9 Movies Like Jules (2023)

Staff & contributors

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

Jules’ wacky premise — an extra-terrestrial crash-lands in eccentric widower Milton’s (Ben Kingsley) flowerbeds — is a bit of a misdirection. While the movie is technically a sci-fi (featuring, as it does, some very out-there alien engineering), it’s really a charming, mostly-human drama about the isolation and surreality of aging. Though the mute presence of the alien (nicknamed Jules and played brilliantly by a totally silent Jade Quon) is a constant reminder of the expansiveness of the universe and strange wonders yet to be discovered, the movie keeps its feet firmly on the ground with a sensitive exploration of just how small the worlds of lonely, dementia-struck Milton and two other isolated elderly townspeople (Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris) are. Rather than expand outwards into a story about the extra-terrestrial itself, Jules focuses on the painful disorientation felt by its lonely trio of protagonists, who all find therapeutic relief and connection by way of the alien and its “understanding eyes.” Though the movie's zany forays into sci-fi territory do sometimes boggle the mind, they never undermine the genuine emotion in Jules’ raw grappling with the experience of aging, as well as give the movie a quirky charm that ensures you won't see anything like this again soon — an increasingly rare experience in itself.

At one point in the documentary, director Kristen Lovell says, “I wanted to archive the movement that was building between transwomen and sex workers,” and that’s exactly what she achieves with The Stroll, a well-researched, creatively edited, and deeply moving account of the trans-sex-work experience that defined New York for a good chunk of the 20th century. It’s both historical and personal, touching and rousing, as it recounts a history that’s often been forgotten even among the LGBTQ+ community. To do this, Lovell digs up archival footage, brings to life long-buried data, and strikes up heartfelt conversations with survivors of The Stroll, that street in New York where Lovell and her fellow homeless escorts used to pick customers up. Thanks to Lovell’s hard work in telling this extraordinary story of struggle and success, there isn’t a moment in this film where you’re not shocked, frustrated, or exhilarated along with them.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Laverne Cox, Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani, RuPaul

Director: Kristen Parker Lovell, Zackary Drucker

A great example of frank, emotionally honest filmmaking with three totally vulnerable lead performances, Passages takes a subject that can so easily be reduced into clichés—infidelity—and approaches it with a genuine sense of melancholy. It can still be frustrating to watch fully developed adults refuse to communicate more clearly about their feelings, but director and co-writer Ira Sachs also understands the nuanced gender dynamic that informs some of these bad decisions. Tomas understands that his commitment to Martin may not give him the "easy" satisfaction of a traditional romance, but there is also a sense that his attraction to Agathe (supposedly the first time he's truly fallen for a woman) might be more of an impulsive attempt to settle for something safer, something that he has more control over.

Ben Whishaw is reliably sympathetic as Martin, and Adèle Exarchopoulos carries herself with the unembellished authenticity that many of the best French actors do. And Franz Rogowski makes Tomas both entirely pathetic and still so very heartbreaking in the predicament he's put himself into. There are no cheap histrionics or outbursts of emotion here—just performers living fully within each moment and selling us on the situation they're in.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Arcadi Radeff, Ben Whishaw, Caroline Chaniolleau, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Franz Rogowski, Olivier Rabourdin, Radostina Rogliano, Théo Cholbi, William Nadylam

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: NR

It’s always tricky translating literature to screen. In Shortcomings’ case, it struggles to make its Berkeley and New York settings appear more lived-in than just a few postcard-like frames. You could also tell that the conversations it stirs up about things like representation and mixed-race relationships began in the early aughts, when the novel it was adapted from was first released. But those lapses are small and forgivable in the face of a lovely ensemble cast and a whipsmart script. It also takes a special kind of skill to make a character as fiercely unlikeable as Ben (Min) watchable, to hold up a mirror to the audience and make them stay. Thankfully, it's a skill that Tomine and first-time director Randall Park display with such grace. Ben, Alice (Sherry Cola), and Miko (Ally Maki) are flawed and often pathetic, but they’re also honest reflections of who we become when the demands of self-preservation and romantic openness clash. It’s a little unnerving to hear them verbalize what we've always feared about ourselves, but it’s also exhilarating, not to mention comforting, knowing that we're not alone in feeling this way. Shortcomings works because it doesn't confine itself to genre: it's a character study first, and a romantic comedy second.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Enright, Adrian Tomine, Ally Maki, Boran Anh, Debby Ryan, George Deihl Jr., Jacob Batalon, Jess Nahikian, Justin H. Min, Melanie J. Newby, Mike Cabellon, Nikhaar Kishnani, Randall Park, Ronny Chieng, Scott Seiss, Sheldon Best, Sherry Cola, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephanie Hsu, Tavi Gevinson, Theo Iyer, Timothy Simons

Director: Randall Park

Rating: R

, 2023

Time travelling movies tend to be flashy with its sci-fi wonder, but Aporia takes a more grounded approach to the time altering genre. Instead of time travelling, the protagonists have a mundane, almost lo-fi machine, that almost seems disappointing, but is no less life-altering. Of course, to the grieving Sophie, who lost her husband, it’s easy to understand why she would take the chance to get her husband back again. But the film takes a grounded and realistic approach as Sophie spirals into an unrelenting series of regret and trolley problems, each time she chooses to use the machine. While the pacing may be a tad slow, and the events can feel a bit mundane, Aporia is a startlingly poignant reminder of how each ordinary moment, if changed, can be completely life altering.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Edi Gathegi, Faithe Herman, Judy Greer, Payman Maadi, Whitney Morgan Cox

Director: Jared Moshé

Rating: R

, 2023

There's something rich at the heart of Afire that, whether intentionally or not, is kept at arm's length from the viewer. Over the course of Leon's (Thomas Schubert) quiet summer retreat to work on the manuscript for his second book, we come to understand his generally irritable nature as not just creative but existential. Through his eyes and writer-director Christian Petzold's expertly restrained sensibilities for drama, every moment becomes tinged with a vague jealousy—insecurity about other people leading satisfied lives, and his inability to let anything be without finding fault in it first. Leon is meant to be difficult to sympathize with, but at his core is an emptiness that comes with the acknowledgement of how limited one's future really is.

And on the opposite end is Nadja (Paula Beer), a woman who just happens to be staying at the same vacation home due to an overlap in booking, whom Leon sees as a reminder for everything he lacks: romance, thoughtful attentiveness, and a love of life that helps her to stop focusing on what she thinks she lacks. The film stops short of having these characters undergo change that feels truly meaningful, but just seeing them dance around each other with a sharpening tension is well worth the experience.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Enno Trebs, Esther Esche, Jennipher Antoni, Langston Uibel, Matthias Brandt, Paula Beer, Thomas Schubert

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: NR

It’s slower and talkier than you’d expect from a semi-erotic film, but Ehnegard lives up to its title well enough to satisfy. It’s titillating, but in a cheeky rather than provocative way. The dialogues are lengthy, but they’re alternately witty and poetic, so despite the pace they never actually bore. Ehnegard’s real delight, however, is its beauty. Set in the old kingdom of Babenhausen, Ehnegard looks like a fairy tale come to life. The towering castles, the sprawling meadows, the twinkling forest lakes, and of course, the smartly costumed people who populate the scenery—all these and more ensure that each frame has a picturesque glow to it. And with Sidse Babett Knudsen (Borgen, Westworld) taking charge of an appealing cast, Ehnegard proves to be a charming watch. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice E. Bier Zandén, Christopher Laesso, Emilie Kroyer Koppel, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Paul Hüttel, Sara-Marie Maltha, Sidse Babett Knudsen

Director: Bille August

Rating: R

, 2023

Set in the quaint city of Burlington, Vermont, Paint is a cute and folksy comedy that has a Wes Anderson-esque charm to it. The characters are dressed in blocked pastels and wooly sweaters, while the protagonist Carl seems stuck in the ‘70s, and not just sartorially, too. He drives a “Vantastic” custom van, swears off cell phones, and manages to incorporate phrases like “far out” in his daily lingo. It all makes for whimsical viewing, but underneath the flair, there’s very little substance holding this picture up. It tells the tale of an aging narcissist who learns the error of his ways when a younger version of himself is hired to aid and eventually replace him. Narratively, it’s familiar and forgettable, and it becomes immediately clear that style is a crutch that the film leans on. It’s funny, at times, thanks to a very likable Wilson and a strong supporting cast (there are occasional laugh-out-loud moments too, like when Carl does the big reveal about his portrait). But ultimately, it’s just too flat to be as special as the art it admires. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aidan T.K. Baker, Ciara Renée, Colin J. Sweeney, Crystal Tweed, Denny Dillon, Elizabeth Loyacano, Evander Duck Jr., Jen Smedley, Joel Leffert, Kristin Hensley, Lusia Strus, Michael Pemberton, Michaela Watkins, Owen Wilson, Rob Figueroa, Ryan Czerwonko, Ryan Gaul, Sarah Baker, Scott Beehner, Stephen Root, Wendi McLendon-Covey

Director: Brit McAdams

A Million Miles Away sticks so closely to the Hollywood biopic template that it threatens to be less about José Hernández as a person with his own complexities and more about the idea of him as a one-size-fits-all inspirational figure. This isn't to say the film isn't effective when it really counts; Hernández is worth admiring not necessarily because of his ultimate success, but because how much he failed and got back up again. Director Alejandra Márquez Abella keeps the film's tone light and bouncy, flattening some of its more serious moments, but also helping make Hernández's long, hard road to space more of a process of discovery. It's easy, inspiring viewing that quietly tiptoes past harder questions about poverty and NASA's potentially discriminatory practices.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Ashley Ciarra, Blake Webb, Bobby Soto, Dylan Hall, Emma Fassler, Eric Johnson, Francisco Barreiro, Garret Dillahunt, Gerardo Trejoluna, Isaac Arellanes, Isabel Aerenlund, Jordan Dean, Jorge Briseño, Julio Cedillo, Julio Cesar Cedillo, Marilyn Uribe, Mercedes Hernández, Michael Adler, Michael Peña, Michelle Krusiec, Rosa Salazar, Sarayu Blue, Veronica Falcón

Director: Alejandra Márquez Abella

Rating: PG

Fairytale parodies reimagine these classic tales to reexamine or question its related themes. Once Upon a Crime attempts to do this by imagining Little Red Riding Hood as a detective investigating the murder of a hairdresser in Cinderella’s ball. The campy glamor of the costumes and sets, as well as the incongruence of Little Red’s detective mindset, makes the film watchable. However, the film takes strange twists that stray too far from the original stories. And while the cut locks make an intriguing metaphor, the resulting ending betrays any sense of justice for the characters, most especially the abused Cinderella.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Crime, Fantasy

Actor: Atsuhiro Inukai, Jiro Sato, Kanna Hashimoto, Masaki Kaji, Midoriko Kimura, Miki Maya, Mirei Kiritani, Mizuki Yamamoto, Natsuna Watanabe, Takanori Iwata, Tomoharu Hasegawa, Tsuyoshi Muro, Yuko Araki, Yumi Wakatsuki, 室毅

Director: Yuichi Fukuda

Rating: PG