13 Movies Like A Serious Man (2009)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching A Serious Man ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

This is an inexplicably and philosophically dark comedy.Its protagonist, Larry, is a lackluster professor at a dull university. Then his life starts to unravel: his wife decides to leave him for one of his more successful colleagues; his unemployed brother moves in to stay on his couch.So Larry ventures on a quest for meaning and clarity within his Jewish community.All Cohen Brothers fans will appreciate the movie's aesthetics and comedic strength. The protagonist’s struggle will resonate with anyone who has had a religious upbringing: guilt is a big theme here.I felt like I had to rewatch it to understand it. But I also enjoyed that weird sense of not understanding everything that's going on. Much like life itself.The film rightfully earned itself two nominations for the Oscars, including Best Picture.

A hot summer night, around 2 a.m. You're outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour.

In the case of this movie, you become the witness of five days of conversation spent between two fine writers: the once-in-a-generation American author David Foster Wallace and best-selling Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as they travel the US during the 1996 publicity tour for the former's magnum opus, Infinite Jest. Twelve years later Wallace will commit suicide.

Like a good podcast, the James-Ponsoldt-directed road movie makes you feel being part of a deeply personal conversation of the kind you would have with a long-time friend. At times, it can feel like eavesdropping on a genius at work. This effect is helped along by a flawless Jason Segal, who delivers an award-worthy performance as DFW. The fierce intelligence exuded by Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky is also nothing short of amazing. As they stuff their faces with junk food, their conversation is insightful, immediate, and unpretentiously relevant, making The End of the Tour a rare and important film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna Chlumsky, Becky Ann Baker, Dan John Miller, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Joan Cusack, Joel Thingvall, Johnny Otto, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Punnavith Koy, Ron Livingston, Ryan J. Gilmer, Stephanie Cotton

Director: James Ponsoldt

Rating: R

Koreeda is a master of the tender gaze. He deals so softly, elegantly, and emphatically with the characters in his films, it will make you feel like you're watching life itself in all its complex, emotional splendor. Maybe this is particularly true for this movie because it has been inspired by Koreeda's memories of his own childhood and the passing of his mother. Still Walking is a quietly toned movie spanning a period of 24 hours in the life of the Yokoyama family, as they gather to commemorate the passing of their eldest son. At the center of the story is the father, an emotionally distant man who commands respect both from his family and community. Opposite from him sits the other son, the black sheep, who seeks his father's validation. Directed, written, and edited by Koreeda, this dynamic is one of many in this slice-of-life movie about how families deal with loss. And, however distant the culture or setting in Japan may seem to the outsider, you're bound to recognize either yourself or your family among the tender scenes of this masterful drama.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Haruko Kato, Hiroshi Abe, Hotaru Nomoto, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Ryoga Hayashi, Shohei Tanaka, Susumu Terajima, Yoshio Harada, You, Yui Natsukawa

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Hirokazu Koreeda

Rating: Not Rated

Adam Sandler, though currently imminently marketable, incredibly played out and boring, used to be a real actor. This is the film by which his legacy will be judged, where we see the funnyman drop the mask and actually show real feelings besides bumbling rage. Sandler's hurt and confused performance is beautifully vulnerable and true and is complimented by P.T. Anderson's incomparable direction (the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood), creating a true masterpiece of American cinema. This beauty also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Adam Sandler, David H. Stevens, Don McManus, Emily Watson, Hazel Mailloux, Jason Andrews, Joji Yoshida, Jonathan Loughran, Karen Kilgariff, Larry Ring, Luis Guzman, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Nathan Stevens, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rico Bueno, Robert Smigel, Shelley Waggener

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Rating: R

There are three big reasons to watch Paddleton. The first two are Ray Romano and Mark Duplass, who play the two neighbors at the center of the story. And the third is Alexandre Lehmann, the director, who also is responsible for Blue Jay (on Netflix as well).

