13 Movies Like The Assistant (2020)

Staff & contributors

, 2017

Director Bryan Fogel, who you might know as the guy behind Jewtopia, initially set out to chronicle his exploration of doping to win an amateur cycling race. He starts off by reaching out to experts to help him with obtaining and administering said drugs, one of which points him towards Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenkov eagerly agrees to help him out.

Little did he know that his Russian acquaintance would transform Fogel film from a self-experiment documentary into a true-crime political thriller, when the scientist admits to being involved in a state-sponsored doping scheme of epic proportions on camera. Putin is obviously not amused.

Aside from all the madness that unfolds in this Netflix production, it's Rodchenkov's likeable and eccentric personality that makes the story more relatable and human as well as giving you a rare glimpse into the upper echelons of a country like Russia. As the plot thickens, one can't help but think that Fogel too is in over his head. Rightly award-winning, this is gripping stuff even if you're not into sports!

Genre: Documentary, Mystery

Actor: Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan, Grigory Rodchenkov, Jacques Rogge, Nikita Kamaev, Richard Pound, Victor Webster

Director: Bryan Fogel

Rating: TV-MA

, 2019

A beautifully shot movie about a high-schooler who's pushed by his father to always work and exercise the hardest. He aces his exams and always wins at wrestling, but nothing is ever good enough for the father and there is no margin for error. When things with both his body and his relationship start going wrong, his existence comes crashing down. This movie has two parts, and it takes a lot of narrative risks, but the beautiful camera work and believable characters land every single risk. It's an incredible achievement and a movie that should have gotten much more attention than it did.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexa Demie, Avis-Marie Barnes, Bill Wise, Carter Harcek, Clifton Collins Jr., David Garelik, David Payton, Ellen Marguerite Cullivan, Harlan Drum, Harmony Korine, Joshua Brockington, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Krisha Fairchild, Kristin Wollett, Lucas Hedges, Neal Huff, Nicholas Ryan Hernandez, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Vivi Pineda

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Rating: R

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis, Jacob Ming-Trent, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Peter Y. Kim, Radha Blank, Reed Birney, Stacey Sargeant, T.J. Atoms, Welker White

Director: Radha Blank

Rating: R

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

, 2020

This intimate and personal film is about Sibil Fox Rich, an entrepreneur and mother of six. Fox is driven by an unparalleled, contagious determination to succeed — so present in the mix of video diaries and present-day footage of her in Time.

For the past 20 years, Rich has channeled that tenacity towards the release of her husband, who is serving a 60-year sentence.

Through the video diaries and family footage, Time feels almost too personal. It’s like stepping into a person’s most intimate moments for 81 minutes, with all their ups and downs.

It could be seen as a commentary on the deeply flawed American justice system, but at its core Time is an uplifting portrayal of resilience, true, long-lasting love (she and her husband were high-school sweethearts), and boundless hope.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fox Rich, Freedom Rich, Laurence M. Rich, Rob Rich II

Director: Garrett Bradley

Rating: PG-13

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, and Ray Romano star in this true story of a big academic corruption case. Hugh Jackman is (of course) excellent as a successful and dedicated superintendent with a complicated personal life. However, when a curious student with the school journal starts digging around in a project he promotes, she uncovers what will become the largest public school embezzlement in the history of the U.S. 

The performances stretch the story to its full potential, as this movie would be nothing without its incredible cast. It should be watched for the acting. Eventually, it suffers from a problem common to all movies based on newspaper articles: the story can be told in a single article.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, TV Movie

Actor: Alex Wolff, Allison Janney, Annaleigh Ashford, Brent Langdon, Brian Sgambati, Catherine Curtin, Darlene Violette, Dina Pearlman, Doris McCarthy, Finnerty Steeves, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gino Cafarelli, Giuseppe Ardizzone, Halle Curley, Hari Dhillon, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Shamos, Jimmy Tatro, John Scurti, Jorge Chapa, Justin Swain, Kathrine Narducci, Kayli Carter, Larry Romano, Natasha Goss, Pat Healy, Peter Appel, Rafael Casal, Ray Abruzzo, Ray Romano, Rene Ojeda, Robert 'Toshi' Kar Yuen Chan, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Stephen Spinella, Steve Routman, Victor Verhaeghe, Welker White, Will Meyers

