25 Movies Like Pain Hustlers (2023)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Pain Hustlers ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Pain Hustlers is based on a 2018 New York Times article of the same name exposing a drug company that marketed a fentanyl-based drug. Zanna, the on-screen pharmaceutical start-up, is modelled after Insys: the actual company who pushed a fentanyl-based spray for pain management with the help of sales reps who particularly appeal to a certain male gaze. A DIY scheme of bribing doctors through "speaker programs"—or recurring, debaucherous parties—gets Zanna off the ground, catapulting stripper-turned-manager Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) to a much-yearned financial stability. Together with the coked-up COO (magnificently played by Chris Evans), Liza puts her street smart potential to work; she goes all in, until it all crashes and burns. It's cynical how predictable the plot of such a film can be, mainly because the only character development we see is in Liza's sudden moral spark at the sight of drug abuses and overdoses. Pain Hustlers tries really hard to build a hero, tear her down, and then rehabilitate her status, but to what end? The film ends up using the fentanyl crisis as a narrative drive, a highly dubious move when you're supposed to be spreading awareness.  

David Fincher's return to form almost ten years after Gone Girl turns the eponymous French graphic novel series into a stone-cold stunner. The Killer can be described as a crime thriller and a neo noir, but it's perfectly Fincherian in the ways it withholds information from the viewer, building up suspense in a masterful rhythm. The film opens on the inside of a construction site—a WeWork office to-be—where our Killer stalks his pray across the street. A rather static beginning, where nothing much happens: one may question the thriller qualities of the film during its first act for similar reasons, but just give it time; that's exactly what The Killer would say. But little does he know that time is something he doesn't have much of...

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Actor: Arliss Howard, Bernard Bygott, Brandon Morales, Charles Parnell, Daran Norris, Emiliano Pernia, Endre Hules, Erik Hellman, François Patissier, Gabriel Polanco, Ilyssa Fradin, Jack Kesy, Jérôme Keen, Julia Rowley, Kellan Rhude, Kerry O'Malley, Leroy Edwards III, Michael Fassbender, Monique Ganderton, Nikki Dixon, Sacha Beaubier, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, Stéphane Vasseur, Tilda Swinton

Director: David Fincher

Rating: R

In what is only his second feature, Greek director Christos Nikou crafts a singular universe that is orderly and enticing. The dystopian premise that you can now scientifically test for love may be bizarre, but it answers to one of the biggest anxieties humans share. That said,  this particular world feels so close to ours today, that you want to dive right in it, weirdness and all. Even the topos of the love clinic, where couples get evaluated and take on exercises before they take the test is framed as a space for hope. There's no underlying cynicism in Nikou's film, which is perhaps the most surprising fact about it; on the contrary, longing—however painful it may be—abounds and seeps through the carefully composed images of shared doubt and suspect intimacy. Last, but not least, the chemistry shared by Buckley-Ahmed-White is nothing short of explosive.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Albert Chung, Amanda Arcuri, Annie Murphy, Ashleigh Rains, Avaah Blackwell, Christian Meer, Clare McConnell, Heather Dicke, Iain Reid, Jeremy Allen White, Jessie Buckley, Jim Armstrong, Jim Watson, Juno Rinaldi, Katy Breier, Luke Wilson, Mish Tam, Nina Kiri, Riz Ahmed, Tameka Griffiths, Tanchay Redvers, Varun Saranga

Director: Christos Nikou

Rating: R

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Erica Cho, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie, Josh Drennen, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Mahershala Ali, Myha'la, Myha'la Herrold, Orli Gottesman, Sam Esmail, Vanessa Aspillaga

Director: Sam Esmail

Rating: R

The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Malone, Barbara Lowing, Baykali Ganambarr, Bree Bain, Bruce R. Carter, Daniel Henshall, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Kate Cheel, Patrick Frost, Toby Wallace, Ursula Yovich, Valerie Berry

Director: Kitty Green

Rating: R

Herself tells the story of Sandra (Clare Dunne), a single mother who runs away from her abusive husband to start a new life with her children. When welfare and charity prove to be insufficient with their help, she takes things into her hands by building a house of her own.

This Irish movie, co-written by star Clare Dunne, may be small in scale and budget, but it is affecting in big and powerful ways. Despite what girlbosses might tell you, chasing full independence isn't always as easy or even empowering as it looks, especially when you're stuck in the lower rungs of society like Sandra; Herself takes the honest approach by showing us the unglamorous side of making it on your own. It also has meaningful things to say about marriage and divorce, so if you were moved by Marriage Story or Kramer vs Kramer, you may feel the same about Herself, which references the latter two's iconic courtroom scenes.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anita Petry, Cathy Belton, Clare Dunne, Conleth Hill, Eimear Morrissey, Ericka Roe, Ger Carey, Harriet Walter, Ian Lloyd Anderson, Jane Brennan, Liz Fitzgibbon, Lorcan Cranitch, Molly McCann, Peter Gaynor, Ruby Rose O’Hara, Sean Duggan, Tina Kellegher

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Rating: R

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere, Felix Moati, Foued Nabba, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-François Perrone, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Leona D'Huy, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Meriem Serbah, Myriam Azencot, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

, 2023

After winning Oscars for their documentary work, filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make their narrative feature debut with Nyad. The move to narrative fiction isn’t a monumental jump for the director duo, whose cinematic documentaries (among them Free Solo and The Rescue) play like nerve-shredding action thrillers and intense human dramas. Nor does Nyad’s subject — another extreme feat of human daring and endurance — make this feel a million miles away from their most famous works.

The most obvious departures from the directors’ documentary strengths — Nyad’s flashbacks and hallucination scenes, for example — do sometimes highlight their newness to narrative filmmaking, however. These scenes feel shallow and therefore disconnected from the movie’s otherwise deeper treatment of its subject, just as the performances dip into outsized cliches at times. Mostly, though, Nyad manages to float above the trap of trying too hard to be an inspirational sports drama thanks to its confrontation of Diana’s prickly personality. This flips the film’s perspective onto that of Diana’s team (including her coach and former girlfriend, played by Jodie Foster), who ultimately suffer the consequences of her stubbornness. That refusal to submit to hagiographic impulses gives the film a documentary-like edge of truth, making the rousing moments here feel genuinely earned.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anna Harriette Pittman, Anne Marie Kempf, Annette Bening, Belle Darling, Carolyn McCormick, Diana Nyad, Elizabeth Chahin, Ellen DeGeneres, Eric T. Miller, Erica Cho, Ethan Jones Romero, Garland Scott, Grace Subervi, Harraka Eliana, Iván Oleaga, Jeena Yi, Jodie Foster, John Bartlett, John F. Kennedy, Johnny Solo, Karly Rothenberg, Kate McKinnon, Katherine Klosterman, Lilo Grunwald, Luke Cosgrove, Marcus Young, Melissa R. Stubbs, Nadia Lorencz, Orpha Salimata, Pearl Darling, Rhys Ifans, Samantha Gordon, Sophia Hernandez, Stephen Schnetzer, Tisola Logan, Toussaint Merionne

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG-13

Many people lament the decline of the mid-budget drama with Hollywood A-listers in the lead roles, and for good reason: when the charms of an inspirational, feel-good true story work, they really work. The Burial seems to have been made with this same, unabashedly sentimental attitude, and it makes for an endlessly watchable courtroom underdog tale. The film moves with real energy between its more comedic asides and its more urgent themes of underprivileged people being taken advantage of by wealthy companies. And while it still would've probably been effective as just a straightforward legal drama, the movie makes the effort to seek out a bigger picture—deepening its own title by grounding all its characters against complicated race relations in Mississippi.

Director and co-writer Maggie Betts doesn't stray too far from the template that these kinds of films operate with (perhaps to a fault, especially during its climactic moments), but the cast she's assembled is unimpeachable. Jamie Foxx turns in the kind of funny, energetic, deeply felt star performance that earned him an Oscar almost 20 years ago, while Tommy Lee Jones brings a powerful sense of modesty and centeredness to a role that could've easily taken a back seat to his flashier co-lead. Supporting turns from Jurnee Smollett and Alan Ruck round out a uniformly great ensemble that gives this small movie a commanding air of prestige.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Alan Ruck, Amanda Warren, Andrea Frankle, B.J. Clinkscales, Bill Camp, Billy Slaughter, Christopher Winchester, David Alexander, David Maldonado, David Shae, Donna DuPlantier, Dorian Missick, Doug Spearman, Eric Mendenhall, Erika Robel, Evan Brinkman, Fracaswell Hyman, George Ketsios, Gralen Bryant Banks, Jalene Mack, Jamie Foxx, Jason Bayle, Jim Klock, Jurnee Smollett, Keith Jefferson, Lance E. Nichols, Logan Macrae, Lorna Street Dopson, Mamoudou Athie, Mike Harkins, Olivia Brody, Pamela Reed, Sam Malone, Summer Selby, Teisha Speight, Tommy Lee Jones, Tywayne Wheatt, Vince Pisani

Director: Margaret Betts

Rating: R

, 2023

The mythology surrounding Sylvester Stallone: the action hero is so big and successful that many people, including myself, often forget about Sylvester Stallone: the prolific writer. He failed to bag roles as a young actor in the 1970s, so he whipped out a script (in a span of three days!) that became the iconic film Rocky. Later on, after witnessing the power of elderly entertainers, Stallone rewrote a screenplay that would become the ongoing franchise The Expendables. He’s a hunk in many people’s eyes, nothing more and nothing less, but Sly successfully steers you away from that one-dimensional reputation and reintroduces you to the dramatist and artist Stallone has been all along. The film begins as an immigrant story (Stallone hails from Italy), then turns into a rags-to-riches story (he grew up in a tough New York neighborhood without formal education) before finally transforming into an honest and earnest meditation on superstardom and artistry. Going in, I was wary that this would be just another puff piece on a Hollywood has-been. And while it does have its fair share of schmaltz, I now believe it's a well-deserved and long overdue ode to Stallone’s unwavering commitment to the power of movies. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brian Dennehy, Bruce Willis, Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Chazz Palminteri, David Caruso, Dinah Shore, Dolph Lundgren, Estelle Getty, Frank Stallone, Frank Stallone Jr., Henry Winkler, Jack Lemmon, James Cagney, Jason Statham, Jennifer Flavin Stallone, Jet Li, John Herzfeld, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Mickey Rourke, Milo Ventimiglia, Mr. T, Perry King, Peter O'Toole, Peter Riegert, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Crenna, Robert De Niro, Sage Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Scarlet Rose Stallone, Sharon Stone, Sistine Rose Stallone, Sophia Rose Stallone, Steve Austin, Steve Reeves, Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Teri Hatcher, Terry Crews, Woody Allen

Director: Thom Zimny

Rating: R

When people think of football, they think of teams, and if not teams, they think of individual goalscorers. Higuita: the Way of the Scorpion focuses instead on a single goalkeeper from Latin America. To be fair, this goalkeeper is René Higuita – even just checking his Wikipedia is bound to pull some curiosity. But the documentary does a great job in introducing the man and his life story, starting with his fantastic scorpion kick before delving into the more personal and sensitive aspects of his life. With the wild gameplays and crazy controversies linked to the man, it’s actually unbelievable how a documentary like this hasn’t been made yet.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: René Higuita

Director: Luis Ara

Rating: R

Making a good erotic thriller out on Wall Street is no easy feat, but Fair Play has just the right ratio of wit, sex, and sleaze to spice up a Friday night viewing. There's also undeniable pleasure in watching a fairytale love story corrode, especially under the influence of money and power—here's one for the romantic capitalists! And even if the script feels a bit uneven and Emily's character a bit too silent until the film's third act, it's a heightened yet realistic depiction of exactly how solidified heteronormative standards still are: in bed, at home, at the workplace. Who would have guessed that's where the true horror lies? 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Alden Ehrenreich, Brandon Bassir, Buck Braithwaite, Eddie Marsan, Filip Todorovic, Geraldine Somerville, Greg De Cuir, Ivona Kustudić, Jamie Wilkes, Jelena Stupljanin, Jim Sturgeon, Katarina Gojković, Laurel Lefkow, Leopold Hughes, Linda Ljoka, Patrick Fischler, Phoebe Dynevor, Rich Sommer, Sebastian de Souza, Sia Alipour, Yacine Ramoul

Director: Chloe Domont

Kenneth Branagh’s third Hercule Poirot movie does everything it can to divorce itself from the quaintness of a typical Agatha Christie adaptation. Loosely based on the novel Hallowe’en Party, this outing swaps exotic locales for the claustrophobic confines of a gothic Venetian palazzo and flirts outright with horror. The film, shot through more Dutch angles than an Amsterdam maths class has ever seen, uses the genre's visual language to credibly suggest that this mystery might actually have paranormal undertones. Forcing Poirot to reconsider his die-hard loyalty to rational explanations is an interesting twist — it punctures the idea of him as a mystery-solving god and gives the film bigger questions to chew on than whodunnit.

What that does, however, is sap the satisfaction of watching him expertly crack the puzzle, because the movie spends so much time centering Poirot’s crisis of confidence. A Haunting in Venice’s tone switch to serious horror is also at odds with the campily bad accents and mostly overwrought acting from the (much less starry than usual) cast. It’s not the same kind of reliable guilty pleasure we expect these vehicles to be, then, but this outing of Branagh’s Poirot is at least an interesting experiment in expanding these stories' usual limits.

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ali Khan, Amir El-Masry, Camille Cottin, David Menkin, Emma Laird, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Kelly Reilly, Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Lorenzo Acquaviva, Michelle Yeoh, Riccardo Scamarcio, Tina Fey, Vanessa Ifediora

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Rating: PG-13

King of Clones tells the story of Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean scientist once praised as a national hero for his pioneering work in cloning. However, Hwang's reputation was shattered in 2006 when it was revealed that he had falsified data in his research. The documentary follows Hwang's rise and fall, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of scientific research and the ethical challenges that it raises. Through simplified explanations and testimonies from beneficiaries and journalists that exposed his fraudulent activities, the film remains accessible without losing its narrative. It also opens the conversation on the progress of cloning technology and the implications of not having ethics that can be agreed upon among the scientific community and the general public. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: George W. Bush, Hwang Woo-suk, Jung Ho-seok, Kim Dae-jung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Tae-hyung, Park Ji-sung, Roh Moo-hyun, Son Heung-min

Director: Aditya Thayi

Rating: PG-13

Straight to the point and without any overly elaborate set-ups or personal anecdotes, Shane Gillis' Beautiful Dogs is a sort of back-to-basics approach to stand-up comedy that proves surprisingly effective. Over the course of about 50 minutes, Gillis' jokes move smoothly and freely—loose in structure but still clearly centering around very American notions of authority and masculinity (revolving around the military and U.S. history), which the comedian is quick to poke holes in. Gillis' humor is definitely of the lowbrow variety though, and while this in itself isn't a bad thing, a number of his jokes begin to repeat their point to no additional effect, usually relying on low-hanging fruit. Gillis skirts and occasionally dips into offensive territory, which he fully acknowledges. And while some of the stuff in this special is a little tasteless, at least Gillis is sheepishly honest about it.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary

Actor: Shane Gillis

Director: John McKeever

The atmosphere communicated within the title Hurricane Season comes off incredibly clearly on screen: this is a film that just feels humid and full of foreboding for a coming storm, with people feeling all manner of guilt while secluded in their own homes. Cinematographer María Secco's gorgeous colors and brown tones fill the 4:3 aspect ratio nicely, and director Elisa Miller lets events unfold with the stately pace of a long novel. There's something fascinating here about how each new "chapter" or perspective doesn't really lead to more answers, but simply to more anguish closing in from all sides.

So it would be understandable if some may be put off by how unrelentingly dark Hurricane Season is, especially as the trans woman whose death becomes the central event never enjoys the kind of characterization everybody around her gets. Apart from how the film illustrates that discrimination against women, against repressed "taboo" sexuality, and against access to proper reproductive health only threatens to grow under poverty, it can be difficult to grasp what point the movie is trying to make. Social realism certainly has its place in cinema, but the different perspective in this particular film still don't add up to more than the sum of its parts.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Andrés Cordaz, Edgar Treviño, Flor Eduarda Gurrola, Guss Morales, Kat Rigoni, Mónica Martínez​, Norma Reyna, Paloma Alvamar, Rodrigo Corea, Said Sandoval

Director: Elisa Miller

Rating: R