19 Movies Like The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching The Squid and the Whale ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film is a strikingly realistic take on divorce and the turmoil it sets on an already-dysfunctional family. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a selfish decadent writer who’s splitting with his unfaithful wife Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), are taking different sides that reflect their personality. This separation only reinforces their insecurities as they quickly fall into depression and grow away from their friends. The parents, however, find unconventional lovers just as quickly, Bernard with a student of his, and Jane with her son’s tennis coach. The Squid and the Whale is a funny, emotional, and gripping story that finds a perfect balance in tone despite dealing with bitter divorce and troubled adolescence.

Understated in budget but lavished with praise, this semi-autobiographical drama by Daniel Destin Cretton flings its audience into the chaotic lives and personal crises of at-risk youths and the passionate social workers that aid them. In his first feature film, the young director draws the viewers into the storm of events and the emotional ups-and-downs of social work in America, going from uplifting to depressing and back – and every emotion in-between.

Set in the real-life and eponymous group home Short Term 12, devoted but troubled foster-care worker Grace is played by Brie Larson, whose shining performance in her first leading role was lauded by critics. Fans will also recognize the supporting actors Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek, who broke out in this movie. Short Term 12 is now considered one of the most important movies of 2013 – some say of the decade – owing to its immaculate writing, intimate camerawork, and gripping performances.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Calloway, Angelina Assereto, Brie Larson, Diana Maria Riva, Frantz Turner, Harold Cannon, Joel P. West, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Kevin Hernandez, Lakeith Stanfield, Lydia Du Veaux, Melora Walters, Michelle Nordahl, Mohammad Shiravi, Rami Malek, Silvia Curiel, Stephanie Beatriz

Director: Destin Cretton, Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: R

A hot summer night, around 2 a.m. You're outside talking with a close friend about life, happiness, and the human condition. That quality and depth of conversation, which you reach at best a couple of times a year is present throughout the 106 minutes of The End of the Tour.

In the case of this movie, you become the witness of five days of conversation spent between two fine writers: the once-in-a-generation American author David Foster Wallace and best-selling Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky, as they travel the US during the 1996 publicity tour for the former's magnum opus, Infinite Jest. Twelve years later Wallace will commit suicide.

Like a good podcast, the James-Ponsoldt-directed road movie makes you feel being part of a deeply personal conversation of the kind you would have with a long-time friend. At times, it can feel like eavesdropping on a genius at work. This effect is helped along by a flawless Jason Segal, who delivers an award-worthy performance as DFW. The fierce intelligence exuded by Jesse Eisenberg as David Lipsky is also nothing short of amazing. As they stuff their faces with junk food, their conversation is insightful, immediate, and unpretentiously relevant, making The End of the Tour a rare and important film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anna Chlumsky, Becky Ann Baker, Dan John Miller, Jason Segel, Jesse Eisenberg, Joan Cusack, Joel Thingvall, Johnny Otto, Mamie Gummer, Mickey Sumner, Punnavith Koy, Ron Livingston, Ryan J. Gilmer, Stephanie Cotton

Director: James Ponsoldt

Rating: R

Based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando is a fitting adaptation for a groundbreaking story. Changing from man to woman, the titular time traveler is portrayed by the incomparable Tilda Swinton, breaking the fourth wall as if daring anyone to question her casting. But Swinton’s androgynous look and stellar acting make her the perfect choice for this. Her gaze is the anchor that we hold on to as the film glides through the novel’s multiple themes with ease. Through director Grace Potter’s indescribable vision, they create a fantastic film that blurs gender, sex, identity, and time together with the original novel itself.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Andrew Watts, Anna Farnworth, Anna Healy, Barbara Hicks, Billy Zane, Charlotte Valandrey, Cyril Lecomte, Dudley Sutton, George Antoni, Giles Taylor, Heathcote Williams, Hugh Munro, Jerome Willis, Jessica Swinton, Jimmy Somerville, John Grillo, John Wood, Kathryn Hunter, Lothaire Bluteau, Martin Wimbush, Mary MacLeod, Matthew Sim, Ned Sherrin, Oleg Pogodin, Olivia Lancelot, Peter Eyre, Quentin Crisp, Robert Demeger, Roger Hammond, Sara Mair-Thomas, Sarah Crowden, Simon Russell Beale, Terence Soall, Thom Hoffman, Tilda Swinton, Toby Jones, Toby Stephens, Viktor Stepanov

Director: Sally Potter

Rating: PG-13

What’s great about this highly inventive film is that it doesn’t look like it was shot through three iPhone 5s. Instead of using shaky cameras and static shots, Tangerine glides us through saturated, orange-toned scenes that evoke the Los Angeles sunset. Launching director Sean Baker into prominence, Tangerine is an innovative film that, at heart, is a nuanced comedy about the trans sex worker community. Newcomers Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor run the show, and their performances create a vivid, electric drive that powers the whole movie. But it’s the quieter moments, the moments after betrayal, the moments of recovery, that make this movie truly special.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alla Tumanian, Ana Foxxx, Arsen Grigoryan, Chelcie Lynn, Chris Bergoch, Clu Gulager, Darren Dean, Graham Mackie, Ian Edwards, James Ransone, Jason Stuart, John Gulager, Josh Sussman, Julie Cummings, Karren Karagulian, Katja Kassin, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Luiza Nersisyan, Melanie Booth, Mickey O'Hagen, Mickey O'Hagan, Mya Taylor, Richard-Lael Lillard, Scott Krinsky, Scott Lyons, Shih-Ching Tsou

Director: Sean Baker

Rating: R

We’ve heard of films within a film, but it’s crazy how many layers Through the Olive Trees operates in. Writer-director Abbas Kiarostami completes his metanarrative journey in the Koker trilogy through a slice-of-life comedy about a couple in the periphery of the previous installment And Life Goes On. As the young man Hossein repeats his plea for marriage to Tahereh, casted as his wife, the insistence can be slightly grating, but in doing so, the everyday dealings of the Iranian village hint at what’s underneath– the earthquake from four years ago that still shapes their lives, the socioeconomic and culture barriers, and the mirrored struggle of creating the artistic vision of the film within the film.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abbas Kiarostami, Farhad Kheradmand, Hossein Rezai, Jafar Panahi, Mohammadali Keshavarz, Tahereh Ladanian, Zarifeh Shiva

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Paul Giamatti, man. Ever watched Win/Win? What a performance. I didn’t think he could do any better than that. But here he did. This movie is now on Netflix. It’s about a couple that is trying to have a kid but can’t. Their frustration grows, but so does their willingness to do whatever it takes to become parents. They try to adopt, go to fertility clinics and ultimately ask their niece to donate her eggs. To really work, such a plot requires well-written, multifaceted characters one can relate to. I did, and it really worked.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alyssa Cheatham, Amaya Press, Caroline Martin, Danny Deferrari, Denis O'Hare, Desmin Borges, Emily Robinson, Fenton Lawless, Francesca Root-Dodson, Gabrielle Reidy, Hettienne Park, John Carroll Lynch, Kathryn Hahn, Katrine Hoyt, Kayli Carter, Kelly Miller, Kerry Flanagan, Lizzy DeClement, Maddie Corman, Molly Shannon, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Buck, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Tracee Chimo

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Rating: R

A sincere portrayal of the gritty British working class life through the coming-of-age story of a girl who loves rap music and dancing to it. It features a stunning and powerful performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis who had no acting experience whatsoever, and who was cast in the street after she was spotted fighting. She plays Mia, a 15 year old teenager whose world changes drastically when her mother's new boyfriend (played by Michael Fassbender) turns his eyes to her. Don't watch this movie if you are looking for a no-brainer, definitely do watch it if you are interested in films that realistically portray others' lives and let you into them.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anthony Geary, Carrie-Ann Savill, Charlotte Collins, Grant Wild, Harry Treadaway, Jack Gordon, Jason Maza, Joanna Horton, Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Michael Fassbender, Raquel Thomas, Rebecca Griffiths, Sarah Bayes, Sydney Mary Nash, Toyin Ogidi

Director: Andrea Arnold

Rating: Not Rated

A film written by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as he struggles to adapt a book about poaching a rare plant into a successful movie. Through Kaufman's clever writing and Spike Jones' unique style of directing, the film unfolds using "mise en abîme" as the viewer sees the lessons the writer in film comes across to improve his script more or less subtly influence the events he encounters as the narrative advances. Nicolas Cage's performance is also particularly good as a highly intelligent and self-obsessed screen writer with low self-esteem.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Bob Stephenson, Bob Yerkes, Brian Cox, Cara Seymour, Caron Colvett, Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, Curt Clendenin, Curtis Hanson, David O. Russell, Donald Dowd, Doug Jones, Gary Farmer, Gregory Itzin, Jay Tavare, Jim Beaver, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Judy Greer, Larry Krask, Lisa Love, Litefoot, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Nancy Lenehan, Nicolas Cage, Peter Jason, Roger E. Fanter, Roger Willie, Ron Livingston, Sandra Lee Gimpel, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tilda Swinton

Director: Spike Jonze

Rating: R

Don’t worry.

