8 Movies Like The Secret Life of Pets (2016)

Staff & contributors
Told in urgent fashion with first-hand accounts from cyber professionals from around the globe, Zero Days is a fascinating and alarming documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus. Originally codenamed “Olympic Games” by the people that fathered the worm, Stuxnet is a virus in the true sense of the word. It not only maliciously feeds off the host, but it also replicates itself as soon as it is implanted, which is exactly what it did when it was used by the US and Israeli secret services to sabotage centrifuges inside Iran's Natanz nuclear plant—making them spin out of control. All this is brilliantly unpacked by renowned documentary maker Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), who manages not only to detail the complexities of advanced coding in a remarkably evocative manner, but also to send out a well-researched alarm call about the future of war. Ultimately, the message here is that cyber warfare is very much part of our new shared reality. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who is even remotely concerned about global security in the 21st century.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Allison Cohn, Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, David Sanger, Emad Kiyaei, Eric Chien, Eugene Kaspersky, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Joanne Tucker, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Sergey Ulasen, Tadashi Mitsui, Vitaly Kamluk, Yossi Melman

Director: Alex Gibney

Rating: PG-13

My Life as a Zucchini (or Courgette in Europe) is unlike any kids' movie you'll see in America. It isn't afraid to be honest about children's feelings, no matter how dark or sad, nor is it afraid to be frank about things like intimacy and abuse. It understands that kids need these kinds of narratives too, and sometimes they need to hear them without being pandered to. 

There is an openness to it that makes it comforting to adults as well. Lines like “Sometimes, we cry because we’re happy," are so deceptively simple and tender that they'll catch you off guard. Couple this seemingly endless reserve of empathy with adorable, almost melancholic stop-motion animation and you get a film that will have you floored for days, regardless of your age.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Romance

Actor: Adrien Barazzone, Brigitte Rosset, Iannis Jaccoud, Michel Vuillermoz, Monica Budde, Natacha Koutchoumov, Paulin Jaccoud, Sixtine Murat, Véronique Montel

Director: Claude Barras

Rating: PG-13

This startling debut from Chinese director Bi Gan is a mesmerizing synthesis of cinema and poetry. A man searching for his nephew goes on a journey that blurs the boundaries between time and space, and dreams and reality. All this is expressed through gorgeous and understated camerawork reminiscent of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s languorous lens. However, Bi Gan’s style is all his own, including spectacular long takes whose sophistication and complexity only become apparent once they are done. 

Kaili Blues’ hypnotic aesthetics are like a mud bath for you to soak and luxuriate in. There are no easy answers for putting together its past/present/future puzzle-box, and it’s best to leave the deconstructions for later viewings as repeated trips to Bi Gan’s dreamy recreation of his hometown will reveal even more.

 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Chen Yongzhong, Feiyang Luo, Guo Yue, Linyan Liu, Yongzhong Chen, Yue Guo

Director: Bi Gan

Similar in spirit and in subject matter to the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, The Wrecking Crew pulls back the curtain on the recording of many of the greatest American songs of the 1960s and '70s: that a single group of unassuming session musicians were responsible for bringing out the sound in these tracks. The film is a treasure trove for musicians and music fans, making you hear certain instrumental nuances in a different light and deepening your perception of music between what was written and what was recorded. Then inevitably and tragically, the realization sets in that few—if any—of these musicians have received the recognition they truly deserve, as essential but unfairly small parts of a music industry ecosystem that often cares more about image and entertainment than musicianship.

Genre: Documentary, Family, Music

Actor: Adam West, Al Casey, Al Jardine, Annette Funicello, Bones Howe, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Carol Kaye, Cher, Dean Martin, Dick Clark, Don Randi, Eva Gabor, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frankie Avalon, Glen Campbell, Graham Nash, Hal Blaine, Herb Alpert, Jan Berry, Jimmy Webb, Jody McCrea, Lou Adler, Micky Dolenz, Mike Love, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Tork, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny Bono, Tommy Kirk, Tommy Sands

Director: Denny Tedesco

Even if it seems like nothing really "happens" for much of The Secret Garden, its characters paint quite the moving picture of neglected children and their indomitable capacity to find hope in the world. Director Agnieszka Holland tells this story with just the right amount of whimsy: at times it's spooky and magical, but everything is grounded in the charming performances of the film's young actors, who are allowed to be difficult, smart, and sorrowful whenever they need to be. It may be old-fashioned, but watching it in this new decade—when we're all trying to guard our kids from sickness and death—makes it feel all the more relevant.

