22 Movies Like Toy Story (1995)

Staff & contributors

, 1995

Like a long, slow drag of a cigar, Smoke is a patient pleasure. Adam Holender’s leisurely lingering camera and the film’s relaxed editing allow us to savor the actors’ performances and the thoughtful script uninterrupted, trusting in their ability to captivate us. And captivate us is exactly what novelist Paul Auster’s screenplay and the film’s superlative ensemble do.

The film kicks off in Auggie Wren’s (Harvey Keitel) Brooklyn smoke shop, where myriad customers linger to chat and unexpected friendships form. The serendipitous network around which Smoke revolves unfurls gradually, like a curling wisp of smoke: Auggie’s patron Paul (William Hurt), a writer's block-struck novelist grieving the violent death of his pregnant wife some years ago, has his life saved by Harold Perrineau’s Rashid, the estranged 17-year-old son of a struggling mechanic (Forest Whitaker). Ashley Judd and Stockard Channing also feature in Auggie’s portion of the film, one of its five loose vignettes (although the film flows much more fluidly than a chapterized structure suggests). Auster’s contemplative, dialogue-driven screenplay — along with the film’s unhurried editing and luxuriating cinematography — make Smoke a gorgeous example of the art of savoring, which is exactly what you want to do with this wonderful movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ashley Judd, Baxter Harris, Clarice Taylor, Deirdre OConnell, Erica Gimpel, Forest Whitaker, Giancarlo Esposito, Harold Perrineau, Harvey Keitel, Jared Harris, José Zúñiga, Malik Yoba, Mary B. Ward, Mel Gorham, Michelle Hurst, Murray Moston, Stephen Gevedon, Stockard Channing, Victor Argo, William Hurt

Director: Wayne Wang

Rating: R

Fire of Love is a documentary that follows Maurice and Katia Krafft, a scientist couple who’ve dedicated their entire professional lives to studying (and marveling at) volcanoes. The two met at university and have been inseparable ever since, chasing explosions around the world until their death at the Mount Unzen eruption in 1991. 

The fiery passion the title refers to is as much about Maurice and Katia as it is about their dedication to volcanoes. Like any love story, it tracks how they were first wonderstruck by the formation and how that awe shaped their lives and led them to each other, as well as how they came to discover hard truths about it and dealt with the heartbreak that soon followed. 

Combining the breathtaking footage the couple left behind with lovely writing and artful animation, director Sara Dosa creates a moving documentary about passion, adventure, and the world itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alka Balbir, Guillaume Tremblay, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July

Director: Sara Dosa

Rating: PG

Told with grace and maturity without sensationalizing its subject matter, Dead Man Walking expertly walks the line between taking a moral stand and keeping the messy humanity of its characters intact. Though it may seem just like a legal drama or prison film on the surface, writer/director Tim Robbins weaves in commentary on class and the role religion is expected to play in middle class Southern communities—especially in the context of justice and crime. Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon (in the role that won her her Oscar) play every side to this drama with remarkable control, building an unlikely rapport that culminates in a finale that's as moving as any great tear-jerker. It may be tough to watch at times, given the raw emotions that are laid bare, but Dead Man Walking remains relevant even today.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adam Nelson, Adele Robbins, Anthony Michael Frederick, Arthur Bridgers, Barton Heyman, Celia Weston, Clancy Brown, Codie Scott, Cortez Nance Jr., Dennis Neal, Eva Amurri Martino, Helen Prejean, Jack Black, Jack Henry Robbins, Jenny Krochmal, Jeremy Knaster, Joan Glover, Jon Abrahams, Kevin Cooney, Larry Pine, Lenore Banks, Lois Smith, Marcus Lyle Brown, Margo Martindale, Michael Cullen, Miles Robbins, Missy Yager, Molly Bryant, Nesbitt Blaisdell, Pamela Garmon, Pete Burris, Peter Sarsgaard, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Aranha, Raymond J. Barry, Robert Prosky, Roberta Maxwell, Scott Sowers, Scott Wilson, Sean Penn, Steve Boles, Steve Carlisle, Susan Sarandon, Thomas McGowan

