11 Movies Like The Age of Innocence (1993)

Staff & contributors

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

Known for showcasing the grittier side of New York in his films, Martin Scorsese shifts to its upper echelons in The Age of Innocence. Based on the 1920 novel, the film follows society attorney Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he courts and marries the respectable May Welland (Winona Ryder), despite his desire for childhood friend Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer).Undeniably gorgeous and impressively shot, what ultimately makes the film stand out among Scorsese’s work is how well the three leads embody the complex characters of the novel on multiple levels. Day-Lewis skillfully turns a corrupt, arrogant lawyer into someone who admirably refuses to be anything but himself, while Pfeiffer hides a stubbornness and frustration within Olenska. But it’s Ryder who best portrays her character's complexity, Welland’s wide-eyed gaze concealing secret manipulations. All of them drive this story that not only mourns for lost love, but acts as a mourning for a lost Golden Age.

How far would you go to help a friend? The answer to this question might turn out quite differently after you have lived through the 2-hour squalor of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Set in the bleak late-1980s reality of Communist Romania, under the ironclad rule of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasilu play Otilia and Gabriela, two small-town students. Otilia volunteers to help Gabriela go through with an illegal abortion, which takes place in a shoddy hotel room with the help of a man named Bebe (played by Vlad Ivanov). When things don't go as planned, they find their situations quickly going from very bad to outright horrible. Powerful performances, a realistic script, and director Cristian Mungiu's technical finesse create an experience that will force you to relive the desperation the two women must endure. Little wonder that it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2007.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adi Carauleanu, Adina Cristescu, Alexandru Potocean, Anamaria Marinca, Cerasela Iosifescu, Constantin Bojog, Doru Ana, Eugenia Bosânceanu, Geo Dobre, Ion Sapdaru, Laura Vasiliu, Liliana Mocanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Mădălina Ghițescu, Mărioara Sterian, Tania Popa, Teodor Corban, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Rating: Not Rated

The visceral pain at the center of this adaptation from period drama powerhouse Merchant-Ivory comes not from fading or unrequited love but unrealized affection. Try as he might to repress his feelings, devoted butler Mr. Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) can’t stifle the blossoming attachment he shares with housemaid Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson). And yet, at every opportunity she gives him to do something about it, he balks, squandering the potential for something truly beautiful — something that actually belongs to them, not their aristocratic employer.

The Remains is partly told in flashbacks to the period leading up to the Second World War. From his stately home, Stevens’ master Lord Darlington and his peers play at international relations and try to avoid another war by pandering to the Nazis, but find they’re woefully under-equipped to decide the fate of Europe in this changing world. One of the many brilliant things about The Remains is the way this political drama doubles the devastation of Stevens’ die-hard commitment to his job — because now, he’s sacrificing his one chance at love for something that won’t even survive the decade. Sublime filmmaking and performances turn Stevens’ every minute choice into a pillar of profound tragedy, giving us a maddeningly heartwrenching life lesson for the ages.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Ben Chaplin, Brigitte Kahn, Caroline Hunt, Christopher Brown, Christopher Reeve, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Ian Redford, James Fox, Jeffry Wickham, Jo Kendall, John Haycraft, John Savident, Lena Headey, Michael Lonsdale, Miles Richardson, Patrick Godfrey, Paul Copley, Paula Jacobs, Peter Cellier, Peter Eyre, Peter Halliday, Peter Vaughan, Pip Torrens, Rupert Vansittart, Steven Beard, Terence Bayler, Tim Pigott-Smith, Tony Aitken, Wolf Kahler

Director: James Ivory

Rating: PG

A gritty and realistic thriller set in France’s notorious capital city of crime - Marseille. 

Zachary is released from Juvenile prison to learn that his mother has abandoned him. He finds kinship in an underage sex worker by the name of Shéhérazade. 

This seems like the set-up for a tough watch, but Shéhérazade plays like a romance when it’s slow, and a crime thriller when it’s fast (it’s mostly fast). Everything about the story and two leads’ relationship rings true. Added to the fact that it has no interest in emotionally manipulating you, the movie is more gripping and thought-provoking than sad.

A great story, fantastic acting from the cast of first-timers, and outstanding direction give the feeling that Shéhérazade is bound to become a modern classic. If you liked City of God, you will love this. 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Dylan Robert, Idir Azougli, Kader Benchoudar, Kenza Fortas, Lisa Amedjout, Nabila Ait Amer, Nabila Bounad, Sofia Bent

Director: Jean-Bernard Marlin

Rating: TV-MA

Bad Lieutenant is no misnomer: Harvey Keitel’s policeman really is one of NYPD’s worst. Already corrupt, abrasive, and abusive at the film’s outset, the movie chronicles his coked-out descent into total depravity after he’s called to investigate a heinous crime amid rapidly worsening personal circumstances. The brilliance of Bad Lieutenant is therefore a counterintuitive one: as awful as the Lieutenant is, we can’t help but feel emotionally involved because, in Keitel’s bravura performance, we can see the glint of pain — and thus of a person — within.

Always one for provocation, director Abel Ferrara pushes our empathy to — and maybe even beyond — its natural limits, only to break with the film’s hitherto unrelenting grit and dangle the glinting possibility of transcendent redemption in front of us. Anyone familiar with Catholic guilt cinema (movies like Martin Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door and Mean Streets) will instantly recognize the same undercurrent running through Bad Lieutenant — even if Ferrara takes the idea of juxtaposing the profane with the sacred to the extreme here.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Bianca Hunter, Bo Dietl, Dana Dee, Darryl Strawberry, Eddie Daniels, Frank Adonis, Frankie Thorn, Gene Canfield, Harvey Keitel, Iraida Polanco, Jaime Sánchez, John Steven Jones, Leonard L. Thomas, Minnie Gentry, Paul Calderon, Paul Hipp, Peggy Gormley, Penelope Allen, Phil Neilson, Stella Keitel, Victor Argo, Vincent Laresca, Zoë Lund

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rosetta begins fiercely, with a shaky handheld camera chasing the eponymous teenager (Émilie Dequenne) as she storms across a factory floor and bursts into a room to confront the person she believes has just lost her her job. The film seldom relents from this tone of desperate fury, as we watch Rosetta — whose mother is a barely functioning alcoholic — fight to find the job that she needs to keep the two alive.

As tough as their situation is, though, Rosetta’s fierce sense of dignity refuses to allow her to accept any charity. A stranger to kindness and vulnerability, her abject desperation leads her to mistake these qualities for opportunities to exploit, leading her to make a gutting decision. But for all her apparent unlikeability, the movie (an early film from empathy endurance testers the Dardenne brothers) slots in slivers of startling vulnerability amongst the grimness so that we never lose sight of Rosetta’s ultimate blamelessness. Its profound emotional effect is corroborated by two things: that it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and that it helped usher in a law protecting the rights of teenage employees in its setting of Belgium.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yernaux, Bernard Marbaix, Émilie Dequenne, Fabrizio Rongione, Frédéric Bodson, Mireille Bailly, Olivier Gourmet

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Rating: R

This is a hilarious political comedy starring the ever-great Steve Buscemi. Set in the last days before Stalin's death and the chaos that followed, it portrays the lack of trust and the random assassinations that characterized the Stalinist Soviet Union. Think of it as Veep meets Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator. Although to be fair, its dark comedy props are very different from the comedy that comes out today: where there are jokes they're really smart, but what's actually funny is the atmosphere and absurd situations that end up developing.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Ewan, Adam Shaw, Adrian McLoughlin, Alla Binieieva, Andrea Riseborough, Andrey Korzhenevskiy, Andy Gathergood, Cara Horgan, Dan Mersh, Daniel Booroff, Daniel Chapple, Daniel Fearn, Daniel Smith, Daniel Tatarsky, Daniel Tuite, Dave Wong, David Crow, Dermot Crowley, Diana Quick, Elaine Caxton, Ellen Evans, Emilio Iannucci, Eva Sayer, Ewan Bailey, George Potts, Gerald Lepkowski, Henry Helm, James Barriscale, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeremy Limb, Jonathan Aris, Jonny Phillips, June Watson, Justin Edwards, Karl Johnson, Leeroy Murray, Luke D'Silva, Michael Ballard, Michael Palin, Nicholas Sidi, Nicholas Woodeson, Oleg Drach, Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Paul Chahidi, Paul Ready, Paul Whitehouse, Phil Deguara, Richard Brake, Ricky Gabriellini, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Rupert Friend, Sebastian Anton, Sheng-Chien Tsai, Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Tim Steed, Tom Brooke, Yulya Muhrygina

Director: Armando Iannucci

Rating: R

Best in Show’s cast list reads like a catalog of comic greats. Among others, it includes Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, John Michael Higgins, Jennifer Coolidge, and the unbeatable duo that is Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy. Their participation alone should you clue in on what kind of film this is: a delightful exercise in improvisational comedy. The jokes roll in fast and the spoofs are spot-on (Parker Posey gets a special mention for playing the faux-calm handler with rage issues bubbling up to a tee). And thanks to the mockumentary format, they’re supported by an abundance of visual gags. 

