17 Movies Like The Abyss (1989)

Staff & contributors
Mary and Max is the tale of an overlooked 8-year-old girl from Australia starting an unlikely friendship via mail with a middle-aged Jewish man from New York. Shot completely in monocromatic claymotion, it is the first feature film by Australian stop-motion animation writer, Adam Elliot, and the first ever animated film to score the opening slot at Sundance Festival. In all its playful absurdity, Mary and Max is an emotional and wise gem of a film that examines the human condition through the eyes of a troubled child and an autistic American. In contrast to its clay-based animation, it deals with some pretty dark and adult themes, but succeeds in balancing those with happiness and absurd humor. Moreover, Elliott gathered an ensemble cast to do the voice-overs, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, and Eric Bana. We recommend it 8 condensed milks out of 10.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Elliot, Barry Humphries, Bethany Whitmore, Carolyn Shakespeare-Allen, Christopher Massey, Eric Bana, Henry Karjalainen, Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, Ian Meldrum, John Flaus, Julie Forsyth, Michael Ienna, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Renée Geyer, Renée Geyer, Toni Collette

Director: Adam Elliot

Rating: Not Rated

Fear of abandonment is at the heart of The Vanishing. Lovers Rex and Saskia are separated on their way to France after the latter vanishes without a trace. For the next three years, Rex dedicates his life to finding out what happened to Saskia in whatever way possible, endangering his own safety in the process. George Sluizer’s chilling psychological thriller shows the evils that curiosity and obsession can bring, and is a uniquely perverse look at the ugly side of truth-seeking.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Bernadette Le Saché, Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, Caroline Appéré, Didier Rousset, Gene Bervoets, Gwen Eckhaus, Johanna ter Steege, Lucille Glenn, Pierre Forget, Roger Souza, Tania Latarjet

Director: George Sluizer

Even before any blood is inevitably shed during A Short Film About Killing (which serves as the expansion of another episode from director Krzysztof Kieślowski's Dekalog miniseries, alongside A Short Film About Love), there's something positively oppressive and sinister even just in the way the movie is shot. Kieślowski and cinematographer Witold Adamek use color filters to make the film deliberately ugly—as if the image is degrading right in front of us. Oftentimes shadows obscure the edges of the frame, shining a sickly yellow spotlight on the characters on screen. It's the perfect way to get right into the heads of these people existing in a lawless land driven by primal instinct.

When crime and punishment finally occur, they're equally difficult to watch unfold, but in different ways. Kieślowski lingers on the details—the tools and processes that we tell ourselves will make the act of killing easier. And what he's ultimately able to expose is how capital punishment has been made to seem humane, just, or necessary, when it's often even more barbaric, cruel, and unproductive than a crime borne of desperation. The very government that does nothing to address the roots of crime is the same one most eager to kill criminals instead.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aleksander Bednarz, Andrzej Gawroński, Artur Barciś, Barbara Dziekan, Jan Tesarz, Jerzy Zass, Krystyna Janda, Krzysztof Globisz, Leonard Andrzejewski, Małgorzata Pieczyńska, Mirosław Baka, Olgierd Łukaszewicz, Władysław Byrdy, Zbigniew Borek, Zbigniew Zapasiewicz, Zdzisław Rychter, Zdzisław Tobiasz

Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski

This story of a filmmaker who stayed in Aleppo, Syria during the war, got married then had a child called Sama, is a mix of difficult and inspiring.

There are stories of unsurmountable loss, as the filmmaker’s husband is one of the 30 remaining doctors in Aleppo (a city of almost 5 million), and she films many of the victims that come to his hospital. But while this is happening, there are also uplifting stories of resilience and rare but profound moments of laughter and joy.

We’re growing too sensitized to violence in Syria, and this movie, possibly the most intimate account of the war, can stir back a much-needed awareness of the injustices that take place.

When things get really bad in the documentary, it’s hard not to wonder where the humanity is in all of this. You quickly realize that it’s right there, behind the camera, in Sama and her mother’s will to live.

Genre: Documentary, War

Actor: Hamza Al-Khateab, Sama Al-Khateab, Waad Al-Kateab, Waad Al-Khateab

Director: Edward Watts, Waad Al-Kateab, Waad Al-Khateab

Rating: TV-PG

Before The Silence of the Lambs and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal, there was Manhunter and Brian Cox’s deeply unnerving Dr. Lecktor. Michael Mann’s neon-lit serial-killer thriller follows Will Graham (William Petersen), a retired FBI agent lured back to work by a psychotic mass murderer whom no one at the Bureau can catch. But Will has something no one else on the force does: he was so committed to tracking down the now-imprisoned Lecktor that he developed an ability to warp his mind into that of a deranged killer, seeing a kind of logic in their madness that allows him to hunt them down. 

