17 Movies Like The Fifth Element (1997)

Staff & contributors

Director Jim Jarmusch audaciously combined the DNA of French noir classics with that of samurai and mafia movies to produce this utterly original film. As advised by the ancient Japanese manual it often quotes, though, Jarmusch’s movie also “makes the best” out of its own generation by adding hip-hop into its wry genre blend. The results are more than the sum of their parts, especially because the film is so eccentric: no matter how au fait with its inspirations you are, you still won’t see “Forest Whitaker plays a lonely hitman who wields and whooshes his silencer pistol like a samurai sword, lovingly tends pigeons, and can’t even speak the same language as his best friend” coming.

Ghost Dog’s strangeness is never jarring, though, thanks to Whitaker’s cool, collected performance, an atmospheric score by Wu-Tang Clan's RZA, and the cinematography’s tendency to use smooth double exposures for scene transitions. It almost feels like we’re in another world: Jarmusch zooms in on the Bushido code obsessions of Whitaker’s single-minded character and the mafiosos’ dying laws, blurring out everything else so the movie becomes a meditation on the impulse to moralize one’s misdoings by subscribing to rigid definitions of “honor.” Not an exercise in surface style, then, but a bone-deep reflective masterpiece.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alfred Nittoli, Angel Caban, Camille Winbush, Chuck Jeffreys, Clebert Ford, Cliff Gorman, Damon Whitaker, Forest Whitaker, Frank Adonis, Frank Minucci, Gano Grills, Gary Farmer, Gene Ruffini, Harry Shearer, Henry Silva, Isaach De Bankolé, Jamie Hector, Jerry Todisco, John Tormey, Jonathan Teague Cook, José Rabelo, Joseph Rigano, Paul Diomede, Renee Bluestone, Richard Portnow, Roberto Lopez, RZA, Scott Bryce, Sharon Angela, Tony Rigo, Tracy Howe, Tricia Vessey, Victor Argo, Vince Viverito, Vinny Vella

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Rating: R

David O. Russel (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) is one of those directors who the more you dig into his past, the more you are rewarded. I Heart Huckabees is a great example of this, as is The Fighter (both are must-watch if you haven't seen them). But it is Three Kings that truly presented him as someone who can give great substance to big-budget movies. It stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, and even director Spike Jonze (Her, Adaptation), in other words, a festival of talent at its peak. And it follows three soldiers who want use the end of the Gulf War as an opportunity to get rich. Their journey through a devastated and uncertain Iraq is a thrilling one, as Three Kings is action-packed. But the purpose of this movie lies somewhere between political satire around American interventionism and social criticism of the main characters. However, none of that stands in the way of this movie being an entertaining and exhilarating movie.

Genre: Action, Comedy, War

Actor: Ali Afshar, Alia Shawkat, Brian Bosworth, Cliff Curtis, David O. Russell, Doug Jones, Dylan Brown, George Clooney, Holt McCallany, Ice Cube, Jamie Kennedy, Jim Gaffigan, Jon Sklaroff, Judy Greer, Liz Stauber, Mark Wahlberg, Mykelti Williamson, Nora Dunn, Rick Shuster, SaÁ¯d Taghmaoui, Saïd Taghmaoui, Sayed Badreya, Spike Jonze

Director: David O. Russell

Rating: R

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Amy Wieczorek, Brian O'Hare, Carrie 'CeCe' Cline, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Patrick Lynch, David Krumholtz, Demetra Raven, Dennis Keiffer, Elaine Mani Lee, Erik Erotas, Erik Weiner, Gina Torres, Glenn Howerton, Hunter Ansley Wryn, Jessica Huang, Jewel Staite, Linda Wang, Logan O'Brien, Marcus Young, Mark Winn, Marley McClean, Matt McColm, Michael Hitchcock, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Nectar Rose, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter James Smith, Rafael Feldman, Rick Williamson, Ron Glass, Ryan Tasz, Sarah Paulson, Scott Kinworthy, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Tamara Taylor, Terrell Tilford, Terrence Hardy Jr., Tristan Jarred, Weston Nathanson, Yan Feldman

Director: Joss Whedon

Rating: PG-13

At the risk of being cliché, I'm going to state that only the French could have made a movie about racial issues and the troubles of youngsters in the suburbs and still make it elegant. I've tried looking for other adjectives, but I couldn't find one that better describes those long takes shot in a moody black and white. But despite the elegance of the footage, the power of the narrative and the acting makes the violence and hate realistic as hell, dragging you into the story and empathizing with the characters until you want to raise your arm and fight for your rights. Aside from this unusual combination of fine art and explicit violence, the most shocking thing about La Haine is how much the issues it addresses still make sense right now, even though the movie was released 20 years ago.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdel Ahmed Ghili, Andrée Damant, Anthony Souter, Benoit Magimel, Bernie Bonvoisin, Choukri Gabteni, Christian Moro, Christophe Rossignon, Cut Killer, Edouard Montoute, Félicité Wouassi, Florent Lavandeira, François Levantal, François Toumarkine, Heloise Rauth, Hubert Koundé, Joseph Momo, Julie Mauduech, Karim Belkhadra, Karin Viard, Laurent Labasse, Marc Duret, Mathieu Kassovitz, Mathilde Vitry, Nabil Ben Mhamed, Olga Abrego, Patrick Médioni, Peter Kassovitz, Philippe Nahon, Rywka Wajsbrot, Saïd Taghmaoui, Sandor Weltmann, Sébastien Tavel, Solo, Souleymane Dicko, Thang-Long, Vincent Cassel, Vincent Lindon, Virginie Montel, Zinedine Soualem

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Rating: Not Rated

The Grand Seduction, a remake of 2003 French-Canadian film La Grande Séduction (2003), is a lighthearted comedy about the residents of the small fishing village of Tickle Head, Newfoudland attempting to convince a young doctor to become its long-term caregiver in order to secure a contract for a new petrochemical facility. Desperate to guide the town out of its impoverished conditions and lack of employment opportunities, the citizens band together to pull ever bit out of deceit and chicanery out of their hats (in often laugh-out-loud fashion) in order to sway the young doctor Paul (Taylor Kitsch) into believing that Tickle Head is where he belongs. It’s a lighthearted and funny story, despite undeniably familiar shades of The Shipping News, Doc Hollywood and Funny Farm. Brendan Gleeson is particularly good as the new mayor of town and Paul’s head “seducer”. He gives the film that extra bit of humanity and wry humor that lifts it above the familiar plot points and into “notable recommendation” territory.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Cathy Jones, Gordon Pinsent, Janelle Hickey, Kevin Lewis, Lawrence Barry, Liane Balaban, Margaret Killingbeck, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh, Matt Watts, Michael Therriault, Natalia Hennelly, Percy Hynes White, Pete Soucy, Peter Keleghan, Sean Panting, Steve O'Connell, Taylor Kitsch

Director: Don McKellar

Rating: PG-13

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

The story that Whale Rider tells is a familiar one: that of a young girl challenging the expectations of a patriarchal community in order to claim her rightful place in a position of authority. But this isn't a superficial girl-power movie; writer/director Niki Caro maintains the utmost reverence for this Māori community, even if its customs might not appear fair to an outsider's point of view. It's a film full of realistically flawed people, whose struggles are all borne from a common love for their culture in their little corner of the world. What could have been generic and simplistic is made beautiful—especially thanks to a truly moving performance from Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at the time became the youngest nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Rawiri Paratene, Tahei Simpson, Tammy Davis, Taungaroa Emile, Vicky Haughton

Director: Niki Caro

When citizenship and rights can only be achieved through federal service, you have no choice but to militarize. Johnny Rico is young, impressionable, but noble; in other words, he is an archetypal hero even if he initially enlists just to be close to his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards). From then on, Starship Troopers unfolds as a high-strung high school drama, but in the middle of a space colonization. During one such mission, a highly evolved insectoid race, Arachnids, proves to be the most dangerous enemy to human supremacy and the fight is on. What's interesting about Starship Troopers is that it shows how a well-oiled propaganda machine works and for that reason, it was accused of indoctrination and army endorsement. Even more, it was dubbed fascist, instead of the fascist satire it claimed to be. But today, it's indisputably a cult film and a great introduction to the Paul Verhoeven's work in Hollywood.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Stielstra, Amy Smart, Anthony Ruivivar, Armand Darrius, Betty Hankins, Blake Lindsley, Brad Kane, Brenda Strong, Brooke Morales, Bruce Gray, Bruce Holman, Cari Vega, Casper Van Dien, Christopher Curry, Clancy Brown, Claude Stuart, Curnal Achilles Aulisio, Dale Dye, Dan Olivo, David Rey, Dean Norris, Denise Dowse, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Edward Neumeier, Eric Bruskotter, Eric DaRe, Farnaz Samiinia, Greg Travis, Hunter Bodine, Jake Busey, John Cunningham, Jon Davison, Julia Self, Julianna McCarthy, Julie Pinson, Kai Lennox, Kaius Harrison, Lenore Kasdorf, Mara Duronslet, Marshall Bell, Mary Ann Schmidt, Matt Duggan, Matt Entriken, Matt Levin, Michael Ironside, Michael Papajohn, Mike Stokey, Mylin Brooks, Nathaniel Marshall, Neil Patrick Harris, Parry Shen, Patrick Bishop, Patrick Muldoon, Patrick Wolff, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Quiroga, Robert David Hall, Rue McClanahan, Seth Gilliam, Stephanie Erb, Steven Ford, Tami-Adrian George, Timothy McNeil, Timothy Omundson, Tyrone Tann, Ungela Brockman, Walter Adrian, Whitney Hall, Zoë Poledouris

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Rating: R

Sunshine is a sci-fi thriller that details pretty much exactly what you don't want to happen on your journey into space. It follows the struggles of a crew who know that they are humanity's last hope to rekindle a dying sun and save their loved ones back home. Out of radio contact with Earth, relationships become strained and when things start to go horribly wrong the diverse cast give a fantastic performance as they encapsulate both the terror and humanity that arises from such an alien situation. Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later).

Genre: Drama, Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Benedict Wong, Chipo Chung, Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Hiroyuki Sanada, Mark Strong, Michelle Yeoh, Paloma Baeza, Rose Byrne, Troy Garity

Director: Danny Boyle

Rating: R

, 2011

There is no shortage of offensive jokes in this comedy about a man who tries to prove to his girlfriend that he is dad-material. Think Borat, but Danish, and with brothels. The man in question tries to change his lifestyle after his girlfriend, not thinking he is responsible enough, hides the fact that she is pregnant. To prove her wrong, he takes his nephew on a canoeing trip with his equally as disastrous friend.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Anne Moen, Barbara Zatler, Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, Björn Gustafsson, Casper Christensen, Claus Damgaard, Dya Josefine Hauch, Elsebeth Steentoft, Frank Hvam, Helene Marie Blixt, Iben Hjejle, Ida Lee, Jørgen Leth, Kenneth Carmohn, Lars Hjortshøj, Lea Baastrup Rønne, Mads Brügger, Mads Lisby, Marcuz Jess Petersen, Marie Bach Hansen, Marie Mondrup, Mia Lyhne, Michael Carøe, Michael Meyerheim, Mikael Bertelsen, Niels Weyde, Paw Terndrup, Rasmus Haxen, Roger Matthisen, Sadi Tekelioglu, Sami Darr, Simon Kvamm, Søren Rasted, Stine Chen, Thomas Helmig, Tina Bilsbo

Director: Mikkel Nørgaard

Rating: R

A hilarious comedy about politics in the UK and US. The secretary of State for Internal Development Simon Foster accidentally backs the plans for a war in the Middle East and suddenly finds he has a lot of friends in Washington. What follows is a difficult to follow maneuvering of pro- and antiwar factions in both governments. The harder it gets to follow what's going on in the movie the more it resembles our present day politics and the funnier it becomes.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alex MacQueen, Anna Chlumsky, Chipo Chung, Chris Addison, David Rasche, Del Pentecost, Enzo Cilenti, Eve Matheson, Gina McKee, Harry Hadden-Paton, James Doherty, James Gandolfini, James Smith, Janelle Schmidt, Joanna Brookes, Joanna Scanlan, Johnny Pemberton, Lucinda Raikes, Mimi Kennedy, Natasha Sattler, Olivia Poulet, Paul Higgins, Peter Capaldi, Rita May, Samantha Harrington, Steve Coogan, Tom Hollander, Will Smith, Zach Woods

Director: Armando Iannucci

Rating: Not Rated

, 2013

Filmmaker Petra Costa tells the story of moving to New York from Brazil to follow her dream, the same one her mother once followed, of becoming an actress.

She carries memories of a third person who made the same move, a sister called Elena. Elena left her when she was seven-years-old, and after intermittent calls and messages, disappeared.

This documentary is a tale of three women: of their feelings separation, longing, and ambition. It’s made to be a visual poem of their story.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Elena Andrade, Li An, Petra Costa

Director: Petra Costa

Rating: N/A

, 2020

Frank Zappa's creative scope could barely be defined -  a mix of rock, composition, design, and in his early days even filmmaking.  This documentary does its best to summarize the un-summarizable, starting with Zappa's last time playing guitar and going back to early details like an infatuation with explosives as a kid. 

Zappa's overwhelmingly full life is focused on the documentary in the study of his incredible work ethic and unique creative philosophy. Far from the drugged hippie perception he was often met with, Zappa was hard-working, business-aware, and didn't take drugs.

