17 Movies Like American Gangster (2007)

Staff & contributors
Directed by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is at times brutal—such is the famous Canadian director's trademark—and operates at a fever pitch of grim violence and revenge. Starring a tattooed, ruthless, and terrifying Viggo Mortensen as a very convincing Russian strong-arm gangster as well as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, it features intense psychological drama and a gritty crime story. Midwife Anna (Watts) delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian prostitute, who dies while giving birth, and later learns that she was forced into prostitution by the Mafia. To keep this knowledge from seeping out, she gets entangled deeper into London's criminal underbelly, whose various factions and languages are aptly showcased by Cronenberg. Add to all this a smart script and Mortensen's daring performance and you have yourself an intense auteur thriller in signature Cronenberg style.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandar Mikic, Aleksander Mikic, Alice Henley, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Papava, Donald Sumpter, Elisa Lasowski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Josef Altin, Mina E. Mina, Naomi Watts, Raza Jaffrey, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Sinead Cusack, Tamer Hassan, Tatiana Maslany, Tereza Srbová, Tony Cook, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

There are two auteur directors that we recommend more than anyone else on this site. One is Hirokazu Koreeda, the Japanese master of intricate drama, the other is Asghar Farhadi. Mr. Farhadi is an Oscar-winning, Iranian filmmaker and one of the most recognisable directors out there. His third film, Fireworks Wednesdays, paved the way for him to become one of the hidden champions of international cinema. As is often the case with the stories he tells, the film portrays the life of a couple in turmoil, Mozhdeh and Morteza Samiei, played by Hedye Tehrani and Hamid Farokhnezhad. She suspects him of cheating on her with their neighbor, a beautician, and sends the maid, a soon-to-be bride named Roohi, to the salon to spy on her. When Roohi takes matters in her own hands, the couple can't help but watch things spiraling out of control. This happens against the backdrop of Chaharshanbe Suri, an Iranian holiday celebrated with fireworks on the Wednesday before the Iranian New Year, hence the title. Will it make for an explosive ending? From what you have heard so far, this could easily be melodramatic, but Fahradi is too good. He's very, very good.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Behshad Sharifian, Hamid Farokhnezhad, Hamid Farrokhnejad, Hedie Tehrani, Hediyeh Tehrani, Houman Seyyedi, Pantea Bahram, Sahar Dolatshahi, Tarane Alidousti, Taraneh Alidoosti

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: Not Rated

You might have to wipe some sweat from your forehead once you've finished watching this blistering political thriller. It doesn't make any sense to us that this 2006 movie by documentary director Kevin Macdonald made less than 20 million in box office revenue when it came out, but that makes it even more A Good Movie to Watch material. In addition to being thrilling entertainment, it offers insight into an easily overlooked chapter of recent world history and taut moral dilemmas. The dramatization of Giles Foden's novel features two intense performances: James McAvoy plays the sometimes naive (and maybe a bit too enthralled by power) Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes the personal physician of none other than Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Nicknamed “The Butcher of Uganda”, Amin is played by Academy Award-winning character actor Forest Whitaker, who perfectly captures his mood-swinging, crazy brutality. He also completely nails his Ugandan-English accent. An amazing watch!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, David Oyelowo, Devon Diep, Dick Stockley, Forest Whitaker, Giles Foden, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Martina Amati, Sam Okelo, Simon McBurney, Stephen Rwangyezi

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Rating: R

Not only is this multi-award-winning drama seriously star-studded, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf also deliver superb performances. With two Sundance Awards and many other nominations in its pocket, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is based on the eponymous memoir by author, director, and musician, Dito Montiel, who recalls his violent childhood on the mean streets of Queens in the 1980s (LaBeouf plays the young Dito), as he visits his ailing father after 15 years away in Los Angeles (Downey Jr. plays present-day Dito). It is also real-life Dito's directorial debut, recalling the loose, improvisational style of 70s cinema a'la Scorcese. The powerful plot is told through flashbacks and fourth-wall bending monologues, while the eccentric directing style makes for a raw and immediate experience. The energy of this coming-of-age drama is off the charts!

