24 Movies Like The Boy and the Heron (2023)

Staff & contributors
As in his previous films, Director Andrew Haigh explores the delicate nature of loneliness, grief, and love in All of Us Strangers, except this time he does so through a supernatural lens. The result is mesmerizing: amid the tenderness the film draws from its characters, there’s a swirl of mystery too: how is it possible that Adam is conversing with his dead parents? Who, exactly, is Harry? The intrigue is there, and Haigh builds to a satisfying climax that answers all these questions. The mystery also lends the film an ethereal style that makes it visually resemble a horror or thriller more than it does a romance or drama. But as superb as it looks and as compelling as the ambiguity is, they never distract from the film’s central goal, which is to bring us into the complex emotional journey Adam goes through as he simultaneously develops a relationship with Harry and parses his childhood trauma with his parents. It’s a hefty film, filled with big emotional moments that will have you crying, smiling, longing, and healing all at the same time. And like any good film, it will haunt you for days on end.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Ami Tredrea, Andrew Scott, Carter John Grout, Claire Foy, Jamie Bell, Paul Mescal

Director: Andrew Haigh

Rating: R

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner, Carrie Preston, Carter Shimp, Cole Tristan Murphy, Colleen Clinton, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dakota Lustick, Dan Aid, Darby Lee-Stack, David J. Curtis, Dominic Sessa, Dustin Tucker, Gillian Vigman, Ian Dolley, Ian Lyons, Jim Kaplan, Joe Howell, Jonathan von Mering, Kelly AuCoin, Kevin Daigneault, Kevin Fennessy, Melissa McMeekin, Michael Malvesti, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Oscar Wahlberg, Osmani Rodriguez, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Paul Giamatti, Rena Maliszewski, Stephen Thorne, Tate Donovan

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Oscar-winner Emerald Fennell got a lot of free reign with her debut, Promising Young Woman, which was a slightly modest ordeal even with a lead of Carrey Mulligan's calibre. But now, with her sophomore film, she go to have some fun. Assembling a devout cast of particularly skilled actors—Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, and Mulligan again—seems like an obvious decision, but the mix of them all is unlike anything we've seen before. A class satire, a psychological thriller, and a psychosexual drama, Saltburn is high class entertainment, with a snappy script, and many tricks up its sleeve. Brace yourselves for some bath-action, grave-action, and full-moon-menstrual-action and many other scenes you may have not ever pictured shown on the screen. Actually, it's impossible to prepare for a film like this one, but being open certainly helps digest the shock and provocations that are there for you to behold.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alison Oliver, Andy Brady, Archie Madekwe, Barry Keoghan, Carey Mulligan, Dorothy Atkinson, Ewan Mitchell, Glyn Grimstead, Jacob Elordi, Joshua McGuire, Lolly Adefope, Matthew Carver, Paul Rhys, Reece Shearsmith, Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike, Sadie Soverall, Seth MacFarlane, Shaun Dooley

Director: Emerald Fennell

Rating: R

For public toilet cleaner Hirayama, “enjoy the little things in life” is more than just an adage: it’s a philosophy. Every day, he follows a strict routine of watering his plants, going to work, taking a break at a nearby shrine, and having dinner at his favorite stalls. It seems unexceptional, and yet Hirayama manages to find small, meaningful joys in between (and at) those very moments. A tree branch dancing in the breeze and shadows making funny shapes are enough to make him chuckle, while it seems like a good book and a trusty cassette are all he needs to be at peace. Hirayama’s mundane miracles are life-affirming, but make no mistake: this isn’t one of those cheesy films that push you to be happy no matter what. Director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire) infuses the film with a certain gloom so that the overall tone is one of deep, poignant melancholy. Through vague clues about Hirayama’s past, we learn that his attempts at capturing joy might also be bids to escape a traumatic life. All this builds to a powerful ending that speaks to the complexity of human emotion. We can be happy and sad, peaceful and troubled, lonely and content all at the same time, and it’s okay. At the end of the day, we’ll still have our favorite book passage, our favorite singer, a great artwork, or a beautiful park to return to, and sometimes that’s all the reminder you need that life can be worth living.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aoi Iwasaki, Aoi Yamada, Arisa Nakano, Atsushi Fukazawa, Bunmei Harada, Daigo Matsui, Gan Furukawa, Hairi Katagiri, Hiroto Oshita, Inuko Inuyama, Kōji Yakusho, Makiko Okamoto, Masahiro Koumoto, Mijika Nagai, Min Tanaka, Miyako Tanaka, Morio Agata, Morooka Moro, Motomi Makiguchi, Nao Takahashi, Naoko Ken, Nari Saitô, Nijika Tonouchi, Sayuri Ishikawa, Soraji Shibuya, Taijirō Tamura, Tamae Ando, Tateto Serizawa, Tokio Emoto, Tomokazu Miura, Tomoyuki Shibata, Yoneko Matsukane, Yumi Asou, Yuriko Kawasaki

