16 Movies Like The Book Thief (2013)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching The Book Thief ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

The Book Thief basks in the powerful performance of its cast, telling the tale of a lost girl’s foster family during the midst of World War II in Germany. Taught by doting father Hans Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush) to read, Liesel (Sophie Nelisse) sparks an immediate liking for books – even stealing some on occasion. Not long after, Hans tries to hide Jewish Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) in his basement. There, he and Liesel form an unlikely friendship fueled by their affinity of the written language. A story that is ultimately about love of any and all forms, the film isn’t about just the survival of a tough, crippling era; it’s also about living through it.

From the producers of The Kids Are Alright comes another excellent family drama starring Juliane Moore. She plays a hot-headed rock singer who battles her divorced husband, a narcissistic art dealer, expertly played by the unlikely Steeve Coogan, for custody of her daughter Maisie. When one of them marries the girl's nanny, the other rushes into marriage as well. Based on Henry James' titular novel from 1897, it tells the story of a quiet, sensitive young girl coping with being used as a pawn by egotistical parents who spite each other. It is sometimes hard to watch the girl get caught up in all this but the young actress playing Maisie, Onata Aprile, plays the part brilliantly. The screenplay adaption of the ahead-of-its-time material of the book by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright also hits every note with passion. A harrowing but powerful film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Amelia Campbell, Andrea Bordeaux, Breanna Lakatos, Diana García, Diana García, Emma Holzer, Harrison Nesbit, Henry Kelemen, James Colby, Jesse Stone Spadaccini, Joanna Vanderham, Joel Garland, Joel Marsh Garland, Julianne Moore, Kevin Cannon, Luke Forbes, Maddie Corman, Malachi Weir, Nadia Gan, Nate Lang, Onata Aprile, Paddy Croft, Robert C. Kirk, Sadie Rae, Samantha Buck, Sean Gormley, Shobhit Agarwal, Stephen Mailer, Steve Coogan, Zachary Unger

Director: David Siegel, Scott McGehee

Rating: R

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Batty, Amy McAllister, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charissa Shearer, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Florence Keith-Roach, Frankie McCafferty, Gary Lilburn, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Marie Jones, Martin Glyn Murray, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Nika McGuigan, Paris Arrowsmith, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: PG-13

Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says "is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself." Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that's not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I'll tell you that it's a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You'll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Angela McEwan, Anthony G. Schmidt, Bob Nelson, Bob Odenkirk, Bruce Dern, Devin Ratray, Franklin Dennis Jones, June Squibb, Mary Louise Wilson, Missy Doty, Rance Howard, Stacy Keach, Tim Driscoll, Will Forte

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

You've probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father's concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno's eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.

Genre: Drama, Family, History, War

Actor: Amber Beattie, Asa Butterfield, Béla Fesztbaum, Cara Horgan, Charlie Baker, David Hayman, David Thewlis, Domonkos Nemeth, Gábor Harsai, Henry Kingsmill, Iván Verebély, Jack Scanlon, Jim Norton, Julia Papp, László Áron, Mihály Szabados, Richard Johnson, Rupert Friend, Sheila Hancock, Vera Farmiga, Zac Mattoon O'Brien, Zsolt Sáfár Kovács, Zsuzsa Holl

Director: Mark Herman

Rating: PG-13

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona's footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you'll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that's not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona's modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn't make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino, Dalma Maradona, Diego Armando Maradona, Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Bonadeo, Maria Rosa Maradona, Pele

Director: Asif Kapadia

Rating: TV-14, TV-MA

A calm and cute story about a manic-depressive father in late 70’s Boston taking care of his two daughters. Starring familiar-face Mark Ruffalo in the lead. The film is inspired by its director’s own experience as one of the two daughters, which added to the amazing performances, makes for a movie made and filled with love. But as it manages to keep a smile on your face most of the time, it also doesn’t shy away from hard and moving sequences. A Sundance movie filled with heart.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alicia Love, Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon, Brianne Siddall, Chris Papavasiliou, Christopher Alan, George J. Vezina, Georgia Lyman, Imogene Wolodarsky, Keir Dullea, Liam McNeill, Mark Ruffalo, Mary O'Rourke, Mike Jablon, Nekhebet Kum Juch, Patrick Shea, Scout Lyons, Wallace Wolodarsky, William Xifaras, Zoe Saldana

