14 Movies Like Return of the Jedi (1983) On Kanopy

Staff & contributors

It’s hard to overstate just how lovely — and quietly radical — this largely improvised Canadian docudrama is. The scenario (seven elderly women and their tour bus driver are stranded in the Canadian wilderness for a few days) is contrived, but the rich, lively conversations that feature are all drawn from the women’s real lives. As they hunker down and get on with the business of surviving with meager food — something they manage to do largely thanks to the bushcraft skills of Mohawk elder Alice — the strangers reflect on their long lives and open up to each other about their lingering fears and still-burning hopes.

They’re a diverse bunch — featuring Cockney transplants, lesbian pioneers, and nuns — and the film’s brief cuts to real photos from the women’s earlier years both underscore the rawness of what they’re saying and serve as testaments to the rich fullness of their lives. The Company of Strangers grants these women the kind of serious consideration and space that they’re denied in so many public spaces, but it never feels like a strained exercise in redressing that imbalance. Instead, this is simply a gentle, gorgeous, and profoundly moving portrait of women who aren’t done living yet.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Alice Diabo, Beth Webber, Catherine Roche, Cissy Meddings, Constance Garneau, Michelle Sweeney, Winifred Holden

Director: Cynthia Scott

Clocking in at just over four hours and shot in vivid color, Norte, the End of History stands not only as Filipino auteur Lav Diaz's best work since his earliest films, but as the easiest entry point into his unique filmography. Told on a sweeping yet intimate scale, the film has all the trademarks of Diaz's work: slow, lengthy shots; bursts of dense dialogue and philosophizing; and copious amounts of human despair and systemic corruption. As our three protagonists' souls (who rarely share the screen, if at all) are pushed to the limit after a terrible crime is committed, everything heads toward universal truths—the perseverance of love, and the inevitability of divine justice.

It can be difficult to recommend any film of this length and deliberate pace, but Norte remains a masterful example of how to use time itself to build a monumental story.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania, Hazel Orencio, Kristine Kintana, Mae Paner, Mailes Kanapi, Moira Lang, Noel Sto. Domingo, Perry Dizon, Sheenly Gener, Sid Lucero, Soliman Cruz

Director: Lav Diaz

This bittersweet film about a father and a daughter marks one of the more tender spots in Claire Denis’ brilliant filmography. Frequent collaborator Alex Descas plays Lionel (the father), while Mati Diop, now a director in her own right, plays Josephine (the daughter.) The film captures the two at a crossroads, with their closely-knit relationship tested as Josephine grows closer to her boyfriend, and Lionel must face the possibility of finally letting her go.

A melancholy lingers in the air as we learn more about their lives and the small community of neighbors and coworkers in their orbit. Meanwhile, the film's climax holds a mesmerizing sequence set to the Commodores’ Nightshift, which has to rank as one of the best needle drops in cinema from a director who already has an all-timer under her belt. (see. Beau Travail)

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adèle Ado, Alex Descas, Djédjé Apali, Ériq Ebouaney, Grégoire Colin, Ingrid Caven, Jean-Christophe Folly, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogué

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

This incredible documentary is about the elusive Iranian artist Bahman Mohassess, whose work has the uniqueness of a Picasso or a Salvador Dalí.

But unlike his European counterparts, most of Mohassess’ work has been destroyed. Some in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran but most, interestingly, by the artist himself.

After the revolution, he went into exile. For 40 years his whereabouts remained unknown — until an Iranian filmmaker based in Paris tracked him in a hotel in Rome.

Very early in the film, director Mitra Farahani points out that Mohassess died half an hour after one of their filming sessions.

The urgency of their conversations, the genius of Mohassess and his relationship to his art, and the uniqueness of the untold story of his life, all make this more than just another documentary. It’s a work of immeasurable historic value.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Mitra Farahani

Rating: Unrated

A Franco-Gaelic animated film nominated for an Academy Award, the Secret of Kells certainly isn't your average Disney fare. Set in 8th century Ireland, it is beautifully animated, taking cues from ancient illuminated manuscripts and Gaelic folk art. Featuring a plot heavily inspired by Irish mythology, it tells the story of the Viking invasion of Ireland and the creation of the Book of Kells, an Irish national treasure. The world of the film pulses with the lush greenery of the island, populated by fairies, giants, magic and mystery.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Christen Mooney, Evan McGuire, Fabian Erlinghäuser, James William O'Halloran, Kairen Waloch, Liam Hourican, Michael McGrath, Mick Lally, Nora Twomey, Paul Tylack, Paul Tylak, Paul Young, Sean Lennon, Sean Ono Lennon

Director: Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore

Rating: Not Rated

This small-scale but incredibly fun 88-minute drama from 2003 is about a group of Latino teenagers who grow up in New York’s Lower East Side.

Victor lives with his eccentric grandmother, which sometimes gets in the way of him pursuing Judy, his dream girl.