While that’s a professional superpower of sorts, it’s also a point of insecurity and a source of deep torture for Will, who struggles with the burden of his extraordinary empathy. Manhunter is thus a different kind of psychological thriller: while its dive into the depraved minds of Lecktor and the Tooth Fairy is certainly disturbing, it’s the obsessive, sanity-smashing effect the investigation has on Will that is most terrifying. Add to that Dante Spinotti’s impossibly vivid cinematography, Tom Noonan’s shudder-inducing performance as the voyeuristic Tooth Fairy, and the film’s surprisingly layered treatment of the murderer, and this is the serial-killer movie to end all others.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Neil, Annie McEnroe, Benjamin Hendrickson, Bill Cwikowski, Bill Smitrovich, Brian Cox, Chris Elliott, Cynthia Chvatal, Dan Butler, David Allen Brooks, David Seaman, Dennis Farina, Elisabeth Ryall, Frankie Faison, Garcelle Beauvais, Jim Zubiena, Joan Allen, Joanne Camp, John Posey, Ken Colquitt, Kim Greist, Kin Shriner, LA Winters, Marshall Bell, Michael D. Roberts, Michael Talbott, Michele Shay, Norman Snow, Pat Williams, Patricia Charbonneau, Paul Perri, Peter Maloney, Robin Moseley, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, William Petersen

Director: Michael Mann

, 1985

In the movie Brazil, our hero Sam Lowery (Jonathan Pryce) lives in a dystopian world that relies on the cold productivity grind of machines. He’s in a constant battle between the high-level dominating powers that be and the low-level beatdown scums of society. Saving him from complete misery is a recurring dream he has of a beautiful woman. There, nothing else matters but love, which fills his draining soul and makes his life seem worthwhile. 

The way director Terry Gilliam handles a serious matter in such a comedic way is fantastic, and the amount of thought and effort he puts into creating every single bit of existence in this film is mind-boggling. With Brazil, he succeeds in establishing his own style, making a mark for himself in an age when plenty of auteurs compete for mere recognition.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Ann Way, Barbara Hicks, Bill Wallis, Bob Hoskins, Brian Miller, Bryan Pringle, Charles McKeown, David Gant, Derek Deadman, Derrick O'Connor, Don Henderson, Gorden Kaye, Harold Innocent, Howard Lew Lewis, Ian Holm, Ian Richardson, Jack Purvis, James Coyle, Jim Broadbent, John Flanagan, John Grillo, John Pierce Jones, Jonathan Pryce, Katherine Helmond, Kathryn Pogson, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Myrtle Devenish, Nigel Planer, Oscar Quitak, Patrick Connor, Peter Vaughan, Ralph Nossek, Ray Cooper, Robert De Niro, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Sheila Reid, Simon Jones, Terence Bayler, Terry Gilliam

Director: Terry Gilliam

Rating: R

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Amy Wieczorek, Carrie 'CeCe' Cline, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Patrick Lynch, David Krumholtz, Demetra Raven, Dennis Keiffer, Elaine Mani Lee, Erik Erotas, Erik Weiner, Gina Torres, Glenn Howerton, Hunter Ansley Wryn, Jessica Huang, Jewel Staite, Linda Wang, Logan O'Brien, Marcus Young, Mark Winn, Marley McClean, Matt McColm, Michael Hitchcock, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Nectar Rose, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter James Smith, Rafael Feldman, Rick Williamson, Ron Glass, Ryan Tasz, Sarah Paulson, Scott Kinworthy, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Tamara Taylor, Terrell Tilford, Terrence Hardy Jr., Tristan Jarred, Weston Nathanson, Yan Feldman

Director: Joss Whedon

Rating: PG-13

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors' stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex - but so important to listen to and understand. It's an incredible feat to make an observational film that's so grounded in reality - only a genius could: that's Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cat Clifford, Derrick Janis, Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard, Jashaun St. John

Director: Chloé Zhao

Rating: Not Rated

Spike Lee’s semi-autobiographical film is a loving and nostalgic ode to the Brooklyn of his childhood. It also happens to be his sweetest work and while overshadowed by the explosive Do The Right Thing, remains an easy contender for one of his very best. The world of Crooklyn is told through the eyes of Troy, a young girl growing up with her four brothers, and her mother and father in a cramped brownstone. 

Lee’s Brooklyn is a colorful delight set aloft by a swooning soul soundtrack. His ability to capture the vibrant magical tones and textures of the city feels as complete as ever, and marvelous performances from Alfre Woodard and Delroy Lindo as Troy’s parents help create a touching and all-encompassing experience. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alfre Woodard, Arthur French, Bokeem Woodbine, Carlton Williams, Carmen Tillery, Christopher Knowings, Christopher Wynkoop, Dan Grimaldi, Danielle K. Thomas, David Patrick Kelly, Delroy Lindo, Emelise Aleandri, Frances Foster, Gary Perez, Harvey Williams, Hector M. Ricci Jr., Isaiah Washington, Ivelka Reyes, Joie Lee, José Zúñiga, Keith Johnson, Kewanna Bonaparte, Manny Perez, Maurie A. Chandler, Michele Shay, Mildred Clinton, Norman Matlock, Omar Scroggins, Patriece Nelson, Peewee Love, Raymond Reliford, Rene Ojeda, Richard Whiten, RuPaul, Sharif Rashed, Spike Lee, Taneal Royal, Tiasha Reyes, Tracy Vilar, Tse-Mach Washington, Ulysses Terrero, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Zelda Harris

