16 Movies Like Lamb (2021)

Staff & contributors

From Drive My Car director Ryusuke Hamaguchi comes another film featuring long drives, thoughtful talks, and unexpected twists. An anthology of three short stories, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy ponders over ideas of love, fate, and the all-too-vexing question, “what if?” 

What if you didn’t run away from the one you love? What if you didn’t give in to lust that fateful day? What if, right then and there, you decide to finally forgive?

Big questions, but without sacrificing depth, Hamaguchi does the incredible task of making every single second feel light and meaningful. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy will leave you with mixed emotions: excited, startled, dejected, hopeful. But one thing you won’t feel is regret over watching this instant classic of a film.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aoba Kawai, Aoba Kawai 河井清叶, Ayumu Nakajima, Fusako Urabe, Hitoshi Omika, Hyunri, Katsuki Mori, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Kotone Furukawa, Shouma Kai

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: R-13

, 2022

Vortex, Gaspar Noé’s haunting exploration of death and dementia, begins with a dedication: “to all those whose brains will decompose before their hearts.” The statement sets the heartwrenching tone of the film, which follows an elderly couple—one with dementia and the other with a heart ailment—during their last days together. Noé cleverly depicts all this in a split-screen design, which evokes the fractured pattern of old-age thought. 

Noé’s mother struggled with dementia, and Noé’ himself suffered from a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him, so Vortex is clearly a personal film. But even without knowing this, Vortex feels effortlessly dear and deeply intimate, like it could've only been done by a person with a first-hand experience of this tragedy. At once personal and universal, Vortex is a haunting and inventive ode to love, death, and everything in between.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Lutz, Corinne Bruand, Dario Argento, Françoise Lebrun, Jean-Baptiste Thoret, Nathalie Roubaud, Stephane Derderian

Director: Gaspar Noé

This teenage crime drama contains enough grit to stand on its own, but The Tribe’s real hook is in the way it’s told: entirely in Ukrainian sign language, without subtitles. Set in a boarding school for deaf students, new arrival Sergei must contend with an institution that’s run like a gang. His journey through the ranks is extremely violent and graphic, including unflinching depictions of rape and a back-alley abortion that lingers long in the mind.

Its unpleasantness will be a barrier for some, but for the curious, it’s an oddly balletic film. Among the misery, actors communicate the entire story via body language. Emphatic dialogue delivery conveys the mood of each scene (which often changes for the worse), and the characters’ actions speak loud and clear. Narratively it breaks little ground, and its darkness can’t be overstated, but there’s grace to its reliance on everything but words to tell its story. A film you won’t stop thinking about.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alexander Panivan, Grygoriy Fesenko, Hryhoriy Fesenko, Ivan Tishko, Oleksandr Dsiadevych, Oleksandr Osadchyi, Rosa Babiy, Roza Babiy, Yana Novikova

Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi

Rating: Unrated

All the synopses going around the internet won’t fail to let you know that The Falls takes place at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. The film is certainly marketed that way, with commercial posters featuring the leads in ubiquitous face masks, socially distanced from the blurred crowd. 

But interestingly, The Falls is not just a situational, pandemic-era story. More than anything else, it tells the story of Pin-wen and Xiao Jing, mother and daughter who, despite previously living a life of comfort, are now dealt with unfavorable circumstances (exacerbated but not entirely caused by the pandemic). Now, they are forced to navigate life with only each other, and it’s in the isolation they instate from the rest of the world do they forge a genuine and heartwrenching bond any and all family members will immediately recognize and perhaps even sympathize with. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Alyssa Chia, Chen Yi-wen, Chen Yiwen, Gingle Wang, Guan-Ting Liu, Huang Hsin-Yao, Kuan-Ting Liu, Lee-zen Lee, Liang-Tso Liu, Shao-Huai Chang, Shau-Ching Sung, Tiffany Hsu, Waa Wei, Yang Li-yin, Yi-Wen Chen

