13 Movies Like American History X

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

, 2003

From Korean director Park Chan-wook, who also brought you the far quieter The Handmaiden, comes a movie that is positively terrifying. Its premise alone is enough for any sentient human being to shudder. On his daughter's birthday, the good-for-nothing Oh Dae-su (played by Choic Min-sik) gets drunk and is arrested by the police. A friend eventually bails him out and, while he is making a phone call, Oh Dae-su disappears. Not knowing why, he is held in the same room for 15 years for no apparent reason. Until, one day, he is released. That's all that can be revealed about this winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004 without giving away too much. All we can add here is the way we recommend Oldboy to people admitting to not having seen it yet: “Watch Oldboy. You're welcome. We're sorry.” A crazy, twisted film that goes to extremes. A cult classic and a statement.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Byeong-ok Kim, Cho Sang-kyung, Choi Jae-sup, Choi Min-sik, Dae-han Ji, Dae-yeon Lee, Han Jae-duk, Heo Myeong-haeng, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji Dae-han, Ji-tae Yu, Jin-Seo Yoon, Jin-seo Yun, Kang Hye-jeong, Kang Hye-jung, Kim Byeong-Ok, Kim Byung-ok, Kim Su-hyun, Kim Yeong-ae, Kwang-rok Oh, Lee Dae-yeon, Lee Seung-shin, Lee Young-hee, Min-sik Choi, Oh Dal-su, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Oh Tae-kyung, Oh Young-joo, Park Jae-Woong, Park Myung-shin, Seo Myeong-Seok, Seung-Shin Lee, Syd Lim, Yoo Il-han, Yoo Ji-tae, Yoo Yeon-seok, Yoon Jin-seo, Yoon Jin-yul, You Il-han

Director: Chan-wook Park, Park Chan-wook

Rating: R

Ryan Gosling plays a Jewish Neo-Nazi in this extremely riveting window into the definition of inner conflict. It is a prime example of how character development should be done and it put Gosling on the map for me. He starts out as an exemplary student in Hebrew school until he starts questioning his teachings and exploring alternative ideologies, leading him to the neo-Nazi movement. Won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance

Genre: Drama

Actor: A.D. Miles, Billy Zane, Chuck Ardezzone, David Bailey, Dean Strober, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Elizabeth Reaser, Garret Dillahunt, Glenn Fitzgerald, Heather Goldenhersh, Henry Bean, Joel Garland, Joel Marsh Garland, Jordan Lage, Joshua Harto, Kris Eivers, Lucille Patton, Michael Marcus, Michael Port, Peter Meadows, Ronald Guttman, Ryan Gosling, Sascha Knopf, Sig Libowitz, Summer Phoenix, Theresa Russell, Tibor Feldman, Tommy Nohilly

Director: Henry Bean

Rating: R

As black a comedy as they come. Nick Naylor (superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesperson for tobacco and shows the world why smoking is as key to protect as any other liberal value. This movie is funny, smart, thoughtful and raises some good questions about the ego, the morale and what we leave behind, from unexpected sides.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Eckhart, Aaron Lustig, Adam Brody, Aloma Wright, Brian Palermo, Bruce French, Cameron Bright, Catherine Reitman, Christopher Buckley, Connie Ray, Courtney Taylor Burness, Dana E. Glauberman, Daniel Travis, David Koechner, David O. Sacks, Dennis Miller, Earl Billings, Elon Musk, Eric Haberman, Eva La Dare, J.K. Simmons, Jeff Witzke, Joan Lunden, Jordan Garrett, Katie Holmes, Kim Dickens, Marc Scizak, Maria Bello, Marianne Muellerleile, Mary Jo Smith, Melora Hardin, Michael Mantell, Nancy O'Dell, Rachel Thorp, Renée Graham, Richard Speight Jr., Rob Lowe, Robert Duvall, Robert Malina, Roy Jenkins, Sam Elliott, Sean Patrick Murphy, Spencer Garrett, Terry James, Timothy Dowling, Todd Louiso, William H. Macy

Director: Jason Reitman

Rating: R

On their drive back from a Tinder date that was only average, a couple are pulled over by a racist police officer. Things escalate unexpectedly and the couple, one of whom is a lawyer aware of the corruptedness of the system, start a life on the run together. This thrilling set-up mixing social commentary and romance is a movie that's actually many movies in one. And almost as if to cut in-between the different tonalities, there are so many quiet and beautiful shots of the couple: silent, still or dancing - these moments are true cinematic magic. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Andre De'Sean Shanks, Andy Dylan, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine, Brian Thornton, Bryant Tardy, Chloe Sevigny, Colby Boothman-Shepard, D.A. Obahor, Daniel Kaluuya, Dickson Obahor, Flea, Gayle King, Gralen Bryant Banks, Indya Moore, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Jodie Turner-Smith, Joseph Poliquin, Karen Kaia Livers, Lucky Johnson, Melanie Halfkenny, Reynolds Washam, Robert Walker Branchaud, Soledad O'Brien, Sturgill Simpson, Thom Gossom Jr.

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Rating: R

A foreign film on par with City of God, and carrying its heritage of naturalistic performances and raw stories. Sin Nombre will take you into a world filled with gut wrenching violence, heart-breaking loss, and non-stop suspense. And while definitely a tough watch, it reports the horrors of immigration with humane and sometimes hopeful outlook. The profound and epic redemption in this movie will leave you thinking about it for days.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Édgar Flores, Benny Emmanuel, Catalina López, Damayanti Quintanar, Diana García, Diana García, Edgar Flores, Felipe Castro, Gabino Rodríguez, Gerardo Taracena, Guillermo Villegas, Héctor Jiménez, Harold Torres, Héctor Jiménez, Juan Pablo Arias Barron, Karla Cecilia Alvarado, Kristian Ferrer, Kristyan Ferrer, Leonardo Alonso, Lilibeth Flores, Luis Fernando Peña, Luis Fernando Peña, Marcela Feregrino, Marcela Macias, Marco Antonio Aguirre, Noé Hernández, Paulina Gaitán, Paulina Gaitan, Tenoch Huerta, Tenoch Huerta Mejía

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: R

Nelly is a concentration camp survivor who undergoes reconstructive facial surgery, and comes back to question whether her husband (unable to recognize her) was the one who betrayed her to the Nazis. Heavy, heavy stuff. But in Phoenix you will also see something else, as the story takes you beyond the subject matter to become almost a celebration of film: elements of Hitchcockian cinema intertwine with the realism of the likes of David Ayer are added to perfect performances to create a stunning, compelling, and exceptional film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Claudia Geisler, Claudia Geisler-Bading, Daniela Holtz, Eva Bay, Felix Romer, Frank Seppeler, Imogen Kogge, Jeff Burrell, Kathrin Wehlisch, Kirsten Block, Max Hopp, Megan Gay, Michael Maertens, Michael Wenninger, Nikola Kastner, Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf, Ronald Zehrfeld, Stefan Will, Trystan Pütter, Trystan Putter, Uwe Preuss, Valerie Koch

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: PG-13

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Al-Hassan Ly, Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Ladj Ly

Rating: R

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality. The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling. Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aleksandros Memetaj, Alessandro Borghi, Alessio De Persio, Andrea Lattanzi, Andrea Mautone, Antonio Gargiulo, Aurora Casavecchia, Bernardo Casertano, Daniela Amato, Daniele Amendola, Dora Romano, Elisa Casavecchia, Elodie Treccani, Emanuele Cerman, Federico Tocci, Francesca Tomassoni, Gaetano Aronica, Giuseppe Ragone, Italo Amerighi, Jasmine Trinca, Marco Giuliani, Massimiliano Tortora, Mauro Conte, Max Tortora, Michele Botrugno, Milvia Marigliano, Orlando Cinque, Paolo D Bovani, Pietro Faiella, Roberta Sferzi, Roberto Galano, Rodolfo Bigotti, Stefano Miglio, Vincenzo Tanassi, Walter Nestola

Director: Alessio Cremonini

Rating: TV-MA

This realistic drama produced by the director of Toni Erdmann is about a group of German workers who are sent to the Bulgarian/Greek border to build a water pump.

Their arrogant leader harasses a local and flies a German flag, prompting a clash with the nearby village.

Unlike the reference of its title, Western doesn’t follow any format and is not interested in portraying violence. Instead, it’s a quiet look at how people handle social and cultural tensions.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Meinhard Neumann, Reinhardt Wetrek, Syuleyman Alilov Letifov

Director: Valeska Grisebach

Rating: Unrated

This difficult movie is about a seventeen-year-old from the U.S. underclass who has to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Autumn is creative, reserved, and quiet, but those are not qualities that her environment in rural Pennsylvania seems to value. On the opposite, she is surrounded by threats, including disturbing step-father and boss characters. 

Dangers escalate as Autumn decides to travel to New York to have an abortion. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is about unplanned pregnancies as much as it is about just how dangerous it is to be a teenage girl living in America.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amy Tribbey, Brian Altemus, Carolina Espiro, Christian Clements, David Buneta, Denise Pillott, Drew Seltzer, Eliazar Jimenez, Lizbeth MacKay, Mia Dillon, Ryan Eggold, Salem Murphy, Sam Dugger, Sharon Van Etten, Sidney Flanigan, Sipiwe Moyo, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Théodore Pellerin

Director: Eliza Hittman

Rating: PG-13

At first glance, one may think that Welcome to Leith is a well thought-out fictional thriller of people’s most unwarranted night terrors. But if you squint real hard, you will come to realize that it portrays a scary reality in which violence, fear, and isolation is prevalent and that it could happen to possibly any town with little to no effort. Nichols and Walker aim to capture this frightening message in hopes of bringing awareness, using white supremacist Craig Cobb’s attempt at taking over the small North Dakotan town to display objectivity in an otherwise touchy subject.

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Thriller

Actor: Craig Cobb

Director: Christopher K. Walker, Michael Beach Nichols

Rating: Not Rated

Renton (McGregor), a Scottish twenty-something junkie, must choose to clean up and get out, or continue following the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. Find out if he chooses life in this brutal yet entertaining Danny Boyle masterpiece. While definitely not for the faint of heart, Trainspotting still manages to be funny at times, and provides an overall very entertaining experience.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Annie Louise Ross, Billy Riddoch, Dale Winton, Eddie Nestor, Eileen Nicholas, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Finlay Welsh, Fiona Bell, Hugh Ross, Irvine Welsh, James Cosmo, Jonny Lee Miller, Kate Donnelly, Keith Allen, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin Allen, Kevin McKidd, Pauline Lynch, Peter Mullan, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Stuart McQuarrie, Susan Vidler, Victor Eadie

Director: Danny Boyle

Rating: R