4 Movies Like Challengers (2024)

Staff & contributors

Aptly for a film partly set in a fortune cookie factory, Fremont deals with luck — specifically, the other side of good luck: survivor’s guilt. Donya (played by real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada) is a former translator for the US Army who fled her home city of Kabul on an emergency evacuation flight when the Taliban took over in 2021. Now living a safe, if drab, existence in the titular Californian town, insomniac Donya struggles to embrace her freedom, tormented by the knowledge that she lost some of her old colleagues to reprisal attacks and that her loved ones are still living under repressive rule in Afghanistan.

As Donya shuttles between her little apartment in Fremont, her job writing cryptic one-liners for a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, and appointments with her eccentric psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington), Fremont balances a moving study of her melancholy with deadpan humor. Despite its black-and-white cinematography and tight Academy ratio, this is no austere drama, but an endlessly warm and understated portrait of someone rediscovering themselves and all of life’s unexpected moments of connection, like chance romantic encounters and sudden tears at karaoke.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anaita Wali Zada, Boots Riley, Eddie Tang, Gregg Turkington, Hilda Schmelling, Jeremy Allen White, Siddique Ahmed

Director: Babak Jalali

Rating: NR

Given the country’s divisive politics, a second civil war seems plausible, inevitable even. But even though Civil War, the film, takes place in this kind of world, its main focus is on the four journalists who race through the country to get the scoop on a fascist president who’s bound to be ousted anytime soon. We only get hints at the specific causes and developments of the war, but what we do get is an unsettlingly close look at the human toll of it, as well as the realities of reportage—crushing PTSD, ethical responsibilities, and all. It’s a brilliant movie if you set your expectations right.

Genre: Action, Drama, War

Actor: Alexa Mansour, Brian Philpot, Cailee Spaeny, Dean Grimes, Edmund Donovan, Evan Holtzman, Evan Lai, James Yaegashi, Jared Shaw, Jeff Bosley, Jefferson White, Jesse Plemons, Jin Ha, John Newberg, Jojo T. Gibbs, Juani Feliz, Justin Garza, Justin James Boykin, Karl Glusman, Kirsten Dunst, Martha B. Knighton, Melissa Saint-Amand, Nelson Lee, Nick Offerman, Robert Perry Bierman, Robert Tinsley, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Tim James, Vince Pisani, Wagner Moura

Director: Alex Garland

Rating: R

With a boring wedding, attended by a guarded woman and a spontaneous man, starting a series of shared recollections of past heartbreak, Which Brings Me to You has all the elements needed for an early aughts romcom, releasing at a time when Y2K is trending. The original novel’s epistolary format is interestingly translated into flashbacks told in one whole day, with Will and Jane visually popping within the sequences as the two get to know each other through their past heartbreaks. It’s a unique idea, but the execution feels lackluster, with the dialogue and direction that can’t be saved through Lucy Hale’s or Nat Wolff’s efforts. There’s certainly something here about romance being a possible avenue to open up, but Which Brings Me to You doesn’t build the chemistry to get there.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexander Hodge, Avery Cole, Britne Oldford, Chase Liefeld, Genevieve Angelson, Jamie McRae, John Gallagher Jr., Laura Kai Chen, Lucy Hale, Marceline Hugot, Michael Mulheren, Mitzi Akaha, Nat Wolff, Reilly Walters, Ward Horton

Director: Peter Hutchings

Rating: PG-13

Five Blind Dates is a squeaky clean, hopelessly boring film pretending to be a raunchy romcom. Despite Lia (Shuang Hu) going on five (or four, really) dates, she doesn’t find real chemistry with any one of them. There’s no heat, no passion, no inane fun to be had, or reckless experimentation. It’s clear that what she’s after isn’t really love but a partner who accepts her traditional whims, which I guess counts as a happy ending if this were airing on Hallmark or any other wholesome TV channel. But it isn’t, and instead of embracing its true form—that is, family drama—it instead postures as a modern and exciting romcom, even though it contains zero spice. To be fair, the film has its funny moments, and I do think the first date’s premise, while played for laughs, has the potential to spark an interesting discussion about our generation’s willingness to sacrifice intimacy for financial security. But the film doesn’t really go there, nor anywhere, and remains as stale and safe as can be.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Desmond Chiam, Ilai Swindells, Jon Prasida, Rob Collins, Shuang Hu, Tzi Ma, Yoson An

Director: Shawn Seet