7 Movies Like Cold Mountain (2003)

Staff & contributors

You might expect a movie about the Irish struggle for independence from the British Empire during the 1920s to be a sweeping historical epic a la Braveheart, but The Wind That Shakes The Barley is instead a heartbreaking miniature portrait of the human impact that the brutal occupation has on the residents of a small County Cork village. Cillian Murphy is superb as Damien O’Donovan, a young medical student who is about to up sticks for London when he witnesses first-hand the savagery of British forces on his neighbors. Galvanized into action, he joins the local branch of the IRA, which is led by his brother Teddy (Pádraic Delaney).

What makes The Wind That Shakes The Barley so potent isn’t just its depiction of the fierce local rebellion that Damien and his comrades wage against the British forces — it’s also its gutting exploration of the cyclical war that began to rage amongst the freedom fighters once the British left. As Damien puts it, “It's easy to know what you're against, quite another to know what you're for” — a dilemma that wedges the two brothers apart to bitter ends.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Aidan O'Hare, Alan Ready, Alex Dee, Anthony Mark Streeter, Antony Byrne, Bill Hurst, Cillian Murphy, Colin Parry, Damien Kearney, Denis Conway, Frank Bourke, Frank O'Sullivan, Gerard Kearney, Jamie Lomas, Keith Dunphy, Kieran Aherne, Liam Cunningham, Mark Wakeling, Martin Lucey, Mary Murphy, Myles Horgan, Neil Alan Taylor, Neil Brand, Noel O'Donovan, Orla Fitzgerald, Pádraic Delaney, Richard Oldham, Roger Allam, Sabrina Barry, Scott Peden, Sean McGinley, Shane Casey, Siobhan McSweeney, Tom Charnock, William Ruane

Director: Ken Loach

Ralph Fiennes plays a mild-mannered British diplomat in Kenya who is stunned by the news of his wife Tessa’s (Rachel Weisz) sudden death while in the company of another man. He sets off to investigate the suspicious death––and secret life–-of his late wife, within a tangle of personal betrayals, political threats, and corporate conspiracies. This film presents an exquisite contrast between Justin’s (Fiennes) gentle, contemplative demeanor and the progressively gripping details he uncovers; between rapturous romanticism and darkly corrupting interests. It’s a touching, smart, and suspenseful feast of a movie.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anneke Kim Sarnau, Archie Panjabi, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Donald Apiyo, Donald Sumpter, Gerard McSorley, Hubert Koundé, Jeffrey Caine, John Keogh, Juliet Aubrey, Nick Reding, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter King Nzioki, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Richard McCabe, Rupert Simonian, Sidede Onyulo, Teresa Harder, Thomas Chemnitz

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Rating: R

Monster is a biographical depiction of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a prostitute and serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The film follows the burgeoning relationship between Wuornos and young Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, in a role based on Wuornos' real-life girlfriend Tyria Moore), as she grows increasingly desperate to provide for her young companion financially. Her desperation and her rage against men, brought on by years of both childhood and adult abuse, leads her down a dark path of murder and theft, even as she struggles to shield Selby from the horror of her crimes. The overwhelming highlight of the film is Theron’s mesmerizing performance as Wuornos—a role that won her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She’s almost unrecognizable and altogether phenomenal as the volatile and increasingly unstable Wuornos, whose ferocity is interwoven with surprising affection for young Selby. This unexpected tenderness lends the film an air of tragic poignancy, and provides a bittersweet portrayal of a severely troubled woman. Very much intended for mature audiences only, Monster is a fascinating recreation of a disturbing yet compelling chapter in the annals of true crime in America.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Al, Annie Corley, Brett Rice, Bruce Dern, Bubba Baker, Cannonball, Catherine Mangan, Charlize Theron, Christian Stokes, Christina Ricci, Cree Ivey, Glenn R. Wilder, Jesse Stern, Jim R. Coleman, Kaitlin Riley, Kane Hodder, Lee Tergesen, Lyllian Barcaski, Magdalena Manville, Marc Macaulay, Marco St. John, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Romonda Shaver, Rus Blackwell, Scott Wilson, Stephan Jones, Tim Ware

Director: Patty Jenkins

Rating: R

Atonement is a tribute to cinematography, an epic film that might just remind you why you fell in love with movies to begin with. A young girl and aspiring writer has a crush on the man her older sister loves, so the young sister indulges her imagination to accuse the man of a crime he didn't commit. The two are separated and the latter is then sent away to prison and after joins the army.  As the young girl grows up and realizes the true consequences of her actions, what can she do, what can anyone do, to remedy such a wrong? Winner of two Golden Globes and nominated to 6 Academy Awards.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ailidh Mackay, Alex Noodle, Alfie Allen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Anthony Minghella, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Seymour, Brenda Blethyn, Bronson Webb, Charlie von Simson, Craig Douglas, Daniel Mays, Elliott Francis, Felix von Simson, Gina McKee, Harriet Walter, Ian Bonar, James McAvoy, Jamie Beamish, Jérémie Renier, John Normington, Johnny Harris, Julia West, Juno Temple, Keira Knightley, Leander Deeny, Lionel Abelanski, Mark Holgate, Michel Vuillermoz, Michelle Duncan, Neil Maskell, Nick Bagnall, Nonso Anozie, Olivia Grant, Patrick Kennedy, Paul Stocker, Peter McNeil O'Connor, Peter O'Connor, Peter Wight, Roger Evans, Romola Garai, Ryan Kiggell, Saoirse Ronan, Tilly Vosburgh, Tobias Menzies, Vanessa Redgrave, Vivienne Gibbs, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Joe Wright

Rating: R

The Reader is a German-American drama from 2008, based on the best-selling novel by author Bernhard Schlink. The storyline begins with adult Michael (Ralph Fiennes) reminiscing about his adolescence in post-World War II Berlin and his fateful relationship with an older woman named Hannah (Kate Winslet). 15-year old Michael is beset by Scarlet Fever and helped off the street one day by Hannah. Taken into her care, they soon begin a passionate affair, quickly forsaking family and friends for every opportunity to ensconce themselves in a world of lust and desire. As their time together progresses, Hannah begins urging Michael to read to her daily—to which he draws from many classic novels and delights in their rich interchange. Hannah suddenly disappears from Michael’s life, however, only reappearing several years later when young law student Michael is stunned to find her facing a World War II war-crimes tribunal. Tied to a real-life series of trials against former Auschwitz employees, The Reader is a strikingly original and exceptionally well-made film that is recommended to those who appreciate sophisticated, emotionally mannered cinema.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexandra Maria Lara, Benjamin Trinks, Bruno Ganz, Burghart Klaussner, Carmen-Maja Antoni, David Kross, Fabian Busch, Florian Bartholomäi, Hannah Herzsprung, Heike Hanold-Lynch, Jeanette Hain, Jürgen Tarrach, Karoline Herfurth, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Block, Lena Olin, Linda Bassett, Ludwig Blochberger, Margarita Broich, Marie Gruber, Martin Brambach, Matthias Habich, Moritz Grove, Ralph Fiennes, Susanne Lothar, Sylvester Groth, Vijessna Ferkic, Volker Bruch

Director: Stephen Daldry

Rating: R

A residential dispute spirals out of control into full, xenophobia-fueled tragedy in this straightforward and elegantly made film that comes from a now-bygone era of mid-budget dramas for adults. House of Sand and Fog may come off as excessively bleak to viewers today, but it manages to capture a very particular mood of paranoia and distrust common in post-9/11 American cinema. And if nothing else, the film is worth watching for a trio of powerful performances that never resort to overacting: from Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, English screen legend Ben Kingsley, and an always compelling Jennifer Connelly, who was arguably at the peak of her career in the early 2000s.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Frazier, Aki Aleong, Al Rodrigo, Ashley Edner, Ben Kingsley, Bonita Friedericy, Brian Reed Garvin, Carlos Gómez, Cooper Thornton, Dan Brinkle, David Carrera, Dennison Samaroo, Elton Ahi, Frances Fisher, Frank Gallegos, Izabella St. James, Jennifer Connelly, Joe Howard, Jonathan Ahdout, Joyce Kurtz, Karl Makinen, Ken Kerman, Kia Jam, Kim Dickens, Marco Rodriguez, Mark Chaet, Matthew Waite, Max Jansen Weinstein, Michael Papajohn, Namrata Singh Gujral, Nasser Faris, Navi Rawat, Pamela Shaddock, Ray Abruzzo, Ron Eldard, Scott Kinworthy, Scott N. Stevens, Shani Rigsbee, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Spencer Garrett, Tom Reynolds, Zoran Radanovich

Director: Vadim Perelman

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, and Miles Teller star in this subtle drama about the state of a couple eight months into dealing with the sudden loss of their son.

The movie is based on a David Lindsay-Abaire play by the same name which won a Pulitzer Prize. It deals with the timeline of grief, and whether such a thing even exists: can the couple attempt to move on after 8 months? What about 8 years, like another couple they meet in a counseling group?

It’s also about how the differences in grief create tensions: the mother wants to donate the clothes and sell the house because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the event. The father wants to hold on the memory instead.

Rabbit Hole, like its source material, is sad, but its realistic approach and excellent performances make it nothing more than a perfect reflection of how complicated life can be.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Eckhart, Ali Marsh, Colin Mitchell, Deidre Goodwin, Derek Blakeney, Dianne Wiest, Giancarlo Esposito, Jay Wilkison, Jennifer Roszell, Jon Tenney, Julie Lauren, Marylouise Burke, Mike Doyle, Miles Teller, Nicole Kidman, Patricia Kalember, Rob Campbell, Roberta Wallach, Salli Saffioti, Sandi Carroll, Sandra Oh, Sara Jane Blazo, Stephen Mailer, Tammy Blanchard, Teresa Kelsey, Ursula Parker, Yetta Gottesman

Director: David Lindsay-Abaire, John Cameron Mitchell

Rating: PG-13