17 Movies Like The Last Samurai (2003) On Cineplex Canada

Staff & contributors
You might have to wipe some sweat from your forehead once you've finished watching this blistering political thriller. It doesn't make any sense to us that this 2006 movie by documentary director Kevin Macdonald made less than 20 million in box office revenue when it came out, but that makes it even more A Good Movie to Watch material. In addition to being thrilling entertainment, it offers insight into an easily overlooked chapter of recent world history and taut moral dilemmas. The dramatization of Giles Foden's novel features two intense performances: James McAvoy plays the sometimes naive (and maybe a bit too enthralled by power) Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes the personal physician of none other than Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Nicknamed “The Butcher of Uganda”, Amin is played by Academy Award-winning character actor Forest Whitaker, who perfectly captures his mood-swinging, crazy brutality. He also completely nails his Ugandan-English accent. An amazing watch!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, David Oyelowo, Devon Diep, Dick Stockley, Forest Whitaker, Giles Foden, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Martina Amati, Sam Okelo, Simon McBurney, Stephen Rwangyezi

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Rating: R

, 2005

From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.

Genre: Action, Drama, History, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abdelhafid Metalsi, Alexander Beyer, Ami Weinberg, Amos Lavi, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Andreas Lust, Arturo Arribas, Ayelet Zurer, Baya Belal, Ben Youcef, Bijan Daneshmand, Brian Goodman, Carim Messalti, Charley Gilleran, Ciarán Hinds, Daniel Bess, Daniel Craig, David A. Hamade, Dianne Zaremba, Djemel Barek, Eric Bana, Faruk Pruti, Félicité Du Jeu, Geoffrey Rush, Gila Almagor, Guri Weinberg, Guy Amir, Hagit Dasberg, Hanns Zischler, Hiam Abbass, Hicham Nazzal, Hichem Yacoubi, Hisham Suliman, Igal Naor, Jalil Naciri, Jim McKay, Jonathan Avigdori, Jonathan Uziel, Joram Voelklein, Karim Saidi, Karim Saleh, Kevin Collins, Laurence Février, Lili Bordán, Liron Levo, Lisa Werlinder, Lyes Salem, Lynn Cohen, Mahmoud Zemmouri, María Casal, Marie-Josée Croze, Marie-Josée Croze, Martin Ontrop, Mathieu Amalric, Mathieu Kassovitz, Mehdi Nebbou, Meret Becker, Merik Tadros, Michael Lonsdale, Michael Schenk, Mihalis Giannatos, Moa Khouas, Moritz Bleibtreu, Moshe Ivgy, Mostefa Djadjam, Mouna Soualem, Mousa Kraish, Nasser Memarzia, Ohad Knoller, Omar Metwally, Omar Mostafa, Ori Pfeffer, Ossie Beck, Patrick Kennedy, Rad Lazar, Raffi Tavor, Renana Raz, Richard Brake, Rim Turki, Robert John Burke, Sabi Dorr, Saïda Bekkouche, Sam Feuer, Sami Samir, Sarah Mennell, Sasha Spielberg, Sharon Alexander, Shmuel Edelman, Souad Amidou, Stéphane Freiss, Steven Spielberg, Tom Wlaschiha, Ula Tabari, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Valeria Bruni‑Tedeschi, Wojciech Machnicki, Yehuda Levi, Yvan Attal

Director: Steven Spielberg

Rating: R

How to Change the World is an insightful and candid documentary about the formation of Greenpeace in 1971 by a small group of environmentalists and activists in Vancouver, British Columbia. Beginning with their attempt to disrupt U.S. nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska, the film follows their subsequent efforts to thwart commercial whaling in the Pacific, their anti-sealing campaign in Newfoundland, and their ongoing efforts to defend the natural world against what they perceive as excessive human intervention and abuse. How to Change the World is as much a poignant tale of inspired activism as it is an interesting study of the organization’s early tribulations: idealism vs. anarchy, social movement vs. organizational structure (or lack thereof) and leadership vs. disunity. The voice of co-founder Robert Hunter (de facto leader of Greenpeace from inception) is heard posthumously throughout via narrator Barry Pepper, and it adds an impassioned air of gravitas to the film, detailing the many complexities Greenpeace experienced over the course of its early years of growth and development. A compelling and educational viewing experience.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Bill Darnell, Bobbi Hunter, David Garrick, Emily Hunter, Jerry Rothwell, Paul Watson, Rex Weyler

Director: Jerry Rothwell

Rating: Not Rated

Hilarious and sweet, Meet the Patels is a charming collaboration between siblings Geeta and Ravi Patel. While the film is a documentary, it feels more like a real-time romantic comedy - which makes sense, given that it’s about Ravi’s quest for the perfect wife. Standard tropes, such as parental disapproval, are present here, but the film keeps it fresh as it focuses on the intricacies of Indian dating, specifically with traditional matchmaking and modern internet dating. However, like some of the best romcoms, the real heart of the story lies outside of Ravi’s love life. What drives the story is the dynamic between Ravi and his family. Balancing parental expectations with personal hopes is a struggle anyone can relate to, though this film presents this through comedic debates about marriage. At the same time, these debates end up insightful and oftentimes reveal fundamental principles the family believes in. It’s only through resolving familial issues that Ravi finally figures out his love life.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Romance

Actor: Audrey Wauchope, Geeta Patel, Ravi Patel

Director: Geeta Patel, Ravi Patel

Rating: PG

Even if you’re a huge Broadway fan, you’ve probably never heard of the “industrial musical." While it no longer exists in practice, in the 1970s industrial musicals were shows that corporations commissioned for some of the biggest Broadway names to produce. The script would be based on the company’s offerings and history, and privately performed by real Broadway actors to audiences made up exclusively of company and factory staff.

Now, a documentary about industrial shows doesn’t scream “entertaining,” but to describe Bathtubs Over Broadway in such a manner would be selling it way short. It’s really about Steve Young, a comedy writer for David Letterman, and how his life changed when he found his first industrial musical LP when leafing through a crate of old records for a Late Night segment he was working on.

Ultimately, what makes this such an enjoyable watch is the protagonist’s enduring passion over what at first appears to be nothing but a niche obsession. But with time, as he connects with other collectors and the people who were involved in the original industrial musical productions, his passion breeds community and lifelong bonds. Even if you’re no fan of Broadway, this makes for a great pop culture documentary and an unexpectedly touching story of human connection.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Chita Rivera, David Letterman, Florence Henderson, Jello Biafra, Martin Short, Melody Rogers, Sheldon Harnick, Steve Young, Susan Stroman

Director: Dava Whisenant

Rating: PG-13

Based on the real-life experience of director Elegance Bratton, who was himself a Black gay marine soldier during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” period in the US, The Inspection documents the behind-the-scenes cruelty that goes on in training the armed forces. Specifically, it inspects how institutions like the marines are hardwired to promote a certain kind of masculinity and how people like Bratton, perennially in the margins, respond, react, and fight back. 

It’s moving and artful but also lighthearted and humorous, finding light even in the darkest corners. It’s self-contradictory that way, but the film is all the better and nuanced for it. Gabriel Union’s performance is also worth noting here; in a career-defining turn, she transforms into a character at once so hateful and loving, you’ll be hard-pressed not to give her your full attention onscreen.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Dominguez, Andrew Kai, Aubrey Joseph, Becky Boxer, Bokeem Woodbine, Daniel Williamson, Eman Esfandi, Gabrielle Union, Jeremy Pope, McCaul Lombardi, Nicholas Logan, Raúl Castillo, Steve Mokate, Tyler Merritt, Wynn Reichert

Director: Elegance Bratton

Rating: R

Appropriately for its literary focus, The Lesson feels, in places, like the gripping adaptation of a bestselling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, though, its initial cleverness peters out in a contrived ending that ironically feels like it belongs to the pulpy airport fiction that one character accuses another of writing.

