18 Movies Like The Assistant (2020)

Staff & contributors

, 2017

Director Bryan Fogel, who you might know as the guy behind Jewtopia, initially set out to chronicle his exploration of doping to win an amateur cycling race. He starts off by reaching out to experts to help him with obtaining and administering said drugs, one of which points him towards Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. Rodchenkov eagerly agrees to help him out.

Little did he know that his Russian acquaintance would transform Fogel film from a self-experiment documentary into a true-crime political thriller, when the scientist admits to being involved in a state-sponsored doping scheme of epic proportions on camera. Putin is obviously not amused.

Aside from all the madness that unfolds in this Netflix production, it's Rodchenkov's likeable and eccentric personality that makes the story more relatable and human as well as giving you a rare glimpse into the upper echelons of a country like Russia. As the plot thickens, one can't help but think that Fogel too is in over his head. Rightly award-winning, this is gripping stuff even if you're not into sports!

Genre: Documentary, Mystery

Actor: Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan, Don Catlin, Grigory Rodchenkov, Jacques Rogge, Nikita Kamaev, Richard Pound, Sebastian Coe, Thomas Bach, Victor Webster

Director: Bryan Fogel

Rating: TV-MA

, 2019

A beautifully shot movie about a high-schooler who's pushed by his father to always work and exercise the hardest. He aces his exams and always wins at wrestling, but nothing is ever good enough for the father and there is no margin for error. When things with both his body and his relationship start going wrong, his existence comes crashing down. This movie has two parts, and it takes a lot of narrative risks, but the beautiful camera work and believable characters land every single risk. It's an incredible achievement and a movie that should have gotten much more attention than it did.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexa Demie, Avis-Marie Barnes, Bill Wise, Carter Harcek, Clifton Collins Jr., David Garelik, David Payton, Ellen Marguerite Cullivan, Harlan Drum, Harmony Korine, Joshua Brockington, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Krisha Fairchild, Kristin Wollett, Lucas Hedges, Neal Huff, Nicholas Ryan Hernandez, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Vivi Pineda

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Rating: R

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Andrew Glaszek, Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Doris McCarthy, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis, Irene Blackman, Jacob Ming-Trent, Kit Flanagan, Michael Izquierdo, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Peter Y. Kim, Qaasim Middleton, Radha Blank, Reed Birney, Stacey Sargeant, Styles P, T.J. Atoms, Tracy Wilder, Welker White, William Oliver Watkins, Young M.A

Director: Radha Blank

Rating: R

The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alex Malone, Barbara Lowing, Baykali Ganambarr, Bree Bain, Bruce R. Carter, Daniel Henshall, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Kate Cheel, Patrick Frost, Toby Wallace, Ursula Yovich, Valerie Berry

Director: Kitty Green

Rating: R

This 140-minute Brazilian drama is an epic and touching tale of two sisters torn apart. In 1950s Rio de Janeiro, Eurídice, 18, and Guida, 20, are inseparable, but their dreams soon take them away from each other, from their conservative family, and from Brazil.

After they are separated, each one of them believes the other is achieving her dreams when often the opposite was happening. Family betrayal, silence, and a suffocating social climate shatter the aspiration of the sisters but also highlight their strength.

Genre: Drama

Actor: António Fonseca, Carol Duarte, Cláudio Gabriel, Cristina Pereira, Eduardo Tornaghi, Fernanda Montenegro, Flávia Gusmão, Flávio Bauraqui, Gillray Coutinho, Gregório Duvivier, Izak Dahora, Julia Stockler, Luana Xavier, Márcio Vito, Maria Manoella, Nikolas Antunes

Director: Karim Aïnouz

Rating: R

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn, Voltaire Colin Council

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

, 2020

This intimate and personal film is about Sibil Fox Rich, an entrepreneur and mother of six. Fox is driven by an unparalleled, contagious determination to succeed — so present in the mix of video diaries and present-day footage of her in Time.

For the past 20 years, Rich has channeled that tenacity towards the release of her husband, who is serving a 60-year sentence.

Through the video diaries and family footage, Time feels almost too personal. It’s like stepping into a person’s most intimate moments for 81 minutes, with all their ups and downs.

It could be seen as a commentary on the deeply flawed American justice system, but at its core Time is an uplifting portrayal of resilience, true, long-lasting love (she and her husband were high-school sweethearts), and boundless hope.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fox Rich, Freedom Rich, Laurence M. Rich, Rob Rich II

Director: Garrett Bradley

Rating: PG-13

, 2021

This offbeat drama is about a Syrian refugee who gets sent to a remote island in northern Scotland. “There was a better signal in the middle of the Mediterranean,” another refugee tells him when he arrives. Omar is as the title suggests stuck: until his asylum request is processed he can't work or continue his journey onwards. His situation is frustrating and difficult, but it's also full of absurdities, as Omar is stuck around some very weird people.

Limbo perfectly portrays the duality between sad and nonsensical in the refugee experience. In the entrance to the isolated and rundown facility that houses Omar, a handmade sign said "refugees welcome". The next day a "not" is added between "refugees" and "welcome", in the exact same paint. 

