10 Movies Like EXistenZ (1999)

Staff & contributors
Directed by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is at times brutal—such is the famous Canadian director's trademark—and operates at a fever pitch of grim violence and revenge. Starring a tattooed, ruthless, and terrifying Viggo Mortensen as a very convincing Russian strong-arm gangster as well as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, it features intense psychological drama and a gritty crime story. Midwife Anna (Watts) delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian prostitute, who dies while giving birth, and later learns that she was forced into prostitution by the Mafia. To keep this knowledge from seeping out, she gets entangled deeper into London's criminal underbelly, whose various factions and languages are aptly showcased by Cronenberg. Add to all this a smart script and Mortensen's daring performance and you have yourself an intense auteur thriller in signature Cronenberg style.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandar Mikic, Aleksander Mikic, Alice Henley, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Papava, Donald Sumpter, Elisa Lasowski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Josef Altin, Mina E. Mina, Naomi Watts, Raza Jaffrey, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Sinead Cusack, Tamer Hassan, Tatiana Maslany, Tereza Srbová, Tony Cook, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

Whilst a classic in some circles, Festen is many things, but it's definitely not mainstream entertainment. It was shot by Danish director, Thomas Vinterberg, who founded the Dogme 95 movement together with Lars von Trier in 1995, which sought to put the auteur director back at the heart of filmmaking, as opposed to the power of the studios or special effects. This was the first movie to come out from that group. You thought your family was messed up? Think again. This macabre, Poe-esque, gut-wrenching tale of debauchery will leave you feeling confused and slightly nauseous. This effect is exacerbated by Winterberg's directing style and the crazy camerawork of Anthony Dod Mantle. With a highly volatile tone and a great cast, the effect Festen has on you is not easily shaken off.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Birgitte Simonsen, Birthe Neumann, Bjarne Henriksen, Erna Boas, Gbatokai Dakinah, Helle Dolleris, Henning Moritzen, Klaus Bondam, Lars Brygmann, Lasse Lunderskov, Lene Laub Oksen, Linda Laursen, Paprika Steen, Therese Glahn, Thomas Bo Larsen, Thomas Vinterberg, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Rating: R

Even before any blood is inevitably shed during A Short Film About Killing (which serves as the expansion of another episode from director Krzysztof Kieślowski's Dekalog miniseries, alongside A Short Film About Love), there's something positively oppressive and sinister even just in the way the movie is shot. Kieślowski and cinematographer Witold Adamek use color filters to make the film deliberately ugly—as if the image is degrading right in front of us. Oftentimes shadows obscure the edges of the frame, shining a sickly yellow spotlight on the characters on screen. It's the perfect way to get right into the heads of these people existing in a lawless land driven by primal instinct.

When crime and punishment finally occur, they're equally difficult to watch unfold, but in different ways. Kieślowski lingers on the details—the tools and processes that we tell ourselves will make the act of killing easier. And what he's ultimately able to expose is how capital punishment has been made to seem humane, just, or necessary, when it's often even more barbaric, cruel, and unproductive than a crime borne of desperation. The very government that does nothing to address the roots of crime is the same one most eager to kill criminals instead.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aleksander Bednarz, Andrzej Gawroński, Artur Barciś, Barbara Dziekan, Jan Tesarz, Jerzy Zass, Krystyna Janda, Krzysztof Globisz, Leonard Andrzejewski, Małgorzata Pieczyńska, Mirosław Baka, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Władysław Byrdy, Zbigniew Borek, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Zdzisław Rychter, Zdzisław Tobiasz

Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski

Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (The Gleaners and I) is one of the late Agnès Varda’s great documentaries. The film follows “gleaners”—scavengers and collectors of discarded garbage or abandoned items—from the French countryside into the city. The first of Varda’s subjects recalls, “Gleaning, that’s the old way,” marking a clear distinction: old versus new, rural versus urban, wasted versus repurposed.

Fans of Varda will recognize the signature tenderness with which she approaches both her subjects and their objects. Those new to her work will be sure to find something familiar in this documentary: a film largely about loss, but which approaches its ideas of modernization and time with humor and lightness. Among the rubble, there is joy yet to be found—and in this documentary, there is a great comfort, too, to be gleaned.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda, Bodan Litnanski, François Wertheimer, François Wertheimer

Director: Agnès Varda, Agnès Varda

Rating: 0, Not Rated

Like many of Edward Yang’s films, The Terrorizers examines Taiwan’s urbanized society, but this time, it’s centered around the rougher side of town, where a shooting incident connects the lives of three couples. At first, the scenes don’t make much sense, as the film rapidly shifts from couple to couple without explanation, and the sequence being used to place doubt on the reality of certain scenes. But as the film progresses, these scenes form into something like a puzzle, a piece of a whole treatise on the way real and unreal intersect, the way these perceptions shape one’s relationships. The Terrorizers is somber, and baffling, and sometimes downright bleak, but it’s a fascinating enigma on today’s urban loneliness.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Cora Miao, Gu Bao-Ming, King Shih-Chieh, Lee Lichun, Ming Liu, Yu An-Shun

Director: Edward Yang

The shiver-inducing talents of Stephen King, David Cronenberg, and Christopher Walken meld to produce this supremely chilly supernatural thriller adaptation. Schoolteacher Johnny’s (Walken) perfect life is overturned when a horrific car accident puts him in a coma that robs him of five years of his life — and with them, his job and girlfriend Sarah (Brooke Adams), who moves on with someone else.

For anyone familiar with Cronenberg’s films, the director’s involvement might lead you to expect results from this premise as idiosyncratic as Crash or Videodrome’s, but The Dead Zone takes a decidedly more mainstream path than those works. In the place of graphic body horror is more palatable — but no less affecting — emotional bleakness, as Johnny contends with losing Sarah and a reality-warping new ability: he now has the power to see into the future of anyone he touches. While being forewarned about house fires and nuclear war might be a blessing for those whose lives he saves, Johnny struggles with the emotional burden of being responsible for preventing these future tragedies. More than any of the chilling setpieces — a frantic hunt for a serial killer, the attempted assassination of a demagogue — it’s Johnny’s grappling with this gift-slash-curse that gives The Dead Zone its fierce intensity.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Zerbe, Barry Flatman, Brooke Adams, Chapelle Jaffe, Christopher Walken, Cindy Hinds, Claude Rae, Colleen Dewhurst, David Rigby, Géza Kovács, Hardee T. Lineham, Helene Udy, Herbert Lom, Jackie Burroughs, James Bearden, John Koensgen, Ken Pogue, Leslie Carlson, Martin Sheen, Nicholas Campbell, Peter Dvorsky, Ramon Estevez, Roberta Weiss, Roger Dunn, Sean Sullivan, Tom Skerritt, William B. Davis

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

Polytechnique directed by Denis Villeneuve, is a dramatization of the 1989 Montreal massacre of multiple female engineering students. This film focuses on a male student navigating the massacre for the majority of the film’s run time. The performances and minimal dialogue in this film certainly make this an unnerving film to watch. Littered with the screams of the actors portraying the engineering students, this could be mistaken as a gaudy horror film. However, this is far from a fictionalized horror.

This Villeneuve classic is undoubtedly one of the most emotionally brutal films of the 2000s, yet I appreciate the honesty of the storytelling. Polytechnique encourages its audience to ask itself if it truly understands the truth of misogyny. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Adam Kosh, Alexandre St-Martin, Alexis Lefebvre, Cynthia Wu-Maheux, Dawn Ford, Emmanuelle Girard, Eugénie Beaudry, Ève Duranceau, Eve Gadouas, Evelyne Brochu, Francesca Barcenas, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Jonathan Dubsky, Josée Lacombe, Julien Maranda, Karine Vanasse, Larissa Corriveau, Lily Thibeault, Louise Proulx, Manon Lapointe, Marc Gourdeau, Marc-André Brisebois, Marie-Évelyne Baribeau, Martin Watier, Maxim Gaudette, Mireille Brullemans, Natalie Hamel-Roy, Nathalie Girard, Pierre Leblanc, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Sébastien Huberdeau, Sophie Desmarais, Stéphane Julien, Valerie Cadieux

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Rating: Not Rated

Pan’s Labyrinth is often considered director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film, and rightfully so. But if you’re looking for a straight-up ghost story, this is the film that gets the job done. Everything about this film is sad and beautiful and unnerving, from the setting (an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War) to the atmospheric visuals.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Lamana, Berta Ojea, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Francisco Maestre, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Javier Bódalo, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Juan Carlos Vellido, Junio Valverde, Marisa Paredes, Miguel Ortiz, Víctor Elías

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Rating: R

A man accidentally gets into a time travel machine and travels one hour back in time. He finds himself stuck in a series of disasters of unforeseeable consequences, with unusual and thrilling moments at every corner. Similarly to Primer, this movie goes to prove that with intelligence and attention to detail, you don't need a big budget to create an unforgettable story. Great acting, great story-line, and a great thriller.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Bárbara Goenaga, Candela Fernández, Juan Inciarte, Karra Elejalde, Libby Brien, Nacho Vigalondo, Nicole Dionne, Philip Hersh

Director: J.T. Petty, Nacho Vigalondo

Rating: R

Ethan Hawke, Uma Therman and Jude Law star in this film, set in the not-so-distant future, where humans are genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible. Any child who is conceived in the traditional fashion is labeled inferior and is discriminated against by the rest of society. The movie follows the life of Hawke's character who, although looked down upon and considered genetically inadequate, attempts to break free from the tethers his peers have placed on him to pursue his lifelong dream of traveling to outer-space.

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alan Arkin, Blair Underwood, Carlton Benbry, Chad Christ, Cynthia Martells, Dean Norris, Elias Koteas, Elizabeth Dennehy, Ernest Borgnine, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Reece, George Marshall Ruge, Gore Vidal, Greg Sestero, Jayne Brook, Jude Law, Ken Marino, Lindsey Ginter, Loren Dean, Mason Gamble, Maya Rudolph, Russell Milton, Ryan Dorin, Steve Bessen, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Tony Shalhoub, Uma Thurman, Una Damon, Vincent Nielson, William Lee Scott, Xander Berkeley

Director: Andrew Niccol

Rating: PG-13