9 Movies Like Army of the Dead (2021)

Staff & contributors

One of the most thrilling biographical films to come out of Hollywood in the 2020s, Shaka King's exhilarating take on a truly remarkable leader within the Black Panther Party—and the young man who would eventually be twisted into betraying him—also provides a respectful, honest space to voice out progressive views that still aren't fully embraced in the United States. Much of the film is made up of beautiful, powerful rhetoric, contrasting in fascinating ways with scenes of violence or deception that only remind us how ahead-of-his-time chairman Fred Hampton was and still is. And in a thunderous, Oscar-winning performance, Daniel Kaluuya brings all of Hampton's words roaring to life while still reminding us of how tragically young this inspirational figure was at the time of his death.

But Judas and the Black Messiah tells an equally powerful second story over this one: that of FBI informant William O'Neal who reluctantly agrees to sell Hampton to the feds, and quickly realizes that he's been scammed too. Rivaling—and, arguably, besting—Kaluuya's performance is LaKeith Stanfield, whose tortured and increasingly despairing performance as O'Neal is the stuff of pure Shakespearean drama. Together, both stories ask us what real freedom looks like, and that we believe we can still fight for it.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Algee Smith, Amari Cheatom, Amber Chardae Robinson, Ashton Sanders, Caleb Eberhardt, Chris Hahn, Daniel Kaluuya, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Dominique Fishback, Dominique Thorne, Graham Lutes, Ian Duff, James Udom, Jermaine Fowler, Jesse Plemons, Khris Davis, Lakeith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Martin Sheen, Nick Fink, Robert Longstreet, Terayle Hill

Director: Shaka King

Following a group of journalists uncovering an entire architecture of institutional corruption in Romania, Collective makes for an inspiring watch—not just because these people are pursuing a story outside their usual wheelhouse, but because their enemy really is so much greater than they can handle. Yet they continue chipping away, never once backing down from speaking truth to power. Director Alexander Nanau understandably might not have much access to the government's side, but he still manages to portray them as an ever-present, omnipotent invisible force, giving the film a thick atmosphere of dread and paranoia. But still, in the face of such overwhelming odds, the best thing to do is refuse to be scared into silence.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Tedy Ursuleanu

Director: Alexander Nanau

Rating: Not Rated

Director Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) reunites with Mads Mikkelsen to tell the story of four teachers going through a mid-life crisis. They’re not sad, exactly—they have homes and jobs and are good friends with each other—but they’re not happy either. Unlike the ebullient youth they teach, they seem to have lost their lust for life, and it’s silently eating away at them, rendering them glassy-eyed and mechanic in their everyday lives. 

Enter an experiment: what if, as one scholar suggests, humans were meant to fulfill a certain alcohol concentration in order to live as fully and present as possible? The teachers use themselves as the subjects and the tide slowly starts to turn to mixed effects. Are they actually getting better or worse?

With an always-satisfying performance by Mikkelsen and an instant classic of an ender, it’s no surprise Another Round took home the award for Best Foreign Film in the 2020 Academy Awards.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Christiane Gjellerup Koch, Diêm Camille G., Dorte Højsted, Frederik Winther Rasmussen, Helene Reingaard Neumann, Lars Ranthe, Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Millang, Magnus Sjørup, Maria Bonnevie, Martin Greis-Rosenthal, Mercedes Claro Schelin, Michael Asmussen, Morten Thunbo, Niels Jørgensen, Per Otto Bersang Rasmussen, Silas Cornelius Van, Susse Wold, Thomas Bo Larsen

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Rating: 0, Not Rated

Who among us hasn’t committed a white lie to save a relationship? And who among us hasn’t yearned for the full and brutal truth? In You Hurt My Feelings, Nicole Holofcener digs into that paradox and delivers a film that is honest and funny in equal measure. Here, the writer-director doesn't just use a hilarious situation to make relatable observations and clever witticisms; she also extracts the nuances of it. She is aware, for instance, that her well-to-do characters exist in a world where it’s possible to only care about this, and not much else. And she likewise knows that Beth's (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Don's (Tobias Menzies) trust issues are complicated by their age and respective mid-life career troubles. But rather than stay stuck in the specificity of those details, Holofcener uses her perceptive script to highlight the relatable and the universal. These characters hurt just the same—they're plagued with the same insecurities and seek the same validation—and they express that hurt in the petty and unvarnished language everyone else does. Watching all this come to play is a comforting delight.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amber Tamblyn, Arian Moayed, Clara Wong, Claudia Robinson, David Cross, Deniz Akdeniz, Doug Moe, Jeannie Berlin, John Sousa, Josh Pais, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kenneth Tigar, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, Rebecca Henderson, Sarah Steele, Sue Jean Kim, Sunita Mani, Tobias Menzies, Walter Brandes, Zach Cherry

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Rating: R

With a script that seems to have been written for a medieval fantasy, but set in a present-day Ivorian jail, Night of the Kings immediately situates itself between the realms of reality and imagination. Whether or not one thinks that certain details about the prison's strange rituals have been lost in translation, the mysticism surrounding the events of the movie remains impossible to shake. The idea of improvising one's way out of trouble should make sense in any cultural context after all, and this is what keeps the film on edge—and what helps Night of the Kings work as such a singular vision from an often underrepresented region of world cinema.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Denis Lavant, Digbeu Jean Cyrille, Issaka Sawadogo, Koné Bakary, Rasmané Ouédraogo, Simon Rieber, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Philippe Lacôte

Animated in every sense of the word, The Mitchells vs. the Machines is a fun and lively watch for anyone of any age. On the surface, it’s about a tech company’s AI going haywire as it turns against humans and takes over the world (an obvious and much-deserved dig at Big Tech). It also immediately stands out as an energetic and inventive film bursting with love for the animation genre.

