3 Movies Like Last and First Men (2020)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Last and First Men ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

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.

Éric Rohmer’s The Green Ray is the kind of film that you come away from being more honest with yourself. That effect is thanks to the contagious directness of its protagonist: Delphine (Marie Rivière), a newly single young French woman whose summer vacation plans have just been unceremoniously upturned after the friend she was going away with takes off with a man instead. Now at a loose end, the indecisive Delphine meanders between her home in Paris and several gorgeous holiday spots, but that old saying — “wherever you go, there you are” — proves true. Neither the beaches of Cherbourg and Biarritz nor the lofty beauty of an Alps resort can soothe her restlessness or give her what she’s looking for, probably because she doesn’t quite know what that is herself.

Delphine’s is an achingly familiar search for anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve drifted off of life’s path, but blessedly, the conversation-driven Green Ray doesn’t leave us wallowing in that despair. That’s partly thanks to its final moments — which rank among cinema’s most stunning — but mostly because Rivière, who improvised much of her incisive dialogue, puts into words things that so many have felt but few would admit. In that sense, The Green Ray feels as much like a miracle as its last shot does.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Béatrice Romand, Carita Holmström, María Luisa García, Marie Rivière, Rosette, Vincent Gauthier

Director: Éric Rohmer

Even if you aren't familiar with the original, Tony Award-winning Broadway production from Lin-Manuel Miranda, this adaptation of In the Heights is still infused with the same infectious energy and loaded with many of the same eclectic songs. This is musical theater at its most fundamental (cheesy, us-against-the-world romance; unstoppable optimism) and also at some of its most unique—with old-school Broadway numbers mixing seamlessly with hip hop, Latin dance, and cheery 2000s pop. But beyond its music, In the Heights offers a gorgeous tapestry of stories about life in a proud immigrant community and the challenges of staying rooted to home while reaching for the stars.

Genre: Drama, Family, Music, Romance

Actor: Anthony Ramos, Ariana Greenblatt, Christopher Jackson, Corey Hawkins, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dascha Polanco, Dean Scott Vazquez, Gregory Diaz IV, Javier Muñoz, Jimmy Smits, Leslie Grace, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony, Mateo Gómez, Melissa Barrera, Olga Merediz, Olivia Perez, Patrick Page, Ryan Woodle, Seth Stewart, Stephanie Beatriz, Susan Pourfar, The Kid Mero, Valentina

Director: Jon M. Chu

In The Promised Land, director Nikolaj Arcel (A Royal Affair) and Mads Mikkelsen reunite to create another intense, enjoyable drama based on true historical events. Mikkelsen is reliably gripping as Captain Ludwig Kahlen, but it’s his back-and-forths with the diabolical landowner Frederik Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg) that are the standout scenes here. And though The Promised Land resembles modern Westerns in its macho standoffs and sweeping backdrops, it has a surprising and satisfying feminist bent to it. It’s a historical epic that doubles as a revenge thriller and succeeds in both cases.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Adam Pengsawang, Amanda Collin, Arved Friese, Felix Kramer, Finn Nielsen, Gustav Lindh, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Joen Højerslev, Karel Heřmánek, Kristine Kujath Thorp, Lise Risom Olsen, Mads Mikkelsen, Magnus Krepper, Martin Feifel, Michael Brostrup, Morten Burian, Morten Hee Andersen, Nanna Finding Koppel, Simon Bennebjerg, Søren Malling, Thomas W. Gabrielsson, Zdeněk Dvořáček

Director: Nikolaj Arcel