24 Movies Like The Greatest Showman (2017)

Staff & contributors

Proving that children's entertainment can be legitimate art like any other kind of cinema, the sequel to 2014's Paddington displays a stronger love for community and storytelling than many other adult-oriented productions. It may be cutesy and innocent, but Paddington 2 also uses its stunning visual effects and intricate production design to prop up a sophisticated story about discrimination, staying true to one's self, and (most surprisingly) the prison-industrial complex. It's a proper throwback to another era of family movies that offers something far more substantial to young children and genuinely moving moments for the parents and children at heart.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Kids

Actor: Aaron Neil, Alex Jordan, Ben Miller, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Cal McCrystal, Catherine Shepherd, Claire Keelan, Dan Antopolski, David J Biscoe, David Sant, Deepak Anand, Eileen Atkins, Enzo Squillino Jr., Geoffrey Lumb, Gus Brown, Hiten Patel, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Imelda Staunton, Jag Patel, Jamie Demetriou, Jessica Hynes, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Lumley, Joel Fry, Julie Walters, Justin Edwards, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Kya Garwood, Louis Partridge, Madeleine Harris, Maggie Steed, Marie-France Alvarez, Meera Syal, Michael Gambon, Michael Mears, Nadine Marshall, Nicholas Lumley, Nicholas Woodeson, Noah Taylor, Peter Capaldi, Richard Ayoade, Robbie Gee, Sally Hawkins, Samuel Joslin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Shola Adewusi, Simon Farnaby, Stephen McDade, Tim Fitzhigham, Tom Conti, Tom Davis

Director: Paul King

, 2017

Named after a slur for people of Asian descent, this 2017 film put Justin Chon on the map as a director. More than that, he also starred as the main lead in this raw and uncompromising period drama about Asian-Americans and the LA riots in 1992. Shot completely in black and white, it tells the story of Eli, a scrawny Korean-American, who runs his family shoe store with his brother, Daniel (David So), in several vignettes. They strike up an unlikely friendship with Kamilla (Simone Baker), a black kid from around the way, whose family is not happy with her hanging out with the two brothers. Amidst the ubiquitous violence in LA at the time, the Rodney King riots as well as a tragic shooting of a black teenager by a Korean convenience store owner, it shines the light on America's intra-minority race relations and the more unseen stories behind them. A topic that has come back to haunt America in the 2020s. The film is fierce as it is funny, harsh as it is playful. Uplifting and unsettling.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ben Munoz, Curtiss Cook Jr., David So, Isaiah Jarel, Justin Chon, Natalie Sutherland, Omono Okojie, Sang Chon, Simone Baker

Director: Justin Chon

Rating: Unrated

Autobiographical in nature, 120 BPM is French screenwriter Robin Campillo's first feature film. It revolves around the Parisian chapter of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, which Campillo was a member of in the early 1990s, and the love between Nathan, the group's newest member, who is HIV negative, and Sean, one of its founding and more radical members, who is positive and suffers the consequences of contracting AIDS. Using fake blood and spectacular direct action, ACT UP advocated more and better research of treatment, prevention, and awareness. This was at a time when many, implicitly or explicitly, viewed AIDS as a gay disease, even as a punishment for the gay community's propensity to pleasure and partying. The latter is reflected by the film's title, 120 bpm being the average number of beats per minute of a house track. Arnaud Rebotini's original score echoes the ecstasy-driven house music hedonism of the time with some effective original cuts, albeit with a melancholic streak. Because, for all the love, friendship, and emotion of the ACT UP crew that BPM so passionately portrays, anger and sadness pervade the lives of these young people as the lack of effective treatment threatens to claim the lives of their loved ones.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adèle Haenel, Aloïse Sauvage, Antoine Reinartz, Arnaud Valois, Caroline Piette, Catherine Vinatier, Coralie Russier, Emmanuel Ménard, Félix Maritaud, François Rabette, Marco Horanieh, Naëlle Dariya, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Pascal Tantot, Saadia Bentaïeb, Sabrina Aliane, Samuel Churin, Simon Guélat, Théophile Ray, Yves Heck

Director: Robin Campillo

Rating: Not Rated

A young bisexual woman attends a shiva, caught between her parents and their expectations, her ex, and her sugar daddy. Rachel Sennott’s Danielle is yet to find her path in life and everyone is determined to remind her of that. Taking place almost entirely in real-time, the film’s sharp wit is contrasted with constant anxiety, complemented by Ariel Marx’s horror-like score, full of discordant pizzicato that sounds like every last bit of sanity snapping. 

It’s a sex-positive take on 20-something life, treating bisexuality as wholly unremarkable and passing no judgment on Danielle’s sugar daddy income. Its specificities about Jewish customs and traditions are non-exclusionary, while its social claustrophobia is achingly universal. It’s comforting in the way it portrays the social horrors we all face, the feeling that everyone but you has life figured out, and that – ultimately – those who matter will pull through, eventually. One of 2021’s best.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ariel Eliaz, Cilda Shaur, Danny Deferrari, Deborah Offner, Dianna Agron, Fred Melamed, Glynis Bell, Jackie Hoffman, Molly Gordon, Polly Draper, Rachel Sennott, Richard Brundage, Rita Gardner, Sondra James, Ted Seligman

Director: Emma Seligman

Rating: Unrated

The story of the Von Erich family is excruciatingly sad, but Iron Claw doesn’t dive right into the tragedy. Instead, it takes care to paint a picture of a close-knit family that’s filled with just as much warmth, jealousy, affection, and resentment as the next bunch. Durkin masterfully draws you into their circle so that everything that happens next is sure to cut deep. The choreography, chemistry, color—everything is carefully and beautifully set up, but the casting is what stands out the most. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the inspired move to pair Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons as brothers and partners. On the internet, people have been dubbing The Iron Claw as “Little Women and The Virgin Suicides for men” and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from the sibling bond over glory and growing pains, all these films are also powerful explorations of gender. Iron Claw is a vicious takedown of toxic masculinity, while also being a searing family drama and an incredible showcase for Efron and company.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Brian Hite, Cazzey Louis Cereghino, Chad Governale, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chelsea Edmundson, Christina Michelle Williams, Garrett Hammond, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Jeremy Allen White, Jim Gleason, Jullian Dulce Vida, Kevin Anton, Kristina Kingston, Lily James, Maura Tierney, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Harney, Michael Papajohn, Mike Dell, Ryan Nemeth, Scott Innes, Stanley Simons, Zac Efron

Director: Sean Durkin

Rating: R

Other People’s Children wrestles with some very tricky life experiences: bonding with a partner’s child in the agonizing knowledge that that attachment is entirely contingent on the fate of your romantic relationship; being a woman of a certain age and wanting a child but becoming keenly aware of the ticking of your body clock. For all the sharp points of pain the movie zones in on, though, there is remarkable cheerfulness in it, too. Writer-director Rebecca Zlotowski captures a wide spectrum of mood here, fusing lighthearted laughs and swooning romance with bitter disappointments and grief in a way that feels organic to life itself. The buoyant moments don’t undermine the sincere, intelligent consideration given to Rachel’s (Virginie Efira) perspective as a woman navigating a situation for which there are no real rules, and vice versa — because the film considers her as a whole from the outset. Neither reducing Rachel to her childlessness nor ignoring its emotional impact on her, this is a deeply empathetic movie that never questions the completeness of its protagonist’s life.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anne Berest, Antonia Buresi, Callie Ferreira-Goncalves, Chiara Mastroianni, Fadila Belkebla, Frederick Wiseman, Guillaume Verdier, Henri-Noël Tabary, Marlène Saldana, Mireille Perrier, Roman Kolinka, Roschdy Zem, Sébastien Pouderoux, Véréna Paravel, Victor Lefebvre, Virginie Efira, Yamée Couture

Director: Rebecca Zlotowski

Rating: NR

A revelation of a movie, both in filmmaking and commercial success. While little-known abroad, it has made more than $42 million in US Box Office revenue out of a tiny $5 million budget. Kumail Nanjiani, stand-up comedian and star of the show Silicon Valley, tells his own story of romance with his now-wife Emily V. Gordon (who co-wrote the movie). Because it is based on a true story, and because it is the product of the love of both its writers and stars, this movie is incredibly heartfelt. It is also timely, addressing heavy themes such as identity, immigration, and family relationships. Not to mention it is absolutely hilarious. And it's produced by Judd Apatow. Trust me and go watch it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Aidy Bryant, Alison Cimmet, Andrew Pang, Anupam Kher, Bo Burnham, Celeste Arias, Charles Gould, David Alan Grier, Ed Herbstman, Holly Chou, Holly Hunte, Holly Hunter, Isabel Shill, Jack Corrigan, Jack O'Connell, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Jeremy Shamos, Keilly McQuail, Kerry Flanagan, Kuhoo Verma, Kumail Nanjiani, Kurt Braunohler, Lauren Patten, Lawrence Ballard, Linda Emond, Marilyn Torres, Matthew Cardarople, Mitra Jouhari, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Myra Turley, Rahul Bedi, Ray Romano, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Shana Solomon, Shenaz Treasury, Shunori Ramanathan, Sophia Muller, Spencer House, Susham Bedi, Vella Lovell, William Stephenson, Zach Cherry, Zenobia Shroff, Zoe Kazan

Director: Michael Showalter

Rating: R

An easy yet original coming-of-age story about Simon, a high-schooler with great parents, great friends, and one big secret he's not telling either. It's not a particularly complex movie, and it may not be one you'll remember forever, but it's very easy to have a pleasant time watching it. And if you're OK with that, its takes on finding one's identity and the negative impact of keeping secrets from our loved ones might surprise you in their depth. Love, Simon is a reminder that movies don't have to be religiously realistic to get a heartfelt new story across. It's entertainment with a message, the same way Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower were.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Sgambati, Alexandra Shipp, Bryson Pitts, Cassady McClincy, Chantell D. Christopher, Christian Ojore Mayfield, Christopher L. Plunkett, Clark Moore, Collin McHugh, Danni Heverin, Drew Starkey, Dylan Cheek, Emily Jordan, Haroon Khan, Jamila Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Joey Pollari, Jonathan Fritschi, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Josh Duhamel, Josh Royston, Joshua Mikel, Katherine Langford, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Mackenzie Lintz, Mandy Fason, Matthew Laraway, Miles Heizer, Nancy De Mayo, Natasha Rothwell, Nicholas Stargel, Nick Robinson, Nye Reynolds, Patrick Donohue, Philip Covin, Robbie Rogers, Samantha Bulka, Sean O'Donnell, Talitha Bateman, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Terayle Hill, Tony Hale, Tyler Chase, Tyson Love

Director: Greg Berlanti

Rating: PG-13

What makes Apollo 11 stand out is its sharp minimalist approach, allowing the archival footage of the mission to the moon to speak for itself. It’s stunning to think that at one point or another we had collectively seen a bulk of the footage in this film, and yet somehow let it lay dormant until the moon landing had been reduced to black and white stills in our collective imaginations. Not only does this film reinvigorate the moon landing with the power that it once held, but it does so in a way that is more thrilling than anything the Marvel CGI wizards could muster. The vibrant score adds a layer of ferocious tension, while the breakneck pace gives the feel of a rollercoaster ride. If there is any fault to find here, it is most definitely with the film’s MAGA style yearning for a time and place that never existed. Spare us the teary-eyed patriotism and the clips of Nixon, a disgraceful criminal, and vile racist, yammering on about the world becoming one. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic example of why most biopics should just be documentaries and why the fanatical fear of spoilers is a tad silly. Spoiler alert: they land on the moon.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Andy Aldrin, Bill Anders, Bruce McCandless II, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Deke Slayton, Gene Kranz, Janet Armstrong, Jim Lovell, John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Patricia Mary Finnegan, Todd Douglas Miller, Walter Cronkite

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Rating: G

The Breadwinner is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking. The animation is magical as it seamlessly jumps back and forth between Parvana's stark reality and richly detailed fantasy. It's a wonder to just look at, but it's a tapestry brought to life by the story at the center of it. 

Set in 2001, at the height of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the film follows Parvana, a young girl driven to desperate measures to keep her family alive. Because of the violent restrictions imposed on women (they’re not allowed to buy, sell, study, or practically do anything without a male chaperone), Parvana disguises herself as a boy so she can work for a living. The more she gets away with it, the bolder her attempts get. It's a story of survival and standing up, but it's also a sobering reminder of what fundamentalism is capable of doing (or more accurately, ruining). As long as cruel systems like this are taking place in the world, Breadwinner remains essential viewing for all.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, War

Actor: Ali Badshah, Ali Hassan, Ali Kazmi, Kane Mahon, Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Laara Sadiq, Lily Erlinghauser, Noorin Gulamgaus, Nora Twomey, Patrick McGrath, Reza Sholeh, Saara Chaudry, Salaman Hamidkohzad, Shaista Latif, Soma Bhatia, Soma Chhaya