The actor who plays Victor is called Victor Rasuk, the one who plays Judy is called Judy Marte. This is a film so personal that both main characters needed to be named after the actors who play them.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Donna Maldonado, Jeff Knite, Joe Rosario, Judy Marte, Kevin Rivera, Melonie Diaz, Silvestre Rasuk, Victor Rasuk, Wilfree Vasquez

Director: Peter Sollett

Rating: R

A documentary about two "climbing" friends who attempt to summit Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. I say climbing friends because they are both somewhat egotistical, yuppie risk takers and seem to be the type who are only friends when their interests align. Nevertheless, they are truly ambitious, driven adventurers. A storm hits and one of the climbers gets injured. They both know that this is a death sentence, and events go on from there. The story is epic and nearly unbelievable, but for the fact that it actually happened. I am not a climber, but the plot and story will speak to any adventurer who must accept inherent risks, including death, in their outdoor endeavors.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Brendan Mackey, Joe Simpson, Nicholas Aaron, Richard Hawking, Simon Yates

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Rating: R

You know that the people you choose to follow for a documentary are great characters when the film itself can survive as straightforward coverage of their actions, no fancy directorial flourishes needed. But this is not to downplay what director Meg Switzgable does. In fact, her dedication to sticking by Frank Kaler and the other citizens of South Brunswick on the ground—and therefore capturing them as three-dimensional, inspirational human beings—is arguably the core value that all documentarians should possess. This also means that the access Switzgable has to this issue of government negligence is obstructed by the same red tape Kaler encounters, making the film (already just an hour long) feel too short. Still, a modest documentary like this shouldn't feel this thrilling. And by the end, all these New Jersey residents look like rock stars.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Meg Switzgable

Meditative, slow, and peppered with mysticism and subtle humour, Syndromes and a Century is a truly unique Thai drama. With a male and female doctor as the central protagonists, the story is split into two settings, in different hospitals and 40 years apart. This is not a plot-driven movie by any means. Patiently paced scenes weave together the protagonists’ memories with their current lives, in a hypnotic thread that touches on Buddhist themes as it explores the timeless human experiences of love, relationships, illness, and death.

The movie was originally intended to be a tribute to the parents of writer and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, himself the son of physicians who worked in a hospital. Though he went on to claim that the movie took a different path eventually, it does recall the enigmatic spirit and ethereal quality of childhood memories. Despite—or maybe thanks to—the absence of narrative, Syndromes and a Century remains a beguiling watch from start to finish.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Jaruchai Iamaram, Jenjira Pongpas, Nantarat Sawaddikul, Sakda Kaewbuadee, Sophon Pukanok

Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei directs his attention towards the ongoing refugee crisis, the biggest displacement of people since World War II. His documentary is apolitical and tries to focus on the human side of the picture. It's not a news report or a commentary on the causes of the situation. Instead, it's a combination of heartfelt stories spanning 23 countries that showcase people's battle for dignity and basic rights. A truly epic movie complemented by impressive drone footage that's as impressive as it is sad.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fadi Abou Akleh, Hiba Abed, Israa Abboud, Marin Din Kajdomcaj, Rami Abu Sondos

Director: Ai Weiwei, Weiwei Ai

Rating: PG-13

This documentary is about the life of New York rapper Nas around the time of the release of his first album, Illmatic.

It spans a quick and summarized 74 minutes and, while embellished by the direction of street artist One9, it remains a great snippet of recent American history. Nas’s album was a reflection of many realities that characterized his upbringing, while the movie serves to further explore those very realities.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Cornel West, DJ Premier, Fab 5 Freddy, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., M.C. Serch, Marley Marl, Mrs. Braconi, Nas, Pete Rock, Pharrell Williams, Q-Tip, Skip Gates, Jr., Swizz Beatz

Director: One9

Rating: TV-14

Even those who aren't baseball aficionados should find something interesting and human in this straightforward, brainy documentary Fastball looks at the titular type of pitch not just from a place of scientific curiosity but as a symbolic goal that players all over the world chase after. Through many clear-eyed discussions and testimonials, we begin to see how a large part of the sport has been structured around the idea of understanding speed—and how some careers have been made or broken by trying to catch up with the greats. But in the end, Fastball takes a surprisingly subjective position on the matter; instead of definitively stating who's the fastest on earth, it affirms that everyone has their own legends they look up to, pushing them to be greater.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bryce Harper, Chris Cooper, Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, George Brett, Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Justin Verlander, Kevin Costner, Tony Gwynn

Director: Jonathan Hock

A beautiful, poetic and disturbing ode to the waters of the Chilean archipelago from the perspective of the stars and planets, its Indigenous inhabitants, and the bodies of those who were disappeared into it under the Pinochet regime. As Patricio Guzman tells us and shows us, water has a memory and a voice. The opening sequence is like Salgado's "Genesis" photos but in colour and moving on the screen, absolutely breathtaking.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Adil Brkovic, Gabriel Salazar, Gabriela Paterito, Patricio Guzman, Raul Zurita

Director: Patricio Guzmán

Rating: N/A

Producer/Director Beth Kargman has put together a wonderful documentary that follows six young ballet dancers to the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most important of all ballet competitions worldwide. The prizes at the competition include awards of recognition, scholarships, and work with major dance companies. The dancers are in several age ranges and ethnicities. Michaela and her sister were adopted from Sierra Leone, where there was nothing but death and poverty waiting for them. Michaela has been told that blacks make unsuitable ballet dancers -- bad feet, too muscular, wrong build, etc. Zamora lives in New York, far away from his family, but his father tells him there is nothing for him in Colombia and he has to go after his dream. Rebecca is a cheerleader and a 'normal' kid whose passion is dance, and Aaron doesn't tell other kids he's a dancer. All of them have great talents, obvious from their dance routines at the Grand Prix. First Position is a very inspiring documentary about youngsters from different backgrounds and social status with the dream of dancing professionally, and the sacrifices they have made to achieve their goal. The dancing is heavenly; I only wish there had been more of it.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Aran Bell, Gaya Bommer Yemini, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Jules Jarvis Fogarty, Michaela Deprince, Miko Fogarty, Rebecca Houseknecht

Director: Bess Kargman

Rating: Not Rated