34 Movies Like The Holdovers (2023)

Staff & contributors

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

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

How do you make a film about the Holocaust feel new? How do you make the terrors feel fresh, like it was just in the news, without sounding redundant or without giving into the sensationalized and emotionally manipulative? For Director Jonathan Glazer, the answer lies in not what you show but what you don’t show. The Zone of Interest is shot from the point of view of Nazi Officer Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), who live a dreamy life right next to the infamous Auschwitz death camp. Glazer frames them plainly and without flourish as they ignore (or, arguably, revel in) the glow of burning bodies, the howls of pain, and the billows of smoke coming from the torture chamber a wall away. It’s a powerful, nauseating contrast that turns the question from “How can they do this?” to “Who among us is committing the same things right now?” Who among us is casting a blind eye to the atrocities and genocide being committed at this very moment to our neighbors? The film, which is also a technical feat in terms of the way it’s shot (the crew and cameras remained hidden so that the actors were free to roam, as if in a play) is chilling and thought-provoking, and it will unnerve you for days on end.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Anastazja Drobniak, Christian Friedel, Daniel Holzberg, Freya Kreutzkam, Imogen Kogge, Jakub Sierenberg, Johann Karthaus, Klaudiusz Kaufmann, Lilli Falk, Luis Noah Witte, Marie Rosa Tietjen, Maximilian Beck, Medusa Knopf, Nele Ahrensmeier, Rainer Haustein, Ralph Herforth, Sandra Hüller, Sascha Maaz, Shenja Lacher, Thomas Neumann

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Rating: PG-13

Monster is a deceptively simple story about growing up and the many misunderstandings that come with it. It’s told through different points of view, a technique that could easily feel gimmicky in the hands of a lesser director. But with director Hirokazu Kore-eda at the helm, it feels natural and inevitable, as if there was no other way to tell this specific story. It’s a masterful mystery, but Monster is less about suspense and answering the whodunnit question than it is about navigating the murky waters of truth and real life. As corny as it sounds, watching Monster is an experience unto itself: you’ll find yourself believing something one moment and dismantling it the next, learning and unlearning in a span of two hours. But as with past Kore-eda films, it’s the story’s heartwarming sensitivity that trumps everything. You’ll likely come for the mystery but stay for its heart.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Akihiro Kakuta, Ayu Kitaura, Daisuke Kuroda, Eita Nagayama, Hinata Hiiragi, Kayo Noro, Mitsuki Takahata, Moemi Katayama, Pee, Ryu Morioka, Sakura Andô, Shidô Nakamura, Soya Kurokawa, Yûko Tanaka

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Rating: PG-13

Nothing about Saint Omer is easy. A female Senegalese migrant (Guslagie Malanga) is put to trial for committing infanticide, but throughout the film, it becomes clear how much of a victim she is too, of an uncaring and deeply prejudiced society. “What drove her to madness?” Her attorney asks at one point. We’re not sure. We're not necessarily asked to side with her, nor answer the many hard-hitting questions brought up in the film, but we sit with the uneasiness of it all and, in that silence, confront our ideas about motherhood, womanhood, personhood. 

This confusion is what makes the film so compelling. Despite the court’s best efforts, Laurence isn’t meant to be understood. She’s meant to be an example of the ever-ambiguous, forever-complicated, always-hurt person. It’s human nature after all to be this complex and messed up. The film shows us that the best that we can do in situations like this is to listen, understand, and as our protagonist Rama (Kayije Kagame) does, make peace with the noise. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aurelia Petit, Guslagie Malanda, Kayije Kagame, Louise Lemoine Torrès, Salimata Kamate, Thomas De Pourquery, Valérie Dréville, Xavier Maly

Director: Alice Diop

The Teacher’s Lounge is one of those movies where a simple misunderstanding is blown out of proportion, so much so that it causes the fabric of a community to unravel into chaos. Aided by a precise score, it ticks like a timebomb, with every second filled with so much dread and anxiety you have to remind yourself to breathe. It’s an impeccable and taut thriller, but it also works as an allegory about modern-day surveillance and authority. Director İlker Çatak gives the Gen-Z students and their much older teachers a level field where they struggle for control, and the result is both bleak and funny. It’s often said that schools are a microcosm of the real world, but nowhere is that more apparent than here. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Antonia Luise Krämer, Eva Löbau, Katharina M. Schubert, Kathrin Wehlisch, Katinka Auberger, Leonard Stettnisch, Leonie Benesch, Lisa Marie Trense, Michael Klammer, Özgür Karadeniz, Rafael Stachowiak, Sarah Bauerett, Uygar Tamer

Director: İlker Çatak

Rating: PG-13

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Seo Yeon-woo, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

Before Turning Red and Crazy Rich Asians, there was The Joy Luck Club. Based on the bestselling novel, the film adaptation centers around the four Chinese-American women and their relationships with their mainland-born mothers. Explaining that the club isn’t particularly joyful or lucky, the film starts from June’s perspective, a perspective of a Chinese-American woman who’s lived all her life in America. However, through strategic screenplay structure and effective sequence arrangement, we learn the struggles of the founding club members, the struggles that brought them to another country, which forms the dynamics between them and their American daughters. Because of how comprehensive and layered the film is, this underrated film adaptation is a phenomenal take on the immigrant experience. Tears are inevitable with how they deal with difficulties, but so is hope.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andrew McCarthy, Chao Li Chi, Christopher Rich, Diane Baker, Fen Tian, France Nuyen, Irene Ng, Kiều Chinh, Lauren Tom, Lisa Lu, Michael Paul Chan, Ming-Na Wen, Philip Moon, Rosalind Chao, Russell Wong, Tamlyn Tomita, Tsai Chin, Victor Wong, Vivian Wu, Yu Feihong

Director: Wayne Wang

Rating: R

Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell got a lot of free reign with her debut, Promising Young Woman, which was a slightly modest ordeal even with a lead of Carrey Mulligan's calibre. But now, with her sophomore film, she go to have some fun. Assembling a devout cast of particularly skilled actors—Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, and Mulligan again—seems like an obvious decision, but the mix of them all is unlike anything we've seen before. A class satire, a psychological thriller, and a psychosexual drama, Saltburn is high class entertainment, with a snappy script, and many tricks up its sleeve. Brace yourselves for some bath-action, grave-action, and full-moon-menstrual-action and many other scenes you may have not ever pictured shown on the screen. Actually, it's impossible to prepare for a film like this one, but being open certainly helps digest the shock and provocations that are there for you to behold.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alison Oliver, Andy Brady, Archie Madekwe, Barry Keoghan, Carey Mulligan, Dorothy Atkinson, Ewan Mitchell, Glyn Grimstead, Jacob Elordi, Joshua McGuire, Lolly Adefope, Matthew Carver, Paul Rhys, Reece Shearsmith, Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike, Sadie Soverall, Seth MacFarlane, Shaun Dooley

Director: Emerald Fennell

Rating: R

Art is a hobby for most people, but for musician Jon Batiste and writer Suleika Jaouad, art is part and parcel of this thing called life. Of course, it’s part of their work, and it’s how they make a livelihood, but it’s more than that– it’s almost a spiritual ritual they cling to, especially when Jaouad finds out that her leukemia has returned. American Symphony mainly depicts the creation of said orchestral work, but director Matthew Heineman translates the symphony into cinematic form, culminating in a performance played over the intimate moments between Batiste and Jaouad. It’s not just a documentary of a performance, but a documentary about art, about creation despite life’s pains, perhaps to survive life’s pains. It’s a powerful work that makes it easy to believe in art as imperative for life, and vice versa.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Anna Wintour, Billie Eilish, James Taylor, Jon Batiste, Jonathan Dinklage, Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, Louis Cato, Questlove, Simon Helberg, Stephen Colbert, Stevie Wonder, Suleika Jaouad, Trevor Noah