Director: Wim Wenders

Rating: PG

Simple but lovely movies like Fallen Leaves are hard to come by these days. While others rely on complicated dialogue or overly ambitious premises to be deemed deep or important, Director Aki Kaurismäki trusts that his material is strong enough. After all, its silence speaks volumes; the characters don’t say much but when they do, you can be sure it’s something hard-hitting or funny. The plot doesn’t contain a lot of surprises, but when it makes a turn, it moves you instantly. And the leads, Ansa (Alma Pöysti) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) barely move their features, but their eyes convey more emotion, more longing and ache and joy, than one can hope for. Some movies can be challenging, exhilarating, or exhausting to watch. This one is simply delightful. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alina Tomnikov, Alma Pöysti, Eero Ritala, Janne Hyytiäinen, Juho Kuosmanen, Jussi Vatanen, Lauri Untamo, Maria Heiskanen, Martti Suosalo, Matti Onnismaa, Nuppu Koivu, Olli Varja, Sakari Kuosmanen, Sherwan Haji, Simon Al-Bazoon

Director: Aki Kaurismäki

Rating: NR

Real life tragedies, especially one that's as sensationalized as the Miracle in the Andes, can be tough to depict on screen. On one hand, the film has to keep true to the story but also maintain some form of spectacle to keep people watching. Past depictions of the 1972 crash are preoccupied with the cannibalism portrayed by big name actors, but Society of the Snow takes a different route. The actors are newcomers, the threats to their lives don't require daring action stunts, and the cannibalism is limited to small chunks indistinguishable from animal meat. Instead, the spectacle of Society of the Snow is the human spirit– the vulnerability, the respect, and the generosity they've given each other in order to survive. It’s still an uncomfortable watch, especially since we get to know some of the survivors before the crash, but it’s definitely a transcendent addition to the genre dedicated to the miracle of existence.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Agustín Berruti, Agustín Della Corte, Agustín Lain, Agustín Pardella, Alfonsina Carrocio, Andy Pruss, Benjamín Segura, Blas Polidori, Carlos Miguel Páez Rodríguez, Daniel Patricio Antivilio Acuña, Diego Vegezzi, Emanuel Parga, Emanuel Sobré, Enzo Vogrincic, Esteban Bigliardi, Esteban Kukuriczka, Esteban Pico, Facundo Roure, Fede Aznárez, Felipe González Otaño, Felipe Otaño, Felipe Ramusio, Felipe Ramusio Mora, Fernando Contigiani García, Francisco Bereny, Francisco Burghi, Francisco Romero, Gustavo Zerbino Stajano, Jerónimo Bosia, Juan Caruso, Julian Bedino, Lautaro Bakir, Louta, Lucas Mascarena, Luciano Chattón, Mariano Rochman, Matías Recalt, Pablo Tate, Paula Baldini, Rafael Federman, Roberto Suárez, Rocco Posca, Santiago Vaca Narvaja, Simon Hempe, Sofía Lara, Tea Alberti, Tomas Wolf, Toto Rovito, Valentino Alonso, Virgínia Kauffmann

