7 Movies Like Snowden (2016)

Staff & contributors
Told in urgent fashion with first-hand accounts from cyber professionals from around the globe, Zero Days is a fascinating and alarming documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus. Originally codenamed “Olympic Games” by the people that fathered the worm, Stuxnet is a virus in the true sense of the word. It not only maliciously feeds off the host, but it also replicates itself as soon as it is implanted, which is exactly what it did when it was used by the US and Israeli secret services to sabotage centrifuges inside Iran's Natanz nuclear plant—making them spin out of control. All this is brilliantly unpacked by renowned documentary maker Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), who manages not only to detail the complexities of advanced coding in a remarkably evocative manner, but also to send out a well-researched alarm call about the future of war. Ultimately, the message here is that cyber warfare is very much part of our new shared reality. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who is even remotely concerned about global security in the 21st century.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Allison Cohn, Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, David Sanger, Emad Kiyaei, Eric Chien, Eugene Kaspersky, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Joanne Tucker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Sergey Ulasen, Tadashi Mitsui, Vitaly Kamluk, Yossi Melman

Director: Alex Gibney

Rating: PG-13

This movie narrated by Nicolas Cage is the incredible story of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Like Crazy): from being born to a Jewish Russian family in Leningrad to moving to the U.S. and ending with his sudden death at age 27. Anton, or Antosha as his loved ones called him, was a gifted kid: he was making his own movies at seven years old, taking highly sophisticated notes on Fellini movies, and picking up playing guitar in a short time. He took photographs that still show in exhibitions around the world. He led an extraordinary life, portrayed here, one that was cut way too short.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ben Foster, Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pine, Drake Doremus, Frank Langella, Guillermo del Toro, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jodie Foster, Joe Dante, John Cho, Jon Poll, Jon Voight, Kristen Stewart, Martin Landau, Nicolas Cage, Simon Pegg, Sofia Boutella, Willem Dafoe, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

Director: Garret Price

Rating: R

Bryan Cranston, best known for his role as Walter White in the Breaking Bad series, stars as Robert Mazur, a federal agent, who goes undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. With the film based on Mazur’s memoir, Bryan Cranston gives an impressive lead performance that captures the intense distress that deep cover can bring. Besides Cranston, co-stars Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, and an exceptional John Leguizamo are entirely persuasive and make the film experience enjoyable and intense. The Infiltrator is entertaining and maintains a good pace, with a great cast that makes it a true joy to watch, especially for those who enjoy stories based on real criminals. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Amy Ryan, Andy Beckwith, Art Malik, Benjamin Bratt, Brad Furman, Bryan Cranston, Carsten Hayes, Daniel Mays, David Horovitch, Diane Kruger, Dinita Gohil, Ekaterina Zalitko, Elena Anaya, Georgia Braithwaite, Gino Picciano, Jasmine Jardot, Jason Isaacs, John Leguizamo, Jordan Loughran, Joseph Gilgun, Juan Cely, Juliet Aubrey, Lara Decaro, Leanne Best, Matthew Stirling, Michael Pare, Natalie Davis, Niall Hayes, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Katz, Rubén Ochandiano, Saïd Taghmaoui, Tim Dutton, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Yul Vazquez

Director: Brad Furman

Rating: R

This taut chamber piece about NSA whistleblower Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name) is based on the FBI’s account of her interrogation one June day in 2017. “Based on” doesn’t quite capture Reality’s exhaustive commitment to the facts, though, because this movie is essentially a dramatic reading of a verbatim transcript of the FBI agents’ recording that day. The only time it breaks with reality is when it reaches a redacted portion of the transcript, at which point characters glitch out of view, leaving us staring into the blank set around them. Otherwise, every cough, false start, and even every off-topic remark is recreated with exacting precision here, lending the film a paradoxically stilted, slightly stagy air. But rather than pull you out of the proceedings, Reality’s palpable artificiality only immerses us into the uneasy tension and surreality that its anxious protagonist must have been feeling that day.

That anxiety is contagious, thanks to the movie’s clinical style and central performance. The camerawork is largely unblinking, moving in uncomfortably close on Reality (Sydney Sweeney) as two FBI agents (Josh Hamilton and Marchánt Davis) subject her to their bizarre hot-cold interrogation, which ranges from seemingly friendly inquiries about her dog to jugular-aimed questions about the allegations against her. Sweeney shoulders all this pressure remarkably well, deftly keeping us as much in the dark as Winner tried to keep the FBI in — which makes not knowing the real story a benefit, rather than a barrier, to watching Reality.

Outside of Sweeney’s commanding performance, Reality feels somewhat limited by its absolute loyalty to the FBI’s transcript, though. Much of the film’s 83-minute runtime is dedicated to recreating the text, which leaves only a few minutes at the end for it to express its own point of view on Winner’s actions. Though these scant moments make for a compelling reframing of the charges against Winner, they feel overshadowed by and separate from the movie’s rigorous devotion to the transcript, which ultimately means Reality can’t quite transcend its status as merely an interesting filmmaking curio.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Allan Anthony Smith, Benny Elledge, Bill Maher, John Way, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis, Sydney Sweeney, Tucker Carlson

Director: Tina Satter

, 2016

This Norwegian documentary in English is about Magnus Carlsen, the current world champion who became a chess grandmaster at age 13. It might be tough to believe but Magnus' ascension was slowed down significantly by many crises in self-confidence and difficulty to cope with the pressure at a young age. With home footage and interviews with everyone from his adversaries to the champion himself, Magnus the movie tries to be a complete portrait of the prodigy. Yet, crucial aspects are missing, such as an explanation for a sudden change in character, and perhaps more importantly, explanations of Magnus' genius in chess. His techniques and approaches are mostly attributed to intuition, but the movie fails to explain how that intuition is reflected in the game.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Garry Kasparov, Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand

Director: Benjamin Ree

, 2015

Thithi is a 2015 Kannada film from India that begins with the death of 101-year old Century Gowda, and follows his family as they prepare for his funeral celebration 11 days later. The story-line focuses on 3 generations of his descendants, as his son, grandson and great-grandson are caught up in individual dramas related to the impending funeral as well as their own personal aspirations. His son Gaddappa, an elderly wanderer, absconds with a traveling family of shepherds, his grandson Thammanna hatches an elaborate plan to claim the family land for himself, and his great-grandson Abhi becomes enamored by a young shepherd girl whom he pursues doggedly. Filmed using non-professional actors recruited from villages in the southern Karnataka state of India, Thithi is a humorous and enjoyable portrait of life in a rural part of South Asia rarely seen by the world-at-large. As a realistic slice-of-life, the film gives the viewer an outsider’s glimpse into not just the lifestyle of many residents of rural India, but also their elaborate customs and rituals related to death according to Hindu tradition. Thithi is the type of film that moves at its own deliberate pace, but ultimately provides a winning experience in both its storytelling and its cultural significance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abhishek H.N., Channegowda, Pooja, Pooja S.M., Singri Gowda, Thamme Gowda, Thammegowda S.

Director: Raam Reddy

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

Pawn Sacrifice is a period drama about famed chess player Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire), following Fischer’s rise from his childhood in Brooklyn through to his famed matchup with Soviet Grandmaster Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the 1972 World Chess Championship. The film captures Fischer’s adolescence as a time of burgeoning mastery of the game, while struggling in a fatherless home and beset by early signs of mental illness. Set during the height of the Cold War, tensions between the United States and Russia play a critical role in the story, as they fuel many of Fischer’s fears and anxieties over perceived Russian spying and surveillance. His paranoia reaches a fever pitch in Reykjavik, Iceland, the site of his famous duel with Spassky for the world championship, leading to a remarkably compelling finale. Writer director Steven Knight and director Edward Zwick have crafted a striking depiction of a real-life genius grappling with fraying sanity, and Maguire is stunningly evocative as the abrasive and acerbic Fischer. For the viewer, no advanced knowledge of chess is necessary to enjoy this vivid depiction of one man’s historical achievement in the face of profound mental disturbance.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aiden Lovekamp, Al Dubois, Al Vandecruys, Alain Goulem, Aleksandr Gorchilin, Alexandre Gorchkov, André Sogliuzzo, Andreas Apergis, Andrew Peplowski, Arthur Holden, Benoit Priest, Bobby Fischer, Bobo Vian, Brent Skagford, Brett Watson, Carlo Mestroni, Conrad Pla, David Pryde, Dennis Staroselsky, Edward Yankie, Edward Zinoviev, Ellen David, Eric Lee Huffman, Eugene Nomura, Evelyne Brochu, François Ducharme, Glen Bowser, Igor Ovadis, Ilia Volok, Joe Cobden, John Maclaren, Jonathan Dubsky, Katie Bird Nolan, Liev Schreiber, Lily Rabe, Lydia Zadel, Mark Slacke, Matt Keyes, Maurice Demers, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mohsen El Gharbi, Natalija Ugrina, Nathaly Thibault, Norman Lehnert, Peter Janov, Peter Sarsgaard, Raphael Grosz-Harvey, Richard Jutras, Robin Weigert, Roc LaFortune, Sam Stone, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Shanmugasunder Chetty, Shawn Campbell, Sophie Nélisse, Spiro Malandrakis, Tobey Maguire, Vitali Makarov, Vito DeFilippo, Zach Fraser

Director: Edward Zwick

Rating: PG-13