5 Movies Like The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Staff & contributors

Mike Leigh’s forthright and compassionate depiction of working-class life extends to his period pieces as well. Imelda Staunton is remarkable as Vera Drake, a housekeeper in 1950’s London who quietly performs abortions on the side.

Leigh’s vigilant portrayal of class highlights the stark divide between abortion access for the poor and what is offered to the rich. The storytelling is simple and straightforward, he doesn’t over-sentimentalize or grandstand, but merely depicts conditions as they were. Meanwhile, Staunton’s Vera oozes so much fullness, warmth, and empathy, that the heartbreak that follows is mercilessly palpable. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Allan Corduner, Angela Curran, Anna Keaveney, Anthony O'Donnell, Billie Cook, Billy Seymour, Chris O'Dowd, Craig Conway, Daniel Mays, Eddie Marsan, Eileen Davies, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Fenella Woolgar, Gerard Monaco, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, Imelda Staunton, Jake Wood, James Payton, Jane Wood, Jeffry Wickham, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Griffiths, John Warman, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Lesley Sharp, Liz White, Marion Bailey, Martin Savage, Nicholas Jones, Nicky Henson, Nina Fry, Paul Jesson, Paul Raffield, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Richard Graham, Robert Putt, Rosie Cavaliero, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Troughton, Sandra Voe, Sid Mitchell, Simon Chandler, Sinéad Matthews, Tilly Vosburgh, Tom Ellis, Vincent Franklin, Vinette Robinson, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

Ralph Fiennes plays a mild-mannered British diplomat in Kenya who is stunned by the news of his wife Tessa’s (Rachel Weisz) sudden death while in the company of another man. He sets off to investigate the suspicious death––and secret life–-of his late wife, within a tangle of personal betrayals, political threats, and corporate conspiracies. This film presents an exquisite contrast between Justin’s (Fiennes) gentle, contemplative demeanor and the progressively gripping details he uncovers; between rapturous romanticism and darkly corrupting interests. It’s a touching, smart, and suspenseful feast of a movie.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anneke Kim Sarnau, Archie Panjabi, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Donald Apiyo, Donald Sumpter, Gerard McSorley, Hubert Koundé, Jeffrey Caine, John Keogh, Juliet Aubrey, Nick Reding, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter King Nzioki, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Richard McCabe, Rupert Simonian, Sidede Onyulo, Teresa Harder, Thomas Chemnitz

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Rating: R

This forgotten gem is the perfect family movie. It stars Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as the two eccentric uncles of Walter, a shy city kid (played by Haley Joel Osment). When Walter moves in with his uncles in rural Texas, he first has a hard time adjusting to his new surroundings. However his routine is changed after he starts hearing local gossip about his uncles, and reminiscence spurs in all three an incredible eagerness for adventure. Secondhand Lions has gathered impressive cult following in the past few years, and rightfully so. Its fast-paced, entertaining yet substantial storyline shines a light on the amazing performances by the cast, and offers a surprising mix of funny, heartwarming and sad. Look out for the flashback scenes.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adam Ozturk, Adrian Pasdar, Billy Joe Shaver, Brian Stanton, Christian Kane, Dameon Clarke, Deirdre O'Connell, Deirdre OConnell, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Eric Balfour, Eugene Osment, Haley Joel Osment, Jason Douglas, Jennifer Stone, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Stevens, Josh Lucas, Kanin Howell, Kevin Haberer, Kyra Sedgwick, Marc Musso, Michael Caine, Michael O'Neill, Mitchel Musso, Morgana Shaw, Nick Price, Nicky Katt, Rick Dial, Robert Duvall, Rory Thost, Travis Willingham

Director: Tim McCanlies

Rating: PG

Great Freedom is not an easy watch. Apart from the quiet stretches of time and the claustrophobic confines of its prison setting, it also has its lead, Hans Hoffman (played with delicate force by Franz Rogowski) imprisoned again and again and again, unjustly treated like dirt by both his warden and fellow inmates.

But as a Jewish gay man who has lived through the war, Hans is no stranger to these trappings. As such, he takes each day as it comes, open to love, pleasure, and friendship, or at least the potential of these, despite the circumstances. And so Great Freedom is also hopeful and romantic, glimmering with the human tendency to not just survive but to live. Slow but compelling, subdued but powerful, Great Freedom is an affecting balancing act that's well worth watching. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance, War

Actor: Andreas Patton, Anton von Lucke, Fabian Stumm, Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Thomas Prenn, Thomas Stecher

Director: Sebastian Meise

The entirety of Pieces of April takes place on Thanksgiving Day, a busy holiday meant to bring loved ones together. Sure enough, April, the eldest Burns daughter, takes great pains to prepare a nice dinner for her visiting family. But we soon learn that she is motivated less by excitement than by dread: she's long been estranged, disowned even, by her uptight mother, Joy, who is only agreeing to come because she's sick with cancer. April seems to be on a reluctant mission to fix their fraught relationship, but pesky (albeit funny) mishaps, both on her and Joy's end, keep getting in the way. 

Shot digitally and very closely with hand-held cameras, Pieces of April looks as intimate as it feels. It's a snapshot of an era and of a particular family dynamic, one that relatably relies on both love and scorn to keep going. It's an excellent, honest, and underrated gem of a movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Alice Drummond, Alison Pill, Anney Giobbe, Armando Riesco, Birdie M. Hale, Derek Luke, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Jamari Richardson, John Gallagher Jr., Katie Holmes, Leila Danette, Lillias White, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Rusty De Wees, Sally Leung Bayer, Sean Hayes, Sisqó, Stephen Chen, Susan Bruce, Vitali Baganov

Director: Peter Hedges

Rating: PG-13