4 Movies Like Indecent Proposal (1993)

Staff & contributors

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

Cloudburst is the very funny and heartwarming story of two old ladies, Stella (played by Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis) and Dotty (played by another Academy Award winner, Brenda Fricker) who escape their nursing home and drive to Nova Scotia, Canada to get married. Along the way, they meet Prentice, a hitchhiker on his way home to Nova Scotia as well. Cloudburst is the story of their road trip. Dotty is lascivious and loving. Expect to be shocked by Stella's potty mouth. The whole film is a great love story about devotion, acceptance and living life to the fullest.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Brenda Fricker, Jeremy Akerman, John Dunsworth, Juanita Peters, Kevin Kincaid, Kristin Booth, Mary-Colin Chisholm, Michael McPhee, Olympia Dukakis, Randy Boliver, Ryan Doucette, Trina Corkum

Director: Thom Fitzgerald

Rating: Unrated

Tied together by a song that seems to drive people to end their own lives, Gloomy Sunday's tale of polyamorous love torn apart by the advent of the Second World War is one that doesn't operate according to your usual narrative structure. Its stranger elements might not always work with the very real horrors of the Nazis' invasion of Hungary, but the film still expresses this horror in a unique way. Even long before the war begins, this song that joins our three lovers together seems to touch on a sense of doom everybody is feeling—warning signs of Hitler's rise to power that ordinary people seem to have been powerless to stop in time. It's certainly unique for a non-action-driven war film, bathed in tragedy and bitter irony.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance, War

Actor: András Bálint, Anna Ráckevei, Áron Sipos, Ben Becker, Denis Moschitto, Dorka Gryllus, Erika Marozsán, Ernst Kahl, Ferenc Bács, Ferenc Némethy, Ilse Zielstorff, István Kanizsay, István Mikó, Joachim Krol, Jörg Gillner, Karl Fischer, László I. Kish, Markus Hering, Márta Bakó, Michael Gampe, Rolf Becker, Sebastian Koch, Stefan Weinert, Stefano Dionisi, Tibor Kenderesi, Ulrike Grote, Veit Stübner, Wanja Mues, Zsuzsa Mányai

Director: Rolf Schübel

As southern movies go, Fried Green Tomatoes is inoffensively sweet and realistic—it’s not afraid to touch on the genuine issues that plagued America in the 1930s while also cushioning some blows, as feel-good movies are wont to do. But the film seems less interested in presenting a clear picture of the past than it is in telling a specific tale: that of outsiders forming bonds and making it together in an unforgiving society. 

The main narrator is Ninny, an 83-year-old woman seemingly forgotten by everyone except Evelyn, an unhappy housewife who is “too young to be old and too old to be young.” Ninny recalls the stories of Sipsey and Big George, Black laborers who dared to succeed in their deeply racist community; of Smokey, the town outcast, who still helped people even if he was denied it himself; of Ruth, the domestic abuse victim; and of Idgie, the tomboy who spat on the face of all decorum. Then, of course, there’s the unspoken relationship between Ruth and Idgie, which hint at something quite radical for its time. 

These are all the people conventionally denied happy endings, and in period films, you’d expect to be abandoned in tragedy. But here they sing; they win and lose in equal measure, and even though it might seem like light and familiar fare to some, it still goes down heartily and unforgettably—funnily enough, like a plate of fried green tomatoes.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Afton Smith, Bob Hannah, Carol Mitchell-Leon, Chris O'Donnell, Chris O'Donnell, Cicely Tyson, Constance Shulman, Danny Nelson, David Dwyer, Evan Lockwood, Fannie Flagg, Gailard Sartain, Gary Basaraba, Grace Zabriskie, Grayson Fricke, Haynes Brooke, Jessica Tandy, Jo Harvey Allen, Kathy Bates, Kathy Larson, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Lois Smith, Macon McCalman, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Nancy Moore Atchison, Nick Searcy, Raynor Scheine, Reid Binion, Richard Riehle, Stan Shaw, Suzi Bass, Ted Manson, Tim Scott, Timothy Scott, Tom Even, Wallace Merck

Director: Jon Avnet

Rating: PG-13