11 Movies Like La Belle Époque (2019)

Staff & contributors
The British social-critical director of I, Daniel Blake and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach, delivers another scathing indictment of our economic system, the slashing of worker protection, and the gig economy. While these are indeed the themes of this affecting drama, Loach always makes it about the people. In this case, a struggling family man who tries to turn his life around by working in package delivery. Gig economy workers are usually freelancers who own their trucks and are made fully responsible for packages until they reach their respective recipients. From peeing in a bottle to save time to seamless monitoring by an overlord hand-held device, Sorry We Missed You manages to capture the indignity and gives you an intimate introduction to the human cost of having everything delivered to your doorstep at a moment's notice. Thanks to Loach's use of amateur actors, it has a raw and real feel to it without being melodramatic. Sorry We Missed You makes sure that the habitually unseen take center stage.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Charlie Richmond, Debbie Honeywood, Katie Proctor, Kris Hitchen, Maxie Peters, Rhys Mcgowan, Rhys Stone, Ross Brewster, Sheila Dunkerley, Stephen Clegg, Vicky Hall

Director: Ken Loach

Rating: 0, 12

Transit is based on a WWII novel — though you wouldn’t be able to tell from first glance. While the characters talk of German fascists occupying France, anachronistic details (like modern technology and clothing) suggest we haven’t gone back in time at all. Director Christian Petzold isn’t trying to confuse us: by blurring the backdrop, he’s making the terror and the desperation of the story more immediate — removing the distance that might have prevented us from really feeling what happens.

The uncanny historical echo effect works as intended, because the parallels Transit subtly draws between the past and today are horribly clear. What’s more, the movie’s intentionally ambiguous framing suffuses the plot with an otherworldly sense of mystery, a quality that gradually intensifies as Georg (Franz Rogowski) desperately searches for a one-way ticket out of hellish bureaucratic limbo before he finds himself waylaid by that most mysterious emotion of all: love. Unshakably haunting and undeniably poignant, this is a movie that will live under your skin.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Àlex Brendemühl, Antoine Oppenheim, Barbara Auer, Emilie de Preissac, Franz Rogowski, Godehard Giese, Grégoire Monsaingeon, Justus von Dohnányi, Lilien Batman, Louison Tresallet, Maryam Zaree, Matthias Brandt, Paula Beer, Ronald Kukulies, Sebastian Hülk, Trystan Putter

Director: Christian Petzold

Many films have tried to decipher the indecipherable bond between mothers and daughters. Lady Bird, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Turning Red, to name a few, center on this particular relationship, which to outsiders may seem strange at best and dysfunctional at worst. How can mothers yell at their daughters one second and coddle them the next? How can daughters treat mothers like their best friend and enemy all at once? 

One of the best films to explore this complexity is Petite Maman, a fantasy-like film that brings together mother and daughter in a unique situation, forcing them both to regard the other in otherwise impossible ways. It succeeds where others haven’t precisely because it accepts that this relationship is beyond dissecting, and the only way to honor it is in the poignant, poetic, and otherworldly way that it does. It’s a quiet film that manages to say a lot, not least of which is that it’s okay to feel and love and hurt as much as one does.

Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Joséphine Sanz, Margot Abascal, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne

Director: Céline Sciamma

Georgian dance has cut-throat competition: the art form is dying even within Gerogia, and to make it, dancers compete to join the one duo that represents the country. The chance finally comes and the spot opens up, igniting the hopes of performers from around the country. Mervan is one of them, a young dancer from a poor background who takes food from his restaurant job to feed his family. His main competition is a newcomer, Irakli, who also comes from a difficult background and hopes to secure the spot to provide for his ill father.

When their lives hang on them competing against one another, Mervan and Irakli fall for each other.

And Then We Danced is full of incredible dance sequences that add to the beauty of the romance at its center; but it's also a heartbreaking exploration of unfulfilled ambition.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aleko Begalishvili, Ana Javakishvili, Bachi Valishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli, Mate Khidasheli, Ninutsa Gabisonia, Tamar Bukhnikashvili

Director: Levan Akin

Rating: 12

The Kings of the World is a surreal coming-of-age movie that follows Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny, and Nano, street kids who are on their way to claim land that’s rightfully theirs. Their one goal is to finally make a home after living without one for so long, but they’re hindered by the inevitable tragedies that befall kids of their kind: impoverished, alone, and abandoned.

The title is ironic, but it also hints at their state of mind: these boys are unstoppable, rabble-rousers who live like there’s no tomorrow. They tear down private property and invade inns not out of spite, necessarily, but out of a knowledge that whatever they do they’re gonna be put down anyway, so they might as well live without rules.

