The 10 Best Character-Driven Movies on Paramount Plus

Updated June 16, 2024 • Staff

As one of the oldest film studios in the world, Paramount has given us a host of memorable, iconic characters over the decades. You wouldn't be wrong to assume that their box office presence has been thanks in part to recognizable actors filling out strong roles. Now with Paramount Plus, you have access to much of their classic library, as well as smaller gems that are led by equally interesting characters. To get you started, we've listed 10 films you can find on the service that tell stories driven by people either complex and nuanced, or focused on a singular goal with intensity and feeling—either way, always compelling.

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10.

Little Wing (2024)

There is a world where all of Little Wing's ideas make thematic sense, as a story about a young woman reeling from the difficulty of her home life. But as it is now, the film just isn't tightly woven enough, with various characters and subplots making little effect on the whole and major conflicts barely leaving consequences for the characters to deal with afterwards. It's definitely unique; you aren't likely to find many movies about pigeon racing anywhere. But even then, Little Wing doesn't allow us to get an insider look into pigeon racing as a sport, nor how this underground network is even supposed to operate. Without a strong enough setting to support this story, it becomes much harder to suspend one's disbelief and enjoy the strange things it shows us.

Our staff rating: 4.9/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Brian Cox, Brooklynn Prince, Che Tafari, Hank Cartwright, Ina Chang, Jason Rouse, Jeanine Jackson, Jonathan Togo, Kelly Reilly, Lowell Deo, Melanie Nicholls-King, Parker Hall, Trinity Bliss
Director: Dean Israelite
Rating: PG-13
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9.

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

If you like any of the following: Irish accents, Woody Harrelson, Pulp Fiction, or dark comedy;  then this is the movie for you. This mix of violence, mafia, existential talk, and painfully comical situations might not be for everyone, but it has every component to make its target audience very pleased. And given how chaotic and crazy it can get, it should be enjoyed one take at a time, focusing on each delightful scene rather than the overall plot. Directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths makes a perfect comeback after In Bruges, without veering very much from it (consequently if you like this movie make sure you check out In Bruges too).

Our staff rating: 7.6/10
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Actor: Abbie Cornish, Amanda Warren, Brendan Sexton III, Christian Barillas, Christine Marzano, Christopher Gehrman, Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, Crispin Glover, Frank Alvarez, Gabourey Sidibe, Harry Dean Stanton, Helena Mattsson, James Landry Hébert, John Bishop, Johnny Bolton, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kevin Corrigan, Kiran Deol, Linda Bright Clay, Long Nguyen, Martin McDonagh, Michael Pitt, Michael Stuhlbarg, Olga Kurylenko, Patrick O'Connor, Richard Wharton, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Sam Rockwell, Samantha Cutaran, Tai Chan Ngo, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson, Zeljko Ivanek
Director: Martin McDonagh
Rating: R
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8.

In the Bedroom (2001)

While surpassed by the masterpiece Tár, Todd Field already garnered critical acclaim by his first feature debut In The Bedroom all the way back in 2001. The story is a familiar revenge drama that we might have heard from stories from small towns, but the way Field captures it is fascinating, with its challenging, layered dialogue, and the juxtaposed young and old love hinting at both couples’ insecurities, jealousy, and possessiveness, particularly with regards to the potential college graduate Frank has. It’s slow-paced, haunting, and Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek share a sense of heartbreaking intimacy only true couples can wield against each other. In The Bedroom showed us Todd Field’s brilliant filmmaking that we hope to see more soon.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Celia Weston, Daran Norris, Erin Barksdale, Frank T. Wells, Justin Ashforth, Karen Allen, Kevin Chapman, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl, Ronald Russell, Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Veronica Cartwright, William Mapother, William Wise
Director: Todd Field
Rating: R
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7.

Fences (2016)

There is a chance we will be known as the generation that perfected mixing the two mediums of movie and theater. Think Hateful 8, Horace & Pete, Wild Tales, and Fences! A movie not only packed with Broadway talent, it's also based on a Pulitzer-winning play by August Wilson. The play element is both strong and visible, the movie is dialogue packed, and takes place almost exclusively in the characters' house, not to mention most of the events happen within the span of a few days. The movie element comes through beautiful aesthetics and rich scenery, as well as some of Hollywood's best talent: Denzel Washington (who is also the director) and Viola Davis. They had both actually won Tony Awards for their performances reviving the play back in 2010. Denzel is a black garbage collector who was once a promising baseball player and a victim of racial discrimination. His psyche is as rich as it is determined and he is used to taking out his deep-rooted feelings of anger on his loved ones. His wife (Davis), his son, and his friends are the targets of this hurt and anger, but they also have a lot to deal with on their own. A beautiful if maybe slow play-movie. Do not watch it expecting "things to happen", but watch it to be mesmerized by the acting, the writing, and the underlying tensions it addresses. 

