12 Movies Like Insomnia (2002)

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Directed by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is at times brutal—such is the famous Canadian director's trademark—and operates at a fever pitch of grim violence and revenge. Starring a tattooed, ruthless, and terrifying Viggo Mortensen as a very convincing Russian strong-arm gangster as well as Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassel, it features intense psychological drama and a gritty crime story. Midwife Anna (Watts) delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian prostitute, who dies while giving birth, and later learns that she was forced into prostitution by the Mafia. To keep this knowledge from seeping out, she gets entangled deeper into London's criminal underbelly, whose various factions and languages are aptly showcased by Cronenberg. Add to all this a smart script and Mortensen's daring performance and you have yourself an intense auteur thriller in signature Cronenberg style.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aleksandar Mikic, Aleksander Mikic, Alice Henley, Armin Mueller-Stahl, David Papava, Donald Sumpter, Elisa Lasowski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Josef Altin, Mina E. Mina, Naomi Watts, Raza Jaffrey, Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse, Sinead Cusack, Tamer Hassan, Tatiana Maslany, Tereza Srbová, Tony Cook, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel

Director: David Cronenberg

Rating: R

Fasten your seatbelts because this nasty little chase film will jerk the wheel when you least expect it, featuring balls-to-the-wall action and lots of Norwegian humor – dark humor that is. Based on a novel from the country's most famous crime writer, Jo Nesbø, Headhunters is brutal, insane, and incredibly good. This twisting, turning thriller tells the story of a corporate recruiter (Aksel Hennie), who has a secret side hustle as a nightly art thief. He ends up being pursued by the charismatic Clas Greve, a Dutch businessman played by none other than GoT-star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. And this plot summary is as far as you will get without the whole thing swerving into another direction. Headhunters does not slow down unless it wants to destabilise you further with simmering suspense. Like a Lars von Trier on speed, expect all the raw colors, emotion, and slightly off-kilter characters you want from a Norwegian production – and brilliant entertainment!

Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Aksel Hennie, Baard Owe, Camilla Augusta Hallan, Eivind Sander, Gunnar Skramstad Johnsen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Joachim Rafaelsen, Julie R. Ølgaard, Julie R. Olgaard, Kyrre Haugen Sydness, Mats Mogeland, Mattis Herman Nyquist, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nils Jørgen Kaalstad, Nils Jorgen Kaalstad, Reidar Sørensen, Reidar Sorensen, Signe Tynning, Sondre Abel, Synnøve Macody Lund, Synnøve Macody Lund, Valentina Alexeeva

Director: Morten Tyldum

Rating: R

Wendy (Michelle Williams) is a drifter driving up to Alaska in hopes of finding work. When her car breaks down, she and her dog Lucy are stranded and forced to scrounge for food and repairs, hitting one roadblock after another on her path to an uncertain dream. This sympathetic and solemn look at poverty from director Kelly Reichardt serves as a reminder of how easy it is to fall through the fragile American safety net.   

Reichardt’s uncompromising approach paired with Williams’s restrained performance makes the experience authentic and intense, recalling the work of Ken Loach. This natural sharpness makes for an engrossing watch that builds in power until the emotional release of the film’s heartbreaking conclusion. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ayanna Berkshire, David Koppell, Deirdre OConnell, Gabe Nevins, Greg Schmitt, Jeanine Jackson, John Breen, John Robinson, Larry Fessenden, M. Blash, Marilyn Faith Hickey, Michelle Williams, Roger D. Faires, Tanya Smith, Wally Dalton, Will Oldham, Will Patton

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: R

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ellen Page, Elliot Page, G.J. Echternkamp, Odessa Rae, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

Director: David Slade

Rating: R

Monster is a biographical depiction of Aileen Wuornos (Charlize Theron), a prostitute and serial killer who murdered seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990. The film follows the burgeoning relationship between Wuornos and young Selby Wall (Christina Ricci, in a role based on Wuornos' real-life girlfriend Tyria Moore), as she grows increasingly desperate to provide for her young companion financially. Her desperation and her rage against men, brought on by years of both childhood and adult abuse, leads her down a dark path of murder and theft, even as she struggles to shield Selby from the horror of her crimes. The overwhelming highlight of the film is Theron’s mesmerizing performance as Wuornos—a role that won her a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004. She’s almost unrecognizable and altogether phenomenal as the volatile and increasingly unstable Wuornos, whose ferocity is interwoven with surprising affection for young Selby. This unexpected tenderness lends the film an air of tragic poignancy, and provides a bittersweet portrayal of a severely troubled woman. Very much intended for mature audiences only, Monster is a fascinating recreation of a disturbing yet compelling chapter in the annals of true crime in America.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Al, Annie Corley, Brett Rice, Bruce Dern, Bubba Baker, Cannonball, Catherine Mangan, Charlize Theron, Christian Stokes, Christina Ricci, Cree Ivey, Glenn R. Wilder, Jesse Stern, Jim R. Coleman, Kaitlin Riley, Kane Hodder, Lee Tergesen, Lyllian Barcaski, Magdalena Manville, Marc Macaulay, Marco St. John, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Romonda Shaver, Rus Blackwell, Scott Wilson, Stephan Jones, Tim Ware

Director: Patty Jenkins

Rating: R

While produced by Wong Kar Wai, Chinese Odyssey 2002 isn’t a moody, melancholy drama that we’re used to. Instead, the Ming Dynasty-set adventure directed by Jeffrey Lau comically spoofs plenty of the beloved genres that captivated Chinese audiences– wuxia epics, musical dramas, and historical romances. The ludicrous crossdressing plot is played in such an over-the-top way, with Lau visually delivering his jabs, with a narrator providing droll commentary on the events, and with intercuts of faux interviews and excerpts from everyone, even including the disgruntled innkeeper spying on the crossdressing princess and the confused restaurant owner. It’s actually quite impressive how the ridiculous plot leads to such a wholesome, moving conclusion.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Romance

Actor: Athena Chu, Chang Chen, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Faye Wong, Jeff Lau Chun-Wai, Ning Jing, Peter Chan Lung, Rebecca Pan, Roy Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Wang Wang, Wang Xudong, Wong Wing-Ming, Zhao Wei

Director: Jeff Lau Chun-Wai

Spike Lee’s adaptation of Richard Price’s novel might appear lesser next to his best work, but it still a gorgeous showcase for all of his talents as a director. Its case is further bolstered by a stacked cast including Delroy Lindo, Harvey Keitel, Mekhi Pfifer, Isaiah Washington, and John Turturro. 

Clockers is set in the world of small-time drug-dealers during the crack epidemic, and much like The Wire (which Price would go on to write for) applies a multifaceted lens to the material. Lee’s uncompromising and emphatic direction lends a gorgeous gravity to the taut drama while top-notch performances fuel the emotional furnace at its core.

 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Nocerino, Arthur J. Nascarella, Bray Poor, Brendan Kelly, Brian Konowal, Carlo Vogel, Christopher Wynkoop, David Batiste, Delroy Lindo, Elvis Nolasco, Frances Foster, Fredro Starr, Ginny Yang, Graham Brown, Hal Sherman, Harry Lennix, Harvey Keitel, Harvey Williams, Hassan Johnson, Isaiah Washington, J. C. MacKenzie, James Saxenmeyer, Jeff Ward, John Fletcher, John Turturro, Jordan Brown, Keith David, Ken Garito, L.B. Williams, Lawrence B. Adisa, Leonard L. Thomas, Lisa Arrindell, Lord Kayson, Marc Webster, Maurice Sneed, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Badalucco, Michael Cullen, Michael Imperioli, Michael McGruther, Mike Starr, Norman Matlock, Orran Farmer, Patrick Ferraro, Paul Calderon, Paul DuBois, Paul Schulze, Peewee Love, Regina Taylor, Richard Ziman, Rick Aiello, Ron Brice, Scot Anthony Robinson, Shawn McLean, Skipp Sudduth, Spike Lee, Steve White, Sticky Fingaz, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Tim Kelleher

Director: Spike Lee

Rating: R

This movie is pretty much in every regard a Norwegian Kill Bill. It’s a dark gory comedy where, naturally, the substitute for Uma Thurman doing damage is an emotionless Stellan Skarsgård. After his son is killed by a drug gang, Skarsgård’s character, fresh off a win of a “citizen of the year” award, embarks on a ruthless journey to track and kill the murderers. This takes place in one of the most remote areas in Norway, where the main character works as a snowplow driver. You guessed it, some people will get snowplowed. Seems familiar? That’s because this year it was turned into a horribly sub-par American movie called Cold Pursuit, with, ugh, Liam Neeson.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Arben Bala, Arthur Berning, Atle Antonsen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Bjørn Moan, Bruno Ganz, David Sakurai, Espen Reboli Bjerke, Gard B. Eidsvold, Goran Navojec, Hildegun Riise, Jack Moland, Jakob Oftebro, Jan Gunnar Røise, Jon Øigarden, Jon Øigarden, Julia Bache-Wiig, Kåre Conradi, Kristofer Hivju, Leo Ajkic, Martin Furulund, Miodrag 'Miki' Krstović, Miodrag Krstović, Ola G. Furuseth, Pål Sverre Hagen, Peter Andersson, Sergej Trifunović, Stellan Skarsgård, Stig Henrik Hoff, Thomas Hildebrand, Tobias Santelmann

Director: Hans Petter Moland

Rating: R

Following is the first movie Christopher Nolan ever directed, a mesmerizing low-budget effort that introduced the world to the genius who will later give us Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, and many other classics. Shot in "extreme" conditions to quote Nolan himself, for just over £3000, it had to be filmed in the span of a year on Saturdays only and in friends' houses. But almost none of that is visible in the sharp camera work, the magnificent acting (most of it was first or second takes), and the twisted script. It tells the story of an unsuccessful writer (The Young Man) who tries to find inspiration in following random people in the street, and doing it via strict rules. One day he follows a man in a suit (Cobb), who catches him and becomes intrigued by him. It turns out that Cobb has his own fascination with people's intimate lives, of criminal nature, which he lets The Young Man into. Using the same non-linear plot technique as in Memento, this movie is halfway between a thriller and a film noir. The inspiration for it came when Nolan's own apartment in London was robbed, and he was fascinated by the act of strangers going through his personal items. If you take into consideration the conditions of its making, this movie is a masterpiece.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Haw, Barbara Stepansky, David Julyan, Dick Bradsell, Emma Thomas, Gillian El-Kadi, Jennifer Angel, Jeremy Theobald, John Nolan, Lucy Russell, Nicolas Carlotti, Paul Mason, Rebecca James

Director: Christopher Nolan

Rating: R

A slow-burning spy thriller set within the British intelligence service during the height of the Cold War, this complex drama is highlighted by Gary Oldman’s acutely understated performance. As a high level agent brought out of retirement to ferret out a mole within the MI5, he exudes intensity and intellect with unerring precision. The story itself is exceptionally complicated and yet highly engaging. I felt that casting and corresponding screen time made it clear whom the mole would turn out to be…but you may disagree.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Arthur Nightingale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian McKay, Ciarán Hinds, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Firth, David Dencik, Denis Khoroshko, Gary Oldman, Harvey Walsh, Ilona Kassai, Imre Csuja, Jamie Thomas King, Jean-Claude Jay, John Hurt, John le Carré, Kathy Burke, Katrina Vasilieva, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Laura Carmichael, Linda Marlowe, Mark Strong, Matyelok Gibbs, Michael Sarne, Peter Kalloy Molnar, Peter McNeil O'Connor, Peter O'Connor, Philip Hill-Pearson, Philip Martin Brown, Roger Lloyd Pack, Rupert Procter, Sarah-Jane Robinson, Simon McBurney, Stephen Graham, Stuart Graham, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Tom Stuart, Zoltán Mucsi

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Rating: R

This movie will first confuse your perception of the narrative with a feud involving the two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale), but you will soon be hooked by the twists and turns of the plot. The unveiling of the mystery will leave you in awe, however it is the storytelling and the process that Christopher Nolan puts together so beautifully that is the greatest thing about this movie.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Andy Serkis, Anthony De Marco, Brian Tahash, Chao Li Chi, Chi Chaoli, Chris Cleveland, Christian Bale, Christopher Neame, Daniel Davis, David Bowie, Edward Hibbert, Enn Reitel, Erin Cipolletti, Ezra Buzzington, Gary Sievers, Hugh Jackman, James Lancaster, James Otis, Jamie Harris, Jim Piddock, Jodi Bianca Wise, John B. Crye, Johnny Liska, Kevin Will, Mark Ryan, Michael Caine, Monty Stuart, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Ricky Jay, Robert W. Arbogast, Rock Anthony, Roger Rees, Ron Perkins, Russ Fega, Samantha Mahurin, Scarlett Johansson, Tim Pilleri, William Morgan Sheppard

Director: Christopher Nolan

Rating: PG-13

Escape from Mogadishu follows diplomats from the North and South Korean embassies as they put aside their differences and work together to escape from an outbreak of civil war in Mogadishu, Somalia. Director Ryoo Seung-wan provides thrilling, high-budget action, especially intense car chases and suspenseful escape scenes that pump you with adrenaline and leave you on the edge of your seat. However, the Somali side of the story leaves much to be desired. Only existing to kill or be killed, the depiction of the Somalians is distasteful, and the country it’s set in seen as nothing more than a senseless warzone.

It’s in crafting a political thriller where Ryoo strikes a chord, following the tradition of South Korean films and dramas that question the current South/North relations. It’s also the aspect that pushed this film to win awards, given that it’s based on a true story from the 1991 civil war in Somalia, albeit with blockbuster flair. Sure, it’s a highly fictionalized story, but the political tensions and heightened atmosphere make good entertainment. And, as with all Korean thrillers, you’ll have to get on a certain wavelength of melodrama to be fully on board with the bonkers yet emotional escape.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller, War

Actor: Ahn Se-ho, Han Chul-woo, Heo Joon-ho, Jeong Man-sik, Jo In-sung, Joo Bo-bi, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim So-jin, Kim Yoon-seok, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Jin-hee, Park Kyung-hye, Park Myung-shin, Yoon Kyung-ho, Zo In-sung

Director: Ryoo Seung-wan