18 Movies Like May December (2023)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching May December ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

The colloquial phrase "May-December" refers to romantic partners with a large age gap, but leave it to Todd Haynes to craft a poetic and unsettling world out of this (slightly troubling) banality of life. His new film is loosely based on the real case of Mary Kay Letourneau, who in 1997 was convicted as a sex offender after being caught having a relationship with a minor, a student of hers, 12 years old (22 years her junior). May December begins twenty years after the tabloid scandal surrounding the marriage of Joe and Gracie has died down. Elizabeth, an actress, is conducting research in preparation to play Gracie in a film production, but she doesn't know what to expect. Alongside her, we are welcomed into the family home, meet their teenage children, sit through their family dinners, marvelling at the levity and nonchalant atmosphere in the air. Something is missing, or at least that's what Elizabeth suspects. A psychological drama-thriller-black comedy, May December is impossible to pin down. A profound film on human confusion, identities, and past traumas, it unites two of the best Hollywood stars, Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, in a delightfully eerie play of doubling and revelations.

How do you make a film about the Holocaust feel new? How do you make the terrors feel fresh, like it was just in the news, without sounding redundant or without giving into the sensationalized and emotionally manipulative? For Director Jonathan Glazer, the answer lies in not what you show but what you don’t show. The Zone of Interest is shot from the point of view of Nazi Officer Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), who live a dreamy life right next to the infamous Auschwitz death camp. Glazer frames them plainly and without flourish as they ignore (or, arguably, revel in) the glow of burning bodies, the howls of pain, and the billows of smoke coming from the torture chamber a wall away. It’s a powerful, nauseating contrast that turns the question from “How can they do this?” to “Who among us is committing the same things right now?” Who among us is casting a blind eye to the atrocities and genocide being committed at this very moment to our neighbors? The film, which is also a technical feat in terms of the way it’s shot (the crew and cameras remained hidden so that the actors were free to roam, as if in a play) is chilling and thought-provoking, and it will unnerve you for days on end.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Anastazja Drobniak, Christian Friedel, Daniel Holzberg, Freya Kreutzkam, Imogen Kogge, Jakub Sierenberg, Johann Karthaus, Klaudiusz Kaufmann, Lilli Falk, Luis Noah Witte, Marie Rosa Tietjen, Maximilian Beck, Medusa Knopf, Nele Ahrensmeier, Rainer Haustein, Ralph Herforth, Sandra Hüller, Sascha Maaz, Shenja Lacher, Thomas Neumann

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Rating: PG-13

Monster is a deceptively simple story about growing up and the many misunderstandings that come with it. It’s told through different points of view, a technique that could easily feel gimmicky in the hands of a lesser director. But with director Hirokazu Kore-eda at the helm, it feels natural and inevitable, as if there was no other way to tell this specific story. It’s a masterful mystery, but Monster is less about suspense and answering the whodunnit question than it is about navigating the murky waters of truth and real life. As corny as it sounds, watching Monster is an experience unto itself: you’ll find yourself believing something one moment and dismantling it the next, learning and unlearning in a span of two hours. But as with past Kore-eda films, it’s the story’s heartwarming sensitivity that trumps everything. You’ll likely come for the mystery but stay for its heart.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Akihiro Kakuta, Ayu Kitaura, Daisuke Kuroda, Eita Nagayama, Hinata Hiiragi, Kayo Noro, Mitsuki Takahata, Moemi Katayama, Pee, Ryu Morioka, Sakura Andô, Shidô Nakamura, Soya Kurokawa, Yûko Tanaka

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Rating: PG-13

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner, Carrie Preston, Carter Shimp, Cole Tristan Murphy, Colleen Clinton, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dakota Lustick, Dan Aid, Darby Lee-Stack, David J. Curtis, Dominic Sessa, Dustin Tucker, Gillian Vigman, Ian Dolley, Ian Lyons, Jim Kaplan, Joe Howell, Jonathan von Mering, Kelly AuCoin, Kevin Daigneault, Kevin Fennessy, Melissa McMeekin, Michael Malvesti, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Oscar Wahlberg, Osmani Rodriguez, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Paul Giamatti, Rena Maliszewski, Stephen Thorne, Tate Donovan

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

The story of the Von Erich family is excruciatingly sad, but Iron Claw doesn’t dive right into the tragedy. Instead, it takes care to paint a picture of a close-knit family that’s filled with just as much warmth, jealousy, affection, and resentment as the next bunch. Durkin masterfully draws you into their circle so that everything that happens next is sure to cut deep. The choreography, chemistry, color—everything is carefully and beautifully set up, but the casting is what stands out the most. This wouldn’t have worked as well if it weren’t for the inspired move to pair Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, and Stanley Simons as brothers and partners. On the internet, people have been dubbing The Iron Claw as “Little Women and The Virgin Suicides for men” and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from the sibling bond over glory and growing pains, all these films are also powerful explorations of gender. Iron Claw is a vicious takedown of toxic masculinity, while also being a searing family drama and an incredible showcase for Efron and company.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Aaron Dean Eisenberg, Brian Hite, Cazzey Louis Cereghino, Chad Governale, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Chelsea Edmundson, Christina Michelle Williams, Garrett Hammond, Harris Dickinson, Holt McCallany, Jeremy Allen White, Jim Gleason, Jullian Dulce Vida, Kevin Anton, Kristina Kingston, Lily James, Maura Tierney, Maxwell Friedman, Michael Harney, Michael Papajohn, Mike Dell, Ryan Nemeth, Scott Innes, Stanley Simons, Zac Efron

Director: Sean Durkin

Rating: R

Art is a hobby for most people, but for musician Jon Batiste and writer Suleika Jaouad, art is part and parcel of this thing called life. Of course, it’s part of their work, and it’s how they make a livelihood, but it’s more than that– it’s almost a spiritual ritual they cling to, especially when Jaouad finds out that her leukemia has returned. American Symphony mainly depicts the creation of said orchestral work, but director Matthew Heineman translates the symphony into cinematic form, culminating in a performance played over the intimate moments between Batiste and Jaouad. It’s not just a documentary of a performance, but a documentary about art, about creation despite life’s pains, perhaps to survive life’s pains. It’s a powerful work that makes it easy to believe in art as imperative for life, and vice versa.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Anna Wintour, Billie Eilish, James Taylor, Jon Batiste, Jonathan Dinklage, Justin Bieber, Lenny Kravitz, Louis Cato, Questlove, Simon Helberg, Stephen Colbert, Stevie Wonder, Suleika Jaouad, Trevor Noah

Director: Matthew Heineman

Rating: PG-13

You would expect a courtroom drama to be built around damning pieces of evidence, passionate speeches, or certain social issues lending weight to the investigation. But what makes Justine Triet's Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall so remarkable is how direct it is. Triet doesn't treat this case like a puzzle for the audience to participate in solving; instead she fashions this trial into a portrait of a family being eroded by even just the suggestion of distrust. It ultimately has far less to do with who's responsible for the death of a man, and more to do with the challenge of facing the reality that the people we love are capable of being cruel and callous to others.

Which isn't to say that Anatomy of a Fall doesn't still possess qualities that make it a great courtroom drama—doubt only continues to pile up with every new piece of information that's revealed to the audience, until we begin to interpret characters' expressions and actions in a contradictory ways. But the way Triet executes these reveals is just so skillful, choosing precisely how to let details slip and obscuring everything behind faulty memory, intentional dishonesty, or any other obstacles that usually come up during an investigation.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexandre Bertrand, Anne Rotger, Anne-Lise Heimburger, Antoine Bueno, Antoine Reinartz, Arthur Harari, Camille Rutherford, Christophe Devaux, Cyril Karenine, Emmanuelle Jourdan, Florent Chasseloup, Iliès Kadri, Isaac Abballah, Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Jehnny Beth, Judicaël Ajorque, Kareen Guiock, Laura Balasuriya, Maud Martin, Milo Machado-Graner, Nesrine Slaoui, Nicholas Angelo, Nola Jolly, Pierre-François Garel, Saadia Bentaïeb, Sacha Wolff, Samuel Theis, Sandra Hüller, Sandrine Chastagnol, Savannah Rol, Sophie Fillières, Swann Arlaud, Wajdi Mouawad

Director: Justine Triet

Rating: R

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Director: Maryam Touzani

Frybread Face and Me is a little indie gem: though rough around the edges, it’s full of charm and heart. Drawn from its director's own childhood experiences, the movie charts a formative moment in the life of Benny, a city boy of Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo heritage who’s carted off to his grandmother’s ranch on a Navajo reservation for a summer. It's suffused with all the specificity of real memories in a way that never distances us from it, only enfolding us closer into its nostalgic embrace. That effect largely comes from the tender bonds between Benny and his cousin Dawn (unsympathetically nicknamed Frybread Face and played by newcomer Charley Hogan), who acts as translator between him and their non-English-speaking grandmother (Sarah H. Natani, also a non-professional actor). Though he’s constantly berated by male family members for not being “masculine” enough, Benny finds unconditional acceptance from his grandmother and misfit camaraderie with Frybread, who also gives the film a dry comedic edge — a welcome touch in a usually saccharine genre. Ultimately, though, it’s the movie’s soft sweetness and intimate depths that are most distinctive: it’s so gently told, and with such genuine feeling behind it, that it’s impossible not to be swept away by its charms.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Charley Hogan, Jeremiah Bitsui, Kahara Hodges, Keir Tallman, Leilani Taliaferro, Martin Sensmeier, MorningStar Angeline, Nasheen Sleuth, Sarah H. Natani

