5 Movies Like Law of Desire (1987)

Staff & contributors
This is the latest Oscar-nominated movie by Spain's highest-regarded director, Pedro Almodóvar. It's his most personal work to date, being a slightly fictionalized account of his youth and then the last couple of years. He is mostly portrayed by Antonio Banderas, who was also nominated for an Oscar for this role; while another star performance comes from Penélope Cruz who plays his mother in the flashback scenes. Pain and Glory is about life in the arts: how a tormented artistic personality is formed, the days of focusing on work over relationships, and dealing with the consequences later in life. It begs the question: in Almodóvar's life, was the glory that got him to making as great of a movie as this one worth the pain?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Asier Flores, Cecilia Roth, César Vicente, Constancia Céspedes, Esperanza Guardado, Esther García, Eva Martín, Fernando Iglesias, Julián López, Julieta Serrano, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Paqui Horcajo, Pedro Casablanc, Penélope Cruz, Raúl Arévalo, Rosalía, Susi Sánchez, Xavi Sáez

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Break-ups aren’t the easiest thing to overcome, but how we deal with them usually doesn’t get as ludicrous as the events Pepa goes through in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The film makes said nervous breakdown chaotic– it includes spiked gazpacho, a frantic call to the police, and being held at gunpoint– but as Pepa and the women around her try to put off each fire, at least one of them literally, writer-director Pedro Almodóvar ensures sympathy for them, with Pepa's snappy dialogue cutting through the lies of a smooth-talking womanizer refusing to face them. And it’s all paired with a suitably dramatic score, meticulous staging, and exaggerated, colorful frames mostly occurring in the wreck of a fabulously styled penthouse.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Ana Leza, Ángel de Andrés López, Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Eduardo Calvo, Fernando Guillen, Francisca Caballero, Gabriel Latorre, Guillermo Montesinos, Imanol Uribe, Joaquín Climent, José Antonio Navarro, José Marco, Juan Lombardero, Julieta Serrano, Kiti Manver, Loles León, Lupe Barrado, María Barranco, Rossy de Palma, Yayo Calvo

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Love is Strange is an even-handed drama about a Ben and George (John Lithgow and Alfred Molina), a loving couple who marry after 39 years of companionship, only to face a series of unexpected consequences of their decision. George is fired from his position as a music teacher, they’re forced to sell their home, and they find themselves living separately with various friends and relatives. The story revolves largely around their time apart, as they struggle in their separation while creating unintended commotion in the lives of their hosts. It’s a warm, wryly amusing and ultimately very touching film about the bonds of love and dedication. It may seem slow at times, but to watch it through to the end will lead you to realize how truly special it is.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alfred Molina, Andrew Polk, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson, Christian Coulson, Christina Kirk, Darren E. Burrows, Eric Tabach, Harriet Sansom Harris, John Cullum, John Lithgow, Manny Perez, Marisa Tomei, Olya Zueva, Sebastian La Cause, Tank Burt, Tatyana Zbirovskaya

Director: Ira Sachs

Rating: R

He may be out of office, but films about Donald Trump's racist and xenophobic immigration policies will continue to feel urgent for the ripple effect they've left on so many immigrants—and these films aren't just coming from within the United States either. A Spanish production, Upon Entry boils down a presidential term's worth of discrimination to just a few hours in the lives of a couple being interrogated at the airport. Directors Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastián Vásquez shoot in a style that almost feels like they're telling the story in real-time, with very few bursts of emotion and lots of quiet agonizing in the claustrophobia of windowless rooms. Every interaction is fraught with tension, as the couple, Diego and Elena, keep weighing if they should stand up for themselves or submit to the authorities' bullying.

The film eventually makes a bid for more drama by putting the couple's relationship and mutual trust into question, but this choice brings the movie dangerously close to validating the psychological manipulation used by the immigration officers. It momentarily loses sight of the bigger picture: that all this relationship drama is beside the point. Still, as a portrait of how discriminatory laws not only lock people out but tear them apart from each other, it's a potent, painful watch.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alberto Ammann, Ben Temple, Bruna Cusí, Colin Morgan, David Comrie, Laura Gómez

Director: Alejandro Rojas, Juan Sebastián Vásquez

, 2006

Pedro Almodovar’s films tend to swing wildly between comedy/farce and melodrama/tragedy. Volver somehow hits the sweet spot right in the middle of all four genres, with an added dose of magical realism. It’s a total joy to watch, which is really saying something since the story touches on murder, adultery, incest, malignant tumors, ghosts, and Penelope Cruz’s derriere. But maybe that’s the magic of Almodovar’s films? He’s able to take dark themes and surround them with bright colors, warm characters, and screwball humor—and really, is there anything better than that?

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio de la Torre, Blanca Portillo, Carlos Blanco, Carlos Blanco Vila, Carlos García Cambero, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Concha Galán, Eli Iranzo, Elvira Cuadrupani, Fanny de Castro, Isabel Ayúcar, Leandro Rivera, Lola Dueñas, Magdalena Brotto, María Alfonsa Rosso, María Isabel Díaz Lago, Mila Espiga, Natalia Roig, Neus Sanz, Penélope Cruz, Pepa Aniorte, Valeria Vereau, Yohana Cobo, Yolanda Ramos

Director: Pedro Almodoóvar, Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R