14 Movies Like Monsters Inc. (2001)

Staff & contributors
Mary and Max is the tale of an overlooked 8-year-old girl from Australia starting an unlikely friendship via mail with a middle-aged Jewish man from New York. Shot completely in monocromatic claymotion, it is the first feature film by Australian stop-motion animation writer, Adam Elliot, and the first ever animated film to score the opening slot at Sundance Festival. In all its playful absurdity, Mary and Max is an emotional and wise gem of a film that examines the human condition through the eyes of a troubled child and an autistic American. In contrast to its clay-based animation, it deals with some pretty dark and adult themes, but succeeds in balancing those with happiness and absurd humor. Moreover, Elliott gathered an ensemble cast to do the voice-overs, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana. We recommend it 8 condensed milks out of 10.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Elliot, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore, Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen, Christopher Massey, Eric Bana, Henry Karjalainen, Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, Ian Meldrum, John Flaus, Julie Forsyth, Michael Ienna, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Renée Geyer, Renée Geyer, Toni Collette

Director: Adam Elliot

Rating: Not Rated

Frequently considered one of the greatest animated movies of all times, and certainly the highest-grossing film in Japanese history, Spirited Away is Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli at their very best. It was also the first non-English animation movie to win an Oscar. On the surface, it's a film about a Chihiro Ogino (Hiiragi), a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. In a creepy spiritual world full of Shinto folklore spirits, she sees all kinds of magic and fantastic creatures, while having to find a way to save her parents and escape. In addition to the adventure, the coming-of-age theme, and the motifs of ancient Japanese lore, the film can also be understood as a critique of the Western influence on Japanese culture and the struggle for identity in the wake of the 1990s economic crisis. A deep, fast-paced, and hypnotizing journey.

Genre: Animation, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Akiko Tomihira, Akio Nakamura, Bob Bergen, Bunta Sugawara, Daveigh Chase, David Ogden Stiers, Hayashikoba, Hiromi Takeuchi, Ikuko Yamamoto, Jack Angel, Jason Marsden, Jim Ward, John Ratzenberger, Kaori Yamagata, Katsutomo Shîbara, Kazutaka Hayashida, Keiko Tsukamoto, Ken Yasuda, Koba Hayashi, Lauren Holly, Mari Natsuki, Masayuki Kizu, Mayumi Saco, Michael Chiklis, Michiko Yamamoto, Mina Meguro, Minako Masuda, Miyu Irino, Naoto Kaji, Noriko Kitou, Orika Ono, Paul Eiding, Rina Yamada, Rodger Bumpass, Rumi Hiiragi, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shigeru Wakita, Shigeyuki Totsugi, Shinobu Katabuchi, Shiro Saito, Shirou Saitou, Sonoko Soeda, Susan Egan, Suzanne Pleshette, Takashi Naito, Takehiko Ono, Tara Strong, Tatsuya Gashuin, Tetsurô Ishibashi, Tsunehiko Kamijo, Tsuzuki Kayako, Yasuko Sawaguchi, Yayoi Kazuki, Yo Oizumi, Yoko Ono, Yoshitaka Sukegawa, Yumi Tamai, 沢口靖子

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: PG

, 2007

Once is about a vacuum cleaner/repairman/street musician and a florist in a boy-meets-girl-then-makes-music tale of love, friendship, family, and freaking great music. You can just feel the passion from this simple but charming low-budget movie capturing the chemistry of music making. The film's music will make your skin tingle and hair stand on end. How good is it? In addition to the film winning an Oscar for its music, the Broadway musical version has won 8 Tonys. In short - get ready for a sonic masterpiece!

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Darren Healy, Geoff Minogue, Gerard Hendrick, Glen Hansard, Hugh Walsh, Mal Whyte, Marcella Plunkett, Markéta Irglová

Director: John Carney

Rating: R

Muriel is a young social outcast who spends her time obsessively planning a dream wedding without ever having been on a date. Her life is flipped upside down when she steals $15,000 from the family business to go on a tropical getaway. This brilliant comedy is memorable as much for Toni Collete’s breakout role as it is for its snarky subversion of rom-com tropes.

Muriel’s Wedding arrived in a wave of bright and brash Australian comedies of the early 90s like Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom. And like these counterparts, its heightened reality gives way to a surprising and heartbreaking emotional core. Director PJ Hogan would go on to direct My Best Friend’s Wedding - a fun but watered-down imitation of the surprising storytelling that made this a cult classic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Annie Byron, Barry Crocker, Basil Clarke, Belinda Jarrett, Bill Hunter, Cecily Polson, Chris Haywood, Dan Wyllie, Daniel Hepner, Daniel Lapaine, Darrin Klimek, Di Smith, Frankie Davidson, Fred Rouady, Gabby Millgate, Geneviève Picot, Gennie Nevinson, Heather Mitchell, Ineke Rapp, Jacqueline Linke, Jeanie Drynan, John Gaden, John Walton, Jon-Claire Lee, Julian Garner, Kevin Copeland, Kirsty Hinchcliffe, Kuni Hashimoto, Louise Cullen, Matt Day, Nathan Kaye, Penne Hackforth-Jones, Pippa Grandison, Rachel Griffiths, Richard Carter, Richard Morecroft, Richard Sutherland, Rob Steele, Robert Alexander, Robyn Pitt Owen, Roz Hammond, Scott Hall-Watson, Sophie Lee, Susan Prior, Toni Collette, Vincent Ball

Director: P.J. Hogan

Rating: R

There are comfort food movies, and then there are films like Big Night: comfort food movies about comfort food. Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub are brothers running a failing Italian restaurant. Their last chance to save it from foreclosure is to throw a colossal dinner bolstered by a dubious promise of a visit from singer Louis Prima.

The comedy is mellow and pleasant, and Tucci and Shaloub have wonderful chemistry as bickering brothers. Meanwhile, a great supporting cast featuring Isabella Rosellini, Ian Holm, and Allison Janney more than make up for the somewhat predictable script.

 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allison Janney, Andre Belgrader, Campbell Scott, Caroline Aaron, Christine Tucci, David Wenzel, Dina Spybey-Waters, Gene Canfield, Hélène Cardona, Ian Holm, Isabella Rossellini, Jack O'Connell, Karen Shallo, Ken Cheeseman, Larry Block, Liev Schreiber, Marc Anthony, Minnie Driver, Pasquale Cajano, Peter Appel, Peter McRobbie, Robert W. Castle, Seth Jones, Stanley Tucci, Susan Floyd, Tony Shalhoub

Director: Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci

Rating: R

5 Centimeters per Second is a quiet, beautiful anime about the life of a boy called Takaki, told in three acts over the span of seventeen years. The movie explores the experience and thrill of having a first love, as well as being someone else’s. In depicting how delicate it is to hold special feelings towards another, director Makoto Shinkai also perfectly captures how cruel the passing of time can be for someone in love. While the early stage of the movie maintains a dreamy mood, as the stories develop we become thrust back into reality, where it is not quite possible to own that which we want the most. All things considered, 5 Centimeters per Second is a story about cherishing others, accepting reality, and letting people go.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Family, Romance

Actor: Akira Nakagawa, Ayaka Onoue, Hiroshi Shimozaki, Keiko Izeki, Kenji Mizuhashi, Masami Iwasaki, Mika Sakenobe, Rika Nakamura, Rion Kako, Risa Mizuno, Ryo Naito, Ryou Naitou, Satomi Hanamura, Suguru Inoue, Takahiro Hirano, Yoshiko Iseki, Yoshimi Kondou, Yuka Terasaki, Yuka Terazaki, Yuko Nakamura

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Rating: TV-PG

, 2016

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner just doesn’t give up. After a 2011 scandal that had him resign from office, Weiner tries to make a comeback in this documentary that follows his 2013 mayoral campaign. His passion for public service is indisputable, and despite his shortcomings, it’s hard not to root for his go-getter attempts at a second chance. To this end, he wins and fails, with each outcome feeling more dramatic and consequential than the last. Things culminate upon the revelation of a fresh, new scandal, which disrupts his unlikely rise as a top candidate as well as the film’s production flow, which then takes a turn for the better (or worse, depending on your sympathies for Weiner). 

Fast paced and brilliantly stitched, Weiner is a compelling account of a man who won’t back down, and of the people surrounding him who suffer from his obstinacy. The documentary is proof that even in our hypercritical age, it’s still possible to both humanize and criticize a “canceled” subject, all while maintaining level-headed humor and allure.  

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Anthony Weiner, Bill de Blasio, Donald Trump, Howard Stern, Huma Abedin, J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner, John Waters, Jon Stewart, Lawrence O'Donnell, Stephen Colbert

Director: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman

Rating: R

A truly timely and difficult documentary, Deliver Us From Evil follows an interviewed confession of a Catholic pedophile. In addition, the film shows his victims, their coping strategies and lives as well as the extreme lengths the Catholic Church went to to cover up and enable the systemic rape of children. While often times hard to watch, this film shines a light into the dark corners of human behavior, forgiveness, sin and faith in a way that is both confronting and relatable.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Adam, Oliver O'Grady, Pope Benedict XVI, Thomas Doyle

Director: Amy J. Berg

Rating: Not Rated

Dear Ex is a family drama that explores LGBT+ issues in contemporary Taiwan. As much as it is a movie about how people cope with loss, it’s a powerful, heartwarming, and intimate portrait of the relationship between Jay and Song Zhengyuan and all the obstacles they face.

