40 Movies Like The Witch (2016)

Staff & contributors
Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist, whose art is specific to the natural locations he creates them in and made only from the natural materials he finds in them. This is putting it very technically: Goldsworthy is a solitary wanderer, absorbed in the moment, unworried about what comes after him. Using often only his bare hands, he creates fleeting works of art that often looks like nature itself could have created them. The opening has him calmly forming a spiral out of icicles using the heat of his hands to fuse the pieces together. As painstaking as this process is, his art is not meant to live forever. Once completed, it is handed over to the rivers and tides to do with it as they please. Directed, shot, and edited by Thomas Riedelsheimer, a German filmmaker, Rivers and Tides takes an in-depth look at Goldsworthy's ideas and craft, everywhere from upstate New York to his home village in Scotland. A calming and inspiring journey.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Andy Goldsworthy, Anna Goldsworthy, Holly Goldsworthy

Director: Thomas Riedelsheimer

This is maybe the last Montreal Screwjob documentary the world will ever need, but in other respects, it’s an incredibly insightful look at the increasingly raunchy late ‘90s WWF through the eyes of the straight-laced Bret “The Hitman” Hart. We get insights into his bond with his sadistic dad Stu Hart, his priorities when caught between a WWF and WCW bidding war, and his loyal fans who in crowd interviews can be described as the coherent and smarter section of the audience. But what makes this one of the greatest and most important pro wrestling documentaries of all time is its divine timing, getting into Bret’s headspace talking about his future before leaving WWF, hearing his wonder before any of the unfortunate events shortly after.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bob Marella, Bret Hart, Brian James, Brian Lee Harris, Brian Pillman, Charles Warrington, Curt Hennig, Dave Meltzer, Davey Boy Smith, Del Wilkes, Diana Joyce Hart-Smith, Dustin Runnels, Earl Hebner, Edward Ellsworth Annis, Glenn Ruth, Harry Smith, Jim Neidhart, Joe Laurinaitis, Jose Estrada Jr, Juan Rivera, Kevin Nash, Larry Pfohl, Leon White, Marc Mero, Mark Calaway, Mark Canterbury, Michael Hickenbottom, Michael James Hegstrand, Michael Seitz, Mick Foley, Miguel Pérez Jr., Owen Hart, Paul Michael Lévesque, Pierre Clermont, Randy Savage, Rena Marlette Lesnar, Rick Rood, Robert Howard, Roddy Piper, Scott Hall, Shane McMahon, Steve Austin, Stu Hart, Sunny, Ted Turner, Tom Brandi, Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, Wayne Farris

Director: Paul Jay

In Cameraperson, documentarian and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson creates an incredible patchwork of her life—and her life’s work. Johnson has been behind the camera of seminal documentaries like Citizenfour, The Invisible War, and The Edge of Joy. Here, Johnson stitches together fragments of footage, shot over 25 years, reframes them to reveal the silent but influential ways in which she has been an invisible participant in her work. 

In one segment, Johnson places the camera down in the grass. A hand reaches into the frame briefly, pulling up weeds that would otherwise obscure the shot. Cameraperson is a must-see documentary that challenges us to reconsider and reflect upon how we see ourselves and others through the camera lens, and beyond it.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Jacques Derrida, Kirsten Johnson, Michael Moore, Roger Phenix

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Rating: Not Rated

Without context, Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion seemed like a goofy satire, especially when the silly trumpet score pops up, and unfortunate hotel employees Suzuki and Wakasugi flounder around trying to solve the hotel’s yakuza problem on their own. And when Nobuko Miyamoto shows up as the brilliant lawyer, it’s so satisfying to see her turn the tables on the yakuza purely through words, strategy, and knowledge of law. It’s hilarious, but Minbo doesn’t just poke fun– it demystifies the gangster as a cool and untouchable figure, portraying them instead as loudmouthed bullies that we can handle. It also shows us how much can be done, only if we, as a group, perhaps as a whole nation, can muster the courage to fight.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Akira Nakao, Akira Takarada, Guts Ishimatsu, Hideji Ōtaki, Hōsei Komatsu, Kōji Sekiyama, Masahiko Tsugawa, Noboru Mitani, Nobuko Miyamoto, Shigeru Yazaki, Shirō Itō, Takehiro Murata, Tetsu Watanabe, Toshiro Yanagiba, Yasuo Daichi, Yuji Miyake

