11 Movies Like School of Rock (2003)

Staff & contributors

The atmosphere in Millennium Mambo is magical. The opening scene alone will leave you enchanted, with long walks through a tunnel-like space and dreamy techno music playing in the background. We are misled into thinking that this will be a movie full of colors and dance, and to some degree, this is true, as it portrays Taipei and its neon colors of green, pink, and blue, featuring dance sequences in a bar that serves flashy drinks. But as the movie develops, a chilling shadow is cast as we become entangled in a brutal relationship that is as full of cruelty as it is of love and lust. Narrated from the future, the story shows how the present-day protagonist, Vicky, grapples with her identity as she looks back upon her past self from ten years ago.

Chaotic, messy, but also peppered with moments of serenity and shot with flawless camerawork and cinematography, Millennium Mambo makes time feel fluid, and serves as a reminder that no matter how rough the journey may be, everything is always okay in the end.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Chun-hao Tuan, Doze Niu Cheng-Tse, Duan Chun-hao, Jack Kao, Pauline Chan, Pauline Chan Bo-Lin, Qi Shu, Rio Peng, Shu Qi

Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien, Hsiao-Hsien Hou

Rating: R

Paul Giamatti knocks in out of the park in Win Win. The movie has so much humanity in it as well as a fantastic story that's rooted in normalcy. At last a movie about second chances that is anything but cheesy. The rhythm of the humor in this movie helps you move through the serious themes unscathed (for the most part). In sum, the jokes are spot-on and the acting is excellent.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Clare Foley, Darren Goldstein, David W. Thompson, Edmund Ikeda, Jeffrey Tambor, Marceline Hugot, Marcia Haufrecht, Margo Martindale, Melanie Lynskey, Nina Arianda, Paul Giamatti, Sharon Wilkins, Tim Ransom

Director: Tom McCarthy

Rating: R

Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), a young and promising novelist imagines and writes about his idea of a perfect female companion. Somehow, his words manifest into reality - the beautiful and corky Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan). Soon, however, his magical love turns shallow as his creation begins to think for herself and wrestle against her creation. This romantic comedy has the right amount of wit and emotion with a deep message of loving people just the way they are.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Aasif Mandvi, Alia Shawkat, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Casey Genton, China Shavers, Chris Messina, Claudia Bestor, Deborah Ann Woll, Diana Parros, Eden Brolin, Eleanor Seigler, Elliott Gould, Emma Jacobs, Jane Anne Thomas, Janine King, John F. Beach, Kai Lennox, Mark Roman, Mary Jo Deschanel, Michael Berry Jr., Paul Dano, Rick L. Dean, Rightor Doyle, Steve Coogan, Tatiana Sarasty, Toni Trucks, Wallace Langham, Zoe Kazan

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Rating: R

The walk-and-talk roots of the Before Trilogy are traceable to this low-budget cult movie from writer-director Richard Linklater, which came five years before our first introduction to Celine and Jesse. Rather than follow a single, winding conversation, though, Slacker hops from character to character every few minutes, and we never meet them again. In fact, we rarely even learn their names, which makes the credits a particular pleasure to watch as it identifies cast members with wry monikers like “Dostoyevsky wannabe,” “Ultimate loser,” and “Scooby Doo philosopher.”

Shot in Linklater’s adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, the movie captures the city’s uniquely alternative vibe — or, as one character succinctly puts it, “This town has always had its share of crazies.” Conversations range from the spaced-out to the flat-out paranoid, a fair amount of the movie’s ragtag band being partial to conspiracy theories, from the well-worn (JFK's death) or the more bizarre (the real meaning behind The Smurfs). With its freewheeling approach to narrative, Slacker shares the lovable weirdness of its characters, as attested to by its enduring status as a cult classic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Athina Rachel Tsangari, Bob Boyd, Charles Gunning, Clark Walker, D. Montgomery, Deborah Pastor, Kim Krizan, Mark James, Richard Linklater, Robert Jacks, Tommy Pallotta

Director: Richard Linklater

Michael Douglas plays Grady Tripp, a craggy, lovable English professor struggling to finish the follow-up to a very successful first novel. It has taken him 7 years, and it's an obvious metaphor for his ridiculous life. The character navigates various tragicomic dilemmas with a stellar supporting cast including Frances McDormand, Tobey Maguire, and Katie Holmes. His editor is Robert Downey Jr. and his nemesis is Rip Torn. Bob Dylan wrote the theme song. How do you not love this movie? It's one of those films that feels like a warm, cozy house (despite the fact that it takes place in a Pittsburgh winter), and it's a great blend of humor and drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Tudyk, Bingo O'Malley, Charis Michelsen, Elisabeth Granli, Frances McDormand, George Grizzard, James Ellroy, James Kisicki, Jane Adams, John W. Iwanonkiw, Katie Holmes, Kelly Bishop, Michael Cavadias, Michael Douglas, Philip Bosco, Richard Knox, Richard Thomas, Rip Torn, Rob McElhenney, Robert Downey Jr., Sean King, Tobey Maguire, Victor Quinaz, Yusuf Gatewood

Director: Curtis Hanson

Rating: R

A young Steve Buscemi leads this wry farce about a calamitous film set where nothing goes right. The sardonic script skewers the ins and outs of low budget film production and the various personalities on set from belligerent directors, pretentious cinematographers, and egotistic actors. 