The cherry on top of this fun sundae is the adorable dogs who amusingly participate in human shenanigans. If you're ever looking for a watch that is equal parts comedic and cute, then this underrated comedy gem of a film could be it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrew Johnston, Andrew Wheeler, Bob Balaban, Camille Sullivan, Carmen Aguirre, Carrie Aizley, Catherine O'Hara, Christopher Guest, Colin Cunningham, Corrine Koslo, Deborah Theaker, Doane Gregory, Don Lake, Don S. Davis, Ed Begley Jr., Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Fulvio Cecere, Hiro Kanagawa, Jane Lynch, Jay Brazeau, Jennifer Coolidge, Jim Piddock, John Michael Higgins, Larry Miller, Lewis Arquette, Linda Kash, Lynda Boyd, Malcolm Stewart, Merrilyn Gann, Michael Hitchcock, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Patrick Cranshaw, Rachael Harris, Scott Williamson, Stephen E. Miller, Steven M. Porter, Teryl Rothery, Tony Alcantar, Will Sasso

Director: Christopher Guest

Rating: PG-13

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Camille Ucan, Charlotte Rampling, David Sibley, Dolly Wells, Geraldine James, Hannah Chalmers, Richard Cunningham, Rufus Wright, Sam Alexander, Tom Courtenay

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: R

One of those long-lost mid-budget dramas that's content with observing the rich yet uneventful lives of average folk, Nobody's Fool reminds us that nothing exciting or shocking needs to happen to make a good story. The late, eternally charismatic Paul Newman leads an ensemble of character actors in relaxed, memorable roles—Bruce Willis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Margo Martindale, and Jessica Tandy, among others. It's the authentic, neither-love-nor-hate relationship among all these characters that drives all their individual drama forward and keeps the film from stagnating into anything less than endearing. Here, the idea of things never really changing in this small community is meant to be a comfort, not a lament.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Goodwin, Alice Drummond, Angela Pietropinto, Angelica Page, Anibal O. Lleras, Bruce Willis, Carl J. Matusovich, Catherine Dent, Dylan Walsh, Elizabeth Wilson, Gene Saks, Gerry Robert Byrne, Jay Patterson, Jerry Mayer, Jessica Tandy, Josef Sommer, Marcus Powell, Margo Martindale, Melanie Griffith, Page Johnson, Paul Newman, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Richard Mawe, Shannah Laumeister Stern

Director: Robert Benton

Set during the swingin' seventies, two small town Connecticut families are the subject of this visually stunning and somewhat disturbing drama. With an all-star cast that includes Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver, an unsatisfied housewife and mother of two and Elijah Wood as her eldest son, there's plenty of star power and drama. In addition, director Ang Lee brings his signature sense of trial and unease while unleashing a quirky and pointed 70's aesthetic.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Hann-Byrd, Allison Janney, Barbara Garrick, Bettina Skye, Byron Jennings, Christina Ricci, Christine Farrell, Colette Kilroy, Colleen Camp, Courtney Peldon, Daniel McDonald, David Krumholtz, Dennis Gagomiros, Donna Mitchell, Elijah Wood, Glenn Fitzgerald, Henry Czerny, Ivan Kronenfeld, Jamey Sheridan, Jessica Stone, Joan Allen, Joe O'Connor, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Freeman, Kate Burton, Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline, Larry Pine, Maia Danziger, Marcell Rosenblatt, Michael Cumpsty, Miles Marek, Nancy Opel, Robert Westenberg, Sarah Thompson, Scott Wentworth, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, William Cain

Director: Ang Lee

Rating: R

A true story based film about three girls whose lives become a tragedy shaped by the Rabbit-proof fence, which runs along Australia splitting it to two parts. These girls, daughters of an aboriginal mother and a white father who worked on building the fence and then moved on, get taken from their mother to a so-called re-education camp. This is the story of their escape to find the fence and then their mother, a journey of 1500 miles that they can only do on foot. Tragic, yes, but this is an honest film that sends clear messages without any excessive emotional dwelling.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, History

Actor: Andrew S. Gilbert, Anthony Hayes, Carmel Johnson, Celine O'Leary, David Gulpilil, David Ngoombujarra, Deborah Mailman, Don Barker, Edwina Bishop, Everlyn Sampi, Garry McDonald, Heath Bergersen, Jason Clarke, Ken Radley, Kenneth Branagh, Kenneth Radley, Kizzy Flanagan, Laura Monaghan, Lorna Lesley, Myarn Lawford, Natasha Wanganeen, Ningali Lawford, Richard Carter, Roy Billing, Tianna Sansbury, Trevor Jamieson

Director: Phillip Noyce

Rating: PG