9 Movies Like An American Pickle (2020)

Staff & contributors

What starts out as as a summer camp of teenage boys not taking anything seriously grows into a rousing portrait of their hopes and dreams for the future. You wouldn't expect a documentary like this—shot like a reality TV show—to carry so much weight, but Boys State knows how to unearth the values that drive each of its incredibly well-rounded characters. So by the time these young men have assembled their mock governments and are casting their votes, it feels like the spirit of an entire generation is on the line. This is powerful, entertaining, and ultimately tear-jerking filmmaking that shows us how much work we still have to do and how much hope there still is.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Family

Director: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

If you’ve seen his stand-up, you’ll know that Pete Davidson likes to make fun of himself. But it’s also true that Davidson is honest. He speaks openly about his childhood traumas and mental health struggles, and this film about his life is no different than his live performances. It's darkly funny and deeply personal, this time plumbing new depths of his life with the help of director (and patron saint of comedians) Judd Apatow. 

Here, Apatow allows Davidson to hell his story in his own irreverent flavor, all while boosting him with directorial flair and his trademark balance of humor and humanity. A triumphant collaboration between Apatow and Davidson, King of Staten Island is rich with nuanced performances and relatable insights into the life of someone slowly but surely healing from pain and coming into his own. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Action Bronson, Adam Keane, Alexis Rae Forlenza, Angus Costello, Anthony Lee Medina, Bel Powley, Bill Burr, Bonnie McFarlane, Carly Aquilino, David S. Lomax, Derek Gaines, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gina Jun, Hank Strong, Jack Hamblin, Jessica Kirson, Jimmy Tatro, Keith Robinson, Ken Holmes, Kevin Corrigan, Laurence Blum, Lilly Brown, Liza Treyger, Lou Wilson, Luke David Blumm, Lynne Koplitz, Machine Gun Kelly, Marilyn Torres, Mario Polit, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Melania Zalipsky, Meredith Handerhan, Michelle Sohn, Mike Vecchione, Moises Arias, Nana Mensah, Nils Johnson, Nina Hellman, Nyla Durdin, Pamela Adlon, Pauline Chalamet, Pete Davidson, Rafael Poueriet, Rich Vos, Ricky Velez, Robert Smigel, Steve Buscemi, Teodorina Bello

Director: Judd Apatow

Rating: R

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Don MacEllis, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mike Wood, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

, 2008

The 2008 film Doubt offers a haunting peek into the crisis of pedophilia within the Catholic church. Featuring an all-star cast of Amy Adams,  Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, it is more than just a fictional tale. With performances that will make you question your intuition and cast a shadow of doubt on your own instincts, Doubt is a difficult film to grapple with. 

I fell in love with this film very early on into the duration of it because it was so honest and it allowed the characters to navigate the nature of their suspicions. With Doubt, however, comes denial, and Viola Davis’s eight-minute monologue is simply smeared with it. Doubt is a fantastic story that has left me stunned for over a decade. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Alannah Iacovano, Alice Drummond, Amy Adams, Audrie Neenan, Bernadette Lords, Brian Hopson, Bridget Megan Clark, Carrie Preston, Evan Lewis, Felicia Tassone, Frank Dolce, George Aloi, Gerard Adimando, Helen Stenborg, Jack O'Connell, Jackie Brown, James P. Anderson, Jennifer Lauren DiBella, Jenny Paul, John Costelloe, Jonathan Castillo, Lydia Jordan, Margery Beddow, Marylouise Burke, Matthew Marvin, Meryl Streep, Michael Puzzo, Mike Roukis, Molly Chiffer, Paulie Litt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Seth Donavan, Steph Van Vlack, Susan Blommaert, Suzanne Hevner, Tom Toner, Valda Setterfield, Viola Davis

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Rating: PG-13

This artistic Australian coming-of-age drama stars Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects) as Milla, a teen from a dysfunctional family. The father is a psychologist and the mother suffers from depression, so he medicates her under the table. Meanwhile, Milla, a 16 year old, starts dating a charismatic almost-homeless 24 year old drug dealer. Unusual circumstances make the family tolerate the relationship in this story where every character feels like the main one. 

If you're looking for something different, you will love Babyteeth. Something happens to Milla in the 10 minute mark that descriptions and reviews online all mention - but is definitely a spoiler. Just know that it's not all romance and coming-of-age, there is slow-burning darkness to this movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrea Demetriades, Arka Das, Ben Mendelsohn, Charles Grounds, Eliza Scanlen, Emily Barclay, Essie Davis, Eugene Gilfedder, Georgina Symes, Jaga Yap, Justin Smith, Michelle Lotters, Priscilla Doueihy, Quentin Yung, Renee Billing, Toby Wallace, Zack Grech

Director: Shannon Murphy

Rating: MA-17, Not Rated

Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck star in this comedy-drama as a small-town couple, one of whom gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their best friend (Jason Segel) puts his life on hold and moves in with them, picking up the husband when he faints at the hospital, shaving his head in solidarity with the wife, and even taking care of the dog who also gets sick.

It might seem like just another terminal illness drama, but Our Friend is based on a true story, and it’s as much about the illness as it is about how to be there for people, and reversely, the power of people being there for you.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ahna O'Reilly, Azita Ghanizada, Casey Affleck, Chandler Head, Cherry Jones, Dakota Johnson, Denée Benton, Gerald Brodin, Gwendoline Christie, Hali Everette, Isabella Kai, Jacinte Blankenship, Jake Owen, Jason Bayle, Jason Segel, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Jeronimo Spinx, John McConnell, Lindsey Reimann, Marielle Scott, Mark Costello, Michael Papajohn, Mike Lutz, Paige King, Reed Diamond, Richard Speight Jr., Ritchie Montgomery, Sampley Barinaga, Susan Williams, T.C. Matherne, Violet McGraw

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite

The Weight of Gold is an extremely impactful insight into what goes through the mind of the highest performing athletes in the world, and focuses how their governing body (the US Olympic Committee) disregards care about their mental health. While it could benefit from going even deeper at times, it does benefit from having some narrative surprises in store—rarely seen in a documentary of this nature. When you least expect it, that gut-punch of a reveal at the end will truly shock and sadden viewers, and will leave one thinking about the film for ages to come.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Apolo Ohno, Bode Miller, Lolo Jones, Michael Phelps, Sasha Cohen, Shaun White

Director: Brett Rapkin

Rating: TV-MA

Watch this if you like weird movies. And don't be fooled by the first half, which serves just to set Jesse Eisenberg's character and the monotone life he leads. It's the calm before the storm, during which that character is attacked by a violent gang and decides to take self-defense classes in an unusual club. This is a movie about modern manhood and how it can lead to some pretty strange situations. Great performance from Eisenberg as usual.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Apollo Bacala, Caroline Amiguet, Dallas Edwards, Davey Johnson, David Zellner, Frederic Spitz, Hauke Bahr, Imogen Poots, Jason Burkey, Jesse Eisenberg, Josh Fadem, Katherine Smith-Rodden, Leland Orser, Lena Friedrich, Louis Robert Thompson, Mike Brooks, Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada

Director: Riley Stearns

Rating: R

The disturbing conceit of a housewife swallowing inanimate objects may push some away, but those that can stomach it will find a searing exploration of patriarchal control over women’s bodies - an issue more relevant than ever in the US, as anti-choice zealots push closer to overturning abortion rights nationwide. 

An odd twist towards the end, and a tone-deaf bit about a Syrian refugee, make the film uneven. But, the edge of the seat suspense, sumptuously colorful cinematography, and Haley Bennet’s resonant performance make this worth seeing nonetheless. 

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alyssa Bresnahan, Austin Stowell, Babak Tafti, David Rasche, Denis O'Hare, Elise Santora, Elizabeth Marvel, Haley Bennett, Kristi Kirk, Laith Nakli, Lauren Vélez, Luna Lauren Velez, Maya Days, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Nicole Kang, Olivia Perez, Zabryna Guevara

Director: Carlo Mirabella-Davis

Rating: R