15 Movies Like Downsizing (2017)

Staff & contributors

This groundbreaking documentary follows the USA Olympics sexual abuse case that made headlines in 2015. Through interviews with Olympians, their families, and investigative reporters, it’s also a documentary on the overall culture of abuse in gymnastics: sexual, physical, and emotional.

In one scene from the 1996 Olympics, gold medalist Kerri Strug has to run, vault, and land - all with a severe foot injury that was covered up by her coaches. She does this twice, limping between attempts and crawling off the mat on the second, crying. Meanwhile, her family, her coaches, the spectators - the World - is celebrating.

When she’s carried off, it’s Larry Nassar, the pedophile at the center of the documentary, who carries her.

Athlete A is groundbreaking exactly because it illustrates that the problem is not only with one doctor, or the 54 coaches who were also found guilty of sexual abuse, or the morally bankrupt leadership of USA Gymastics; it’s also about what went so wrong with society to see the abuse of young girls as cause for celebration.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Géza Poszar, Gina Nichols, Jen Sey, John Nichols, Maggie Nichols

Director: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

Rating: PG-13

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Anders Berg, Ben Bradshaw, Bjorn Granath, Bob Boudreaux, Colin Stinton, Dag Malmberg, David Bamber, Ian Blackman, Iva Šindelková, Jackson Gann, James Sobol Kelly, Jamie Marshall, Jane Perry, Janis Ahern, Leo Borg, Marcus Mossberg, Mats Blomgren, Robert Emms, Roy McCrerey, Scott Arthur, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Sverrir Gudnason, Thomas Hedengran, Tuva Novotny, Wille Glyt, Zuzana Geislerová

Director: Janus Metz, Janus Metz Pedersen

Rating: R

, 2017

With its detailed portraits of seven of Istanbul’s most adored felines, Kedi affirms what anyone who’s spent some time with a cat will know: they really do all have fully-fledged, complex personalities of their own. More than just a celebration of some supremely cute kitties, though, this documentary about the city’s teeming street cat population also presents a moving example of a way of living that embraces — rather than tramples over — our animal neighbors.

Immersive cinematography from the cats’ eye levels is weaved with interviews with the people who care for them, whether voluntarily or because the cats simply demand it. That independence emerges as a much-admired characteristic in the documentary; as one interviewee puts it, “Dogs think people are God, but cats don’t. They’re not ungrateful, they just know better.” It’s impossible not to read a wistful note in the interviewees’ odes — indeed, for many of the people featured here, cats are a point of spiritual and personal reconnection, a reminder of what life is really about underneath all the mind-numbing dross we’ve made up. The magic of Kedi is that it not only perceptively recognizes the healing effect that cats have on humans, but recreates it so that these 70-something minutes feel like therapy.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bülent Üstün

Director: Ceyda Torun

Rating: NR

Warm and nourishing as the film's cuisine, Soul Food is a celebration of the modern African-American family, represented here by the Josephs. The Chicagoan family has a longstanding tradition of making dinner together every Sunday—a ritual, we’re told, that's lasted for at least 40 years. However, when the matriarch Big Mama Joe gets hospitalized, the simmering tension between her daughters boils over and threatens to break them apart. Many of the struggles they go through are familiar but not cliché, as writer-director George Tillman Jr. draws from his own experiences in a close-knit, extended family. So even if some plot lines feel unresolved, the film is well-paced, soulfully scored, and evenly balanced between the three sisters. Like the food cooked on-screen, this movie will still leave you hungering for more.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Brandon Hammond, Gina Ravera, Irma P. Hall, Jeffrey D. Sams, John M. Watson Sr., Marcia Wright, Mekhi Phifer, Mel Jackson, Michael Beach, Nia Long, Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Rating: R

, 2016

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner just doesn’t give up. After a 2011 scandal that had him resign from office, Weiner tries to make a comeback in this documentary that follows his 2013 mayoral campaign. His passion for public service is indisputable, and despite his shortcomings, it’s hard not to root for his go-getter attempts at a second chance. To this end, he wins and fails, with each outcome feeling more dramatic and consequential than the last. Things culminate upon the revelation of a fresh, new scandal, which disrupts his unlikely rise as a top candidate as well as the film’s production flow, which then takes a turn for the better (or worse, depending on your sympathies for Weiner). 

Fast paced and brilliantly stitched, Weiner is a compelling account of a man who won’t back down, and of the people surrounding him who suffer from his obstinacy. The documentary is proof that even in our hypercritical age, it’s still possible to both humanize and criticize a “canceled” subject, all while maintaining level-headed humor and allure.  

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Anthony Weiner, Bill de Blasio, Donald Trump, Howard Stern, Huma Abedin, J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner, John Waters, Jon Stewart, Lawrence O'Donnell, Stephen Colbert

Director: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman

Rating: R

When it comes to being a drama with a cohesive and understandable message, Swing Kids falters, and doesn’t make it clear whether or not the film advocates for either pro-capitalist or pro-communist ideas– understandably so, considering how to this day, the peninsula remains split in part due to foreign intervention. The film is a bit too long, and struggles to juggle multiple tones, being a violent war drama, slapstick comedy, and fun tap-dancing musical all at once. But, when the film revels in dance and celebrates the connections made through it, the film shines, creating an incredible sonic soundscape composed entirely of rhythmic taps and sweeping brass, with the five leads dancing in pure joy. Swing Kids is not perfect, but it has heart and it recognizes the waste and tragedy of the human side that is lost due to war.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: A.J. Simmons, Doh Kyung-soo, Hye-soo Park, Jared Grimes, Jeong-se Oh, Joo Hae-eun, Kim Kyu-baek, Kim Min-ho, Kim Min-jae, Kyung-soo Do, Lee Da-wit, Lee Kyu-sung, Matthew D'Arcy, Oh Gyeong-hwa, Oh Jeong-se, Oh Jung-se, Park Hye-su, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Jin-joo, Ross Kettle

Director: Hyeong-Cheol Kang, Kang Hyoung-chul, Kang Hyung-chul

Rating: TV-14

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei directs his attention towards the ongoing refugee crisis, the biggest displacement of people since World War II. His documentary is apolitical and tries to focus on the human side of the picture. It's not a news report or a commentary on the causes of the situation. Instead, it's a combination of heartfelt stories spanning 23 countries that showcase people's battle for dignity and basic rights. A truly epic movie complemented by impressive drone footage that's as impressive as it is sad.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fadi Abou Akleh, Hiba Abed, Israa Abboud, Marin Din Kajdomcaj, Rami Abu Sondos

Director: Ai Weiwei, Weiwei Ai

Rating: PG-13

The work of two people stand out here: the actor Christian Bale and the cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Linings Playbook, Warrior, The Grey, Spotlight, etc.) Bale plays an Army Captain who agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief and his family through treacherous lands. The general and the chief, being old enemies, embark on a journey where their conflict seems the least of their worries. The cinematography is lush and reminiscent of the classics of the Western genre. It is a harshly stunning film you should watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Adam Beach, Austin Rising, Ava Cooper, Ben Foster, Bill Camp, Boots Southerland, Brian Duffy, Christian Bale, Christopher Hagen, David Midthunder, Dicky Eklund Jr., Gray Wolf Herrera, James Cady, Jesse Plemons, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Majors, Luce Rains, Paul Anderson, Peter Mullan, Q'orianka Kilcher, Richard Bucher, Robyn Malcolm, Rod Rondeaux, Rory Cochrane, Rosamund Pike, Ryan Bingham, Scott Cooper, Scott G. Anderson, Scott Shepherd, Scott Wilson, Stafford Douglas, Stella Cooper, Stephen Lang, Tanaya Beatty, Timothée Chalamet, Wes Studi, Xavier Horsechief

Director: Scott Cooper

Rating: R

Nisha, the daughter of conservative Pakistani immigrants in Oslo, finds ways to secretly go out with her Norwegian friends. She goes to parties, plays basketball, and dates. One day, Nisha’s father catches her with a boy, bringing what he perceives as a great shame to the family. Nisha’s delicate balance is broken, and her family acts drastically: without telling her about their plans, they move her to Pakistan. What Will People Say is based on its director and writer Iram Haq’s own experience being kidnapped to Pakistan and going back to Norway at age 16.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adil Hussain, Assad Siddique, Ekavali Khanna, Farrukh Jaffar, Jan Gunnar Røise, Jannat Zubair Rahmani, Kjersti Elvik, Lalit Parimoo, Maria Bock, Maria Mozhdah, Rohit Saraf, Sara Khorami, Sheeba Chaddha, Sunakshi Grover, Trine Wiggen

Director: Iram Haq

Rating: 12

This coming-of-age drama is set in a remote fishing village in Iceland. It follows a group of boys during a summer who catch a break from the harsh Icelandic nature. They spend a lot of time outdoors bonding together and discovering themselves.

One of the boys develops feelings for his best friend, Kristian, while Kristian chases a girl.

Watching the boys wrestle with their growth in this wasteland playground is amazing, but the shots of fjords, beautiful coastline, and living so in touch with nature, all of that almost steals the show.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Baldur Einarsson, Blær Hinriksson, Diljá Valsdóttir, Katla Njálsdóttir, Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Rán Ragnarsdóttir, Søren Malling, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Director: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Rating: Unrated

This historical drama opens with one of the most thrilling chase scenes in recent memory, as Higinio Blanco, the man at the center of the story, escapes government forces during the Spanish Civil War.

He goes into hiding that, without him realizing, would last 33 years. He would only emerge in a government amnesty in 1969, as would many like him across Spain.

