11 Movies Like Sibyl (2019)

Staff & contributors
This is the latest Oscar-nominated movie by Spain's highest-regarded director, Pedro Almodóvar. It's his most personal work to date, being a slightly fictionalized account of his youth and then the last couple of years. He is mostly portrayed by Antonio Banderas, who was also nominated for an Oscar for this role; while another star performance comes from Penélope Cruz who plays his mother in the flashback scenes. Pain and Glory is about life in the arts: how a tormented artistic personality is formed, the days of focusing on work over relationships, and dealing with the consequences later in life. It begs the question: in Almodóvar's life, was the glory that got him to making as great of a movie as this one worth the pain?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Asier Flores, Cecilia Roth, César Vicente, Constancia Céspedes, Esperanza Guardado, Esther García, Eva Martín, Fernando Iglesias, Julián López, Julieta Serrano, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Nora Navas, Paqui Horcajo, Pedro Casablanc, Penélope Cruz, Raúl Arévalo, Rosalía, Susi Sánchez, Xavi Sáez

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Rating: R

Set against the backdrop of the Algerian Civil War in the 1990s, the film follows Nedjma, a young fashion student, as she navigates the challenges of pursuing her dreams while living under strict societal and religious constraints. Gripping and emotionally charged, the film paints a vivid picture of the oppressive climate and the courageous women who refuse to be silenced. The performances are outstanding, particularly Lyna Khoudri's portrayal of Nedjma, who brings a compelling blend of vulnerability and determination to her character. Director Mounia Meddour's storytelling is powerful and thought-provoking, shining a light on the resilience of women in the face of adversity and the importance of artistic expression as a form of resistance. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahmed Benaissa, Aida Guechoud, Amira Hilda Douaouda, Khaled Benaissa, Lyna Khoudri, Nadia Kaci, Samir Elhakim, Shirine Boutella, Yasin Houicha, Zahra Doumandji

Director: Mounia Meddour

This Oscar-nominated French movie is set in Montfermeil, the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables but which today is a rough neighborhood.

Inspired by instances of police violence that happened in 2008, the movie follows a squad of police officers who try to keep the neighborhood under control. Their methods, or lack thereof, inevitably cause things to explode. This is a thriller with a message, one which sometimes feels forced; but the payoff at the end will make you forget all of that.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Al-Hassan Ly, Alexis Manenti, Almamy Kanoute, Bonnie Duvauchelle, Damien Bonnard, Djebril Zonga, Djibril Zonga, Issa Perica, Jaihson Lopez, Jeanne Balibar, Ly Lan Chapiron, Marine Sainsily, Nizar Ben Fatma, Romain Gavras, Sofia Lesaffre, Steve Tientcheu

Director: Ladj Ly

Rating: R

In Lyon, the second biggest city in France after Paris, a man confronts the church about a prominent priest who sexually assaulted him and his friends when they were young.

The man, being religious, wanted to keep the issue within the church. He only asked that the pedophile’s priesthood be revoked so that he doesn’t assault more children.

When it becomes clear that the church will not act, he considers legal action, even though the statute of limitations has expired. But, as is usual in these cases, he was far from being the only victim.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Éric Caravaca, Alexandre Steiger, Amélie Daure, Amélie Prevot, Arnaud Viard, Aurélia Petit, Aurelia Petit, Baya Rehaz, Bernadette Le Saché, Bernard Verley, Chloé Astor, Christian Sinniger, Damien Jouillerot, David Geselson, Denis Ménochet, Denis Ménochet, Denis Simonetta, Éric Caravaca, Fayçal Safi, Fejria Deliba, Frédéric Pierrot, François Chattot, François Marthouret, François Chattot, François Marthouret, Frédéric Pierrot, Hélène Vincent, Hélène Vincent, Jeanne Rosa, John Sehil, Josiane Balasko, Jules Gauzelin, Julie Duclos, Juliette Moreaud, Laurence Roy, Lilly Rose Debos, Martine Erhel, Martine Schambacher, Max Libert, Melvil Poupaud, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Bridet, Patrick Zimmermann, Pauline Ziadé, Philippe Legros, Pierre Lottin, Sébastien Lozach, Sébastien Pouderoux, Serge Flamenbaum, Stanislas Stanic, Stéphane Brel, Swann Arlaud, Timi-Joy Marbot, Vincent Berger, Xavier de Guillebon, Zuri François

Director: François Ozon, François Ozon

During Custody’s opening scene — a judge-mediated custody hearing between ex-spouses Miriam (Léa Drucker) and Antoine (Denis Ménochet) — the latter’s lawyer pleads with the judge to side with her client, arguing that, despite his reported history of violence and the reluctance of the couple’s 11-year-old son to live with him, “Nothing here is black and white.” Custody plays something of a poker face in its first few minutes, leaving us as reliant as the judge is on arguments like these, but outside of the mediation room, the film’s tight 93-minute runtime builds to a finish that will conclusively — and terrifyingly — prove that claim false.

The skill of Custody, however, is in the fact that we don’t need this definitive proof to form our judgment, because we can feel the silent threat of it in every preceding frame. Each of its naturalistic scenes, whether ostensibly quotidian or celebratory, is suffused with simmering dread and ticking tension; even when he’s absent, Antoine looms over the family’s life like a dark cloud. With such restrained mastery over a thriller-like tone, Custody reveals the family’s all-too-common reality as the horror it really is.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alain Alivon, Anne-Gaëlle Jourdain, Coralie Russier, Denis Ménochet, Florence Janas, Jean-Claude Leguay, Jean-Marie Winling, Jenny Bellay, Jérome Care-Aulanier, Julien Lucas, Léa Drucker, Martine Schambacher, Martine Vandeville, Mathilde Auneveux, Saadia Bentaïeb, Sophie Pincemaille, Thomas Gioria

Director: Xavier Legrand

Jia Zhangke (who NPR critic John Powers once called “perhaps the most important filmmaker working in the world today"), directed this movie based on the story of a gangster he knew while growing up.

And he is far from being the only noticeable talent here. Actress Tao Zhao shines as a character called Qiao, a dancer who infiltrates the crime scene in Northern China by way of her boyfriend (the gangster). When a boss leader is assassinated, Qiao finds herself in jail after she refuses to incriminate her boyfriend. 

This is a gangster movie but it’s also about how Qiao processes her time in jail and what she does once she gets out. It serves more as a character study and a picture of modern-day China.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Casper Liang, Diao Yi'nan, Ding Jiali, Dong Zijian, Fan Liao, Feng Xiaogang, Jiamei Feng, Kang Kang, Liao Fan, Tao Zhao, Xu Zheng, Yi'nan Diao, Zhang Yi, Zhang Yibai, Zhao Tao

Director: Jia Zhangke, Zhangke Jia

Rating: Not Rated

A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn't speak much and you almost don't want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Heath Hensley, Jasmeet Baduwalia, Jason Mitchell, John Logsdon, Josh Stewart, Kelly Richardson, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noel Gugliemi, Santina Muha, Thomas Smittle

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Rating: R

A thrilling French movie about a nuclear submarine division that is confronted with a world-ending scenario.

One sonar agent is at the center of the story, his exceptional hearing capabilities are the main resource of the submarine commanders he works for (one of whom is played by the masterful Reda Kateb).

Wolf’s Call tries very hard to be a Hollywood movie, but even if it serves as a reminder that countries like France don’t have to always make arthouse films to be noticed, the visual effects and the writing fall short of that big-budget feel.

Still, if you’re looking for a fun movie that’s full of surprises, solid acting, and a great heroism tale, you’ll love this.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Michalik, Antonin Baudry, Arthur Choisnet, Bastien Ughetto, Damien Bonnard, Etienne Guillou-Kervern, François Civil, Guillaume Clement, Guillaume Duhesme, Jean-Yves Berteloot, Léopold Bara, Marc Ruchmann, Mathieu Kassovitz, Nicolas Van Beveren, Omar Sy, Paul Granier, Paula Beer, Philippe Maymat, Pierre Cevaer, Reda Kateb, Sébastien Landry, Sebastien Libessart, Stefan Godin

Director: Abel Lanzac, Antonin Baudry

Rating: TV-14

A funny, feel-good French movie about a man who joins a synchronized swim team to get over his depression. Comprised only of other middle-aged men, they decide they want to compete for the world championship. Sounds like an unlikely story? It's actually based on a real-life documentary from Sweden called Men Who Swim. If you get French humor, this will make you laugh (a lot), and if not, you'll surely enjoy the easygoing tone of Sink or Swim.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alban Ivanov, Alexandre Courtes, Anderz Eide, Audrey Quoturi, Benoît Poelvoorde, Benoît Poelvoorde, Caroline Grant, Charlotte Levy, Christian Gazio, Claire Nadeau, Élodie Hesme, Erika Sainte, Félix Moati, Felix Moati, Fiorella Campanella, Guillaume Canet, Guillaume Cloud-Roussel, Ibrahim Koma, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jonathan Zaccaï, Karim Adda, Leïla Bekhti, Leila Bekhti, Marina Foïs, Marina Fois, Mathieu Amalric, Mathieu Torloting, Maximilien Poullein, Mélanie Doutey, Michèle Clément, Noée Abita, Philippe Katerine, Pierre Pirol, Sam Chemoul, Stéphane Rouabah, Vincent Darmuzey, Virgile Bramly, Virginie Efira, Xavier Alcan

Director: Gilles Lellouche

Rating: N/A

Based on a play and taking place in the span of one afternoon, It’s Only the End of the World is about a successful writer returning to his hometown in rural Canada baring life-altering news. But before he can share anything, he is faced with the remnants of his life prior to moving out and his family members’ eccentric, but relatable, personalities. This is a movie by one of the most interesting directors working today, Canadian Xavier Dolan. Contrary to his plot-heavy Mommy (which earned him the Cannes Jury Prize at 25 years old), in It’s Only the End of the World the story unfolds in a far more important way. It’s an exploration of dynamics: between brother and sister, between son and mother, between brothers, etc. Don’t go into it expecting things to happen, or waiting for what will happen in the end. Instead, the purpose of this film can be found in how Xavier Dolan handles his usual themes of family through big talent: Mario Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, and Léa Seydoux among many others.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Antoine Desrochers, Arthur Couillard, Gaspard Ulliel, Jenyane Provencher, Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Nathalie Baye, Patricia Tulasne, Sasha Samar, Stephan Dubeau, Théodore Pellerin, Vincent Cassel, William Boyce Blanchette

Director: Xavier Dolan

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

Inside is a technical wonder and a fascinating vehicle for Dafoe’s character Nemo, who holds the entire thing together with a singularly insane performance. It also poses interesting questions about art, namely, what value does it hold at the end of the day? When you’re seconds away from dying of hunger and thirst, what good is a painting, a sculpture, a sketch? Are they really only as good as what they’re materially made out of or can they contribute something more? Inside plays with these questions, but unfortunately, not in any engaging, thoughtful, or creative way. The movie stretches on and on, recycling the same ideas and leaning on the inevitably disgusting ways humans survive as a crutch. An argument could be made that that is the point, to reveal the emptiness and dullness of expensive art, but Inside tries so hard to capture that feeling that it becomes the thing it critiques in the end.  

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Blumenthal, Cornelia Buch, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Josia Krug, Vincent Eaton, Willem Dafoe

Director: Vasilis Katsoupis

Rating: R