Director: Tim Robbins

Through positively adorable characters and zero dialogue whatsoever, Shaun the Sheep Movie reminds viewers young and old of the sheer artistry that goes into a truly great children's cartoon. Animated by British stop motion godfathers Aardman Animations, the film delivers one excellent visual joke after another, while still telling a coherent story that arrives at surprisingly tender places touching on the importance of community and home. In an animation industry that's constantly trying to innovate, a movie like Shaun the Sheep stands as a reminder that there are certain fundamentals in storytelling that deserve to be preserved and passed down to every new generation. It's the loveliest thing around.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Kids

Actor: Andy Nyman, Emma Tate, John Sparkes, Justin Fletcher, Kate Harbour, Mark Burton, Nick Park, Omid Djalili, Rich Webber, Richard Starzak, Richard Webber, Sean Connolly, Simon Greenall, Stanley Unwin, Tim Hands

Director: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

Rating: PG

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ellen Page, Elliot Page, G.J. Echternkamp, Odessa Rae, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Director: David Slade

Rating: R

This drama was the first feature written and directed by an out Black lesbian, Cheryl Dunye, and it is an absolute joy: a cheeky faux-documentary that ingeniously blends lesbian dating life with a historical dive into Black actors in 30s Hollywood.

Dunye plays Cheryl, a self-effacing version of herself, an aspiring director working at a video store who begins to research an actress known as the Watermelon Woman for a documentary. The more Cheryl dives into her research, the more she sees parallels between her subject and her own relationship. 

As incisive as it is funny, The Watermelon Woman shares some common ground with other major indie debuts of the era like Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and funnily enough Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but Dunye’s style is wholly her own and a dazzling treat to experience.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Brian Freeman, Camille Paglia, Cheryl Clarke, Cheryl Dunye, David Rakoff, Guinevere Turner, Irene Dunye, Lisa Marie Bronson, Sarah Schulman

Director: Cheryl Dunye

, 2022

Set in 1920s India, RRR follows two revolutionaries who strike up an unlikely bond and fend off the British regime from their home. In their epic journey to protect their people, they encounter a number of setbacks that prompts them to put their incredible combat skills on full display. 

Despite its three-hour run, RRR never drags, thanks in large part to its breathtaking action sequences and eye-popping visuals. It may contain all the familiar beats of a blockbuster, but RRR is notably grounded in its central, political theme of anti-colonialism, the sincerity of which keeps the film's big heart beating palpably throughout. 

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

Actor: Ahmareen Anjum, Ajay Devgn, Alexx O'Nell, Alia Bhatt, Alison Doody, Chatrapathi Sekhar, Edward Sonnenblick, Ivan Kostadinov, Makrand Deshpande, Mark Bennington, N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Oleh Karpenko, Olivia Morris, R. Bhakti Klein, Rahul Ramakrishna, Rajiv Kanakala, Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson, S. S. Rajamouli, Samuthirakani, Shriya Saran, Spandan Chaturvedi, Varun Buddhadev

Director: S. S. Rajamouli

Rating: Not Rated

Man on Wire is a true technical masterpiece. You can almost feel the director telling the cameraman what angle to choose, or thinking about the questions that will generate the most resounding answers. However, this does not diminish the story this documentary tells one bit. It’s one that is glorious, riveting, and fun. It’s one where you feel like an insider to a world lived on and below wires, with high-stake risks. Hopefully the edge of your seat is comfortable, because this is where the movie will keep you till the very end.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Annie Allix, David Forman, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Mark Lewis, Philippe Petit

Director: James Marsh

Rating: PG-13

This forgotten gem is the perfect family movie. It stars Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as the two eccentric uncles of Walter, a shy city kid (played by Haley Joel Osment). When Walter moves in with his uncles in rural Texas, he first has a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. However his routine is changed after he starts hearing local gossip about his uncles, and reminiscence spurs in all three an incredible eagerness for adventure. Secondhand Lions has gathered impressive cult following in the past few years, and rightfully so. Its fast-paced, entertaining yet substantial storyline shines a light on the amazing performances by the cast, and offers a surprising mix of funny, heartwarming and sad. Look out for the flashback scenes.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adam Ozturk, Adrian Pasdar, Billy Joe Shaver, Brian Stanton, Christian Kane, Dameon Clarke, Deirdre O'Connell, Deirdre OConnell, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Eric Balfour, Eugene Osment, Haley Joel Osment, Jason Douglas, Jennifer Stone, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Stevens, Josh Lucas, Kanin Howell, Kevin Haberer, Kyra Sedgwick, Marc Musso, Michael Caine, Michael O'Neill, Mitchel Musso, Morgana Shaw, Nick Price, Nicky Katt, Rick Dial, Robert Duvall, Rory Thost, Travis Willingham

Director: Tim McCanlies

Rating: PG

Muriel is a young social outcast who spends her time obsessively planning a dream wedding without ever having been on a date. Her life is flipped upside down when she steals $15,000 from the family business to go on a tropical getaway. This brilliant comedy is memorable as much for Toni Collete’s breakout role as it is for its snarky subversion of rom-com tropes.

Muriel’s Wedding arrived in a wave of bright and brash Australian comedies of the early 90s like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom. And like these counterparts, its heightened reality gives way to a surprising and heartbreaking emotional core. Director PJ Hogan would go on to direct My Best Friend’s Wedding - a fun but watered-down imitation of the surprising storytelling that made this a cult classic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Annie Byron, Barry Crocker, Basil Clarke, Belinda Jarrett, Bill Hunter, Cecily Polson, Chris Haywood, Dan Wyllie, Daniel Hepner, Daniel Lapaine, Darrin Klimek, Di Smith, Frankie Davidson, Fred Rouady, Gabby Millgate, Geneviève Picot, Gennie Nevinson, Heather Mitchell, Ineke Rapp, Jacqueline Linke, Jeanie Drynan, John Gaden, John Walton, Jon-Claire Lee, Julian Garner, Kevin Copeland, Kirsty Hinchcliffe, Kuni Hashimoto, Louise Cullen, Matt Day, Nathan Kaye, Penne Hackforth-Jones, Pippa Grandison, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Carter, Richard Morecroft, Richard Sutherland, Rob Steele, Robert Alexander, Robyn Pitt Owen, Roz Hammond, Scott Hall-Watson, Sophie Lee, Susan Prior, Toni Collette, Vincent Ball

Director: P.J. Hogan

Rating: R

This HBO mockumentary is part-pastiche of the mythologising sports documentary, part-zany comic creation of its own. Tour de Pharmacy tells the incredible untrue story of the 1982 Tour de France, the most chaotic iteration of the race that never happened. Of the original 170 cyclists, all but five were disqualified for bribing the deep-in-debt president of cycling’s governing body (Kevin Bacon), leaving only Italian-a sensation-a JuJu Peppi (Orlando Bloom); secret female racer Adrian Baton (Julia Ormond and Freddie Highmore); frustrated nephew of Jackie Robinson, Slim (Daveed Diggs); a roided-out Austrian (John Cena); and Marty Hass (Andy Samberg), a Nigerian cyclist despised by his country.

Tragedy, scandal, and surprising romance unfold across the documentary’s chronicling of the race’s 21 stages, with plenty of digressions along the way — from a riotous interview with the head of the sport’s anti-doping agency (played by Nathan Fielder) to an animated explanation of red and white cells that devolves into a surreally bloody civil war. The humor zooms between the high-brow (French New Wave references delivered by JJ Abrams) and the R-rated from scene to scene, making this breezy mockumentary a wild ride of its own.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, TV Movie

Actor: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Andy Samberg, Chris Romano, Chris Webber, Danny Glover, Daveed Diggs, Dolph Lundgren, Edgar Wright, Eric Nenninger, Eugenia Kuzmina, Freddie Highmore, J.J. Abrams, James Marsden, Jeff Goldblum, Joe Buck, John Cena, Jon Hamm, Julia Ormond, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Clash, Lance Armstrong, Maya Rudolph, Mike Tyson, Myles Brewer, Nathan Fielder, Orlando Bloom, Phylicia Rashād, Rebecca Dayan, Russ Walko, Seth Morris, Will Forte