Tackling powerful themes like land restitution and youth neglect, The Kings of the World is one of the most agonizing movies you'll ever see. It’s also Colombia’s official Best Foreign Language Film entry in the 2022 Academy Awards.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Brahian Acevedo, Carlos Andrés Castañeda, Cristian Campaña, Cristian David Duque, Davison Florez

Director: Laura Mora

Rating: TV-MA

Set against the backdrop of the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s, the film follows Nedjma, a young fashion student, as she navigates the challenges of pursuing her dreams while living under strict societal and religious constraints. Gripping and emotionally charged, the film paints a vivid picture of the oppressive climate and the courageous women who refuse to be silenced. The performances are outstanding, particularly Lyna Khoudri's portrayal of Nedjma, who brings a compelling blend of vulnerability and determination to her character. Director Mounia Meddour's storytelling is powerful and thought-provoking, shining a light on the resilience of women in the face of adversity and the importance of artistic expression as a form of resistance. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahmed Benaissa, Aida Guechoud, Amira Hilda Douaouda, Khaled Benaissa, Lyna Khoudri, Nadia Kaci, Samir Elhakim, Shirine Boutella, Yasin Houicha, Zahra Doumandji

Director: Mounia Meddour

Dick Johnson Is Dead is a heartfelt and unconventional portrait of how one can live life to the fullest even in their darkest days. Kristen Johnson’s follow-up to the highly acclaimed documentary Cameraperson, Johnson shows that her skills are no fluke as she crafts a witty film where she masterfully balances surreal tonal shifts to create a compelling experience. While it does have a repetitive nature, the final thirty minutes are heartbreakingly comedic, and make this one worth a watch!

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Brett Eidman, Fredi Bernstein, Ira Sachs, Kevin Loreque, Kirsten Johnson, Mary Page Nance, Michael Hilow, Vasthy Mompoint

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Rating: PG-13

If you’ve seen his stand-up, you’ll know that Pete Davidson likes to make fun of himself. But it’s also true that Davidson is honest. He speaks openly about his childhood traumas and mental health struggles, and this film about his life is no different than his live performances. It's darkly funny and deeply personal, this time plumbing new depths of his life with the help of director (and patron saint of comedians) Judd Apatow. 

Here, Apatow allows Davidson to hell his story in his own irreverent flavor, all while boosting him with directorial flair and his trademark balance of humor and humanity. A triumphant collaboration between Apatow and Davidson, King of Staten Island is rich with nuanced performances and relatable insights into the life of someone slowly but surely healing from pain and coming into his own. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Action Bronson, Adam Keane, Alexis Rae Forlenza, Angus Costello, Anthony Lee Medina, Bel Powley, Bill Burr, Bonnie McFarlane, Carly Aquilino, David S. Lomax, Derek Gaines, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gina Jun, Hank Strong, Jack Hamblin, Jessica Kirson, Jimmy Tatro, Keith Robinson, Ken Holmes, Kevin Corrigan, Laurence Blum, Lilly Brown, Liza Treyger, Lou Wilson, Luke David Blumm, Lynne Koplitz, Machine Gun Kelly, Marilyn Torres, Mario Polit, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Melania Zalipsky, Meredith Handerhan, Michelle Sohn, Mike Vecchione, Moises Arias, Nana Mensah, Nils Johnson, Nina Hellman, Nyla Durdin, Pamela Adlon, Pauline Chalamet, Pete Davidson, Rafael Poueriet, Rich Vos, Ricky Velez, Robert Smigel, Steve Buscemi, Teodorina Bello

Director: Judd Apatow

Rating: R

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Al-Hassan Ly, Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Ladj Ly

Rating: R

In Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris, a man confronts the church about a prominent priest who sexually assaulted him and his friends when they were young.

The man, being religious, wanted to keep the issue within the church. He only asked that the pedophile’s priesthood be revoked so that he doesn’t assault more children.

When it becomes clear that the church will not act, he considers legal action, even though the statute of limitations has expired. But, as is usual in these cases, he was far from being the only victim.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Éric Caravaca, Alexandre Steiger, Amélie Daure, Amélie Prevot, Arnaud Viard, Aurélia Petit, Aurelia Petit, Baya Rehaz, Bernadette Le Saché, Bernard Verley, Chloé Astor, Christian Sinniger, Damien Jouillerot, David Geselson, Denis Ménochet, Denis Ménochet, Denis Simonetta, Éric Caravaca, Fayçal Safi, Fejria Deliba, Frédéric Pierrot, François Chattot, François Marthouret, François Chattot, François Marthouret, Frédéric Pierrot, Hélène Vincent, Hélène Vincent, Jeanne Rosa, John Sehil, Josiane Balasko, Jules Gauzelin, Julie Duclos, Juliette Moreaud, Laurence Roy, Lilly Rose Debos, Martine Erhel, Martine Schambacher, Max Libert, Melvil Poupaud, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Bridet, Patrick Zimmermann, Pauline Ziadé, Philippe Legros, Pierre Lottin, Sébastien Lozach, Sébastien Pouderoux, Serge Flamenbaum, Stanislas Stanic, Stéphane Brel, Swann Arlaud, Timi-Joy Marbot, Vincent Berger, Xavier de Guillebon, Zuri François

Director: François Ozon, François Ozon

Almost more like an audiobook than a traditional movie, the first and unfortunately final film from Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson pairs soothing narration by Tilda Swinton with surreal images of alien structures on a desolate planet for a piece of sci-fi that may very well be un-categorizable. As a "story" ostensibly meant to carry some sort of urgency, Last and First Men isn't entirely convincing. But as an example of pure imagination that challenges how you think of biological life, it's totally fascinating. As Swinton details the continuous cycle of death and rebirth that humanity goes through over an impossible span of time, it's hard not to feel the hope and tragedy of it all—while also making you reconsider how things are in our present day.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Tilda Swinton

Director: Jóhann Jóhannsson