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam Scarimbolo, Chance Kelly, Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Eléonore Hendricks, Eric Roberts, Federico Castelluccio, Gilbert Cruz, Jermel Wilson, Laila Liliana Garro, Martin Compston, Melonie Diaz, Olga Merediz, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Scott Michael Campbell, Shia LaBeouf

Director: Dito Montiel

Rating: R

Featuring a Pre-Bond Daniel Craig, Layer cake can be described as a mix between Lock Stock, Two Smoking Barrels and Scarface—a darkly funny and incredibly violent film. It features great acting from Craig and the rest of the cast, action that will keep you on the edge of your seat once it gets moving and a complex and deep theme that can make you reconsider your worldview. This is a true action movie for the thinking man (or woman).

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ben Brazier, Ben Whishaw, Brinley Green, Burn Gorman, Colm Meaney, Daniel Craig, Daniel Moorehead, Darren Healy, Darren Sean Enright, Dexter Fletcher, Dimitri Andreas, Don McCorkindale, Dragan Mićanović, Francis Magee, George Harris, Ivan Kaye, James Dodd, Jamie Foreman, Jason Flemyng, Kelly-Marie Kerr, Kenneth Cranham, Kerri Kravin, Louis Emerick, Marcel Iures, Matt Ryan, Matthew Vaughn, Michael Gambon, Nathalie Lunghi, Neil Finnighan, Nick Thomas-Webster, Peter Rnic, Rab Affleck, Sally Hawkins, Sienna Miller, Stephen Walters, Steve John Shepherd, Tamer Hassan, Tom Hardy

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Rating: R

There’s a vein of reality running through He Got Game that gives this Spike Lee joint a sense of pulsating immediacy. For one, the young basketball prodigy at its center is played by real-life pro Ray Allen, who shot the movie during the sport’s off-season period in 1997. The film also draws on a host of other ballers and ancillary figures — including coaches and commentators — to fully convince us of the hype around Jesus Shuttlesworth (Allen), a Coney Island high-schooler who’s been crowned America’s top college draft pick.

Lee takes this premise to much more interesting places than sports movies usually go. The plot is a melodrama of sorts, in which Jesus’ incarcerated father Jake (a top-tier Denzel Washington) must convince his son to declare for the governor’s alma mater in exchange for a reduced sentence. The pair are estranged — Jake is in prison for the death of Jesus’ mother — making this as much a tense examination of family and forgiveness as it is a sports movie. And what a sports movie it is: Lee makes his love of basketball not just abundantly clear but also infectious, opening the film on soaring, balletic images of the sport that suggest it’s no mere game, but something unifying, artistic, and ultimately salvatory.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Al Palagonia, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bill Nunn, Bill Walton, Charles Barkley, Chasey Lain, Denzel Washington, Dick Vitale, George Karl, Hill Harper, Jennifer Esposito, Jill Kelly, Jim Boeheim, Jim Brown, John Turturro, Joseph Lyle Taylor, Kim Director, Leonard Roberts, Lonette McKee, Michael Jordan, Milla Jovovich, Ned Beatty, Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Rick Fox, Robin Roberts, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ron Cephas Jones, Rosario Dawson, Roy Williams, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O'Neal, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Zelda Harris

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

Robert Ford is an aspiring gangster who idolizes Jesse James, leader of the notorious James gang. When that admiration reaches a level where it can transform to challenge and resentment, he starts considering the unthinkable. The cast is excellent- Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, and Garret Dillahunt. Brad Pitt delivers an amazing performance which truly captures the presence that Jesse James brought to a room, one that seemed to overcome those around him. In addition the soundtrack is superb, one of the most memorable I have ever heard. This is a very unique, thrilling, and well-shot movie, it is easily one of the most underrated films of the past 10 years.

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

Actor: Alison Elliott, Anthony Harrison, Brad Pitt, Brooklynn Proulx, Casey Affleck, Dustin Bollinger, Garret Dillahunt, Hugh Ross, James Carville, James Defelice, Jeremy Renner, Jesse Frechette, Joel McNichol, Kailin See, Laryssa Yanchak, Mary-Louise Parker, Matthew Walker, Michael Copeman, Michael J Rogers, Michael Parks, Nick Cave, Pat Healy, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell, Sam Shepard, Sarah Lind, Ted Levine, Tom Aldredge, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Andrew Dominik

Rating: R

A cracking cast including Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton elevate this dark and gripping Australian crime drama, which was received with glowing reviews from critics but was sadly forgotten with time.

Breakout star James Frecheville plays J, a teenager who goes to live with his grandmother, the head of a Melbourne crime organization. As the heat closes in and things go awry, J finds himself caught between his family and a detective who wants to save him.

Jacki Weaver is outstanding as the conniving grandma and the film put Ben Mendelsohn on the road to Hollywood stardom. Animal Kingdom is a superior crime saga with plenty of emotional depth to match the tense drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Andy McPhee, Anna Lise Phillips, Anthony Ahern, Anthony Hayes, Ben Mendelsohn, Ben Ouwehand, Bert LaBonté, Brenda Palmer, Bryce Lindemann, Chris Weir, Christina Azucena, Clayton Jacobson, Dan Wyllie, David Michôd, Dom Phelan, Guy Pearce, Jack Heanly, Jacki Weaver, Jacqueline Brennan, James Frecheville, James Saunders, Joel Edgerton, Josh Helman, Justin Rosniak, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Laura Wheelwright, Luke Ford, Michael Vice, Mirrah Foulkes, Paul Smits, Sullivan Stapleton, Susan Prior, Tim Phillipps

Director: David Michôd

Rating: R

Spike Lee’s adaptation of Richard Price’s novel might appear lesser next to his best work, but it still a gorgeous showcase for all of his talents as a director. Its case is further bolstered by a stacked cast including Delroy Lindo, Harvey Keitel, Mekhi Pfifer, Isaiah Washington, and John Turturro. 

Clockers is set in the world of small-time drug-dealers during the crack epidemic, and much like The Wire (which Price would go on to write for) applies a multifaceted lens to the material. Lee’s uncompromising and emphatic direction lends a gorgeous gravity to the taut drama while top-notch performances fuel the emotional furnace at its core.

 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Nocerino, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bray Poor, Brendan Kelly, Brian Konowal, Carlo Vogel, Christopher Wynkoop, David Batiste, Delroy Lindo, Elvis Nolasco, Frances Foster, Fredro Starr, Ginny Yang, Graham Brown, Hal Sherman, Harry Lennix, Harvey Keitel, Harvey Williams, Hassan Johnson, Isaiah Washington, J. C. MacKenzie, James Saxenmeyer, Jeff Ward, John Fletcher, John Turturro, Jordan Brown, Keith David, Ken Garito, L.B. Williams, Lawrence B. Adisa, Leonard L. Thomas, Lisa Arrindell, Lord Kayson, Marc Webster, Maurice Sneed, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Badalucco, Michael Cullen, Michael Imperioli, Michael McGruther, Mike Starr, Norman Matlock, Orran Farmer, Patrick Ferraro, Paul Calderon, Paul DuBois, Paul Schulze, Peewee Love, Regina Taylor, Richard Ziman, Rick Aiello, Ron Brice, Scot Anthony Robinson, Shawn McLean, Skipp Sudduth, Spike Lee, Steve White, Sticky Fingaz, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Tim Kelleher

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

The story of Antwone Fisher as told by Denzel Washington (in his directorial debut) may be a bit too straightforward for its own good, but it only proves the strength of his eye and ear for performance. In addition to turning in his own understated yet authoritative performance, Washington gets a powerhouse turn out of Derek Luke, who allows every new revelation about Fisher to strengthen every aspect of his work. What the film gets right about talking about mental health (that other movies get so wrong) is that it knows that providing an explanation for why someone is the way they are shouldn't be a dramatic climax. What Antwone Fisher emphasizes is healing, community, and the dignity of the person working through these issues.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Charles Robinson, Cory Hodges, De'Angelo Wilson, Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Earl Billings, Gary A. Jones, James Brolin, Joy Bryant, Kente Scott, Kevin Connolly, Kim Johnson, Leonard Earl Howze, Malcolm David Kelley, Novella Nelson, Rainoldo Gooding, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Stephen Snedden, Sung Kang, Vernee Watson-Johnson, Viola Davis, Yolonda Ross

Director: Denzel Washington

The title says it all: this is a story of love and basketball, one where the two intertwine and excitedly inform one another. Two childhood friends with a passion for ball develop deep feelings for one another. They have ambitions to go pro, but as Monica discovers how uneven the playing field really is for female athletes, and as Quincy grapples with his own needs and career, they reconsider their relationship both to each other and to the game they so love. 

Love & Basketball is a beautiful and sensitive movie that breaks stereotypes about Black love, which exists here as soft and nuanced as any other expertly drawn pairings in movies, and about Black women; Monica gets angry, but also vulnerable, hardworking, and loving. The sports component of the movie is just as finely detailed, with the energy of the matches bouncing off the screen walls. Clearly ahead of its time, Love & Basketball gets at the core of the game without losing sight of its talented players. 

 

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Al Foster, Alfre Woodard, Boris Kodjoe, Chick Hearn, Chris Warren, Christine Dunford, Debbi Morgan, Dennis Haysbert, Erika Ringor, Gabrielle Union, Glenndon Chatman, Harry Lennix, Kyla Pratt, Monica Calhoun, Naykia Harris, Omar Epps, Regina Hall, Sanaa Lathan, Tyra Banks

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Rating: PG-13

Though it's still very much a product of a time of certain jokes that haven't aged well, it's still remarkable how the humor and the satirical edge of this mockumentary has remained so current. As a very-low budget mockumentary of a still-young American hip hop scene, there's so much more effort that goes into these fake songs and music videos than you'd expect. But the film doesn't stop at simply poking fun at the rappers and hip hop artists of the era; the jokes always circle back around to the racism of the time and the self-seriousness of the culture in the music industry. It's a hilarious time capsule with some brutally incisive lines in practically every scene.

Genre: Comedy, Mockumentary, Music

Actor: Barry Shabaka Henley, Deezer D, Devin Kamin, Don Reed, Faizon Love, G. Smokey Campbell, Homeselle Joy, Kasi Lemmons, Larry B. Scott, LaVerne Anderson, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Monique Gabrielle, Penny Johnson Jerald, Rose Jackson, Rusty Cundieff

Director: Rusty Cundieff

There's an elephant lurking in the room from the outset of Biosphere, in which two men are the last survivors of an apocalypse: how will humanity live on? Best friends Billy (Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown) have only survived thanks to the ingenuity of Ray, who built the glass dome in which they live, insulated from whatever it is that’s keeping the sky perpetually black outside. But the dome’s protective glass increasingly needs patching up, and their last female fish (responsible for the continuation of their food supplies) has just died, setting their clocks ticking.

What happens next — to the remaining male fish and humans — is an astonishing evolution that speaks to the strangeness of nature, which will break its most rigid laws in pursuit of its ultimate goal: furthering the species. Biosphere undergoes a similar metamorphosis: while its zany twist (which we won’t spoil) seems to direct it towards gross-out bro-comedy territory, it transforms, surprisingly, into something more profoundly philosophical. Like the dome, Biosphere’s structure isn’t as solid as it could be — it often meanders — but, with its thoughtful meditations on gender, sexuality, and evolution in all its forms, it’s easy to forgive this quirky indie gem that flaw.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Mark Duplass, Sterling K. Brown

Director: Mel Eslyn

Philipp Seymour Hoffman stars in this family drama next to Laura Linney as siblings. They have to unite to support their father who after the death of his girlfriend finds himself alone. The Savages, after the family name, have dynamics that are all too common and easily recognizable. This is a beautiful and real movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cara Seymour, David Zayas, Debra Monk, Erica Berg, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Guy Boyd, Jennifer Lim, Joan Jaffe, Laura Linney, Maddie Corman, Margo Martindale, Michael Blackson, Peter Frechette, Peter Friedman, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosemary Murphy, Sage Kirkpatrick, Salem Ludwig, Sandra Daley, Sidné Anderson, Tonye Patano, Zoe Kazan

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Rating: R

The latest installment in Netflix'S “Unknown” docuseries, Unknown: Killer Robots puts the evolution of artificial intelligence under an ethical microscope. Although the title could be misleading, it does cover the possible dangerous applications of AI as it forces us to question the growing divide between human morality and machine efficiency. With advances in war and medicinal applications, the capabilities of AI to heal, save and destroy are terrifying and awe-inspiring in equal measure. Like the previous films in the series, it is hyper-concentrated to an almost-stifling degree, but it’s also powered by the passionate subjects on either side of these advancements. Forgoing sensationalism, this digestible documentary questions intention over the technology itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Jesse Sweet