Director: Jake Szymanski

Plenty of films have been made about the grueling climb to rock-and-roll fame, but few carry the effortless charm that That Thing You Do! has. Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film is as cookie-cutter as it gets, dodging the dark depths that typically haunt rock biopics. But that isn’t to say That Thing You Do! is boring—just the opposite, its simplicity and nostalgia make it wholly enjoyable. It’s a confection of a film that goes down easy, and it will have you smiling and bopping your head from start to end.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Alex Rocco, Barry Sobel, Benjamin John Parrillo, Bill Cobbs, Brittney Powell, Bryan Cranston, Charlize Theron, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaak, Claudia Stedelin, Clint Howard, Clive Rosengren, Colin Hanks, Dawn Maxey, Elizabeth Hanks, Erika Greene, Ethan Embry, Gedde Watanabe, Gina Aponte, Giovanni Ribisi, Heather Hewitt, Holmes Osborne, Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Demme, Kathleen Kinmont, Keith Neubert, Kevin Pollak, Lee Everett, Liv Tyler, Marc McClure, Mars Callahan, Michael P. Byrne, Obba Babatundé, Paul Feig, Peter Scolari, Renée Lippin, Rita Wilson, Robert Ridgely, Robert Torti, Robert Wisdom, Sarah Koskoff, Sean Whalen, Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Hanks, Tracy Reiner, Warren Berlinger

Director: Tom Hanks

Rating: PG

There are comfort food movies, and then there are films like Big Night: comfort food movies about comfort food. Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub are brothers running a failing Italian restaurant. Their last chance to save it from foreclosure is to throw a colossal dinner bolstered by a dubious promise of a visit from singer Louis Prima.

The comedy is mellow and pleasant, and Tucci and Shaloub have wonderful chemistry as bickering brothers. Meanwhile, a great supporting cast featuring Isabella Rosellini, Ian Holm, and Allison Janney more than make up for the somewhat predictable script.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allison Janney, Andre Belgrader, Campbell Scott, Caroline Aaron, Christine Tucci, David Wenzel, Dina Spybey-Waters, Gene Canfield, Hélène Cardona, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Jack O'Connell, Karen Shallo, Ken Cheeseman, Larry Block, Liev Schreiber, Marc Anthony, Minnie Driver, Pasquale Cajano, Peter Appel, Peter McRobbie, Robert W. Castle, Seth Jones, Stanley Tucci, Susan Floyd, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Rating: R

If you enjoy wondering aloud to yourself how filmmakers were able to make a movie at all, 1988's almost wordless tale of two bears trying to survive the Canadian mountains was somehow shot with real, expressive bear "actors," despite the film being a work of fiction. A cross between a stunningly photographed nature documentary and a brutal folktale, The Bear gets right to the uncompromising conditions out in the wild, where human beings are portrayed as just as savage—and just as merciful—as the beasts they hunt. Clever editing and Jean-Jacques Annaud's directorial vision hide all the seams in the movie's magic tricks, allowing us to fall in love quickly with these majestic bears and the all-too-human emotions they seem to be expressing.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family

Actor: André Lacombe, Bart The Bear, Jack Wallace, Tchéky Karyo, Youk the Bear

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Jenna is a young woman living a rather unhappy life in a town in the American South. The highlight of her days is inventing and baking pies at the diner where she works, giving them names like the “I Hate My Husband Pie”. Her life, however, seems to have hit an unpleasant dead-end: as her pie suggests, she no longer loves her chauvinistic pig of a husband and, as if that wasn’t enough, she’s pregnant with his child.

Waitress is about one woman’s determination to dig through the sourness of life in the hopes of finding a layer of sweetness underneath. Premiering only months after lead actress Adrienne Shelly’s tragic death at the age of 40, Waitress features wonderful performances that make for a delicious film, with the right ingredients to hold everything together.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrienne Shelly, Andy Griffith, Andy Ostroy, Caroline Fogarty, Cheryl Hines, Christy Taylor, Cindy Drummond, Darby Stanchfield, Eddie Jemison, Heidi Sulzman, Jeremy Sisto, Keri Russell, Lauri Johnson, Lew Temple, Mackenzie King, Nathan Dean, Nathan Fillion, Sarah Hunley

Director: Adrienne Shelly