A playful three-act structure and trips into dream sequences keep things light, while a strong supporting cast, including a cheeky appearance by Peter Dinklage and the fantastic Catherine Keener, gives the film the backbone it needs. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Catherine Keener, Danielle von Zerneck, Dermot Mulroney, Hilary Gilford, James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Lori Tan Chinn, Matthew Grace, Norman Fields, Peter Dinklage, Rica Martens, Robert Wightman, Steve Buscemi, Tom Jarmusch

Director: Tom DiCillo

Rating: R

Even with its haphazard construction and occasionally unnecessary and corny flourishes (what's with all the mellowed-out covers of pop songs?), there's a sense of intense, sincere pride and joy that shines through Every Body's many testimonials. Intersex people are barely represented whether in media or in legislation, and countless people still have very little understanding of what intersex is. But while this subject is usually viewed as uncomfortable—and this documentary definitely doesn't hold back in explaining the various ways intersex people are mutilated and mentally abused just to force them to conform to the gender binary—the film grounds everything by showing us how its main characters are as ordinary, creative, and full of good humor as the rest of us. So as Every Body skips through various aspects of the intersex experience, even its disorganization takes on the charm of a simple chat with friends. And either way, the discussions held here are the stuff of real courage—demanding our attention and earning our respect.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alicia Roth Weigel, Julie Cohen, River Gallo, Sean Saifa Wall, Steven Crowder

Director: Julie Cohen

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

Waking Life is composed exclusively of a series of conversations involving the main character, with him sometimes participating and sometimes just as a spectator. The discussions revolve around issues such as metaphysics, free will, social philosophy or the meaning of life. The title refers to a quote from Jorge Santayana: "sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.", and the whole movie wanders around the state of a lucid dream, emphasized by the rotoscoping technique in which it was filmed. Waking Life is not just a movie worth watching, it is a movie worth watching a thousand times, because you will always notice something that you have previously missed out.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Adam Goldberg, Alex Jones, Bill Wise, Caveh Zahedi, Charles Gunning, Ethan Hawke, Glover Gill, Jason Liebrecht, Jeanine Attaway, John Christensen, Julie Delpy, Kim Krizan, Lorelei Linklater, Louis Black, Mona Lee Fultz, Nicky Katt, Peter Atherton, Richard Linklater, Steve Brudniak, Steve Fitch, Steven Prince, Steven Soderbergh, Timothy "Speed" Levitch, Trevor Jack Brooks, Wiley Wiggins

Director: Richard Linklater

Rating: R

A bully (Josh Peck) is lured into a plot of revenge. The bullied victim (Rory Culkin), his brother and their friends then see the bully's human side, and learn that revenge often comes with a greater price than imagined. Talented teen actors give fantastic performances in this absorbing and impactful coming-of-age tale, with a real moral compass and ability to demonstrate multi-sided characters.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Branden Williams, Carly Schroeder, Heath Lourwood, J.W. Crawford, Josh Peck, Kaz Garas, Raissa Fleming, Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Shelly Lipkin, Trevor Morgan

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Rating: R

It's admirable how A Taste of Love keeps to the gentle pace of a slice-of-life story instead of blowing things up with unnecessary drama, but it's ultimately just too thinly drawn for any of its moments to become charming in their simplicity. There's nothing particularly wrong with any of its plot threads—emotionally they're all pretty level-headed and easy to understand—they just don't seem to coexist for any reason, or within any larger framework. As a result, spending time with this film doesn't just feel like hanging out with total strangers, but hanging out with people who are strangers to each other as well.

Genre: Comedy, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Adam Hose, Ashley Dulaney, Darla Delgado, Demi Castro, Erin Cahill, Gina Yeena Salas, Jeremy King, Jesse Kove, Jim R. Coleman, Jody Pucello, Lily Jane, Martin Kove, Meghan Colleen Moroney, Rod Grant, Sasha Andreev, Steve Heinz, Susan Gallagher, Tymberlee Hill

Director: Conrad de la Torres III, Michael E. Brown

Rating: G