11 Movies Like Planes Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Staff & contributors

You've probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father's concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno's eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.

Genre: Drama, Family, History, War

Actor: Amber Beattie, Asa Butterfield, Béla Fesztbaum, Cara Horgan, Charlie Baker, David Hayman, David Thewlis, Domonkos Nemeth, Gábor Harsai, Henry Kingsmill, Iván Verebély, Jack Scanlon, Jim Norton, Julia Papp, László Áron, László Nádasi, Mihály Szabados, Richard Johnson, Rupert Friend, Sheila Hancock, Vera Farmiga, Zac Mattoon O'Brien, Zsolt Sáfár Kovács, Zsuzsa Holl

Director: Mark Herman

Rating: PG-13

Stand By Me follows four young friends as they journey around their small town searching for a rumored dead body. On the surface, it moves like an adventure story. The boys narrowly avoid guard dogs and leeches, speeding trains and tough teen gangs. But along the way, they also learn much about each other, in particular about the stark reality of their home lives and the growing depths of their inner struggles, so that beneath all the small-time thrill is a beating coming-of-age story. 

Based on a novella by horror master Stephen King, Stand By Me is terrifying in its ability to evoke the unique thorniness of passing through the gates of adulthood, but also warm and comforting in its reminder of the universality of this feeling.

Genre: Adventure, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bradley Gregg, Bruce Kirby, Casey Siemaszko, Chance Quinn, Corey Feldman, Dick Durock, Frances Lee McCain, Gary Riley, Jason Naylor, Jason Oliver, Jerry O'Connell, Jerry O'Connell, John Cusack, Kent W. Luttrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Korey Scott Pollard, Madeleine Swift, Marshall Bell, Matt Williams, O.B. Babbs, Richard Dreyfuss, River Phoenix, Scott Beach, Wil Wheaton, William Bronder

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: R

With a premise straight out of a cheesy sci-fi B-movie, you wouldn't expect Little Shop of Horrors to be a bona fide spectacle, and yet its tale of a wish-fulfilling yet bloodthirsty plant remains as thrilling and intense as ever. More importantly, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's rock-musical songs remain boisterous and theatrical, gleefully performed by Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs. And buried underneath all this is a comedy with a heart of darkness and a legitimately disturbing morality tale.

Musicals and horror movies are genres that typically cater to a more niche audience, but Little Shop of Horrors should be fun enough to draw anybody in, thanks to the film's impressively tactile sets, director Frank Oz's knack for physical comedy, and animatronic special effects that look better than most CGI creations today. As both a horror movie monster and a massive puppet, the vicious plant named Audrey II is entirely worth the price of admission, no matter which version of the film you seek out.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror

Actor: Barbara Rosenblat, Bertice Reading, Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Danny John-Jules, Edward Wiley, Ellen Greene, Heather Henson, Jill Goldston, Jim Belushi, John Candy, John Scott Martin, Kevin Scott, Levi Stubbs, Mak Wilson, Michelle Weeks, Miriam Margolyes, Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Vincent Gardenia, Vincent Wong

Director: Frank Oz

Four Lions is as black and as dark as a movie can ever get, mixing cultural relevancy with humor and ridiculousness. It is insensitive to Islam, insensitive to terrorism and insensitive to the viewer. But it is hilarious. The director spent three years talking to Imams, terrorism experts and basically everyone. The result? A legit 97 minutes that will dazzle even extremists with its knowledge of Islam and the accuracy of its lines. Needless to say that it will upset quite a few people, but that is always a good sign for black comedy movies, right?

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Adil Mohammed Javed, Alex MacQueen, Arsher Ali, Benedict Cumberbatch, Craig Parkinson, Darren Boyd, Jonathan Maitland, Julia Davis, Kayvan Novak, Kevin Eldon, Marcus Garvey, Nigel Lindsay, Preeya Kalidas, Riz Ahmed, Shameem Ahmad, Waleed Elgadi, Wasim Zakir, Will Adamsdale

Director: Chris Morris, Christopher Morris

Rating: R

, 2019

It’s rare now to hear the phrase “girl power” without being immediately suspicious of its intentions, reduced as it were to cheesy adspeak and empty platitudes. But in the case of Rocks—a movie helmed by a predominantly female crew and co-written by the teenage cast themselves—the slogan fits. There is power in this type of girlhood: open, collaborative, and supportive, and that’s just what happens off-screen. 

On-screen, what unfolds is even more complex and beautiful. As Rocks struggles to take care of her younger brother all on her own, as she’s forced to grow up and face ethical dilemmas normally reserved for adults, she is backed unwaveringly by her friends Sumaya, Agnes, Yawa, Khadijah, and Sabina. It's their specific bond, unsentimental but deeply considerate and loyal, that keeps the film as solid and grounded as the title suggests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Aneta Piotrowska, Bukky Bakray, Curtis Walker, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, D'angelou Osei Kissiedu, Kaine Zajaz, Kate Isitt, Kosar Ali, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Mohammad Amiri, Ruby Stokes, Sarah Niles, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Sharon D. Clarke, Shola Adewusi, Tawheda Begum, Tina Chiang, Umit Ulgen

Director: Sarah Gavron

Rating: TV-MA

Unlike the many courtroom films of its time, My Cousin Vinny forgoes theatrics and drama for true-blue comedy. It stars Joe Pesci as the titular Vinny, a newly minted New York attorney who's taking on a murder trial in Alabama as his first case, while Marisa Tomei plays Vinny's fiancée, Mona Lisa Vito, in an Oscar-winning turn. The loudmouthed couple are decidedly out of place in Alabama, supplying the film with many comedic gems, but they're also unexpectedly clever. Along with its humor and memorable characters, My Cousin Vinny has come to be known for its legal accuracy and flair.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Austin Pendleton, Bill Coates, Bob Penny, Bruce McGill, Chris Ellis, Fred Gwynne, J. Don Ferguson, James Rebhorn, Jill Jane Clements, Joe Pesci, Kenny Jones, Lane Smith, Lou Walker, Marisa Tomei, Maury Chaykin, Michael Burgess, Michael Genevie, Mitchell Whitfield, Muriel Moore, Paulene Myers, Ralph Macchio, Raynor Scheine, Ron Leggett, Suzi Bass, Thomas Merdis

Director: Jonathan Lynn

Rating: R

For the background singers featured in 20 Feet from Stardom, music is a vocation. It is not merely an occupation or a pastime; it is a way of life, a “higher calling,” as the legendary Lisa Fischer would say. For 90 minutes, director Morgan Neville superbly maps out the development of back-up singing in the US throughout the decades, exploring its deep connection with African-American culture and women’s history. It’s fun to finally put names and faces on the oohs and aahs we hear on records aplenty, but the film always finds its grounding on the singers’ own unique voices, where its true soul lies.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Botti, Claudia Lennear, Darlene Love, Judith Hill, Lisa Fischer, Lou Adler, Lynn Mabry, Merry Clayton, Mick Jagger, Patti Austin, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Stevvi Alexander, Sting, Tata Vega, Ula Hedwig

Director: Morgan Neville

Before “burnout,” “bullshit jobs,” and “quiet quitting” became part of our everyday lexicon, there was a film in the ‘90s that prophesied the rise of these workplace problems. Office Space follows three co-workers who, having had enough of their dreary low-paying jobs, fight back against their company via an embezzlement scheme. 

Office Space makes the most out of its indie budget as it mostly takes place in the cramped quarters of a company, effectively bottling us into the cubicled windowless world of the characters. But the real beauty of the film is in the details, from its quick zingers and thoughtful takes on the essence of work down to its elaborate “planning to plan” scheme in the background and the employees’ forced politeness singing happy birthday to their boss. Modern viewers will notice that Office Space sits right in between the dystopian thriller Severance and the beloved sitcom The Office—a dark comedy that highlights the necessity of humanity in everyday work. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ajay Naidu, Alexandra Wentworth, Ali Wentworth, Barbara George-Reiss, Cassie Townsend, Charissa Allen, David Herman, Diedrich Bader, Gabriel Folse, Gary Cole, Greg Pitts, Heath Young, Jack Betts, Jackie Belvin, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Jane Emerson, Jesse De Luna, Joe Bays, John C. McGinley, Josh Bond, Justin Possenti, K. Todd Lytle, Kinna McInroe, Kyle Scott Jackson, Linda Wakeman, Michael McShane, Mike Judge, Orlando Jones, Paul Willson, R.C. Keene, Richard Riehle, Ron Livingston, Rupert Reyes, Samantha Inoue Harte, Spencer Kayden, Stephen Root, Todd Duffey, Tom Schuster

