9 Movies Like The Cooler (2003)

Staff & contributors

Starring Matthew Broderick and a young Reese Witherspoon as, respectively, Jim McAllister, a high school teacher and Tracy Flick, a notorious 'that girl' in his class. When Tracy decides to run for class president, we see the floodgates open as all sorts of bizarre and insane behavior pours out of the two. Quickly, it becomes clear that Tracy will do nearly anything to win, and as circumstances spiral out of control, madness descends - along with hilarity!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: B.J. Tobin, Chris Klein, Colleen Camp, Delaney Driscoll, Frankie Ingrassia, Holmes Osborne, Jason Paige, Jeanine Jackson, Jessica Campbell, Jillian Crane, John Ponzio, Kaitlin Ferrell, Marilyn Tipp, Mark Harelik, Matt Golden, Matt Malloy, Matthew Broderick, Molly Hagan, Nicholas D'Agosto, Phil Reeves, Reese Witherspoon, Rohan Quine

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

Sunshine Cleaning is a great addition to that unidentified genre of grown-up comedies populated by other great entries like Your Sister's Sister and Enough Said. It is however, less of a comedy than it is a heart-warming emotional tale. Powered by outstanding performances from Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, it ultimately evolves into a character study of failed potential and validation seeking. Sunshine Cleaning is enjoyable, satisfying to a fault, and provides an interesting peak into the lives of its characters.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Arkin, Amber Midthunder, Amy Adams, Amy Redford, Angelique Midthunder, Clifton Collins Jr., Emily Blunt, Eric Christian Olsen, Ivan Brutsche, Jason Spevack, Judith Jones, Kathy Lamkin, Kevin Chapman, Lois Geary, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Paul Dooley, Steve Zahn, Susie Yip, Vic Browder

Director: Christine Jeffs

Rating: R

A dark and existential comedy, Wristcutters: A Love Story follows Zia (Patrick Fugit), a young man who commits suicide, only to find himself in a bleak afterlife filled with other suicide victims. He discovers that his former partner has just joined him in this dreary realm and sets out to find her. From there, the film transitions into a macabre road-trip film as Zia and several acquaintances strike out in a beat-up old car in the name of love and redemption. Based on a short story by award-winning Israeli writer Etgar Karet, Wristcutters is a stunningly original film that will haunt viewers forever.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Abraham Benrubi, Adam Gifford, Amy Seimetz, Anthony Azizi, Azazel Jacobs, Azura Skye, Bonnie Aarons, Bridget Powers, Cameron Bowen, Chase Ellison, Clayne Crawford, Eddie Steeples, Goran Dukić, Irwin Keyes, Jake Busey, Jazzmun, John Hawkes, Julia Sanford, Leslie Bibb, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Fredrichs, Mary Pat Gleason, Mikal P. Lazarev, Nick Offerman, Nils Allen Stewart, Patrick Fugit, Reedy Gibbs, Sarah Roemer, Shannyn Sossamon, Sharone Meir, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Zia Harris

Director: Goran Dukić

Rating: R

Michael Douglas plays Grady Tripp, a craggy, lovable English professor struggling to finish the follow-up to a very successful first novel. It has taken him 7 years, and it's an obvious metaphor for his ridiculous life. The character navigates various tragicomic dilemmas with a stellar supporting cast including Frances McDormand, Tobey Maguire, and Katie Holmes. His editor is Robert Downey Jr. and his nemesis is Rip Torn. Bob Dylan wrote the theme song. How do you not love this movie? It's one of those films that feels like a warm, cozy house (despite the fact that it takes place in a Pittsburgh winter), and it's a great blend of humor and drama.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Tudyk, Bingo O'Malley, Charis Michelsen, Elisabeth Granli, Frances McDormand, George Grizzard, James Ellroy, James Kisicki, Jane Adams, John W. Iwanonkiw, Katie Holmes, Kelly Bishop, Michael Cavadias, Michael Douglas, Philip Bosco, Richard Knox, Richard Thomas, Rip Torn, Rob McElhenney, Robert Downey Jr., Sean King, Tobey Maguire, Victor Quinaz, Yusuf Gatewood

Director: Curtis Hanson

Rating: R

Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is compassionate and diminutive, but her social awkwardness hinders her as she attempts to navigate young adulthood. After recently being hospitalized for self-harm, Lee is determined to prove she is capable of autonomously taking care of herself. She begins working as a secretary for E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a meticulous attorney.

It’s not long before both Lee and Edward realize they’re attracted to one another’s opposite natures: Lee’s obedience and Edward’s dominance. They begin a mutually consensual BDSM relationship, with both experiencing a sexual and emotional awakening. 