Director: Billy Luther

Rating: R

Who among us hasn’t committed a white lie to save a relationship? And who among us hasn’t yearned for the full and brutal truth? In You Hurt My Feelings, Nicole Holofcener digs into that paradox and delivers a film that is honest and funny in equal measure. Here, the writer-director doesn't just use a hilarious situation to make relatable observations and clever witticisms; she also extracts the nuances of it. She is aware, for instance, that her well-to-do characters exist in a world where it’s possible to only care about this, and not much else. And she likewise knows that Beth's (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Don's (Tobias Menzies) trust issues are complicated by their age and respective mid-life career troubles. But rather than stay stuck in the specificity of those details, Holofcener uses her perceptive script to highlight the relatable and the universal. These characters hurt just the same—they're plagued with the same insecurities and seek the same validation—and they express that hurt in the petty and unvarnished language everyone else does. Watching all this come to play is a comforting delight.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amber Tamblyn, Arian Moayed, Clara Wong, Claudia Robinson, David Cross, Deniz Akdeniz, Doug Moe, Jeannie Berlin, John Sousa, Josh Pais, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kenneth Tigar, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Michaela Watkins, Owen Teague, Rebecca Henderson, Sarah Steele, Sue Jean Kim, Sunita Mani, Tobias Menzies, Walter Brandes, Zach Cherry

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Rating: R

There’s a lot to think about in Dream Scenario, which posits the possibility of collectively seeing the same real man in your dreams. Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli drops the painfully ordinary Paul (Cage) in an extraordinary reality to show us how easily one can spiral into insanity, how dangerous groupthink can be, how fickle cancel culture is, and how anything can happen to anyone, even to someone as unsuspecting as Paul. But Borgli doesn’t just experiment with ideas here, he also expertly plays with sounds and transitions, sometimes even cutting a scene before someone is done talking, to capture the skittish and unreliable language of dreams. More impressively, he takes into account how this phenomenon would play in our real, profit-oriented world. The capitalistic urge to make Paul an advertising tool, for instance, or to create tech that makes it possible for others to appear in dreams too, is both uncanny and depressingly realistic. Some might feel that Borgli is biting off more than he can chew but there’s a balance and ease to Dream Scenario that makes it feel inevitable. That’s thanks to Borgli’s brilliant direction but also, in no small part, to Cage’s inspired performance as a pathetic but harmless loser.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Agape Mngomezulu, Al Warren, Amber Midthunder, Ben Caldwell, Conrad Coates, David Klein, Domenic Di Rosa, Dylan Baker, Dylan Gelula, James Collins, Jennifer Wigmore, Jeremy Levick, Jessica Clement, Jim Armstrong, Jordan Raf, Josh Richards, Julianne Nicholson, Kaleb Horn, Kate Berlant, Krista Bridges, Lily Bird, Lily Gao, Liz Adjei, Maev Beaty, Marc Coppola, Marnie McPhail, Michael Cera, Nicholas Braun, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Leroux, Nneka Elliott, Noah Centineo, Noah Lamanna, Philip van Martin, Ramona Gilmour-Darling, Richard Jutras, Sofia Banzhaf, Star Slade, Stephen R. Hart, Tim Meadows, Will Corno

Director: Kristoffer Borgli

Rating: R

While it might not be the most inspired story featuring the titular caped crusader—nor is it a particularly Christmas-y tale—Merry Little Batman still stands out just for how bright and warm its versions of these characters are. In this Gotham, crime is literally pushed aside for once, and that odd sense of holiday isolation takes over for the heroes and villains of the city. It's all pretty silly when you give it more thought, but the film wholeheartedly embraces its tone, resulting in a Home Alone-esque adventure that moves briskly and is loaded with great visual gags and throwaways zingers. It could stand to have a more substantial emotional center, but for what it is, this is consistently entertaining holiday viewing for all ages.