Genre: Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrea Pickering, Andrew Knott, Arthur Spreckley, Colin Bruce, David Stoll, Eileen Page, Heydon Prowse, Irène Jacob, John Lynch, Kate Maberly, Laura Crossley, Maggie Smith, Peter Moreton, Walter Sparrow

Director: Agnieszka Holland

Rating: G

At first glance, The Madness of King George seemed like a history lesson about King George III. Like plenty of British royalty dramas, the film has all the opulent trappings in its sets and costumes, as well as some of the best actors from the British isles. However, unlike other depictions of the monarchy, the film depicts the king not as a benevolent ruler or oppressive tyrant– instead, King George III is terribly human, with his memory failing, being unsettled by loss, and concern over his health, which involves having to look at his urine. But the historical satire, based on the 1991 stage play, still manages to have the same mockery towards the opportunistic court, while still retaining sympathy for the very nobility it mocks, through original playwright Alan Bennett’s adept writing, as well as the excellent performance of the stacked ensemble cast.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bennett, Amanda Donohoe, Anthony Calf, Barry Stanton, Caroline Harker, Charlotte Curley, Clive Brunt, Colin McPhillamy, Cyril Shaps, David Leon, Dermot Keaney, Geoffrey Palmer, Helen Mirren, Iain Mitchell, Ian Holm, Janine Duvitski, Jeremy Child, Jim Carter, Joanna Hall, John Wood, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Julian Wadham, Michael Grandage, Nicholas Irons, Nicholas Selby, Nick Sampson, Nigel Hawthorne, Paul Corrigan, Peter Woodthorpe, Robert Swann, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Roger Hammond, Rupert Everett, Rupert Graves, Selina Cadell, Struan Rodger

Director: Nicholas Hytner

Rating: PG-13

This is a movie with which you can easily connect. I have never experienced such deep connection and feelings towards characters. Seven friends get together for a dinner, and they decide to share every text message, email, and phone call they receive. The difference we all have to some degree between our public selves and private lives is the same one that comes out and threatens the balance between these long time friends. The film may feel a bit claustrophobic for some but that same feeling allows you to laugh, to shiver, and to even feel the deepest sorrow alongside the characters. For me this is a must watch.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alba Rohrwacher, Anna Foglietta, Benedetta Porcaroli, Edoardo Leo, Elisabetta De Palo, Giuseppe Battiston, Kasia Smutniak, Marco Giallini, Tommaso Tatafiore, Valerio Mastandrea

Director: Paolo Genovese

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

When it comes to films depicting America’s history of racism, many white produced films tend to be centered on a white savior. At best, this is just patting each other on the back for actions done a generation or two ago. At worst, it tends to be outright historical revisionism. The difference between these and The Long Walk is that, while clearly made for a white audience, the film doesn’t crown Sissy Spacek’s character as a messiah, but her choice to help the boycott anyway is a message worth depicting, even if it’s small, even if it isn’t the typical, single-handed salvation Hollywood is used to doling out. While the white narrator adds unnecessary distance, and while it would have been better to see more of Whoopi Goldberg in the non-comic role of Odessa Cotter, The Long Walk cares about the everyday, and that’s what makes it mostly work.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Afemo Omilami, Chelcie Ross, Cherene Snow, Dan Butler, Dwight Schultz, Dylan Baker, Erika Alexander, Graham Timbes, Haynes Brooke, Jason Weaver, Kevin Thigpen, Lexi Randall, Mary Steenburgen, Nancy Moore Atchison, Norman Matlock, Philip Sterling, Rebecca Wackler, Richard Habersham, Schuyler Fisk, Sissy Spacek, Ving Rhames, Whoopi Goldberg

Director: Richard Pearce

Rating: PG