Director: Maya Forbes

Rating: R

Taking place entirely on beachside farmlands in Denmark, Land of Mine takes a particularly intimate—and visually distinct—approach to war. The fighting may be over, but the film remains a tense and emotionally distressing, with all the pain and violence being carried over onto these German boys being forced to clear the beaches of live explosives with their bare hands. The relationship between these young men and their vengeful Danish commanding officer may progress a little quickly for some, but their volatile bond only emphasizes that rage isn't meant to be felt forever, and that war is a destructive cycle that eventually needs to come to an end.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Aaron Koszuta, Anthony Straeger, August Carter, Emil Belton, Joel Basman, Johnny Melville, Karl Alexander Seidel, Laura Bro, Leon Seidel, Levin Henning, Louis Hofmann, Mads Riisom, Magnus Bruun, Maximilian Beck, Mette Lysdahl, Michael Asmussen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Oskar Belton, Oskar Bökelmann, Roland Møller, Roland Moller, Tim Bülow

Director: Martin Zandvliet

Rating: R

Warm and nourishing as the film's cuisine, Soul Food is a celebration of the modern African-American family, represented here by the Josephs. The Chicagoan family has a longstanding tradition of making dinner together every Sunday—a ritual, we’re told, that's lasted for at least 40 years. However, when the matriarch Big Mama Joe gets hospitalized, the simmering tension between her daughters boils over and threatens to break them apart. Many of the struggles they go through are familiar but not cliché, as writer-director George Tillman Jr. draws from his own experiences in a close-knit, extended family. So even if some plot lines feel unresolved, the film is well-paced, soulfully scored, and evenly balanced between the three sisters. Like the food cooked on-screen, this movie will still leave you hungering for more.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Brandon Hammond, Gina Ravera, Irma P. Hall, Jeffrey D. Sams, John M. Watson Sr., Marcia Wright, Mekhi Phifer, Mel Jackson, Michael Beach, Nia Long, Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Rating: R

A riveting take on one of the most prestigious forms of modern art, The Best Offer is a film laced with symbolism and thick, posh accents. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush) ends up pursuing a socially inept woman through Robert (Jim Sturgess), who guides him in winning her heart, albeit, rather unconventionally. What starts out as something Oldman brushes off to be some poor laid-out scam ends up a mystery he begins obsessing over, turning his life to shambles of sorts. This uncanny film by Academy Award-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore delivers sharp twists and appropriately-timed surprises in a suspense-thriller served on a silver platter.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Amanda Walker, Brigitte Christensen, Dermot Crowley, Donald Sutherland, Gen Seto, Geoffrey Rush, Giuseppe Tornatore, Hannah Britland, Jim Sturgess, John Benfield, Kiruna Stamell, Klaus Tauber, Laurence Belgrave, Liya Kebede, Maximilian Dirr, Miles Richardson, Philip Jackson, Rita Davies, Sean Buchanan, Sylvia Hoeks

Director: Giuseppe Tornatore

Rating: R

A heart-wrenching tribute to victims of natural disasters that is one of despair, suffering, and hope. And it wouldn’t be so damning if it weren’t based off a true story surrounding the tragedy that killed more than 230,000 people. Boxing Day 2004 was one of the most memorable dates for wedded couple, Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts, for an Oscar nominated performance). Just two days prior, they arrived at Orchid Beach Resort in Thailand to celebrate the Christmas holidays together with their three children. After a squabble with the crew regarding their room reservations, they are granted the privilege of staying in a peaceful villa and all seems to be well. Nature had other plans in mind, though, and facing it head-on is the bittersweet reality.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Bonnie Zellerbach, Bruce Blain, Dominic Power, Douglas Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Georgia Winters, Geraldine Chaplin, Gitte Witt, Harry Holland, J.A. Bayona, Johan Sundberg, John Albasiny, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Kowit Wattanakul, Laura Power, Marta Etura, Naomi Watts, Natalie Lorence, Nicola Harrison, Oaklee Pendergast, Peter Tuinstra, Ploy Jindachote, Sam Holland, Samuel Joslin, Sarinrat Thomas, Sonke Mohring, Tom Holland, Ulf Pilblad, Wipawee Charoenpura

Director: J.A. Bayona

Rating: PG-13

Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused invites you back to 1980 with a group of college freshmen discovering and navigating their first taste of young adulthood. Linklater is best known for balancing authentic dialogue and earnest performances, both of which shine in this movie. Notable performances are given by all in this ensemble cast, whose chemistry is electric and infectiously light-hearted. Everybody Wants Some!! is as fun, loud, and wild as any good night you don’t want to forget.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Adriene Mishler, Alexandria Payne, Anna Vanston, Asjha Cooper, Austin Amelio, Beau Smith, Blake Jenner, Bonnie Gayle, Christina Burdette, Courtney Tailor, Cyndy Powell, Devin Bonnée, Diane Selken, Dora Madison, Forrest Vickery, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Jason Liebrecht, Jenna Saab, Jessi Mechler, Jonathan Breck, Justin Alexio, Juston Street, Kaleb King, Kay Epperson, Laura Ritz, Lizzy Pop Muro, Lynden Orr, Michael Monsour, Olivia Griswald, Paula Marcenaro Solinger, Rene Rhi, Ryan Guzman, Sadie Brook, Shailaun Manning, Sophia Ali, Tanner Kalina, Taylor Ashley Murphy, Temple Baker, Tess Cline, Tory Taranova, Tyler Hoechlin, Will Brittain, Wyatt Russell, Zoey Deutch

Director: Richard Linklater

Rating: R

Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Ahd Kamel, Alanoud Sajini, Dana Abdullilah, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Rafa Al Sanea, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Waad Mohammed

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Rating: PG

The Wave is a movie about manipulation, National Socialism and the authoritarian development at a German school. The well-liked teacher Rainer Wenger presents a social experiment to his students which quickly expands to a much larger scale. His experiment, named “Die Welle” (the wave), is part of a project week at the school about different forms of governments. During his pedagogical approach to the topic Wenger goes through an alarming process, which is fascinating to observe as a viewer. The screenplay is based on a Californian experiment “The Third Wave” from 1967 and its novel from 1981 which became a classic piece of literature in German-speaking countries such as Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Held, Amelie Kiefer, Christiane Paul, Cristina do Rego, Dennis Gansel, Elyas M'Barek, Elyas M'Barek, Fabian Preger, Ferdinand Schmidt-Modrow, Frederick Lau, Friederike Wagner, Hubert Mulzer, Jacob Matschenz, Jaime Krsto Ferkic, Jennifer Ulrich, Johanna Gastdorf, Joseph M'Barek, Jürgen Vogel, Karoline Teska, Lennard Bertzbach, Marco Bretscher-Coschignano, Maren Kroymann, Max Mauff, Max Riemelt, Maximilian Vollmar, Natascha Paulick, Odine Johne, Teresa Harder, Thomas Sarbacher, Tim Oliver Schultz, Tino Mewes

Director: Dennis Gansel

Rating: Not Rated

The Sessions is drama about Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a quadriplegic who is forced to live in an iron lung due to complications from childhood Polio. A poet by trade, Mark longs to experience the touch of a woman, and despite his condition, to ultimately lose his virginity at the age of 38. After consultation with his parish priest (William H. Macy), Mark begins to see a professional sex surrogate (Helen Hunt), who slowly opens his mind and his body to the pleasures of sexuality. A very frank depiction of sex and sensuality, The Sessions is unflinching yet utterly tender storytelling. Hawkes and Hunt are both wonderfully real and honest in their performances. It’s the type of film that will surprise you by the ending at how much it has moved you.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Arkin, Annika Marks, B.J. Clinkscales, Blake Lindsley, Daniel Quinn, Helen Hunt, J. Teddy Garces, James Martinez, Jarrod Bailey, Jennifer Kumiyama, John Hawkes, Jonathan Hanrahan, Ming Lo, Moon Bloodgood, RayVeness, Rhea Perlman, Robin Weigert, Rusty Schwimmer, Tobias Forrest, W. Earl Brown, William H. Macy, Мун Бладгуд

Director: Ben Lewin

Rating: R

This is a complex yet wonderful sci-fi about a skeptical biologist who is fascinated by the human eye and its uniqueness. The cast is wonderfully chosen and the dialogues are impressive. But what really sets it apart is the underlying romance that it features. I would strongly recommend this film to those who enjoy intriguing debates between science and religion, and in equal measure not recommend it to anyone who wouldn't be open to skepticism towards both religion or science.

Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Ako, Archie Panjabi, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Brit Marling, Cara Seymour, Charles W. Gray, Christopher Santamaria, Crystal Anne Dickinson, Farasha Baylock, Kashish, Michael Pitt, Mike Cahill, Rhonda Ayers, Steven Yeun, Venida Evans, Victor Varnado, William Mapother

Director: Mike Cahill

Rating: R