3 Movies Like Rome Open City (1945)

Staff & contributors

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors' stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex - but so important to listen to and understand. It's an incredible feat to make an observational film that's so grounded in reality - only a genius could: that's Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cat Clifford, Derrick Janis, Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard, Jashaun St. John

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: Not Rated

At once intimate and sweeping, A Thousand and One seamlessly weaves Inez's personal turmoil and familial troubles with the systemic inequality that was rampant in '90s New York. The hideous faces of gentrification, poverty, and police brutality are constantly appearing in the film, not merely because they lend weight to the story, but because they are inevitable for people like Inez. People who, despite their best efforts at achieving upward mobility are continually pushed down by self-serving institutions. 

It's easy for social issue dramas like this to buckle under the weight of their lofty goals, but nothing about A Thousand and One feels forced. Just the opposite, the film has an authentic quality to it—almost documentary-like in its precise depiction of Harlem throughout the years. It's deeply personal and achingly tender, and everything else—the social commentary and the political beats—stems from that specificity. 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adriane Lenox, Amelia Workman, Aven Courtney, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Delissa Reynolds, Emmy Harrington, Jennean Farmer, Josiah Cross, Naya Desir-Johnson, Rudolph Giuliani, Terri Abney, Teyana Taylor, William Catlett

Director: A.V. Rockwell

Rating: R

Let me just preface this by saying The Best of Youth is 6 hours long. Yes, that's 358 minutes of run time, and it puts off a lot of people. But if you're into unusual movie premises like me and up for the challenge - the reward is tremendous. The Best of Youth tells the story of four friends through a period of 30 years; what they go through how they develop their personalities, their worldviews, etc. And because it spans such an extended period of time, it acts as a highlight reel of moments from the characters' lives (so the long run-time actually feels short). It wouldn't be an understatement to say that you'll probably never know characters of any movie as well as you will in The Best of Youth. A perfect illustration of the genius of Italian cinema that gave us The Great Beauty and other amazing movies.

Genre: Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Adriana Asti, Alberto Pozzo, Alessio Boni, Andrea Tidona, Angelo Costabile, Antonello Puglisi, Camilla Filippi, Claudia Fiorentini, Claudio Gioè, Danilo Maria Valli, Dario Veca, Domenico Centamore, Enzo Marcelli, Fabio Camilli, Fabrizio Gifuni, Fausto Maria Sciarappa, Giorgio Crisafi, Giovanni Martorana, Giovanni Scifoni, Giuseppe Gandini, Jasmine Trinca, Juana Jimenez, Kristine M. Opheim, Krum De Nicola, Lidia Vitale, Luigi Lo Cascio, Marcello Prayer, Maria Grazia Bon, Massimiliano Petrucci, Maurizio Di Carmine, Maya Sansa, Michele Melega, Mimmo Mignemi, Nanni Tormen, Paolo Bonanni, Paolo De Vita, Patrizia Punzo, Riccardo Scamarcio, Roberto Accornero, Sonia Bergamasco, Stefano Abbati, Valentina Carnelutti

Director: Marco Tullio Giordana

Rating: R