14 Movies Like The Illusionist (2006)

Staff & contributors
There are two auteur directors that we recommend more than anyone else on this site. One is Hirokazu Koreeda, the Japanese master of intricate drama, the other is Asghar Farhadi. Mr. Farhadi is an Oscar-winning, Iranian filmmaker and one of the most recognisable directors out there. His third film, Fireworks Wednesdays, paved the way for him to become one of the hidden champions of international cinema. As is often the case with the stories he tells, the film portrays the life of a couple in turmoil, Mozhdeh and Morteza Samiei, played by Hedye Tehrani and Hamid Farokhnezhad. She suspects him of cheating on her with their neighbor, a beautician, and sends the maid, a soon-to-be bride named Roohi, to the salon to spy on her. When Roohi takes matters in her own hands, the couple can't help but watch things spiraling out of control. This happens against the backdrop of Chaharshanbe Suri, an Iranian holiday celebrated with fireworks on the Wednesday before the Iranian New Year, hence the title. Will it make for an explosive ending? From what you have heard so far, this could easily be melodramatic, but Fahradi is too good. He's very, very good.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Behshad Sharifian, Hamid Farokhnezhad, Hamid Farrokhnejad, Hedie Tehrani, Hediyeh Tehrani, Houman Seyyedi, Pantea Bahram, Sahar Dolatshahi, Tarane Alidousti, Taraneh Alidoosti

Director: Asghar Farhadi

Rating: Not Rated

You might have to wipe some sweat from your forehead once you've finished watching this blistering political thriller. It doesn't make any sense to us that this 2006 movie by documentary director Kevin Macdonald made less than 20 million in box office revenue when it came out, but that makes it even more A Good Movie to Watch material. In addition to being thrilling entertainment, it offers insight into an easily overlooked chapter of recent world history and taut moral dilemmas. The dramatization of Giles Foden's novel features two intense performances: James McAvoy plays the sometimes naive (and maybe a bit too enthralled by power) Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who becomes the personal physician of none other than Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Nicknamed “The Butcher of Uganda”, Amin is played by Academy Award-winning character actor Forest Whitaker, who perfectly captures his mood-swinging, crazy brutality. He also completely nails his Ugandan-English accent. An amazing watch!

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga, Adam Kotz, Barbara Rafferty, David Ashton, David Oyelowo, Devon Diep, Dick Stockley, Forest Whitaker, Giles Foden, Gillian Anderson, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Martina Amati, Sam Okelo, Simon McBurney, Stephen Rwangyezi

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Rating: R

Not only is this multi-award-winning drama seriously star-studded, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum, and Shia LaBeouf also deliver superb performances. With two Sundance Awards and many other nominations in its pocket, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is based on the eponymous memoir by author, director, and musician, Dito Montiel, who recalls his violent childhood on the mean streets of Queens in the 1980s (LaBeouf plays the young Dito), as he visits his ailing father after 15 years away in Los Angeles (Downey Jr. plays present-day Dito). It is also real-life Dito's directorial debut, recalling the loose, improvisational style of 70s cinema a'la Scorcese. The powerful plot is told through flashbacks and fourth-wall bending monologues, while the eccentric directing style makes for a raw and immediate experience. The energy of this coming-of-age drama is off the charts!

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam Scarimbolo, Chance Kelly, Channing Tatum, Chazz Palminteri, Dianne Wiest, Eléonore Hendricks, Eric Roberts, Federico Castelluccio, Gilbert Cruz, Jermel Wilson, Laila Liliana Garro, Martin Compston, Melonie Diaz, Olga Merediz, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Scott Michael Campbell, Shia LaBeouf

Director: Dito Montiel

Rating: R

The original Swedish mystery thriller that was later remade by David Fincher. It's the same story of a wealthy man hiring a journalist and scrappy hacker to solver a murder, but told better. This version is slower, has more attention to detail and pace. In casting, authenticity triumphs over good looks. In staging, aesthetics are given as much importance as thrills. And in the story, intelligence wins over plot. This gives the main character of Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace) better space to deploy her full mysticism and enigmatic nature. Danish director Niels Arden Oplev masterfully brings everything together to make for a movie that will forever be remembered.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Pascalidou, Annika Hallin, Barbro Enberg, Bjorn Granath, Christian Fiedler, Daniel Abreu, David Dencik, Emil Almén, Ewa Fröling, Fredrik Ohlsson, Georgi Staykov, Gösta Bredefeldt, Gunnel Lindblom, Henrik Knutsson, Henrik Kvarnlöt, Ingvar Hirdwall, Jacob Ericksson, Jan Mybrand, Jannike Grut, Julia Sporre, Kalled Mustonen, Karl Oscar Törnros, Lena Endre, Lennart R. Svensson, Lisbeth Åkerman, Louise Ryme, Margareta Stone, Marika Lagercrantz, Michael Nyqvist, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Mikael Rahm, Nina Norén, Noomi Rapace, Pale Olofsson, Peter Andersson, Peter Haber, Reuben Sallmander, Shaun R.L. King, Sofia Ledarp, Sovi Rydén, Stefan Sauk, Sven-Bertil Taube, Tehilla Blad, Tomas Köhler, Willie Andréason, Yasmine Garbi

Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Rating: R

This is a low-scale, intimate, almost minimalist movie that speaks volumes about the misconceptions that westerners have regarding the Middle-East. And the performance of Richard Jenkins is absolutely exceptional (earned him a nomination for the Oscars). He plays a professor who comes back to his New York apartment only to find two immigrants living in it. What a great role and what a great film.The Visitor is from the director of The Station Agent and very recently Spotlight, Tom McCarthy.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Music

Actor: Amir Arison, Ashley Springer, Bill McHenry, Danai Gurira, Deborah Rush, Frank Pando, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass, Imad Jabarin, Khalifa Natour, Laith Nakli, Maggie Moore, Marian Seldes, Michael Cumpsty, Neal Lerner, Ramon Fernandez, Richard Jenkins, Richard Kind, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Sasson Gabai, Tzahi Moskovitz, Waleed Zuaiter, Yevgeniy Dekhtyar

Director: Eran Kolirin, Tom McCarthy

Rating: PG-13

Taking 23 years until its completion, The Tragedy of Man is quite possibly the most ambitious film ever made, not just in its animation, but also in its scope. It’s quite fitting, as an adaptation of the classic Hungarian play, as Imre Madách’s story sets out to question not just the individual’s purpose, but the purpose of humanity as a whole, with writer-director Marcell Jankovics giving life to the play through the historical art styles of past civilizations that shifted today’s Western world, as well as adding what has happened after the play’s publication in 1861. While the film’s length can be daunting, being the Western animated feature in the world, the dialectic hits at the heart of this absurd existence, informed by the cynicism formed after Hungary’s fall of communism in 1989. The Tragedy of Man isn’t an easy film to watch, considering the themes, but it’s an interesting vision of humanity, illustrated in such an interesting way.

Genre: Animation, Drama, History

Actor: Ágnes Bertalan, Mátyás Usztics, Piroska Molnár, Tamás Széles, Tibor Szilágyi

Director: Marcell Jankovics

This gorgeous Scandinavian movie is based on a true story and stars the ever-reliable Stellan Skarsgard.

He plays the governor of a strict youth correctional facility in Norway in 1915. The arrival of a feared kid kickstarts events that are very famous in Norway but little-known elsewhere: an uprising within the facility that will eventually require the army to get involved. A strong movie with stellar (Stellan) performances.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: Benjamin Helstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Frank-Thomas Andersen, Kimmo Rajala, Kristoffer Joner, Magnar Botten, Martin Slaatto, Per Gørvell, Stellan Skarsgård, Trond Nilssen

Director: Marius Holst

Rating: Not Rated

After neglecting previous invitations, Leyla, a lawyer and a poet, decides to take an overnight train to finally attend a school reunion. On the train, she meets Canan, a young nursing student who dreams of becoming an actress. The two of them form a unique connection that will lead them to an unusual journey. 

