9 Movies Like Avatar: Creating the World of Pandora (2010)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Avatar: Creating the World of Pandora ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

A harrowing family loss sets off a poetic exploration of grief in this experimental film from Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Miryam Charles. The focus of the movie is Charles’ own cousin, who was found murdered in her Connecticut bedroom in 2008. Rather than let her cousin’s life remain frozen at that point in time, Charles unmoors her film from the cold realities of time and space to suggest new perspectives on the girl’s past and imagine a future that never came. While events like the family’s decision to move to the US are recast as portends of tragedy, there’s also deep generosity in the movie’s ghost story — such as the joyous scenes it depicts from a mother-daughter trip to the family’s home country of Haiti, a trip that never actually took place.

It’s not always easy to discern where or when we’re at in its liberal toggling between time and space, but once Cette Maison establishes its unconventional visual language, everything comes into poignant focus. Given the reality on which it’s based, this is undoubtedly a heartbreaking watch, but the way Charles’ movie evokes the ability of imagination to both deepen and assuage the pain of grief is nothing short of revelatory.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Ève Duranceau, Nadine Jean

Director: Miryam Charles

In 2017, the New York Times published a groundbreaking report by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that detailed, for the first time, Harvey Weinstein’s atrocious history of sexual abuse. The New Yorker would release Ronan Farrow’s report five days after, prompting multiple survivors to share their own stories—and the rest, as you know, is history. Following Kantor and Twohey (played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, respectively), She Said sheds light on how this pivotal moment in the establishment of the #MeToo movement came to be.

Based on Kantor and Twohey’s book of the same name, the film reveals the specific journalistic processes involved in writing this expose—a seemingly impossible feat, considering Weinstein’s hold over multiple industries, including the press. Because it’s a newsroom drama, there’s a lot of talking, but there’s also a lot of listening. Gripping, empathetic, and (even now) necessary, She Said makes for a thrilling watch.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Adam Shapiro, Alex Hurt, Anastasia Barzee, Andre Braugher, Angela Yeoh, Ashley Judd, Carey Mulligan, Celia Au, Dalya Knapp, Davram Stiefler, Elle Graham, Frank Wood, Gregg Edelman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harvey Friedman, Hilary Greer, Jennifer Ehle, John Mazurek, Judith Godrèche, Katherine Kendall, Keilly McQuail, Lola Petticrew, Makia Martin, Marceline Hugot, Mike Houston, Molly Windsor, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Friedman, Roxanna Hope, Ruby Thomas, Safia Oakley-Green, Samantha Morton, Seán Cullen, Shirley Rumierk, Tom Pelphrey, Traci Wolfe, Zabryna Guevara, Zach Grenier, Zoe Kazan

Director: Maria Schrader

Rating: R

Just like with his mentor and contemporary, Fred Rogers, there are no dark secrets to Ernest Coombs' earnest belief in giving children the space to be gentle and creative. Even with relatively little "drama" throughout the life of the man called Mr. Dressup, it's still profoundly moving to see him put in the work to make the world a kinder place. Director Robert McCallum keeps this documentary exactly as straightforward as it needs to be, moving through Coombs's life with total reverence but plenty of modesty—making sure not to inflate the idea of Mr. Dressup into something Coombs himself would have disagreed with.

In its act of honoring this person with an everyman personality and a trunk full of quaint costumes, the film also serves as a tribute to low budget educational television. Working within a very small studio, with simple puppets and no strict script to follow, Coombs and his friends found any way possible to stick to their original idea of teaching very young kids that being kind and communicating one's feelings clearly were the best things one could achieve. Behind Mr. Dressup's softness is a remarkable work ethic, a deep respect for children, and a commitment to thoughtful, universal values.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Andrew Phung, Bif Naked, Bruce McCulloch, Catherine Tait, Ed Robertson, Eric McCormack, Ernie Coombs, Fred Penner, Fred Rogers, Graham Greene, Jim Creeggan, Jim Parker, Jonathan Torrens, Judith Lawrence, Kevin Hearn, Lynn Coombs, Michael J. Fox, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Peter Mansbridge, Scott Thompson, Terry McManus, Trina McQueen, Tyler Stewart, Yannick Bisson

Director: Robert McCallum

By retelling a vital chapter of the civil rights movement from the perspective of an entire community—and not just through individual prominent figures—Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power emphasizes the need for collective action, and what it really means to fight for equal rights. And through highly articulate interviewees who've all maintained a clear, analytical understanding of the different philosophies driving the movement forward, the documentary also becomes uncommonly optimistic, energetic, and good-humored about this continuing fight. This is history not as an artifact but as a living thing, still present in the everyday and still great fun to learn about.

Genre: Documentary, History

Director: Geeta Gandbhir, Sam Pollard

Alexandra, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, has been working as an documentary filmmaker for HBO for more than 20 years now and the theme of her newest work does not surprise. Turning the camera on several Jan Sixers, she asks them about that day, and whether their belief in Trump and the conservatives has changed following their jail time. Her way of being in the film, though, is very present: physically and with her voice. Pelosi places herself not just as an interviewer, but as an interlocutor, probing their statements and more often than not exclaiming "You still believe in X?!" in one way or another. The Insurrectionist Next Door is colloquial, it's comedic tragedy with a hope to bridge the gap between two opposing political beliefs: a synecdoche for America as a whole.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Alexandra Pelosi

Rating: PG-13

Nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. On the day before Hurricane Katrina, a young aspiring rap singer in the 9th Ward turns her new video camera on herself and her neighbors. She keeps shooting as the water rises, neighbors struggle to rescue each other, people panic and flee. Weeks later she returns to her neighborhood and records the death and decay left behind. Raw and real, worth watching.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: George W. Bush, Julie Chen, Julie Chen Moonves, Michael Brown, Ray Nagin, Shepard Smith

Director: Carl Deal, Tia Lessin.

Rating: Unrated

How much do you know about what’s inside the skincare and cosmetic products you use? This is one of the main questions Toxic Beauty addresses. The award-winning documentary features a series of powerful and insightful voices, including Deane Berg, the woman who took the American multinational corporation Johnson & Johnson to court to claim its body powder was a factor in her contracting ovarian cancer. As the film progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that the beauty industry is as unhealthy as the products it creates and promotes.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Deane Berg, Mymy Nguyen

Director: Phyllis Ellis

With expired film stock, seemingly random shots, not much dialogue, and virtually no plot, there is little to recommend It is Night in America for casual viewing. It is definitely experimental, and as director, editor, and sound designer Ana Vaz presents these shots of animals and urban landscapes, it doesn’t feel like it’s meant for entertainment. But there’s a curiously poignant tone, with the blue tint darkening the cityscape, in their eyes. Night falls for these creatures, who once had a home in this city, and all they can do is survive. É Noite na América isn’t quite the eco-horror it proclaims to be, but its moody and trancelike direction is an interesting approach to the nature documentary genre.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Ana Vaz

The fourth Kandasamys installment may only appeal to viewers who've been there from the beginning, but no matter your history with the South African Indian series, The Baby really offers far too little. With unconvincing third-act drama and extremely loose connection tissue between scenes, it becomes very difficult to see what the point of all this is, unless you are truly charmed by the bickering of this dysfunctional family. Unfortunately there isn't any wit to the clashing of personalities here; these are characters who aren't even trying to get on the same page, so set in their stubborn ways that it becomes infuriating to watch them butt heads for no good reason.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Jailoshini Naidoo, Koobeshan Naidoo, Madhushan Singh, Maeshni Naicker, Mariam Bassa, Mishqah Parthiephal

Director: Jayan Moodley

Rating: PG-13