Director: Spike Lee

A Cormac McCarthy novel adaptation (like No Country for Old Men), The Road is an apocalypse movie set in a 'scorched Earth' rendition of the world. It follows a father (played by Viggo Mortensen) and his son as they battle to survive everyday life. Throughout the movie, the son's trust in his father grows and shrinks depending on choices the father makes, as he attempts to protect his son from cannibals, bandits, and the threat of starvation. The gritty realism this movie presents sets it apart from many other more theatrical releases, with the setting of a charred world illustrating a rather depressing new reality. A very down to earth and heartfelt story. Definitely worth the watch if you're willing to feel like you've been punched in the gut.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Agnes Herrmann, Bob Jennings, Buddy Sosthand, Charlize Theron, Garret Dillahunt, Guy Pearce, Jack Erdie, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Mark Tierno, Michael Kenneth Williams, Molly Parker, Robert Duvall, Viggo Mortensen, Wilson Moore

Director: John Hillcoat

Rating: R

If you enjoy wondering aloud to yourself how filmmakers were able to make a movie at all, 1988's almost wordless tale of two bears trying to survive the Canadian mountains was somehow shot with real, expressive bear "actors," despite the film being a work of fiction. A cross between a stunningly photographed nature documentary and a brutal folktale, The Bear gets right to the uncompromising conditions out in the wild, where human beings are portrayed as just as savage—and just as merciful—as the beasts they hunt. Clever editing and Jean-Jacques Annaud's directorial vision hide all the seams in the movie's magic tricks, allowing us to fall in love quickly with these majestic bears and the all-too-human emotions they seem to be expressing.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family

Actor: André Lacombe, Bart The Bear, Jack Wallace, Tchéky Karyo, Youk the Bear

Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

Sunshine is a sci-fi thriller that details pretty much exactly what you don't want to happen on your journey into space. It follows the struggles of a crew who know that they are humanity's last hope to rekindle a dying sun and save their loved ones back home. Out of radio contact with Earth, relationships become strained and when things start to go horribly wrong the diverse cast give a fantastic performance as they encapsulate both the terror and humanity that arises from such an alien situation. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later).

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Benedict Wong, Chipo Chung, Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Michelle Yeoh, Paloma Baeza, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity

Director: Danny Boyle

Rating: R

Amongst the google searches for this one you'll find "Is Slotherhouse a real film?" and that says a lot. When the first poster and trailer dropped, I suspected it the work of AI, but now that the film is out on streaming, we should be glad it exists. A ludicrous horror-comedy that hits all the right notes in gore, cringe, and puns, Slotherhouse is quintessential fun cinema. It may be set in a college where internalized misogyny is completely off the charts as young women bruise and batter each other's egos in service of the queen bee Brianna (Sydney Craven) and may attempt just a tiny bit of character development to keep the ball rolling, but honestly, who cares? It's a film that completely leans into the absurd, the over the top, the ridiculous, and it does it surprisingly well.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Horton, Annamaria Serda, Bianca Beckles-Rose, Bradley Fowler, Cady Lanigan, Grace Patterson, Jelena Rakočević, Juliana Sada, Kelly Lynn Reiter, Lisa Ambalavanar, Milica Vrzić, Olivia Rouyre, Stefan Kapičić, Sydney Craven, Tiana Upcheva, Tiff Stevenson

Director: Matthew Goodhue

Rating: PG-13

A fun science fiction movie from the UK,  Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel stars Chris O'Dowd and Anna Faris. The plot centers around two geeks and their cynical friend who go out for a couple of pints and end up having a night they won't soon forget. To go any deeper would court spoilers, but suffice to say there is time travel, witty banter, hilarious scenes and just an all-around good time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Anna Faris, Arthur Nightingale, Chris O'Dowd, Dean Lennox Kelly, John Warman, Marc Wootton, Meredith MacNeill, Ray Gardner

Director: Gareth Carrivick

Rating: Unrated

As long as you don’t take it too seriously and see it for the silly ‘80s comedy that it is, then A Fish Called Wanda comes as a pleasantly hilarious way to pass the time. The heist doesn’t make much sense but the farce the characters put on is as delightfully silly as they come. There are traces of Cleese’s Monty Python sketch humor here, as you’ll see in the puns and the wild physical gags he makes, and Curtis proves that comedy is her true calling. But some of the best parts of the movie are when the British characters rib with the Americans—it’s a classic feud, one you won’t help but laugh at, regardless of where you’re coming from.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Al Hunter Ashton, Andrew MacLachlan, Cynthia Cleese, David Simeon, Geoffrey Palmer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jeremy Child, John Cleese, Kate Lansbury, Ken Campbell, Kevin Kline, Llewellyn Rees, Maria Aitken, Mark Elwes, Michael Palin, Michael Percival, Neville Phillips, Pamela Miles, Patricia Hayes, Peter Jonfield, Robert Putt, Roger Brierley, Roger Hume, Roland MacLeod, Sharon Marino, Stephen Fry, Tom Georgeson

Director: Charles Crichton

Rating: R