19 Movies Like Free Solo (2018)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Free Solo ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Alex Honnold might not be the most relatable guy ever, but his obsession with free solo climbing and his single-minded approach to life makes him so interesting. He's precisely the type of person that chooses to follow his goals, at the expense of everything else. To a certain extent, he has to be — without whole-hearted commitment to the sport, he could literally die. It’s no wonder someone decided to document his climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan wall—a wall that’s 3,000 feet high and hasn’t been free-climbed alone before. The journey is visually stunning and a technical marvel in and of itself. However, what’s most memorable about this film is the character study of Honnold: he has an indescribable instinct that outsiders could only call a death wish. His emotional detachment might make this a frustrating film to watch, but Free Solo serves as a unique portrait of a man who spits at the face of death.

, 2017

Director Bryan Fogel, who you might know as the guy behind Jewtopia, initially set out to chronicle his exploration of doping to win an amateur cycling race. He starts off by reaching out to experts to help him with obtaining and administering said drugs, one of which points him towards Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenkov eagerly agrees to help him out.

Little did he know that his Russian acquaintance would transform Fogel film from a self-experiment documentary into a true-crime political thriller, when the scientist admits to being involved in a state-sponsored doping scheme of epic proportions on camera. Putin is obviously not amused.

Aside from all the madness that unfolds in this Netflix production, it's Rodchenkov's likeable and eccentric personality that makes the story more relatable and human as well as giving you a rare glimpse into the upper echelons of a country like Russia. As the plot thickens, one can't help but think that Fogel too is in over his head. Rightly award-winning, this is gripping stuff even if you're not into sports!

Genre: Documentary, Mystery

Actor: Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan, Don Catlin, Grigory Rodchenkov, Jacques Rogge, Nikita Kamaev, Richard Pound, Sebastian Coe, Thomas Bach, Victor Webster

Director: Bryan Fogel

Rating: TV-MA

In this powerful documentary, Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa intertwines her own family history with the democratic journey of her home country. As she says herself, Costa and her country's democracy are of the same age. This is not the only reason why she was uniquely positioned to make a film like this: her parents were left-wing activists in the 1970s, who went to jail for their beliefs, while her grandparents were part of the ruling class have made Brazil's strong-man politics and right-wing backlash possible. Her mother was held at the same prison that ex-president Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) was sent to. Costa tells the story of Rousseff's demise as well as that of Luiz Inácio da Silva (2003-2011) aka Lula, whose future remains up in the air. The Edge of Democracy is thus a gripping and urgent warning that democracy in the world's sixth most populous country is under attack. In content and form, Costa is obviously opinionated, but she makes a strong point.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aécio Neves, Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff, Eduardo Cunha, Elena Andrade, Jair Bolsonaro, Jean Wyllys, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva, Michel Temer, Nelson Mandela, Paulo Maluf, Petra Costa, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Sérgio Moro

Director: Petra Costa

Rating: TV-14

In 2009, Departures surprised everybody by winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, instead of everyone's favourite, Ari Folman's Waltz of Bashir. This is even more surprising since this Japanese comedy almost never saw the light of day because many distributors refused to release it at first for its humorous treatment of a very human, but weirdly taboo subject: what happens when you die. Daigo Kobayashi (played by former boyband member Masahiro Motoki) just bought an expensive cello when he learns that his Tokyo-based symphony orchestra is going bankrupt. Daigo and his wife Mika, played by Ryôko Hirosue, decide to move back to his hometown, where he applies for an opening at what he thinks is a travel agency, hence the departures. You might have guessed by now that what he was applying for was, in fact, the job of an undertaker—a profession considered unclean in Japan. It's one of those rare movies that will make you laugh, to making you cry, and laugh again. It's dead-on!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Justin Lukach, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Kimiko Yo, Maisie Williams, Masahiro Motoki, Nina Dobrev, Ryoko Hirosue, Ryosuke Otani, Sanae Miyata, Scott Wilson, Takashi Sasano, Taro Ishida, Tatsuo Yamada, Tetta Sugimoto, Tōru Minegishi, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Tyler Hoechlin, Yukari Tachibana

Director: Yōjirō Takita

Rating: PG-13

This surprising documentary follows Jiro, an 85 year old Japanese chef, his Michelin-starred restaurant in the Tokyo underground, and his eager sons. While ostensibly about sushi – and believe me, you’ll learn about sushi and see absolutely gorgeous images of the raw-fish creations – the film’s dramatic impetus is carried by the weight of tradition, the beauty of a labor of love, obsession, and the relationship between father and son. Truly a must-watch.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Daisuke Nakazama, David Gelb, Hachiro Mizutani, Harutaki Takahashi, Jiro Ono, Masuhiro Yamamoto, Yoshikazu Ono

Director: David Gelb

Rating: PG

The Kings of the World is a surreal coming-of-age movie that follows Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny, and Nano, street kids who are on their way to claim land that’s rightfully theirs. Their one goal is to finally make a home after living without one for so long, but they’re hindered by the inevitable tragedies that befall kids of their kind: impoverished, alone, and abandoned.

The title is ironic, but it also hints at their state of mind: these boys are unstoppable, rabble-rousers who live like there’s no tomorrow. They tear down private property and invade inns not out of spite, necessarily, but out of a knowledge that whatever they do they’re gonna be put down anyway, so they might as well live without rules.

Tackling powerful themes like land restitution and youth neglect, The Kings of the World is one of the most agonizing movies you'll ever see. It’s also Colombia’s official Best Foreign Language Film entry in the 2022 Academy Awards.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Brahian Acevedo, Carlos Andrés Castañeda, Cristian Campaña, Cristian David Duque, Davison Florez

Director: Laura Mora

Rating: TV-MA

It's impossible to describe this incredible movie as one thing or the other. It's an epic three-hour saga that takes you through the Nazi era, the communist era, the rise of capitalism, and the East and West German divide. But more than its historic value, it's a coming-of-age story, one that is based on the experiences of famed German artist Gerhard Richter. It's also a romance, following his experiences finding love and being hit with loss (in no particular order). If you liked the director's other work, the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, you're sure to love this too.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Andreas Nickl, Anton Rubtsov, Bastian Trost, Ben Becker, Cai Cohrs, Chris Theisinger, David Schütter, Evgeniy Sidikhin, Florian Bartholomäi, Franz Pätzold, Hannes Hellmann, Hanno Koffler, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Hinnerk Schönemann, Ina Weisse, Jörg Schüttauf, Jacob Matschenz, Jeanette Hain, Johanna Gastdorf, Johannes Allmayer, Jonas Dassler, Jorg Schuttauf, Lars Eidinger, Luc Feit, Lutz Blochberger, Manfred Möck, Mark Zak, Martin Bruchman, Martin Bruchmann, Michaela Caspar, Oliver Masucci, Paula Beer, Pit Bukowski, Rainer Bock, Rainer Reiners, Saskia Rosendahl, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Mehren, Tom Schilling, Ulrike C. Tscharre

Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Rating: R

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona's footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you'll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that's not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona's modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn't make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino, Dalma Maradona, Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Bonadeo, Maria Rosa Maradona, Pele

Director: Asif Kapadia

Rating: TV-14, TV-MA

It’s hard to pin point exactly what makes this movie so good. It’s an all-around “movie” movie. I think it can be called a buddy comedy because it is about two best friends who are also movers. It’s about their day-to-day, their families and their relationships. They’re both from the underclass of Oakland, and one of them is black, the other is white. And that’s where it stops being a comedy and becomes a more hard-hitting film. It illustrates gentrification better than any other movie I’ve ever seen. It has relevant and striking commentary on the main characters’ race, upbringing, and identity. But at the end of the day, it has a great plot, and for the most part it’s an easy-flowing movie. It’s half entertainment, half social commentary, and both parts are equally well-done. It’s like movie unicorn, and it’s perfection. One of the two friends is played by Daveed Diggs, who you might know from Hamilton.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Aviel Ayoung, Carlos López Estrada, Casey Adams, Cassie Hendry, Charles Johnson, Chris Harding, Daveed Diggs, Dawayne Jordan, Eduardo Ambriz DeColosio, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Ethan Embry, Geoffrey Quan, George Watsky, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, John Lobato, Jon Chaffin, Jonathan Groff, Justin Chu Cary, Ke'Mari Moore, Kelli McCrann, Kendra Andrews, Kevin Carroll, Leland Orser, Margo Hall, Matt McAbee, Molly Shaiken, Nyambi Nyambi, Peter Fitzsimmons, Rafael Casal, Rashida Clendening, Rayna Angélique, Sean Michael McGrory, Steven Wiig, Tina Gilton, Tisha Campbell, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Travis Parker, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Wayne Knight, Zack Duhame

Director: Carlos López Estrada

Rating: R

What makes Apollo 11 stand out is its sharp minimalist approach, allowing the archival footage of the mission to the moon to speak for itself. It’s stunning to think that at one point or another we had collectively seen a bulk of the footage in this film, and yet somehow let it lay dormant until the moon landing had been reduced to black and white stills in our collective imaginations. Not only does this film reinvigorate the moon landing with the power that it once held, but it does so in a way that is more thrilling than anything the Marvel CGI wizards could muster. The vibrant score adds a layer of ferocious tension, while the breakneck pace gives the feel of a rollercoaster ride. If there is any fault to find here, it is most definitely with the film’s MAGA style yearning for a time and place that never existed. Spare us the teary-eyed patriotism and the clips of Nixon, a disgraceful criminal, and vile racist, yammering on about the world becoming one. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic example of why most biopics should just be documentaries and why the fanatical fear of spoilers is a tad silly. Spoiler alert: they land on the moon.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Andy Aldrin, Bill Anders, Bruce McCandless II, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Duke, Deke Slayton, Gene Kranz, Janet Armstrong, Jim Lovell, John F. Kennedy, Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, Patricia Mary Finnegan, Todd Douglas Miller, Walter Cronkite

Director: Todd Douglas Miller

Rating: G

You live in a strange world. Or at least, that's what the generation before you thinks. Eight Grade is a movie that follows a girl going through her generation's strange world. Social media, selfies, Youtube; you name it. But also, the weight of her expectations (as shaped by the internet) versus her reality. Written and directed by famous comedian Bo Burnham, it's a gentle and often funny look at our anxieties and how they shape our growth. Prepare for a lot of cringes.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrew Geher, Brenna Parker, Catherine Oliviere, Daniel Zolghadri, Deborah Unger, Dylan Vonderhorst, Elsie Fisher, Emily Robinson, Frank Deal, Fred Hechinger, Gerald Jones, Greg Crowe, Imani Lewis, J. Tucker Smith, Jake Ryan, Jalesia Martinez, Josh Hamilton, Kendall Seaman, Kevin R. Free, Kylie Seaman, Luke Mulligan, Luke Prael, Marguerite Stimpson, Missy Yager, Natalie Carter, Nora Mullins, Phoebe Amirault, Shacha Temirov, William Koo

Director: Bo Burnham

Rating: R

If you grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you may find yourself now humming along: It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine? 

If you did not grow up watching this iconic children’s television program, you may still be familiar with its host, the late Fred Rogers. Rogers was an advocate for empathy and extending kindness toward people of all races, religions, and ages. He never talked down to the neighbors who paid him visits on the show, which aired from 1968 to 2001, even while tackling heavier subjects like grief, divorce, and loneliness.

Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor best captures Rogers’ ability to build communities and make you, the viewer, feel less alone. Through interviews and archival footage, a clear portrait emerges of Rogers’ legacy and singular force of goodwill. Both the documentary and Fred Rogers’ spirit serve as reminders that each of us are worthy of love, exactly as we are.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Al Gore, Ayden Soria, Betty Aberlin, Bill Clinton, Bill Isler, Brian Kilmeade, Christa McAuliffe, David Bianculli, David Letterman, David Newell, Eddie Murphy, Eleanor Way, François Clemmons, Fred Rogers, George Wirth, Hedda Sharapan, Hillary Clinton, Jim Rogers, Joanne Rogers, Joe Negri, Johnny Carson, Josie Carey, Junlei Li, Koko, Lorin Hollander, Lynden Liu, Lyndon B. Johnson, Major Hawbaker Manask, Margaret Whitmer, Max King, McColm Cephas Jr., McColm Kona Cephas Jr., Nick Tallo, Robert F. Kennedy, Susan Stamberg, Tom Junod, Tom Snyder, Yo-Yo Ma

Director: Morgan Neville

This is a documentary with a dark underbelly. When Bobby Shafran goes on his first day at college, everyone seems to recognize him. The person they're actually recognizing is his twin brother, as the two were separated at birth by an adoption agency. A third brother surfaces to make the story even crazier, but things take a darker turn when questions arise about why they were separated as toddlers and to what end. If it wasn't a documentary, this story would be an unusual science fiction on the themes of identity and nature vs. nurture.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: David Kellman, Ellen Cervone, Howard Schneider, Lawrence Wright, Michael Domnitz, Robert Shafran, Tim Wardle

Director: Tim Wardle

Rating: PG-13

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!

Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.

This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Chelsea Edmundson, Chris Doubek, Frank Mosley, István Mihály, Jacqueline Doke, Jim Cummings, Jocelyn DeBoer, Jordan Ray Fox, Kendal Farr, Macon Blair, Marshall Allman, Nican Robinson, Tristan Riggs

Director: Jim Cummings

Rating: N/A

For those of us who don't lurk on internet message boards and participate in social media culture, a documentary about memes might seem frivolous. But Feels Good Man steers the conversation into one about semiotics: the way images become symbols and can continue transforming—from a harmless expression of the self, into a hateful banner for bigotry, into a cry of protest and freedom. As his Pepe the Frog creation takes on a life of its own, artist Matt Furie attempts to reclaim ownership of it and finds that the relationship between an artist and their own work can be as difficult as any toxic relationship. It's a bleak view of how unfeeling internet culture can be, but it reminds us that we always still have some power to beat the hate.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary

Actor: Adam Serwer, Alex Jones, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Emily Heller, Hillary Clinton, Johnny Ryan, Joy Reid, Katy Perry, Lisa Hanawalt, Logan Paul, Matt Furie, Melania Trump, Mike Majlak, Nicki Minaj, Phil McGraw, Rachel Maddow, Richard Spencer, Samantha Bee, Skinner, Stephen Colbert, Susan Blackmore

Director: Arthur Jones

If you like: weird movies and / or Scandinavian mythology, this movie is for you. It's about unusual looking border agent with super-human abilities (such as smelling fear and shame) who meets someone like her for the first time There is a big revelation in Border that I can't share but while this movie was directed by an Iranian (Ali Abbasi), it's deeply rooted in Swedish folklore. Themes of identity, gender, and otherness intersect through a thrilling script and beautifully-shot nature scenes.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Andreas Kundler, Ann Petrén, Åsa Janson, Donald Högberg, Eero Milonoff, Eva Melander, Henrik Johansson, Ibrahim Faal, Jörgen Thorsson, Josefin Neldén, Kardo Razzazi, Kjell Wilhelmsen, Krister Kern, Matti Boustedt, Natalie Minnevik, Rakel Wärmländer, Robert Enckell, Sten Ljunggren, Tomas Åhnstrand, Viktor Åkerblom, Viktor Åkerblom-Nilsson

Director: Ali Abbasi

Rating: R