Director: J.A. Bayona

Rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a whodunnit; in fact, it’s closer to a who-didn’t-do-it. We know from the very beginning who is responsible for committing the brutal serial murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma that the film chronicles: pretty much every single one of their white neighbors, spearheaded by William Hale (a skin-crawling Robert De Niro). Scorsese, most often associated with mafia stories, stealthily suggests here that the most dangerous gang of all is the one into which all these perpetrators have been born. That’s an idea he investigates through the confused loyalties of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, the Judas-like husband of Mollie (movie-stealer Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who owns lucrative oil headrights that William wants to fatten his own pockets with. This searing epic — based on a harrowing chapter of real American history — is an unsparing and self-implicating look at complicity and greed in the eye, a monumental movie that cements its maker as one of the greatest to ever do it.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Washington, Addie Roanhorse, Alexandria Toineeta, Alexis Ann, Alexis Waller, Barry Corbin, Beau Smith, Ben Hall, Bravery Nowlin, Brendan Fraser, Brent Langdon, Brian Shoop, Bronson Redeagle, Candice Costello, Cara Jade Myers, Carl Palmer, Chance Rush, Charisse Satepauhoodle, Charlie Musselwhite, Chase Parker, Christopher Cote, Clint Rohr, Dana Daylight, Danny Frost, David Born, David Fields, Delani Chambers, DJ Whited, Dolan Wilson, Ed Yellowfish, Elden Henson, Elisha Pratt, Elizabeth Waller, Eric Parkinson, Everett Waller, Gabriel Casdorph, Garrison Panzer, Gary Basaraba, Gene Jones, Gregory Fallis, Harrison Shackelford, J. C. MacKenzie, Jack White, Jackie Wyatt, Jacob Johnson, Jacob Lux, James Carroll, James Healy Jr., JaNae Collins, Jarad Looper, Jason Isbell, Jay Paulson, Jeffrey Stevenson, Jennifer Moses, Jennifer Rader, Jeremy Goodvoice, Jerry Logsdon, Jerry Wolf, Jesse Plemons, Jessica Harjo, Jezy Gray, Jillian Dion, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Chrest, Joey Oglesby, John Gibbs, John Lithgow, Johnny Baier, Joseph Spinelli, Joshua Close, Julia Lookout, Justin France, Karen Garlitz, Katherine Willis, Kristin Keith, Kyle Dillingham, Larry Fessenden, Larry Jack Dotson, Larry Sellers, Lee Eddy, Leland Prater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Louis Cancelmi, Lucas Ross, Lynette Satepauhoodle, Mahada Sanders, Mamie Cozad, Marc Phaneuf, Margaret Gray, Mark Landon Smith, Mark Lopeman, Marko Costanzo, Martin Scorsese, Mary Buss, Mason Bighorse, Mason Cunningham, Matt Tolentino, Melissa Tiger, Michael Abbott Jr., Mike Cook, Moe Headrick, Moira Redcorn, Nathalie Standingcloud, Nathaniel Arcand, Nicholas White, Nick W. Nicholson, Nokosee Fields, Norma Jean, Norris Bighorse, Pat Healy, Patrick Bubert, Paul Woodiel, Penny Potts, Pete Yorn, Peter Yarin, Randy Houser, Rayna Gellert, Reignen Yellowfish, River Rhoades, Robert De Niro, Ron McMahan, Sam Bardfeld, Samuel French, Samuel Gray, Sarah Spurger, Scott George, Scott Shepherd, Seth Buckminster, Shonagh Smith, Silas Satepauhoodle, Stephen Berkman, Steve Eastin, Steve Routman, Steve Witting, Sturgill Simpson, Tahlee Redcorn, Tanner Brantley, Tantoo Cardinal, Tatanka Means, Ted Welch, Terry Allen, Tom Ashmore, Tommy Schultz, Ty Mitchell, Vann Bighorse, Victor McCay, Vince Giordano, Vinny Raniolo, Wally Welch, Welker White, William Belleau, Xavier Toehay, Zachary Hokeah

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rating: R

Aptly for a film partly set in a fortune cookie factory, Fremont deals with luck — specifically, the other side of good luck: survivor’s guilt. Donya (played by real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada) is a former translator for the US Army who fled her home city of Kabul on an emergency evacuation flight when the Taliban took over in 2021. Now living a safe, if drab, existence in the titular Californian town, insomniac Donya struggles to embrace her freedom, tormented by the knowledge that she lost some of her old colleagues to reprisal attacks and that her loved ones are still living under repressive rule in Afghanistan.

As Donya shuttles between her little apartment in Fremont, her job writing cryptic one-liners for a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, and appointments with her eccentric psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington), Fremont balances a moving study of her melancholy with deadpan humor. Despite its black-and-white cinematography and tight Academy ratio, this is no austere drama, but an endlessly warm and understated portrait of someone rediscovering themselves and all of life’s unexpected moments of connection, like chance romantic encounters and sudden tears at karaoke.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anaita Wali Zada, Boots Riley, Gregg Turkington, Hilda Schmelling, Jeremy Allen White, Siddique Ahmed

Director: Babak Jalali

Rating: NR

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere, Felix Moati, Foued Nabba, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-François Perrone, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Leona D'Huy, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Meriem Serbah, Myriam Azencot, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

The sooner you adjust your expectations for Nomad—and realize that this isn't a travel documentary but Werner Herzog's own wonderfully offbeat way of remembering his dear friend—the better. Any uneven moments in this film's construction are smoothed over by the sheer authenticity of what Herzog puts on screen, from his own distinctive narration, to gorgeous excerpts from Bruce Chatwin's writings, to the sounds and images that make up the strange worlds that both men were fascinated in. No mysteries are solved here, but just being closer to the strange and surreal becomes a way for Herzog to come to terms with the strangest and most surreal of life's realities: death.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Bruce Chatwin, Elizabeth Chatwin, Karin Eberhard, Marcus Wheeler, Michael Liddle Pula, Nicholas Shakespeare, Petronella Vaarzon-Morel, Stefan Glowacz, Werner Herzog

Director: Werner Herzog

Rating: PG

Unlike plenty of time torn films, Maboroshi is the kind of film that doesn’t have a straightforward explanation for the town of Mifuse standing still in time. But even when it doesn’t have a logical reason, the way the film unfolds has a distinct feeling as it explores the illusions the town either could cling to, or release to grow. This kind of storytelling would be familiar to fans of the prolific screenwriter Mari Okada, who just started directing in 2018 with Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms, but even those new to her work would appreciate the pure emotion driving Maboroshi, if they can let go of reality and enjoy MAPPA’s exquisite art for a moment.

Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Ayaka Saito, Daiki Kobayashi, Junya Enoki, Kento Hayashi, Koji Seto, Maki Kawase, Misaki Kuno, Reina Ueda, Setsuji Sato, Taku Yashiro, Tasuku Hatanaka, Yukiyo Fujii

Director: Mari Okada, Seimei Kidokoro

Rating: PG-13

Directed by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda, the Korean film Broker is a simple but tender story about chosen family. It follows Moon So-young (IU), a young mother who decides to drop her baby off at a church, seemingly for good. But when So-young decides to return for the child, she discovers that he’s been stolen by two brokers who’ve put the baby up for adoption on the black market. She joins them in the hopes of meeting her child’s prospective new parents (and staking a claim at the payment) but the more they spend time with each other, acting like a real family on the road as they do, the more it becomes real for her, and the more she feels conflicted about the decision she’s about to make.