The Lesson’s early chapters (another way the movie’s form mirrors its content) crackle with tension, as Oxford grad and aspiring writer Liam observes the icy dynamics of the Sinclair family, whose son he’s been hired to provide university admission tuition to. The Sinclairs are still grieving the loss of another child, a process made more painful by the brittle ego of their patriarch — JM (Richard E. Grant), a celebrated author who happens to be Liam’s literary hero. Liam’s career ambitions complicate his position: he’s as much an enthusiastic student as he is a teacher here, and among the screenplay’s many suggestions is also Tom Ripley-style envy. The Lesson ultimately scuppers this complexity, though, as the writing eventually abandons its psychological study aspirations and swerves into melodrama, leaving the cast struggling to make it all believable. Still, while the ending may disappoint, there are juicy, intelligent ideas to be pondered over — not quite a bestseller, then, but definitely not airport fiction either.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Crispin Letts, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy, Richard E. Grant, Stephen McMillan, Tomas Spencer

Director: Alice Troughton

Rating: R

By all outward appearances, The Villages—a massive and manicured retirement community in Florida—looks like it does offer paradise to its aging residents, as promised. The list of activities is endless, the seniors are all partnered up. “It’s like going back to college,” as one of them puts it, where people from all over the country come together to create a new life with each other. 

But of course, nothing comes that easy, not even death. Some Kind of Heaven follows certain residents (and one committed trespasser) as they grapple with the slipperiness of fulfillment in their later years. It gets very eerie when the film's bleak messages are contrasted with the home's vibrant Floridian colors and the residents' plastered smiles. But the eeriness adds to the overall intrigue and pull of the documentary. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) co-produces this fascinating film.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Lance Oppenheim

Watch this if you like weird movies. And don't be fooled by the first half, which serves just to set Jesse Eisenberg's character and the monotone life he leads. It's the calm before the storm, during which that character is attacked by a violent gang and decides to take self-defense classes in an unusual club. This is a movie about modern manhood and how it can lead to some pretty strange situations. Great performance from Eisenberg as usual.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Apollo Bacala, Caroline Amiguet, Dallas Edwards, Davey Johnson, David Zellner, Frederic Spitz, Hauke Bahr, Imogen Poots, Jason Burkey, Jesse Eisenberg, Josh Fadem, Katherine Smith-Rodden, Leland Orser, Lena Friedrich, Louis Robert Thompson, Mike Brooks, Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada

Director: Riley Stearns

Rating: R

After the devastating Happy Old Year, we were excited to see the next of what Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit has to offer. Fast & Feel Love is a surprising one, purely because of how silly and unserious the entire film is. The satirical film follows a sport stacker whose passion to be the fastest blinds him to all the day-to-day tasks and life goals that have been pushed towards his girlfriend, and the film plays this basic conflict as dramatically as other action films would, with dynamic cinematography, an over-the-top soundtrack, and dramatic voice overs. The joke does get stretched a tad too long, but it humorously pokes fun at the infantile ways men in action films act, while still recognizing how this mindset is the way we cope in adulthood.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Anusara Korsamphan, Keetapat Pongruea, Napak Traicharoendetch, Nat Kitcharit, Urassaya Sperbund, Wipawee Patnasiri

Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit

This documentary about the 2015 massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church explores key questions around faith, justice, and forgiveness. It situates the massacre – which left nine African American churchgoers dead – within a bigger picture, with Emanuel being the first-ever freestanding black church in Charleston, a city in South Carolina with a highly charged racial history.