If you like Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki's work, this has a similar brand of dark humor to his also refugee-themed 2017 drama The Other Side of Hope.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amir El-Masry, Amir ElMasry, Cameron Fulton, Ellie Haddington, Grace Chilton, Kais Nashif, Kenneth Collard, Kwabena Ansah, Lewis Gribben, Ola Orebiyi, Qais Nashif, Raymond Mearns, Sanjeev Kohli, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Sodienye Ojewuyi, Vikash Bhai

Director: Ben Sharrock

Rating: R

Dick Johnson Is Dead is a heartfelt and unconventional portrait of how one can live life to the fullest even in their darkest days. Kristen Johnson’s follow-up to the highly acclaimed documentary Cameraperson, Johnson shows that her skills are no fluke as she crafts a witty film where she masterfully balances surreal tonal shifts to create a compelling experience. While it does have a repetitive nature, the final thirty minutes are heartbreakingly comedic, and make this one worth a watch!

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Brett Eidman, Fredi Bernstein, Ira Sachs, Kevin Loreque, Kirsten Johnson, Mary Page Nance, Michael Hilow, Vasthy Mompoint

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Rating: PG-13

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Don MacEllis, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mike Wood, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

This fun comedy-drama is about Bridget, a 34-year-old who hasn't quite got it all figured out, but at least she’s trying: after terminating an accidental pregnancy, she gets herself a summer gig as a nanny for a fearless six-year-old by the name of Frances. 

Tackling a myriad of "taboo" topics including abortion, menstruation, and depression, the movie visually normalizes human experiences that remain underrepresented in mainstream cinema. And writer Kelly O’Sullivan, who also plays Bridget, has a screenplay that manages to do it all without feeling didactic.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bradley Grant Smith, Charin Alvarez, Chris Coats, Courtney Rioux, Danny Catlow, Francis Guinan, H.B. Ward, Hanna Dworkin, Jackson Evans, Jim True-Frost, Kelly O'Sullivan, Lily Mojekwu, Mary Beth Fisher, Max Lipchitz, Meighan Gerachis, Noah Williams, Ramona Edith Williams, Rebecca Buller, Rebecca Spence, Rebekah Ward, Roger Welp, Sophia Rubin

Director: Alex Thompson

Rating: N/A

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Carolan, Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Andrew Bennett, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Jonny Woo, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, and Ray Romano star in this true story of a big academic corruption case. Hugh Jackman is (of course) excellent as a successful and dedicated superintendent with a complicated personal life. However, when a curious student with the school journal starts digging around in a project he promotes, she uncovers what will become the largest public school embezzlement in the history of the U.S. 

The performances stretch the story to its full potential, as this movie would be nothing without its incredible cast. It should be watched for the acting. Eventually, it suffers from a problem common to all movies based on newspaper articles: the story can be told in a single article.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, TV Movie

Actor: Alex Wolff, Allison Janney, Annaleigh Ashford, Brent Langdon, Brian Sgambati, Catherine Curtin, Darlene Violette, Dina Pearlman, Doris McCarthy, Finnerty Steeves, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gino Cafarelli, Giuseppe Ardizzone, Halle Curley, Hari Dhillon, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Shamos, Jimmy Tatro, John Scurti, Jorge Chapa, Justin Swain, Kathrine Narducci, Kayli Carter, Larry Romano, Natasha Goss, Pat Healy, Peter Appel, Rafael Casal, Ray Abruzzo, Ray Romano, Rene Ojeda, Robert 'Toshi' Kar Yuen Chan, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Stephen Spinella, Steve Routman, Victor Verhaeghe, Welker White, Will Meyers

Director: Cory Finley

Rating: TV-MA

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson, Deja Dee, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Lee Spencer, Mick Foley, Rob Thomas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan McPhail, Thomas Haden Church, Tim Zajaros, Wayne Dehart, Yelawolf, Zachary Gottsagen, Zack Gottsagen

Director: Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Rating: PG-13

This artistic Australian coming-of-age drama stars Eliza Scanlen (Little Women, Sharp Objects) as Milla, a teen from a dysfunctional family. The father is a psychologist and the mother suffers from depression, so he medicates her under the table. Meanwhile, Milla, a 16 year old, starts dating a charismatic almost-homeless 24 year old drug dealer. Unusual circumstances make the family tolerate the relationship in this story where every character feels like the main one. 

If you're looking for something different, you will love Babyteeth. Something happens to Milla in the 10 minute mark that descriptions and reviews online all mention - but is definitely a spoiler. Just know that it's not all romance and coming-of-age, there is slow-burning darkness to this movie. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrea Demetriades, Arka Das, Ben Mendelsohn, Charles Grounds, Eliza Scanlen, Emily Barclay, Essie Davis, Eugene Gilfedder, Georgina Symes, Jaga Yap, Justin Smith, Michelle Lotters, Priscilla Doueihy, Quentin Yung, Renee Billing, Toby Wallace, Zack Grech

Director: Shannon Murphy

Rating: MA-17, Not Rated