4 Movies Like Little Big Man (1970)

Staff & contributors

2005 was a banner year for British period dramas, apparently: first, there was Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice (still arguably the genre’s crowning achievement), and then came Under the Greenwood Tree, a delightful made-for-Christmas-TV romance loosely based on the eponymous Thomas Hardy novel. Anyone familiar with the author’s typically tragedy-tinged stories — think Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd — will find themselves surprised by the light, pleasant tone of this one, in which the closest anyone gets to violent revenge is sabotaging a church organ by pouring a flagon of cider into it.

The romance here is threefold: when Keeley Hawes’ spinster schoolteacher Fancy Day (genuinely her name) arrives in an English village, she ignites a rivalry between wealthy farmer Shiner (Steve Pemberton), haughty clergyman Parson Maybold (Ben Miles), and James Murray’s die-hard romantic Dick Dewy (again: the names in this are a choice). The trio’s simultaneous attempted courting of Fancy doubles as both the entertaining will-she-won’t-she stuff of romantic dramas and a conduit through which the movie explores the class dynamics in England during the 19th century. It’s this deft intertwining of satisfying romantic period drama tropes with genuine reflection on the historical period itself — all while remaining lighthearted — that makes this underseen adaptation worth watching.

Genre: Drama, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Ben Miles, James Murray, Keeley Hawes, Richard Leaf, Steve Pemberton, Terry Mortimer, Tom Georgeson, Tony Haygarth

Director: Nicholas Laughland

The Romanian New Wave’s predilection for bleakness gets a tongue-in-cheek dig in this buddy comedy from the same country: “Romanians are bad at making movies,” Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol) complains. “They only show doom and gloom.” Indeed, the premise here could easily make for a miserable movie: three hapless working-class pals win a multimillion lottery jackpot but lose their ticket — and, with it, the chance for Dinel (Pedro Pascal-lookalike Dorian Boguță) to pay off the mafia don that’s holding his wife hostage in Italy.

But Two Lottery Tickets takes a decidedly droll view of their predicament. Part of that approach is achieved via the trio’s characterizations: they’re all goofy in different ways, from the ridiculous conspiracy theory-spouting Pompiliu and the gullible Dinel to sleazy chancer Sile (Dragoș Bucur). The rest of the film’s breezy comic tone comes thanks to their amusingly convoluted journey to retrieve the ticket, which they believe is in a bag that was stolen when Dinel was mugged by two thugs. These many segues implicate a cross-section of Romanian society into the film, making it a wry social commentary in places. Mostly, though, Two Lottery Tickets has modest ambitions — to be, simply, an enjoyable comedy — a goal it surpasses thanks to its absurdist humor and pitch-perfect performances.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy

Actor: Alexandru Papadopol, Andi Vasluianu, Codin Maticiuc, Dorian Boguta, Dragos Bucur, Elias Ferkin, Elisa Calin, Mircea Banu, Șerban Pavlu

Director: Paul Negoescu

Upon the first few minutes of Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life, it’s obvious that the Brothers Quay’s first live-action film is highly unusual. First, it’s entirely black and white, with embellished, serif subtitles translating the initial German. Second, many of the film’s shots take the form of moody, gothic close-ups, reminiscent of 1920s silent films, like when Johannes examines his new pupil’s health, or when Lisa directs Jakob with an animal’s hoof next to his cheek. And third, the plot itself is strange, as the students are taught not to think anything of themselves, with only Jakob questioning their instruction. But there’s a certain beauty in the surreal approach the Brothers Quay takes in adapting the Swiss-German novel, a certain intuitive feel that allows the story to expand past its stilted movement, restrained frames, and the school’s oppressive tutelage. Institute Benjamenta is bizarre, but it’s undeniably a fascinating film, even at its most disturbing.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alice Krige, César Saratxu, Daniel Smith, Gottfried John, Jonathan Stone, Joseph Alessi, Mark Rylance, Peter Lovstrom, Uri Roodner

Director: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay

In this sweet-natured British comedy filmed mostly in black and white, Marek is a Polish boy who lives with his alcoholic father in London. He meets Tomo, a kid from the British Midlands who escaped his family and came to London alone.

They form a friendship that this movie follows for a few days. With nowhere to stay, Tomo moves in with Marek without Marek’s father noticing. The two end-up plotting a scheme that turns things around both for them and for the styling of the movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Elisa Lasowski, Huggy Leaver, Ireneusz Czop, Kate Dickie, Mark Monero, Perry Benson, Piotr Jagiello, Steven Hillman, Thomas Turgoose, Trevor Cooper

Director: Shane Meadows

Rating: Not Rated