14 Movies Like Shrek (2001)

Staff & contributors
Though the drag scene is alive and well today, Paris is Burning is an important reminder that it didn’t always used to be that way. Over the course of seven years, Director Jennie Livingston leads us underneath the crime-ridden streets of 80s New York, where a glittery drag subculture is flourishing, despite all odds. Leading the community are the so-called mothers, the best performers and most fashionable of them all, tasked with inspiring and caring for newcomers. Nevermind that they’re shunned by society and suffocated (sometimes literally) by hateful homophobes and racists; when there is a ball, all that matters is that they strut, dance, and put on the best damn show of their lives. What they do is art, and Livingston makes sure to exalt the craft and pride that goes into it. At the same time, intimate interviews with iconic queens like Pepper LaBeija and Willi Ninja reveal the heartbreaking nature of the community. Most, if not all, have endured some form of abuse, and many risk their lives to earn a decent living. But again, Livingston refuses to reduce them to pure tragedy; she gets them to share their wonderfully big dreams, then gets us to hope along with them that they might just come true.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dorian Corey, Kim Pendavis, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Sol Williams Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja

Director: Jennie Livingston

Rating: R

Through positively adorable characters and zero dialogue whatsoever, Shaun the Sheep Movie reminds viewers young and old of the sheer artistry that goes into a truly great children's cartoon. Animated by British stop motion godfathers Aardman Animations, the film delivers one excellent visual joke after another, while still telling a coherent story that arrives at surprisingly tender places touching on the importance of community and home. In an animation industry that's constantly trying to innovate, a movie like Shaun the Sheep stands as a reminder that there are certain fundamentals in storytelling that deserve to be preserved and passed down to every new generation. It's the loveliest thing around.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Kids

Actor: Andy Nyman, Emma Tate, John Sparkes, Justin Fletcher, Kate Harbour, Mark Burton, Nick Park, Omid Djalili, Rich Webber, Richard Starzak, Richard Webber, Sean Connolly, Simon Greenall, Stanley Unwin, Tim Hands

Director: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

Rating: PG

, 1994

Filmed with a perfect blend of realism and embellished style, Fresh is a coming-of-age story set in the poverty of the New York City projects, wherein the protagonist "grows up" only by learning to become dangerous and losing his sense of self. There's no satisfaction in watching 12-year-old Michael (or "Fresh," as he's called) use his supposed innocence as a tool to manipulate his way to a safer position. The system continues to reign supreme and Fresh only buries himself into a deeper hole. Boaz Yakin's direction is direct and expressive, the city stirring to vibrant life in every scene, and the tremendous performances from Giancarlo Esposito and a then-teenage Sean Nelson drive home the tragedy with full force.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Afi Bijou, Ali A. Wahhab, Anthony Ruiz, Anthony Thomas, Belinda Becker, Charles Malik Whitfield, Cheryl Freeman, Cortez Nance Jr., Curtis McClarin, Danielia L. Cotton, Davenia McFadden, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Elsie Hilario, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Esposito, Guillermo Díaz, Iraida Polanco, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Jason Rodriguez, Jean-Claude La Marre, Jerome Butler, José Zúñiga, Luis Lantigua, Matthew Faber, N'Bushe Wright, N'Bushe Wright, Natima Bradley, Robert Jimenez, Ron Brice, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Nelson, Yul Vasquez, Yul Vazquez

Director: Boaz Yakin

Rating: R

, 2014

The award-winning third feature by director Ava DuVernay, Selma, was released around the 50th anniversary of the historically significant marches (Selma to Montgomery) that aided the civil rights movement's efforts to assure African-American citizens can exercise their constitutional right to vote, harassment-free. The film has been celebrated not only as an artwork, but also as a historiographically accurate one. While it features the role Martin Luther King Jr. played in the marches, it does not reduce the activists' effort and struggle to make it come to fruition. With her uncompromising directorial approach, DuVernay crafts a thrilling period film that has all the markers of a well-done genre feature, but uses its mechanisms to tell an emotionally potent story about both the peaceful marches and the nation-wide outcry resulting from the violence they were met with.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alessandro Nivola, Andre Holland, Carmen Ejogo, Charity Jordan, Charles Black, Colman Domingo, Common, Corey Reynolds, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Dwyer, David Oyelowo, Dylan Baker, E. Roger Mitchell, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Maness, Harry Belafonte, Haviland Stillwell, Henry G. Sanders, Jeremy Strong, Jim France, Jody Thompson, John Lavelle, Kent Faulcon, Lakeith Stanfield, Ledisi, Lorraine Toussaint, Martin Luther King Jr., Martin Sheen, Michael Papajohn, Montrel Miller, Niecy Nash, Niecy Nash-Betts, Nigel Thatch, Omar J. Dorsey, Oprah Winfrey, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Sammy Davis Jr., Stan Houston, Stephan James, Stephen Root, Tara Ochs, Tessa Thompson, Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Bennett, Trai Byers, Wendell Pierce

Director: Ava DuVernay

Rating: PG-13

A sweet and wholesome tale of two boys falling in love against the backdrop of 90s homophobia and social issues. Jamie is a heavily bullied high schooler whose only sanctuary is his family's low-income apartment. His mom Sandra decides to also make that apartment a sanctuary for Ste, another highschooler suffering from an abusive father and older brother. They share Jamie's bed and their prospect of friendship quickly turns into something else.

Beautiful Thing is beautifully scripted and never too emotional. In fact, whenever the story moves towards the emotional, a funny scene is introduced to ease the tension. Many of these scenes feature Sandra's boyfriend, a well-spoken hippie by the name of Tony. Features heavy British accents, subtitles may be necessary!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrew Fraser, Anna Karen, Ben Daniels, Beth Goddard, Davyd Harries, Garry Cooper, Glen Berry, Jeillo Edwards, John Benfield, John Savage, Jonathan Harvey, Julia-Lee Smith, Liane Ware, Linda Henry, Marlene Sidaway, Martin Walsh, Meera Syal, Scott Neal, Sophie Stanton, Tameka Empson, Terry Duggan

Director: Hettie Macdonald

Rating: R

In the years since Fan Girl's original release in the Philippines, its ultimate message and execution has become polarizing: is it enough that the film shows the corruption of a parasocial relationship into an abusive one, without offering much hope? Is its vision of justice actually constructive or disappointingly limited? No matter where you fall, it's exciting that a movie can stir up these kinds of questions through a bizarre dynamic between characters, in a place that's clearly set somewhere between reality and delusion. The narrative is circular and frustrating for a reason—a constant push and pull as the titular fan girl keeps getting drawn back into the celebrity's orbit—and the film only grows more disturbing with each repetition.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bea Alonzo, Camille Penaverde, Charlie Dizon, Gie Onida, Micko Laurente, Milo Elmido Jr., Mina Cruz, Paulo Avelino, Sheenly Gener

Director: Antoinette Jadaone

Rating: PG-13

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

Charming and easy to watch, The Painting is a simple morality tale with unique animation. The film is set in an abandoned painting, whose subjects are actually conscious, living beings. They have three distinct social classes: the Toupins (fully painted), Pafinis (lacking some colors), and the Reufs (sketches). Tired of the discrimination and wanting everyone to be fully painted, three of these beings leave the painting in search of the artist. While the lesson is seemingly simple, the film delves into some existential themes and makes them easy to understand for the younger audience. The film celebrates creating one’s self in an absurd world, rather than passively accepting other people’s definitions. But what stands out most about this film are the designs. Inspired by modernist art, director Jean-François Laguionie created colorful and distinct characters whose faces diverge from the usual bug-eyed Disney/Pixar style. If you’re looking for a different animated film, this might be a good start.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Céline Ronté, Chloé Berthier, Jean Barney, Jérémy Prévost, Julien Bouanich, Thomas Sagols

Director: Jean-François Laguionie

Rating: TV-PG

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

Starring a sad-sack Steve Carrell and an ensemble cast with brilliant timing and real heart, Little Miss Sunshine is a rare understated comedy that brings laughter and tears. As a dysfunctional family's youngest member gets chosen to be in a pageant in California, the family must come together and support her through her journey. Along the path that they take, they learn and cope with each other. A great movie filled with phenomenal acting and writing with a real heart that will leave you breathless.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Beth Grant, Brenda Canela, Bryan Cranston, Chuck Loring, Dean Norris, Geoff Meed, Gordon Thomson, Greg Kinnear, Jerry Giles, Jill Talley, Joan Scheckel, John Walcutt, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Justin Shilton, Lauren Shiohama, Marc Turtletaub, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Matt Winston, Mel Rodriguez, Paul Dano, Paula Newsome, Steve Carell, Steven Christopher Parker, Terry Bolo, Toni Collette, Wallace Langham

