13 Movies Like Old (2021)

Staff & contributors

This documentary starts with Alex Lewis, who gets into a motorcycle accident and wakes up in the hospital not knowing who he is. He doesn’t remember anything (not even what a bicycle or a TV is, or who his mother or father are), but he remembers his twin brother, Marcus. When Alex gets back into his childhood home, he’s full of questions, and Marcus is full of answers. However, slowly, Marcus realizes his power to reshape Alex’s version of their past. Marcus leaves one important detail from Alex’s life that makes this documentary (as if it wasn’t already) such an insane story. I know I said it’s a sad movie, but it’s also fascinating and, ultimately, humanizing of the brothers’ experience.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alex Lewis, Andrew Caley, Evan Milton, Kathleen Rainey, Laura Obiols, Marcus Lewis |, Thomas Mulhurn

Director: Ed Perkins

Rating: TV-MA

Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a drifter driving up to Alaska in hopes of finding work. When her car breaks down, she and her dog Lucy are stranded and forced to scrounge for food and repairs, hitting one roadblock after another on her path to an uncertain dream. This sympathetic and solemn look at poverty from director Kelly Reichardt serves as a reminder of how easy it is to fall through the fragile American safety net.   

Reichardt’s uncompromising approach paired with Williams’s restrained performance makes the experience authentic and intense, recalling the work of Ken Loach. This natural sharpness makes for an engrossing watch that builds in power until the emotional release of the film’s heartbreaking conclusion. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ayanna Berkshire, David Koppell, Deirdre OConnell, Gabe Nevins, Jeanine Jackson, John Breen, John Robinson, Larry Fessenden, M. Blash, Marilyn Faith Hickey, Michelle Williams, Wally Dalton, Will Oldham, Will Patton

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: R

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city - a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can't mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who's also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don't mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alphaeus Green, Jr., Caitlin Ewald, Erin Allegretti, Haley Lu Richardson, Jim Dougherty, John Cho, Lindsey Shope, Michelle Forbes, Parker Posey, Reen Vogel, Rory Culkin, Rosalyn R. Ross, Shani Salyers Stiles, Wynn Reichert

Director: Kogonada

Rating: Not Rated

This teenage crime drama contains enough grit to stand on its own, but The Tribe’s real hook is in the way it’s told: entirely in Ukrainian sign language, without subtitles. Set in a boarding school for deaf students, new arrival Sergei must contend with an institution that’s run like a gang. His journey through the ranks is extremely violent and graphic, including unflinching depictions of rape and a back-alley abortion that lingers long in the mind.

Its unpleasantness will be a barrier for some, but for the curious, it’s an oddly balletic film. Among the misery, actors communicate the entire story via body language. Emphatic dialogue delivery conveys the mood of each scene (which often changes for the worse), and the characters’ actions speak loud and clear. Narratively it breaks little ground, and its darkness can’t be overstated, but there’s grace to its reliance on everything but words to tell its story. A film you won’t stop thinking about.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alexander Panivan, Grygoriy Fesenko, Hryhoriy Fesenko, Ivan Tishko, Oleksandr Dsiadevych, Oleksandr Osadchyi, Rosa Babiy, Roza Babiy, Yana Novikova

Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi

Rating: Unrated

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

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

Muriel is a young social outcast who spends her time obsessively planning a dream wedding without ever having been on a date. Her life is flipped upside down when she steals $15,000 from the family business to go on a tropical getaway. This brilliant comedy is memorable as much for Toni Collete’s breakout role as it is for its snarky subversion of rom-com tropes.

Muriel’s Wedding arrived in a wave of bright and brash Australian comedies of the early 90s like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom. And like these counterparts, its heightened reality gives way to a surprising and heartbreaking emotional core. Director PJ Hogan would go on to direct My Best Friend’s Wedding - a fun but watered-down imitation of the surprising storytelling that made this a cult classic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Annie Byron, Barry Crocker, Basil Clarke, Belinda Jarrett, Bill Hunter, Cecily Polson, Chris Haywood, Dan Wyllie, Daniel Hepner, Daniel Lapaine, Darrin Klimek, Di Smith, Frankie Davidson, Gabby Millgate, Geneviève Picot, Gennie Nevinson, Heather Mitchell, Jeanie Drynan, John Gaden, John Walton, Julian Garner, Kevin Copeland, Kirsty Hinchcliffe, Kuni Hashimoto, Matt Day, Penne Hackforth-Jones, Pippa Grandison, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Carter, Richard Sutherland, Rob Steele, Robert Alexander, Robyn Pitt Owen, Roz Hammond, Sophie Lee, Susan Prior, Toni Collette, Vincent Ball

