39 Movies Like Spider-Man (2002) (Page 2)

Staff & contributors

Sunday Beauty Queen starts with a basic but startling fact: there are about 190,000 Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong. They toil for six days a week, with little breaks in between, but on Sundays, the one day they are given rest, they choose to take part in a fabulous beauty pageant.  

More than just a mere show, the pageant is a source of joy and relief for the migrant workers who, despite earning significantly more abroad than they would back home, are mired in a host of problems, including discrimination, loneliness, and underemployment. Because of the Philippines’ and Hong Kong’s stringent statutes, some helpers are also forced to go into hiding, unsure of who will protect them each time.

It’s to director Baby Ruth Villarama’s credit that the film feels both like a criticism and celebration of this migrant reality. She exposes the rotten system that forces these women to flee their country but doesn’t forget to highlight the humanity that keeps them going. This result of this deft balance is a story that is just as warm and exacting as any old home. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Cherrie Mae Bretana, Hazel Perdido, Leo Selomenio, Mylyn Jacobo, Rudelyn Acosta

Director: Baby Ruth Villarama

Rating: 0

As the face of kung fu, a sports documentary on Bruce Lee is practically expected for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. So many of them have been produced since the actor’s death in 1973. However, in Be Water, director Bao Nguyen captures the icon not through his works, but through his philosophy. Starting with his first screen test, the camera rarely strays from him, keeping us hooked on his magnetic presence even during voice-overs of interviews from his friends and family. This, mixed with readings of letters he’s written, reveals a man whose self-discipline and attitude power through obstacles against him. The film only diverts its attention to identifying those obstacles, but it only better proves the actor’s strength. In martial arts and in film, Be Water respects Lee as a force of nature– the rare force that broke barriers and bridged the gap between East and West.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Angela Mao Ying, Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Dan Inosanto, David Carradine, Diana Lee Inosanto, Fred Weintraub, Jay Sebring, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Linda Lee Cadwell, Muhammad Ali, Nancy Kwan, Paul M. Heller, Raymond Chow Man-Wai, Rudolf Nureyev, Shannon Lee, Tony Liu, William Dozier

Director: Bao Nguyen

An eye-opening 1989 American documentary that boldly explores the experiences of Black gay men in America. Directed by Marlon Riggs, this film challenges societal norms and sheds light on the intersections of race, sexuality, and identity. Through a mix of personal testimonies, poetry, and distinctive visuals, Tongues Untied captures the struggles and resilience of its subjects, offering a raw and honest portrayal of their lives. Riggs' poetic approach and unflinching storytelling create an immersive experience that will leave a lasting impact. The film confronts issues of homophobia, racism, and social exclusion but also celebrates the strength and beauty of self-expression.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Eddie Murphy, Marlon Riggs, Michael Bell, Willi Ninja

Director: Marlon Riggs

Consisting almost entirely of a single camera angle and long stretches of either silence or mundane conversation, The Plains makes for a particularly challenging—but incredibly unique—example of slow cinema. While its premise may seem almost too minimalist for its own good, the way the film is set up immediately draws us toward how distant people in the present day can be to each other despite our urbanized society. Stuck in this car with these two characters, one becomes hyperaware of how things are both moving too quickly and too slowly, and how so much of life is made up of the in-between moments. The film's fiction elements eventually break the docudrama illusion a little too bluntly (mainly through some suspiciously structured dialogue), but by then one should be too invested to want to get off.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Andrew Rakowski, Cheri LeCornu, David Easteal, Inga Rakowski

Director: David Easteal

There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Andres D. Bautista, Benigno Aquino III, Bongbong Marcos, Etta Rosales, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Leni Robredo, Mary Yturria

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Rating: R

A heart-wrenching tribute to victims of natural disasters that is one of despair, suffering, and hope. And it wouldn’t be so damning if it weren’t based off a true story surrounding the tragedy that killed more than 230,000 people. Boxing Day 2004 was one of the most memorable dates for wedded couple, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts, for an Oscar nominated performance). Just two days prior, they arrived at Orchid Beach Resort in Thailand to celebrate the Christmas holidays together with their three children. After a squabble with the crew regarding their room reservations, they are granted the privilege of staying in a peaceful villa and all seems to be well. Nature had other plans in mind, though, and facing it head-on is the bittersweet reality.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bonnie Zellerbach, Bruce Blain, Dominic Power, Douglas Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Georgia Winters, Geraldine Chaplin, Gitte Witt, Harry Holland, J.A. Bayona, Johan Sundberg, John Albasiny, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Kowit Wattanakul, Laura Power, Marta Etura, Naomi Watts, Natalie Lorence, Nicola Harrison, Oaklee Pendergast, Peter Tuinstra, Ploy Jindachote, Sam Holland, Samuel Joslin, Sarinrat Thomas, Sonke Mohring, Tom Holland, Ulf Pilblad, Wipawee Charoenpura

Director: J.A. Bayona

Rating: PG-13

Featuring cannily edited filmography excerpts and interviews with friends and ex-lovers of Rock Hudson — the Golden Age matinee idol who became the first major celebrity to die of AIDS — this documentary lifts the lid on the closeted gay star’s double life. Though its first third draws chiefly on biographers to paint a serviceable picture of the homophobic context Hudson rose to fame in, it’s in later interviews with members of his inner circle that the film comes to life. These contributors give us a more closely informed picture of Hudson, who seemed to accept Hollywood’s compromise: he could live out his professional dreams so long as he didn’t rock the boat.

Some aspects of the film’s approach do raise an eyebrow, such as a risqué conversation that seems to have been surreptitiously recorded. These inclusions lend the film a tabloid scoop’s salaciousness in places, but, thanks to its final third, it’s largely a touching testament to Hudson. As it movingly argues, however reluctant he was to disclose his diagnosis (and, in doing so, his sexuality), he played a pivotal role in changing the tide of public attitudes towards AIDS, and thus to fundraising efforts — making him an unwitting LGBTQ+ hero.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Allison Anders, Armistead Maupin, Bea Arthur, Burt Lancaster, Doris Day, Douglas Sirk, Elizabeth Taylor, Esther Shapiro, Howard McGillin, Illeana Douglas, James Dean, Joan Rivers, Kathleen Hughes, Lee Garlington, Linda Evans, Lucille Ball, Peter Kevoian, Piper Laurie, Richard Hodge, Rock Hudson, Tim Turner

Director: Stephen Kijak

Rating: PG-13

Friday Night Plan resembles many a classic teen film (most notably, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Booksmart), but it also doubles as a thoughtful inquiry into the delicate bond between siblings who could not be more different from one another. Sid and his younger brother Adi (Amrith Jayan) have different ideas of what matters most in life, ideas that get tested when their mother’s car gets towed away during their night of fun. Sid thinks it’s only right to come clean and retrieve the car no matter what, but Adi believes this can all wait until tomorrow morning: tonight is Sid’s night to celebrate and finally connect with peers he’s shut off all his life. This tension comes as a surprise in what otherwise looks like an ordinary teen movie, but it’s also a welcome addition that helps Friday Night Plan stand out from the rest. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Aadhya Anand, Amrith Jayan, Babil Khan, Juhi Chawla, Juhi Chawla Mehta, Ninad Kamat

Director: Vatsal Neelakantan

Rating: TV-14

This historical drama opens with one of the most thrilling chase scenes in recent memory, as Higinio Blanco, the man at the center of the story, escapes government forces during the Spanish Civil War.

He goes into hiding that, without him realizing, would last 33 years. He would only emerge in a government amnesty in 1969, as would many like him across Spain.

Themes of love (Higinio was confined with his newlywed wife), solitude and fear are at the center of a story that remains thrilling even when it goes through the isolation years.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aitor Arregi, Antonio de la Torre, Antonio Romero, Belén Cuesta, Belén Cuesta, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Emilio Palacios, Enrique Asenjo, Esperanza Guardado, Francisco Franco, Íñigo Núñez, Joaquín Gómez, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, José Manuel Poga, Jose Manuel Poga, Jose Mari Goenaga, Marco Cáceres, Vicente Vergara

Director: Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga

Rating: 16

This Danish movie is about a failed 38-year-old bodybuilder who lives with his mom and has never left Denmark. In an expected move, and while telling his mom he’s going to Germany, he travels to Thailand in hopes of finding love.

It might at first seem like a disastrous storyline (of sex tourism), but that part of the movie is almost accidental. Teddy Bear is actually a sweet and likable story of a man who wants to break away from his domineering mother, and a journey of someone who starts growing up later in life.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Chanicha Shindejanichakul, David Winters, Elsebeth Steentoft, Kim Kold, Lamaiporn Hougaard, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, Per Otto Bersang Rasmussen

Director: Mads Matthiesen

Rating: Not Rated

Though it paints in overly broad strokes and takes a while to get going, this tale of broken people finding each other eventually reaches an irresistibly feel-good conclusion. Like many good sports movies, Seabiscuit isn't really dependent on the final outcome of a matchup between underdog and high-profile contender. What becomes important, then, is the perseverance of a handful of individuals in doing something just to prove they can beat the odds. And while there aren't actually as many racing sequences in Seabiscuit as you might be led to believe, they're well worth the wait—punctuating the drama with sharp editing and beautiful, period-specific production design.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Annie Corley, Cameron Bowen, Camillia Sanes, Carl M. Craig, Chris Cooper, Dan Daily, Danny Strong, David Doty, David McCullough, Dyllan Christopher, Ed Lauter, Eddie Jones, Elizabeth Banks, Finder's Key, Gary L. Stevens, Gary McGurk, Gary Ross, Gary Stevens, Gianni Russo, Hans Howes, James Keane, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Hernandez, John Walcutt, Ken Magee, Kevin Mangold, Kingston DuCoeur, Mariah Bess, Matt Miller, Michael Angarano, Michael B. Silver, Michael Ensign, Michael O'Neill, Michelle Arthur, Noah Luke, Pat Skipper, Paul Vincent O'Connor, Peter Jason, Richard Reeves, Robin Bissell, Royce D. Applegate, Sam Bottoms, Shay Duffin, Tobey Maguire, Valerie Mahaffey, William H. Macy

Director: Gary Ross

Rating: PG-13

Unlike in many films about old people on the doorstep of death, the titular grandmother in this movie is excited to leave for good. But when her town insists on celebrating her bid to be named the oldest in the world, unresolved conflict among her descendants begins to resurface. Quiet and unabashedly sentimental, Lola Igna offers a uniquely offbeat perspective on death—one that starts from a place of contentment, and only gets more conflicted as more characters reveal how much still has to be said and done. It has all the charm of a low-budget Filipino film, made all the more poignant by Angie Ferro's authentic and deceptively layered performance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Angie Ferro, Chamyto Aguedan, Joel Saracho, Maria Isabel Lopez, Meryll Soriano, Peewee O'Hara, Royce Cabrera, Soliman Cruz, Yves Flores

Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.

Jane Campion’s biographical drama about the poet John Keats derives its name from one of the latter’s greatest love sonnets: Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art… / Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath/ And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Keats remains one of the most celebrated and adored Romantic poets. His writing challenged the poetic form, and revered the world for what it is at its best: wondrous, surprising, sublime. Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of Keats is rightfully distant, as we encounter the poet’s incredible aloofness through the perspective of interested suitor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Brawne’s relationship with Keats was short but intense, providing great artistic inspiration and devastating devotion. Campion perfectly captures their fleeting relationship in this deft, crushing drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Adrian Schiller, Amanda Hale, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Ben Whishaw, Claudie Blakley, Edie Martin, Eileen Davies, Gerard Monaco, Jonathan Aris, Kerry Fox, Lucinda Raikes, Olly Alexander, Paul Schneider, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Samuel Barnett, Samuel Roukin, Sebastian Armesto, Theresa Watson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Vincent Franklin

Director: Jane Campion

Rating: PG

Retrograde takes place in early 2021 and captures the exact moment when the US troops exited Afghanistan, effectively leading to the Taliban takeover. With a fly-on-the-look approach, director Matthew Heineman reveals the cruel consequences of this sudden exit as the Afghan people (led by the charismatic General Sammi Sadat) scramble to defend themselves despite limited means and support. In this documentary, we're privy to tactical military planning, civilian chaos, and even official Taliban gatherings. 

It’s heartbreaking and chilling, another reminder of the human cost of war and the terrible need for genuine peace. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History, War

Director: Matthew Heineman

Historically, noble ladies get married to lords in order to strengthen existing alliances between their family’s domains. At best, they are able to broker peace, but at worst, they are hostages to the stronger family they married into. Damsel cleverly depicts a twisted version of this relationship through a reversed version of the fairytale, where instead of a wedding being the ultimate endgoal, it is the start of the princess’ misfortunes, placing Millie Bobby Brown into a fantastical survival stand-off against a dragon. It’s an intriguing idea, though the film mostly sticks to its PG-13 lane, leading to a fairly entertaining dark fantasy flick without delving deep into its horrors.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Actor: Angela Bassett, Brooke Carter, Elmano Sancho, Ezra Faroque Khan, Mens-Sana Tamakloe, Millie Bobby Brown, Milo Twomey, Nick Robinson, Nicole Joseph, Ray Winstone, Robin Wright, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Tasha Lim, Ulli Ackermann

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Rating: PG-13