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Rating: R

Electrick Children is the debut film for director Rebecca Thomas and one of the most unique and visually stunning films I’ve seen in a while. This gem is about a teenager born and raised in a religious community who believes she has been impregnated with the son of God from a cassette tape she listened to. She decides to run away to neighboring Las Vegas in search of the real father, “the man who sings on the cassette tape.” Heavy stuff, man. Electrick Children is one of those films you see once and it stays with you. It deals with teenagers so delicately and accurately, depicting the butterflies, the excitement, the romance, the heartbreak, the trials and tribulations of this age and beyond. Its cinematography is hypnotizing and its soundtrack is divine (listen to Top of the Hill by Conduits on repeat and it’ll start to have an impact on your life.) Its plot is completely fresh and is able to grab and keep your attention from the first second until the very end. Watching this film made me want to go back in time and fall in love all over again. It made me feel lusty and gave me butterflies and made my heart flutter unlike any other film I’ve seen. You can’t pass this one up.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bill Sage, Billy Zane, Cassidy Gard, Cynthia Watros, John Patrick Amedori, Julia Garner, Liam Aiken, Rachel Pirard, Rory Culkin

Director: Rebecca Thomas

Rating: R

Between the film’s non-existent marketing and Hollywood's ongoing writers' strike, I knew not to expect much from Heart of Stone, Netflix’s latest direct-to-streaming outing. And sure enough, the spy thriller proved to be a mediocre watch. The plot is facile and generic, another one of those attempts at justifying AI and government data breaches. The acting is subpar, which is expected from the ever-stoic Gal Gadot. About the only good thing you can say about it is that it has entertaining action sequences. Gadot is precise and terrifying, a stunt wonder made for the genre. Now if only the acting matched the action, then maybe the film wouldn’t feel as plain and wooden. 

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alia Bhatt, Archie Madekwe, BD Wong, Enzo Cilenti, Gal Gadot, Giulia Innocenti, Glenn Close, Jamie Dornan, Jing Lusi, Joe Reisig, Jon Kortajarena, Jónas Alfreð Birkisson, Luca Fiamenghi, Mark Ivanir, Matthias Schweighöfer, Neran Persaud, Paul Ready, Roy Sampson, Sophie Okonedo, Thomas Arnold

Director: Tom Harper

Rating: PG-13

Proof that even the most tired tropes (which the holiday genre is arguably entirely made up of at this point) can still be warm and enjoyable with above-average craft and a fun cast, Candy Cane Lane avoids the monotony that tends to plague other Christmas movies. Which isn't to say that the film is a new classic—it still concludes too easily and doesn't give its more emotional side the space to breathe. But with an entertaining fantasy premise (specifically, a sort of scavenger hunt based on The Twelve Days of Christmas) bolstered by strong visual effects and supporting actors who have been given free rein to improvise, the movie stays dynamic and lightly humorous, if a little lacking in substance.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Aidan Kennedy, Ali Astin, Amanda Schoonover, Amy Johnston, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Catherine Dent, Chris Redd, D.C. Young Fly, Danielle Pinnock, David Alan Grier, Eddie Murphy, Genneya Walton, Iman Benson, James DuMont, Jenly Crespo, Jillian Bell, Kelly Younger, Ken Marino, Kevin Olusola, Kimberly Christian, Kirstin Maldonado, Lombardo Boyar, Madison Thomas, Matthew Sallee, Mitch Grassi, Nick Offerman, Preston Galli, Reginald Hudlin, Riki Lindhome, Robin Thede, Scott Hoying, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tallie Brinson, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Tiago Roberts, Timothy Simons, Tracee Ellis Ross, Trevante Rhodes

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Rating: PG

Known for his comedy skits on Facebook, the comedian Kountry Wayne finally gets his own Netflix special to middling results. The character that he plays on the stand-up stage is meant to be highly irreverent, showing a callous disregard to everybody except himself. But while a more seasoned comic (which Wayne could become in good time) might find a way to build these predictable jokes into something truly novel or subversive, Wayne settles for shock value—often relying on exaggerated physical comedy to sell a flatly written punchline. But even this trick he relies on too often, which makes his already impressive stage presence seem cheaper than it should.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Kountry Wayne

Director: Jeff Tomsic

Rating: R