4 Movies Like Sliding Doors (1998)

Staff & contributors

One of Shakespeare’s most indelible works is brought roaring to life in this explosive adaptation. The action is transposed from the 1400s to brutalist 1930s England, with the bloody civil war between the houses of Lancaster and York being waged by tanks and planes instead of cavalry. The switch isn’t merely cosmetic, though: in an inspired move, usurper Richard is reimagined here as the fascist head of an army of Nazi-esque Blackshirts (an analog of real militant far-right leader Oswald Mosley). Ian McKellen, who also co-wrote the screenplay, gives an odious but brilliant performance as the titular Machiavellian schemer who will stop at nothing to seize the crown, even betraying his own blood.

McKellen is joined by a gluttony of acting talent: Maggie Smith plays the King's despairing mother, Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. are the unfortunate American queen and her brother, while the likes of Jim Broadbent, Bill Paterson, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Jim Carter fill up the royal court. All the richness of Shakespeare’s original writing is retained, charging the performances and the film around them with a grand sense of drama. Peter Biziou’s ostentatious cinematography is a perfect frame for it all, and helps cement this as much, much more than a piece of filmed theater.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Andy Rashleigh, Annette Bening, Bill Paterson, Christopher Bowen, Denis Lill, Derek Lyons, Dominic West, Donald Sumpter, Edward Hardwicke, Edward Jewesbury, Ian McKellen, James Dreyfus, Jim Broadbent, Jim Carter, John Wood, Kate Steavenson-Payne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Marco Williamson, Michael Elphick, Nigel Hawthorne, Robert Downey Jr., Roger Hammond, Tim McInnerny, Tres Hanley

Director: Richard Loncraine

Rating: R

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is compassionate and diminutive, but her social awkwardness hinders her as she attempts to navigate young adulthood. After recently being hospitalized for self-harm, Lee is determined to prove she is capable of autonomously taking care of herself. She begins working as a secretary for E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a meticulous attorney.

It’s not long before both Lee and Edward realize they’re attracted to one another’s opposite natures: Lee’s obedience and Edward’s dominance. They begin a mutually consensual BDSM relationship, with both experiencing a sexual and emotional awakening. 

The premise may sound familiar: 50 Shades of Grey is widely acknowledged as, at the very least, owing its title to Secretary. But while 50 Shades of Grey portrays an unhealthy, toxic, and superficial idea of a BDSM affair, Secretary maintains that consent must be at the core of any relationship. And ultimately for Lee and Edward, BDSM becomes a way for them to communicate and overcome their individual pain, and unite stronger as a vulnerable, loving whole.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alison Tatlock, Amy Locane, Christina Gray, Erin Cressida Wilson, Ezra Buzzington, Herbert Russell, James Spader, Jeremy Davies, Jessica Tuck, Julene Renee, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Lacey Kohl, Lauren Cohn, Lesley Ann Warren, Lily Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Joy, Michael Mantell, Osgood Perkins, Oz Perkins, Patrick Bauchau, Sabrina Grdevich, Stephen McHattie, Steven Fierberg, Steven Shainberg

Director: Steven Shainberg

Rating: R

When depicting a novel, book adaptations on film, especially earlier on in the medium, tend to be quite lengthy. The film version of Pelle the Conqueror does have this quality, and the storylines that aren’t directly connected to Pelle and Lasse do feel randomly stitched in. But, when this epic film focuses on Pelle and Lasse– their struggles immigrating to another country, dealing with harassment from the Danish majority, and the rare moments of joy once they finally figure things out– it shines. The legendary Max von Sydow and Pelle Hvenegaard (who was one of the many boys named after the title character) share a tender father-son dynamic that easily stirs one’s heart, and it’s all beautifully captured within Denmark’s lovely countryside. Pelle the Conqueror may only adapt the first of four volumes of the iconic Danish novel, but it does compassionately capture the struggles of the country’s impoverished immigrants.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Astrid Villaume, Axel Strøbye, Bjorn Granath, Buster Larsen, Erik Paaske, John Wittig, Kristina Törnqvist, Lars Simonsen, Lena-Pia Bernhardsson, Max von Sydow, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen, Pelle Hvenegaard, Sofie Gråbøl, Thure Lindhardt, Troels Asmussen, Troels Munk

Director: Bille August

, 2023

Even before its characters get to Europe, Bawaal sets itself up as a truly ludicrous romantic comedy, completely unmoored from any common sense or internal logic, and with the most cartoonishly awful protagonist at its center. There isn't a single convincing story idea here, from the way Ajay's students learn from and idolize him despite his complete lack of teaching ability, to the way he treats his wife Nisha like dirt after learning she has epilepsy. Movies about scoundrels aren't unwelcome, but it feels as if there hasn't been any thought put into how Ajay views other people and the self-image he so desperately wants to protect—and even less thought seems to have been put into the hilariously shallow ways Ajay "earns" redemption by the end.

But then the characters get to Europe, and Bawaal inexplicably becomes a history lesson about the atrocities of World War II, which are briefly recreated in corny and at times tastelessly done fantasy sequences. The idea that these grown adults who have access to knowledge and pop culture are only now finding out that genocide is bad is nothing short of mind-numbing. Even worse is how Bawaal ignores every difficult and painful truth we've learned and continue to learn from World War II, and reduces so much suffering into a contrived moral lesson about how we should accept each other's flaws and learn to forgive. No matter the efforts of its lead actors or the quality of the production values on display, the film just can't overcome the bad taste it leaves in the mouth.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Anjuman Saxena, Janhvi Kapoor, Manoj Pahwa, Mukesh Tiwari, Prateek Pachori, Varun Dhawan

Director: Nitesh Tiwari