7 Movies Like Serendipity (2001)

Staff & contributors

What’s great about this highly inventive film is that it doesn’t look like it was shot through three iPhone 5s. Instead of using shaky cameras and static shots, Tangerine glides us through saturated, orange-toned scenes that evoke the Los Angeles sunset. Launching director Sean Baker into prominence, Tangerine is an innovative film that, at heart, is a nuanced comedy about the trans sex worker community. Newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor run the show, and their performances create a vivid, electric drive that powers the whole movie. But it’s the quieter moments, the moments after betrayal, the moments of recovery, that make this movie truly special.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alla Tumanian, Ana Foxxx, Arsen Grigoryan, Chelcie Lynn, Chris Bergoch, Clu Gulager, Darren Dean, Graham Mackie, Ian Edwards, James Ransone, Jason Stuart, John Gulager, Josh Sussman, Julie Cummings, Karren Karagulian, Katja Kassin, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Luiza Nersisyan, Melanie Booth, Mickey O'Hagen, Mickey O'Hagan, Mya Taylor, Richard-Lael Lillard, Scott Krinsky, Scott Lyons, Shih-Ching Tsou

Director: Sean Baker

Rating: R

The '80s saw an influx of coming-of-age dramas, with John Hughes’ “Brat Pack” films reigning supreme. For better or worse, their most iconic scenes are embedded in pop culture, like students dancing in detention in The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles’ belated birthday cake. Perhaps the most iconic '80s movie moment comes not from Hughes, but from Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything…: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusak) in a trenchcoat, blue Malibu parked behind him, boombox raised over his head in defiant loyalty.

On their last day of high school, Lloyd Dobler resolves to ask out the class valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye). Their summer-long relationship is awkward, intense, tender—and familiar to anyone who has ever opened themselves up to falling in love. Say Anything… emotionally outclasses its contemporaries, as Crowe’s writing lends itself to two authentic characters fleshed out beyond caricatures. And as Lloyd crushes hard on Diane, it’s hard not to feel like you’re falling in love with each of them, too.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amy Brooks, Bebe Neuwirth, Bill Stevenson, Chynna Phillips, Dan Castellaneta, Don Wilson, Eric Stoltz, Glenn Walker Harris Jr., Gloria Cromwell, Gregory Sporleder, Ione Skye, Jason Gould, Jeremy Piven, Jerry Ziesmer, Jim Ladd, Joan Cusack, Joanna Frank, John Cusack, John Hillner, John Mahoney, Johnny Green, Jonathan Chapin, Judy Prescott, Kim Walker, Lili Taylor, Lisanne Falk, Lois Chiles, Loren Dean, Montrose Hagins, Pamela Adlon, Patrick O'Neill, Philip Baker Hall, Polly Platt, Richard Portnow, Stephen Shortridge, Stone Gossard

Director: Cameron Crowe

The Promise has all the trappings of a sleazy crime drama, but there's a sense of innocence buried underneath all the dirt that helps set it apart. Even as Igor helps his father do the shadiest things to exploit the illegal immigrants under their care, you can see the boy slowly wake up to the realization that life can't just be a series of transactions, rewards, and punishments. As writers and directors, the Dardenne brothers present Igor's coming of age with frankness and without pretension—even when a hint of the mystical begins to compel him to tell the truth. It might not seem all that complex at first, but the details that make up this world are fully immersive from start to finish.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Frédéric Bodson, Jean-Michel Balthazar, Jérémie Renier, Norbert Rutili, Olivier Gourmet, Sophia Leboutte

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) is a patriarch of an upper-class white family insulated from the roiling protests and violence in their suburban household outside of Johannesburg. When his gardener’s son is arrested, du Toit’s complacency is tested and he becomes embroiled in the devastating political reality outside the comforts of his gated world. 