Director: Mike Judge

Rating: R

Bearing pretty much every trademark you've come to expect from a sports drama, Hoosiers might not bring as many surprises to the formula but it still makes all its moves with a surplus of heart. Elevating the already entertaining basketball footage is Gene Hackman's uncommonly hotheaded coach and (Oscar-nominated) Dennis Hopper's town drunk—both of whom deepen this film's story of hometown pride into one of midlife redemption. Hickory, Indiana comes to life as a character in itself, where local sports are treated with as much reverence as politics and religion, which makes every basket feel that much more like a victory lap.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Barbara Hershey, Chelcie Ross, David Neidorf, Dennis Hopper, Eric Gilliom, Fern Persons, Gene Hackman, Gloria Dorson, Michael O'Guinne, Michael Sassone, Robert Swan, Sheb Wooley

Director: David Anspaugh

As long as you don’t take it too seriously and see it for the silly ‘80s comedy that it is, then A Fish Called Wanda comes as a pleasantly hilarious way to pass the time. The heist doesn’t make much sense but the farce the characters put on is as delightfully silly as they come. There are traces of Cleese’s Monty Python sketch humor here, as you’ll see in the puns and the wild physical gags he makes, and Curtis proves that comedy is her true calling. But some of the best parts of the movie are when the British characters rib with the Americans—it’s a classic feud, one you won’t help but laugh at, regardless of where you’re coming from.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Al Hunter Ashton, Andrew MacLachlan, Cynthia Cleese, David Simeon, Geoffrey Palmer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jeremy Child, John Cleese, Kate Lansbury, Ken Campbell, Kevin Kline, Llewellyn Rees, Maria Aitken, Mark Elwes, Michael Palin, Michael Percival, Neville Phillips, Pamela Miles, Patricia Hayes, Peter Jonfield, Robert Putt, Roger Brierley, Roger Hume, Roland MacLeod, Sharon Marino, Stephen Fry, Tom Georgeson

Director: Charles Crichton

Rating: R

Not enough movies tell the stories of the down-on-luck, kind of uncool wolf-pack that still goes out into town with their wallets on chains hanging from their pockets and try their luck with the ladies. Mike, heart-broken actor-comedian pines over his ex long after she's been gone, while his guys - Trent, Rob and Sue - try to help him get back in the game in a series of nights club-hopping and wingman-ing. You find yourself empathizing with Mike almost immediately if you've ever had a broken heart and root for him throughout his highs and fairly embarrassing lows. Sprinkled with clever references and subtle, refreshing humor, Mike's journey to find closure is more than likely to warm your heart.

As a bonus, the flawed yet endearing gang of twenty-something struggling actors will take you to that charming 90's nightlife in Los Angeles (with music to die for, by the way) and remind you that boys will be boys and that they're just doing their best helping each other and themselves to keep it together with lots of "You're so money, and you don't even know it!".

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ahmed Ahmed, Alex Désert, Alex Désert, Bernard Serrano, Blake Lindsley, Brooke Langton, Curtis Lindersmith, Deena Martin, Heather Graham, Jan Dykstra, Jessica Buchman, Joan Favreau, Jon Favreau, Katherine Kendall, Kevin James Kelly, Maddie Corman, Martina Migenes, Molly Stern, Pamela Shaw, Patrick Van Horn, Rio Hackford, Ron Livingston, Samantha Lemole, Stephanie Ittleson, Stephen Gaghan, Vernon Vaughn, Vince Vaughn

Director: Doug Liman

Rating: R