Director: Matthew Heineman

Rating: PG-13

David Fincher's return to form almost ten years after Gone Girl turns the eponymous French graphic novel series into a stone-cold stunner. The Killer can be described as a crime thriller and a neo noir, but it's perfectly Fincherian in the ways it withholds information from the viewer, building up suspense in a masterful rhythm. The film opens on the inside of a construction site—a WeWork office to-be—where our Killer stalks his pray across the street. A rather static beginning, where nothing much happens: one may question the thriller qualities of the film during its first act for similar reasons, but just give it time; that's exactly what The Killer would say. But little does he know that time is something he doesn't have much of...

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Actor: Arliss Howard, Bernard Bygott, Brandon Morales, Charles Parnell, Daran Norris, Emiliano Pernia, Endre Hules, Erik Hellman, Gabriel Polanco, Jack Kesy, Jérôme Keen, Julia Rowley, Kellan Rhude, Kerry O'Malley, Michael Fassbender, Monique Ganderton, Nikki Dixon, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, Tilda Swinton

Director: David Fincher

Rating: R

In what is only his second feature, Greek director Christos Nikou crafts a singular universe that is orderly and enticing. The dystopian premise that you can now scientifically test for love may be bizarre, but it answers to one of the biggest anxieties humans share. That said,  this particular world feels so close to ours today, that you want to dive right in it, weirdness and all. Even the topos of the love clinic, where couples get evaluated and take on exercises before they take the test is framed as a space for hope. There's no underlying cynicism in Nikou's film, which is perhaps the most surprising fact about it; on the contrary, longing—however painful it may be—abounds and seeps through the carefully composed images of shared doubt and suspect intimacy. Last, but not least, the chemistry shared by Buckley-Ahmed-White is nothing short of explosive.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Albert Chung, Amanda Arcuri, Annie Murphy, Avaah Blackwell, Clare McConnell, Jeremy Allen White, Jessie Buckley, Jim Watson, Juno Rinaldi, Katy Breier, Luke Wilson, Mish Tam, Nina Kiri, Riz Ahmed, Tameka Griffiths, Varun Saranga

Director: Christos Nikou

Rating: R

You would expect a courtroom drama to be built around damning pieces of evidence, passionate speeches, or certain social issues lending weight to the investigation. But what makes Justine Triet's Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall so remarkable is how direct it is. Triet doesn't treat this case like a puzzle for the audience to participate in solving; instead she fashions this trial into a portrait of a family being eroded by even just the suggestion of distrust. It ultimately has far less to do with who's responsible for the death of a man, and more to do with the challenge of facing the reality that the people we love are capable of being cruel and callous to others.

Which isn't to say that Anatomy of a Fall doesn't still possess qualities that make it a great courtroom drama—doubt only continues to pile up with every new piece of information that's revealed to the audience, until we begin to interpret characters' expressions and actions in a contradictory ways. But the way Triet executes these reveals is just so skillful, choosing precisely how to let details slip and obscuring everything behind faulty memory, intentional dishonesty, or any other obstacles that usually come up during an investigation.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anne Rotger, Antoine Reinartz, Arthur Harari, Camille Rutherford, Jehnny Beth, Milo Machado-Graner, Saadia Bentaïeb, Samuel Theis, Sandra Hüller, Sophie Fillières, Swann Arlaud

Director: Justine Triet

Rating: R

Be prepared to have the expectations you form after reading Scrapper’s synopsis shattered: though it is about a 12-year-old dealing with grief following her mother's death, it’s remarkably upbeat. It gets that quality by positioning itself in the buoyant headspace of young Georgie, a resilient, cheeky youngster who retains much of her whimsical childlike spirit in spite of her profound bereavement. Director Charlotte Regan’s debut feature is bursting with imagination: there are surreal stylized touches all over the movie, from talking video-game-style spiders to magical realist metaphors of Georgie's grief. 

That’s not to say that Scrapper is flippant about the inherent tragedy of its story, though. As in The Florida Project, you can feel the escapist motivations of Georgie's colorful imagination, which only deepens the poignancy of her situation and the precarious relationship she forms with her father, a barely-old-enough manchild who only makes an effort to meet Georgie after her mother’s death. Amidst all the intentional artificiality of the filmmaking, their largely improvised interactions never ring false — a dynamic that’s also crucial to making the movie feel genuinely touching and real rather than saccharine and shallow. A very impressive debut, and a much-deserved recipient of Sundance’s World Cinema Grand Jury prize and a whopping 14 nominations at the BIFAs.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alin Uzun, Ambreen Razia, Asheq Akhtar, Aylin Tezel, Harris Dickinson, Laura Aikman, Lola Campbell, Matt Brewer, Olivia Brady, Sam Buchanan

Director: Charlotte Regan

Rating: NR

For public toilet cleaner Hirayama, “enjoy the little things in life” is more than just an adage: it’s a philosophy. Every day, he follows a strict routine of watering his plants, going to work, taking a break at a nearby shrine, and having dinner at his favorite stalls. It seems unexceptional, and yet Hirayama manages to find small, meaningful joys in between (and at) those very moments. A tree branch dancing in the breeze and shadows making funny shapes are enough to make him chuckle, while it seems like a good book and a trusty cassette are all he needs to be at peace. Hirayama’s mundane miracles are life-affirming, but make no mistake: this isn’t one of those cheesy films that push you to be happy no matter what. Director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire) infuses the film with a certain gloom so that the overall tone is one of deep, poignant melancholy. Through vague clues about Hirayama’s past, we learn that his attempts at capturing joy might also be bids to escape a traumatic life. All this builds to a powerful ending that speaks to the complexity of human emotion. We can be happy and sad, peaceful and troubled, lonely and content all at the same time, and it’s okay. At the end of the day, we’ll still have our favorite book passage, our favorite singer, a great artwork, or a beautiful park to return to, and sometimes that’s all the reminder you need that life can be worth living.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aoi Iwasaki, Aoi Yamada, Arisa Nakano, Atsushi Fukazawa, Bunmei Harada, Daigo Matsui, Gan Furukawa, Hairi Katagiri, Hiroto Oshita, Inuko Inuyama, Kōji Yakusho, Makiko Okamoto, Masahiro Koumoto, Mijika Nagai, Min Tanaka, Miyako Tanaka, Morio Agata, Morooka Moro, Motomi Makiguchi, Nao Takahashi, Naoko Ken, Nari Saitô, Nijika Tonouchi, Sayuri Ishikawa, Soraji Shibuya, Taijirō Tamura, Tamae Ando, Tateto Serizawa, Tokio Emoto, Tomokazu Miura, Tomoyuki Shibata, Yoneko Matsukane, Yumi Asou, Yuriko Kawasaki

