6 Movies Like The Starling (2021)

Staff & contributors

Belfast stars Outlander’s Caitríona Balfe as the mother of a working-class Northern Irish family during The Troubles. Religious tension and the lack of opportunities put the family in a difficult position: they're the first in many generations to think about leaving the city of Belfast. They all have to navigate so many difficult questions on belonging, religion, and identity.

The story,  based on the director’s own childhood, is packaged in a noise-canceling black and white format. Also stars Judi Dench.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Bríd Brennan, Caitriona Balfe, Chris McCurry, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, Conor MacNeill, Drew Dillon, Elly Condron, Gerard Horan, Gerard McCarthy, James O'Donnell, Jamie Dornan, John Sessions, Josie Walker, Jude Hill, Judi Dench, Kit Rakusen, Lara McDonnell, Leonard Buckley, Mairéad Tyers, Mark Hadfield, Michael Maloney, Olive Tennant, Oliver Savell, Orla McDonagh, Sid Sagar, Turlough Convery, Vanessa Ifediora, Victor Alli

Director: Kenneth Branagh

«When comedians get a bit older they do a movie with “emotions” in it. Here’s mine.» Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement on Twitter. People Places Things is exactly that, a funny yet heartfelt comedy. Will Henry, A New York City graphic novelist walks in on his girlfriend cheating on him at their kids’ birthday party. A year later, Will is struggling to define his new life as a single parent while still getting over his breakup. Smart, honest, and led by Jemaine Clement, this film will strike you in its simplicity but will hold you with its charm.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Aundrea Gadsby, Celia Au, Derrick Arthur, Dionne Audain, Gia Gadsby, Jemaine Clement, Jessica Williams, Matthew Maher, Michael Chernus, Nancy Eng, Paul Castro Jr., Regina Hall, Stephanie Allynne

Director: Jim Strouse

Rating: R

The story that Whale Rider tells is a familiar one: that of a young girl challenging the expectations of a patriarchal community in order to claim her rightful place in a position of authority. But this isn't a superficial girl-power movie; writer/director Niki Caro maintains the utmost reverence for this Māori community, even if its customs might not appear fair to an outsider's point of view. It's a film full of realistically flawed people, whose struggles are all borne from a common love for their culture in their little corner of the world. What could have been generic and simplistic is made beautiful—especially thanks to a truly moving performance from Keisha Castle-Hughes, who at the time became the youngest nominee for the Best Actress Oscar.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Rawiri Paratene, Tahei Simpson, Tammy Davis, Taungaroa Emile, Vicky Haughton

Director: Niki Caro

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

This atmospheric 82-minute French drama is set between 1995 and the present time, between a shy and lonely teenage version of the main character, Jonas, and an extroverted, chain-smoking one. The common thread between the two is a night gone wrong at a local gay bar.

I Am Jonas is a detailed portrait of a troubled, self-loathing character, and an exploration of the long-lasting impact of trauma experienced young.

Genre: Drama, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Aure Atika, David Baïot, Félix Maritaud, Franck Libert, Ilian Bergala, Marie Denarnaud, Nicolas Bauwens, Nicolas Sartous, Pierre Cartonnet, Tommy-Lee Baïk

Director: Christophe Charrier

Rating: 12

Even if it follows nearly every trick in the playbook, American Underdog positions itself on a big enough scale that makes it work like a charm anyway. Following the story of legendary undrafted NFL quarterback Kurt Warner (Zahcary Levi), the film elevates its familiar beats through stunning, wide-angle football sequences that make the sport feel as thrilling as ever, and a particularly solid performance from Anna Paquin, as Warner's long-suffering partner. But what ultimately becomes American Underdog's real secret weapon is the fact that this isn't a sports movie about skill, strategy, or success; Warner becomes an inspiring figure because of how long he had to persevere with his dream just barely out of reach.

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Aaron J. Brooks, Adam Baldwin, Anna Paquin, Beau Hart, Bruce McGill, Chance Kelly, Cindy Hogan, Collin Taylor, Dennis Quaid, Jason Allen Wear, SerDarius Blain, Steven Chester Prince, Trisha Zarate, Zachary Levi

Director: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin