13 Movies Like The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

Staff & contributors

Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando is a fitting adaptation for a groundbreaking story. Changing from man to woman, the titular time traveler is portrayed by the incomparable Tilda Swinton, breaking the fourth wall as if daring anyone to question her casting. But Swinton’s androgynous look and stellar acting make her the perfect choice for this. Her gaze is the anchor that we hold on to as the film glides through the novel’s multiple themes with ease. Through director Grace Potter’s indescribable vision, they create a fantastic film that blurs gender, sex, identity, and time together with the original novel itself.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Anna Farnworth, Anna Healy, Barbara Hicks, Billy Zane, Charlotte Valandrey, Cyril Lecomte, Dudley Sutton, George Antoni, Heathcote Williams, Jerome Willis, Jessica Swinton, Jimmy Somerville, John Grillo, John Wood, Kathryn Hunter, Lothaire Bluteau, Martin Wimbush, Mary MacLeod, Matthew Sim, Oleg Pogodin, Olivia Lancelot, Peter Eyre, Quentin Crisp, Robert Demeger, Roger Hammond, Sara Mair-Thomas, Sarah Crowden, Simon Russell Beale, Thom Hoffman, Tilda Swinton, Toby Jones, Toby Stephens, Viktor Stepanov

Director: Sally Potter

Rating: PG-13

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. 

Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. 

Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amanda Seyfried, Bill Hoag, Cedric the Entertainer, Christopher Dylan White, Elanna White, Eric Lockley, Erica Fae, Ethan Hawke, Frank Rodriguez, Gary Lee Mahmoud, Ingrid Kullberg-Bendz, Jon Rua, Ken Forman, Kristin Villanueva, Krystina Alabado, Mark Havlis, Miah Issabella Velasquez, Michael Gaston, Natalie Woolams-Torres, Philip Ettinger, Prudence Wright Holmes, Ramon Nuñez, Ronald Peet, Sue Jean Kim, Tyler Bourke, Van Hansis, Victoria Hill

Director: Paul Schrader

To Leslie follows the eponymous Leslie (Andrea Riseborough), a Southern woman who finds herself at the bottom of the barrel after finally using up every penny of her $190k lottery win. Out of work, friends, and family, she drowns herself in alcohol—that is until a kind soul in the form of motel owner Sweeney (Marc Maron) takes her in and gives her a shot.

To Leslie starts off a bit slow, and its premise may seem like it’ll give way to weepiness, but it’s worth sticking by till the end. The film only gets better, especially with the arrival of Maron, whose presence lends the film a much-needed buoyancy. It's also worth noting that unlike many of its kind, To Leslie avoids the poverty porn trap by depicting issues like addiction and indigence with nuance, honesty, and humanity.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alan Trong, Alan Wells, Allison Janney, Andre Royo, Andrea Riseborough, Arabella Grant, Blake Robbins, Brandee Steger, Catfish Jean, Chris Coy, Derek Phillips, Drew Youngblood, Jack O'Connor, James Landry Hébert, Jeanette O'Connor, John Gilbert, Juan Carlos Cantu, Lauren Letherer, Mac Brandt, Maggie Carney, Marc Maron, Matt Lauria, Micah Fitzgerald, Owen Teague, Paula Rhodes, Pramod Kumar, Scott Peat, Scott Subiono, Sewell Whitney, Stephanie Wong, Stephen Root, Tom Virtue

Director: Michael Morris

Rating: R

French director Mia Hansen-Løve is a master at gently capturing the full bittersweetness of life, and that’s no more evident than in One Fine Morning. Léa Seydoux gives a quietly powerful performance as Sandra, a mother-of-one who is grappling with the slow, devastating decline of her philosophy professor father at the hands of a neurodegenerative disease. As she deals with the crushing trauma of watching her father deteriorate — and the logistical stress of getting him the care he needs — life grants her an oasis through a chance meeting with an old acquaintance (Clément, played by Melvil Poupaud). Despite Clément being married, the two are hurled into a passionate romance, one that re-ignites something in Sandra she thought she’d lost forever.

What’s so remarkable about One Fine Morning is its gentle empathy: Hansen-Løve appreciates that, in the context of Sandra’s life, her affair with Clément is something life-affirming and vital, worthy of sensitive consideration rather than easy judgment or melodrama. What’s more, One Fine Morning extends that thoughtful attention to the other people around Sandra, with digressions that recognize the fullness and complexity of their lives, too. This is a film that overflows with compassion and curiosity for everyone in its frame, and one that has a contagiously heart-expanding effect on its audiences. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Elsa Guedj, Léa Seydoux, Masha Kondakova, Melvil Poupaud, Nicole Garcia, Pascal Greggory, Sarah Le Picard

Director: Mia Hansen-Løve

The Swimmers tells the true story of sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini (played by fellow sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa), Syrian swimmers trained to compete at the Olympics. When their athletic goals and overall safety are threatened by the increasing presence of war, the girls decide to take a chance and migrate to Europe, where they hope to live out their dreams and reunite with their family someday.

