clark, Carrie Preston, Felicia Tassone, George Aloi, Helen Stenborg, Jack O'Connell, Jennifer Lauren DiBella, John Costelloe, Lydia Jordan, Margery Beddow, Marylouise Burke, Meryl Streep, Molly Chiffer, Paulie Litt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Susan Blommaert, Suzanne Hevner, Valda Setterfield, Viola Davis

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Rating: PG-13

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel invites us to an earnest meditation on old age and change. The film centers on a group of British retirees traveling to the titular hotel in India, in hopes of a good retirement. The group cast is an excellent choice: prominent names from British movies and television line the cast, and it’s a pleasure to see them act alongside each other with equal screen time and their own detailed plotlines. Their plotlines inspire empathy towards different struggles that the elderly face: finding love again, dealing with accumulated debt, and handling loss. All of these are tough, but especially when you feel your time has run out. The best of these plotlines are the ones that acknowledge loss but still persist through accepting changing circumstances and actively going for one's desires.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Diana Hardcastle, Glen Davies, Honey Chhaya, Jay Villiers, Judi Dench, Lillete Dubey, Liza Tarbuck, Louise Brealey, Lucy Robinson, Maggie Smith, Nina Kulkarni, Patrick Pearson, Paul Bentall, Paul Bhattacharjee, Penelope Wilton, Rajendra Gupta, Ramona Marquez, Richard Cubison, Ronald Pickup, Sara Stewart, Siddharth Makkar, Simon Wilson, Tina Desai, Tom Wilkinson, Vishnu Sharma

Director: John Madden

Rating: PG-13

Shot as a single day, it tells the story of college professor George (Colin Firth) who, unable to cope with the death of his partner months prior, resolves to commit suicide. The movie is not all dark, however, there are moving, deeply human encounters as George moves through his last day. Fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut and set in 1960s Los Angeles, it speaks powerfully of the colour-stripping effects of grief and loneliness. Fantastic performance also by Julianne Moore as Charley, an equally lonely and desperate character, but with a markedly different story. A Single Man is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aaron Sanders, Adam Shapiro, Colin Firth, Elisabeth Harnois, Erin Daniels, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jenna Gavigan, Jon Hamm, Jon Kortajarena, Julianne Moore, Keri Lynn Pratt, Lee Pace, Matthew Goode, Melissa Goodwin Shepherd, Nicholas Hoult, Nicole Steinwedell, Paul Butler, Paulette Lamori, Ridge Canipe, Ryan Simpkins, Teddy Sears, Tricia Munford

Director: Tom Ford

Rating: R