12 Movies Like The Mauritanian (2021)

Staff & contributors
While quite testing for viewers, this is one of the craziest, most high-energy movies you'll ever watch. In this incredible German drama, child actor Helena Zengel plays Bernadette aka Benni, a traumatized 9-year-old child who tends to lash out and has been repeatedly suspended from every school she went to. Benni is a so-called “Systemsprenger” (which is the original German title). A system crasher is a child so uncontrollable and aggressive that, over time, she falls through the grid of special schools, foster care, and social work facilities. Despite the best efforts of her designated social worker, Frau Bafané, played by Gabriela Maria Schmeide, she is turned down by everyone, testing the patience of her surroundings, wherever she goes. A trip with Micha (Albrecht Schuch), a tough boxer and anger-management trainer, turns out to be the last resort. Directed by Nora Fingscheidt, System Crasher is intense, punky, and wild with an almost eerie sense of authenticity. Its devastating effect is helped along by its unique, hyperactive camerawork. Much like the social workers themselves, you might have a hard time keeping professional distance to all this. This intense drama will stay with you for a long time.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Albrecht Schuch, Axel Werner, Barbara Philipp, Bärbel Schwarz, Bruno Thiel, Cederic Mardon, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Gisa Flake, Helena Zengel, Imke Büchel, Jana Julia Roth, Julia Becker, Lisa Hagmeister, Louis von Klipstein, Maryam Zaree, Matthias Brenner, Melanie Straub, Moritz Thiel, Peter Schneider, Roland Bonjour, Steffi Kuhnert, Tedros Teclebrhan, Till Butterbach, Victoria Trauttmansdorff

Director: Nora Fingscheidt

Rating: 12

This Oscar-nominated drama tells the story of the events leading up to the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8372 Bosnian Muslims were killed. It focuses on one U.N. worker who was caught between trying to protect her family, herself, and helping people in need.

The film is as horrific as it is relevant: up until the actual killing starts, people are constantly being assured that everything is under control and that there is no reason to panic. This gives an eerie feeling of resemblance to the tone many minorities in distress receive nowadays.

Still, Quo Vadis, Aida? stops at depicting any of the acts that were committed that day. Instead, it focuses on Aida’s unrelenting race against the clock to save whatever she can.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Alban Ukaj, Boris Isaković, Boris Ler, Dino Bajrović, Dražen Pavlović, Emina Muftić, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Ermin Bravo, Ermin Sijamija, Izudin Bajrović, Jasna Đuričić, Job Raaijmakers, Joes Brauers, Johan Heldenbergh, Juda Goslinga, Micha Hulshof, Raymond Thiry, Reinout Bussemaker, Rijad Gvozden, Sanne den Hartogh, Sol Vinken, Teun Luijkx

Director: Jasmila Žbanić

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, and Jon Hamm are among the many recognizable faces of this star-packed political drama.

Driver, pictured above in his ‘I’m goofy but I will save the world’ signature stare 😍, plays Daniel J. Jones, an investigator working with the Senate. He is assigned to write a report (“the” report) about the CIA torture program post 9/11.

If you so much as liked Vice, the hit movie from earlier this year, you will love The Report. It covers similar grounds: incompetency, unclear intentions, confusion, etc; but in a way that is more to-the-point (which might make it feel dry to some). It also helps in understanding or getting a refresher on, how the Senate works and how organizations like the CIA interact with (bully) other branches of government. 

I would almost go as far as to say that if you are a U.S. citizen, watching this movie, with its many goofy Adam Driver moments, is your civic duty.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Driver, Alexander Chaplin, Annette Bening, April Rogalski, Austin Michael Young, Ben McKenzie, Carlos Gómez, Corey Stoll, Daniel London, Dominic Fumusa, Douglas Hodge, Evander Duck Jr., Fajer Kaisi, Guy Boyd, Hope Blackstock, Ian Blackman, Jake Silbermann, James Hindman, Jennifer Morrison, Joanne Tucker, John Rothman, Jon Hamm, Joseph Siravo, Julia K. Murney, Kate Beahan, Linda Powell, Lucas Dixon, Matthew Rhys, Maura Tierney, Michael C. Hall, Noah Bean, Pun Bandhu, Ratnesh Dubey, Sandra Landers, Sarah Goldberg, Scott Shepherd, Sean Dugan, T. Ryder Smith, Ted Levine, Tim Blake Nelson, Victor Slezak, West Duchovny, Zuhdi Boueri

Director: Scott Z. Burns

Rating: R

The Father is a compelling inner look at the ways dementia distorts memories. By occupying the unstable headspace of 80-year-old Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), the film allows us to experience his frustration and confusion firsthand. We, too, are unsure about the ever-shifting details we’re presented with. Conversations are circular and time seems inexistent. The faces we know are swapped with names we don’t know. Even the tiniest elements, such as the wall tiles and door handles, are constantly changing in the background. We grasp for the slippery truth with Anthony but always come up empty and unsure.

In a thoughtful move by director Florian Zeller, we also get a glimpse of the lives surrounding Anthony. The daughter Anne (Olivia Colman), in particular, is often the victim of her father’s tirades, but she takes care of him still, conflicted as to where to draw the line between his needs and hers. 

With its fluid editing, subtle detail-swaps, and empathic portrayal of characters, The Father is just as technically impressive as it is movingly kind.

Genre: Drama, Family, Mystery

Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Ayesha Dharker, Brian Rodger, Evie Wray, Imogen Poots, Mark Gatiss, Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Roman Zeller, Romulus Stoicescu, Rufus Sewell, Scott Mullins

Director: Florian Zeller

Rating: PG-13

Asako is in love with Baku—deeply and almost delusionally, in a way that can only manifest in young love. But when the freewheeling Baku ghosts Asako for good, she moves from Osaka all the way to Tokyo to start a new life. Years later, she's startled to meet Baku's doppelganger in Ryohei, an office man whose solid dependability and lack of artfulness, while endearing, could not place him any further from Baku. Confused and lonely, Asako tiptoes around her feelings for Ryohei and, in the process, raises thought-provoking questions about the meaning, ethics, and true purpose of love.

 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ariei Umefune, Atsushi Kaneshige, Daichi Watanabe, Erika Karata, Fusako Urabe, Koji Nakamoto, Koji Seto, Maki Nishiyama, Masahiro Higashide, Misako Tanaka, Nao Okabe, Rio Yamashita, Ryotaro Yonemura, Sairi Ito, Takeshi Ōnishi

Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Rating: Not Rated

, 2020

This intimate and personal film is about Sibil Fox Rich, an entrepreneur and mother of six. Fox is driven by an unparalleled, contagious determination to succeed — so present in the mix of video diaries and present-day footage of her in Time.

For the past 20 years, Rich has channeled that tenacity towards the release of her husband, who is serving a 60-year sentence.

Through the video diaries and family footage, Time feels almost too personal. It’s like stepping into a person’s most intimate moments for 81 minutes, with all their ups and downs.

It could be seen as a commentary on the deeply flawed American justice system, but at its core Time is an uplifting portrayal of resilience, true, long-lasting love (she and her husband were high-school sweethearts), and boundless hope.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Fox Rich, Freedom Rich, Laurence M. Rich, Rob Rich II

Director: Garrett Bradley

Rating: PG-13

The Painter and the Thief opens with a great hook: an artist tracks down and confronts the man who stole her painting. In a surprising turn, the two become close and develop an intimacy that deepens when she begins to paint the troubled man.

Yet, director Benjamin Ree pushes past where other documentarians would have been content to stop, and instead begins to deconstruct the very narrative we’ve followed up till now. At its core, this is a film about the way we tell stories about ourselves and others, and how often people don’t fit into the neat categories we set out for them.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Bjørn Inge Nordland, Karl-Bertil Nordland

Director: Benjamin Ree

A young lawyer has to defend a murderer after passing the bar only three months prior in this satisfying German drama. To make matters worse, the victim happens to be his mentor, a wealthy and seemingly kind-hearted business man. As for the perpetrator, he refuses to say a single word. Caspar, the lawyer, is from a German-Turkish background, which is a hint to where the complexity of this legal drama lies: in Germany's history and racial legacy. The Collini Case is satisfying to a fault, but if you’re looking for substance-filled entertainment, this is some of the best you’ll get.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Maria Lara, Anne Haug, Axel Moustache, Bettina Lohmeyer, Catrin Striebeck, Elyas M'Barek, Esther Maria Pietsch, Falk Rockstroh, Felix Everding, Franco Nero, Frederik Götz, Hannes Wegener, Heiner Lauterbach, Ilknur Boyraz, Jannis Niewöhner, Levi Kirchhoff, Ludwig Simon, Lutz Blochberger, Manfred Zapatka, Margarethe Tiesel, Max Wagner, Omid Memar, Peter Prager, Pia Stutzenstein, Rainer Bock, Sabine Timoteo, Sandro Di Stefano, Sina Reiß, Stefano Cassetti, Stephan Schad, Tara Fischer, Thomas Limpinsel, Thomas Stecher, Tom Jahn

Director: Marco Kreuzpaintner

Rating: Not Rated

This lovely comedy-romance from Ireland is about a closeted gay teen and his lesbian schoolmate who pretend to be in a relationship to avoid being bullied at their school.

