15 Movies Like The Way Back (2020)

Staff & contributors
Before you press play on this movie, we highly recommend you take a few very deep breaths. This 2018 thriller is wound so tight, you will need the extra oxygen to get through it without fainting. In his directorial debut, Swedish-danish filmmaker Gustav Möller uses very little in terms of resources to create this breath-taking atmosphere. While The Guilty feels like it was made on a $100 million budget, all it physically brings to the table is one man in a dark room. It plays with our imagination instead of blinding it with special effects. Similarly, the plot is also short and sweet: a police officer is temporarily sent to do emergency dispatch, when he receives a call that turns an ordinary shift into a hell ride. This is all we are going to give away before you've completed your breathing exercises. The movie's minimalist approach is held together by great acting from Jakob Cedergre, a screenplay to match, and incredible sound design. A real white-knuckle ride.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexander Clement, Anders Brink Madsen, Camilla Lau, Gustav Möller, Gustav Möller, Jacob Lohmann, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Jakob Cedergren, Jeanette Lindbæk, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Laura Bro, Morten Suurballe, Morten Thunbo, Omar Shargawi, Peter Christoffersen, Simon Bennebjerg

Director: Gustav Möller

Rating: R

A story filled with love, laughs, and feelings, "The Way Way Back" takes us back to innocent, coming of age years. With great writing and characters you will love and miss when the movie ends, "The Way Way Back" is 2013's "The Perks of Being A Wallflower." Following their Oscar win for best adapted screenplay for "The Descendants" Jim Rash and Nat Faxon follow with "The Way Way Back". Duncan, played by Liam James , is a 14 year old shy kid who can't stand his mom's new boyfriend, Trent. Duncan is forced to vacation at Trent's beach house and after a few days, he decides to explore the town and eventually comes across a water park where he befriends Owen.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Andria Blackman, AnnaSophia Robb, Ava Deluca-Verley, Carsen Warner, Devon Werden, Emily Petta, Jake Picking, Jeff Ryan, Jim Rash, Liam James, Maya Rudolph, Nat Faxon, River Alexander, Rob Corddry, Robert Capron, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Zoe Levin

Director: Jim Rash, Nat Faxon

Rating: PG-13

On their drive back from a Tinder date that was only average, a couple are pulled over by a racist police officer. Things escalate unexpectedly and the couple, one of whom is a lawyer aware of the corruptedness of the system, start a life on the run together. This thrilling set-up mixing social commentary and romance is a movie that's actually many movies in one. And almost as if to cut in-between the different tonalities, there are so many quiet and beautiful shots of the couple: silent, still or dancing - these moments are true cinematic magic. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Andre De'Sean Shanks, Andy Dylan, Benito Martinez, Bokeem Woodbine, Brian Thornton, Bryant Tardy, Chloe Sevigny, Colby Boothman-Shepard, Daniel Kaluuya, Dickson Obahor, Flea, Gayle King, Gralen Bryant Banks, Indya Moore, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Jodie Turner-Smith, Joseph Poliquin, Karen Kaia Livers, Lucky Johnson, Melanie Halfkenny, Robert Walker Branchaud, Soledad O'Brien, Sturgill Simpson, Thom Gossom Jr.

Director: Melina Matsoukas

Rating: R

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

Keira Knightley stars in this incredible true story of an Iraq War whistleblower who remains relatively little-known in the U.S. Katharine Gun was working for the communications office for the British government when she received a memo in the months leading to the war that showed that the U.S. requested illegal wiretapping assistance from the U.K. on U.N. diplomats. In a heroic act, she chooses to share this memo, hoping that it would stop her government (then led by Tony Blair) from going to war. Spoiler alert: didn't happen, but this decision, which first seemed like a personal sacrifice, has severe implications on her family as the government finds out that she was behind the leak. A compelling political mystery of a case that deserves much more attention than it once got.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Adam Bakri, Andrew Marr, Angus Wright, Brett Allen, Chris Larkin, Chris Reilly, Clive Francis, Conleth Hill, David Maybrick, Fiona Skinner, George W. Bush, Hanako Footman, Hattie Morahan, Indira Varma, Jack Farthing, Janie Dee, Jeremy Northam, Jessica Fostekew, Jodie McNee, John Heffernan, Katherine Kelly, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Cranham, Lindy Whiteford, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Michael James, Monica Dolan, MyAnna Buring, Niccy Lin, Peter Guinness, Raad Rawi, Ralph Fiennes, Raquel Cassidy, Ray Panthaki, Rhys Ifans, Shaun Dooley, Sophie Duval, Tamsin Greig, Tony Blair, Vinta Morgan, Will Barton

Director: Gavin Hood

Rating: R

Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, and Tim Robbins star in this well-executed and eye-opening drama based on a true story. Robert Bilott (Ruffalo) is a successful corporate lawyer in New York. He is visited by a distressed farmer from his hometown in Cincinnati whose cows have been developing strange behaviors and diseases. Robert decides to take on this case in what will become one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in the country: the use of cancerous chemicals by the company that commercializes Teflon (the stuff in pans). Excellent acting in an incredibly frustrating but necessary story that will trouble you more than any other legal thriller you have watched in the past: prepare to be outraged (and throw away your pans).

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Abi Van Andel, Aidan Brogan, Amy Morse, Amy Warner, Angel Kerns, Anita Farmer Bergman, Anne Hathaway, Barry G. Bernson, Barry Mulholland, Bill Camp, Bill Pullman, Bret Aaron Knower, Brian Gallagher, Buz Davis, Caleb Dwayne Tucker, Carly Tamborski, Chaney Morrow, Clara Harris, Courtney DeCosky, Daniel R. Hill, David Fultz, David Myers Gregory, Denise Dal Vera, Elizabeth Marvel, Geoff Falk, Glen Yrigoyen, Greg Violand, Jason M. Griggs, Jeffrey Grover, Jim Laprelle, Joanne Popolin, John Newberg, John W. Harden, Jon Osbeck, Karen Koester, Kathleen Ellerman, Keating P. Sharp, Kelly Mengelkoch, Kevin Crowley, Lea Hutton Beasmore, Louisa Krause, Lyman Chen, Marcia Dangerfield, Mare Winningham, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Hudson, Michael Joseph Thomas Ward, Michael King, Mike Seely, Ming Wang, Ramona Schwalbach, Richard Hagerman, Robert Gerding, Scarlett Hicks, Sheryl Annette Colley, Steven Schraub, Teri Clark, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, William "Bucky" Bailey, William Jackson Harper, Wynn Reichert

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: PG-13

This drama is based on the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a young Harvard graduate who moved to Alabama in the 80s to defend wrongly accused prisoners on death row. He's played by Michael B. Jordan, who brings to the surface the unstoppable determination and ambition of the character. Components that were necessary to go on such a difficult task, especially with the racist barriers at the time. Not to mention, no one had ever been released from death row in the history of Alabama at that point. An inspiring and well-acted movie, made by Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Boyer, Al Mitchell, Alex Van, Andrene Ward-Hammond, Ben Peck, Benjamin Weaver, Brad Sanders, Brie Larson, Bryan Stevenson, C.J. LeBlanc, Carl Palmer, Charlie Pye Jr., Charmin Lee, Christopher Wolfe, Claire Bronson, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Darryl W. Handy, Deadra Moore, Denitra Isler, Desmond Phillips, Dominic Bogart, Drew Scheid, Drew Starkey, Elizabeth Becka, Greta Glenn, Harvey B. Jackson, Hayes Mercure, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Jacinte Blankenship, Jamie Foxx, Jay D. Kacho, Jay DeVon Johnson, John Lacy, Karan Kendrick, Kelly Mumme, Kirk Bovill, Leydi Morales, Lindsay Ayliffe, Mallory Hoff, Mary Kraft, Matthew Byrge, McDaniel Austin, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Harding, Norm Lewis, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Olivia De Paux, Patti Schellhaas, Pete Burris, Rafe Spall, Rhoda Griffis, Rob Morgan, Robert Tinsley, Ron Clinton Smith, Ryan Dinning, Sandy Givelber, Scarlet Olivia Dunbar, Sebastian Eugene Hansen, Steve Coulter, Susie Spear Purcell, Tatom Pender, Ted Huckabee, Terence Rosemore, Tim Blake Nelson, Tim Hooper, Tim Ware, Tonea Stewart

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Rating: PG-13

If you’ve seen his stand-up, you’ll know that Pete Davidson likes to make fun of himself. But it’s also true that Davidson is honest. He speaks openly about his childhood traumas and mental health struggles, and this film about his life is no different than his live performances. It's darkly funny and deeply personal, this time plumbing new depths of his life with the help of director (and patron saint of comedians) Judd Apatow. 

Here, Apatow allows Davidson to hell his story in his own irreverent flavor, all while boosting him with directorial flair and his trademark balance of humor and humanity. A triumphant collaboration between Apatow and Davidson, King of Staten Island is rich with nuanced performances and relatable insights into the life of someone slowly but surely healing from pain and coming into his own. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Action Bronson, Adam Keane, Alexis Rae Forlenza, Angus Costello, Anthony Lee Medina, Bel Powley, Bill Burr, Bonnie McFarlane, Carly Aquilino, David S. Lomax, Derek Gaines, Domenick Lombardozzi, Gina Jun, Hank Strong, Jack Hamblin, Jessica Kirson, Jimmy Tatro, Keith Robinson, Ken Holmes, Kevin Corrigan, Laurence Blum, Lilly Brown, Liza Treyger, Lou Wilson, Luke David Blumm, Lynne Koplitz, Machine Gun Kelly, Marilyn Torres, Mario Polit, Marisa Tomei, Maude Apatow, Melania Zalipsky, Meredith Handerhan, Michelle Sohn, Mike Vecchione, Moises Arias, Nana Mensah, Nils Johnson, Nina Hellman, Nyla Durdin, Pamela Adlon, Pauline Chalamet, Pete Davidson, Rafael Poueriet, Rich Vos, Ricky Velez, Robert Smigel, Steve Buscemi, Teodorina Bello

Director: Judd Apatow

Rating: R

Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, and Ray Romano star in this true story of a big academic corruption case. Hugh Jackman is (of course) excellent as a successful and dedicated superintendent with a complicated personal life. However, when a curious student with the school journal starts digging around in a project he promotes, she uncovers what will become the largest public school embezzlement in the history of the U.S. 

The performances stretch the story to its full potential, as this movie would be nothing without its incredible cast. It should be watched for the acting. Eventually, it suffers from a problem common to all movies based on newspaper articles: the story can be told in a single article.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History, TV Movie

Actor: Alex Wolff, Allison Janney, Annaleigh Ashford, Brent Langdon, Brian Sgambati, Catherine Curtin, Darlene Violette, Dina Pearlman, Doris McCarthy, Finnerty Steeves, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gino Cafarelli, Giuseppe Ardizzone, Halle Curley, Hari Dhillon, Hugh Jackman, Jeremy Shamos, Jimmy Tatro, John Scurti, Jorge Chapa, Justin Swain, Kathrine Narducci, Kayli Carter, Larry Romano, Natasha Goss, Pat Healy, Peter Appel, Rafael Casal, Ray Abruzzo, Ray Romano, Rene Ojeda, Robert 'Toshi' Kar Yuen Chan, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Stephen Spinella, Steve Routman, Victor Verhaeghe, Welker White, Will Meyers

Director: Cory Finley

Rating: TV-MA

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson, Deja Dee, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Lee Spencer, Mick Foley, Rob Thomas, Shia LaBeouf, Susan McPhail, Thomas Haden Church, Tim Zajaros, Wayne Dehart, Yelawolf, Zachary Gottsagen, Zack Gottsagen

Director: Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Rating: PG-13

Revolutionaries come in many forms. Some prefer to rally in the streets, while others, like the businessman Bernard Garrett, championed race equality in his field of finance. Discreetly and rather dangerously, he purchased buildings and offered loans to his fellow Black men at a time when they were denied these rights and more. It was an ingenious plan hatched at a precarious time, and the film captures how Garrett (Anthony Mackie) managed to pull it off (for the most part). 

The Banker doesn't get as thrilling as it could be, but it is fueled by a smart script that unapologetically gets to the nitty-gritty math of it all, as well as engaging performances by Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, and Nicholas Hoult. The film effectively revives Garrett's inspiring story for a modern audience, turning it into an important piece of American history that won't soon be forgotten. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anthony Mackie, Bill Kelly, Chris Gann, Colm Meaney, Craig Welzbacher, Daniel Johnson, David Maldonado, Gregory Alan Williams, James DuMont, Jaylon Gordon, Jessie T. Usher, Michael Harney, Nia Long, Nicholas Hoult, Paul Ben-Victor, Samuel L. Jackson, Taylor Black

Director: George Nolfi

Rating: PG-13

This crime drama based on a true story is directed by Clint Eastwood and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio among others. It's about a peculiar security guard who finds a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics moments before it exploded. But while first hailed as a hero, the authorities quickly suspect him of being behind the bomb. Just like Eastwood's other creation, Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, Richard Jewell is a simple story that if it wasn't for excellent directing, would not be enough to make a movie out of. But great performances and a great script make this movie not only worthwhile but a timely comment on the trustworthiness of law enforcement.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Alan Heckner, Alex Collins, Andrea Laing, Aubriana Davis, Beth Keener, Billy Slaughter, Brandon Morris, Brandon Stanley, Brian Brightman, Charles Green, Christian Adam, Dani Deetté, Daniel Annone, David de Vries, David Lengel, David Shae, Deja Dee, Desmond Phillips, Dylan Kussman, Eric Mendenhall, Franco Castan, Garon Grigsby, Grant Roberts, Greg Clarkson, Ian Gomez, Jesse Burt, Jill-Michele Meleán, John Atwood, Jon Hamm, Jonathan D Bergman, Josh Henry, Kathy Bates, Kelly Collins Lintz, Kendrick Cross, Kevin Patrick Murphy, Mallory Hoff, Maury Morgan, Max Bickelhaup, Megan Mieduch, Michael Otis, Mike Pniewski, Mike Wilson, Mitchell Hoog, Nicole Sellars, Niko Nicotera, Nina Arianda, Olivia Wilde, Paul Walter Hauser, Philip Fornah, Randy Havens, Robert C. Treveiler, Sam Rockwell, Tommy Kane, Victoria Paige Watkins, Wayne Duvall, Zack Shires

Director: Clint Eastwood

Rating: R

This documentary charts the challenges faced by sailor Tracy Edwards and her 12-woman crew in the wake of their decision to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, the grueling yachting competition that covers 33,000 miles and lasts nine months. Director Alex Holmes recreates their adventure using archival footage shot by the women themselves on their voyage, and interesting interviews with the crew members as well as the men who criticized and ridiculed them at the time. Maiden is an interesting bit of documentary filmmaking that is also inspirational and empowering.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Frank Bough, Howard Gibbons, Jo Gooding, John Chittenden, Sally Hunter

Director: Alex Holmes

This low-stakes coming-of-age movie stars SNL's Pete Davidson as Zeke, an aimless college dropout. His best friend, Monroe, is still in high school and is much younger and more innocent. Monroe doesn't realize that he has a very biased outlook on life through Zeke, as he starts drug dealing, partying, and dating according to rules that are not his own.

Big Time Adolescence tries to be a statement on destructive friendships but doesn't fully succeed. Its true value is that it's a movie that you can turn your brain off to, and those rarely come with statements.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Aiden Arthur, Brielle Barbusca, Emily Arlook, Esteban Benito, Griffin Gluck, Jon Cryer, Jon Freda, Jordan Rock, Joseph Vincent Gay, Julia K. Murney, Kimberly G. Grader, Larry John Meyers, Machine Gun Kelly, Michael Devine, Nick Ziobro, Omar Brunson, Oona Laurence, Patsy Meck, Pete Davidson, Shaun Woodland, Sydney Sweeney, Thomas Barbusca

Director: Jason Orley

Rating: R

In “The Way”, an American doctor, Tom (Martin Sheen), travels to Spain to identify the remains of his deceased son (Emilio Estevez, also writer/director) who has died while traveling "El Camino de Santiago”, the famous pilgrimage across Northern Spain. Once there, Tom unexpectedly finds himself inspired to continue his son’s journey, sprinkling his ashes along the lengthy expedition to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, home to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great. Along the way Tom gains several unlikely traveling companions: a Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger) and an Irishman (James Nesbitt), each of whom has his/her own personal reasons for making the pilgrimage, with each adding various degrees of drama and humor to the proceedings as well. A touching and inspiring film marred a bit by some unnecessarily roughly-hewn characterizations, but overall a pleasant experience with a warm feeling of adventure and camaraderie throughout.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ángela Molina, Alfonso Delgado, Ángela Molina, Antonio Gil, Carlos Leal, David Alexanian, Deborah Kara Unger, Emilio Estevez, Eusebio Lázaro, James Nesbitt, Martin Sheen, Matt Clark, Omar Muñoz, Ramon Estevez, Renée Estevez, Romy Baskerville, Santi Prego, Simón Andreu, Simón Andreu, Spencer Garrett, Stéphane Dausse, Tchéky Karyo, Tchéky Karyo, Víctor Molero, Yorick van Wageningen

Director: Emilio Estevez

Rating: PG-13