Although it falls into the somewhat blemished category of films that center white protagonists when covering Black struggle, it does so with a piercing critical lens that confronts white denial and complicity. Euzhan Palcy’s direction is striking, depicting racism and violence with uncompromised clarity, while her unfettered dedication to getting this made even brought Marlon Brando out of retirement. Keep an eye out for him playing a beleaguered civil rights attorney - a role which notched him his final Academy Award nomination. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Andrew Whaley, Charles Pillai, David de Keyser, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Ndhlovu, Gerard Thoolen, Janet Suzman, John Kani, Jürgen Prochnow, Kevin Johnson, Leonard Maguire, Marlon Brando, Michael Gambon, Paul Brooke, Richard Wilson, Ronald Pickup, Rosemary Martin, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, Susan Sarandon, Susannah Harker, Thoko Ntshinga, Winston Ntshona, Zakes Mokae

Director: Euzhan Palcy

Jane Campion’s biographical drama about the poet John Keats derives its name from one of the latter’s greatest love sonnets: Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art… / Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath/ And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Keats remains one of the most celebrated and adored Romantic poets. His writing challenged the poetic form, and revered the world for what it is at its best: wondrous, surprising, sublime. Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of Keats is rightfully distant, as we encounter the poet’s incredible aloofness through the perspective of interested suitor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Brawne’s relationship with Keats was short but intense, providing great artistic inspiration and devastating devotion. Campion perfectly captures their fleeting relationship in this deft, crushing drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Adrian Schiller, Amanda Hale, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Ben Whishaw, Claudie Blakley, Edie Martin, Eileen Davies, Gerard Monaco, Jonathan Aris, Kerry Fox, Lucinda Raikes, Olly Alexander, Paul Schneider, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Samuel Barnett, Samuel Roukin, Sebastian Armesto, Theresa Watson, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Vincent Franklin

Director: Jane Campion

Rating: PG

It’s very interesting, if not startling, to see an earnest movie made about the white upper class these days. Metropolitan is one such film, and even though it was released in the ’90s, it still stands the test of time precisely because it neither judges nor defends the group of WASPs it follows. It simply shows them in all their elegance and sophistication, as well as their insulation and irony. 

Metropolitan takes place in the upper crust of New York debutante society, during Christmas vacation, where soirees are rampant and afterparties even more so. The young-adult leads who navigate the scene in their expensive clothes and self-important aura recall a Scott Fitzgerald novel, or if you like, Gossip Girl episode. But instead of falling into tragedies, these characters just end up in silly but relatable mishaps and misunderstandings: they’re just kids after all. And as high and mighty as they may seem, whiling away in tall Park Avenue apartments, they’re still prone to the universal pains that haunt and shape teenagers. Expect to see heartbreak, jealousy, and longing even among the brightest and wealthiest of New York. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Connorton, Carolyn Farina, Chris Eigeman, Donal Lardner Ward, Francis Creighton, Isabel Gillies, Taylor Nichols, Thomas R. Voth, Will Kempe

Director: Whit Stillman

Rating: PG-13

Miranda’s Victim often feels like two different movies smushed into one. On the one hand, it tells the story of how Trish finds the courage to speak up against her abuser, who happens to be a person of color. On the other hand, it shows us the legal intricacies that led to the founding of what we now know as Miranda Rights. In better hands, these two stories (one emotional and one technical) could’ve worked well together, and they would’ve spoken to the intersectionality at the heart of this complicated case. But instead of going for nuance, instead of exploring the complex racial and gender politics that inform this case, Director Michelle Danner goes in all sorts of odd directions as if herself confused about what the focus should be. 

Breslin is heartbreaking and powerful as Trish, but she’s only given so much to act with. Despite being based on a real person, her character is reduced to trauma and tears—a caricature of abuse—and nothing more. The movie is at its strongest when it converts into pure courtroom drama by the third act. Suddenly, it’s brisk and intelligent, bolstered by the compelling one-two punches of the judge (a commanding Donald Sutherland) and the two lawyers (Ryan Philippe, a revelation, and Luke Wilson, only slightly better here than in his earlier turn in Legally Blonde). As a story about violation and abuse, there’s surprisingly little compassion to be found, despite the title. But as a legal drama, it’s as informative as it can be. 

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Abigail Breslin, Andy Garcia, Brent Sexton, Brian Colin Foley, Dan Lauria, Donald Sutherland, Emily VanCamp, Enrique Murciano, James Healy Jr., Jann Ellis, Josephine Hies, Joshua Bowman, Kyle MacLachlan, Luke Wilson, Michael Mulheren, Mireille Enos, Najah Bradley, Nolan Gould, Ryan Phillippe, Sheilagh Weymouth, Taryn Manning

Director: Michelle Danner