Genre: Action, Animation, Comedy, Family

Actor: Brian George, Bumper Robinson, Chris Sullivan, Courtenay Taylor, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, David Hornsby, Dolph Adomian, Fred Tatasciore, James Cromwell, Keith Ferguson, Luke Wilson, Michael Fielding, Natalie Palamides, Reid Scott, Roger Craig Smith, Yonas Kibreab

Director: Mike Roth

As the first Zambian film on Netflix, Can You See Us? is an interesting portrayal of albinism. Inspired by the real-life story of musician John Chiti, the film’s plot feels grounded, even if it’s similar to other stories depicting discrimination. With newcomer Thabo Kaamba at the forefront, her performance of the albino boy Joseph shines brighter than even the older actors of the film’s cast. That being said, it is held back by repetitive dialogue and sped-up character development from certain characters. Despite this, Can You See Us? is still a remarkable film that stands out from the other tearjerkers available on the streaming platform.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Chilu Lemba, Fransisca Muchangwe, Kangwa Chileshe, Ruth Jule, Thabo Kaamba

Director: Kenny Mumba

So much of Puppy Love is adorable. The title alone promises that, and to be fair, it actually delivers. The movie is filled with romance, pooches, and hijinks that circle back to those two core aspects. I couldn’t be giddier watching this, as a dog lover and romantic comedy aficionado myself, but it’s frustrating how the movie doesn’t go above and beyond its basic premise, even if it easily could’ve done so. It has strong leads in Hale and Gustin, whose chemistry may be lacking but who individually perform well. It has a decent script, “reasonably funny” as it calls itself in the film, delivering amusing and touching lines in equal measure. It even manages to flesh out Nicole and Max with backstories; Max, in particular, gets an interesting characterization as an anxious germaphobe who refuses to go to the office for work. But for whatever reason, every exciting thorn in this premise gets smoothed out by the end. The tension is never realized and loose ends are tied up neatly in a conclusion that feels too simplified for its own good. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Al Miro, Christine Lee, Corey Woods, Grant Gustin, Jane Seymour, Lucy Hale, Michael Hitchcock, Nore Davis, Rachel Risen, Sarah Almonte Peguero

Director: Nicholas Fabiano, Richard Alan Reid

Straight to the point and without any overly elaborate set-ups or personal anecdotes, Shane Gillis' Beautiful Dogs is a sort of back-to-basics approach to stand-up comedy that proves surprisingly effective. Over the course of about 50 minutes, Gillis' jokes move smoothly and freely—loose in structure but still clearly centering around very American notions of authority and masculinity (revolving around the military and U.S. history), which the comedian is quick to poke holes in. Gillis' humor is definitely of the lowbrow variety though, and while this in itself isn't a bad thing, a number of his jokes begin to repeat their point to no additional effect, usually relying on low-hanging fruit. Gillis skirts and occasionally dips into offensive territory, which he fully acknowledges. And while some of the stuff in this special is a little tasteless, at least Gillis is sheepishly honest about it.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary

Actor: Shane Gillis

Director: John McKeever

An unsung hero of the civil rights movement gets the customary Oscar bait treatment in this biopic. Though he was instrumental in organizing the historic March on Washington — which helped force the US government to enshrine civil rights — gay Black activist Bayard Rustin isn’t the household name his peers are. In an inversion of that narrative, figures like Martin Luther King appear here as supporting characters to Colman Domingo’s Bayard.

Domingo’s energetic, commanding performance holds the center of the film, but he’s ill-served by the formulaic approach to storytelling that unfolds around him. More than a few scenes feel like they were written, directed, and performed with an eye to making awards ceremony clips, giving the film a disjointed, self-aware air. And yet, for all the limits of its by-the-numbers approach, Rustin does manage to pack in glints of insight. By virtue of who he was, Bayard will never not make for a compelling central figure — so even lackluster filmmaking can’t sap this inherently radical material of all its power. Though not without its flaws, then, the film is valuable for the light it sheds on the polarising effect Bayard's identity as a gay Black man had within the movement and the intersectional depths he nevertheless brought to it. 

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Adrienne Warren, Aml Ameen, Audra McDonald, Ayana Workman, Bill Irwin, Carra Patterson, CCH Pounder, Chanel Minnifield, Chris Rock, Collin Antrim Miller, Colman Domingo, Cotter Smith, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dan Sauer, Daniel Johnson, Frank Harts, Glynn Turman, Grantham Coleman, Gus Halper, Hope Clarke, Ivan Moore, Jeff Hochendoner, Jeffrey Wright, Johanna McGinley, Johnny Ramey, Jordan Aaron Hall, Jules Latimer, Kevin Mambo, Lilli Kay, Maxwell Whittington-Cooper, Michael Potts, Rashad Edwards, Robert F. Kennedy, Scott Deal, Zuri Starks

Director: George C. Wolfe

Rating: PG-13