32 Movies Like Renfield (2023)

Staff & contributors

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

One wouldn't expect to see Count Dracula's youthful-looking helper at your local 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships, but Renfield holds more than one surprise up its sleeve. By translating the working relationship (or master-slave, since the latter doesn't get any pay) into the vocabulary of common relationship counselling parlance, the film actually elevates its symbolic status. Even more, I'd dare call it a hoot. Not that many vampire films have managed to make a proper comedy out of the figure in question, and Renfield with its simplistic appeal puts to shame even the artsy Netflix production El Conde, which also came out earlier this year. With Awkwafina in the mix and iconic lines such as "I don't want your murder cookies", how can you resist?

Challenging, strange, and utterly captivating from start to finish, Sanctuary takes the relationship between a pathetic, wealthy man and a desperate, plucky young woman—a relationship built on consensual acts of sexual humiliation—and makes it so much more dynamic and entertaining than it has any right to be. The film takes place entirely in one hotel suite over the course of one night, becoming a series of increasingly absurd psychological scenarios, as the characters wrestle over ideas of power, shame, and identity by concealing and roleplaying various parts of themselves. It's a wild take on several different genres that director Zachary Wigon is able to effortlessly weave together with excellent pacing, stunning visuals, and two truly committed performances from Christopher Abbott and a wonderfully unhinged Margaret Qualley.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley

Director: Zachary Wigon

Third World Romance is what it says in the tin– it’s a love story that blooms in the rundown side of the capital of a developing country. The plot is familiar, especially for people familiar with Filipino rom coms, but writer-director Dwein Baltazar approaches this with a grounded approach. With fancy dinner dates substituted with shared packed rice meals and emotional apologies interrupted by their shifts in the grocery, Bree and Alvin carve out a love that still feels passionate, perhaps made even more so, as they navigate a city where they are disenfranchised. Charlie Dizon and Carlo Aquino’s excellent performances keep their characters’ struggles real, but also make their love feel joyful in spite of that.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Ana Abad-Santos, Archie Adamos, Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Donna Cariaga, Gardo Versoza, Iyah Mina, Jun Jun Quintana

Director: Dwein Ruedas Baltazar

Kill Bill meets Bend It Like Beckham in this wild ride about a martial arts-obsessed British-Pakistani teenager who views her older sister’s impending marriage as a catastrophe to be averted at all costs. Aspiring stuntwoman Ria (Priya Kansara) can’t stomach the idea of free-spirited Lena (Ritu Arya) giving up on her creative dreams to marry a nauseatingly perfect man — not least because art school dropout Lena is her hero for refusing to conform to their community’s traditional ideas about respectability and success.

Polite Society makes room to sensitively explore Ria’s disappointment and the loneliness of rebellion, but writer-director Nida Manzoor doesn’t stop there, throwing in a sharp allegory disguised as a zany twist. Rather than upending our expectations for upending’s sake, the surprise metaphor refigures the movie as perceptive cultural commentary on the age-old devaluation of women as mere vessels for the next generation. What’s more, Manzoor takes the analogy full circle to thoughtfully imagine how this kind of dehumanizing misogyny might have affected previous generations, suggesting that the real villains lie offscreen. Movies as inventive and intelligent as this don’t come around often, but one that’s this funny, visually bold, unabashedly feminist, and full of stars-in-the-making is rarer still.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akshay Khanna, Ella Bruccoleri, Eunice Huthart, James McNicholas, Jeff Mirza, Jenny Funnell, Nimra Bucha, Rekha John-Cheriyan, Ritu Arya, Seraphina Beh, Shobu Kapoor

Director: Nida Manzoor

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

It's difficult not to compare Of an Age to other beautifully shot and tenderly told queer love stories like Call Me By Your Name and Weekend. Like them, Of an Age gives its young lovers ample time and space for their relationship to blossom over a short while. And like them still, it's made of intimate moments that will haunt the lovers long after their first meet, crystallized as they are with affection, longing, and the knowledge that they might not feel as deeply about anyone ever again.

But if Call Me By Your Name is awash with Italy's grandeur and Weekend is snugged in Britain's cold embrace, then Of an Age is distinctly Australian, all humid suburbia and sunbaked roads. The film hones in on emotional and cultural specifics alike, and by doing so, it successfully captures the immaculate and unforgettable heartache of first love.

 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Elias Anton, Hattie Hook, Thom Green, Toby Derrick

Director: Goran Stolevski

Rating: R

On the one hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense thriller—an excellently set-up heist that makes you wonder, until the end, whether the low-budget operation succeeds or not. On the other hand, it’s a thoughtful rumination on the evil and influence of Big Oil, which despite its relentless destruction of environments and communities, continues to run scot-free. 

