48 Movies Like Wrath of Man (2021)

Staff & contributors
Poland's nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2020 Academy Awards may have lost to Parasite, but director Jan Komasa's film is still utterly compelling. The crazy sounding premise is inspired by true events: after having had a transformative experience in jail, an ex-convict, played by the wiry, blue-eyed Bartosz Bielenia, decides he wants to become a priest. When he is told that his criminal history prohibits it, he goes down the path that got him into trouble in the first place and just pretends he is. Apparently, he does so quite convincingly—and serves the community well, which is collectively grieving for the victims of a tragic accident. For all his charisma, there's no way not to root for the crooked clergyman conning his way to the top. The complex character at the heart of Corpus Christi is refreshing and three-dimensional, and the smart writing of the film excels at exploring they grey areas of truth and religion. The ending, too, circumvents the soppy and the melodramatic. Thought-provoking European drama.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Łukasz Simlat, Aleksandra Konieczna, Anna Biernacik, Barbara Jonak, Barbara Kurzaj, Bartosz Bielenia, Eliza Rycembel, Jakub Sierenberg, Juliusz Chrząstowski, Leszek Lichota, Lidia Bogacz, Lidia Bogaczówna, Łukasz Simlat, Tomasz Ziętek, Tomasz Ziętek, Zdzisław Wardejn, Zdzisław Wardejn, Томаш Зитек

Director: Jan Komasa

Despite the amusing specificity of its title, this lovely documentary from director Les Blank is really for all of us. Through the example of gap teeth — a physical feature many of the participants here report being made to feel self-conscious about — the film makes a rallying call to embrace ourselves and all of our physical “flaws.”

A big part of what makes this film so heartening is that so many of the women featured here (including model Lauren Hutton) have come out on the other side of loathing their gap teeth, giving us a tangible example of what it looks like to love yourself in spite of other people’s opinions about your body. What’s more, even within a limited runtime, Blank finds space to devote to exploring other aspects of the featured women’s lives — their art, professions, religious practices — and thereby quietly expands the film’s focus from physical beauty and onto the myriad beauties of life itself. It’s an ironic pleasure that Gap-Toothed Women ultimately refuses to define its subjects by the very feature described in its title, and instead gives us this life-affirming shot of wisdom for the ages.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Lauren Hutton, Lauren Moore, Sandra Day O'Connor

Director: Les Blank

Nat Geo is still the champion of pristine nature documentaries: the skies, the seas, the snow, and the coloring everywhere is divine. But the serene seaside in Scotland, combined with the reflective, poetic musings about love from Billy and Susan isn’t just cutesy light viewing. I’m confident it can heal an exhausted person. This documentary is a mesmerizing meditation on love and connection, on the things that unite people and other creatures. It might feel like a chunky 77 minutes, especially in the latter half given the pace it goes by, but it’s a warm experience that you instantly know you’ll want to revisit.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Billy Mail, Susan Mail

Director: Charlie Hamilton James

Rating: G

The debut feature by Palestine’s most well-known director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is an unusual movie about the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict in that it's closer to absurdist comedy than anything else. The only physical violence we see here are men cat-fighting in the street or arm-wrestling each other in cafes, and Israeli presence is limited to a couple of bumbling police officers. Chronicle is full of slapstick cinema touches — right down to the Buster Keaton-esque eyes of director Elia Suleiman, who appears here as a silent wanderer — and yet we feel the bitter reality of the occupation framing every deadpan gag. 

Structured as a series of vignettes, Chronicle’s loose form is both a way to depict the stagnation and dry repetition in which Palestinians are stuck and a wry metaphor for all this listlessness. Suleiman speaks plainly in some chapters — such as the one following a woman who is repeatedly turned down from renting an apartment in Jerusalem because she’s Arab — and more obliquely in others, forcing you to recall the movie’s setting to understand his often-understated commentary. A singular film from an utterly unique director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is both a portrait of a country’s erosion and a quietly defiant act of resistance.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ali Suliman, Elia Suleiman, Fawaz Eilemi, Fuad Suleiman, Iaha Mouhamad, Jamel Daher, Juliet Mazzawi, Leonid Alexeenko, Nazira Suleiman, Ola Tabari, Ula Tabari

Director: Elia Suleiman

There's a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder's main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn't want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of "Forevering," a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It's rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror's final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alicia Silverstone, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach, Kiah McKirnan, Melanie Liburd, Sasha Kuznetsov, Tim Hopper

Director: Jennifer Reeder

As a crime thriller, Holy Spider is taut and terrifying, a modern noir that manages to unnerve despite the familiar moves it employs. The cat and mouse chase between serial killer and investigative reporter, for instance, is a classic tale, but that doesn’t make Holy Spider any less gripping. The film benefits from artful camerawork, considered acting (as the daring journalist Rahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi nabbed the Best Actress award at Cannes), and most of all a nuanced take on the situation in Iran. 

Despite having a clear stance against violence and corruption, nothing in Holy Spider is black and white. Contradictions abound, and even when presented with brief moments of justice, we’re left scratching our heads looking for more. Such is the case when the system, and not just an individual, is the true pest. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alice Rahimi, Arash Ashtiani, Ariane Naziri, Majd Eid, Mehdi Bajestani, Nima Akbarpour, Sara Fazilat, Sina Parvaneh, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Director: Ali Abbasi

Bill Forsyth, an acclaimed Scottish director best known for his films Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl, directs an underrated masterpiece with the 1987 drama Housekeeping. Adapted from Marilynne Robinson’s outstanding novel, Housekeeping is the story of two sisters, Ruthie and Lucille, who are orphaned and raised by their peculiar Aunt Sylvie. 

As the young sisters grow apart, Ruthie gravitates toward her transient aunt. This is a movie about not quite fitting in—about feeling like your life exists just outside of modern time, somewhere off to the side of railroad tracks running over frozen water. Sylvie shows Ruthie that there is more to life than their small, cold town of Fingerbone. In fact, there is a whole world out there, calling to misfits like them.

Housekeeping is deftly directed, balancing both humor and tragedy. Christine Lahti’s performance is also, with no exaggeration, one of the greatest of all times, as she conveys so much of Sylvie’s yearning to go, go, go with as little as a glance toward the beckoning horizon.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrea Burchill, Anne Pitoniak, Betty Phillips, Bill Smillie, Bob Hughes, Brian Linds, Christine Lahti, Dolores Drake, Georgie Collins, Karen Elizabeth Austin, Leah Penny, Margot Pinvidic, Sara Walker, Sheila Paterson, Wayne Robson

Director: Bill Forsyth

Rating: PG

Mike Leigh’s films have always touched on class politics, but seldom as directly as in this lowkey portrait of Thatcher-era London. Cyril and Shirley are a sweet working-class couple at a crossroads in their relationship. Their lifestyle is contrasted with Cyril’s sister and her husband who exist in a more comfortable middle-class setting, and then paralleled again with an upper-class couple living next door from Cyril’s mother. 

Even at this early stage of his career Leigh gracefully entwines these stories to create a moving and coherent narrative. ‘High Hopes’ as a title might be largely sarcastic, but the film is full-hearted and occasionally even optimistic as it strides its snarky way through the grim facades of 80s London.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Cheryl Prime, David Bamber, Diane-Louise Jordan, Edna Doré, Heather Tobias, Jason Watkins, Judith Scott, Lesley Manville, Linda Beckett, Phil Davis, Philip Jackson, Ruth Sheen

Director: Mike Leigh

Watch this documentary and find yourself amazed at how much of Hollywood history was determined by one woman: legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. At a time when studios were casting actors based on “type,” Dougherty revolutionized the process with her preternatural ability to see the potential in budding actors like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Glenn Close. Her work in introducing NYC’s theater actors to the silver screen launched countless careers and indelibly shaped iconic films like Midnight Cowboy and Lethal Weapon.

And yet, Dougherty’s work — and that of those who followed in her steps — is criminally underappreciated, as this doc both lays bare and seeks to redress. A largely female profession, casting was long devalued by a casually misogynistic industry, the persistent legacy of which is subtly highlighted in some interviews here. Among the talking heads sharing appreciation and anecdotes are many of the actors and casting directors whose careers Dougherty launched, as well as filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese) testifying to the pivotal role casting has played in their work. Playing the villain is Ray director Taylor Hackford, who believes casting directors add little to the filmmaking process — an argument that the doc wryly disproves with the sheer weight of refuting evidence it offers up.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Amanda Mackey, Bette Midler, Buck Henry, Burt Young, Clint Eastwood, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Glover, David Rubin, Deborah Aquila, Diane Lane, Don Phillips, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Asner, Ed Lauter, Ellen Chenoweth, Ellen Lewis, Fred Roos, Glenn Close, Gretchen Rennell, Jeanine Basinger, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, John Papsidera, John Sayles, John Travolta, Jon Voight, Juliet Taylor, Linda Lowy, Lora Kennedy, Lynn Stalmaster, Marion Dougherty, Martin Scorsese, Mel Gibson, Mike Fenton, Nancy Klopper, Ned Beatty, Nessa Hyams, Norman Lear, Oliver Stone, Paul Haggis, Paul Mazursky, Paul Rudd, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Donner, Richard Dreyfuss, Risa Bramon Garcia, Rita Hayworth, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Ronna Kress, Ronny Cox, Taylor Hackford, Tony Bill, Wallis Nicita, Woody Allen

Director: Tom Donahue

Although Who We Are is essentially a professionally recorded masterclass interspersed with additional interviews, it only emphasizes Jeffery Robinson's skill as an orator and his compassion as a teacher. In a clear and levelheaded manner, he lays out how even the historical documents that formed the blueprint of the United States are exclusionary in key ways. Robinson does this not to condemn his country, but to challenge the way we view traditions as sacred, and to see how modern-day white nationalism is upheld by these institutions, intentionally or not. The new interviews that accompany Robinson's talk take these lessons on the road, reminding us of those who are directly affected by these centuries-old decisions.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Jeffery Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr.

Director: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler

A truly bizarre comedy that shoots far beyond the boundaries of what should probably be considered good taste, The Twentieth Century stands as one of the strangest movies ever made based on a historical figure. Adapted from the real Mackenzie King's (Canada's longest-serving prime minister) diaries, the film replaces any traces of reality with psychological projection and almost nonsensical stoner humor. It functions as a satire of the way Canadian society is often depicted as polite (when, according to writer/director Matthew Rankin, it's anything but) and as a portrait of how even the most powerful politicians are just little boys seeking approval and indulging in fetishes to compensate for the love they can never receive.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Annie St-Pierre, Brent Skagford, Catherine St-Laurent, Charlotte Legault, Dan Beirne, Emmanuel Schwartz, Ève Duranceau, Gordon Masten, Guillaume Lambert, Jadyn Malone, Kee Chan, Louis Negin, Marie Brassard, Martin Dubreuil, Mikhaïl Ahooja, Richard Jutras, Sarianne Cormier, Satine Scarlett Montaz, Seán Cullen, Simon Lacroix

Director: Matthew Rankin

Emily (Evanna Lynch), a strange, unique girl does not receive the long awaited letter from her father on her birthday. Sick of worrying, she decides to break away from home to visit him in the psychiatric institution where he stays. The plan requires the help of Arden (George Webster), a boy from school who is ready to drop everything and accompany her on a journey that quickly becomes as adventurous as it is heartfelt. In this film, director Simon Fitzmaurice take will take you on a trip through the beautiful Irish landscape to find nothing else but simple and true love.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ali White, Ally Ni Chiarain, Barry McGovern, Cathy Belton, Declan Conlon, Deirdre Mullins, Dónall Ó Héalai, Evanna Lynch, George Webster, John Travers, Martin McCann, Meghan Jones, Michael Hough, Michael Smiley, Millie Donnelly, Stella McCusker

Director: Simon Fitzmaurice

Rating: Not Rated

Legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne returns with this enigmatic stage show, and with Spike Lee in tow, the film reaches for the heights of the iconic concert doc Stop Making Sense. For those unfamiliar, Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the Talking Heads’ invigorating live show in their early eighties prime, and is often considered one of the best concert films of all time.

Now nearly forty years later Byrne attempts a resurrection of that spirit or a form of it given his former bandmates notably absent from the project. His propellant energy is on full display as he goes through the ‘Heads catalog with a backing band that dances in intricately choreographed sequences around him. Most notable, however, is the sparseness of the stage production which brings to mind a dirge-like atmosphere. Byrne’s righteous thrashings against Reagan’s America carry renewed weight in the despondency of the Trump-era. So despite his attempts at optimism, aching futility runs through the heart of the show; most pointed when Byrne sings the famous lines from in Once In A Lifetime: “Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten Iii, David Byrne, Jacqueline Acevedo, Mauro Refosco, Tendayi Kuumba

Director: Spike Lee

Focusing on the personal over the global, 76 Days serves as a valuable reminder for generations to come, of the catastrophic human cost of a pandemic. The film's directors (including one or more filmmakers who have had to keep themselves anonymous) take an entirely boots-on-the-ground approach in Wuhan, China. Together they find both humanity and the loss of humanity in these individual cases of COVID that are stalled by small inconveniences or a general lack of understanding of the disease. And all of this confusion is punctuated by the humbling fact that we never see the nurses' faces. It's a harrowing watch, but it tells us everything we need to know about how much assistance our health workers need and the kind of superhuman things they're tasked with doing every single day.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen

, 2021

Education is a human right, but for many girls around the world, this isn’t necessarily guaranteed– especially if they want to learn past the required years of basic education. Yuni is a coming-of-age drama that depicts a girl in West Java, Indonesia who wants to go to university, but due to the marriage and virginity culture in the area, her main problem isn’t having to pass the entrance exams, or figuring out how to get financial aid. Instead, it’s having to fend off marriage proposals that clearly don’t come from a place of love. Writer-director Kamila Andini depicts the titular protagonist with the freedoms rarely granted to a girl like her, with the happiness and belonging all girls should be able to find solace in, but she also depicts the casual ways oppression lingers in the background, with society just waiting to kill women’s dreams, hopes, and personal goals. Yuni is an honest and powerful portrait of many women around the globe.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anne Yasmine, Arawinda Kirana, Asmara Abigail, Ayu Laksmi, Dimas Aditya, Kevin Ardilova, Marissa Anita, Mian Tiara, Muhammad Khan, Neneng Wulandari, Nova Eliza, Rukman Rosadi, Sekar Sari, Vania Aurellia

Director: Kamila Andini