The premise may sound familiar: 50 Shades of Grey is widely acknowledged as, at the very least, owing its title to Secretary. But while 50 Shades of Grey portrays an unhealthy, toxic, and superficial idea of a BDSM affair, Secretary maintains that consent must be at the core of any relationship. And ultimately for Lee and Edward, BDSM becomes a way for them to communicate and overcome their individual pain, and unite stronger as a vulnerable, loving whole.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alison Tatlock, Amy Locane, Christina Gray, David Wiater, Diane McGee, Erin Cressida Wilson, Ezra Buzzington, Herbert Russell, James Spader, Jeremy Davies, Jessica Tuck, Julene Renee, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Lacey Kohl, Lauren Cohn, Lesley Ann Warren, Lily Knight, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Mary Joy, Michael Mantell, Osgood Perkins, Oz Perkins, Patrick Bauchau, Sabrina Grdevich, Shannon Convery, Stephen McHattie, Steven Fierberg, Steven Shainberg

Director: Steven Shainberg

Rating: R

Summary: it’s a really unusual movie, especially for a star like Robin Williams. It’s almost an indie film actually. Robin Williams plays Lance Clayton, the father of a typical rude teenage boy Kyle Clayton (Daryl Sabara) wherein Sabara’s character meets an unusual demise, and out of embarrassment of the situation the father ghost-writes a suicide note from his son. This white lie leads to another and another and so on until his lies spread further than anticipated. The movie definitely earns points for making the film that was set out to be made. They wanted to make a dark comedy and a dark comedy was what they made. It’s even uncomfortable to watch at times. Between Lance’s love life and Kyle’s non-existent one there’s enough awkwardness that you feel like you can’t wait to get to the next scene just so this one can be over. All in all the actors did a truly fantastic job. Each character seemed well developed by the individual actor to the point where every gesture, line delivery, and awkward silence seemed too natural and organic. Additionally, the writing was exceptional for this movie, as no dialogue was ever wasted. Each and every little detail in each and every shot of each and every scene was very carefully designed to continually push the aesthetics, this film is a big success.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alexie Gilmore, Bobcat Goldthwait, Bruce Hornsby, Cheri Minns, Daryl Sabara, Ellie Jameson, Evan Martin, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Jermaine Williams, Jill Talley, Krist Novoselic, Lorraine Nicholson, Mitzi McCall, Morgan Murphy, Naomi Glick, Rebecca Erwin Spencer, Robin Williams, Toby Huss, Tom Kenny

Director: Bobcat Goldthwait

Rating: R

Not enough movies tell the stories of the down-on-luck, kind of uncool wolf-pack that still goes out into town with their wallets on chains hanging from their pockets and try their luck with the ladies. Mike, heart-broken actor-comedian pines over his ex long after she's been gone, while his guys - Trent, Rob and Sue - try to help him get back in the game in a series of nights club-hopping and wingman-ing. You find yourself empathizing with Mike almost immediately if you've ever had a broken heart and root for him throughout his highs and fairly embarrassing lows. Sprinkled with clever references and subtle, refreshing humor, Mike's journey to find closure is more than likely to warm your heart.

As a bonus, the flawed yet endearing gang of twenty-something struggling actors will take you to that charming 90's nightlife in Los Angeles (with music to die for, by the way) and remind you that boys will be boys and that they're just doing their best helping each other and themselves to keep it together with lots of "You're so money, and you don't even know it!".

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ahmed Ahmed, Alex Désert, Alex Désert, Bernard Serrano, Blake Lindsley, Brooke Langton, Curtis Lindersmith, Deena Martin, Heather Graham, Jan Dykstra, Jessica Buchman, Joan Favreau, Jon Favreau, Katherine Kendall, Kevin James Kelly, Maddie Corman, Martina Migenes, Molly Stern, Pamela Shaw, Patrick Van Horn, Rio Hackford, Ron Livingston, Samantha Lemole, Stephanie Ittleson, Stephen Gaghan, Vernon Vaughn, Vince Vaughn

Director: Doug Liman

Rating: R

Chances are good you missed this movie the first time around due to the studio's big mishandling of it's promotion. The posters and trailers were squarely aimed at the lowbrow audience, ironically turning off the kind of viewers that would have appreciated the film. They promised an exploitation flick about an old black man keeping a sexy half-naked young white girl chained up in his shack. Which is, to be fair, exactly what you get - minus the exploitation. Samuel L. Jackson absolutely nails the role of Lazarus, a retired bluesman. He finds and rescues Rae (Christina Ricci) after she's left for dead in the road, and yeah, there's a chain, but.. well, you'll just have to see. Black Snake Moan is funny, sexy, tense, and (surprisingly) heartwarming. And oh hey by they way, its a helluva music-lovers' film in the bargain. Sporting a tremendous soundtrack full of that lowdown dirty blues (some performed by Jackson himself), you owe it to your ears to watch this someplace you have a decent sound system.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adriane Lenox, Amy Lavere, Christina Ricci, Clare Grant, Claude Phillips, Cody Block, David Banner, David Chapman, Dhonna Harris Goodale, Jeff Pope, John Cothran, John Cothran, Jr., John Pickles, Justin Timberlake, Kim Richards, Leonard L. Thomas, Michael Raymond-James, Neimus K. Williams, S. Epatha Merkerson, Samuel L. Jackson, Willie Hall

Director: Craig Brewer

Rating: R

A happy-go-lucky couple who are expecting their first child travel around the U.S. in order to find a perfect place to start their family. Along the way, they have misadventures and find fresh connections with an assortment of relatives and old friends who just might help them discover "home" on their own terms for the first time. Starring Jon Krasiniski and Maya Rudolph, and partially written by Dave Eggers, this film hits all the sentimental buttons without being cloying or trite.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allison Janney, Carmen Ejogo, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Messina, Conor Carroll, Jeff Daniels, Jim Gaffigan, John Krasinski, Josh Hamilton, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maya Rudolph, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Schneider

Director: Sam Mendes