Director: P.J. Hogan

Rating: R

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

Freediving is a particularly cinematic sport because it taps into something beyond what the human body is capable of. Skilled divers hold their breath for long enough to reach more than 100 meters deep, and watching footage of that incredible feat is exhilarating, to say the least. The Deepest Breath capitalizes on that very spectacle—being exposed to death and conquering it—and banks on using archival footage of world records and training. It's a smart move, as it keeps the spectator on edge, but it can also be a cruel way to put thrills over ethics. The editing is kept suggestive, but sometimes, shamefully, at the cost of misrepresenting Alessia Zecchini and toying with the viewer's expectations to the point of callousness.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alessia Zecchini, David Attenborough, Natalya Molchanova, Stephen Keenan

Director: Laura McGann

Rating: PG

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Swedish Netflix’s new horror-comedy takes this idea to the extreme. Based on the novel by Mats Strandberg, who’s known as the Swedish Stephen King, The Conference is centered around a group of employees on their company retreat. With its ensemble, the film crafts a relatable dynamic, with the exact petty back-and-forth and the same exact corporate politics many adults have to deal with. It’s no wonder one of them snaps, and takes them out one by one. The film isn’t exactly new, with the decades’ collection of slashers all over the world, but this Swedish thriller is a fun take on it, with match cut transitions, quick paced sequences, and the gruesome murders of the group most adults spend time with - their colleagues. It’s an interesting watch as the world gets back to the office.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adam Lundgren, Amed Bozan, Bahar Pars, Cecilia Nilsson, Christoffer Nordenrot, Claes Hartelius, Eva Melander, Jimmy Lindström, Katia Winter, Lola Zackow, Maria Sid, Marie Agerhäll, Martin Lagos, Robert Follin

Director: Patrik Eklund

This Canadian drama produced by Clint Eastwood is based on the true story of Saul Indian Horse, a famous indigenous hockey player who survived Canada’s residential school system. As recently as 1996, indigenous children were taken away from their families to attend brutal assimilation boarding schools.

Indian Horse, by virtue of being based on true events, is not an against-all-odds story. The main character goes through a series of ups and downs between the 70s and 90s, when the movie is set, which reflect the recent history of abuse that Indigenous communities suffered in Canada.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ajuawak Kapashesit, Edna Manitowabi, Forrest Goodluck, Jill Frappier, Johnny Issaluk, Martin Donovan, Melanie McLaren, Michael Murphy, Michiel Huisman, Skye Pelletier, Sladen Peltier, Will Strongheart

Director: Stephen S. Campanelli

Rating: Not Rated

Escape from Mogadishu follows diplomats from the North and South Korean embassies as they put aside their differences and work together to escape from an outbreak of civil war in Mogadishu, Somalia. Director Ryoo Seung-wan provides thrilling, high-budget action, especially intense car chases and suspenseful escape scenes that pump you with adrenaline and leave you on the edge of your seat. However, the Somali side of the story leaves much to be desired. Only existing to kill or be killed, the depiction of the Somalians is distasteful, and the country it’s set in seen as nothing more than a senseless warzone.

It’s in crafting a political thriller where Ryoo strikes a chord, following the tradition of South Korean films and dramas that question the current South/North relations. It’s also the aspect that pushed this film to win awards, given that it’s based on a true story from the 1991 civil war in Somalia, albeit with blockbuster flair. Sure, it’s a highly fictionalized story, but the political tensions and heightened atmosphere make good entertainment. And, as with all Korean thrillers, you’ll have to get on a certain wavelength of melodrama to be fully on board with the bonkers yet emotional escape.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ahn Se-ho, Han Chul-woo, Heo Joon-ho, Jeong Man-sik, Jo In-sung, Joo Bo-bi, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim So-jin, Kim Yoon-seok, Koo Kyo-hwan, Park Kyung-hye, Park Myung-shin, Yoon Kyung-ho, Zo In-sung

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan

Beat for beat, word for word, Love is in the Air moves just like any other romantic comedy. Within that genre, it slots easily into the category of romcoms that follow a city guy who falls in love with a country girl, eventually learning and preferring the ways of small-town living. But Love in Air is even more improbable than usual because of how eerily perfect the two leads are. Goodrem, in particular, is always manicured to perfection, which makes her role as a down-to-earth no-nonsense go-getter very hard to believe. Still, the movie isn’t entirely unwatchable. There are pockets of humor to be found, and the stunning visuals almost make it worth the watch. Almost.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Craig Walker, Delta Goodrem, Hugh Parker, Joshua Sasse, Mia Grunwald, Roy Billing, Simon McLachlan, Steph Tisdell

Director: Adrian Powers

Rating: PG-13