Themes of love (Higinio was confined with his newlywed wife), solitude and fear are at the center of a story that remains thrilling even when it goes through the isolation years.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aitor Arregi, Antonio de la Torre, Antonio Romero, Belén Cuesta, Belén Cuesta, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Emilio Palacios, Enrique Asenjo, Esperanza Guardado, Francisco Franco, Íñigo Núñez, Joaquín Gómez, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, José Manuel Poga, Jose Manuel Poga, Jose Mari Goenaga, Marco Cáceres, Vicente Vergara

Director: Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño, Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga

Rating: 16

John Boyega, Algee Smith, and John Krasinski star in this difficult portrayal of the Detroit 1967 riots, the biggest civil unrest in American history before the 92 L.A. protests. A murderous cop, a band on the verge of breaking big, and a hard-working security guard find their fates intertwined by the events that took place that summer. Detroit blends real-life images with its storytelling. It would be a perfect movie if it wasn't for a scene in which the police brutalize young Black men for finding them in a hotel with two White girls. This scene, while a necessary part of the story, is overstretched and feels almost sadistic, more so because the film was made by a White director, Kathryn Bigelow.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Cook, Algee Smith, Andrea Eversley, Anthony Mackie, Ato Blankson-Wood, Austin Hebert, Ben O'Toole, Bennett Deady, Chris Chalk, Chris Coy, Darren Goldstein, Dennis Staroselsky, Ephraim Sykes, Frank Wood, Gary Wilmes, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Glenn Fitzgerald, Hannah Murray, Henry Frost III, Jack Reynor, Jacob Latimore, Jason Mitchell, Jennifer Ehle, Jeremy Strong, John Boyega, John Krasinski, Joseph David-Jones, Kaitlyn Dever, Karen Pittman, Khris Davis, Laz Alonso, Leon G. Thomas III, Lizan Mitchell, Malcolm David Kelley, Mason Alban, Michael Jibrin, Miguel, Nathan Davis Jr., Peyton Alex Smith, Ricardo Pitts-Wiley, Samira Wiley, Timothy John Smith, Tokunbo Joshua Olumide, Tyler James Williams, Will Bouvier, Will Poulter, Zurin Villanueva

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Rating: R

Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this mystery by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman. When Laura returns to her small Spanish hometown with her two daughters, she is greeted with the warm welcome worthy of someone who once was a loved member of the community. However, when an event concerning one of her daughters happens at a wedding, secrets come to the surface about her history that threaten the fabric of the whole village. Laura is masterfully played by Penélope Cruz, who seems to shift gears in this Spanish-language movie. Farhadi is outside of his usual territory, but he does what he does best: deliver a rich, thrilling family drama.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Barbara Lennie, Carla Campra, Eduard Fernandez, Elvira Minguez, Inma Cuesta, Iván Chavero, Jaime Lorente, Javier Bardem, Jordi Bosch, Jose Angel Egido, Mar del Corral, Penélope Cruz, Ramon Barea, Ricardo Darín, Roger Casamajor, Sara Salamo, Sergio Castellanos, Vicente Vergara

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: R

In Fatih Akin’s In the Fade, Katja is seeking justice after the killings of her Turkish husband and their young son in a terrorist bomb attack. Diane Kruger in the role of Katja delivers a powerful and rather grueling performance, for which she was awarded Best Actress at Cannes Film Festival. Her grief is vivid and forces viewers to bear witness to her inescapable pain. In the Fade also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, beating astonishing films such as Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless. This moving story about a fearless woman determined to take justice into her own hands to fight the cruelty of others delivers a message that needs to be heard.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adam Bousdoukos, Aysel Iscan, Cem Akin, Denis Moschitto, Diane Kruger, Edgar Selge, Hanna Hilsdorf, Henning Peker, Jessica McIntyre, Johannes Krisch, Karin Neuhäuser, Laurens Walter, Numan Acar, Samia Chancrin, Şiir Eloğlu, Ulrich Brandhoff, Ulrich Tukur, Uwe Rohde, Yannis Economides, Youla Boudali

Director: Fatih Akin

Rating: R

The idea of a true-crime documentary being narrated mostly by the very person who did it should be appealing to fans of the genre, especially those who would rather stay away from non-violent crimes. And Vjeran Tomic is a compelling thief, with his own perspective on the people he tends to steal from and the kind of life he thinks he's owed. But by fixating so intensely on the method to the crime, it eventually loses its appeal—eventually becoming clear that there are so many potentially interesting (and more emotional) perspectives to the story that are being left out. Tomic may be a somewhat morally ambiguous criminal, but his testimonials alone, which are accompanied by mostly corny reenactments, can't carry an entire movie that teases but never fully delves into shady dealings in the world of the fine arts.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Vjeran Tomic

Director: Jamie Roberts

Rating: NR