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Drama
Actor: Christopher Mele, Denzel Washington, Joe Fishel, Jovan Adepo, Lesley Boone, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby, Saniyya Sidney, Stephen Henderson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Viola Davis
Director: Denzel Washington
Rating: PG-13
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6.

The Accused (1988)

An arguably tough watch, The Accused fluctuates between crime and courtroom drama, eschewing any kind of sentimentality in its storytelling. No place for pity where trauma reigns: the fact that the film is based on a real case of as gang rape means little in a world were that's still a daily occurrence. The Accused knows it well and invests its two protagonist with all the anger in the world, hoping the justice system will be on the right side of history at once: that of women. Two amazing leads set the bar very high: Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis who plays prosecutor Kathryn Murphy. Together, they make a powerful duo of heated performances that embody the contradictions of being a woman under patriarchy.

Our staff rating: 7.8/10
Genre: Crime, Drama
Actor: Allan Lysell, Andrew Kavadas, Ann Hearn, Antony Holland, Babs Chula, Bernie Coulson, Carmen Argenziano, Christianne Hirt, Dana Still, David Sheridan, Denalda Williams, Deryl Hayes, Frances Flanagan, Freda Perry, Garry Chalk, Garwin Sanford, Jerry Wasserman, Jodie Foster, Kelly McGillis, Kevin McNulty, Kim Kondrashoff, Leo Rossi, Linda Darlow, Marsha Andrews, Michele Goodger, Mike Winlaw, Pamela Martin, Peter Bibby, Peter Van Norden, Rebecca Toolan, Rose Weaver, Scott Paulin, Stephen Dimopoulos, Stephen E. Miller, Steve Antin, Terry David Mulligan, Tom Heaton, Tom McBeath, Tom O'Brien, Veena Sood, Walter Marsh, Woody Brown
Director: Jonathan Kaplan
Rating: R
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5.

Fresh (1994)

Filmed with a perfect blend of realism and embellished style, Fresh is a coming-of-age story set in the poverty of the New York City projects, wherein the protagonist "grows up" only by learning to become dangerous and losing his sense of self. There's no satisfaction in watching 12-year-old Michael (or "Fresh," as he's called) use his supposed innocence as a tool to manipulate his way to a safer position. The system continues to reign supreme and Fresh only buries himself into a deeper hole. Boaz Yakin's direction is direct and expressive, the city stirring to vibrant life in every scene, and the tremendous performances from Giancarlo Esposito and a then-teenage Sean Nelson drive home the tragedy with full force.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Actor: Afi Bijou, Ali A. Wahhab, Anthony Ruiz, Anthony Thomas, Belinda Becker, Charles Malik Whitfield, Cheryl Freeman, Cortez Nance Jr., Curtis McClarin, Danielia L. Cotton, Davenia McFadden, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Elsie Hilario, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Esposito, Guillermo Díaz, Iraida Polanco, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Jason Rodriguez, Jean-Claude La Marre, Jerome Butler, José Zúñiga, Luis Lantigua, Matthew Faber, N'Bushe Wright, Natima Bradley, Robert Jimenez, Ron Brice, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Nelson, Yul Vazquez
Director: Boaz Yakin
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4.

The Station Agent (2003)

The Station Agent is about loneliness, change and friendship. Sounds corny right? It’s not. The characters are developed, they have their own reasons for the choices they make and nothing feels forced, neither actions or conversations. It’s a small and wonderful movie about a little man that moves out of the city and his comfort zone when his only friend dies, moves to said friend’s old train station and sets his life there. From there on it follows his social interactions with a slew of people, the relationships he forms with them. Oh, and the little man? Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), who pulls off a great performance, albeit a quiet one.

Our staff rating: 9.2/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Bobby Cannavale, Ileen Getz, Jase Blankfort, Jayce Bartok, Jeremy Bergman, Joe Lo Truglio, John Slattery, Josh Pais, Lynn Cohen, Maile Flanagan, Marla Sucharetza, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Benjamin, Paula Garces, Peter Dinklage, Raven Goodwin, Richard Kind
Director: Tom McCarthy
Rating: R
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