23 Movies Like Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Staff & contributors
Simply titled The Imposter, this film by English documentary maker Bart Layton tells an unbelievable tale. Any plot summary doing this film justice has to err on the side of brevity, which is why it will be only one line long: this is the story of Frederic Bourdin, a serial imposter nicknamed “The Chameleon”, who at one time claimed to be the missing son of a family from Texas. The film is so well-shot that it is hard to tell fact from fiction at times and it will force you to remind yourself that this is in fact real life. Expect twists and turns at every corner and brilliant storytelling from real people. If Christopher Nolan created a 48-hour story, it would pale in comparison to this film.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Mystery

Actor: Adam O'Brian, Adam O' Brian, Adam O'Brian, Alan Teichman, Anna Ruben, Carey Gibson, Cathy Dresbach, Charlie Parker, Frederic Bourdin, Ivan Villanueva, Ken Appledorn, María Jesús Hoyos, Mary Twala, Nicholas Barclay

Director: Bart Layton

Rating: R

How far would you go to help a friend? The answer to this question might turn out quite differently after you have lived through the 2-hour squalor of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Set in the bleak late-1980s reality of Communist Romania, under the ironclad rule of Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasilu play Otilia and Gabriela, two small-town students. Otilia volunteers to help Gabriela go through with an illegal abortion, which takes place in a shoddy hotel room with the help of a man named Bebe (played by Vlad Ivanov). When things don't go as planned, they find their situations quickly going from very bad to outright horrible. Powerful performances, a realistic script, and director Cristian Mungiu's technical finesse create an experience that will force you to relive the desperation the two women must endure. Little wonder that it won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2007.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adi Carauleanu, Adina Cristescu, Alexandru Potocean, Anamaria Marinca, Cerasela Iosifescu, Constantin Bojog, Doru Ana, Eugenia Bosânceanu, Geo Dobre, Ion Sapdaru, Laura Vasiliu, Liliana Mocanu, Luminita Gheorghiu, Mădălina Ghițescu, Mărioara Sterian, Tania Popa, Teodor Corban, Vlad Ivanov

Director: Cristian Mungiu

Rating: Not Rated

A Good Movie to Watch features almost every work of Asghar Farhadi for the sole reason that his films, although highly acclaimed and brilliant, are criminally under-watched. As always, Farhadi offers complex, compelling, and contemporary drama and piercing insight into human relationships and emotions. Expect the twists, subtleties, and emotional limbo that you're probably familiar with from A Separation or About Elly. That said, The Past is a bit different, because, for one, it focuses on romantic relationships, and, secondly, it plays in the far more permissive world of a Parisian suburb –⁠ and not in theocratic Teheran. Independent of its location, The Past's key subject is the universally human phenomenon of having to deal with the choices made in the past. In addition to Farhadi's intricate directing and the sensitive script, it is imperative to mention the powerful performances by Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, and, above all, Bérénice Bejo. An unforgettable experience.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Ali Mosaffa, Babak Karimi, Bérénice Bejo, Eléonora Marino, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Pauline Burlet, Sabrina Ouazani, Tahar Rahim, Valéria Cavalli

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: PG-13

, 2013

If you thought Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar, or True Detective was already the pinnacle of what Mathew McConaughey could do, wait until you see this film! Created by writer-director Jeff Nichols and set in the American South, Mud is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and personal growth. Two children, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), come across the elusive Mud (who is played by McConaughey), a man on the run wanted for murder. Initially scared of his mysterious character, the kids end up wanting to help and protect him from his those pursuing him. Ultimately a story of love, the film deals with a very human crisis seen through the eyes of children, drawing from American adventure tales and the humidity of the South. Mud is exciting, uneasy, sad, and quite beautiful. All at once.

Genre: Drama, Family, Romance

Actor: Bonnie Sturdivant, Jacob Lofland, Joe Don Baker, Kristy Barrington, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Abbott Jr., Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Ray McKinnon, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson, Stuart Greer, Tye Sheridan

Director: Jeff Nichols

Rating: PG-13

A thoughtful drama about the financial crisis, Margin Call is gripping. Seriously, even something as convoluted as the 2008 global economic meltdown is not only accessible and understandable, but it's gripping. Margin Call transports you to the heart of Wall Street, both the financial institutions and the street, literally. It is exciting, well-acted and informative. Uh, also: Kevin Spacey.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aasif Mandvi, Al Sapienza, Ashley Williams, Demi Moore, Grace Gummer, Jeremy Irons, Jimmy Palumbo, Kevin Spacey, Maria Dizzia, Mary McDonnell, Oberon K.A. Adjepong, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, Peter Y. Kim, Simon Baker, Stanley Tucci, Susan Blackwell, Zachary Quinto

Director: J. C. Chandor

Rating: R

Based on a true story, The Whistleblower is the biography of a once Nebraskan police officer who volunteers for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia. Once there, she uncovers a human trafficking scandal involving peacekeeping officials, and finds herself alone against a hostile system in a devastated country. Rachel Weisz plays the whistleblower in a powerful lead role, but the true star of the movie is its director, Larysa Kondracki, who thanks to near documentary-style film-making delivers a perfectly executed political thriller with utmost authenticity.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adriana Butoi, Alexandru Potocean, Alin Panc, Anca Androne, Anna Schafer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Catherine McNally, Coca Bloos, Danny John-Jules, David Hewlett, David Strathairn, Dorotheea Petre, Florin Busuioc, Geoffrey Pounsett, Jeanette Hain, Liam Cunningham, Luke Treadaway, Monica Bellucci, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Paul Jerricho, Paula Schramm, Pilou Asbæk, Rachel Weisz, Radu Bânzaru, Rayisa Kondracki, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, Roxana Condurache, Roxana Guttman, Sergej Trifunović, Stuart Graham, Vanessa Redgrave, Victoria Raileanu, Vlad Ivanov, William Hope

Director: Larysa Kondracki

Rating: R

The acting... oh the acting! Your Sister's Sister is a fantastic comedy which makes great use of the amazing talents and suitability of its cast, including the criminally underused Emily Blunt. Far smarter, quicker and grown-up than most other Rom-Coms, it's a film built on secrets, lies and, yes, love, sex and family.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Emily Blunt, Jeanette Maus, John Lavin, Kate Bayley, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn, Mike Birbiglia, Rosemarie DeWitt

Director: Lynn Shelton

Rating: R

Paul Giamatti knocks in out of the park in Win Win. The movie has so much humanity in it as well as a fantastic story that's rooted in normalcy. At last a movie about second chances that is anything but cheesy. The rhythm of the humor in this movie helps you move through the serious themes unscathed (for the most part). In sum, the jokes are spot-on and the acting is excellent.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Clare Foley, Darren Goldstein, David W. Thompson, Edmund Ikeda, Jeffrey Tambor, Marceline Hugot, Marcia Haufrecht, Margo Martindale, Melanie Lynskey, Nina Arianda, Paul Giamatti, Sharon Wilkins, Tim Ransom

Director: Tom McCarthy

Rating: R

The movie starts with Luke (Ryan Gosling) as a stunt driver who learns he has a newborn child. Luke wants to properly provide for him, so he turns to robbing banks. That causes conflict with the mother (Eva Mendes) and a police officer (Bradley Cooper), which ends up spanning two generations. The Place Beyond the Pines is gritty and emotional, and at the heart of it, a good take on father-son relationships and long-term consequences.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Angelo Anthony Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Anthony Angelo Pizza, Jr., Ben Mendelsohn, Bradley Cooper, Brian Smyj, Bruce Greenwood, Craig Van Hook, Dane DeHaan, Derek Cianfrance, Emory Cohen, Ephraim Benton, Eva Mendes, Gabe Fazio, Greta Seacat, Harris Yulin, Jennifer Sober, Luca Pierucci, Lynette Howell Taylor, Mahershala Ali, Mark McCracken, Michael Cullen, Olga Merediz, Patrick Husted, Ray Liotta, Robert Clohessy, Rose Byrne, Ryan Gosling, Shannon Plumb

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Rating: R

Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, and Shia Laboeuf (the good Shia Laboeuf) all star in this true-story-based gangster tale. As a result, Lawless is cliché-free, fast, and violent - yet it doesn't take itself too seriously. Bootlegging Bondurant brothers live according to different rules, yet run a successful business during the prohibition era. When new authorities try to shut them down violently, each one of them has a way of dealing with it. The story runs very smoothly, and added to the perfect performances and great staging, Lawless becomes very entertaining, and a true pleasure to watch.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Western

Actor: Alex Van, Bill Camp, Bruce McKinnon, Chad Randall, Chris McGarry, Dane DeHaan, Eric Mendenhall, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Jason Clarke, Jessica Chastain, John Hillcoat, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester, Mark Ashworth, Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor, Ron Clinton Smith, Shia LaBeouf, Terry Keasler, Tim Tolin, Tom Hardy, Tom Proctor, Tom Turbiville, William J. Harrison