Together, these parts make for a powerful, nerve-racking film about both the danger and necessity of eco-terrorism—a radical act that is impressively humanized and spared from caricature here. How to Blow Up a Pipeline's themes may be big and its means explosive, but its rich characterizations of the young activists ground it into a relatable reality. One is dying due to toxins released by the nearby plant, another is forced to give up his property to make way for the construction of a pipeline. All are tired of the fruitlessness of government promises and peaceful protests. Rousing and relevant, there's never been a more timelier film than this. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ariela Barer, Calhoun Koenig, Christopher Hagen, Clint Obenchain, Forrest Goodluck, Grayson Berry, Irene Bedard, Jake Weary, Jayme Lawson, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage, Marcus Scribner, Mark Dalton, Mike Miller, Sam Quinn, Sarah Minnich, Sasha Lane, Travis Hammer

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Rating: R

As a crime thriller, Holy Spider is taut and terrifying, a modern noir that manages to unnerve despite the familiar moves it employs. The cat and mouse chase between serial killer and investigative reporter, for instance, is a classic tale, but that doesn’t make Holy Spider any less gripping. The film benefits from artful camerawork, considered acting (as the daring journalist Rahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi nabbed the Best Actress award at Cannes), and most of all a nuanced take on the situation in Iran. 

Despite having a clear stance against violence and corruption, nothing in Holy Spider is black and white. Contradictions abound, and even when presented with brief moments of justice, we’re left scratching our heads looking for more. Such is the case when the system, and not just an individual, is the true pest. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Ariane Naziri, Majd Eid, Mehdi Bajestani, Nima Akbarpour, Sara Fazilat, Sina Parvaneh, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Director: Ali Abbasi

Even before Agnès Varda pivoted to documentary filmmaking, she was a pioneer of French cinema. Her film Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) is one of her most harrowing dramas. 

Varda’s sensibilities as a burgeoning documentarian are apparent as the film opens on the corpse of a woman lying dead in a snow-covered ditch. Through flashbacks, we trace the titular vagabond’s steps to uncover how she ended up alone and dead. The camera follows its subject from a safe distance, as if tracking a wild animal. Alongside the woman, we hitchhike across the French countryside, encountering hostile men, treacherous winter weather, and occasional glimpses of hope, connection, and familiarity. Vagabond succeeds at portraying a complicated woman—Varda understood that women, above all else, are people, with dark interiors, difficult choices, and uncertain impulses. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agnès Varda, Macha Méril, Sandrine Bonnaire, Stéphane Freiss, Yolande Moreau

Director: Agnès Varda

Rating: Not Rated

There’s a scene early in the documentary when present-day Michael J. Fox, who famously suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, swaggers along a street and greets a fan, only to stumble at that very moment and have people surround him with concern. Instead of giving into their pity or pretending nothing happened, he cooly tells the fan, “It was so nice meeting you, you knocked me off of my feet!” 

This brief moment tells you all you need to know about the ‘80s icon—Fox refuses to be a victim. Still is his brilliant and admirable attempt at telling his well-known story on his own terms. It covers everything from his childhood and early work in Hollywood to his life-changing roles in Family Ties, Teen Wolf, and most memorably, Back to the Future. It also sheds light on Fox's life as a husband, father, and Parkinson's sufferer. Director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) does a genius job of using faceless reenactments and cuts from films and TV shows to accompany Fox’s narration, which pumps the film with a dynamism that matches Fox’s resilient spirit. 

Urgent, clever, and exciting, Still is one of the rare celebrity biographies that serves a higher purpose than just recounting a famous person's life. Anyone who understands the importance of constantly moving and evolving will appreciate this film's existence. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover, David Letterman, Donna Lysell, Eric Stoltz, Gary David Goldberg, Gene Siskel, Hannah Galway, Jason Calder, Jay Leno, Johnny Carson, Justine Bateman, Larry David, Meredith Baxter, Michael J. Fox, Michael McDonald, Muhammad Ali, Rick Pearce, Robert Zemeckis, Roger Ebert, Shayn Walker, Siobhan Murphy, Steven Spielberg, Thomas F. Wilson, Tracy Pollan, Woody Harrelson

Director: Davis Guggenheim

Strange things are happening in the sleepy cul-de-sac where Cameron Edwin (comic Jim Gaffigan) lives: cars are falling from the sky, space rockets are crash-landing in his backyard, and his doppelgänger has just moved in next door and stolen his job. Unnerved by all these weird occurrences and feeling like a failure in light of his looming divorce, Cameron goes full midlife crisis and decides to rebuild the damaged rocket as a last-ditch attempt to fulfill his lifelong dream of being an astronaut. It’d be giving too much away to say anything more about the plot, but suffice it to say that the uncanniness lurking under Linoleum’s surface comes to mind-bending fruition as the rational and the fantastic meld into one. Though it’s already deeply affecting on first watch, this is the kind of movie you’ll immediately want to rewind to absorb the full weight of.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Amy Hargreaves, Gabriel Rush, Jay Walker, Jim Gaffigan, Katelyn Nacon, Michael Ian Black, Rhea Seehorn, Tony Shalhoub, West Duchovny, Willoughby Pyle

Director: Colin West

, 2023

In 1984, Michael Jordan was a rising star and Nike had yet to make its mark in the basketball industry. With nothing to lose, Nike had to make a choice: settle behind the far more successful Adidas and Converse or shoot its shot and bet everything they have to win Jordan? 

You don’t have to be an NBA fanatic to know what Nike went with. The real-life story of how Air Jordans came to be is compelling in itself, but the dramatized version of it in Air is told with extra verve and charm, with director Ben Affleck and writer Alex Convery successfully turning a business pitch into something funny, moving, and highly watchable, predictable beats and all. 

Air covers the big hits and misses of business (which it buoys with lighthearted jokes and tender backstories), provides an addictive 80s soundtrack (without caricaturing the era), and gives us likable, rootable characters (an impressive feat given that this is, essentially, a Nike ad campaign). Matt Damon and Viola Davis, especially, turn in performances that elevate Air into something quite special. And while this film may be more about the Air than the Jordans, it is still a champion's story—familiar and cheesy at times, sure, but feel good, inspiring, and truly winning. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Al Madrigal, Albert Stroth, Andy Hirsch, Ari Davis, Asanté Deshon, Barack Obama, Barbara Sukowa, Ben Affleck, Billy Smith, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Damian Young, Dan Bucatinsky, Deloris Jordan, Dempsey Gibson, Gabrielle Bourne, Geoffrey Gould, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jackson Damon, Jason Bateman, Jay Mohr, Jerry Plummer, Jessica Green, Joel Gretsch, Joshua Funk, Julius Tennon, Mackenzie Rayne, Marlon Wayans, Matt Damon, Matthew Maher, Michael Jordan, Michael O'Neill, Richard Allan Jones, Tami Jordan, Tom Papa, Ure Egbuho, Viola Davis

Director: Ben Affleck

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

In the words of the journalist Christo Grozev, Alexei Navalny isn’t just a politician; he’s also an internet personality, reporter, investigator, lawyer, and opposition leader who’s up against one of the biggest regimes in the world. He’s a dangerous man, a top Kremlin target, and the documentary gives us incredible access into the ins and outs of his daily operations. 

It’s always astonishing to see a hero humanized, especially since the documentary makes sure to balance newsworthy events with quiet moments of rest and reflection. But more than just a profile, Navalny is a valiant work of investigative journalism, as well as a timely reminder of the importance of activism. It's relevant, revelatory, and rousing; a must-watch in our ever-heating political climate. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexey Navalny, Angela Merkel, Dasha Navalnaya, Georgy Alburov, Kira Yarmysh, Maria Pevchikh, Vladimir Putin, Yulia Navalnaya, Zakhar Navalny

Director: Daniel Roher

Rating: R

That this film, an adaptation of a beloved classic and girlhood staple for 50 years and counting, is able to retain the same power, charm, and wisdom as the source material by Judy Blume is impressive in and of itself. 

Director Kelly Fremon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) turns the must-read novel into a must-see film, as urgent and relevant as ever in its frank portrayal of feminine woes and joys. Buying your first bra, getting your first period, losing a friend, doubting your faith, seeing—really seeing—your family for the first time, and knowing in your heart what you stand for...these are some of the thorny requisites of womanhood, and Craig navigates them with a bittersweet ease that never feels pandering nor patronizing. Like the book, the film honors this young person's big feelings by centering them in a sprawling story that involves other characters, who are just as fleshed-out as the lead. Rachel McAdams deserves special mention for turning in a sweetly nuanced performance as Margaret's mother Barbara, an artist attempting to balance her domestic role with her career goals. 

The film may be 50 years in the making, but it tells a timeless tale that will continue to hold the hands of teenage girls for generations to come.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abby Ryder Fortson, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Benny Safdie, Echo Kellum, Elle Graham, Ethan McDowell, Gary Houston, Holli Saperstein, JeCobi Swain, Judy Blume, Kathy Bates, Mia Dillon, Rachel McAdams, Sloane Warren, Wilbur Fitzgerald

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Rating: PG-13

Formally speaking, 20 Days in Mariupol is little more than a compilation of footage bravely collected by Mstyslav Chernov in Ukraine, excerpts of which may seem familiar from when they were broadcast by major news stations. Unsure of whether or not Chernov would survive long enough to pass on his footage, he shot as much as he could day-in and day-out, resulting in this numbing, relentless compilation of anguish and death. As a documentary, there isn't exactly a unifying idea to 20 Days in Mariupol, with Chernov's narration only meant to provide necessary context and a foreboding score that probably didn't have to impose itself as much as it does.

And yet it's hard to deny the importance of the very existence of this footage, especially in a time when genocide is occurring elsewhere in the world with far fewer cameras on the ground to counter the denialist propaganda of those in power. Chernov's decision to let the images speak for themselves, without feeling the need to dissect every major moment for political analysis, isn't reductive; it's a statement that nothing can rationalize the indiscriminate killing of civilians and children. That the footage becomes overwhelming and hard to watch isn't a reason for us to look away.

Genre: Documentary, War

Director: Mstyslav Chernov

Rating: NR