As with any Hirokazu Koreeda film, Broker is an affecting, empathetic story that succeeds at humanizing its misunderstood cast of characters. Admittedly, it’s not the best Koreeda movie out there, even when the category is narrowed down to stories about found families (the best in that regard would be his 2018 film Shoplifters). And Koreeda fans will find Broker somewhat scrubbed and Disney-fied for a larger crowd, lacking the edge that his previous Japanese films had. But it is undeniably heartwarming and beautiful. The road trip setup allows the characters to build their rapport naturally, and the warm crisp tones capture the seabreeze ease of the film. Regardless of your view on Koreeda, Broker is well worth a watch.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bae Doona, Baek Hyun-jin, Bek Hyun-jin, Choi Hee-jin, Choi Hui-jin, Gang Dong-won, IU, Jeong Jong-yeol, Jong Ho, Jung Ji-woo, Kang Gil-woo, Kim Do-yeon, Kim Keum-soon, Kim Sae-byuk, Kim Soo-hyeon, Kim Sun-young, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Dong-hwi, Lee Doo-seok, Lee Ga-kyung, Lee Joo-young, Lee Moo-saeng, Lee Mu-saeng, Lim Seung-soo, Oh Hee-joon, Oh Hee-jun, Park Hae-jun, Park Kang-seop, Park Kang-sup, Ryu Kyung-soo, Seong Yu-bin, Song Kang-ho, Song Sae-byuk, Yun Seul

Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda

Gangster films have an issue of glorifying organized crime, and in some ways The Pig, The Snake, and The Pigeon does the same. There are excellent, action-packed fight scenes that makes Ethan Juan as Chen Kui-lin look so damn cool, and the journey Chen takes as a stern criminal out for his legacy definitely romanticizes the character, but it’s so compelling to see him contemplate the purpose of his life through confronting those like him, who tend to move for the ideas of love and spiritual detachment. There are some moments when the pacing falters, but The Pig, The Snake, and the Pigeon delivers on its ending and reimagines the gangster as something to remember.

Genre: Action, Crime

Actor: Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Chen Yi-wen, Cherry Hsieh, Ethan Juan, Gingle Wang, Huang Di Yang, Lee-zen Lee, Ming Che Lee, Nelson Shen, Peggy Tseng, Troy Liu, Yi-Jung Wu, Yu An-Shun

Director: Wong Ching-Po

There's an elephant lurking in the room from the outset of Biosphere, in which two men are the last survivors of an apocalypse: how will humanity live on? Best friends Billy (Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown) have only survived thanks to the ingenuity of Ray, who built the glass dome in which they live, insulated from whatever it is that’s keeping the sky perpetually black outside. But the dome’s protective glass increasingly needs patching up, and their last female fish (responsible for the continuation of their food supplies) has just died, setting their clocks ticking.

What happens next — to the remaining male fish and humans — is an astonishing evolution that speaks to the strangeness of nature, which will break its most rigid laws in pursuit of its ultimate goal: furthering the species. Biosphere undergoes a similar metamorphosis: while its zany twist (which we won’t spoil) seems to direct it towards gross-out bro-comedy territory, it transforms, surprisingly, into something more profoundly philosophical. Like the dome, Biosphere’s structure isn’t as solid as it could be — it often meanders — but, with its thoughtful meditations on gender, sexuality, and evolution in all its forms, it’s easy to forgive this quirky indie gem that flaw.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Mark Duplass, Sterling K. Brown

Director: Mel Eslyn

Everyone has those days where nothing goes right, but no one’s having as bad of a day as detective Yuji Kudo is in Hard Days. It isn’t just that nothing goes right– everything goes wrong, and he’s just a hair away from losing it all each time. This Japanese adaptation might take a slightly more serious tone than the South Korean original, but it does retain its ridiculous escalation of increasingly terrible things that could possibly happen, with Junichi Okada and Go Ayano letting loose in their detective characters’ morally dubious behavior. Hard Day is a decent watch, if a bit bloated, especially for those familiar with the story.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Akira Emoto, Go Ayano, Hayato Isomura, Junichi Okada, Kurumi Shimizu, Maho Yamada, Mario Kuroba, Ryoko Hirosue, Ryusuke Komakine, Takashi Yamanaka, Taro Suruga, Tetta Sugimoto

Director: Michihito Fujii