The film’s strengths lie in the stories of those who lost loved ones in the massacre, and the miraculous forgiveness some of the survivors offered the 21-year-old white supremacist responsible for the attack. Above all, it is a story about the power of faith.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Dylann Storm Roof

Director: Brian Ivie

Sometimes all a movie needs to be entertaining is a character having a really bad day. Breakdown might not have the most story or thematic depth to it, but having Kurt Russell try to track down the men who kidnapped his wife leads to one tension-filled scene to the next. It's a great showcase for the small towns and empty stretches of highway that make up so much of America, lending to the film the feel of a western, with violence and stuntwork that feel edgier than most '90s action fare. There are no guarantees here that our hero will win the day, which makes the danger he's in that much more exciting.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ancel Cook, Gene Hartline, Helen Duffy, J.T. Walsh, Jack McGee, Jack Noseworthy, Jonathan Mostow, Kathleen Quinlan, Kim Robillard, Kurt Russell, M.C. Gainey, Moira Sinise, Rex Linn, Rick Zieff, Ritch Brinkley, Thomas Kopache, Vincent Berry

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Rating: R

A first feature by stuntman-turned-director Andy Armstrong, Squealer is supposedly based on real events that shook Canada in the 1990s. Robert Pickton or the Pig Farmer Killer was perhaps the inspiration for the eponymous Squealer in the 2023 film; the physical resemblance is uncanny. Extraordinarily cruel serial killers make good gore material and we love to see it, but the problem is that the audience today wants something new and fresher. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic, but it's hard to make a film as misogynistic and hit the same charge as it used to. In Squealer, it is only female bodies that are shown dismembered, cut open, sliced, and diced; for men, all this happens off screen. This is only one example of how the film reiterates some of its onerous tropes, without really updating them. It's not exactly good taste to hammer bits of comedy in the dialogue too, as it feels  disconcerting amidst the rivers of blood and cruelty. 

 

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Danielle Burgio, Graham Greene, Holly Kaplan, Katherine Moennig, Ramona DuBarry, Rebecca Knox, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sydney Carvill, Theo Rossi, Tyrese Gibson, Wes Chatham

Director: Andy Armstrong

Rating: R

Hipgnosis’s body of work is so rich, brilliant, and recognizable, that it’s hard not to at least sit in awe as they flash by you in this documentary. The accompanying stories behind their creation, sometimes told by Thorgerson and Powell, other times by their musician clients like Jimmy Page and Paul McCartney, are also pleasant and informative enough to paint, in whole, an interesting picture. But apart from the covers themselves, Squaring the Circle doesn’t have much else going for it. The co-founders’ history is too brief and plain to render drama, and their upbringing too upper-class and male to be relatable. A more broad, ambitious goal would’ve been to parallel the history of these artworks with the history of rock music itself, but this niche documentary seems uninterested in explaining itself to outsiders and newcomers. That said, it still serves as a precious account for those familiar with Hipgnosis’ pieces. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: David Gilmour, Glen Matlock, Graham Gouldman, Jimmy Page, Nick Mason, Noel Gallagher, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Peter Saville, Robert Plant, Roger Waters

Director: Anton Corbijn

Composed of archival footage of the titular musical legend and testimonials from those who worked with him or whose lives were profoundly impacted by his courage, Little Richard: I Am Everything feels comprehensive but is also oddly lacking. The documentary makes a bold, confident claim: that all popular music today can be directly traced to his work. And when the film lets itself get into full music nerd mode, it's easy to be convinced. But after you accept that perspective on Little Richard, the rest of the movie seems like it's just spinning its wheels, covering key moments in the artist's life and career without really challenging or substantiating long-held ideas about him.

Chief among these is Little Richard's shifting feelings toward his own queerness—proudly expressing his true self one year, then openly denouncing his own homosexuality the next. This subject matter is ripe for difficult but insightful analysis, which the film just never gets around to. It begins to feel like the believes there is no more discussion to be had about him. And that may very well be true; he deserves the flowers that were denied him for so long. But this attitude doesn't necessarily make for the best documentary.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alan Freed, Billy Porter, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, John Waters, Little Richard, Mick Jagger, Nile Rodgers, Nona Hendryx, Pat Boone, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Valerie June

Director: Lisa Cortés