8 Movies Like A Moment to Remember (2004)

Staff & contributors
In 2009, Departures surprised everybody by winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, instead of everyone's favourite, Ari Folman's Waltz of Bashir. This is even more surprising since this Japanese comedy almost never saw the light of day because many distributors refused to release it at first for its humorous treatment of a very human, but weirdly taboo subject: what happens when you die. Daigo Kobayashi (played by former boyband member Masahiro Motoki) just bought an expensive cello when he learns that his Tokyo-based symphony orchestra is going bankrupt. Daigo and his wife Mika, played by Ryôko Hirosue, decide to move back to his hometown, where he applies for an opening at what he thinks is a travel agency, hence the departures. You might have guessed by now that what he was applying for was, in fact, the job of an undertaker—a profession considered unclean in Japan. It's one of those rare movies that will make you laugh, to making you cry, and laugh again. It's dead-on!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Justin Lukach, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Maisie Williams, Masahiro Motoki, Nina Dobrev, Ryoko Hirosue, Ryosuke Otani, Sanae Miyata, Scott Wilson, Takashi Sasano, Taro Ishida, Tatsuo Yamada, Tetta Sugimoto, Tōru Minegishi, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Tyler Hoechlin, Yukari Tachibana

Director: Yōjirō Takita

Rating: PG-13

Clocking in at just under four hours, Hu Bo's first and last feature film—before his tragic death at the age of 29—is a sprawling indictment of a country that the filmmaker must have viewed as positively hostile and suffocating. Following several characters whose paths intersect as they try to escape their current circumstances, An Elephant Sitting Still creates a truly oppressive atmosphere that may not lead you to the answers you expect, but it should leave you feeling haunted for a long, long time. Beautifully scored, shot, and acted, Hu's film offers practically no hope but it keeps on moving with a sense of freedom and determination all its own. This is as honest a film can get; Hu has left behind a moving legacy.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Chaobei Wang, Li Congxi, Li Qing, Peng Yuchang, Wang Ning, Wang Yuwen, Zhang Yu, Zhao Tao, Zhaoyan Guozhang, Zhu Yan Man Zi, Zhu Yanmanzi, Zhu-Yan Manzi

Director: Hu Bo

Us and Them follows two former lovers who reminisce and reassess their decade-long relationship over one night. They both seem to be in better places, certainly financially if anything else, but their shared wistfulness for the past threatens to prove otherwise. 

The film was an immediate hit when it was first released in China, and it’s easy to see why. With just the right balance of realism, romance, and comedy, the movie makes for a simple but deeply moving and involving watch. You can’t help but root for the exes to get back together, even though you know as well as they do how minimal the chances of that happening are.

Genre: Drama, Reality, Romance

Actor: Andrew Tiernan, Boran Jing, Dongyu Zhou, Jack Roth, Jing Boran, Liu Di, Qu Zhe Ming, Qu Zheming, Rene Liu, Shi Yufei, Sophie Colquhoun, Su Xiaoming, Tian Zhuangzhuang, Tim Bentinck, Zhang Zixian, Zheming Qu, Zhou Dongyu, Zhuangzhuang Tian

Director: Rene Liu

Rating: Not Rated

Su-ki-da is a Japanese romantic drama about Yu and Yosuke, a girl and a boy studying in the same school. Their odd friendship develops as Yu starts following Yosuke to the meadow, where he goes to play his guitar. As the years go on, Yu and Yosuke grow apart — until a night of coincidence reunites them. Throughout the movie, there are a lot of silent moments shared between the two protagonists, which sometimes make for an awkward watch. But the soft sound of guitar and views of the lush meadow will be sure to fill you with serenity.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aoi Miyazaki, Eita, Eita Nagayama, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Hiromi Nagasaku, Maho Nonami, Nao Ōmori, Ryō Kase, Sayuri Oyamada

Director: Hiroshi Ishikawa

This South Korean coming-of-age story, an award-winning debut from Lee Su-jin, is centered around a high school student named Han Gong-ju. There's a dark aura surrounding our teenage protagonist, as she avoids making new friends and closes herself off from the world. More than anything, she is afraid that people will discover the secret behind her shy persona, and the past events that changed her life forever. This is an intricate and truly devastating tale, sensitively told, and is likely to leave even the most hardened viewers filled with rage at those who have wronged Han Gong-ju.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Baek Ji-won, Baik Ji-won, Beom-taek Kwon, Chun Woo-hee, Dong Hyun-bae, In-seon Jeong, In-sun Jung, Ji Soo, Jo Dae-hee, Jung In-sun, Kim Hyun-joon, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Jung-pal, Kim So-young, Kimchoi Yong-Joon, Kwon Beom-taek, Kwon Bum-taek, Lee Young-lan, Min Kyung-jin, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, So-young Kim, Son Seul-gi, Woo-hee Chun, Yeong-ran Lee, Yim Dong-seok, Yoo Seung-mok, Young-lan Lee

Director: Lee Su-jin, Su-jin Lee

Rating: R

, 2019

Togo may be set in a cold Alaskan town, but the story it tells is nothing short of heartwarming. It follows a pup who starts out as an unwanted underdog but who quickly becomes a beloved leader thanks to his tenacity, pluck, and undeniable charm. Watching Togo onscreen, whether as a puppy escaping his cage or as a senior leaping through sea ice, is a marvelous sight to behold, not least because of the sans-CGI direction.  

And like many a dog tale, Togo is a sure tearjerker, but unlike most of them, this specific story never feels exploitative. Togo is given a proper backstory and sufficient characterization, a refreshing focus that makes every emotional curveball well-earned. Watch this and you'll never take a day with your pet for granted again.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family

Actor: Adrien Dorval, Brandon Oakes, Catherine McGregor, Christopher Heyerdahl, Julianne Nicholson, Madeline Wickins, Michael Gaston, Michael Greyeyes, Michael McElhatton, Nikolai Nikolaeff, Nive Nielsen, Richard Dormer, Thorbjørn Harr, Willem Dafoe, Zahn McClarnon

Director: Ericson Core

Rating: PG

, 2011

Always follows the story of Jeong-hwa and Cheol-min, both very different individuals who are gentle in their own way. The story starts off by demonstrating how different the leads are in terms of their personality and their outlook on life. The plot can be a little predictable and cliche in some moments, but Always is not a complicated movie—though in addition to being a romance, it also includes some surprising violence that may intensify your viewing experience. Still, Always is about the two leads’ struggle against fate as they try to survive their tough situations, with strong chemistry between the lead actors from start to finish.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Cho Seong-ha, Goo Seung-hyun, Han Hyo-joo, Jin Goo, Jung Jae-jin, Kang Shin-il, Kim Jung-hak, Kim Jung-pal, Kim Mi-kyeong, Kim Seon-hwa, Lee Chae-won, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Park Cheol-min, Park Chul-min, Park Seong-geun, So Ji-sub, Yeom Hye-ran

Director: Song Il-gon

Sometimes it's hard to relate to foreign movies because of the different cultures, languages and actors. But Miracle in Cell No. 7 transcended the language barriers for me and delivered one of the most touching stories I have ever seen. It's a Korean film about the intricate yet simple love story between a mentally challenged father and his daughter. When the father is wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit and is sent to prison, his personable character eventually causes the prisoners around him to help reunite him with his daughter in prison. Warning: many tissues will be needed.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Choi Ro-woon, Dal-su Oh, Gal So-won, Han Yi-jin, Im Jae-min, Jeong Man-sik, Jin-young Jung, Jo Deok-hyeon, Jo Jae-yoon, Jo Jae-yun, Jung Han-bi, Jung Hee-tae, Jung Jin-young, Jung Man-sik, Jung-tae Kim, Kal So-won, Kang Seung-wan, Kang Ye-seo, Kim Jung-tae, Kim Ki-cheon, Kim Ki-chun, Kim Se-dong, Kyul Hwi, Lee Seung-yeon, Lee Yoon-hee, Man-shik Jeong, Man-sik Jeong, No Kang-min, Oh Chang-kyung, Oh Dal-su, Park Gil-su, Park Kil-soo, Park Sang-myeon, Park Shin-hye, Park Won-sang, Ryu Seung-ryong, Seung-ryong Ryu, Shin-Hye Park, So Won Kal, Song Lee-woo, Won-sang Park, Yeo Moo-yeong, Yoon Sun-Woo

Director: Hwan-kyung Lee, Lee Hwan-kyung

Rating: N/A, Not Rated