This premise makes Dating Amber an original story in a genre in which that's increasingly rare. This is added to the setting, in 1995 rural Ireland, which is executed to gorgeous perfection in everything from the clothes to the music. 

Dating Amber ends up being more coming-of-age than a comedy-romance. It's a tale of friendship and self-acceptance.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Carolan, Ally Ni Chiarain, Anastasia Blake, Andrew Bennett, Arian Nik, Art Campion, Barry Ward, Corey Millar, Emma Willis, Eva O'Connor, Evan O'Connor, Fionn O'Shea, Fionn O'Shea, Ian O'Reilly, Ian O'Reilly, Jonny Woo, Karl Rice, Lauryn Canny, Lola Petticrew, Peter Campion, Sharon Horgan, Shauna Higgins, Simone Kirby, Tara Flynn

Director: David Freyne

Don't let the title and poster fool you—Riders of Justice isn't the testosterone-filled action flick you'd expect going in (though it does get ridiculous at some points). It centers on deployed military man Markus, played by the appropriately masculine Mads Mikkelsen, who has to return home to his teenage daughter Mathilde after his wife dies in an accident. Instead of coping normally and sticking with his daughter to get through the tragedy, he goes down a rabbit hole discovering how the accident that killed his wife is more than just bad luck and may have been collateral damage from a gang orchestrating an assassination.

Surprisingly, director Anders Thomas Jensen injects this violent film with a lot of gentle moments about trauma and togetherness. Mikkelsen and the rest of the cast play off of each other very well, using dark humor to bring together a bunch of characters who are, in oversimplified terms, "fucked up but trying their best."

It may seem like the guns, blood, and badass moments are a front for this film that, at its core, shows men who badly need therapy banding together to cope with the harshness of life. Extremely funny and deeply moving, it qualifies as a heartwarming Christmas movie, believe it or not.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Albert Rudbeck Lindhardt, Alice E. Bier Zandén, Anders Nyborg, Andrea Heick Gadeberg, Anne Birgitte Lind, Anne Fletting, Christina Ibsen Meyer, Gustav Dyekjær Giese, Gustav Lindh, Henrik Noël Olesen, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Jesper Groth, Jesper Ole Feit Andersen, Johanne Dal-Lewkovitch, Kaspar Velberg, Klaus Hjuler, Lars Brygmann, Mads Mikkelsen, Morten Suurballe, Natasja Crone, Nicolas Bro, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Omar Shargawi, Peder Holm Johansen, Raivo Trass, Rigmor Ranthe, Rikke Louise Andersson, Roland Moller

Director: Anders Thomas Jensen

Palmer may not be treading new ground, but it does tackle relevant themes with impressive sensitivity. With Palmer (Justin Timberlake), it reveals the stigma that haunts ex-convicts well after they’ve redeemed themselves. And with Sam (a charming Ryder Allen), it brings to light the heartbreaking and often dangerous bigotry queer children face. These are heavy issues, but Palmer takes them on with the utmost care and compassion. Though it reads cheesy at times, the sweetness is a welcome note considering the more tragic turns narratives like this tend to take. Empathetic and hopeful, Palmer is a pleasant enough film about second chances and found families.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alisha Wainwright, Carson Minniear, Charmin Lee, Craig Sheffer, Dane Rhodes, Dean Winters, Fisher Stevens, Hero Hunter, J.D. Evermore, Jake Brennan, Jesse C. Boyd, June Squibb, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Lance E. Nichols, Molly Sue Harrison, Nicholas X. Parsons, Ray Gaspard, Ryder Allen, Stacie Davis, Stephen Louis Grush, Theodus Crane, Wynn Everett

Director: Fisher Stevens

Rating: R

Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck star in this comedy-drama as a small-town couple, one of whom gets diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their best friend (Jason Segel) puts his life on hold and moves in with them, picking up the husband when he faints at the hospital, shaving his head in solidarity with the wife, and even taking care of the dog who also gets sick.

It might seem like just another terminal illness drama, but Our Friend is based on a true story, and it’s as much about the illness as it is about how to be there for people, and reversely, the power of people being there for you.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ahna O'Reilly, Azita Ghanizada, Casey Affleck, Chandler Head, Cherry Jones, Dakota Johnson, Denée Benton, Gerald Brodin, Gwendoline Christie, Hali Everette, Isabella Kai, Jacinte Blankenship, Jake Owen, Jason Bayle, Jason Segel, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Jeronimo Spinx, John McConnell, Lindsey Reimann, Marielle Scott, Mark Costello, Michael Papajohn, Mike Lutz, Paige King, Reed Diamond, Richard Speight Jr., Ritchie Montgomery, Sampley Barinaga, Susan Williams, T.C. Matherne, Violet McGraw

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite