6 Movies Like The Elephant Whisperers (2022)

Staff & contributors

In All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, documentarist Laura Poitras (Citizenfour, My Country, My Country) lends her empathetic and incisive lens to a subject so passionate and imaginative, she ends up collaborating with Poitras to co-create the documentary about her life. The subject is Nan Goldin, one of the most influential photographers of the late 20th century. 

The documentary captures Goldin’s work as a queer artist and anti-opioids activist, intertwining both aspects to tell a nuanced and incredibly important story about freedom, identity, and self-expression. This incredibly complex, encompassing, and vibrant feature won the top award at the Venice Film Festival, besting 19 other films from around the world.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Annatina Miescher, Bernard Herrmann, Cookie Mueller, David Wojnarowicz, Harry Cullen, John Waters, Leonard Bernstein, Nan Goldin, Patrick Radden Keefe

Director: Laura Poitras

Fire of Love is a documentary that follows Maurice and Katia Krafft, a scientist couple who’ve dedicated their entire professional lives to studying (and marveling at) volcanoes. The two met at university and have been inseparable ever since, chasing explosions around the world until their death at the Mount Unzen eruption in 1991. 

The fiery passion the title refers to is as much about Maurice and Katia as it is about their dedication to volcanoes. Like any love story, it tracks how they were first wonderstruck by the formation and how that awe shaped their lives and led them to each other, as well as how they came to discover hard truths about it and dealt with the heartbreak that soon followed. 

Combining the breathtaking footage the couple left behind with lovely writing and artful animation, director Sara Dosa creates a moving documentary about passion, adventure, and the world itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alka Balbir, Guillaume Tremblay, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July

Director: Sara Dosa

Rating: PG

The Fabelmans is often described as director Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical movie about his inauguration into filmmaking, and while it certainly is that, I’d venture to say that it also functions as a universal coming-of-age tale, with protagonist and Spielberg stand-in Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) learning harsh truths about identity, family, and passion for the first time.

Here, we see how so much of filmmaking is intertwined with his life, and how the movies inspire his personality (and vice versa). Whether you’re a fan of Spielberg or not, this movie will surely win you over with its beautiful imagery, impressive technique, and big, big heart.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adriel Porter, Alejandro Fuenzalida, Alex Quijano, Alina Brace, Ari Davis, Art Bonilla, Brinly Marum, Cameron Hennings, Carlos Javier Castillo, Chandler Lovelle, Chloe East, Cody Mitchell, Connor Trinneer, Cooper Dodson, Crystal the Monkey, David Lynch, Ezra Buzzington, Gabriel Bateman, Gabriel LaBelle, Greg Grunberg, Gustavo Escobar, Harper Dustin, Isabelle Kusman, James Urbaniak, Jan Hoag, Jared Becker, Jeannie Berlin, Jonathan Moorwood, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Julyah Rose, Kalama Epstein, Keeley Karsten, Kendal Evans, Lane Factor, Larkin Campbell, Mason Bumba, Max David Weinberg, Meredith VanCuyk, Michelle Williams, Nicolas Cantu, Oakes Fegley, Orion Hunter, Paige Locke, Paul Dano, Rob Shiells, Robin Bartlett, Sam Rechner, Seth Rogen, Sophia Kopera, Stephen Matthew Smith, Taylor Hall, Tia Nalls, Trang Vo, Vera Myers

Director: Steven Spielberg

Rating: PG-13

Somewhere near the border between Russia and Ukraine lies a shelter for kids coming from unstable homes. Their parents, either alcoholics or abusers, have nine months to prove that they’re fit to look after their children; otherwise, the kids are sent straight to the orphanage, with no chance of a goodbye. A House Made of Splinters is a documentary that quietly and closely follows the shelter’s occupants amid growing joys and pains, not to mention the ever-present danger of war.

Perhaps one of the most striking things about A House Made of Splinters is how attuned it is to the kids. It serves as a reminder of their immense sensitivity and observational skills (more than once, you’ll hear a child assess their home situation in the calmest of manners), as well as their clever ingenuity (there’s a lot of playing going on despite everything, which is heartwarming to watch.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Simon Lereng Wilmont

In the words of the journalist Christo Grozev, Alexei Navalny isn’t just a politician; he’s also an internet personality, reporter, investigator, lawyer, and opposition leader who’s up against one of the biggest regimes in the world. He’s a dangerous man, a top Kremlin target, and the documentary gives us incredible access into the ins and outs of his daily operations. 

It’s always astonishing to see a hero humanized, especially since the documentary makes sure to balance newsworthy events with quiet moments of rest and reflection. But more than just a profile, Navalny is a valiant work of investigative journalism, as well as a timely reminder of the importance of activism. It's relevant, revelatory, and rousing; a must-watch in our ever-heating political climate. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexei Navalny, Alexey Navalny, Angela Merkel, Christo Grozev, Dasha Navalnaya, Georgy Alburov, Kira Yarmysh, Leonid Volkov, Maria Pevchikh, Vladimir Putin, Yulia Navalnaya, Zakhar Navalny

Director: Daniel Roher

Rating: R

Though it doesn't proceed like most animal/nature-centered documentaries that you've seen, the Oscar-nominated All That Breathes is instantly memorable in the way it de-centers the human perspective from its all-encompassing study of New Delhi, India. The wildlife rescue team that features prominently in this film still only becomes a vessel through which director Shaunak Sen explores the environmental and political hazards being faced by the nation today. It's a movie that definitely challenges you to think for yourself, as any talking heads or on-screen explanations are traded for truly stunning shots of New Delhi as a biome teeming with life among the dirt. For those who want their documentaries unconventional, this is excellent stuff.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Shaunak Sen