20 Movies Like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Adam Sandler, though currently imminently marketable, incredibly played out and boring, used to be a real actor. This is the film by which his legacy will be judged, where we see the funnyman drop the mask and actually show real feelings besides bumbling rage. Sandler's hurt and confused performance is beautifully vulnerable and true and is complimented by P.T. Anderson's incomparable direction (the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood), creating a true masterpiece of American cinema. This beauty also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adam Sandler, David H. Stevens, Don McManus, Emily Watson, Hazel Mailloux, Jason Andrews, Jonathan Loughran, Karen Kilgariff, Larry Ring, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nathan Stevens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rico Bueno, Robert Smigel, Shelley Waggener

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating: R

Martin Bell documents the lives of youth living in the streets of Seattle in the early eighties with profound empathy. It's a type of filmmaking that doesn’t judge or condescend, but seeks to capture the humanity of its subjects. The result is a film bursting with life and laughter, and although tragedy lurks around every corner it isn’t over-sentimentalized or exploited, taking a backseat to the compassionate depiction of everyday moments. 

The audience is left to its own devices to pull together the extent to which these youth have been failed by a broken safety-net and the expired promise of an American dream. These ideas rise to the surface naturally and serve as a testament to the power of the documentary form when it’s loosened from the grip of mawkish narrators and sugary moralizing.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dewayne Pomeroy, Lulu Couch, Roberta Joseph Hayes

Director: Martin Bell

, 2007

Once is about a vacuum cleaner/repairman/street musician and a florist in a boy-meets-girl-then-makes-music tale of love, friendship, family, and freaking great music. You can just feel the passion from this simple but charming low-budget movie capturing the chemistry of music making. The film's music will make your skin tingle and hair stand on end. How good is it? In addition to the film winning an Oscar for its music, the Broadway musical version has won 8 Tonys. In short - get ready for a sonic masterpiece!

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Darren Healy, Geoff Minogue, Gerard Hendrick, Glen Hansard, Hugh Walsh, Mal Whyte, Marcella Plunkett, Markéta Irglová

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Before The Silence of the Lambs and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal, there was Manhunter and Brian Cox’s deeply unnerving Dr. Lecktor. Michael Mann’s neon-lit serial-killer thriller follows Will Graham (William Petersen), a retired FBI agent lured back to work by a psychotic mass murderer whom no one at the Bureau can catch. But Will has something no one else on the force does: he was so committed to tracking down the now-imprisoned Lecktor that he developed an ability to warp his mind into that of a deranged killer, seeing a kind of logic in their madness that allows him to hunt them down. 

While that’s a professional superpower of sorts, it’s also a point of insecurity and a source of deep torture for Will, who struggles with the burden of his extraordinary empathy. Manhunter is thus a different kind of psychological thriller: while its dive into the depraved minds of Lecktor and the Tooth Fairy is certainly disturbing, it’s the obsessive, sanity-smashing effect the investigation has on Will that is most terrifying. Add to that Dante Spinotti’s impossibly vivid cinematography, Tom Noonan’s shudder-inducing performance as the voyeuristic Tooth Fairy, and the film’s surprisingly layered treatment of the murderer, and this is the serial-killer movie to end all others.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Neil, Annie McEnroe, Benjamin Hendrickson, Bill Cwikowski, Bill Smitrovich, Brian Cox, Chris Elliott, Dan Butler, David Allen Brooks, David Seaman, Dennis Farina, Frankie Faison, Garcelle Beauvais, Jim Zubiena, Joan Allen, Joanne Camp, John Posey, Ken Colquitt, Kim Greist, Kin Shriner, LA Winters, Marshall Bell, Michael D. Roberts, Michael Talbott, Michele Shay, Norman Snow, Patricia Charbonneau, Paul Perri, Peter Maloney, Robin Moseley, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, William Petersen

Director: Michael Mann

I’m Not There is an unusual biopic in that it never refers to its subject, Bob Dylan, by name. Instead, Todd Haynes’ portrait of the singer mimics his constant reinvention by casting six separate actors to play as many reincarnations of the same soul. It’s an ingenious spin on a usually stale genre, one that liberates the film from the humdrum restrictions of a literal retelling of Dylan's life.

If there’s anyone who warrants such an inventive approach to biography, it’s Dylan, whose public and private personas are so numerous that it’s only by angling six different mirrors at him that Haynes can hope to catch some of his essence. Impressionistic editing toggles freely between these vignettes, each visually distinct: from the 11-year-old Woody Guthrie-obsessive (Marcus Carl Franklin) and the black-and-white Super 16mm-shot poet (Ben Whishaw) to the aging cowboy outlaw (Richard Gere), all by way of Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Cate Blanchett’s incarnations. To be sure, this is a somewhat challenging film, reflecting, in places, the enigmatic surrealism of Dylan’s lyrics and his refusal to be pinned down to one thing. But, as Blanchett’s embodiment says, “Mystery is a traditional fact,” and that’s no more true than of Dylan, making Haynes’ film a fascinatingly fitting spiritual biopic.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alison Folland, Andrew Shaver, Andrew Simms, Angela Galuppo, Arthur Holden, Ben Whishaw, Benz Antoine, Bill Croft, Bob Dylan, Brett Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Colvey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Bale, Craig Thomas, Danny Blanco Hall, David Cross, David Gow, Dennis St John, Dominic James, Don Francks, Emmanuel Schwartz, Eric Newsome, Eugene Brotto, Fanny La Croix, Garth Gilker, Gordon Masten, Graham Cuthbertson, Greg Kramer, Heath Ledger, Holly Uloth, Ivan Freud, Jane Gilchrist, Jane Wheeler, Jason Cavalier, Jennifer Rae Westley, Jesse Todd, Jessica Kardos, Jim James, Jodie Resther, Joe Cobden, John Koensgen, Julianne Moore, Kathleen Fee, Kim Gordon, Kim Roberts, Kris Kristofferson, Kristen Hager, Kyle Gatehouse, Kyle Switzer, Larry Day, Leif Anderson, Leigh Ann Taylor, Lina Roessler, Lisa Bronwyn Moore, Lorne Brass, Maggie Castle, Marcus Carl Franklin, Marie-Julie Rivest, Mark Camacho, Matt Holland, Matthew Boylan, Matthew Harbour, Melantha Blackthorne, Michelle Williams, Nathalie Girard, Noel Burton, Patrick Costello, Paul Cagelet, Paul Johnston, Paul Spence, Pauline Little, Peter Friedman, Phyllis Gooden, Pier Paquette, Pierre Leblanc, Pierre-Alexandre Fortin, Richard Gere, Richard Jutras, Richard Robitaille, Richie Havens, Rob Burns, Roc LaFortune, Sharlene Royer, Shawn Baichoo, Steve Godin, Susan Glover, Terry Haig, Thiéry Dubé, Tim Post, Trevor Hayes, Tyrone Benskin, Vito DeFilippo, Wyatt Bowen, Yolonda Ross

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: R

There are three big reasons to watch Paddleton. The first two are Ray Romano and Mark Duplass, who play the two neighbors at the center of the story. And the third is Alexandre Lehmann, the director, who also is responsible for Blue Jay (on Netflix as well).

These two misfit neighbors find themselves together when one of them is diagnosed with cancer. They embark on a trip to the nearest pharmacy (a six-hour drive) which turns into an adventure.

This premise gives Paddleton a lot to play on: it’s a comedy, but it’s also a drama about a fatal disease. It’s a bromance, but it’s about a fragile friendship. All these contradictions make Paddleton a great slice-of-life movie. And again, both actors are amazing. Watching it just for them is worth it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alana Carithers, Alexandra Billings, Bjorn Johnson, Carlos A. Salazar, Christine Woods, Dendrie Taylor, Dylan Matlock, Ever Mainard, Hiroo Minami, Jack McGraw, Jen Sung, Kadeem Hardison, Marguerite Moreau, Mark Duplass, Matt Bush, Ray Romano, Sam Ly, Sierra Fisk, Stephen Oyoung, Yolanda Bolden

Director: Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann

Rating: TV-MA

An offbeat film with a more than decent amount of suspense. To that it adds really good music and unexpected animation, to make for a very audacious, interesting and mostly fun film. It uses all this to show how life can change in a twist and how it can be influenced by weird connections of otherwise unrelated events.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Armin Rohde, Beate Finckh, Franka Potente, Hans Paetsch, Heino Ferch, Herbert Knaup, Joachim Krol, Julia Lindig, Lars Rudolph, Ludger Pistor, Marc Bischoff, Monica Bleibtreu, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nina Petri, Sebastian Schipper, Suzanne von Borsody, Ute Lubosch, Utz Krause, Volkhart Buff