These two misfit neighbors find themselves together when one of them is diagnosed with cancer. They embark on a trip to the nearest pharmacy (a six-hour drive) which turns into an adventure.

This premise gives Paddleton a lot to play on: it’s a comedy, but it’s also a drama about a fatal disease. It’s a bromance, but it’s about a fragile friendship. All these contradictions make Paddleton a great slice-of-life movie. And again, both actors are amazing. Watching it just for them is worth it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alana Carithers, Alexandra Billings, Bjorn Johnson, Carlos A. Salazar, Christine Woods, Dendrie Taylor, Dylan Matlock, Ever Mainard, Hiroo Minami, Jack McGraw, Jen Sung, Kadeem Hardison, Marguerite Moreau, Mark Duplass, Matt Bush, Ray Romano, Sam Ly, Sierra Fisk, Stephen Oyoung, Yolanda Bolden

Director: Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann

Rating: TV-MA

A young girl is looking for her father while struggling to care for her family. The film is bleak and slow but great performances from the cast, especially the lead, will keep you engaged throughout. The story has a very real, raw, and natural feeling to it, so natural in fact that at times, you will forget it is a movie. And in many ways, it feels that Winter's Bone is to Jennifer Lawrence what The Believer was to Ryan Gosling, as her performance is nothing short of perfect.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Ashlee Thompson, Casey MacLaren, Cody Brown, Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Isaiah Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Lauren Sweetser, Ronnie Hall, Shelley Waggener, Sheryl Lee, Tate Taylor

Director: Debra Granik

Rating: R

The magic of this movie — and every other one directed by Aki Kaurismäki — is in the way it inspires so much hope despite the darkness of its subject. When a man (Markku Peltola) is beaten and robbed one night, he wakes up without any memory of who he is. Forced to start life all over again, he’s subjected to yet more cruelty at the hands of a greedy slum landlord and callous authorities, but finds sympathy and support from his equally downtrodden neighbors. Though the street thugs have emptied his wallet, the unquestioning generosity of the people around him suggests he’s now richer than he was at the film’s outset — as does the sweetly simple romance he strikes up with a lonely Salvation Army worker (Kati Outinen). 

Kaurismäki doesn’t just make films about the disenfranchised for the sake of it: he shows us how easy — and yet momentous — acts of human kindness and solidarity can be, how radical they are in a bleak world. It’s not often a movie can so persuasively reassure us of people’s inherent goodness, but it’s even rarer still for it to be done with as much deceptive, charming simplicity as here.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aarre Karén, Aino Seppo, Andrey Chernyshov, Anneli Sauli, Antti Reini, Elina Salo, Esko Nikkari, Janne Hyytiäinen, Juhani Niemelä, Kaija Pakarinen, Kati Outinen, Liisa Mustonen, Markku Pätilä, Markku Peltola, Olli Varja, Outi Mäenpää, Panu Vauhkonen, Pentti Auer, Pertti Sveholm, Sakari Kuosmanen, Silu Seppälä, Sulevi Peltola, Timo Linnasalo, Vesa Mäkelä

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

If it weren’t for his knack for writing, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) would never have gotten into a prep school like Rushmore. But his art secures him a scholarship, and what he lacks in smarts and money, he makes up for in school pride. As he flunks more and more of his academics, however, he is eventually kicked out, and it’s outside the halls of his beloved Rushmore, stripped of all titles and insignia, where he learns to be his true self.  

As the film’s comedic and emotional core, Schwartzman is a revelation as the ambitious and sharp-tongued Max. Equally captivating is Bill Murray’s deadpan but lovable turn as Max’s millionaire friend, Herman Blume. It’s a role so fitting, in fact, that the poor-rich-man character will follow Murray well into his career, long after the curtains close on Mr. Blume. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson will go on to do more colorful and stylized pictures than Rushmore, but thanks to its unbeatable wit and down-to-earth charm, the film remains to be one of the auteur’s most delightful and hilarious works to date. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Bledel, Andrew Wilson, Antoni Scarano, Bill Murray, Brandon Trost, Brian Cox, Brian Tenenbaum, Connie Nielsen, Dipak Pallana, Ed Geldart, Eric Chase Anderson, George Farish, Jason Schwartzman, Jason Trost, Kim Terry, Kumar Pallana, Lucille Sadikin, Luke Wilson, Marietta Marich, Mason Gamble, Morgan Redmond, Olivia Williams, Paul Schiff, Sara Tanaka, Seymour Cassel, Stephen Dignan, Stephen McCole, Wallace Wolodarsky