Director: Nora Twomey

Rating: PG-13

Teenagers forced to grow up quickly and spend their prime years wiling away at garment factories sounds like a grim reality, and it is, but in Youth (Spring), Chinese documentarist Wang Bing captures more than just the inherent tragedy of young labor. Here, they build friendships, find love, discover an affinity for their craft, stand up for themselves against exploitative bosses, and look for ways to have fun. Even if it’s just as simple as eating street food, spending the night at an internet cafe, or finding nice clothes, we’re with them in every way. Though it’s never explicitly political, the documentary makes you think about the conditions that put the kids there in the first place, such as our insatiable need for cheap and trendy clothes, governments turning a blind eye to child labor, and a skewed system that favors these above people’s—especially young people’s—well-being and welfare.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Wang Bing

As heartbroken as you will be after watching this movie, you will feel nothing but triumph in the main actor's debut role. This movie has very little hope to offer the viewer, except the small amount felt every time the main character, Marina, gets up again to fight another day. This film depicts grief in such a profound and personal way within a character who must remain relatively silent and alone most of the movie. You will quickly know why the film is called "A Fantastic Woman".

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Bárbara Mundt, Cristián Chaparro, Daniela Vega, Eduardo Paxeco, Erto Pantoja, Fabiola Zamora, Francisco González Hermosilla, Francisco Reyes, José Antonio Raffo, Loreto Leonvendagar, Luis Gnecco, Marcial Tagle, Moisés Angulo, Nestor Cantillana, Nicolas Saavedra, Pablo Cerda, Pablo Greene, Paola Lattus, Paulina Hunt, Roberto Farías, Sergio Hernández, Trinidad González

Director: Sebastián Lelio

Rating: 15, R

The work of two people stand out here: the actor Christian Bale and the cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, Warrior, The Grey, Spotlight, etc.) Bale plays an Army Captain who agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family through treacherous lands. The general and the chief, being old enemies, embark on a journey where their conflict seems the least of their worries. The cinematography is lush and reminiscent of the classics of the Western genre. It is a harshly stunning film you should watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Adam Beach, Austin Rising, Ava Cooper, Ben Foster, Bill Camp, Boots Southerland, Brian Duffy, Christian Bale, Christopher Hagen, David Midthunder, Dicky Eklund Jr., Gray Wolf Herrera, James Cady, Jesse Plemons, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Majors, Luce Rains, Paul Anderson, Peter Mullan, Q'orianka Kilcher, Richard Bucher, Robyn Malcolm, Rod Rondeaux, Rory Cochrane, Rosamund Pike, Ryan Bingham, Scott Cooper, Scott G. Anderson, Scott Shepherd, Scott Wilson, Stafford Douglas, Stella Cooper, Stephen Lang, Tanaya Beatty, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Studi, Xavier Horsechief

Director: Scott Cooper

Rating: R

It looks like something you’ve already seen before: a student genius turns a simple high school cheating scheme into a full-blown, high-stakes heist. But layered with great acting, taut writing, and sharp observations about the ways in which education (and society in general) fails its students, Bad Genius turns a familiar premise into something genuinely exciting and impressively affecting. It’s everything you want a caper movie to be: smart and thrilling, with almost no moment to breathe, and of course, peppered with characters you can’t help but root and be nervous and excited for. 

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Chanon Santinatornkul, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Ego Mikitas, Eisaya Hosuwan, Kanjana Vinaipanid, Nopawat Likitwong, Pasin Kuansataporn, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Sarinrat Thomas, Suquan Bulakul, Teeradon Supapunpinyo, Thaneth Warakulnukroh, Valerie Bentson, Vittawin Veeravidhayanant

Director: Nattawut Poonpiriya

Rating: PG-13, TV-MA

Nisha, the daughter of conservative Pakistani immigrants in Oslo, finds ways to secretly go out with her Norwegian friends. She goes to parties, plays basketball, and dates.

One day, Nisha’s father catches her with a boy, bringing what he perceives as a great shame to the family. Nisha’s delicate balance is broken, and her family acts drastically: without telling her about their plans, they move her to Pakistan.

What Will People Say is based on its director and writer Iram Haq’s own experience being kidnapped to Pakistan and going back to Norway at age 16.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adil Hussain, Assad Siddique, Ekavali Khanna, Farrukh Jaffar, Jan Gunnar Røise, Jannat Zubair Rahmani, Kjersti Elvik, Lalit Parimoo, Maria Bock, Maria Mozhdah, Rohit Saraf, Sara Khorami, Sheeba Chaddha, Sunakshi Grover, Trine Wiggen

Director: Iram Haq

Rating: 12