3 Movies Like Transformers (2007)

Staff & contributors

“It is better to live miserable than to die happy,” or so says one of the characters in Jia Zhangke’s anthology film A Touch of Sin. On its surface, the “sin” referenced in the title might pertain to the acts of murder that the four protagonists commit, but in the context of China’s rapidly changing capitalist landscape (a theme explored in the director’s other pictures), it reveals itself as a malady shared by Chinese laborers treated as dispensable resources by the powers-that-be. Murder, then, is explored as an extremity, the effectual breaking point of people no longer able to contain the injustice within themselves. Beneath the splatters of blood is a plea for empathy and understanding, at once remorseful and full of conviction.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Baoqiang Wang, Han Dong, Jiang Wu, Li Meng, Lu Liu, Luo Lanshan, Qiang Wang, Wang Hongwei, Zhang Jiayi, Zhang Jin, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke

At once intimate and sweeping, A Thousand and One seamlessly weaves Inez's personal turmoil and familial troubles with the systemic inequality that was rampant in '90s New York. The hideous faces of gentrification, poverty, and police brutality are constantly appearing in the film, not merely because they lend weight to the story, but because they are inevitable for people like Inez. People who, despite their best efforts at achieving upward mobility are continually pushed down by self-serving institutions. 

It's easy for social issue dramas like this to buckle under the weight of their lofty goals, but nothing about A Thousand and One feels forced. Just the opposite, the film has an authentic quality to it—almost documentary-like in its precise depiction of Harlem throughout the years. It's deeply personal and achingly tender, and everything else—the social commentary and the political beats—stems from that specificity. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adriane Lenox, Amelia Workman, Aven Courtney, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Delissa Reynolds, Emmy Harrington, Jennean Farmer, Josiah Cross, Naya Desir-Johnson, Rudolph Giuliani, Terri Abney, Teyana Taylor, William Catlett

Director: A.V. Rockwell

Rating: R

Bree (Felicity Huffman) is an uptight transwoman who gets a phone call from her long lost son who is in trouble. She does not tell him she is his father but bails him out of jail and they end up on a long road trip to LA. Bree's high strung conservative personality intersecting with a wild young man and people they meet along the way leads to some comical situations. Felicity Huffman's performance is excellent. It is enjoyable to watch the characters develop over the film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amy Povich, Andrea James, Bianca Leigh, Burt Young, Calpernia Addams, Carrie Preston, Craig Bockhorn, Danny Burstein, Elizabeth Peña, Elizabeth Peña, Felicity Huffman, Fionnula Flanagan, Forrie J. Smith, Graham Greene, Grant Monohon, Jim Frangione, Jon Budinoff, Kevin Zegers, Maurice Orozco, Paul Borghese, Raynor Scheine, Richard Poe, Stella Maeve, Steve Hurwitz, Teala Dunn, Venida Evans

Director: Duncan Tucker

Rating: R