Adam Sandler doesn’t suck here.

This is a beautiful family comedy directed by Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha, The Squid and the Whale). 

Sandler plays a recently divorced man (as he tends to do) called Danny (as he’s usually called). Danny moves in with his father, played by Dustin Hoffman, who himself is dealing with feelings of failure.

Both of them are joined by other members of the family, including Danny’s half-brother, played by Ben Stiller. Their family dynamics are portrayed in a beautiful and sometimes moving way. Director Baumbach proves he’s so good, he can make even Adam Sandler sound and look genuine.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam David Thompson, Adam Driver, Adam Sandler, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Barbara Danicka, Ben Stiller, Benjamin Thys, Candice Bergen, Carlos Jacott, Cindy Cheung, Danny Flaherty, David Cromer, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson, Gayle Rankin, Germar Terrell Gardner, Gibson Frazier, Grace Van Patten, Greta Gerwig, Jake Perlin, James Hamilton, Jared Sandler, Jarrett Winters Morley, Jerry Matz, Joel Bernstein, Jordan Carlos, Josh Hamilton, Judd Hirsch, Justin Winley, Lyne Renee, Mandy Siegfried, Marquis Rodriguez, Matthew Shear, McManus Woodend, Michael Chernus, Mickey Sumner, Nico Baumbach, Rebecca Miller, Ronald Peet, Sakina Jaffrey, Sigourney Weaver, Teniel Humeston, Victor Cruz

Director: Noah Baumbach

Rating: TV-MA

If it weren’t for his knack for writing, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) would never have gotten into a prep school like Rushmore. But his art secures him a scholarship, and what he lacks in smarts and money, he makes up for in school pride. As he flunks more and more of his academics, however, he is eventually kicked out, and it’s outside the halls of his beloved Rushmore, stripped of all titles and insignia, where he learns to be his true self.  

As the film’s comedic and emotional core, Schwartzman is a revelation as the ambitious and sharp-tongued Max. Equally captivating is Bill Murray’s deadpan but lovable turn as Max’s millionaire friend, Herman Blume. It’s a role so fitting, in fact, that the poor-rich-man character will follow Murray well into his career, long after the curtains close on Mr. Blume. Meanwhile, Wes Anderson will go on to do more colorful and stylized pictures than Rushmore, but thanks to its unbeatable wit and down-to-earth charm, the film remains to be one of the auteur’s most delightful and hilarious works to date. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexis Bledel, Andrew Wilson, Antoni Scarano, Bill Murray, Brandon Trost, Brian Cox, Brian Tenenbaum, Connie Nielsen, Dipak Pallana, Ed Geldart, Eric Chase Anderson, George Farish, Jason Schwartzman, Jason Trost, Kim Terry, Kumar Pallana, Lucille Sadikin, Luke Wilson, Marietta Marich, Mason Gamble, Morgan Redmond, Olivia Williams, Paul Schiff, Sara Tanaka, Seymour Cassel, Stephen Dignan, Stephen McCole, Wallace Wolodarsky

Director: Wes Anderson

Often considered Claire Denis’ best film, Beau Travail is an epic exploration of both masculinity and colonialism. Inspired by Melville’s Billy Budd, she transplants the story to Djibouti where the French Foreign Legion run seemingly aimless drills in an arid desert landscape while largely alienated from the local community. 

Denis inverts the male gaze and imbues charged eroticism to the bodies in motion as the men train and wrestle. Accompanied by the music of Britten’s Billy Budd opera, these movements transform into a breathtaking modern dance. Underneath her jaw-dropping direction is a cutting allegory on repression, desire, and violence, working on both the individual and geopolitical level. This incredible tale is capped off by one of the best end credit sequences of all time. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adiatou Massudi, Bernardo Montet, Dan Herzberg, Denis Lavant, Gianfranco Poddighe, Grégoire Colin, Michel Subor, Mickael Ravovski, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Richard Courcet

Director: Claire Denis

Rating: Unrated

Before he developed his signature dollhouse visual style, Wes Anderson made his feature debut with this lowkey, heartwarming, and decidedly not-symmetrically-perfect comedy about a bunch of misfits. Bottle Rocket isn’t as much of an outlier in its director’s storied filmography as might initially seem, however. Written in partnership with college buddy Owen Wilson — who, along with brothers Luke and Andrew, made his acting debut here — the film is delightfully offbeat and unexpectedly moving in the way we’ve come to expect from Anderson. 

Dignan (Owen Wilson) and Anthony (Luke Wilson) are two drifting, boyish twenty-somethings, although only Anthony seems aware of his directionlessness, as Dignan has graciously developed a 50-year life plan for the two of them (complete with hilariously vague bullet-points such as “Make wise investments” and “Own multiple accommodations”). The means to these ambitious ends is a life of crime — specifically, pulling off grand heists. But Dignan’s meticulousness hasn’t accounted for distractions, and his madcap scheme falls at the first hurdle when Anthony falls in love with a housekeeper at the motel they hide out in (Lumi Cavazos). Their sweet romance is one of the film’s many delights, as is its barrelling deadpan humor, which never betrays the warmth of the Wilson brothers’ heartwarming depiction of ride-or-die friendship.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Andrew Wilson, Antonia Bogdanovich, Brian Tenenbaum, Darryl Cox, Dipak Pallana, James Caan, Jill Parker-Jones, Julio Cedillo, Kumar Pallana, Luke Wilson, Lumi Cavazos, Melinda Renna, Ned Dowd, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Russell Towery

Director: Wes Anderson

Rating: R

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York – but not the glamorous NYC of Woody Allen movies. Taking place primarily in the gritty and rapidly gentrifying North Brooklyn, the black and white film paints a picture of an extended adolescence. Focusing on the goofy and carefree Frances, who loses her boyfriend, her best friend and her dream of being a dancer. She moves in with two guys, both of whom are more successful than her, and becomes even more determined to fulfil her goals, impractical as they may be. Fans of HBO’s Girls and other odes to not being a “real person” yet will love this film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Driver, Britta Phillips, Charlotte d'Amboise, Christine Gerwig, Cindy Katz, Daiva Deupree, Dean Wareham, Eleanor Smith, Finnerty Steeves, Gibson Frazier, Gordon Gerwig, Grace Gummer, Greta Gerwig, Hannah Dunne, Isabelle McNally, Josh Hamilton, Juliet Rylance, Justine Lupe, Laura Parker, Lindsay Burdge, Marina Squerciati, Maya Kazan, Michael Esper, Michael Zegen, Michelle Hurst, Mickey Sumner, Noah Baumbach, Patrick Heusinger, Peter Scanavino, Ryann Shane, Teddy Cañez, Vanessa Ray

Director: Noah Baumbach

Rating: R

Already featuring some of the desperation and melancholy that would go on to characterize most of his work, Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight manages to draw palpable suspense and drama out of, essentially, three characters and a couple of seedy locations. We learn perhaps too little about these characters and why this veteran gambler is drawn to a young homeless man, but there's also something intriguing about how Anderson suggests much larger and much crueler stories going on just out of sight. It truly feels like these people are just trying to hold on to the smallest things that ease their pain—which works because of incredibly compelling work from Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, and a young Gwyneth Paltrow already at the top of her game.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Ernie Anderson, F. William Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Cross, John C. Reilly, Kathleen Campbell, Melora Walters, Nathanael Cooper, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Renee Breen, Richard Gross, Robert Ridgely, Samuel L. Jackson, Wendy Weidman, Wynn White

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Philipp Seymour Hoffman stars in this family drama next to Laura Linney as siblings. They have to unite to support their father who after the death of his girlfriend finds himself alone. The Savages, after the family name, have dynamics that are all too common and easily recognizable. This is a beautiful and real movie.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Cara Seymour, David Zayas, Debra Monk, Erica Berg, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Guy Boyd, Jennifer Lim, Joan Jaffe, Laura Linney, Maddie Corman, Margo Martindale, Michael Blackson, Peter Frechette, Peter Friedman, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosemary Murphy, Sage Kirkpatrick, Salem Ludwig, Sandra Daley, Sidné Anderson, Tonye Patano, Zoe Kazan

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Rating: R