Director: Cory Finley

Rating: TV-MA

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson, Deja Dee, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Mick Foley, Rob Thomas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan McPhail, Thomas Haden Church, Tim Zajaros, Wayne Dehart, Yelawolf, Zachary Gottsagen, Zack Gottsagen

Director: Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Rating: PG-13

This artistic Australian coming-of-age drama stars Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects) as Milla, a teen from a dysfunctional family. The father is a psychologist and the mother suffers from depression, so he medicates her under the table. Meanwhile, Milla, a 16 year old, starts dating a charismatic almost-homeless 24 year old drug dealer. Unusual circumstances make the family tolerate the relationship in this story where every character feels like the main one. 

If you're looking for something different, you will love Babyteeth. Something happens to Milla in the 10 minute mark that descriptions and reviews online all mention - but is definitely a spoiler. Just know that it's not all romance and coming-of-age, there is slow-burning darkness to this movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrea Demetriades, Arka Das, Ben Mendelsohn, Charles Grounds, Eliza Scanlen, Emily Barclay, Essie Davis, Eugene Gilfedder, Georgina Symes, Jaga Yap, Justin Smith, Michelle Lotters, Priscilla Doueihy, Renee Billing, Toby Wallace, Zack Grech

Director: Shannon Murphy

Rating: MA-17, Not Rated

 As a result of the miraculous success of the famed Tham Luang cave rescue, which saw the return of 12 kids trapped in a cave for more than 15 days, you’ll find no shortage of documentaries about the mission. Some take the point of view of the children, even others the locals and loved ones. But National Geographic’s The Rescue largely focuses on the volunteer rescuers, all of whom were foreigners who flew from different parts of the globe to risk their lives for the young victims. The film dives into their personal lives and their psyches, even going so far as their childhood to explain the motivations behind the heroic decisions they made at that moment. In less deft hands, The Rescue might seem like yet another White Savior Complex story, but directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (the same creative couple behind the Oscar-winning doc Free Solo) prove that the divers’ expertise, skill, and personal stakes make for a story worth telling.   

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Derek Anderson, Jim Warny, John Volanthen, Rick Stanton, Thanet Natisri

Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Rating: PG

This difficult movie is about a seventeen-year-old from the U.S. underclass who has to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Autumn is creative, reserved, and quiet, but those are not qualities that her environment in rural Pennsylvania seems to value. On the opposite, she is surrounded by threats, including disturbing step-father and boss characters. 

Dangers escalate as Autumn decides to travel to New York to have an abortion. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is about unplanned pregnancies as much as it is about just how dangerous it is to be a teenage girl living in America.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amy Tribbey, Brian Altemus, Carolina Espiro, Christian Clements, David Buneta, Denise Pillott, Drew Seltzer, Eliazar Jimenez, Lizbeth MacKay, Mia Dillon, Ryan Eggold, Salem Murphy, Sam Dugger, Sharon Van Etten, Sidney Flanigan, Sipiwe Moyo, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Théodore Pellerin

Director: Eliza Hittman

Rating: PG-13

The disturbing conceit of a housewife swallowing inanimate objects may push some away, but those that can stomach it will find a searing exploration of patriarchal control over women’s bodies - an issue more relevant than ever in the US, as anti-choice zealots push closer to overturning abortion rights nationwide. 

An odd twist towards the end, and a tone-deaf bit about a Syrian refugee, make the film uneven. But, the edge of the seat suspense, sumptuously colorful cinematography, and Haley Bennet’s resonant performance make this worth seeing nonetheless. 

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alyssa Bresnahan, Austin Stowell, Babak Tafti, David Rasche, Denis O'Hare, Elise Santora, Elizabeth Marvel, Haley Bennett, Laith Nakli, Lauren Vélez, Luna Lauren Velez, Maya Days, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Nicole Kang, Olivia Perez, Zabryna Guevara

Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Rating: R