Director: Chung Mong-hong

Rating: Not Rated

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors' stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex - but so important to listen to and understand. It's an incredible feat to make an observational film that's so grounded in reality - only a genius could: that's Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Derrick Janis, Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard, Jashaun St. John

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: Not Rated

Asako is in love with Baku—deeply and almost delusionally, in a way that can only manifest in young love. But when the freewheeling Baku ghosts Asako for good, she moves from Osaka all the way to Tokyo to start a new life. Years later, she's startled to meet Baku's doppelganger in Ryohei, an office man whose solid dependability and lack of artfulness, while endearing, could not place him any further from Baku. Confused and lonely, Asako tiptoes around her feelings for Ryohei and, in the process, raises thought-provoking questions about the meaning, ethics, and true purpose of love.

 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ariei Umefune, Atsushi Kaneshige, Daichi Watanabe, Erika Karata, Fusako Urabe, Koji Nakamoto, Koji Seto, Maki Nishiyama, Masahiro Higashide, Misako Tanaka, Nao Okabe, Rio Yamashita, Ryotaro Yonemura, Sairi Ito, Takeshi Ōnishi

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: Not Rated

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

A man is struggling to mourn his passing wife in this slow-burning Icelandic drama. The story starts with him converting an abandoned electricity station into a house, in an effort to find peace. Soon, however, questions about a possible extramarital affair that his wife disturb this peace and make it seem unattainable. 

The way A White, White Day's brilliant story unfolds might catch you off-guard a couple of times. Still, it's slow and requires a little bit of patience. Make sure you're in the mood for that to be rewarded with unmatched insight on how differently people process grief.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Arnmundur Ernst Björnsson, Björn Ingi Hilmarsson, Elma Stefanía Ágústsdóttir, Haraldur Ari Stefánsson, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Laufey Elíasdóttir, Sara Dögg Ásgeirsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, Sverrir Þór Sverrisson, Thor Tulinius

Director: Hlynur Palmason

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn't waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we've come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it's sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Lisa Tønne, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Morten Svartveit, Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Sam Ashraf

Director: Eskil Vogt

There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Andres D. Bautista, Benigno Aquino III, Bongbong Marcos, Etta Rosales, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Leni Robredo, Mary Yturria

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Rating: R

Mike Mills has always had an obsession with childhood and parenthood, often honing in on the beautiful, frustrating, and inevitable mess that comes with them. C’mon C’mon is no exception, but here, Mills blurs the lines between the two even more. Sometimes the kid acts more like an adult, and the adult more like a kid; sometimes the uncle acts as a surrogate mother, and the mother (unsurprisingly) takes on the role of an everywoman, attempting to be breadwinner, caretaker, and friend all at once. 

C’mon C’mon has no allegiances; it simply shows us the dynamics between one family and mirrors what we already know about ours. Shot in black and white, grounded in simple conversations, and interwoven with moving essay excerpts and real interviews, C’mon C’mon feels at once personal and universal; a moving feat of a film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Artrial Clark, Brandon Rush, Callan Farris, Cooper Jack Rubin, Deborah Strang, Elaine Kagan, Gabby Hoffman, Gaby Hoffmann, Gita Reddy, Jaboukie Young-White, Jenny Eliscu, Joaquin Phoenix, Joseph Bishop, Kate Adams, Keisuke Hoashi, Mahfuzul Islam, Mary Passeri, Molly Webster, Scoot McNairy, Sunni Patterson, Todd D'Amour, Woody Norman

Director: Mike Mills

Rating: R

In the Mexican film A Cop Movie, director Alonso Ruizpalacios mixes fact and fiction, documentary and narrative, to tell the tale of Teresa and Montoya, two police officers whose dreams are dashed by the corruption of their trade and who, eventually, find love and comfort in each other.

Ruizpalacios takes thrilling risks in structuring this genre-bending story—cutting stories into parts, jumping back and forth between the harrowingly real and captivatingly non-real. For all the experimental maneuvers he makes, however, the through-line is always Teresa and Montoya: particularly, their love for each other and for an institution that should have, in an ideal world, supported them and the people they vowed to protect. 

To its credit, instead of merely humanizing the controversial police force, A Cop Movie adds some much-needed nuance to the big picture. At the end of the day, they’re no different than any other underpaid laborers working desperately to make end meets. A Cop Movie doesn’t gloss over the fact that the police, like so many other workers, are stuck in a rotten system that’s long overdue for a major overhauling. 

Genre: Action, Crime, Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Leonardo Alonso, Mónica Del Carmen, Olivia Lagunas, Raúl Briones

Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios

Rating: R

Thunder Road is both a single-shot 13 minute short and a 91-minute feature-film expanding the story. Both are excellent and award-winning, but I really recommend the full experience!

Jim Cummings (above) is the director, writer, and main actor of this dark comedy. He plays a police officer having the worst day of his life as he tries to sing Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road at his mother’s funeral.

This sight is funny, and so is most of the story. But it’s also cringe-inducing, and because the main character is so sincere in his decline, will make you feel guilty about laughing so much. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise, Chelsea Edmundson, Chris Doubek, Frank Mosley, István Mihály, Jacqueline Doke, Jim Cummings, Jocelyn DeBoer, Jordan Ray Fox, Kendal Farr, Macon Blair, Marshall Allman, Nican Robinson, Tristan Riggs

Director: Jim Cummings

Rating: N/A

Joel Coen's minimalist vision of the Scottish play emphasizes that these monstrous acts of hubris and violence are carried out not because of madness or magical prophecy, but out of the rational yet selfish decisions made by grown adults. It's a distinctly character-focused interpretation of Shakespeare that should be insightful for students and fans alike, as Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand lend more sedate performances to what have become two of the grandest characters in theater history. The Tragedy of Macbeth weaken the impact of some of Shakespeare's most famous soliloquies due to the film's more hurried runtime, but it makes for a great tribute nonetheless. Come for the stunningly lit black-and-white sets, stay for the gleefully creepy performance by Kathryn Hunter as the three witches.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, War

Actor: Alex Hassell, Bertie Carvel, Brendan Gleeson, Brian Thompson, Corey Hawkins, Denzel Washington, Ethan Hutchison, Frances McDormand, Harry Melling, Jacob McCarthy, James Udom, Jefferson Mays, Kathryn Hunter, Kayden Alexander Koshelev, Lucas Barker, Matt Helm, Max Baker, Miles Anderson, Moses Ingram, Nancy Daly, Olivia Washington, Peter Janov, Ralph Ineson, Richard Short, Robert Gilbert, Scott Subiono, Sean Patrick Thomas, Stephen Root, Susan James Berger, Wayne T. Carr

Director: Joel Coen

Possessor announces a visionary new voice in Brandon Cronenberg, and is one to watch for the concept alone, brilliantly melding science fiction and horror into one. Cronenberg's direction is reminiscent of a cross between Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, but has more than enough originality to stand well on its own. However, unfortunately, it is surprisingly slow at times, and is far from the mind-blowing gore fest that was promised, resulting in a well made but underwhelming experience. BUT, if you were in the mood for a trippy introspective sci-fi thriller and are able to keep your expectations tempered, this is well worth a watch

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Andrea Riseborough, Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves, Christopher Abbott, Christopher Jacot, Daniel Junghuan Park, Daniel Park, Danny Waugh, Deragh Campbell, Dorren Lee, Doug MacLeod, Gabrielle Graham, Gage Graham-Arbuthnot, Hanneke Talbot, Hrant Alianak, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kaniehtiio Horn, Kathy Maloney, Matthew Garlick, Rachael Crawford, Raoul Bhaneja, Rossif Sutherland, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

Rating: R