Director: Jūzō Itami

By remaining totally committed to its quiet, drama-free, observational style of documentary filmmaking, Mr. Bachmann and His Class ends up teaching us a whole lot about the way we view educational spaces and difficult students as well. While the titular German teacher is mainly there to teach language, the way he patiently handles disagreement and conflict—reorienting the immature or harmful beliefs they may have learned from home or from elsewhere—is truly inspiring to witness. We never see these home lives and the film's director, Maria Speth, knows better than to romanticize anybody in this classroom. But over the film's lengthy runtime, it really begins to feel like we get to know and understand each of these kids, and to root for their ability to change their views and become more open and appreciative towards one another.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Maria Speth

A zombie virus breaks out and catches up with a father as he is taking his daughter from Seoul to Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. Watch them trying to survive to reach their destination, a purported safe zone.

The acting is spot-on; the set pieces are particularly well choreographed. You’ll care about the characters. You’ll feel for the father as he struggles to keep his humanity in the bleakest of scenarios.

It’s a refreshingly thrilling disaster movie, a perfect specimen of the genre.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Ahn So-hee, An So-hee, Baek Seung-hwan, Cha Chung-hwa, Chang-hwan Kim, Choi Gwi-hwa, Choi Woo-shik, Choi Woo-sung, Dong-seok Ma, Eui-sung Kim, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-eun, Han Sung-soo, Jang Hyuk-jin, Jeon Ye-eun, Jeong Seok-yong, Jung Seok-yong, Jung Young-ki, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Chang-hwan, Kim Eui-sung, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Joo-heon, Kim Joo-hun, Kim Ju-hun, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Soo-ahn, Kim Soo-an, Kim Su-an, Kim Won-Jin, Kim Woon, Lee Joo-sil, Lee Joong-ok, Lee Jung-ok, Ma Dong-seok, Ok Joo-ri, Park Myung-shin, Sang-ho Yeon, Seok-yong Jeong, Shim Eun-kyung, Sohee, Soo-an Kim, Soo-jung Ye, Terri Doty, Woo Do-im, Woo-sik Choi, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeon Sang-ho, Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jeong, Yu-mi Jung

Director: Sang-ho Yeon, Yeon Sang-ho

Rating: Not Rated

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

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: Not Rated

Marona’s Fantastic Tale is a rich story about life and death and everything in between, told entirely through the eyes of a dog. With breathtaking visuals and unmatched empathy, the film implores us to think about what might count as joyous and heartbreaking for our four-legged friends. Told normally and in any other way, we might not care as much, but in a story as artful and compassionate as this, we can't help but listen. 

Unlike other films about pets, Marona’s Fantastic Tale isn’t cutesy—its art is dizzying and demanding, but beautiful nonetheless. And isn't afraid to confront tragedy (in fact, it begins with it). But it buoys reality with dreamy art sequences and even finds humor along the way. All in all, it’s a mature film that poses big existential questions that will intrigue adults as well as kids.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family

Actor: Annie Mercier, Bruno Salomone, Georges Claisse, Isabelle Vitari, Lizzie Brocheré, Maïra Schmitt, Nathalie Boutefeu, Thierry Hancisse

