2 Movies Like How I Became a Superhero (2020)

Staff & contributors
You don't need to be familiar with the rest of the Rurouni Kenshin live-action movie series—or the original manga and anime, for that matter—to appreciate The Beginning as a powerful period drama in its own right. This is a story that courses its historical context about a tumultuous time in Japan's past through a stoic, fearsome protagonist who can't seem to escape the violence that's become his only function. And even more impressively, as a prequel, the film keeps a heavy sense of dread about it, even if you're sure about which characters are meant to survive in order to appear in the previous films. It's the mark of any great tragedy that even the things that are destined can still feel so painful.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Romance

Actor: Eiki Narita, Eita Okuno, Emi Takei, Hoshi Ishida, Issey Takahashi, Kasumi Arimura, Kazuki Kitamura, Kinari Hirano, Makiko Watanabe, Mansaku Ikeuchi, Masanobu Ando, Masataka Kubota, Mayu Hotta, Nijiro Murakami, Shima Onishi, Soko Wada, Takahiro Fujimoto, Takeru Satoh, Towa Araki, Wataru Ichinose, Yosuke Eguchi

Director: Keishi Otomo

Rating: R

In 1961, Francisco de Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington was stolen from London’s National Gallery, but the theft was no slick heist pulled off by international art thieves. No, the improbable culprit was (the improbably named) Kempton Bunton, a retired bus driver and aspiring playwright who pinched the painting — which the gallery had recently acquired for £140,000 of UK taxpayers’ money — as a Robin Hood-esque “attempt to pick the pockets of those who love art more than charity.” The principled Bunton (played here by Jim Broadbent) was, at the time, waging a one-man campaign to convince the government to grant pensioners and veterans free TV licenses, and the Goya theft was his way of publicizing those efforts. It was an eccentric plan, but Broadbent leans fully into his status as a UK national treasure here, making oddball Bunton a deeply sympathetic and warm figure because of (not despite) those quirks. Thanks to his performance — and the note-perfect direction of the late, great Roger Michell — a quirky footnote of history becomes a sweet, unexpectedly moving story about solidarity and the power of the underdog.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Aimee Kelly, Andrew Havill, Anna Maxwell Martin, Charlotte Spencer, Cliff Burnett, Craig Conway, Darren Charman, Dorian Lough, Fionn Whitehead, Heather Craney, Helen Mirren, Jack Bandeira, James Wilby, Jim Broadbent, John Heffernan, Joshua McGuire, Matthew Goode, Michael Hodgson, Richard McCabe, Sam Swainsbury, Sarah Beck Mather, Sian Clifford, Stephen Rashbrook, Val McLane, Will Graham

Director: Roger Michell

Rating: R