8 Movies Like Isn't It Romantic (2019)

Staff & contributors

An easy yet original coming-of-age story about Simon, a high-schooler with great parents, great friends, and one big secret he's not telling either. It's not a particularly complex movie, and it may not be one you'll remember forever, but it's very easy to have a pleasant time watching it. And if you're OK with that, its takes on finding one's identity and the negative impact of keeping secrets from our loved ones might surprise you in their depth. Love, Simon is a reminder that movies don't have to be religiously realistic to get a heartfelt new story across. It's entertainment with a message, the same way Juno or The Perks of Being a Wallflower were.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Sgambati, Alexandra Shipp, Bryson Pitts, Cassady McClincy, Chantell D. Christopher, Christian Ojore Mayfield, Christopher L. Plunkett, Clark Moore, Collin McHugh, Danni Heverin, Drew Starkey, Dylan Cheek, Emily Jordan, Haroon Khan, Jamila Thompson, Jennifer Garner, Joey Pollari, Jonathan Fritschi, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Josh Duhamel, Josh Royston, Joshua Mikel, Katherine Langford, Keiynan Lonsdale, Logan Miller, Mackenzie Lintz, Mandy Fason, Matthew Laraway, Miles Heizer, Nancy De Mayo, Natasha Rothwell, Nicholas Stargel, Nick Robinson, Nye Reynolds, Patrick Donohue, Philip Covin, Robbie Rogers, Samantha Bulka, Sean O'Donnell, Talitha Bateman, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Terayle Hill, Tony Hale, Tyler Chase, Tyson Love

Director: Greg Berlanti

Rating: PG-13

A wonderful, witty teen comedy—possibly the best the genre has known in a long time! In a powerhouse performance, Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a high school junior at peak angst and awkwardness. Her roller coaster journey through family, friends, lovers, or lack thereof, gives her that all-too-common impression for people her age that life is unbearable. Things get more complicated when Nadine's dad passes and her only friend hooks up with an unexpected person. Her temperament and humor will help her see past her demons to understand what's important in life, putting you in privileged spectator mode to this highly smart and exciting coming-of-age story.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Calvert, Ava Grace Cooper, Blake Jenner, Chris Shields, Christian Lagasse, Christian Michael Cooper, Daniel Bacon, Eric Keenleyside, Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Jena Skodje, Katie Stuart, Kavandeep Hayre, Kelly Fremon Craig, Kirsten Robek, Kyra Sedgwick, Laine MacNeil, Laura Ward, Lauren K. Robek, Lina Renna, Lyle Reginald, Meredith Monroe, Nesta Cooper, Woody Harrelson

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Rating: R

Even before Agnès Varda pivoted to documentary filmmaking, she was a pioneer of French cinema. Her film Sans toit ni loi (Vagabond) is one of her most harrowing dramas. 

Varda’s sensibilities as a burgeoning documentarian are apparent as the film opens on the corpse of a woman lying dead in a snow-covered ditch. Through flashbacks, we trace the titular vagabond’s steps to uncover how she ended up alone and dead. The camera follows its subject from a safe distance, as if tracking a wild animal. Alongside the woman, we hitchhike across the French countryside, encountering hostile men, treacherous winter weather, and occasional glimpses of hope, connection, and familiarity. Vagabond succeeds at portraying a complicated woman—Varda understood that women, above all else, are people, with dark interiors, difficult choices, and uncertain impulses. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agnès Varda, Macha Méril, Sandrine Bonnaire, Stéphane Freiss, Yolande Moreau

Director: Agnès Varda

Rating: Not Rated

This movie’s energy is completely intoxicating.

It’s the directorial debut of renown British/Nigerian actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, but it feels like the work of a veteran.

In a true story told in English and Chichewa (a language from Malawi), a young boy is expelled from school because his parents couldn’t afford tuition. At the same time, his village is struck by a variety of natural circumstances that bring them the threat of drought and famine.

The young boy sneaks into the library in the hopes of making a windmill and saving his village, and you can guess what follows from the title.

The triumph of engineering and a boy with a dream; mix in an incredibly interesting culture, full of unique family dynamics and a thought-provoking intersection between religion, tradition, and technology. The result is a delicate but uplifting movie, not to be missed.

Genre: Drama, Family, History

Actor: Aissa Maiga, Bruno Chitsulo, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Eddie Mbugua, Edwin Chonde, Felix Lemburo, Fredrick Lukhere, Grace Msiska, Hope Chisano, Joseph Marcell, Kelvin Chimpokoser, Khalani Makunje, Latifa Tambala, Lemogang Tsipa, Lily Banda, Lomuthi Jere, Maxwell Simba, Noma Dumezweni, Owen Chikanken, Philbert Falakeza, Raymond Ofula

Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Rating: TV-PG

This movie is different from a Netflix release about the same events. Actually, it's different from any movie you've probably seen before. Depicting the terrorist attack that took 77 lives in 2011 in an island near Oslo, Norway, it's made to make you feel as if you were part of the attack. It's shot to resemble one take, and the time of the movie is the time it took the attack to unfold (so you're witnessing it in real-time). While closely based on the accounts of two survivors, it follows a fictional character called Kaja who looks for her sister during the attacks. Utøya: July 22 pushes the limits of what you can watch in a movie but serves as a terrifying testament to the atrocity of a terrorist attack of such nature.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Ada Eide, Aleksander Holmen, Andrea Berntzen, Brede Fristad, Daniel Sang Tran, Elli Rhiannon Müller Osborne, Elli Rhiannon Müller Osbourne, Ingeborg Enes, Jenny Svennevig, Karoline Petronella Ulfsdatter Schau, Mariann Gjerdsbakk, Solveig Koløen Birkeland, Torkel D. Soldal

Director: Erik Poppe

Rating: Not Rated

This movie is a complete no-brainer.

It follows two assistants in busy New York City, both of them overworked and underpaid. They come up with a plan to set up their bosses (Set it Up) so that when their bosses finally take some personal time together, they could too. In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect argument to anyone who says that the rom-com genre is dead. It’s light, it’s easy, and it’s entertaining.

At the same time, there is a heartwarming vibe that’s not too cliché, and a couple of well-known actors — Lucy Liu and Taye Diggs — that help carry the plot. Don’t expect to be mind-blown but this film will leave you feeling content.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Aaron Costa Ganis, Anna Suzuki, Annie Pisapia, Ching Hoh-Wai, Cody Calafiore, Doris McCarthy, Emilia Clarke, Evan Parke, Fabrizio Brienza, Glen Powell, Jaboukie Young-White, Jacqueline Honulik, Jake Robinson, Jeff Hiller, Joan Smalls, Jon Rudnitsky, Kate Middleton, Leonard Ouzts, Lucy Liu, Meredith Hagner, Noah Robbins, Paulie Deo Jr., Pete Davidson, Ralph Byers, Shana Solomon, Shyrley Rodriguez, Stacey Alyse Cohen, Stephanie Hsu, Taye Diggs, Tituss Burgess, Wai Ching Ho, Zoey Deutch

Director: Claire Scanlon

Rating: TV-14

An innocent-fun movie, Always Be My Maybe is a lovely thing to turn your brain off to. Sasha and Marcus are high-school best friends who dated briefly and went their separate ways. 16 years later, they meet again - Sasha is a famous chef, and Marcus is still living with his dad.

What really makes this movie is the writing from Ali Wong and Randall Park, who also play the two leads. The dialogue is sharp, believable and smart - going as far as covering themes of gender and parenting. But also, because a rom-com about two Asians from San Francisco is not exactly a common occurrence, the characters are fresh, the jokes are fresh - everything is fresh.

Watch out for the character who plays Marcus' dad, he plays the character of an overly honest Korean dad perfectly. And also watch out for Keanu Reeves, he plays a crazy version of himself!

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Adam Farnsworth-Lautsch, Ali Wong, Ashley Liao, Brian Cook, Byron Noble, Casey Wilson, Charlyne Yi, Chris Hlozek, Corey Seaver, Daniel Dae Kim, Eddie Flake, Ellen Ewusie, Emerson Min, Emilio Merritt, Jackson Geach, Jagen Johnson, James Saito, Jason Canela, JayR Tinaco, Johnny Walkr Jr., Karan Soni, Karen Holness, Keanu Reeves, Kenan Zeigler-Sungur, Kipp Glass, Latonya Williams, Maddie Dixon-Poirier, Marcella Bragio, Marco Soriano, Michelle Buteau, Miya Cech, Neil Webb, Nevin Burkholder, Oliver Rice, Omar Khan, Panta Mosleh, Peggy Lu, Peter New, Randall Park, Raymond Ma, Sean Amsing, Simon Chin, Sonia Beeksma, Steven E. Rudy, Susan Park, Tana Yu, Tyler McConachie, Vivian Bang, Xiao Qing Li, Yaroslav Poverlo

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Rating: PG-13

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in this crime-comedy as two opposite mom personalities: one a stay-at-home food vlogger, and the other an upper-class businesswoman.

Kendrick’s character (Stephanie, the vlogger mom) agrees to pick up her new friend’s kid from school. However, the kid’s mom disappears, leaving Stephanie to lead an investigation on her own into what happened.

This is a funny no-brainer carried by the two leads’ unlikely but genuine chemistry.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Moodie, Andrew Rannells, Anna Kendrick, Aparna Nancherla, Bashir Salahuddin, Blake Lively, Chris Owens, Corinne Conley, Danielle Bourgon, Domenic Cina, Dustin Milligan, Eric Johnson, Geoffrey Antoine, Gia Sandhu, Glenda Braganza, Henry Golding, Howard Hoover, Ian Ho, Jamie Jones, Jason Oliveira, Jean Smart, Jiah Mavji, Joshua Satine, Jung-Yul Kim, Katherine Cullen, Kelly McCormack, Lauren Peters, Lesleh Donaldson, Lila Yee, Linda Cardellini, Melissa O'Neil, Melody Johnson, Michael Park Ingram, Nicole Peters, Noorin Gulamgaus, Olivia Sandoval, Patti Harrison, Paul Feig, Paul Jurewicz, Roger Dunn, Ronnie Rowe, Rosanna Scotto, Rupert Friend, Sarah Baker, Stacey Coke, Sugenja Sri, Umed Amin, Zach Smadu

Director: Paul Feig

Rating: R