5 Movies Like Carandiru (2003)

Staff & contributors

Get ready for one hell of a journey. From the writer of City of God, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is a poignant and powerful action-packed movie. Set in Brazil, the film follows two seemingly opposed characters (one a police officer, one a professor) as they both work to treat the systemic social ills that corrupt the country. As much a social commentary as it is an action-packed drama (think The Departed and The Wire), Elite Squad will take you on a whirlwind journey that will leave you considering the larger issues of poverty, crime, and "doing good" in the world.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adriano Garib, Andre Mattos, André Ramiro, Cadu Fávero, Caio Junqueira, Charles Fricks, Emílio Orciollo Netto, Fabrício Boliveira, Irandhir Santos, Juliana Schalch, Kikito Junqueira, Luca Bianchi, Luciano Vidigal, Marcelo Freixo, Maria Ribeiro, Milhem Cortaz, Pedro Van-Held, Pierre Santos, Prazeres Barbosa, Rogério Trindade, Roney Villela, Sandro Rocha, Seu Jorge, Taina Muller, Thogun Teixeira, Wagner Moura

Director: José Padilha

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

Val is a housekeeper for a wealthy family in São Paulo. She is close with every family member, and acts as the title would suggest - as a second mother, but there are clear reminders of her status. One is the sheer amount of work she has to do, from cooking to cleaning and responding to random demands.

Val’s estranged daughter visits her, a bright kid who is on her way to university. This brings out more of the maid/employer dynamics: if Val is “family”, why would she and her daughter have to sleep in a small cramped room when the guest room is empty?

Questions like these threaten the family’s balance and the uneasy existence that millions around the world have as housekeepers.

It’s a great and well-thought-out drama, one that would make the perfect centerpiece for a movie night or a movie club pick.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Camila Márdila, Helena Albergaria, Hugo Villavicenzio, Karine Teles, Lourenço Mutarelli, Luci Pereira, Luis Miranda, Michel Joelsas, Regina Casé, Theo Werneck

Director: Anna Muylaert

If you’ve never heard of Sonia Braga, you’re in for a ride with this movie. She is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses alive today. In Aquarius, she stars as a 65-year-old trying to keep the home in which she pledged to die. In a quiet, yet stoically powerful performance, she reminds us that identity often intersects with the spaces in which we live.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Allan Souza Lima, Arly Arnaud, Bárbara Colen, Bruno Goya, Buda Lira, Carla Ribas, Clarissa Pinheiro, Daniel Porpino, Edilson Silva, Fábio Leal, Fernando Teixeira, Germano Melo, Humberto Carrao, Irandhir Santos, Joana Gatis, Julia Bernat, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Lula Terra, Maeve Jinkings, Pedro Queiroz, Rubens Santos, Sônia Braga, Tavinho Teixeira, Thaia Perez, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: Not Rated

An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Abraham Attah, Ama K. Abebrese, Andrew Adote, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Cornelius Keagon, David Dontoh, Emmanuel 'King Kong' Nii Adom Quaye, Emmanuel Affadzi, Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye, Francis Weddey, Fred Nii Amugi, Grace Nortey, Idris Elba, John Arthur, Jude Akuwudike, Kobina Amissah Sam, Kurt Egyiawan, Nana Mensah, Nataliah Andoh, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe, Richard Pepple, Ricky Adelayitor

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: Not Rated

This incredibly creative and unique movie is set in a fictional small town in the Brazilian Backcountry. It has a realistic first half but things quickly get crazy.

Even in that realistic half, you can clearly tell that something is off about the town of Bacurau. An accident involving a truck carrying coffins turns into an impromptu coffin shop. A dam was built to divert water from people. The village doctor seems to be the least sane person in the village. It’s all wrong.

Bacurau is funny, it’s politically charged, it’s thrilling, and it’s sweet, all at once. It’s that one in a thousand weird movies that actually works, and will inevitably become a classic.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Western

Actor: Alli Willow, Antonio Saboia, Bárbara Colen, Bárbara Colen, Buda Lira, Chris Doubek, Clébia Sousa, Danny Barbosa, Edilson Silva, Eduarda Samara, Ingrid Trigueiro, James Turpin, Jamila Facury, Jonny Mars, Julia Marie Peterson, Karine Teles, Lia de Itamaracá, Luciana Souza, Rubens Santos, Silvero Pereira, Sônia Braga, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Thomás Aquino, Thomas Aquino, Udo Kier, Valmir do Côco, Wilson Rabelo, Zoraide Coleto

Director: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Kleber Mendonça Filho

Rating: 0