16 Movies Like Prisoners (2013) On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

Much like Berlin’s infamous nightlife, which serves as the backdrop to the plot, this daring German real-time drama will eat you up and spit you out. After leaving a nightclub at 4am, Victoria, a runaway Spanish girl, befriends a gang of four raucous young men, climbing rooftops and drinking beers among the city’s moon-lit streets. The gang’s light-hearted banter is impressively improvised from a skeleton script, offset by Niels Frahm’s ominous original score.

But what starts out as late-night high jinks swerves into darker territory. Driven by her infatuation with the pack leader Sonne, played by Frederick Lau, Victoria ends up being recruited as a get-away driver for an ill-prepared bank robbery and loses herself in a sinister spiral of events. What sounds like a standard-issue crime drama is, in fact, a staggering cinematic experiment.

Filmed in one take, on location, and in real time, the movie’s production is indeed a gamble, but director Sebastian Schipper more than pulls it off. The claustrophobic camerawork of cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen leaves the viewer feeling like a hapless accomplice to Victoria’s plight. With Laia Costa giving an awe-striking lead performance, the high wire acting of the entire main cast only adds to this effect. Victoria is a stellar directorial debut, heart-stopping drama, and a truly immersive experience.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adolfo Assor, Andre Hennicke, Anna Lena Klenke, Burak Yigit, Daniel Fripan, Eike Frederick Schulz, Eike Frederik Schulz, Franz Rogowski, Frederick Lau, Hans-Ulrich Laux, Laia Costa, Lena Klenke, Martin Goeres, Max Mauff, Philipp Kubitza

Director: Sebastian Schipper

Rating: Not Rated, R

It comes as no surprise that former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen won Best Actor in Cannes for delivering on this challenging role. In this merciless thriller by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, the ice-eyed actor plays Lucas, an out-of-luck high school teacher struggling to start a new life. After a bitter divorce, he returns to the close-knit community he grew up in to work as a kindergarten teacher.

A few weeks before Christmas, a child from his class, who has an innocent crush on the popular teacher, hints to a colleague that he had exposed himself to her. The young girl’s intimation galvanizes the small hunter’s town into a witch-hunt that leaves Lucas’ life hanging from a string. Trapped in the lies, the more he fights back, the more irrational the mob becomes. In all its brutal honesty, The Hunt is one of those rare thrillers that will haunt you for days. Extraordinary and thought-provoking!

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Rapaport, Allan Wibor Christensen, Anne Louise Hassing, Annika Wedderkopp, Bjarne Henriksen, Daniel Engstrup, Frank Rubæk, Jacob Højlev Jørgensen, Josefine Gråbøl, Jytte Kvinesdal, Lars Ranthe, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Lasse Fogelstrøm, Mads Mikkelsen, Mona C. Soliman, Nicolai Dahl Hamilton, Ole Dupont, Øyvind Hagen-Traberg, Rasmus Lind Rubin, Sebastian Bull Sarning, Søren Rønholt, Susse Wold, Thomas Bo Larsen, Troels Thorsen

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Rating: R

Get ready to cry your eyes out, scream in anger, but also rejoice at the powerful love that exists in our world. We will not spoiler the premise of this documentary and urge you not to do so yourself. Instead, we recommend watching it and prepare to be changed forever. Call it true crime if you will, but this documentary is much more. Hailed as one of the most important documentaries of the 2000s, it is a testament to friendship and love, a real-life thriller, and a political denouncement all in one.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Andrew Bagby, Bob Bagby, David Bagby, Dr. Andrew Bagby, Dr. Shirley Turner, Heather Arnold, John Barnard, Jon Atkinson, Kathleen Bagby, Kurt Kuenne, Pat Bagby, Paul Barnard, Zachary Andrew Turner

Director: Kurt Kuenne

Rating: Not Rated

This gorgeous Scandinavian movie is based on a true story and stars the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgard.

He plays the governor of a strict youth correctional facility in Norway in 1915. The arrival of a feared kid kickstarts events that are very famous in Norway but little-known elsewhere: an uprising within the facility that will eventually require the army to get involved. A strong movie with stellar (Stellan) performances.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: Benjamin Helstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Frank-Thomas Andersen, Kimmo Rajala, Kristoffer Joner, Magnar Botten, Martin Slaatto, Per Gørvell, Stellan Skarsgård, Trond Nilssen

Director: Marius Holst

Rating: Not Rated

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.

Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.

A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alessandro Nivola, Annie Funke, Ashley Williams, Ben Rosenfield, Bill Walters, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Chester Jones III, Chris Cardona, Christopher Abbott, Daisy Tahan, David Margulies, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Marvel, Elyes Gabel, Giselle Eisenberg, Glenn Fleshler, Jason Ralph, Jerry Adler, Jessica Chastain, Jimmy Palumbo, John Dinello, John Douglas Thompson, John Procaccino, Kathleen Doyle, Linda Marie Larson, Lorna Guity Pruce, Lorna Pruce, Matthew Maher, Myrna Cabello, Nat DeWolf, Nick Bailey, Oscar Isaac, Patrick Breen, Peter Gerety, Pico Alexander, Quinn Meyers, Robert Clohessy, Russell G. Jones, Stephen Reich, Susan Blackwell, Suzanne Cerreta, Taylor Richardson, Teddy Coluca, William Hill

Director: J. C. Chandor

Rating: R

Nelly is a concentration camp survivor who undergoes reconstructive facial surgery, and comes back to question whether her husband (unable to recognize her) was the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Heavy, heavy stuff. But in Phoenix you will also see something else, as the story takes you beyond the subject matter to become almost a celebration of film: elements of Hitchcockian cinema intertwine with the realism of the likes of David Ayer are added to perfect performances to create a stunning, compelling, and exceptional film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Claudia Geisler, Claudia Geisler-Bading, Daniela Holtz, Eva Bay, Felix Romer, Imogen Kogge, Jeff Burrell, Kathrin Wehlisch, Kirsten Block, Max Hopp, Megan Gay, Michael Maertens, Nikola Kastner, Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf, Ronald Zehrfeld, Stefan Will, Trystan Pütter, Trystan Putter, Uwe Preuss, Valerie Koch

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: PG-13

Graduation is a Romanian movie from the director of the Palme d’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (also number 15 in the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.) Romeo is a 49-year-old doctor in the city of Cluj-Napoca. He is immensely proud and dedicated to his daughter, Eliza, who gets awarded a scholarship to go to Cambridge provided that she does well in her last high-school exam. The day before this exam, Elisa is sexually assaulted outside her school, and her wrist is broken. The event haunts the family and jeopardizes Elisa’s chances of succeeding in her exam. Romeo, still determined to ensure his daughter’s success, vows to do anything to not let the assault ruin his daughter’s future. Graduation is about this father and daughter duo as they go against a corrupt but quickly changing Romanian system.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Titieni, Adrian Văncică, Claudia Susanu, Claudiu Dumitru, Constantin Cojocaru, Emanuel Pârvu, Gelu Colceag, Gheorghe Ifrim, Ioachim Ciobanu, Kim Ciobanu, Lia Bugnar, Liliana Mocanu, Malina Manovici, Maria Dragus, Maria-Victoria Dragus, Petre Ciubotaru, Rares Andrici, Robert Emanuel, Tudor Smoleanu, Valeriu Andriuță, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Rating: 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

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, 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, 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

Kilo Two Bravo (Originally named Kajaki) is a must-watch for anyone who likes war dramas. It tells the true story of British soldiers in the Afghanistan war who find themselves trapped in a minefield during a mission, with their rescue team coming in a helicopter that might set off mines if it lands. It's a slow, dialogue driven film that is interested in taking you to the war zone more than it cares about entertaining you. Ultimately, it becomes an essay on the horrors of war, and an anti-war war film. Because of this and given the blood and gore, this movie is definitely not for those who would feel nauseated at sight of blood. Great setting, good cinematography, realistic acting and script all do justice to the true story. It's a film that will grip your senses and keep you at the edge of the seat throughout.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ali Cook, Andy Gibbins, Benjamin O'Mahony, Bryan Parry, David Elliot, Grant Kilburn, Joe Corrigall, John Doughty, Jon-Paul Bell, Liam Ainsworth, Malachi Kirby, Mark Stanley, Paul Katis, Paul Luebke, Robert Mitchell, Scott Kyle, Thomas Davison

Director: Paul Katis

Rating: R

Based off the real life experiences of the film's writer, Jack Asser, Starred Up is a gritty crime drama set within a violent offenses prison in the UK. The film's name references a youthful offender who, by virtue of his crimes, is sent to an adult facility. The film hums along like a taut bit of wire, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat as the enormity of the prison subculture is unfolded in front of them.  Unlike many other prison dramas, this film isn't afraid to break cliches and explore new ground, and is populated with disturbingly real character studies, slices of dark and broken humanity.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aisha Bywaters, Amma Boateng, Anthony Adjekum, Anthony Welsh, Ashley Chin, Basil Abdul-Latif, Ben Mendelsohn, C.C. Smiff, David Ajala, David Avery, Duncan Airlie James, Edna Caskey, Frederick Schmidt, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Gilly Gilchrist, Ian Beattie, Jack O'Connell, Jack O'Connell, James Doran, Jonathan Asser, Mark Asante, Paddy Rocks, Peter Ferdinando, Raphael Sowole, Rupert Friend, Ryan McKenna, Sam Spruell, Sian Breckin, Tommy McDonnell

Director: David Mackenzie

Rating: Not Rated

This Brazilian drama is about a loving mother of four, Irene, who has to deal with the upcoming departure of her eldest son. This news triggers Irene’s anxiety, who is trying to finish her high-school diploma as well as building a home for her kids.

Loveling is about being relentless in one’s pursuit of improving their situation, about empty-nesters syndrome, and the ups and downs of family life in general.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adriana Esteves, Ariclenes Barroso, César Troncoso, Karine Teles, Mateus Solano, Otávio Müller

Director: Gustavo Pizzi

This Swedish movie is the story of Astrid Lindgren, one of the most translated children book writers of all time. Her work of over 100 books includes Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart.

Away from the quiet existence of the characters she would later create, Astrid had a turbulent life. Her troubles start when she falls for the editor of the paper she worked at when she was young, a man 30 years her senior. This results in an unwanted pregnancy and Astrid is pushed to immigrate.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alba August, Björn Gustafsson, Henrik Rafaelsen, Magnus Krepper, Maria Alm Norell, Maria Bonnevie, Maria Fahl-Vikander, Sofia Karemyr, Trine Dyrholm

Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen

Rating: 12

Besides the futuristic tech that pops in and out, there’s not a lot about The Kitchen that signals it as a sci-fi film. Neglected housing projects and violent raids have become too common to count as dystopian, so it often feels like The Kitchen could’ve gone without labeling itself as part of the genre (the real world is bad enough). But underneath those layers is a subtle but sublimely tender story about father and son finding each other amid the rubble of real life. First-time directors Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, The Black Panther) and Kibwe Tavares delicately balance the personal and the political, never undermining the former as many socially aware films do. If Kaluuya and Tavares had fleshed the world it built a little more and removed the parts, such as the sci-fi elements, that did not work out, then Izi and Benji’s story would have been memorably devastating, instead of just affecting.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: BACKROAD GEE, Demmy Ladipo, Ewart James Walters, Fiona Marr, Henry Lawfull, Hope Ikpoku Jnr, Ian Wright, Jedaiah Bannerman, Kane Robinson, Karen Williams, Lola-Rose Maxwell, Neville Watson, Rasaq Kukoyi, Rhys Yates

Director: Daniel Kaluuya, Kibwe Tavares

Rating: R

Definitely a film you will either love or hate, Sightseers is an extremely dark comedy on the verge of being a horror movie. And it's British, with many elements of deep British culture. A couple go on their dream road trip in the countryside to suddenly find themselves killing strangers. Sightseers will feel almost like a very British version of True Romance. Again, it's a unique film, but don't get me wrong that does not make it hard to like - it's really about if you like it, you will find it absolutely hilarious.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Horror, Romance

Actor: Alice Lowe, Aymen Hamdouchi, Christine Talbot, Dominic Applewhite, Eileen Davies, Gemma Lise Thornton, John Hurt, Jonathan Aris, Kelly Munro-Fawcett, Kenneth Hadley, Lucy Russell, Mark Kempner, Monica Dolan, Rachel Austin, Richard Glover, Richard Lumsden, Roger Michael, Samantha Stone, Sara Dee, Sara Stewart, Seamus ONeill, Stephanie Jacob, Steve Oram, Susan McCardle, Tom Meeten, Tony Way

Director: Ben Wheatley

Rating: Not Rated