4 Movies Like Old (2021) On Max (HBO Max)

Staff & contributors

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: Adiatou Massudi, Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Richard Courcet

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

Like a Wes Anderson movie, The Last Black Man in San Francisco takes artistic risks and nails every one of them. There are many quirky, aesthetically well-studied, and even funny aspects to this moving story.

Jimmie has been maintaining a typical San Francisco Victorian house, regularly painting the windows and watering the plants. One small problem: other people live there and they don’t want him around. It turns out this was once Jimmie’s family house, having been built by his grandfather in 1948, and he misses it deeply.

This story is based on writer Jimmie Fails’ life, as he tried to reclaim his family home in SF. However, it’s not a movie that limits itself to gentrification. It transcends that to being about the universal yearning to find a place to call home.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andy Roy, Daewon Song, Danny Glover, Finn Wittrock, Isiain Lalime, Jamal Trulove, Jello Biafra, Jimmie Fails, John Ozuna, Jonathan Majors, Mari Kearney, Mike Epps, Rob Morgan, Thora Birch, Tichina Arnold, Tonya Glanz

Director: Joe Talbot

Rating: R

, 2021

A music documentary with its star as one of its main talking heads runs the risk of coming off like cheap PR, but Tina Turner's own articulate insights never restrict this retrospective on her life. If anything, she assists directors Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin in expanding the film's scope to cover the origins of rock music and the struggles of so many women in the public eye who only ever seem to be defined according to their abusers. Even if Tina is still ultimately a conventional doc that relies on interviews and archival footage, it has a strong emotional core that gives the film a relatively unique psychological edge.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Angela Bassett, Erwin Bach, Katori Hall, Kurt Loder, Oprah Winfrey, Roger Davies, Tina Turner

Director: Daniel Lindsay, T. J. Martin

Rating: R

To call Going to Mars a somewhat shapeless documentary isn't a criticism. If anything, its flexibility of structure feels entirely appropriate for the woman at its center, who doesn't necessarily defy categorization so much as she remains on the pulse of history as it continues to shift in unexpected ways. Nikki Giovanni is a person who knows who she is and knows that she stands for the essential dignity of Black people, and it's inspiring to see how she not only remains hopeful and articulate through every critical moment, but that she insists on being ambitious for what Black people deserve to achieve in the future. As her son tells her at a speaking engagement, Giovanni doesn't just dream of going to space; she feels that it is her people's imperative to be there.

Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson tell her (still ongoing) life story in a strikingly impressionistic way—cleverly playing with archival footage, but more importantly having Giovanni's candid words blending seamlessly into her poetry. This is a credit to how connected to the milieu Giovanni's work actually is, of course, but the film does a very good job defining her as someone who can bring beauty and grace out of every experience.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Kai Giovanni, Nikki Giovanni, Novella Nelson, Taraji P. Henson, Thomas Giovanni, Touré Neblett, Virginia Fowler

Director: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson