20 Movies Like Possession (1981)

Staff & contributors

, 1997

Cure is about a mad society, where both cure and sickness might be one and the same. Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa subverts the police procedural into an interrogation without definite answers, an abstract study on the evil that resides and is suppressed in every person’s heart. Unlike most horror films, Cure’s scares are left in plain sight, hypnotically mesmerizing as they are gruesome, with a sense of mundanity associated with other Japanese masters like Ozu or Kore-eda. “At the time it just seemed the right thing to do,” a man answers when asked why he killed his wife, and it is this contradictorily calm, nonchalant demeanor that creates a feeling of unease in the film’s horror aesthetic.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Akira Otaka, Anna Nakagawa, Denden, Hajime Tanimoto, Kōji Yakusho, Makoto Kakeda, Makoto Togashi, Masahiro Toda, Masato Hagiwara, Misayo Haruki, Ren Osugi, Shôgo Suzuki, Shun Nakayama, Taijirō Tamura, Takeshi Mikami, Taro Suwa, Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Yoriko Dōguchi, Yukijiro Hotaru

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

There are many movies by the much-celebrated Japanese auteur director Hirokazu Koreeda on A Good Movie to Watch. Why? Because, like all the movies we showcase here, his work is often little-known, but unbelievably good. After the Storm is no different. Much like his other works, notably Like Father, Like Son, Shoplifters, and Nobody Knows, it deals with the topic of family dynamics, regret, and disappointment. But his movies are never dramatic downers but delicate dioramas, understated in tone. Once a successful writer, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) is now a private detective who spends the little money he makes on gambling instead of paying child support. His ex-wife and son are increasingly alienated by his behavior until one day, during a storm, they all find themselves trapped in Ryota's childhood home. Subtly touching on notions of inter-generational bond and tension –⁠ Koreeda's works are mesmerizing and stick with you long after you've finished watching.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Aju Makita, Daisuke Kuroda, Hiroshi Abe, Isao Hashizume, Izumi Matsuoka, Jun Matsumoto, Kanji Furutachi, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Maki Yoko, Makoto Nakamura, Mickey Curtis, Rie Minemura, Ryoko Tateishi, Satomi Kobayashi, Shôno Hayama, Sosuke Ikematsu, Taiyo Yoshizawa, Yôko Maki, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Yūko Fukui, Yuri Nakamura, 蒔田 彩珠

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: Not Rated

In All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, documentarist Laura Poitras (Citizenfour, My Country, My Country) lends her empathetic and incisive lens to a subject so passionate and imaginative, she ends up collaborating with Poitras to co-create the documentary about her life. The subject is Nan Goldin, one of the most influential photographers of the late 20th century. 

The documentary captures Goldin’s work as a queer artist and anti-opioids activist, intertwining both aspects to tell a nuanced and incredibly important story about freedom, identity, and self-expression. This incredibly complex, encompassing, and vibrant feature won the top award at the Venice Film Festival, besting 19 other films from around the world.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Bernard Herrmann, Cookie Mueller, David Wojnarowicz, Harry Cullen, John Waters, Leonard Bernstein, Nan Goldin, Patrick Radden Keefe

Director: Laura Poitras

, 1996

Three years before the Wachowskis released The Matrix, their debut, Bound, was already one of the most visually stunning crime thrillers of the 1990s. If you look at the film as a straightforward genre piece, it's as thrilling as the best of the genre: vulnerable heroines, suspenseful sequences taking place mostly in one enclosed location, and a plot driven by mind games and careful manipulation. Every scene is marked by one breathtaking image after another, from the atmospheric use of lighting and color to intelligently placed cuts linking the two protagonists together no matter how much they've been kept apart.

But Bound only takes on more meaning when you look at it through the queer and trans perspective that the Wachowskis undoubtedly placed over the film years and years before their own coming out. By focusing on how Violet and Corky (a captivating Jennifer Tilly, and a sensual Gina Gershon, respectively) use their femininity and their gender as tools to break free from these patriarchal gangster narratives, Bound becomes a timeless expression of queer yearning and freedom.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Barry Kivel, Christopher Meloni, Gene Borkan, Gina Gershon, Ivan Kane, Jennifer Tilly, Joe Pantoliano, John P. Ryan, Kevin Michael Richardson, Margaret Smith, Mary Mara, Peter Spellos, Richard C. Sarafian

Director: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski

Named for all the connections that form a functioning society, Threads is a harrowing look at what might happen when those ties are rent apart by nuclear war. This British TV movie — released during the Cold War — so violently seized on the nuclear anxieties of the time that its premiere was dubbed “the night the country didn’t sleep.” Depressingly, it hasn’t lost that initial resonance, and so it remains a panic attack-inducing watch.

