14 Movies Like Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Staff & contributors

This is the true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Black man in Oakland, California, who was shot dead by police in the morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Incidentally, 2009 was also the time when smartphones started going mainstream, and so the incident was not only captured by CCTV but also many private cell phone cameras. The murder went viral.

Grant is superbly played by Michael B. Jordan in what now counts as one of his breakthrough roles, when many only knew him as Wallace in the now-legendary crime drama The Wire. Director Ryan Coogler went on making two more movies with him, including Black Panther in 2018.

Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker and compassionately told, Fruitvale Station surpasses the sadness of its subject matter and amounts to an extraordinary celebration of life. A must-watch.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahna O'Reilly, Alessandro Garcia, Ariana Neal, Caroline Lesley, Chad Michael Murray, Chris Riedell, Christina Elmore, Denzel Worthington, Destiny Ekwueme, Joey Oglesby, John Burke, Jonez Cain, Keenan Coogler, Kevin Durand, Laurel Moglen, Liisa Cohen, Maleah Nipay-Padilla, Melonie Diaz, Michael B. Jordan, Nicole Maxali, Noah Staggs, Noah Zavala, Octavia Spencer, Robert Ajlouny, Ruben Rivera, Ryan Coogler, Tamera Tomakili, Trestin George, William Armando

Director: Ryan Coogler

Rating: R

If you're a fan of the Beach Boys' legacy, or you want to find out more about Wilson, the person, this movie will give you what you need. It has been widely praised as being true to the facts – even by Bryan Wilson himself. But thanks, in part, to the incredible writing by Oscar-nominated Oren Moverman and the work of director Bill Pohlad, this is much more than a fact-based fictionalization of a famous musician's biography. It is a singularly convincing account of the artistic process and the effects of mental illness.

Love and Mercy tells the tale of two Bryan Wilsons: the first of a young and slightly square-looking musical pioneer in the 1960s, when Wilson was working on Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys' most ambitious and ground-breaking album. Paul Dano's performance here is nothing short of perfect. And, second, the tale of the tormented, middle-aged Bryan Wilson, played by John Cusack, during a time when he was under treatment for his deteriorating mental health in the late 1980s. The juxtaposition of these two very different people and the brilliant performances of Cusack and Dano will completely absorb you and change the way you look at things. A unique and beautiful film!

Genre: Drama, History, Music

Actor: Bill Camp, Brett Davern, Brian Wilson, Carolyn Stotesbery, Dee Wallace, Diana Maria Riva, Dylan Kenin, Elizabeth Banks, Erica Jenkins, Erik Eidem, Erin Darke, Fred Cross, Gary Griffin, Graham Rogers, Haylee Roderick, Jake Abel, Jeff Galfer, Jeff Meacham, Joanna Going, John Cusack, Johnny Sneed, Kenny Wormald, Max Schneider, Misha Hamilton, Nick Gehlfuss, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Ragon Miller, Tyson Ritter, Wayne Bastrup

Director: Bill Pohlad

Rating: PG-13

Do today's political talk shows often feel like meek, scripted, and predictable affairs to you? Would you rather have that euphoric feeling you get when watching someone smart and eloquent talk about important ideas? Multiply that by two and you get Best of Enemies. In 1968, ABC covered the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach and the historic Democratic National Convention in Chicago by airing a 10-part series of nationally televised debates between two ideologically opposed and sharp-minded public intellectuals: Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. The former was an ardent and openly bisexual liberal and progressive. The latter an elitist cultural conservative, whose magazine, National Review, vowed to always support the most far-right candidate viable for office. This confrontational set-up is not only credited with ushering in an era of pundit politics, but also with producing some of the most entertaining intellectual debate ever to be seen on TV. When's the last time you saw anybody unironically being called a “crypto-Nazi” on national television?

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Christopher Hitchens, Dick Cavett, Gore Vidal, John Lithgow, Kelsey Grammer, Noam Chomsky, William F. Buckley, William F. Buckley Jr.

Director: Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon

Rating: R

Orlando von Einsiedel's epic documentary is at once a stunning natural film, an intimate human drama, and an intense political thriller slash investigative report. The titular Virunga National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site in Eastern Congo, serves as the magnifying glass through which we witness the natural, human, and political crisis of this embattled and volatile region. There are poachers killing endangered gorillas, the bloody business of Big Oil companies, government forces fighting a myriad of militias, and, lastly, the three individuals struggling to protect Virunga and its mountain gorillas from death and destruction. The result is a snap-crackle-pop-type situation, like sitting on a powder keg. The film captures all this superbly with great editing, compelling real-life material, and gripping action. Virunga's intensity can rival a well-made fictional thriller any day of the week.

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: André Bauma, Emmanuel de Merode, Mélanie Gouby, Orlando von Einsiedel, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo

Director: Orlando von Einsiedel

Rating: Not Rated

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

Quaint and quirky, Le Havre is a beautiful and heartwarming story about the power of compassion and the importance of community. It tells the story of a shoeshiner who tries to save an immigrant child in the French port city of Le Havre. The charming characters are easy to root for as this community of everyday people bands together to help this young boy reunite with his mother. Even as the film rejects the unempathetic responses to the refugee crisis, it utilizes gentle humor and a light cadence to invoke empathy for others that should exist.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: André Wilms, Corinne Belet, Elina Salo, Evelyne Didi, Ilkka Koivula, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Kati Outinen, Patrick Bonnel, Pierre Étaix

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

“As fragile as she was strong, as vulnerable as she was dynamic, she was African royalty. How does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace?”. What Happened, Miss Simone? will surprise you no matter how much you thought you knew about the soul singer - not only in its exploration of Nina Simone’s personal life and complexities, but by being both a personal and political documentary. As you discover an original singer with talents that reach all the way to performance art, you will also learn about a Civil Rights activist’s journey and an unstable woman’s struggle. The documentary is not about answering the question of what happened, Miss Simone? – it’s an exploration of why that question is so important.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Dick Gregory, Elisabeth Henry-Macari, James Baldwin, Lisa Simone, Liz Garbus, Nina Simone, Stanley Crouch, Stokely Carmichael, Walter Cronkite

Director: Liz Garbus

Rating: Not Rated

, 2015

At the same time a fun, crazy, and meaningful movie about Malcom and his friends, high school teenagers and proud geeks who suddenly find themselves immersed in the underground LA drug scene. It's a 2015 Superbad meets Boyz in the Hood. But in its essence it mostly resembles another beautiful film, Juno, in the way it evolves around a character played perfectly who you get to know, agree and disagree with, and ultimately learn from and relate to. Above all it's an outright enjoyable film, a smart one too, with a great soundtrack to boot.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: A$AP Rocky, Alex Urbom, Allen Maldonado, Amin Joseph, Ashton Moio, Benjamin Levy Aguilar, Blake Anderson, Bruce Beatty, Chanel Iman, Christopher Glenn, De'Aundre Bonds, Emmanuel Manzanares, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Marinas, Josh Meyer, Julian Brand, Keith Stanfield, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Lakeith Stanfield, Larnell Stovall, Lidia Porto, Michael Flores, Milton T.J. Taylor, Mimi Michaels, Quincy Brown, Rakim Mayers, Rick Famuyiwa, Rick Fox, Ricky Harris, Roger Guenveur Smith, Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Tyga, Vince Staples, Zoe Kravitz

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Rating: R

An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending state of war in Africa. It takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached. As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, and the whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are enthralling.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Abraham Attah, Ama K. Abebrese, Andrew Adote, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Cornelius Keagon, David Dontoh, Emmanuel 'King Kong' Nii Adom Quaye, Emmanuel Affadzi, Emmanuel Nii Adom Quaye, Francis Weddey, Fred Nii Amugi, Grace Nortey, Idris Elba, John Arthur, Jude Akuwudike, Kobina Amissah Sam, Kurt Egyiawan, Nana Mensah, Nataliah Andoh, Opeyemi Fagbohungbe, Richard Pepple, Ricky Adelayitor

Director: Cary Fukunaga, Cary Joji Fukunaga

Rating: Not Rated

, 2014

Albert Maysles’ penultimate film celebrates fashion icon Iris Apfel, who charms everyone with her quick wit, no-nonsense attitude, and love for the craft. There’s something brilliant in the way the movie starts not by rehashing facts about her, but with Apfel herself going through the process of choosing what to wear. She's doesn't just pick clothes; there’s a kind of careful consideration made with each item she chooses, that she remembers every detail about (from where she got them, to the culture and history behind them), and that she intentionally picks in the name of joy. While the documentary doesn’t dive too deep into Apfel’s life, the woman is just undeniably cool. Simply going through her processes and listening to her talk is already an inspiration.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Bill Cunningham, Bruce Weber, Carl Apfel, Iris Apfel, Tavi Gevinson

Director: Albert Maysles

Rating: PG-13

In this unique Spanish drama-thriller, a famous 90s popstar called Lila loses her memory and forgets how to perform. A big fan of hers, Violeta, is offered the unique opportunity of helping her idol find herself again.