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

The Guard played by Brendan Gleeson is a new character in cinema that appeals to the funny bone inside all of us. A character like this can make any movie lovable. It also features Don Cheadle playing an FBI agent who is in town to solve a crime under Gleeson's jurisdiction. An overall great movie with great writing. Please note, for those who have a hard time understanding different accents, subtitles are advised.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Conor Moloney, Darren Healy, David Pearse, David Wilmot, Dominique McElligott, Don Cheadle, Fionnula Flanagan, Gary Lydon, John Patrick Beirne, Katarina Čas, Laura Hitchings, Laurence Kinlan, Liam Cunningham, Liam O'Conghaile, Mark O'Halloran, Mark Strong, Mícheál Óg Lane, Owen Sharpe, Paraic Nialand, Pat Shortt, Ronan Collins, Rory Keenan, Sarah Greene, Wale Ojo

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

A Danish cargo ship is hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The pirates demand millions of dollars in ransom and from there on, a psychological drama between the pirates and the ship owner develops, as they negotiate the price for the ship and its crew. A really great thing about this film is the fact that it doesn't get tangled up in the weepy feelings of the families back home - but instead focuses on the shrinking hope of the ship's crew and the psychological consequences of the brutal negotiation, that drives the ship owner to the edge of madness. Inspired by a true story. Brilliantly acted.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abdihakin Asgar, Allan Arnby, Amalie Ihle Alstrup, Andre Royo, Carsten Eigil Hedegaard, Clancy Brown, Dar Salim, Gary Skjoldmose Porter, Jacob Lentz, Keith Pearson, Linda Laursen, Michael Christensen, Ole Dupont, Pilou Asbæk, Pilou Asbæk, Roland Møller, Roland Moller, Søren Malling, Søren Malling, Stephen Gevedon

Director: Tobias Lindholm

Rating: R

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay both won Berlinale Best Actress and Best Actor for this movie. They play a couple who are only a few days away from their 45th marriage anniversary when they learn that the remains of the husband’s first lover have been found. He then starts obsessing about his previous relationship, to the extent that when the day of the anniversary comes, there might not be a marriage left to celebrate. This is a very ‘adult’ movie – it’s quiet, sometimes slow, very well-executed, and overall a fascinating look at marriage.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Camille Ucan, Charlotte Rampling, David Sibley, Dolly Wells, Geraldine James, Hannah Chalmers, Richard Cunningham, Rufus Wright, Sam Alexander, Tom Courtenay

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: R

This gripping legal drama is based on a case we still don’t know the truth of — which might make it seem like a pointless exercise, were it not for the fact that it’s infectiously fascinated by greater questions than whether wealthy socialite Claus von Bülow (Jeremy Irons) really did attempt to kill wife Sunny (Glenn Close), who was left comatose by the mysterious event. After being convicted, Claus recruited for his appeal then-hotshot lawyer Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver), now better known for personal allegations and his defense of men even more nefarious than Claus. Reversal follows the tricky legal argument-crafting process, embedding us with Dershowitz’s elite team as they meticulously comb through the prosecution’s theory to find the hairline crack they need to break the case open.

But why go to all this effort to exonerate an unlikeable and frustratingly enigmatic man like Claus, whom Dershowitz apparently doesn’t even believe himself? While we’re morbidly fascinated by unknowable cases like this, it’s the passion of the defense that’s really puzzling — something Reversal shrewdly gets as it wrestles with the ethical arguments for and against Dershowitz’s involvement, making for a pre-courtroom drama whose power extends beyond that of the particular case it documents.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alan Pottinger, Annabella Sciorra, Bill Camp, Brian Delate, Bruno Eyron, Christine Baranski, Christine Dunford, Constance Shulman, Ericka Klein, Felicity Huffman, Fisher Stevens, Frederick Neumann, Glenn Close, Gordon Joseph Weiss, Jack Gilpin, Jad Mager, JD Cullum, Jeremy Irons, Jessika Cardinahl, Johann Carlo, Julie Hagerty, Keith Reddin, Larry Sherman, LisaGay Hamilton, Malachy McCourt, Mitchell Whitfield, Redman Maxfield, Ron Silver, Stephen Mailer, Tom Wright, Uta Hagen

Director: Barbet Schroeder

, 2011

This coming-of-age drama is about John McGill, a brilliant student with a promising future who becomes a thug. More specifically, he becomes a Ned: a Non-Educated Delinquent, a derogatory term applied to small-time criminals in Scotland.

His story takes place in 1970s Glasgow. A lot pushes John to make this transition: bad parenting, bullying and an early brush with crime life through his older brother. Directed by and starring Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Westworld).

Genre: Drama

Actor: Conor McCarron, David McKay, Douglas Russell, Gary Hollywood, Gary Lewis, Greg Forrest, Joe Szula, Marcus Nash, Marianna Palka, Martin Bell, Mhairi Anderson, Peter Mullan, Richard Mack, Stephen McCole, Steven Robertson

Director: Peter Mullan

Rating: TV-MA