Director: Wim Wenders

Rating: PG

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a whodunnit; in fact, it’s closer to a who-didn’t-do-it. We know from the very beginning who is responsible for committing the brutal serial murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma that the film chronicles: pretty much every single one of their white neighbors, spearheaded by William Hale (a skin-crawling Robert De Niro). Scorsese, most often associated with mafia stories, stealthily suggests here that the most dangerous gang of all is the one into which all these perpetrators have been born. That’s an idea he investigates through the confused loyalties of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, the Judas-like husband of Mollie (movie-stealer Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who owns lucrative oil headrights that William wants to fatten his own pockets with. This searing epic — based on a harrowing chapter of real American history — is an unsparing and self-implicating look at complicity and greed in the eye, a monumental movie that cements its maker as one of the greatest to ever do it.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Washington, Addie Roanhorse, Alexandria Toineeta, Alexis Ann, Alexis Waller, Barry Corbin, Beau Smith, Ben Hall, Bravery Nowlin, Brendan Fraser, Brent Langdon, Brian Shoop, Bronson Redeagle, Candice Costello, Cara Jade Myers, Carl Palmer, Chance Rush, Charisse Satepauhoodle, Charlie Musselwhite, Chase Parker, Christopher Cote, Clint Rohr, Dana Daylight, Danny Frost, David Born, David Fields, Delani Chambers, DJ Whited, Dolan Wilson, Ed Yellowfish, Elden Henson, Elisha Pratt, Elizabeth Waller, Eric Parkinson, Everett Waller, Gabriel Casdorph, Garrison Panzer, Gary Basaraba, Gene Jones, Gregory Fallis, Harrison Shackelford, J. C. MacKenzie, Jack White, Jackie Wyatt, Jacob Johnson, Jacob Lux, James Carroll, James Healy Jr., JaNae Collins, Jarad Looper, Jason Isbell, Jay Paulson, Jeffrey Stevenson, Jennifer Moses, Jennifer Rader, Jeremy Goodvoice, Jerry Logsdon, Jerry Wolf, Jesse Plemons, Jessica Harjo, Jezy Gray, Jillian Dion, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Chrest, Joey Oglesby, John Gibbs, John Lithgow, Johnny Baier, Joseph Spinelli, Joshua Close, Julia Lookout, Justin France, Karen Garlitz, Katherine Willis, Kristin Keith, Kyle Dillingham, Larry Fessenden, Larry Jack Dotson, Larry Sellers, Lee Eddy, Leland Prater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Louis Cancelmi, Lucas Ross, Lynette Satepauhoodle, Mahada Sanders, Mamie Cozad, Marc Phaneuf, Margaret Gray, Mark Landon Smith, Mark Lopeman, Marko Costanzo, Martin Scorsese, Mary Buss, Mason Bighorse, Mason Cunningham, Matt Tolentino, Melissa Tiger, Michael Abbott Jr., Mike Cook, Moe Headrick, Moira Redcorn, Nathalie Standingcloud, Nathaniel Arcand, Nicholas White, Nick W. Nicholson, Nokosee Fields, Norma Jean, Norris Bighorse, Pat Healy, Patrick Bubert, Paul Woodiel, Penny Potts, Pete Yorn, Peter Yarin, Randy Houser, Rayna Gellert, Reignen Yellowfish, River Rhoades, Robert De Niro, Ron McMahan, Sam Bardfeld, Samuel French, Samuel Gray, Sarah Spurger, Scott George, Scott Shepherd, Seth Buckminster, Shonagh Smith, Silas Satepauhoodle, Stephen Berkman, Steve Eastin, Steve Routman, Steve Witting, Sturgill Simpson, Tahlee Redcorn, Tanner Brantley, Tantoo Cardinal, Tatanka Means, Ted Welch, Terry Allen, Tom Ashmore, Tommy Schultz, Ty Mitchell, Vann Bighorse, Victor McCay, Vince Giordano, Vinny Raniolo, Wally Welch, Welker White, William Belleau, Xavier Toehay, Zachary Hokeah

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rating: R

Many comedians use humor as a way to ease into more serious subject matter, though there always exists a risk that a comedy special can skew too far down the silly or the self-reflective route. Mike Birbiglia has come about as close to the perfect balance as possible, in this recording of his one-man Broadway show at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Key to this is the fact that Birbiglia tells one very cohesive story throughout these 77 minutes, frequently branching off to other humorous anecdotes but always returning with a pensive self-consciousness to the real possibility of him dying sooner than he'd want.

This filmed version of Birbiglia's show doesn't give a full idea of its multimedia qualities (Birbiglia occasionally has words and images projected onto the curved screen behind him, which he also physically interacts with), but the comedian's sincere style of storytelling more than makes up for the lack of audiovisual tricks we're permitted to see. And don't get it confused: this is a very funny stand-up special, whose jokes always come from the most unexpected places—it also just happens to contain some truly moving moments that come out of nowhere, but make total sense alongside all the laughter.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Mike Birbiglia

Director: Seth Barrish

Rating: PG-13