4 Movies Like 12 Mighty Orphans (2021)

Staff & contributors

Understated in budget but lavished with praise, this semi-autobiographical drama by Daniel Destin Cretton flings its audience into the chaotic lives and personal crises of at-risk youths and the passionate social workers that aid them. In his first feature film, the young director draws the viewers into the storm of events and the emotional ups-and-downs of social work in America, going from uplifting to depressing and back – and every emotion in-between.

Set in the real-life and eponymous group home Short Term 12, devoted but troubled foster-care worker Grace is played by Brie Larson, whose shining performance in her first leading role was lauded by critics. Fans will also recognize the supporting actors Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek, who broke out in this movie. Short Term 12 is now considered one of the most important movies of 2013 – some say of the decade – owing to its immaculate writing, intimate camerawork, and gripping performances.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Calloway, Angelina Assereto, Brie Larson, Diana Maria Riva, Frantz Turner, Harold Cannon, Joel P. West, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Lakeith Stanfield, Lydia Du Veaux, Melora Walters, Michelle Nordahl, Mohammad Shiravi, Rami Malek, Silvia Curiel, Stephanie Beatriz

Director: Destin Cretton, Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: R

Even a director of William Friedkin’s caliber had his work cut out for him with this remake of the towering 1957 drama tracking a jury's fraught deliberations in an apparently open-and-shut murder trial. Wisely, he changes little: most of the incisive dialogue remains the same, and the film still only takes place in one sweltering room on New York’s hottest day.

There are some key differences, though: namely, in a few of the characters (most notably Mykelti Williamson’s ex-Nation of Islam member Juror #10, who helps update the story to the '90s) and the intensification of the ensemble’s star power. The all-star quality of the cast is never wielded to call attention to itself, though; everyone, from James Gandolfini and William Petersen to Tony Danza and Edward James Olmos is on fine character acting form here. Replacing the unforgettable Henry Fonda is Jack Lemmon (exuding warmth and good sense) as the principled lone dissenter who calmly wages a war of words with George C. Scott’s bigoted Juror #3 to give real justice a chance. The 1957 version is admittedly a timeless classic, but Friedkin's version isn't very far off from reaching its predecessor’s dazzling heft plus, this stands as a compelling argument that every era should have its own 12 Angry Men.

Genre: Crime, Drama, TV Movie

Actor: Armin Mueller-Stahl, Courtney B. Vance, Dorian Harewood, Douglas Spain, Edward James Olmos, George C. Scott, Hume Cronyn, Jack Lemmon, James Gandolfini, Mary McDonnell, Mykelti Williamson, Ossie Davis, Tony Danza, Tyrees Allen, William Petersen

Director: William Friedkin

Rating: PG-13

In Compartment Number 6, two different people strike an unlikely friendship during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk. One is Laura, a Finnish student looking to observe ancient rock carvings at their destination, and the other is Ljoha, a gruff miner who hopes to secure a job once there. While the pair are initially unable to get on the same page, their friction eventually lends way to curiosity and empathy, especially as they learn more about each other and life itself.

It’s a great film to put on if you’re a fan of smart but subdued movies like the Before trilogy and Lost in Translation, and there is a lot to mine beyond their already-rich conversations, especially in terms of class and romance. It’s little wonder then that this delightful two-hander shares the 2021 Grand Prix award with another brilliant piece of art, Asghar Farhadi's A Hero.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Denis Pyanov, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova, Konstantin Murzenko, Natalia Drozd, Polina Aug, Seidi Haarla, Sergey Agafonov, Tomi Alatalo, Valeriy Nikolaev, Yuliya Aug, Yuriy Borisov

Director: Juho Kuosmanen

Rating: R

The Beautiful Game starts off with a hilarious, brilliantly written opening sequence that should have set the tone for the film. Then almost immediately, we're met with some shoddy writing, and in a strange way, that is what sets the tone for the film, instead. This film presents the story of the Homeless World Cup and how it empowers those who feel they have no direction, and so naturally we want to feel their triumph. But the film seems to want to cross over the jovial and wholesome line and deeper into the characters' struggles, and while some characters only need a glimpse of it, it generally comes across like a jarring lack of commitment. The film isn't carrying home any writing gold, but it's not really about winning, is it?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna Maria Everett, Aoi Okuyama, Bill Nighy, Callum Scott Howells, Colin Azzopardi, Cristina Rodlo, Daniel Attwell, Gabriel Akuwudike, James McNicholas, Jessye Romeo, Kazuhiro Muroyama, Kit Young, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Massimo Scola, Micheal Ward, Robin Nazari, Shane Casey, Sheyi Cole, Sian Reese-Williams, Susan Wokoma, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Valeria Golino

Director: Thea Sharrock

Rating: PG-13