Director: Wes Anderson

The performance of a pot-bellied Joaquin Phoenix is nothing short of perfection. He brilliantly portrays a hitman down on his luck who happens to rescue a kidnapped teenage girl. It’s a tight movie, running a short 89 minutes. It makes a point that sticks. Pure entertainment, pure acting, and amazing directing by Lynne Ramsay (who also directed We Need to Talk About Kevin).

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Alex Manette, Christian Reeve, Claire Hsu, Cristina Dohmen, Dante Pereira-Olson, Edward Latham, Ekaterina Samsonov, Frank Pando, Jalina Mercado, Jason Babinsky, Joaquin Phoenix, John Doman, Jonathan Wilde, Judith Roberts, Kate Easton, Larry Canady, Leigh Dunham, Lucy Lan Luo, Madison Arnold, Novella Nelson, Oleg Ossayenko, Ronan Summers, Rose De Vera, Ryan Martin Brown, Scott Price, Sophie Piedras, Vinicius Damasceno

Director: Lynne Ramsay

Rating: R

When categorizing Lars von Trier's oeuvre, critics speak of a "Depression Trilogy" bookended by Antichrist and Nymphomaniac, but Melancholia is the one that really embodies the concepts and worries nested at the heart of this project. The Danish director may be known for his provocative approach to filmmaking and disregard of taboos, but with this film, he makes room for vulnerability. On the character of Justine (Dunst) he places the weight of the world, only after allowing her to be weak, small, and socially unacceptable at her own wedding celebration. A rather subversive decision, but vesting these expectations in someone as wide-ranging as Kirsten Dunst assures an absolute win, even if there remain some questionable characteristics that align too well with abstract male fantasies of what a woman in distress would look like.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Christian Geisnæs, Jesper Christensen, John Hurt, Katrine A. Sahlstrøm, Kiefer Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

Inside Llewyn Davis tells the interesting and captivating story of a young, struggling singer navigating through the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. The movie conveys all sorts of emotions, thanks to Coen brothers’ stroke of genius: it is strange, funny, dramatic and satisfying at the same time. Not to mention, the ensemble cast is superb, and the music is absolutely great. It is the kind of movie that will put an unfamiliar yet wondrous feeling into you as you live through Llewyn Davis' eyes and feel his pain.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Benjamin Pike, Bonnie Rose, Bradley Mott, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Booker, Declan Bennett, Diane Findlay, Ethan Phillips, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Ridley, Garrett Hedlund, Helen Hong, Ian Blackman, Ian Jarvis, Jack O'Connell, Jake Ryan, James Colby, Jeanine Serralles, Jerry Grayson, John Ahlin, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Marcus Mumford, Max Casella, Mike Houston, Oscar Isaac, Ricardo Cordero, Roberto Lopez, Robin Bartlett, Sam Haft, Stark Sands, Stephen Payne, Steve Routman, Susan Blommaert, Sylvia Kauders