Director: Anca Damian

Frybread Face and Me is a little indie gem: though rough around the edges, it’s full of charm and heart. Drawn from its director's own childhood experiences, the movie charts a formative moment in the life of Benny, a city boy of Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo heritage who’s carted off to his grandmother’s ranch on a Navajo reservation for a summer. It's suffused with all the specificity of real memories in a way that never distances us from it, only enfolding us closer into its nostalgic embrace. That effect largely comes from the tender bonds between Benny and his cousin Dawn (unsympathetically nicknamed Frybread Face and played by newcomer Charley Hogan), who acts as translator between him and their non-English-speaking grandmother (Sarah H. Natani, also a non-professional actor). Though he’s constantly berated by male family members for not being “masculine” enough, Benny finds unconditional acceptance from his grandmother and misfit camaraderie with Frybread, who also gives the film a dry comedic edge — a welcome touch in a usually saccharine genre. Ultimately, though, it’s the movie’s soft sweetness and intimate depths that are most distinctive: it’s so gently told, and with such genuine feeling behind it, that it’s impossible not to be swept away by its charms.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Charley Hogan, Jeremiah Bitsui, Kahara Hodges, Keir Tallman, Leilani Taliaferro, Martin Sensmeier, MorningStar Angeline, Nasheen Sleuth, Sarah H. Natani

Director: Billy Luther

Rating: R

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are the only two actors starring in this eccentric movie, and they deliver such grand performances that it feels like another actor would have been one too many.

They star as lighthouse keepers in the 19th century, left on an island to interact only with each other and their rock. It's a fascinating premise of how these men, left on their own, deal with boredom, loneliness, and being annoyed with one another.

Incredible performances, an interesting aspect ratio, and perhaps excessive weirdness, make this movie unforgettable.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Jeff Cruts, Kyla Nicolle, Logan Hawkes, Pierre Richard, Preston Hudson, Robert Pattinson, Shaun Clarke, Valeriia Karamän, Valeriia Karamän, Valeriia Karaman, Willem Dafoe

Director: Robert Eggers

Rating: R

You may have heard about this 2019 critic-favorite from clips like this one of a kid running to flee the movie theater during a screening. “little billy ran the f**k out the door”, the caption reads.

You will want to do the same. Recovering from losing her sister and her parents in a single incident, a young girl goes on a trip to Sweden to observe a ritual within a bizarre commune that occurs every 90 years. This cult’s idea of death and their traditions intersect with the girl’s grief to create unthinkable monstrosities.

Note: while some readers praise the movie for its depiction of anxiety, I highly recommend against watching Midsommar if you suffer from panic attacks.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery

Actor: Agnes Westerlund Rase, Anders Back, Anders Beckman, Anki Larsson, Anna Åström, Anna Berentzen, Archie Madekwe, Ari Aster, Austin R. Grant, Björn Andrésen, Ellora Torchia, Florence Pugh, Frans Cavallin Rosengarten, Gunnel Fred, Hampus Hallberg, Henrik Norlen, Isabelle Grill, Jack Reynor, Julia Ragnarsson, Katarina Weidhagen, Klaudia Csányi, Lars Väringer, Lennart R. Svensson, Levente Puczkó-Smith, Liv Mjönes, Louise Peterhoff, Mats Blomgren, Mihály Kaszás, Rebecka Johnston, Tove Skeidsvoll, Vilhelm Blomgren, Vilmos Kolba, Will Poulter, William Jackson Harper, Zsolt Bojári

Director: Ari Aster

Rating: R

Coming-of-age films are usually optimistic, but sometimes, growing up isn’t as rosy as portrayed to be, as kids start to learn the failings of the adults that should know better and the tension that lies between sexes. Typhoon Club is like an anti-Breakfast Club, with the kids stuck in school overnight, not just one morning, due to a natural typhoon instead of randomly assigned detentions, and with the kids returning home traumatized instead of triumphant. Director Shinji Sōmai crafts a raw, turbulent experience, alternating between before, during, and after their stay that steadily heightens the uneasy, sometimes dangerous, experiences where these teenagers directly confront the disappointment that is adulthood. It’s a challenging film to watch, but Typhoon Club’s early exploration of teen ennui made it to be considered one of the best Japanese films ever made.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Kaori Kobayashi, Makoto Satō, Minori Terada, Saburo Date, Tomiko Ishii, Tomokazu Miura, Toshinori Omi, Youki Kudoh, Yuichi Mikami, Yuka Ônishi, Yuriko Fuchizaki

Director: Shinji Sōmai

In an age where recent horror films mostly use the jump-scare as a crutch to make their CGI-spawned (not to mention generic) creatures seem scary, The Babadook portrays real scares, relatable characters and a moving story. Jennifer Kent (director and writer) sets this on the backdrop of heavily Lars von Trier-inspired cinematography, elevating The Babadook from a shot at an amazing horror to a resemblance of an art house film. The unease felt during this film only increases as it creeps towards its conclusion. Whenever the Babadook (the monster of the film) is seen lurking in the peripherals of the camera, appearing in television sets and the shadows to create a sense of omnipresence that disturbs the viewer on a deeper, more primal level than that of so many recent horror films could even hope to reach. It leaves the audience with the sensation that they are being lowered onto a lit candle, spine-first. In short; the seamless acting, the beautiful shots, the slow-burning terror together creates a masterpiece that strides past any horror film of the past decade (maybe even further) and stands toe-to-toe with the greats without even breaking a sweat.

Genre: Drama, Horror

Actor: Adam Morgan, Barbara West, Ben Winspear, Benjamin Winspear, Carmel Johnson, Cathy Adamek, Chloe Hurn, Craig Behenna, Daniel Henshall, Essie Davis, Hayley McElhinney, Jacquy Phillips, Michael Gilmour, Michelle Nightingale, Noah Wiseman, Peta Shannon, Pippa Wanganeen, Stephen Sheehan, Terence Crawford, Tiffany Lyndall-Knight, Tim Purcell

Director: Jennifer Kent

Rating: Not Rated

This is the follow-up film by the director of the (also) excellent and intense Blue Ruin. Like that film, Green Room often subverts genre expectations. The basic premise: a lefty punk band winds up taking a show at a skinhead club because they are desperate for cash. The show goes well, but afterward the band accidentally witnesses something they shouldn’t have and are trapped in the club’s green room. This film is brutal and intense, especially because you actually care about what happens to the characters. Bonus: Sir Patrick Stewart plays the leader of the skinhead organization, and gives a subtle yet effectively sinister performance. While some truly horrific acts of violence occur (especially in the back-half of the film) they really do serve the story. Still, there are a handful of scenes that may require more sensitive viewers to cover their eyes. You have been warned.

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Anton Yelchin, Brent Werzner, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Imogen Poots, Jeremy Saulnier, Joe Cole, Joseph Bertót, Kai Lennox, Lj Klink, Macon Blair, Mark Webber, Mason Knight, Michael Draper, October Moore, Patrick Stewart, Samuel Summer, Taylor Tunes

Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Rating: R

Nicole is 22, just out of college, and adrift during her first summer as an “adult.” Tu Dors Nicole (“You’re Sleeping Nicole”) is a French-Canadian take on the late coming-of-age story. Nicole spends most of the summer is her small, sleepy Quebec town lounging around her parents house (they are gone for the summer), occasionally working at the local thrift store, trying to sleep (she’s developed insomnia), and wandering aimlessly around town and the Quebec countryside with her best friend Veronique. The two are joined at the hip (as evidenced by how their bikes are always locked-up together) but the arrival of Nicole’s brother and his bandmates threatens to upend the lifelong relationship between the two; because of this waning friendship Tu Dors has earned comparisons to films like Ghost World and Frances Ha which examine the complexities of young female friendships, particularly when one’s identity is in flux. The film was shot on gorgeous Black & White 35mm film , adding to it’s floating dream-like quality, and boasts a sweet and droll sense of humor. There are occasional touches of the surreal as well — my favorite running gag being the presence of the pre-pubescent Martin, a small boy whose voice has prematurely developed (the voice that comes out of his mouth sounds like that of a world weary 45-year-old) who attempts to woo Nicole with poetic insights such as, “the heart has no age.” This film is a true hidden gem.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Lefebvre, Anne-Renee Duhaime, Catherine St-Laurent, Claude Despins, Fanny Mallette, Francis La Haye, Godefroy Reding, Julianne Côté, Luc Senay, Marc-André Grondin, Pierre-Luc Lafontaine, Simon Larouche

Director: Stéphane Lafleur

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated