5 Movies Like Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022)

Staff & contributors

In the early 1990s, Singaporean teens Sandi, Jasmine, and Sophie set out to make the country’s first indie movie. Incredibly, in between college, day jobs, and very limited funding, they manage to do just that with the help of their wise but mysterious mentor, Georges. Shirkers, as the project came to be called, seemed primed to revolutionize the burgeoning Singaporean film industry. It was ambitious and bonkers, unlike anything the country has seen before, and it lovingly contained tributes to the makers' cinematic heroes (among them Wim Wenders and David Lynch). But before it could see the light of the day, before it could even be viewed and edited by the girls who conceptualized it, Shirkers’ raw footage was whisked away by Georges, who fled the country without a trace. 

The potentially pioneering film was never to be seen again—that is, until 20 years later when it resurfaces in near-mint condition (sadly, the audio could not be recovered). Fascinated by the journey of the lost film and mystified by Georges’ motives, Sandi decides to remake Shirkers as a documentary. The result is an artistic and personal interrogation into what made their small beloved film possible, how its loss affected the people behind it, and how this all led to Shirkers, the documentary, which is a testament to how art always prevails in the end. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Georges Cardona, Jasmine Ng, Jasmine Ng Kin Kia, Sandi Tan, Sophia Siddique Harvey

Director: Sandi Tan

Rating: TV-14

Don't let the title and poster fool you—Riders of Justice isn't the testosterone-filled action flick you'd expect going in (though it does get ridiculous at some points). It centers on deployed military man Markus, played by the appropriately masculine Mads Mikkelsen, who has to return home to his teenage daughter Mathilde after his wife dies in an accident. Instead of coping normally and sticking with his daughter to get through the tragedy, he goes down a rabbit hole discovering how the accident that killed his wife is more than just bad luck and may have been collateral damage from a gang orchestrating an assassination.

Surprisingly, director Anders Thomas Jensen injects this violent film with a lot of gentle moments about trauma and togetherness. Mikkelsen and the rest of the cast play off of each other very well, using dark humor to bring together a bunch of characters who are, in oversimplified terms, "fucked up but trying their best."

It may seem like the guns, blood, and badass moments are a front for this film that, at its core, shows men who badly need therapy banding together to cope with the harshness of life. Extremely funny and deeply moving, it qualifies as a heartwarming Christmas movie, believe it or not.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Alice E. Bier Zandén, Anders Nyborg, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Anne Birgitte Lind, Anne Fletting, Christina Ibsen Meyer, Gustav Dyekjær Giese, Gustav Lindh, Henrik Noël Olesen, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Jesper Groth, Jesper Ole Feit Andersen, Johanne Dal-Lewkovitch, Kaspar Velberg, Klaus Hjuler, Lars Brygmann, Mads Mikkelsen, Morten Suurballe, Natasja Crone, Nicolas Bro, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Omar Shargawi, Peder Holm Johansen, Raivo Trass, Rigmor Ranthe, Rikke Louise Andersson, Roland Moller

Director: Anders Thomas Jensen

Funny, sweet, and tropey, Badhaai Do is a unique Hindi dramedy about a lavender marriage. Gay policeman Shardul (Rajkummar Rao) and lesbian teacher Sumi (Bhumi Pednekar) agree to wed in order to satisfy their family’s wishes without exposing their sexual orientations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop their family from other expectations, such as that of maintaining their marriage and having a child. After their immediate connection, Shardul and Sumi’s continuous bickering, through Rao and Pednekar’s chemistry, is hilarious, leading to elaborate lies about each other for their family. However, underneath their funny back-and-forth is an understanding between them that almost feels freeing. Their platonic partnership feels like a lifeline in an isolating closet. While India is portrayed here to have a thriving LGBTQ+ community, microaggressions, harassment, and legal discrimination are still present. Despite this, the film carves up moments where Shardul and Sumi actively seek connection, with each other and with other people, including their eventual lovers. The most touching of these moments come when they both allow themselves to be honest.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bhumi Pednekar, Chum Darang, Gulshan Devaiah, Loveleen Mishra, Nitesh Pandey, Rajkummar Rao, Seema Pahwa, Shashi Bhushan, Sheeba Chaddha

Director: Harshavardhan Kulkarni

Rating: PG

American Girl follows 13-year-old Fen as she returns to Taiwan from the US and tries to make sense of a culture that’s supposedly her own. In addition to her awkward but relatable attempts to understand identity and adolescence, Fen also struggles to connect with her mother Lily, whose own problems further push her away from her teenage daughter. If you’ve seen Lady Bird, you may recognize a bit of Christine and Marion in Fen and Lily as they throw themselves into an endless tug-of-war of emotions. Their fights are genuinely frustrating, but only because of how true-to-life they are.

As painful as it sometimes is to see them clash, it’s their love-hate dynamic that charges much of the film’s emotional energy and makes it ultimately irresistible to watch. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Blaire Chang, Bowie Tsang, Caitlin Fang, Hsia Yu-chiao, Jia-Yin Tsai, Kaiser Chuang, Karena Lam, Karena Lam Kar-Yan, Ming-shiou Tsai, Teng-Hui Huang, Winnie Chang, Winnie Shih-Ying Chang

Director: Feng-I Fiona Roan, Fiona Roan

Rating: Not Rated

Pushing an already extreme activity even further beyond its limits, Ueli Steck and Dani Arnold have became the world champions of speed climbing—a variation of the sport that places much greater importance on direct competition over communing with nature. It's fascinating to hear what drives Steck and Arnold to courting death like this, and to see how their vastly different backgrounds and processes have still made them equals in the field. The documentary eventually runs out of ideas, however, as it clumsily shifts tones leading into its last third, and concludes abruptly without much synthesis of everything that had come before. It's still a worthwhile adventure whether or not one is into climbing; it's just disappointing that this story of such a unique rivalry settles into a more generic rhythm by the end.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Documentary

Actor: Dani Arnold, Ueli Steck

Director: Götz Werner, Nicholas de Taranto

Rating: PG-13