5 Movies Like Freedom Writers (2007)

Staff & contributors

Kimberly Peirce's first–out of only three—film was a smashing success, mostly due to her dedication to the subject matter. Peirce spent years researching the life and tragic death of Brandon Teena after reading an article about him in The Village Voice. She felt a particular kind of kinship as a queer person herself, and wanted to construct a story out of real facts that would put the spotlight on love and the desire for connection, and not that much on the violence which dominated the public discourse. In Falls City, Nebraska, the director conducted interviews with Lana Tisdale (Brandon's girlfriend) and her mother, while attending the ongoing trial. She took years to cast the lead and from hundreds of cis women, lesbians, and trans people, she chose the unknown actress Hilary Swank, who went on to win the Best Actress Academy Award (and the irony of that is not lost on us). The film features fantastic performances aplenty and very raw storytelling, visualized by neorealist style and low lighting. Direct references were the films of Martin Scorcese and John Cassavetes, but Boys Don't Cry has its own blend of beauty and cruelty to take pride in.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alicia Goranson, Alison Folland, Brendan Sexton III, Caitlin Wehrle, Cheyenne Rushing, Chloe Sevigny, Craig Erickson, Gabriel Horn, Gail Cronauer, Guilford Adams, Hilary Swank, Jackson D. Kane, Jeannetta Arnette, Jerry Haynes, Josh Ridgway, Libby Villari, Lisa Renee Wilson, Lou Perryman, Matt McGrath, Paige Carl Griggs, Peter Sarsgaard, Rob Campbell, Robert Prentiss, Shana McClendon

Director: Kimberly Peirce

Rating: R

Andrew Garfield is a single father living with his own single mother in their family home. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, they find themselves evicted from their home by a businessman - Michael Shannon in a role as intriguing as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, if not more. Desperate for work, Garfield’s character starts working for the same businessman, ultimately evicting other people. A star-packed, gritty and sobering tale on capitalism and our the lengths to which we’re ready to go to save face - while at the same time risking our most important relationships.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Albert C. Bates, Andrew Garfield, Ann Mahoney, Carl Palmer, Clancy Brown, Cullen Moss, Cynthia LeBlanc, David Maldonado, Deneen Tyler, Don Brady, Donna DuPlantier, Elton LeBlanc, Garrett Kruithof, Gretchen Koerner, Gus Rhodes, J.D. Evermore, Jayson Warner Smith, Jeff Pope, John L. Armijo, Jonathan Tabler, Joni Bovill, Juan Gaspard, Judd Lormand, Kerry Sims, Laura Dern, Liann Pattison, Luke Sexton, Manu Narayan, Michael Shannon, Michelle DeVito, Nicole Barré, Noah Lomax, Patrick Kearns, Randy Austin, Richard Holden, Robert Larriviere, Tim Guinee, Tom Bui, Wayne Pére, Yvonne Landry

Director: Ramin Bahrani

, 1993

Part documentary yet part surreal daydream, director Derek Jarman’s final film is one last rallying cry into a blue void. Against an unchanging screen of International Klein Blue, most of the film is Jarman’s voice, drifting through various subjects, from day-to-day complications of AIDS to contemplations about the color blue. Some of his frequent collaborators chime in. Choirs singing about damnation occasionally pop up too. While essentially a radio drama, the combination of voices, foley, and scores all merge together into an ethereal, haunting soundscape, that sticks in your head long after the film ends. Mirroring his partial blindness, Jarman’s last experiment leaves an impression of his own experience. It’s absolutely devastating.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Derek Jarman, John Quentin, Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton

Director: Derek Jarman

Rating: Not Rated

A simple movie about a Scottish country singer with a dream to go to Nashville, U.S.A and reach stardom. It starts with her leaving prison to return to her mom's house, where her kid was being raised in her absence. Heavy stuff, but this girl is determined to let nothing get in the way of realizing her dreams. Will she make it? At what cost? Wild Rose answers those questions with a warm script that's designed to make you feel good without completely misleading you. Think of it as a more grounded A Star is Born.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Adam Mitchell, Aly Bain, Ashley McBryde, Ashley Shelton, Atta Yaqub, Benny Young, Bob Harris, Carolyn Calder, Craig Parkinson, Daisy Littlefield, David McGowan, Gemma McElhinney, Helen Katamba, J. Thomas Bailey, James Harkness, Jamie Sives, Jane Patterson, Janey Godley, Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Kacey Musgraves, Kern Falconer, Louise McCarthy, Martin Docherty, Maryam Hamidi, Matt Costello, Maureen Carr, Neill MacColl, Sophie Okonedo, Tracy Wiles

Director: Tom Harper

Rating: R

This Obamas-produced documentary does much to change the way we may still view people with disabilities as helpless or to be pitied. First, Crip Camp cleans up footage from a 1970s New York summer camp for disabled teens to pristine sound and video quality, allowing us to see how vibrant and lively this community has always been. Then, more importantly, the film traces how these kids—in particular, Judy Heumann—became badass faces in the movement for disability rights, staging protests and articulating themselves passionately for better accessibility in the most fundamental areas of everyday life. It's a documentary that isn't just designed to inspire, but also to advocate for safe spaces where young people with disabilities can receive the encouragement and motivation they need as early as possible.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ann Cupolo Freeman, Joseph O'Conor, Judith Heumann

Director: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham