6 Movies Like The First King (2019)

Staff & contributors

This slow Italian drama tells the true story of Mafia boss Tommaso Buscetta, who became the highest-profile Mafia informant at the time of his arrest in the 1980s.

Tommaso, while supervising a criminal network in Sicily, moved to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to attempt a more legal and quieter life. His role catches up with him and he is quickly arrested.

As a biopic, it rarely depicts violence or glorifies organized crime. Instead, it attempts to document the life of a Mafia boss more realistically: a life of always looking over one's shoulder and of constant loss. Eventually, the movie focuses on what it would take for a man like Tommaso to flip, and what that would cost him.

The Mafia topic might feel overdone, but watching this, it's startling to realize how few thorough character studies have come out in film.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alessio Praticò, André Lamoglia, Antonio Orlando, Aurora Peres, Bebo Storti, Bruno Cariello, Cinzia Susino, Claudio Collovà, Dino Santoro, Domenico Gennaro, Edoardo Strano, Elia Schilton, Fabrizio Ferracane, Fabrizio Romano, Fausto Russo Alesi, Francesco Emanuele Chinnici, Gabriele Arena, Giovanni Calcagno, Giovanni Vettorazzo, Goffredo Maria Bruno, Jonas Bloch, Leo Wainer, Luciano Quirino, Ludovico Caldarera, Luigi Lo Cascio, Marco Gambino, Maria Amato, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Michelangelo Cicirello, Nicola Calí​, Nicola Calì, Nicola Siri, Nunzia Lo Presti, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, Pierfrancesco Favino, Pietro Pace, Raffaella D'Avella, Raffaella Lebboroni, Rainer Cadete, Sergio Pierattini, Simona Distefano, Tommaso Buscetta, Vincenzo Ferrera, Vincenzo Pirrotta

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Rating: R

This Netflix production is based on a case that rocked public opinion in Italy. Stefano Cucchi was arrested for a minor drug charge and died five days later from police brutality. The movie takes its time to expose what Cucchi went through, which might lead some viewers to find On My Skin slow, and rightfully so. Thinking about the issues at hand here, it’s easy to understand why the director made that choice. In fact, Italians’ complex relationship with the Carabinieri, a division of the Italian army that carries out domestic policing, is delicate to explain and requires meticulous unveiling. Nominated to nine David di Donatello Awards (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Italy), of which it won three.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aleksandros Memetaj, Alessandro Borghi, Alessio De Persio, Andrea Lattanzi, Andrea Mautone, Antonio Gargiulo, Aurora Casavecchia, Bernardo Casertano, Daniela Amato, Daniele Amendola, Dora Romano, Elisa Casavecchia, Elodie Treccani, Emanuele Cerman, Federico Tocci, Francesca Tomassoni, Gaetano Aronica, Giuseppe Ragone, Italo Amerighi, Jasmine Trinca, Marco Giuliani, Massimiliano Tortora, Mauro Conte, Max Tortora, Michele Botrugno, Milvia Marigliano, Orlando Cinque, Paolo D Bovani, Pietro Faiella, Roberta Sferzi, Roberto Galano, Rodolfo Bigotti, Stefano Miglio, Vincenzo Tanassi, Walter Nestola

Director: Alessio Cremonini

Rating: TV-MA

, 2019

In a small Italian town, a dog cleaner’s wholesome days dealing with elderly owners and eager children are balanced with a series of messy nights. The small and frail man finds himself targetted by the town’s black-sheep, a strong and fearless ex-convict. Dogman is about the line between being bullied and wanting to be part of something, it’s a beautiful and often thrilling character study from Italian genius filmmaker Matte Garone. Won the Best Actor award at Cannes.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adamo Dionisi, Alida Baldari Calabria, Aniello Arena, Edoardo Pesce, Francesco Acquaroli, Giancarlo Porcacchia, Gianluca Gobbi, Laura Pizzirani, Marcello Fonte, Mirko Frezza, Nunzia Schiano

Director: Matteo Garrone

Rating: Not Rated

Two best friends chase the ultimate high in this Italian movie set in the 90s. Vittorio and Cesare are inseparable, they get in trouble together, fight together, and party together. Suddenly, they start moving at different speeds and one of them wants out, effectively abandoning the other. 

Don’t be Bad is director Claudio Caligari’s last movie before his death, the last installment in his catalog of well-crafted drug-centered stories.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Alessandro Bernardini, Alessandro Borghi, Angelica Cacciapaglia, Elisabetta De Vito, Emanuel Bevilacqua, Emanuela Fanelli, Giulia Greco, Luca Marinelli, Luciano Miele, Manuel Rulli, Massimo De Santis, Roberta Mattei, Silvia D'Amico, Silvia D'Amico Bendico, Valentino Campitelli

Director: Claudio Caligari

Taking the Frankenstein story to its low-budget '80s extremes, Re-Animator finds lots of dry humor and gory thrills in the simple story of a mad scientist in medical school. But instead of any Frankenstein's monster terrorizing the university, it's the hubris of man and their arrogance in denying the inevitability of death that constantly threatens every other innocent person in the film. The scare to minute ratio here is refreshingly low, meaning Re-Animator isn't driven by a need to manipulate audiences, but by the primal thrills of fake guts and blood—and a sharp, snarky performance from Jeffrey Combs.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Science Fiction

Actor: Al Berry, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, Bunny Summers, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, David Gale, Gene Scherer, Gerry Black, Ian Patrick Williams, Jeffrey Combs, Peter Kent, Robert Sampson

Director: Stuart Gordon

Loosely based on the 1909 novel, Martin Eden is a stunning film about the hollow success of individualism. The plot points remain the same: Eden, a self-taught sailor, wants to win the heart of the wealthy Elena Orsini. To do this, he strives to break into the upper class with his writing. However, in this film, writer-director Pietro Marcello adds another dimension to the anti-individualist story: he transports Eden from his original California setting to Naples—allowing for views of different cultures, languages, and classes. By intercutting between old film stock and lingering close-ups, Marcello draws from his documentary background to masterfully evokes the process of remembering. And in refusing to define the time period, Marcello recognizes that Eden's struggle is still ongoing today—and that his success is still hollow.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Aniello Arena, Autilia Ranieri, Carlo Cecchi, Carmen Pommella, Chiara Francini, Denise Sardisco, Edoardo Sorgente, Elisabetta Valgoi, Franco Pinelli, Gaetano Bruno, Jessica Cressy, Lana Vlady, Luca Marinelli, Marco Leonardi, Maurizio Donadoni, Pietro Ragusa, Rinat Khismatouline, Sergio Longobardi, Vincenza Modica, Vincenzo Nemolato

Director: Pietro Marcello

Rating: TV-PG