But at its core, it's about family and learning to love them even and especially when the going gets tough. Teenager Katie and her father Rick are at that precarious moment in their relationship where everything they do seems to annoy the other, while Katie's mother Linda tries and fails and tries again to keep the peace. The Mitchells are filled with love, but they’re not quite sure how to express it to each other, and it's both funny and relatable how it takes a literal apocalypse for them to realize that. This is a family story elevated by dynamic animation and a bizarro storyline. Expect it to go off the rails in the best possible way.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abbi Jacobson, Adam Wylie, Alex Hirsch, Alison Rich, Andrew Morgado, Ashley Peldon, Beck Bennett, Blake Griffin, Caitlin McKenna, Charlyne Yi, Chrissy Teigen, Conan O'Brien, Danny McBride, Doug Nicholas, Elle Mills, Eric André, Fred Armisen, Greg Levitan, Grey DeLisle, Griffin McElroy, Illya Owens, Jay Pharoah, Jeff Rowe, Jim Pirri, John Legend, Juan Pacheco, Justin Shenkarow, Lex Lang, Lisa Wilhoit, Madeleine McGraw, Maya Rudolph, Melissa Sturm, Michael Rianda, Michelle Ruff, Mike Rianda, Natalia del Riego, Natalie Canizares, Olivia Colman, Sasheer Zamata, Shane Sweet, Todd Hansen, Will Allegra, Zeno Robinson

Director: Jeff Rowe, Michael Rianda, Mike Rianda

Rating: PG

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!

Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.

This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Chelsea Edmundson, Chris Doubek, Frank Mosley, István Mihály, Jacqueline Doke, Jim Cummings, Jocelyn DeBoer, Jordan Ray Fox, Kendal Farr, Macon Blair, Marshall Allman, Nican Robinson, Tristan Riggs

Director: Jim Cummings

Rating: N/A

In The Kid Detective, Adam Brody stars as Abe Applebaum, a once-beloved child prodigy turned pathetic P.I. stuck in the glory days of his past. At 32 years old, he’s still solving petty mysteries and coasting on his parents’ money, but things start to change when he is finally dealt with a real, adult case: a murder that confounds even the local police. As Abe uncovers more details about the case, he also unwittingly finds a connection to his traumatic past and begins a long-overdue coming-of-age journey. 

Released during the first year of the pandemic, The Kid Detective understandably flew under the radar when it first came out, garnering sufficient critical praise but not enough fanfare. It will no doubt find a second life among film lovers, though; it’s too smart and riveting to go unnoticed. Most impressive is how director Evan Morgan, in his feature debut, deftly balances multiple genres in a movie that often feels as if Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, Roman Polanski's Chinatown, and modern stoner humor were somehow rolled into one. The gags consistently amuse, the drawn-out mysteries pay off, and the human element persists throughout. Adam Brody, himself a kid celebrity back in the day, expertly carries this delightful and sobering film. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Adam Brody, Alan Catlin, Alicia Brand, Amalia Williamson, Avery Esteves, Barbara Rajnovich, Bethanie Ho, Brent Skagford, Bruce McFee, Dallas Edwards, David Rosser, Deborah Tennant, Devin Myler, Giovanna Moore, Isaac Kragten, Jake Bell-Webster, Jesse Noah Gruman, Jonathan Whittaker, Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato, Kaleb Horn, Kevin Hoffman, Kira Gelineau, Lisa Truong, Marcia Bennett, Marcus Zane, Marlaina Andre, Maurice Dean Wint, Peter MacNeill, Sarah Sutherland, Sharon Crandall, Sophia Webster, Sophie Nélisse, Sophie Nélisse, Steve Gagne, Tracy Rowland, Tyler Duke, Tzi Ma, Wayne St-George, Wendy Crewson

Director: Evan Morgan

Rating: R

The only Kundera film adaptation frankly hasn’t disproven that the source novel is unfilmable, but The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a pretty decent attempt. While Kundera’s meditations aren’t tackled in full depth, director Philip Kaufman manages to retain enough of the novel’s images to rein in the unwieldy plot, such as Sabina with the mirror, Tereza’s nightmare of naked women, their photography around Sabina’s studio and the black-and-white moment of Prague Spring, where editor Walter Murch adeptly inserts Tereza and Tomas within the historical footage. These images, along with the excellent cast, keep the wistful feeling that haunts Kundera’s novel.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Anne Lonnberg, Bruce Myers, Clovis Cornillac, Consuelo De Haviland, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Olbrychski, Derek de Lint, Donald Moffat, Erland Josephson, Jacques Ciron, Juliette Binoche, László Szabó, Lena Olin, Leon Lissek, Pavel Landovský, Pavel Slabý, Stellan Skarsgård, Tomasz Borkowy, Vladimír Valenta

Director: Philip Kaufman

Rating: R