Director: Tom Tykwer

Rating: R

A film written by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as he struggles to adapt a book about poaching a rare plant into a successful movie. Through Kaufman's clever writing and Spike Jones' unique style of directing, the film unfolds using "mise en abîme" as the viewer sees the lessons the writer in film comes across to improve his script more or less subtly influence the events he encounters as the narrative advances. Nicolas Cage's performance is also particularly good as a highly intelligent and self-obsessed screen writer with low self-esteem.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bob Stephenson, Bob Yerkes, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Curt Clendenin, Curtis Hanson, David O. Russell, Donald Dowd, Doug Jones, Gary Farmer, Gregory Itzin, Jay Tavare, Jim Beaver, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Judy Greer, Lisa Love, Litefoot, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Nancy Lenehan, Nicolas Cage, Peter Jason, Roger E. Fanter, Roger Willie, Ron Livingston, Sandra Lee Gimpel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tilda Swinton

Director: Spike Jonze

Rating: R

An interior designer comes back from Sweden to her birthplace in Thailand where she tries to declutter her family home to make it a minimalist, Marie Kondo-type house. “Minimalism is like a Buddhist philosophy. It’s about letting go,” she tells her mother as she tries to convince her. “Are you nuts?” The woman replies.

Jean insists and she embarks on a journey of touching what hasn’t been touched in decades: traces of an absent father and a past lover among the old Nokias and VHS tape recorders.

Happy Old Year is a contemporary exploration of the age-old resistance to throwing things away. Decluttering is a costly act, one of rejecting and discarding memories. The film was Thailand’s official submission to the Oscars.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aokbab Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Apasiri Nitibhon, Bhumibhat Thavornsiri, Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying, Natda Chawawanid, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, Patcha Kitchaicharoen, Sarika Sartsilpsupa, Sarika Sathsilpsupa, Sunny Suwanmethanon, Sunny Suwanmethanont, Thirawat Ngosawang, Um Apasiri Nitibhon, Wasu Pluemsakulthai

Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit

Rating: N/A

Director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film is a strikingly realistic take on divorce and the turmoil it sets on an already-dysfunctional family. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a selfish decadent writer who’s splitting with his unfaithful wife Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), are taking different sides that reflect their personality. This separation only reinforces their insecurities as they quickly fall into depression and grow away from their friends. The parents, however, find unconventional lovers just as quickly, Bernard with a student of his, and Jane with her son’s tennis coach. The Squid and the Whale is a funny, emotional, and gripping story that finds a perfect balance in tone despite dealing with bitter divorce and troubled adolescence.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Rose, Alexandra Daddario, Anna Paquin, Bobby Shue, Britta Phillips, David Benger, Dean Wareham, Eli Gelb, Elizabeth Meriwether, Greta Kline, Halley Feiffer, James Hamilton, Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Jo Yang, Ken Leung, Laura Linney, Maryann Plunkett, Michael Countryman, Michael Santiago, Nico Baumbach, Owen Kline, Peggy Gormley, Peter Newman, William Baldwin

Director: Noah Baumbach

Rating: R

If it weren’t for his knack for writing, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) would never have gotten into a prep school like Rushmore. But his art secures him a scholarship, and what he lacks in smarts and money, he makes up for in school pride. As he flunks more and more of his academics, however, he is eventually kicked out, and it’s outside the halls of his beloved Rushmore, stripped of all titles and insignia, where he learns to be his true self.  

As the film’s comedic and emotional core, Schwartzman is a revelation as the ambitious and sharp-tongued Max. Equally captivating is Bill Murray’s deadpan but lovable turn as Max’s millionaire friend, Herman Blume. It’s a role so fitting, in fact, that the poor-rich-man character will follow Murray well into his career, long after the curtains close on Mr. Blume. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson will go on to do more colorful and stylized pictures than Rushmore, but thanks to its unbeatable wit and down-to-earth charm, the film remains to be one of the auteur’s most delightful and hilarious works to date. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Bledel, Andrew Wilson, Antoni Scarano, Bill Murray, Brandon Trost, Brian Cox, Brian Tenenbaum, Connie Nielsen, Dipak Pallana, Ed Geldart, Eric Chase Anderson, George Farish, Jason Schwartzman, Jason Trost, Kim Terry, Kumar Pallana, Lucille Sadikin, Luke Wilson, Marietta Marich, Mason Gamble, Morgan Redmond, Olivia Williams, Paul Schiff, Sara Tanaka, Seymour Cassel, Stephen Dignan, Stephen McCole, Wallace Wolodarsky

Director: Wes Anderson

Before he developed his signature dollhouse visual style, Wes Anderson made his feature debut with this lowkey, heartwarming, and decidedly not-symmetrically-perfect comedy about a bunch of misfits. Bottle Rocket isn’t as much of an outlier in its director’s storied filmography as might initially seem, however. Written in partnership with college buddy Owen Wilson — who, along with brothers Luke and Andrew, made his acting debut here — the film is delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly moving in the way we’ve come to expect from Anderson. 

Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) are two drifting, boyish twenty-somethings, although only Anthony seems aware of his directionlessness, as Dignan has graciously developed a 50-year life plan for the two of them (complete with hilariously vague bullet-points such as “Make wise investments” and “Own multiple accommodations”). The means to these ambitious ends is a life of crime — specifically, pulling off grand heists. But Dignan’s meticulousness hasn’t accounted for distractions, and his madcap scheme falls at the first hurdle when Anthony falls in love with a housekeeper at the motel they hide out in (Lumi Cavazos). Their sweet romance is one of the film’s many delights, as is its barrelling deadpan humor, which never betrays the warmth of the Wilson brothers’ heartwarming depiction of ride-or-die friendship.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Wilson, Antonia Bogdanovich, Brian Tenenbaum, Darryl Cox, Dipak Pallana, James Caan, Jill Parker-Jones, Julio Cedillo, Kumar Pallana, Luke Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, Melinda Renna, Ned Dowd, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Russell Towery

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R

, 2012

Boy is the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time, and a masterpiece of compassion and good humor. Set in New Zealand's rural East Coast in 1984, the film's protagonist, Boy, imagines a world outside, dreaming of meeting Michael Jackson and having adventures. These fantasies serve to distract him from the sad circumstances of his life, living with his grandmother while his father serves out a prison sentence. However, adventure comes to Boy suddenly when his ex-convict father returns to find a long hidden bag of money. Written, directed, and starring Taika Waitit and featuring the new comer James Rolleston as Boy, it's a hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Cherilee Martin, Chris Graham, Cohen Holloway, Craig Hall, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson, Haze Rewiti, James Rolleston, Jarod Rawiri, Maakariini Butler, Madeleine Sami, Manaia Callaghan, Mavis Paenga, Moerangi Tihore, Ngapaki Emery, Pana Hema-Taylor, Rachel House, Rajvinder Eria, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Stu Rutherford, Stuart Rutherford, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu, Tuhoro Ranihera Christie, Waimihi Hotere

Director: Taika Waititi, Topaz Adizes

Rating: Not Rated

Isle of Dogs has all the hallmarks of a Wes Anderson picture—it's stylish, otherworldly, and deadpan hilarious. But the film is also uniquely its own thing, a stop-motion animation deeply and gorgeously immersed in Japanese history and lore. Instead of merely relegating culture in the background for mere aesthetic purposes (as Anderson has done in the past with The Darjeeling Limited), culture here plays a vital role in the adventure and overall plot of the film. It's up to the viewer to decide whether Isle of Dogs is a case of appropriation or appreciation, but what can't be denied is that this is a movie with a strong and unforgettable bite to it. 

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akira Takayama, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Chris Benz, Courtney B. Vance, Edward Norton, Elaiza Ikeda, F. Murray Abraham, Fisher Stevens, Frances McDormand, Frank Wood, Greta Gerwig, Harvey Keitel, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum, Kara Hayward, Ken Watanabe, Koyu Rankin, Kunichi Nomura, Liev Schreiber, Mari Natsuki, Nijiro Murakami, Roman Coppola, Ryuhei Matsuda, Scarlett Johansson, Shota Matsuda, Taichi Kodama, Takayuki Yamada, Tilda Swinton, Yojiro Noda, Yoko Ono

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: PG-13

How does a standout director follow up to a film like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? With a more profound exploration of style, a further exploration of his originality. Gael Garcia Bernal (who you might know from Y Tu Mama Tambien) plays an imaginative but awkward kind of guy who falls for his cute neighbor, played Charlotte Gainsbourg. Bizarre and whimsical dream sequences follow and a sweet, if hesitant, love story unfolds. An eccentric, funny and very French movie (with most scenes in English).  

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Alain Chabat, Aurelia Petit, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Emma de Caunes, Eric Mariotto, Gael García Bernal, Jean-Michel Bernard, Miou-Miou, Pierre Vaneck, Sacha Bourdo, Stephane Metzger, Yvette Petit

Director: Michel Gondry

Rating: R