Quién te cantará, which translates to “who will sing to you” is a fascinating exploration of fandom and the relationship between fan and idol. And it definitely doesn’t hurt that Lila’s music, made specifically for the movie, is fantastic!

It's from a promising new Spanish director, Carlos Vermut. His last movie, Magical Girl, was widely acclaimed and won awards in almost every festival it showed in.

Genre: Drama, Music, Mystery

Actor: Carme Elias, Carolina Yuste, Catalina Sopelana, Eva Llorach, Ignacio Mateos, Inma Cuevas, José Chaves, Julián Villagrán, Leticia Dolera, Najwa Nimri, Natalia de Molina, Vicenta N'Dongo

Director: Carlos Vermut

Rating: 16

With other available resources that tell a more well-balanced story of Tina Turner's life (notably, the 2021 documentary Tina), What's Love Got to Do with It shouldn't, by any means, be used seen as the definitive portrait of the American-Swiss singer. Still, while this 1993 biopic, insists on depicting violence instead of dissecting it, there's something to be said about how uncompromisingly it shows us what an abusive relationship can look like. As a plea to see beyond the public personas of celebrities, the film makes for an effective statement—especially because of a truly despicable turn from Laurence Fishburne, and the power that steadily builds within Angela Bassett.

Genre: Drama, History, Music

Actor: Angela Bassett, Barry Shabaka Henley, Bo Kane, Chi McBride, Cora Lee Day, Damon Hines, Daniel McDonald, Jackie O'Brien, Jenifer Lewis, Khandi Alexander, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Colyar, O'Neal Compton, Patricia Sill, Penny Johnson Jerald, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Rae'Ven Larrymore Kelly, Richard T. Jones, Rob LaBelle, Rose Jackson, Shavar Ross, Sherman Augustus, Suli McCullough, Timmy Cappello, Tina Turner, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Virginia Capers

Director: Brian Gibson

Slow West is a modern western about a young Scotsman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) trekking across America in search of Rose, the young woman he loves, while accompanied by a wayward outlaw named Silas (Michael Fassbender). Jay soon realizes that he is unwittingly leading a pack of nefarious bounty hunters toward Rose and her father as well, as a sizable reward rests on their heads for the accidental killing of a nobleman. It’s a melancholy yet clever and enjoyable film with a distinct Coen Brothers-esque sense of dark humor and quirky violence. In his debut feature, John Maclean gives the western a fresh spin and a nice creative twist, marking his territory as a promising new name in the film world.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller, Western

Actor: Aaron McGregor, Alex MacQueen, Andrew Robertt, Andy McPhee, Aorere Paki, Ben Mendelsohn, Brian Sergent, Brooke Williams, Caren Pistorius, David T. Lim, Eddie Campbell, Edwin Wright, Hayden Frost, Jeffrey Thomas, Kalani Queypo, Karl Willetts, Ken Blackburn, Kieran Charnock, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Madeleine Sami, Michael Fassbender, Michael Whalley, Rory McCann, Stuart Bowman, Stuart Martin, Tawanda Manyimo

Director: John Maclean

Rating: R

Last Days in Vietnam is a documentary that recounts the final weeks of the conflict in 1975, as North Vietnamese forces surged toward Saigon and U.S personnel anxiously awaited word of an evacuation plan. At the time, U.S. Ambassador Graham Martin was reluctant to accept defeat, and delayed a U.S. withdrawal in his (rapidly diminishing) hopes that a solution could be reached. Once the fall of Saigon became imminent, U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence personnel were left piecing together a bare bones plan to escape via military helicopter support. The moral dilemma they soon faced was the harsh reality of leaving behind so many South Vietnamese citizens who had supported the American effort—many of whom faced likely imprisonment and/or death. Featuring remarkable footage and first-hand accounts from many involved, the film recounts those final days of chaos and confusion in stunningly dramatic fashion. Director Rory Kennedy has put together a gripping and emotionally compelling film that balances broad historical exposition with concise detail related to the evacuation complexities—all of it punctuated by remarkable examples of bravery and heroism.

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: Henry Kissinger, Juan Valdez, Richard Nixon, Stuart Herrington

Director: Rory Kennedy

Rating: Not Rated