12 Movies Like Garden State (2004)

Staff & contributors

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

Written and directed by Bambi from Scrubs himself, Garden State is one hell of a directorial debut. It is one of those movies that leaves you wanting to cuddle, as it is very sweet, charming and funny... the whole lot really. It's a movie you want to date. More than that, this is the film that popularized the 'indie dream girl' character and the sad-sack mopey comedies of the early aughts. Absolutely it's going to be talked about in thirty years, so you might as well watch it first.

The Station Agent is about loneliness, change and friendship. Sounds corny right? It’s not. The characters are developed, they have their own reasons for the choices they make and nothing feels forced, neither actions or conversations. It’s a small and wonderful movie about a little man that moves out of the city and his comfort zone when his only friend dies, moves to said friend’s old train station and sets his life there. From there on it follows his social interactions with a slew of people, the relationships he forms with them. Oh, and the little man? Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), who pulls off a great performance, albeit a quiet one.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bobby Cannavale, Ileen Getz, Jase Blankfort, Jayce Bartok, Jeremy Bergman, Joe Lo Truglio, John Slattery, Josh Pais, Lynn Cohen, Maile Flanagan, Marla Sucharetza, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Benjamin, Paula Garces, Peter Dinklage, Raven Goodwin, Richard Kind

Director: Tom McCarthy

Rating: R

A relevant and deeply entertaining movie that only has the appearance of being about politics. In reality, it is about television, and one brilliant journalist’s pursuit of the perfect interview.  Richard Nixon stepped away from the public eye after the Watergate scandal, and was counting on a series of interviews three years later to redeem himself. His team assigns an unlikely reporter to sit in front of him, a British reality TV host named David Frost. Both men have everything to gain from this interview by going against each other, as Frost tries to extract a confession of wrongdoing in Watergate that Nixon never gave.  Who will win? The master manipulator or the up-and-coming journalist? Frost / Nixon was originally a play, and this adaptation is full of drama and boosts great dialogue.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Andy Milder, Clint Howard, Eloy Casados, Frank Langella, Gabriel Jarret, Gavin Grazer, Geoffrey Blake, Jenn Gotzon Chandler, Jim Meskimen, Kate Jennings Grant, Keith MacKechnie, Kevin Bacon, Mark Simich, Matthew Macfadyen, Max Elliott Slade, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Patty McCormack, Penny L. Moore, Rance Howard, Rebecca Hall, Sam Rockwell, Simon James, Toby Jones, Wil Albert, Yvette Rachelle

Director: Ron Howard

Rating: R

A period comedy set in New York in the summer of 1994, the Wackness is a coming of age story about Luke Shapiro (Joshua Peck), as he deals with family trauma, love, and economic hardship while selling pot to his strange psychologist. Rescued from a somewhat typical bildungsroman plot by sharp character acting, a firm directorial hand and an absolutely fitting soundtrack that evokes the golden age of rap music.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Yoo, Alexander Flores, Ben Kingsley, Bob Dishy, David Wohl, Famke Janssen, Jane Adams, Joanna Merlin, Josh Peck, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man, Olivia Thirlby, Roy Milton Davis, Shannon Briggs, Talia Balsam

Director: Jonathan Levine

Rating: R

, 2007

Once is about a vacuum cleaner/repairman/street musician and a florist in a boy-meets-girl-then-makes-music tale of love, friendship, family, and freaking great music. You can just feel the passion from this simple but charming low-budget movie capturing the chemistry of music making. The film's music will make your skin tingle and hair stand on end. How good is it? In addition to the film winning an Oscar for its music, the Broadway musical version has won 8 Tonys. In short - get ready for a sonic masterpiece!

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Darren Healy, Geoff Minogue, Gerard Hendrick, Glen Hansard, Hugh Walsh, Mal Whyte, Marcella Plunkett, Markéta Irglová

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Will Ferrell plays a well organized IRS agent named Harold Crick who seems to have figured out everything in his life to the dot. Little does he know his life is being run by someone else, a nervous and morbid novelist, famous for ending her works with the death of the main character. As the nature of his life and eventual doom, he decides to lay back and enjoy the ride, breaking all his ingrained and boring habits. While this film is recommended for everyone, Will Ferrel fans, especially, need to watch this to see Will's acting variety.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Andrew Rothenberg, Bob Papenbrook, Bradley Mott, Bruce Jarchow, Celeste Pechous, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Christian Stolte, Danny McCarthy, Danny Rhodes, Denise Hughes, Dustin Hoffman, Eli Goodman, Emma Thompson, Frank Caeti, Guy Massey, Jarrett Sleeper, John M. Watson Sr., John Mohrlein, Julia Heron, Keith Kupferer, Kristin Chenoweth, Larry Neumann Jr., Linara Washington, Linda Hunt, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marc Forster, Martha Espinoza, Mike McColl, Nadirah Bost, Nathan Adloff, Ora Jones, Peggy Roeder, Peter Grosz, Queen Latifah, Ray Kurut, Ricardo Gutierrez, Ricky Adams, Sandra Marquez, Sia A. Moody, T.J. Jagodowski, Tab Baker, Tim Krueger, Tom Hulce, Tonray Ho, Tony Hale, Will Clinger, Will Ferrell, William Dick

Director: Marc Forster

Rating: PG-13

The self destructive, substance abusing history teacher Dan (Ryan Gosling) works in a Brooklyn middle-school and is constantly at odds with the curriculum, preferring to teach 13 year old kids Marxist theory in class. Meanwhile, his student Drey (Shareeka Epps) has to go through struggles of her own, her brother being in jail on drug charges and her single mother having to work long hours to make ends meet. Slowly, an unlikely and tender friendship between teacher and student evolves, in which it becomes less and less clear who of them is the adult part. Steering away from cliches, Half Neslon is not your typical social drama. Its intelligent plot twists, great cast (with outstanding performances by both Gossling and Epps) and slow, non dramatic storytelling makes this a highly underestimated movie that, although treating depressive topics without any easy relief for the viewer, will leave with an inner smile, albeit a sad one.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adepero Oduye, Anthony Mackie, Collins Pennie, Deborah Rush, Deidre Goodwin, Denis O'Hare, Eleanor Hutchins, Jay O. Sanders, Jeff Lima, Karen Chilton, Katie Nehra, Leslie Eva Glaser, Matt Kerr, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Nathan Corbett, Nicole Vicius, Raymond Anthony Thomas, Ron Cephas Jones, Ryan Gosling, Sebastian Sozzi, Shareeka Epps, Sharon Washington, Starla Benford, Stephanie Bast, Thaddeus Daniels, Tina Holmes, Tristan Mack Wilds, Tyra Kwao-Vovo

Director: Ryan Fleck

Rating: R

Starring Matthew Broderick and a young Reese Witherspoon as, respectively, Jim McAllister, a high school teacher and Tracy Flick, a notorious 'that girl' in his class. When Tracy decides to run for class president, we see the floodgates open as all sorts of bizarre and insane behavior pours out of the two. Quickly, it becomes clear that Tracy will do nearly anything to win, and as circumstances spiral out of control, madness descends - along with hilarity!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: B.J. Tobin, Chris Klein, Colleen Camp, Delaney Driscoll, Frankie Ingrassia, Holmes Osborne, Jason Paige, Jeanine Jackson, Jessica Campbell, Jillian Crane, John Ponzio, Kaitlin Ferrell, Marilyn Tipp, Mark Harelik, Matt Golden, Matt Malloy, Matthew Broderick, Molly Hagan, Nicholas D'Agosto, Phil Reeves, Reese Witherspoon, Rohan Quine

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is compassionate and diminutive, but her social awkwardness hinders her as she attempts to navigate young adulthood. After recently being hospitalized for self-harm, Lee is determined to prove she is capable of autonomously taking care of herself. She begins working as a secretary for E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a meticulous attorney.

It’s not long before both Lee and Edward realize they’re attracted to one another’s opposite natures: Lee’s obedience and Edward’s dominance. They begin a mutually consensual BDSM relationship, with both experiencing a sexual and emotional awakening. 

The premise may sound familiar: 50 Shades of Grey is widely acknowledged as, at the very least, owing its title to Secretary. But while 50 Shades of Grey portrays an unhealthy, toxic, and superficial idea of a BDSM affair, Secretary maintains that consent must be at the core of any relationship. And ultimately for Lee and Edward, BDSM becomes a way for them to communicate and overcome their individual pain, and unite stronger as a vulnerable, loving whole.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alison Tatlock, Amy Locane, Christina Gray, David Wiater, Diane McGee, Erin Cressida Wilson, Ezra Buzzington, Herbert Russell, James Spader, Jeremy Davies, Jessica Tuck, Julene Renee, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Lacey Kohl, Lauren Cohn, Lesley Ann Warren, Lily Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Joy, Michael Mantell, Osgood Perkins, Oz Perkins, Patrick Bauchau, Sabrina Grdevich, Shannon Convery, Stephen McHattie, Steven Fierberg, Steven Shainberg

Director: Steven Shainberg

Rating: R

Best friends Miles and Jack are off to wine country to celebrate Jack's last week of freedom before he gets married. They drop white lies about themselves, with Miles pretending to be a successful writer and Jack not mentioning his impending wedding, and soon meet two beautiful women whom they spend the rest of their stay with. What sounds like a dreamy bachelor's celebration, however, soon unravels into a messy tangle of tall tales. Miles and Jack contemplate their situation in smart, sad, and silly turns, delivering excellent performances and an overall hard-hitting road movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Kalognomos, Alysia Reiner, Cesar Ramos, Jessica Hecht, Joe Marinelli, Lee Brooks, M.C. Gainey, Marylouise Burke, Mikael Sharafyan, Missy Doty, Patrick Gallagher, Paul Giamatti, Peter Dennis, Phil Reeves, Robert Covarrubias, Sandra Oh, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Stephanie Faracy, Thomas Haden Church, Toni Howard, Virginia Madsen

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

A residential dispute spirals out of control into full, xenophobia-fueled tragedy in this straightforward and elegantly made film that comes from a now-bygone era of mid-budget dramas for adults. House of Sand and Fog may come off as excessively bleak to viewers today, but it manages to capture a very particular mood of paranoia and distrust common in post-9/11 American cinema. And if nothing else, the film is worth watching for a trio of powerful performances that never resort to overacting: from Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, English screen legend Ben Kingsley, and an always compelling Jennifer Connelly, who was arguably at the peak of her career in the early 2000s.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aaron Frazier, Aki Aleong, Al Rodrigo, Ashley Edner, Ben Kingsley, Bonita Friedericy, Brian Reed Garvin, Carlos Gómez, Cooper Thornton, Dan Brinkle, David Carrera, Dennison Samaroo, Elton Ahi, Frances Fisher, Frank Gallegos, Izabella St. James, Jennifer Connelly, Joe Howard, Jonathan Ahdout, Joyce Kurtz, Karl Makinen, Ken Kerman, Kia Jam, Kim Dickens, Marco Rodriguez, Mark Chaet, Matthew Waite, Max Jansen Weinstein, Michael Papajohn, Namrata Singh Gujral, Nasser Faris, Navi Rawat, Pamela Shaddock, Ray Abruzzo, Ron Eldard, Scott Kinworthy, Scott N. Stevens, Shani Rigsbee, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Spencer Garrett, Tom Reynolds, Zoran Radanovich

Director: Vadim Perelman

Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is a dark comedy that follows the exploits of teenage outcasts Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) as they navigate the many complexities of burgeoning adulthood. Central to the story is the unlikely friendship that Enid strikes up with a lonesome older man (played by Steve Buscemi), a curious relationship that drifts through various humorous and melancholy situations. It’s an original and often poignant look at alienation and identity, with Birch delivering a wonderfully deadpan and often hilarious performance, despite her entirely pessimistic attitude. It’s the type of film that’s just right when you’re in the mood for something just a little bit different.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alex Solowitz, Anna Berger, Ashley Peldon, Bob Balaban, Brad Renfro, Brett Gilbert, Brian George, Brian Jacobs, Bruce Glover, Chachi Pittman, Charles C. Stevenson Jr., Charles Schneider, Daniel Graves, Danny Allen, Dave Sheridan, David Cross, Debi Derryberry, Debra Azar, Diane Salinger, Dylan Jones, Ezra Buzzington, Illeana Douglas, Jake La Botz, James Sie, Jerry Rector, Joan Blair, Joel Michaely, John Bunnell, Joseph Sikora, Joshua Wheeler, Joy Bisco, Kaileigh Brielle Martin, Lauren Bowles, Lindsey Girardot, Lorna Scott, Marc Vann, Martin Grey, Mary Bogue, Matt Doherty, Michelle McGinty, Pat Healy, Patrick Fischler, Paul Keith, Rini Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Sid Hillman, Stacey Travis, Steve Buscemi, T. J. Thyne, Teri Garr, Thora Birch, Tom McGowan, Tony Ketcham, Venus DeMilo Thomas, Will Forte

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Rating: R

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a corporate axman, he comes in a fires people when the managers are too afraid to do it themselves. The nature of his work requires a lot of flying, short lived meetings in transit zones and he absolutely loves it, and he has a certain goal in mind. When the company tries a new approach to corporate downsizing he has to change his way and view of life. It's full of cynicism and warmth. If you are familiar with Jason Reitman's previous work, you'll feel right at home, if you don't : Get to it!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Rose, Adhir Kalyan, Adrienne Lamping, Amy Morton, Anna Kendrick, Chris Lowell, ​Christopher Lowell, Cut Chemist, Danny McBride, Dave Engfer, George Clooney, J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman, Jeff Witzke, Jerry Vogel, Matt O'Toole, Melanie Lynskey, Sam Elliott, Steve Eastin, Tamala Jones, Thomas M. Martilotti, Vera Farmiga, Zach Galifianakis

Director: Jason Reitman

Rating: R