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Rating: R

I Saw the Devil is a South Korean psychological thriller/horror film. IT IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!!! It has a lot of blood and gore that could make even the strongest stomachs turn. A young woman is kidnapped from her car while waiting for a tow truck and the kidnapper murders her far from her car and scatters her body parts around. Her fiancé, a secret service agent of the National Intelligence Service, sets out to track down her murders and exact his revenge. If you're looking for a thrill ride, look no further- but don't say we didn't warn you.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byung-hun Lee, Cheon Ho-jin, Choi Jin-ho, Choi Min-sik, Choi Moo-seong, Choi Moo-sung, Gook-hwan Jeon, Han Se-joo, Ho-jin Cheon, Ho-jin Chun, In-seo Kim, Jeon Kuk-hwan, Jo Deok-jae, Jo Myeong-yeon, Kim Dae-hye, Kim Gab-soo, Kim In-seo, Kim Jae-Geon, Kim Kang-il, Kim Kap-soo, Kim Yoon-seo, Lee Byung-hun, Lee Jun-hyuk, Lee Seol-gu, Lee Seol‑gu, Min-sik Choi, Moo-Seong Choi, Nam Bo-ra, Oh San-ha, Park Jeong-gi, Park Ji-yeon, Park Seo-Yeon, San-ha Oh, Seol Chang-hee, Son Young-soon, Uhm Tae-goo, Um Tae-goo, Yoon Byung-hee, Yoon Chae-yeong, Yoon-seo Kim

Director: Jee-Woon Kim, Kim Jee-woon

Rating: Not Rated

This emotionally rich biopic spans Reinaldo Arena’s lifetime, from his childhood and early embrace of the Cuban Revolution to his deportation via the notorious 1980 Mariel boatlift, and subsequent death in the United States. The story of Arenas’ life is told through using his own words, over director Julian Schabel's beautifully crafted images. In his first-ever English-speaking role, Javier Bardem renders a strong dramatic performance for which he deservedly received wide acclaim. Before Night Falls is a finely crafted portrait of a creative yet self-destructive poet who has to face the clash between his identity and the political environment surrounding him.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abel Woolrich, Alfredo Villa, Andrea Di Stefano, Antonio Zavala Kugler, Batan Silva, Carmen Beato, Claudette Maillé, Diahnne Abbott, Diahnne Déa, Diego Luna, Eduardo Arroyuelo, Ewa Piaskowska, Filiberto Estrella, Francisco Gattorno, Giovani Florido, Héctor Babenco, Javier Bardem, Jerzy Skolimowski, John Ortiz, Johnny Depp, Jorge Zárate, Jorge Zepeda, Julian Bucio, Khotan Fernández, Lia Chapman, Lola Schnabel, Loló Navarro, Manolo García, Mario Oliver, Marisol Padilla Sánchez, Matthias Ehrenberg, Maurice Compte, Michael Wincott, Najwa Nimri, Ofelia Medina, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, Olivier Martinez, Patricia Reyes Spíndola, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., René Pereyra, Rene Rivera, Santiago Magill, Sean Penn, Stella Schnabel, Vincent Laresca, Vito Schnabel, Zulema Cruz

Director: Julian Schnabel

Following is the first movie Christopher Nolan ever directed, a mesmerizing low-budget effort that introduced the world to the genius who will later give us Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, and many other classics. Shot in "extreme" conditions to quote Nolan himself, for just over £3000, it had to be filmed in the span of a year on Saturdays only and in friends' houses. But almost none of that is visible in the sharp camera work, the magnificent acting (most of it was first or second takes), and the twisted script. It tells the story of an unsuccessful writer (The Young Man) who tries to find inspiration in following random people in the street, and doing it via strict rules. One day he follows a man in a suit (Cobb), who catches him and becomes intrigued by him. It turns out that Cobb has his own fascination with people's intimate lives, of criminal nature, which he lets The Young Man into. Using the same non-linear plot technique as in Memento, this movie is halfway between a thriller and a film noir. The inspiration for it came when Nolan's own apartment in London was robbed, and he was fascinated by the act of strangers going through his personal items. If you take into consideration the conditions of its making, this movie is a masterpiece.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Haw, Barbara Stepansky, David Julyan, Dick Bradsell, Emma Thomas, Gillian El-Kadi, Jennifer Angel, Jeremy Theobald, John Nolan, Lucy Russell, Nicolas Carlotti, Paul Mason, Rebecca James

Director: Christopher Nolan

Rating: R