The Swimmers is a touching family drama that does right to center on the love and tension between the siblings. Yusra and Sara’s relationship perfectly encapsulates the envy and resentment but also the deep love and loyalty that are present in every sister bond. It’s tender in these moments, but it can also be equally searing—as a refugee drama, it chillingly tracks the complicated and inhumane processes of fleeing one’s country for a safer future.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Ahmed Malek, Alfredo Tavares, Ali Soliman, Ali Suliman, Daniel Eghan, Dritan Kastrati, James Floyd, Kinda Alloush, Manal Issa, Matthias Schweighöfer, Nahel Tzegai, Nathalie Issa, Roderick Hill

Director: Sally El Hosaini

Rating: PG-13

While not its only cause, the increase of conflict and civil wars has spurred a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, taking dangerous journeys to a hopefully safer place. Nowhere, now on Netflix, showcases one possible journey. Escaping a future totalitarian Spain, the film is centered on leading lady Anna Castillo, whose excellent performance pulls most of the tears here. With her character Mia’s ingenuity, she maximizes her shipping container’s resources and takes steps to ensure her survival. While some of the backstory can feel thin, after all, for most of the runtime Mia has only herself to talk to, this new one-location survival film is a thrilling addition to the genre. It’s a chilling reminder of what could be happening to the millions of refugees seeking safe haven around the globe.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anna Castillo, Antonio Buíl, Emma Sánchez, Irina Bravo, Kaabil Sekali, Lucia Soria, Mariam Torres, Said El Mouden, Tamar Novas, Tony Corvillo, Victoria Teijeiro

Director: Albert Pintó

Rating: R

The Banshees of Inisherin is an Irish dark comedy film that begins with the breakup of longtime friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson). Averse to the sudden split, Pádraic tries to repair their relationship, but instead of achieving goodwill, he inadvertently sets off even more unrest in their little town of Inisherin. Set in 1923 against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, the film doubles as a fable about the consequences of war. 

The last time Farrell and Gleeson were together was in the expert thriller In Bruges, and their reunion in The Banshees of Inisherin shows how powerful and chemistry-filled their pairing is. Theirs is a knockout turn, but it's also far from the only good thing in the movie. Packed with gorgeously lush images of rural Ireland, strong performances from an all-Irish cast, and a whipsmart script from writer-director Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin is an impactful watch that will give you lots to unpack long after the credits roll. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Monaghan, Barry Keoghan, Brendan Gleeson, Bríd Ní Neachtain, Colin Farrell, David Pearse, Gary Lydon, Jon Kenny, Kerry Condon, Pat Shortt, Sheila Flitton

Director: Martin McDonagh

Rating: R

It may seem like it’s targeted at a specific demographic, but Spoiler Alert is actually a universal tale about love, grief, and moving on. Jim Parsons affectingly plays Michael, a romantic and TV aficionado who has trouble separating fact from fiction. He views life as one big sitcom, but his cheery outlook is increasingly challenged by the tragedies he encounters, not least of which is the surprise diagnosis of his boyfriend Kit (Ben Aldridge). 

Spoiler Alert is very sweet, perhaps too sweet for some viewers, but if you enjoy the unabashed schmaltz of romantic dramas, then this comes highly recommended. Of course, for that extra fluff, Spoiler Alert is mostly set during the holidays, so it’s best to watch while cozying up with a loved one—just make sure you have spare tissues on-hand for those tearjerking moments.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Antoni Porowski, Ben Aldridge, Bill Irwin, Christine Renee Miller, Jeffery Self, Jim Parsons, Josh Pais, Nikki M. James, Paco Lozano, Sally Field, Scott Burik, Shunori Ramanathan, Supriya Ganesh, Tara Summers, Winslow Bright

Director: Michael Showalter

It’s very likely you already know about the fictional character Matilda, a clever but neglected child who discovers she has telekinesis and uses it for good. You may have even grown up watching the 1996 film multiple times, as I have, and secretly tried to move a random object with your mind to see if you somehow shared Matilda’s powers…as I have.

If so, I can assure you that you’ll enjoy the latest Matilda adaptation, aptly called Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical on Netflix. It’s pure energy, all bright colors and high-pitched emotions, but not overwhelmingly so. It is also funny and tender, and the techniques it uses to transition and transpose are eye-poppingly inventive. It stars Emma Thompson, once again prosthetic-ed to perfection; Lashana Lynch, a grounding and heartwarming presence; and Alisha Weir, a revelation of a child actor.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Music

Actor: Alisha Weir, Amanda Lawrence, Andrea Riseborough, Ann Firbank, Bebe Massey, Charlie Hodson-Prior, Emma Thompson, James Dryden, James Laurenson, Katherine Kingsley, Lashana Lynch, Matt Henry, Meesha Garbett, Noah Leggott, Sindhu Vee, Stephen Graham, Thomas Arnold, Tim Bentinck

Director: Matthew Warchus

Rating: PG

In Swan Song, acclaimed actor Udo Kier stars as the real-life Pat Pitsenbarger, a local queer legend in the small town of Sandusky. He used to live a private but joyful life, beautifying socialities by day and performing in drag at night. But now the aging icon is resigned to live out his days in a bleak retirement home, where he takes part in feeble acts of rebellion to keep himself amused. This is bound to change when Pat returns to town on an oddly specific request. There, he makes peace with old friends and grabs at the chance to revive his inner beauty queen once more. 

It’s a simple story with a simple premise, but Swan Song is elevated by Krier’s powerful presence and director Todd Stephens’ obvious love for his hometown. Every diss Krier drops as the sassy Pat is to be savored, and every tribute Stephens makes to town life is to be admired. Filled, too, with colorful and euphoric moments that celebrate gay pride, Swan Song makes for quite the lovable film. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Annie Kitral, Brandon Lim, Bryant Carroll, Dave Sorboro, Eric Eisenbrey, Ira Hawkins, Jennifer Coolidge, Jonah Blechman, Justin Lonesome, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Richard Strauss, Shanessa Sweeney, Stephanie McVay, Tim Murray, Tom Bloom, Udo Kier

Director: Todd Stephens

Rating: R

A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn't speak much and you almost don't want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Heath Hensley, Jasmeet Baduwalia, Jason Mitchell, John Logsdon, Josh Stewart, Kelly Richardson, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noel Gugliemi, Santina Muha, Thomas Smittle

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Rating: R

, 2022

Robert Downey Sr. was a great asset to American filmmaking. An experimental creative in New York, he made countless movies with his wife and family and didn’t care (as everyone does now) whether it made money or not—only that it made him and the people around him laugh and think and scratch their heads in equal measure.

Sr. is a documentary about this prolific man, as told by his son Robert Downey Jr.

In Sr., we get an intimate look at father and son—their home life, their sometimes-testy relationship, and their different artistic philosophies. It could have delved more into that conflict for some genuinely compelling scenes, but as it is, Sr. stands as an emotionally earnest ode to one of America's most visionary filmmakers. The love is palpable, and at least as a tribute, that's really all that matters.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alan Arkin, Chris Smith, Lawrence Wolf, Norman Lear, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Downey Jr., Robert Downey Sr., Sean Hayes

Director: Chris Smith

Shattered Glass tells the unbelievably true story of Stephen Glass, a popular and promising young journalist at The New Republic. Stephen's storytelling skills are sought out not just by his admiring colleagues but by other publications as well, so when a rival journalist from Forbes finds holes in one of Stephen's stories, no one takes the accusation seriously at first—except perhaps for Charles Lane, Stephen's editor. Immune to Stephen's charms, Charles digs for the truth and tries, despite an alarming lack of support, to pursue what's right.

Set in the '90s, Shattered Glass may be a throwback to old-school journalism, but its ideas about the integrity of facts still hold water, especially in an age fraught with rampant disinformation.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Andrew Airlie, Bill Rowat, Brett Watson, Brittany Drisdelle, Caroline Goodall, Cas Anvar, Chad Donella, Chloe Sevigny, Christian Tessier, Hank Azaria, Hayden Christensen, Howard Rosenstein, Isabelle Champeau, Jamie Elman, Linda E. Smith, Louis-Philippe Dandenault, Luke Kirby, Lynne Adams, Mark Blum, Mark Camacho, Melanie Lynskey, Michele Scarabelli, Morgan Kelly, Pauline Little, Peter Sarsgaard, Pierre Leblanc, Rosario Dawson, Russell Yuen, Simone-Elise Girard, Steve Zahn, Ted Kotcheff

Director: Billy Ray

Rating: PG-13