3 Movies Like The Celebration (1998)

Staff & contributors

Taking place almost entirely in a single classroom, the two-hour-plus runtime of this French drama breezes past thanks to its sheer unrelenting energy. You’d be forgiven for assuming The Class is a documentary, so fly-on-the-wall is the filming and so naturalistic the dialogue, much of which was improvised from loose guidelines.

Unlike so many cinematic teachers, Monsieur Marin (played by co-screenwriter François Bégaudeau) doesn’t pull off any educational miracles with his class of backchatting 15-year-olds at an inner-city Paris school. Although the French literature teacher does make some inroads with disaffected kids like Souleymane (Franck Keïta), what really boosts The Class’ grade is its refusal to valorize its central figure. There are no rousing Dead Poets Society-style scenes here — in fact, the film builds from free-flowing lively debates to a tense climax that stems directly from a grave faux pas committed by none other than the teacher himself. Crucially, though, The Class is evenhanded in its treatment of its characters, recognizing both how complex each of these kids is underneath the blunt assessments contained on their report cards and how difficult and thankless the role of a teacher is.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Damien Gomes, Esmeralda Ouertani, Farida Ouchani, François Bégaudeau, Louise Grinberg, Rabah Nait Oufella, Valérie Benguigui

Director: Laurent Cantet

A young Steve Buscemi leads this wry farce about a calamitous film set where nothing goes right. The sardonic script skewers the ins and outs of low budget film production and the various personalities on set from belligerent directors, pretentious cinematographers, and egotistic actors. 

A playful three-act structure and trips into dream sequences keep things light, while a strong supporting cast, including a cheeky appearance by Peter Dinklage and the fantastic Catherine Keener, gives the film the backbone it needs. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Catherine Keener, Danielle von Zerneck, Dermot Mulroney, Hilary Gilford, James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Lori Tan Chinn, Norman Fields, Peter Dinklage, Rica Martens, Robert Wightman, Steve Buscemi

Director: Tom DiCillo

Rating: R

Not for the faint of heart, this Russian-language Swedish film doesn't actually display anything graphic on screen, but it still makes for a difficult and distressing viewing experience. Many films similar in spirit and subject matter have been released in the decades since Lilya 4-ever's own take on human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, which might make it less effective for new viewers. But its tone is still unique enough to set it apart—all thumping electronic/rock music blocking out the pain, and naturalistic direction that allows the film's young stars to be as authentically awkward and naively hopeful as possible.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Aleksandr Okunev, Artyom Bogucharsky, Elina Benenson, Johan Åkerblom, Lyubov Agapova, Madis Kalmet, Nikolai Bentsler, Oksana Akinshina, Oleg Rogatchov, Tõnu Kark

Director: Lukas Moodysson