The manifestations of his exceptional intellect and unique character are abundant in a film that will please his fans and send anyone new to him into a deep Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Adam Curry, Adrian Belew, Ahmet Zappa, Al Gore, Alice Cooper, Arsenio Hall, Arthur Barrow, Aynsley Dunbar, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Bruce Bickford, Bruce Fowler, Bunk Gardner, Charles Manson, Chester Thompson, David Bowie, David Dondorf, David Harrington, David Letterman, David Raksin, Diva Zappa, Don Van Vliet, Dweezil Zappa, Edgard Varèse, Euclid James 'Motorhead' Sherwood, Frank Zappa, Gail Zappa, George Duke, Howard Kaylan, Ian Underwood, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jerry D. Good, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Carl Black, Joe Travers, John Belushi, John Lennon, Kathleen Sullivan, Kent Nagano, Lonnie Lardner, Mark Volman, Mick Jagger, Mike Keneally, Miss Mercy, Moon Unit Zappa, Nancy Davis Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Pamela Des Barres, Patrice Zappa, Patrick O'Hearn, Peter Wolf, Pierre Boulez, Ralph Humphrey, Ray White, Ringo Starr, Ronald Reagan, Rose Zappa, Ruth Underwood, Scott Thunes, Steve Vai, Ted Koppel, Terry Bozzio, Tipper Gore, Tom Fowler, Tommy Mars, Václav Havel, Vinnie Colaiuta, Yoko Ono

Director: Alex Winter

Rating: Not Rated

Snatch is all things great. The film strings together multiple plots with a great ensemble of actors - which turns it into an excellent thriller movie. Jason Statham leads the film with Brad Pitt close behind, both turning in performances of enormous physicality. You’ll recognize many actors in the film as well, but the acting is not the only area where this movie shines. The style, quick cuts, and narration will surely keep you on your toes and engaged.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Mystery

Actor: Adam Fogerty, Ade, Alan Ford, Andrew Shield, Andy Beckwith, Arnold Montey, Austin Drage, Benicio Del Toro, Brad Pitt, Charles Cork, Dave Legeno, Dennis Farina, Dian Bachar, Elwin 'Chopper' David, Eric Meyers, Ewen Bremner, Goldie, Guy Ritchie, James Cunningham, James Warren, Jason Buckham, Jason Flemyng, Jason Ninh Cao, Jason Statham, Jimmy Roussounis, John Farnell, John Hathaway, Lennie James, Liam Donaghy, Liam McMahon, Mick Theo, Mickey Cantwell, Mike Reid, Nicola Collins, Paul O'Boyle, Peter Rnic, Peter Szakacs, Rade Serbedzija, Robbie Gee, Roy Snell, Sam Douglas, Scott Welch, Sid Hoare, Sidney Sedin, Sol Campbell, Sorcha Cusack, Stephen Graham, Teena Collins, Tim Faraday, Tom Delmar, Trevor Steedman, Velibor Topic, Vinnie Jones, William Beck, Yuri Stepanov

Director: Guy Ritchie

Rating: R

Written, directed and starring the auteur Stephan Chow, Kung Fu Hustle is a distillation of decades of Hong-Kong Cinema's greatest export : the martial arts comedy. Full of numerous allusions and witty nods to other greats in the genre, this film is nonetheless entirely fresh and new. Equal parts hilarious and breathtakingly action-packed, Kung Fu Hustle showcases an enormous amount of raw talent, cinema magic and ass-kicking for any true cinema connoisseur.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Fantasy

Actor: Alex Lam Chi Sin, Bruce Leung, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung, Bruce Siu-Lung Leung, Charlie Yuen Cheung-Yan, Cheung-Yan Yuen, Chi Ling Chiu, Chi-Sing Lam, Chiu Chi-Ling, Danny Chan, Danny Chan Kwok-Kwan, Dong Zhi Hua, Dung Chi-Wa, Eva Huang, Fan Tiantian, Feng Xiaogang, Fung Hak-On, Hark-On Fung, He Wenhui, Huang Shengyi, Jazz Lam, Jia Kangxi, Kai Shi Chen, Kang Xi Jia, Kwok Kuen Chan, Lam Chi Chung, Lam Suet, Lam Tze-chung, Leung Siu Lung, Oliver Wong Yui-Man, Qiu Yuen, Shengyi Huang, Siu-Lung Leung, Stephen Chow, Steven Fung Min-Hang, Suet Lam, Tenky Tin Kai-Man, Wah Yuen, Wellson Chin Sing-Wai, Xiaogang Feng, Xing Yu, Yang Neng, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Zhang Mingming, Zhang Yibai, Zhi Hua Dong, Zhihua Dong, 释彦能

Director: Stephen Chow

Rating: R