Something Useful is about how, when dealing with pain and disappointment, art—and especially poetry– can help by revealing the beauty behind everyday moments. It's a wonderful film with beautiful photography and impressive performances. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aydan Kalınağa, Ayşenil Şamlıoğlu, Başak Köklükaya, Berfu Öngören, Fatih Sevdi, Güçlü Yalçıner, İbrahim Selim, Melih Düzenli, Murat Kılıç, Nalan Kuruçim, Öykü Karayel, Sedat Kalkavan, Süleyman Karaahmet, Yiğit Özşener

Director: Pelin Esmer

In Rounders, Matt Damon plays a law student and reformed poker player who is forced back into the game in order to help his newly-paroled best friend (Edward Norton) pay off overwhelming gambling debts. It’s an enjoyable insider’s look into the world of high stakes gambling and of Poker specifically, giving the viewer compelling insights into Poker in terms of strategy as well as human psychology. Damon and Norton are well-cast in their roles — Norton particularly great as the sleazy and manipulative “Worm”. Not-overly-surprising in its storytelling, yet highly enjoyable from beginning to end, this one will appeal to fans of gambling and sports films, as well as those who enjoy modern film noir and pseudo-noir films with a nice dramatic edge.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam LeFevre, Alan Davidson, Allan Havey, Beeson Carroll, Bill Camp, Brian Anthony Wilson, Charlie Matthes, Chris Messina, David Zayas, Dominic Marcus, Edward Norton, Erik LaRay Harvey, Famke Janssen, Goran Visnjic, Gretchen Mol, Jay Boryea, Joe Zaloom, Joey Vega, John Di Benedetto, John Gallagher Jr., John Malkovich, John Turturro, Johnny Chan, Josh Mostel, Josh Pais, Kerry O'Malley, Kohl Sudduth, Lenny Clarke, Lenny Venito, Lisa Gorlitsky, Mario Mendoza, Martin Landau, Matt Damon, Melina Kanakaredes, Merwin Goldsmith, Michael Arkin, Michael Lombardi, Michael Rispoli, Michael Ryan Segal, Murphy Guyer, Neal Hemphill, Nicole Brier, P.J. Brown, Paul Cicero, Peter Yoshida, Ray Iannicelli, Richard Mawe, Sal Richards, Slava Schoot, Sonny Zito, Tom Aldredge, Tony Hoty

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

, 2014

A Brilliant Young Mind or X+Y is the story of a teenage English mathematics prodigy named Nathan (Asa Butterfield) who has difficulty understanding people, but finds comfort in numbers. When he is chosen to represent the United Kingdom at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), Nathan embarks on a journey in which he faces unexpected challenges, such as understanding the nature of love. This movie its so heart-warming, as you see this shy and socially awkward boy dealing with the world and unraveling his feelings.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Lawther, Alexa Davies, Asa Butterfield, Christina Low, Clare Burt, Eddie Marsan, Edward Baker-Close, Jake Davies, Jamie Ballard, Jo Yang, Martin McCann, Orion Lee, Percelle Ascott, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Shannon Beer, Suraj Rattu, Tasha Connor

Director: Morgan Matthews

Rating: PG-13

This is one of those movies people should watch without any prior knowledge. But if you must, it's about a small town priest (Brendan Gleeson) who is threatened with horrible events by a mysterious member of his perish. Dealing with the threat, the priest is also faced with both the various and never ending problems of his church as well as issues with his own family. Excruciatingly beautiful and extremely well-written.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aidan Gillen, Anabel Sweeney, Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, David McSavage, David Wilmot, Declan Conlon, Domhnall Gleeson, Dylan Moran, Gary Lydon, Isaach De Bankolé, Isaach De Bankolé, Kelly Reilly, Killian Scott, M. Emmet Walsh, Marie-Josée Croze, Marie-Josée Croze, Mark O'Halloran, Mícheál Óg Lane, Orla O'Rourke, Owen Sharpe, Pat Shortt

Director: John Michael McDonagh

Rating: R

In “The Way”, an American doctor, Tom (Martin Sheen), travels to Spain to identify the remains of his deceased son (Emilio Estevez, also writer/director) who has died while traveling "El Camino de Santiago”, the famous pilgrimage across Northern Spain. Once there, Tom unexpectedly finds himself inspired to continue his son’s journey, sprinkling his ashes along the lengthy expedition to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, home to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great. Along the way Tom gains several unlikely traveling companions: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irishman (James Nesbitt), each of whom has his/her own personal reasons for making the pilgrimage, with each adding various degrees of drama and humor to the proceedings as well. A touching and inspiring film marred a bit by some unnecessarily roughly-hewn characterizations, but overall a pleasant experience with a warm feeling of adventure and camaraderie throughout.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ángela Molina, Alfonso Delgado, Ángela Molina, Antonio Gil, Carlos Leal, David Alexanian, Deborah Kara Unger, Emilio Estevez, Eusebio Lázaro, James Nesbitt, Martin Sheen, Matt Clark, Omar Muñoz, Ramon Estevez, Renée Estevez, Romy Baskerville, Santi Prego, Simón Andreu, Simón Andreu, Spencer Garrett, Stéphane Dausse, Tchéky Karyo, Tchéky Karyo, Víctor Molero, Yorick van Wageningen

Director: Emilio Estevez

Rating: PG-13

This movie will first confuse your perception of the narrative with a feud involving the two magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale), but you will soon be hooked by the twists and turns of the plot. The unveiling of the mystery will leave you in awe, however it is the storytelling and the process that Christopher Nolan puts together so beautifully that is the greatest thing about this movie.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Andy Serkis, Anthony De Marco, Brian Tahash, Chao Li Chi, Chi Chaoli, Chris Cleveland, Christian Bale, Christopher Neame, Daniel Davis, David Bowie, Edward Hibbert, Enn Reitel, Erin Cipolletti, Ezra Buzzington, Gary Sievers, Hugh Jackman, James Lancaster, James Otis, Jamie Harris, Jim Piddock, Jodi Bianca Wise, John B. Crye, Johnny Liska, Kevin Will, Mark Ryan, Michael Caine, Monty Stuart, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Ricky Jay, Robert W. Arbogast, Rock Anthony, Roger Rees, Ron Perkins, Russ Fega, Samantha Mahurin, Scarlett Johansson, Tim Pilleri, William Morgan Sheppard

Director: Christopher Nolan

Rating: PG-13

One of the best, twistiest con movies in recent memory. Seasoned con artist Marcos takes young Juan under his wing after witnessing him pull a bill-switching scam in a deli. Soon Juan is learning the game and the two are roped into trying to pull off the largest scam in Marcos’ storied career, the selling of a set of incredibly rare stamps (the “nine queens” of the title). Along the way they will have to deal with a rotating cast of schemers, thieves, crooks -- and Marcos’ estranged sister. A superior little crime thriller, this one will have you guessing right up until the end.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alejandro Awada, Antonio Ugo, Carlos Lanari, Claudio Rissi, Elsa Berenguer, Ernesto Arias, Gabo Correa, Gabriel Molinelli, Gastón Pauls, Graciela Tenenbaum, Ignasi Abadal, Jorge Noya, Leo Dyzen, Leticia Brédice, Maria Mercedes Villagra, Oscar Nunez, Pochi Ducasse, Ricardo Darín, Ricardo Diaz Mourelle, Roberto Rey, Roly Serrano, Tomas Fonzi

Director: Fabián Bielinsky

Rating: R