20 Movies Like Official Competition (2021)

Staff & contributors

With ‘Wild tales’, writer-director Damían Szifrón explores exactly how thin the proverbial veneer is on the passions of the human heart. Or rather he gleefully rips it off. Visually dazzling and laced with social critique, violent revenge is the theme joining the six vignettes together. Each one starts off in a relatable everyday situation, including an airplane, a wedding, and a coffee shop, which quickly propels into complete savagery of Roald Dahlian proportions.

Like the famous author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Szifrón writes great satirical characters, which he relishes in hurting and throwing in the ditch. And much like the rage of its protagonists, featuring Ricardo Darín as a family man articulating his by way of explosives, this movie does not know peaks and valleys. It’s a dark comedy thrill ride that will have you gasping for air!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Abián Vainstein, Alan Daicz, Andrea Garrote, César Bordón, César Bordón, Darío Grandinetti, Diego Gentile, Diego Starosta, Diego Velázquez, Erica Rivas, Federico Liss, Germán de Silva, Graciela Fodrini, Gustavo Bonfigli, Javier Pedersoli, Juan Santiago Linari, Julieta Zylberberg, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Liliana Weimer, Lucila Mangone, Luis Mazzeo, Margarita Molfino, María Marull, María Onetto, Martín Gervasoni, Miguel Di Lemme, Mónica Villa, Nancy Dupláa, Oscar Martinez, Osmar Núñez, Pablo Chao, Pablo Moseinco, Paula Grinszpan, Ramiro Vayo, Ricardo Darín, Rita Cortese, Walter Donado

Director: Damián Szifron

Rating: R

From Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi comes another film featuring long drives, thoughtful talks, and unexpected twists. An anthology of three short stories, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy ponders over ideas of love, fate, and the all-too-vexing question, “what if?” 

What if you didn’t run away from the one you love? What if you didn’t give in to lust that fateful day? What if, right then and there, you decide to finally forgive?

Big questions, but without sacrificing depth, Hamaguchi does the incredible task of making every single second feel light and meaningful. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy will leave you with mixed emotions: excited, startled, dejected, hopeful. But one thing you won’t feel is regret over watching this instant classic of a film.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aoba Kawai, Aoba Kawai 河井清叶, Ayumu Nakajima, Fusako Urabe, Hitoshi Omika, Hyunri, Katsuki Mori, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Kotone Furukawa, Shouma Kai

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: R-13

Many films have tried to decipher the indecipherable bond between mothers and daughters. Lady Bird, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Turning Red, to name a few, center on this particular relationship, which to outsiders may seem strange at best and dysfunctional at worst. How can mothers yell at their daughters one second and coddle them the next? How can daughters treat mothers like their best friend and enemy all at once? 

One of the best films to explore this complexity is Petite Maman, a fantasy-like film that brings together mother and daughter in a unique situation, forcing them both to regard the other in otherwise impossible ways. It succeeds where others haven’t precisely because it accepts that this relationship is beyond dissecting, and the only way to honor it is in the poignant, poetic, and otherworldly way that it does. It’s a quiet film that manages to say a lot, not least of which is that it’s okay to feel and love and hurt as much as one does.

Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Joséphine Sanz, Margot Abascal, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne

Director: Céline Sciamma

It's heartbreaking to realize that Happening, a film set in 1960s France tracking a young woman's journey to dangerously and desperately terminating her pregnancy, is still very much relevant and relatable to this day. Around the world, abortion is still inaccessible, if not completely illegal, and women still struggle to lay full claim to their bodies. A lot of girls grow up with pregnancy statistics meant to instill fear, but Happening brings all that to brilliant life in intimate and unrestrained detail. The fears and wants of our protagonist Anne (played precisely by Anamaria Vartolomei) are palpable throughout. Nothing is held back in this film, and if you find yourself sick in parts, then it has achieved its goal of realistically conveying what it's like to stay alive in a society that fails to recognize your needs. 

 

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alice de Lencquesaing, Anamaria Vartolomei, Anna Mouglalis, Cyril Metzger, Édouard Sulpice, Fabrizio Rongione, Francois Loriquet, Isabelle Mazin, Julien Frison, Kacey Mottet Klein, Leïla Muse, Leonor Oberson, Louise Chevillotte, Louise Orry-Diquéro, Luàna Bajrami, Madeleine Baudot, Pio Marmaï, Sandrine Bonnaire

Director: Audrey Diwan

Rating: R

, 2021

Celebrated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest movie is about Rahim, a man who is in jail because he was unable to repay a debt. He gets a temporary release from prison, and with a big smile on his face, he leaves his confinement with a plan not to come back.

His secret girlfriend hands him a pack of gold coins, which they plan to sell to repay the creditor. But, as is custom with Farhadi’s movies, the center of the story is a moral dilemma that comes from one of the characters trying to be a good person. The gold coins are not Rahim’s or his girlfriend’s, but it's life-changing for both of them. 

Selected as Iran's official submission to the Oscars. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ali Reza Jahandideh, Amir Jadidi, Ehsan Goodarzi, Farrokh Nourbakht, Fereshteh Sadr Orafaee, Maryam Shahdaie, Mohsen Tanabande, Sarina Farhadi

Director: Asghar Farhadi

, 1995

Something is wrong with Carol White. She’s a well-off housewife living in the picturesque suburbs of Los Angeles. Her husband’s job is going well, her step-son is pleasant, and her social life consists of boutique lunches, fruit-filled diets, and lavishly pink baby showers—all is well on this side of the white picket fence.

Until Carol starts sneezing. Then she begins coughing, and she experiences a violent asthma attack while driving on the freeway. Afterward, Carol’s nose won’t stop bleeding. She starts having seizures. Struggling to breathe, Carol winds up in the hospital, seeing doctors and psychologists trying to diagnose what’s wrong and whether her mystery illness is physiological or psychological.

Todd Haynes’ Safe is an unnerving examination at our relationship with the environment—and in an increasingly modernized world, how much we can tolerate of what we create: white noise, toxins, busy work, everyday poisons, monotonous obligations. It’s also a complicated reflection on the ways in which women’s pain is disregarded and minimized, and what the loss of invisible agency looks like when it begins to manifest outward.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allan Wasserman, April Grace, Beth Grant, Brandon Cruz, Cassy Friel, Chauncey Leopardi, Dean Norris, Eleanor Graham, Elinor O. Caplan, Francesca P. Roberts, James Le Gros, James Lyons, Janel Moloney, Jean St. James, Jessica Harper, Jodie Markell, John Apicella, Julianne Moore, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Lorna Scott, Martha Velez, Mary Carver, Peter Crombie, Peter Friedman, Rio Hackford, Ronnie Farer, Saachiko, Sarah Scott Davis, Steven Gilborn, Susan Norman, Tim Gardner, Tricia Dong, Wendy Haynes, Xander Berkeley

Director: Todd Haynes

The culture of propaganda and cover-ups that kicked off the pandemic is the subject of this compelling documentary by award-winning director Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation). Wang, who traveled with her family to China in January 2020, saw and filmed the pandemic firsthand, and wrote to major newspapers like The New York Times to convince them to write about it. They never did. 

Media and government in both China and the U.S. played down the threat, and this documentary asks how different everything would have gone otherwise. More dauntingly, it's an examination of how the Communist Party in China managed to use the event to its advantage. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Nanfu Wang

Belfast stars Outlander’s Caitríona Balfe as the mother of a working-class Northern Irish family during The Troubles. Religious tension and the lack of opportunities put the family in a difficult position: they're the first in many generations to think about leaving the city of Belfast. They all have to navigate so many difficult questions on belonging, religion, and identity.

The story,  based on the director’s own childhood, is packaged in a noise-canceling black and white format. Also stars Judi Dench.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Bríd Brennan, Caitriona Balfe, Chris McCurry, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, Conor MacNeill, Drew Dillon, Elly Condron, Gerard Horan, Gerard McCarthy, James O'Donnell, Jamie Dornan, John Sessions, Josie Walker, Jude Hill, Judi Dench, Kit Rakusen, Lara McDonnell, Leonard Buckley, Mairéad Tyers, Mark Hadfield, Michael Maloney, Olive Tennant, Oliver Savell, Orla McDonagh, Sid Sagar, Turlough Convery, Vanessa Ifediora, Victor Alli

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anders Berg, Ben Bradshaw, Bjorn Granath, Bob Boudreaux, Colin Stinton, Dag Malmberg, David Bamber, Ian Blackman, Iva Šindelková, Jackson Gann, James Sobol Kelly, Jamie Marshall, Jane Perry, Janis Ahern, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Mats Blomgren, Robert Emms, Roy McCrerey, Scott Arthur, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Sverrir Gudnason, Thomas Hedengran, Tuva Novotny, Wille Glyt, Zuzana Geislerová

Director: Janus Metz, Janus Metz Pedersen

Rating: R

Whether or not you’re familiar with director Pedro Almodóvar’s body of work, Parallel Mother stands as a gorgeous melodrama, a striking story about motherhood and our ties to the past. On one level, it’s a simple but engaging drama about a misunderstanding that ensues between two women. But on another, it’s a deep dive into a nation’s cruel history, as well as an observation of people’s commitment to never letting that part of themselves go. 

The film references Almodóvar’s past films but it also works as a standalone, a perfect starting point for moviegoers interested in exploring his oeuvre. Of course, Penelope Cruz continues to be a powerhouse, each line delivery an emotional gut punch, while relative newcomer Milena Smit is stirring, a true revelation, as her director calls her.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Agustín Almodóvar, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Ana Peleteiro, Arantxa Aranguren, Carmen Flores, Chema Adeva, Daniela Santiago, Inma Ochoa, Israel Elejalde, José Javier Domínguez, Julieta Serrano, Milena Smit, Penélope Cruz, Rossy de Palma, Trinidad Iglesias

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

A young lawyer has to defend a murderer after passing the bar only three months prior in this satisfying German drama. To make matters worse, the victim happens to be his mentor, a wealthy and seemingly kind-hearted business man. As for the perpetrator, he refuses to say a single word. Caspar, the lawyer, is from a German-Turkish background, which is a hint to where the complexity of this legal drama lies: in Germany's history and racial legacy. The Collini Case is satisfying to a fault, but if you’re looking for substance-filled entertainment, this is some of the best you’ll get.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Maria Lara, Anne Haug, Axel Moustache, Bettina Lohmeyer, Catrin Striebeck, Elyas M'Barek, Esther Maria Pietsch, Falk Rockstroh, Felix Everding, Franco Nero, Frederik Götz, Hannes Wegener, Heiner Lauterbach, Ilknur Boyraz, Jannis Niewöhner, Levi Kirchhoff, Ludwig Simon, Lutz Blochberger, Manfred Zapatka, Margarethe Tiesel, Max Wagner, Omid Memar, Peter Prager, Pia Stutzenstein, Rainer Bock, Sabine Timoteo, Sandro Di Stefano, Sina Reiß, Stefano Cassetti, Stephan Schad, Tara Fischer, Thomas Limpinsel, Thomas Stecher, Tom Jahn

Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner

Rating: Not Rated

, 2019

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexia Depicker, Alice de Broqueville, Angelo Tijssens, Arieh Worthalter, Chris Thys, Daniel Nicodème, Els Olaerts, Hélène Theunissen, Ingrid Heiderscheidt, Katelijne Damen, Lukas Dhont, Magali Elali, Naomi Velissariou, Nele Hardiman, Oliver Bodart, Pieter Piron, Rilke Eyckermans, Steve Driesen, Tijmen Govaerts, Valentijn Dhaenens, Victor Polster

Director: Chad Faust, Lukas Dhont

Rating: N/A, R

A Ken Loach type of vibe drives The Selfish Giant  to be an interesting mix between anger,  desperation, and the beauty and humor often found in tough circumstances (think I, Daniel Blake but with kids as main characters). This sort of contemporary fable tells the story of two friends who skip school and hustle for work from a local scrap-dealer.  As they get more and more involved with him and his entourage, the grim realities of what once seemed a way out start to cast a shadow over their lives. The script is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, it's a beautiful, ultimately sad portrayal of the British underclass.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Conner Chapman, Elliott Tittensor, Ian Burfield, Joseph Priestly, Lorraine Ashbourne, Macy Shackleton, Ralph Ineson, Rebecca Manley, Robert Emms, Sean Gilder, Shaun Thomas, Siobhan Finneran, Steve Evets

Director: Clio Barnard

Rating: Not Rated

In this office comedy of errors, Javier Bardem plays Blanco, the titular boss, but whether he is actually good is what the movie wryly examines.

As head of a small manufacturing company, Blanco treats his employees intimately, going so far as make their problems his own. He believes this is why his company is nominated for an excellence certification, but as he waits for the possible award, cracks start to appear in his “work is family” facade as everything that could go wrong, starts going wrong. The Good Boss is an anxiety fest for Blanco to be sure, but a winning tragicomedy for us all.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Almudena Amor, Celso Bugallo, Daniel Chamorro, Fernando Albizu, Francesc Orella, Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Mara Guil, María de Nati, Nao Albet, Óscar de la Fuente, Rafa Castejón, Sonia Almarcha, Tarik Rmili, Yaël Belicha

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

Rating: Not Rated

Giannis Antetokounmpo's rags-to-riches life story is the stuff of movies, and indeed it’s been told many times on print and screen. But this is the first time he and his family are telling it themselves, which is a big deal since Antetokounmpo, as it turns out, is inseparable from his family. Their revealing interviews about how they struggled as undocumented immigrants from Nigeria in Greece add a new, moving depth to a well-known journey, which Director Kristen Lappas wisely divides into chapters named after Greek ideals Antetokounmpo represents. Despite Lappas’ background (she is Greek-American), she makes sure to balance Antetokounmpo's heroic moments with the Greek government’s at-times unfair treatment of the athlete and other immigrants in the country. She also puts a spotlight on the pressures Antetokounmpo is going through as one of the youngest champs in NBA history. After all, at just 29 years old, he’s already a two-time MVP and playoff winner. This doc proves that the story of how he got there is no less remarkable.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alex Antetokounmpo, Ernie Johnson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jason Kidd, Kenny Smith, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Marques Johnson, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Veronica Antetokounmpo, Vin Baker

Director: Kristen Lappas