While the themes of Dear Ex are heavy, the director makes the viewing experience easier for the audience thanks to humorous and witty dialogue. Meanwhile, the history between Jay and Song Zhengyuan’s relationship unfolds in a very beautiful, almost poetic way, and by the end of the movie, we understand that everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness. The way the characters effortlessly show that love is something beyond genders is admirable, and it is great to see how everyone gets their own kind of forgiveness whether it's from themselves or from others by the end of the movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ai-Lun Kao, Clover Kao, Danny Liang, Fang Wan, Hsieh Ying Shiuan, Hsieh Ying-xuan, Hsin-Ling Chung, Hsu Chih-yen, Joseph Huang, Mag Hsu, Ping-Ya Tai, Roy Chiu, Spark Chen, Ting-Chien Wu, Wanfang, Yang Li-yin, Ying-Xuan Hsieh

Director: Chih-Yen Hsu, Hsu Chih-yen, Mag Hsu

Rating: TV-MA

In my own wished-for parallel universe, French actors Vincent Cassell and Emanuelle Devos are voted the sexiest actors alive. I find them both transfixing and appealing in every role they’ve performed, and they are quite the pair here. Devos plays Carla, a put-upon assistant at a property management company. While good at her job, there is little room for her to advance her career, as she is one of the only women at her company and also has a hearing deficiency. Into her humdrum life walks ex-convict Paul (Cassell), who Carla hires as a personal assistant. It turns out that what Paul lacks in secretarial skills he makes up for in other ways. The first half of the film plays almost like a dark workplace comedy, before taking a dangerous turn towards psychological crime thriller. Overall, it’s a dark and sexy character study of two mismatched outsiders who turn out to complement each other perfectly.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Bernard Alane, Bô Gaultier de Kermoal, Celine Samie, Chloé Mons, Christiane Cohendy, Christophe Van de Velde, Christophe Vandevelde, David Saracino, Emmanuelle Devos, Francois Loriquet, Isabelle Caubère, Nathalie Lacroix, Olivia Bonamy, Olivier Gourmet, Olivier Perrier, Patrick Steltzer, Pierre Diot, Serge Boutleroff, Serge Onteniente, Vincent Cassel

Director: Jacques Audiard

Rating: R

Set in the 1930's English Countryside, the story of the eccentric Mortmain family is told from the daughter Cassandra's point of view. Her father, a once acclaimed and famous writer has written nothing in years, leading the family into bankruptcy. Themes such as first love and financial troubles are explored from Cassandra's comic and intelligent point of view. A classic and a must-see.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Marie Crowe, Anna Paquin, Bijou Phillips, Bill Nighy, Billy Crudup, Christopher Ettridge, David Bamber, Dolly Wells, Eion Bailey, Eric Stonestreet, Fairuza Balk, Frances McDormand, Helena Little, Henry Cavill, Henry Thomas, James Faulkner, James Warrior, Jason Lee, Jay Baruchel, Jean Warren, Jimmy Fallon, Joe Sowerbutts, John Patrick Amedori, Kate Hudson, Kevin Sussman, Marc Blucas, Marc Maron, Michael Angarano, Noah Taylor, Patrick Fugit, Pauley Perrette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rainn Wilson, Ray Porter, Romola Garai, Rose Byrne, Sarah Woodward, Sinead Cusack, Sophie Stuckey, Tara Fitzgerald, Terry Chen, Zack Ward, Zooey Deschanel

Director: Cameron Crowe, Tim Fywell

Rating: R

This atmospheric 82-minute French drama is set between 1995 and the present time, between a shy and lonely teenage version of the main character, Jonas, and an extroverted, chain-smoking one. The common thread between the two is a night gone wrong at a local gay bar.

I Am Jonas is a detailed portrait of a troubled, self-loathing character, and an exploration of the long-lasting impact of trauma experienced young.

Genre: Drama, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Aure Atika, David Baïot, Félix Maritaud, Franck Libert, Ilian Bergala, Marie Denarnaud, Matthieu Lestrade, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Sartous, Pierre Cartonnet, Tommy-Lee Baïk

Director: Christophe Charrier

Rating: 12

Director Rachel Mason’s first documentary is an amusing study of accidental allies. Her mother Karen insists that there are better subjects for the film, but what would be better than the mom-and-pop bookstore that sells sex toys and gay pornography? The subject alone is inherently interesting, as these mild-mannered Jewish parents describe their unintentional journey through day-to-day selling and distribution. However, Mason is able to expand her discussion by contrasting her parents’ actions against the wider conservative moves done by the US government in the 1980s. Amidst censorship and epidemics, Circus of Books stood as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community, made possible by her parents. In learning about the store, we (and Mason) learn more about her parents. While their job choice was unplanned, the journey of accepting those other than themselves is one that we all should take.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, History

Actor: Alaska Thunderfuck, Jeff Stryker, Larry Flynt

Director: Rachel Mason

Rating: Not Rated

From early footage of country-folk threshing their crops to blissed-out clubbers at a rave, there is a mesmerizing, insistent sense of rhythm and motion to Arcadia. Director Paul Wright has curated an astonishing array of archive material for this feature-length video montage examining the British and their sometimes uneasy relationship with the land.

Cut together in loosely chronological order, the footage is enigmatic, seductive, and disturbing, set to a haunting soundtrack from Adrian Utley of Portishead and Will Gregory of Goldfrapp. Watching Arcadia is hypnotic, like wading into the uncertain waters of time with a head full of shrooms. And that’s definitely a good thing.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ian Sexon

Director: Paul Wright