Threads begins in the kitchen-sink vein of a Ken Loach movie. In the northern industrial town of Sheffield, a young couple from different social classes (Reece Dinsdale and Karen Meagher) discover they’re about to be parents — but looming above their small-scale drama are the clouds of war, as televisions and radios blare out the details of escalating tensions between the US and the USSR. And then, it happens: the town is strategically bombed, and Threads unfurls into an unrelenting nightmare. In the documentary-like approach that follows, it spares no graphic or emotional detail, charting both the personal devastation caused by the bomb and the annihilating impact of the nuclear holocaust on all the vital infrastructure we take for granted. In short, one of the bleakest, most terrifying movies ever made.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, War

Actor: Ashley Barker, Brian Grellis, David Brierly, Dean Williamson, Ed Bishop, Harry Beety, Henry Moxon, Jane Hazlegrove, Joe Belcher, Karen Meagher, Lesley Judd, Maggie Ford, Michael O'Hagan, Nat Jackley, Patrick Allen, Peter Faulkner, Phil Rose, Reece Dinsdale, Richard Albrecht, Rita May, Ruth Holden, Steve Halliwell, Ted Beyer

Director: Mick Jackson

This is quite the movie. It’s based on the true story of Brady Jandereau, an ex-rodeo star who suffered from an injury that took him away from riding horses. This is the best part, in the movie, he actually plays himself. His friends in the movie are his real-life friends. And the horse taming scenes are real wild horses being trained (by him). The line between reality and the filmmaking process is so thin here. An absolutely mesmerizing movie, directed by Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao. The Rider. Don’t miss it.

Genre: Drama, Western

Actor: Brady Jandreau, Derrick Janis, Greg Barber, Mooney, Tanner Langdeau, Terri Dawn Pourier, Tim Jandreau

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: R

The agonizing tug of war between dogma and desire is sharply illustrated in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut, set inside the claustrophobic confines of a conservative Christian community in Kentucky. Seventeen-year-old Jem (Eliza Scanlen) is at the age her elders believe is the right time to start thinking about a lifelong partner — a choice they’ve pretty much already made for her by setting her up with the pastor’s youngest son. But it's his brooding older brother, married youth leader Owen (Lewis Pullman), who catches Jem’s eye.

The attraction is returned — but, while The Starling Girl does subtly indicate the toxicity of their relationship, it never lets this point eclipse either the more interesting coming-of-age story at its heart or its keen exploration of the wholesale damage that the cult-like church has done to all of its congregants (including Owen). While some of those threads threaten to distract the film’s focus away from its greatest strengths at times, the anguish of that central tussle between Jem's burgeoning sexuality and her otherwise rigidly controlled existence is brought to aching life by sensitive writing and direction and a brilliantly complex lead performance — qualities that ultimately win out to let The Starling Girl fly.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Abrams, Claire Elizabeth Green, Eliza Scanlen, Jessamine Burgum, Jimmi Simpson, K.J. Baker, Kieran Sitawi, Kyle Secor, Lewis Pullman, Wrenn Schmidt

Director: Laurel Parmet

This mortifying stop-motion fairy-tale is inspired by the very real horrors of Chile’s Colonia Dignidad: a cult colony turned torture camp under the Pinochet regime. Presented as colony propaganda, the tale tells the story of Maria, a girl who runs away from the safety of the colony into the forest and takes refuge in a house with two pigs. What transpires is a gut-wrenching allegory for the rise of fascism, colonialism, and white supremacy. 

The staggering animation which seamlessly shifts mediums from paper mâché to painted walls is a bewildering sight to witness. But it’s the synthesis of this boundary-pushing art and the underlying horrors it depicts, that make this stand as an unmissable cinematic event.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Amalia Kassai, Natalia Geisse

Director: Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña

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

Another indie zombie movie? Far from it. One Cut of the Dead, written and directed by Shin'ichirô Ueda, became a global sensation following its small theatrical run in Japan for its creative and original screenplay. A hack director and film crew are shooting a low-budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility when they are attacked by real zombies. That’s all you need to know about the plot, as the film is full of surprises that will catch you off guard. Wondering how an independent film with a budget of just $25,000 was able to gross over $30 million worldwide? The answer lies in the film itself. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror

Actor: Ayana Goda, Donguri, Harumi Shuhama, Harumi Syuhama, Hiroshi Ichihara, Kazuaki Nagaya, Manabu Hosoi, Mao, Miki Yoshida, Sakina Asamori, Shinichiro Osawa, Shiori Nukumi, Shuntaro Yamazaki, Takayuki Hamatsu, Yuzuki Akiyama

Director: Shin'ichirō Ueda, Shin'ichiro Ueda

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

Daniel Day-Lewis earned his breakout performance as Johnny, a reformed skinhead in this tale of  interracial gay romance in Thatcher’s Britain. Gordon Warnecke plays Johnny's lover Omar, the aimless son of a Pakistani intellectual who is given a leg-up by a successful uncle when he’s put in charge of rescuing a failing laundrette in gritty South London. Remarkably, Omar and Johnny’s romance isn’t presented as all that transgressive; far more central are the experiences and attitudes towards “assimilation” of Omar’s British-Pakistani family, the elders of whom live double lives and indulge both their financial and sexual greed. My Beautiful Laundrette is transgressive in many ways, but mostly in the dizzying array of tensions it sets its sights on — racial, ideological, class, generational, and gender — an ambitious quality that can, admittedly, overwhelm at times. But ambition is an admirable flaw for a film to have, particularly one as sharp and groundbreaking as this.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ayub Khan-Din, Badi Uzzaman, Bhasker Patel, Charu Bala Chokshi, Chris Pitt, Colin Campbell, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dawn Archibald, Derrick Branche, Dulice Liecier, Garry Cooper, Gerard Horan, Gordon Warnecke, Gurdial Sira, Jonathan Moore, Neil Cunningham, Nisha Kapur, Ram John Holder, Richard Graham, Rita Wolf, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, Shirley Anne Field, Souad Faress, Stephen Marcus, Walter Donohue

Director: Stephen Frears

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

Polytechnique directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a dramatization of the 1989 Montreal massacre of multiple female engineering students. This film focuses on a male student navigating the massacre for the majority of the film’s run time. The performances and minimal dialogue in this film certainly make this an unnerving film to watch. Littered with the screams of the actors portraying the engineering students, this could be mistaken as a gaudy horror film. However, this is far from a fictionalized horror.

This Villeneuve classic is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally brutal films of the 2000s, yet I appreciate the honesty of the storytelling. Polytechnique encourages its audience to ask itself if it truly understands the truth of misogyny. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Adam Kosh, Alexandre St-Martin, Alexis Lefebvre, Cynthia Wu-Maheux, Dawn Ford, Eugénie Beaudry, Ève Duranceau, Eve Gadouas, Evelyne Brochu, Francesca Barcenas, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Jonathan Dubsky, Karine Vanasse, Larissa Corriveau, Lily Thibeault, Marc-André Brisebois, Martin Watier, Maxim Gaudette, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Nathalie Girard, Pierre Leblanc, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Sébastien Huberdeau, Sophie Desmarais, Stéphane Julien, Valerie Cadieux

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Rating: Not Rated

This coming-of-age drama is set in a remote fishing village in Iceland. It follows a group of boys during a summer who catch a break from the harsh Icelandic nature. They spend a lot of time outdoors bonding together and discovering themselves.

One of the boys develops feelings for his best friend, Kristian, while Kristian chases a girl.

Watching the boys wrestle with their growth in this wasteland playground is amazing, but the shots of fjords, beautiful coastline, and living so in touch with nature, all of that almost steals the show.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Baldur Einarsson, Blær Hinriksson, Diljá Valsdóttir, Katla Njálsdóttir, Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Rán Ragnarsdóttir, Søren Malling, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Director: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Rating: Unrated

Much like the 1976 horror classic Carrie, Thelma centers on a young telekinetic woman whose religious upbringing and sexual repression give way to unpredictable moments of fury and rage. When she meets the cool, charismatic Anja, she falls in love immediately, but the wave of emotions that overwhelm her threaten to destabilize not just their budding romance, but other relationships and lives as well. 

Thelma recalls Carrie in other ways too, most notably in the way it uses supernatural elements to allude to female fury and lust, but it also stands on its own as a singular piece of work; the mesmerizing transitions, the slow-burn pace, and the undercurrent of melancholia are all known trademarks of director Joachim Trier. This layering of old and new makes Thelma an intriguing watch, at once recognizable and wholly original. 

 

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anders Mossling, Camilla Belsvik, Eili Harboe, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Grethe Eltervag, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ingrid Jørgensen Dragland, Ingrid Unnur Giæver, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Isabel Christine Andreasen, Kaya Wilkins, Lars Berge, Marte Magnusdotter Solem, Sigve Bøe, Steinar Klouman Hallert, Tom Louis Lindstrøm, Vanessa Borgli

Director: Joachim Trier

Rating: Not Rated