7 Movies Like The Piano (1993)

Staff & contributors

Mike Leigh’s forthright and compassionate depiction of working-class life extends to his period pieces as well. Imelda Staunton is remarkable as Vera Drake, a housekeeper in 1950’s London who quietly performs abortions on the side.

Leigh’s vigilant portrayal of class highlights the stark divide between abortion access for the poor and what is offered to the rich. The storytelling is simple and straightforward, he doesn’t over-sentimentalize or grandstand, but merely depicts conditions as they were. Meanwhile, Staunton’s Vera oozes so much fullness, warmth, and empathy, that the heartbreak that follows is mercilessly palpable. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Allan Corduner, Angela Curran, Anna Keaveney, Anthony O'Donnell, Billie Cook, Billy Seymour, Chris O'Dowd, Craig Conway, Daniel Mays, Eddie Marsan, Eileen Davies, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Fenella Woolgar, Gerard Monaco, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, Imelda Staunton, Jake Wood, James Payton, Jane Wood, Jeffry Wickham, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Griffiths, John Warman, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Lesley Sharp, Liz White, Marion Bailey, Martin Savage, Nicholas Jones, Nicky Henson, Paul Jesson, Paul Raffield, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Richard Graham, Robert Putt, Rosie Cavaliero, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Troughton, Sandra Voe, Sid Mitchell, Simon Chandler, Sinéad Matthews, Tilly Vosburgh, Tom Ellis, Vincent Franklin, Vinette Robinson, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

IRA terrorists kidnap a British soldier to negotiate an exchange for one of their own imprisoned members. Among them is Fergus (Stephen Rea), whose ambivalence is amplified by his interactions with the hostage soldier Jody (Forest Whitaker) while guarding him. After the terrorists' plan goes awry, Fergus tracks down a woman Jody spoke of during his captivity, only to become confronted with even more complications.

The film, its cast and crew won a slew of awards and nominations in 1993, including the Academy award for Best Original Screenplay. It's a knockout. Each act presents an increasingly challenging psychological and emotional conflict for Fergus: conflicts that require him to question the choices he makes and his beliefs, even about himself. It’s a dark but deeply touching thriller that is ultimately unforgettable.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Andrée Bernard, Birdy Sweeney, Breffni McKenna, Bryan Coleman, Forest Whitaker, Jack Carr, Jaye Davidson, Jim Broadbent, Joe Savino, Miranda Richardson, Ralph Brown, Ray De-Haan, Stephen Rea, Tony Slattery

Director: Neil Jordan

After 2019's The Souvenir—a drama about a toxic, suffocating relationship—director Joanna Hogg brings back her protagonist (played by a superb Honor Swinton Byrne) and sees her attempting to communicate the experience of this failed romance through her thesis film. Anybody with an interest in the production process of cinema should glean a ton of useful advice from The Souvenir Part II's mundane on-set interactions and difficult conversations about the line between compromise and practicality. And through increasingly surreal images of stages within stages and reflections within reflections, Hogg paints a complex, intelligent portrait of cinema as a place of ultimate self-examination.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alice McMillan, Amber Anderson, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Ariane Labed, Ben Hecking, Charlie Heaton, Chris Dickens, Crispin Buxton, Erik Wilson, Frankie Wilson, Gala Botero, Harris Dickinson, Honor Swinton Byrne, Inès Rau, Jack McMullen, James Fox, Jaygann Ayeh, Joe Alwyn, Lydia Fox, Richard Ayoade, Tilda Swinton, Tom Burke, Tosin Cole, Yasmin Paige

Director: Joanna Hogg

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors' stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex - but so important to listen to and understand. It's an incredible feat to make an observational film that's so grounded in reality - only a genius could: that's Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Derrick Janis, Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard, Jashaun St. John

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: Not Rated

Equal parts touching and comical, this portrait of a working-class family in a suburb just north of London features twin daughters who couldn’t be more different—the brainy and good-natured Natalie, and her sneering, layabout sister Nicola. Written and directed by Mike Leigh (Another Year, Happy-Go-Lucky) expect the slow, dreamy representation of British society from one of the country's best and most renowned directors.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alison Steadman, Claire Skinner, David Neilson, David Thewlis, Harriet Thorpe, Jane Horrocks, Jim Broadbent, Moya Brady, Paul Trussell, Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jeong-bin, Geum Hae-na, Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Ju Seok-tae, Kim Hae-na, Kwak Min-kyu, Park Jeong-hak, Seo Hyun-woo

Director: Hong Sung-eun

Jane Campion’s biographical drama about the poet John Keats derives its name from one of the latter’s greatest love sonnets: Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art… / Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath/ And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Keats remains one of the most celebrated and adored Romantic poets. His writing challenged the poetic form, and revered the world for what it is at its best: wondrous, surprising, sublime. Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of Keats is rightfully distant, as we encounter the poet’s incredible aloofness through the perspective of interested suitor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Brawne’s relationship with Keats was short but intense, providing great artistic inspiration and devastating devotion. Campion perfectly captures their fleeting relationship in this deft, crushing drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Adrian Schiller, Amanda Hale, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Ben Whishaw, Claudie Blakley, Edie Martin, Eileen Davies, Gerard Monaco, Jonathan Aris, Kerry Fox, Lucinda Raikes, Olly Alexander, Paul Schneider, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Samuel Barnett, Samuel Roukin, Sebastian Armesto, Theresa Watson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Vincent Franklin

Director: Jane Campion

Rating: PG