14 Movies Like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

, 2017

Named after a slur for people of Asian descent, this 2017 film put Justin Chon on the map as a director. More than that, he also starred as the main lead in this raw and uncompromising period drama about Asian-Americans and the LA riots in 1992. Shot completely in black and white, it tells the story of Eli, a scrawny Korean-American, who runs his family shoe store with his brother, Daniel (David So), in several vignettes. They strike up an unlikely friendship with Kamilla (Simone Baker), a black kid from around the way, whose family is not happy with her hanging out with the two brothers. Amidst the ubiquitous violence in LA at the time, the Rodney King riots as well as a tragic shooting of a black teenager by a Korean convenience store owner, it shines the light on America's intra-minority race relations and the more unseen stories behind them. A topic that has come back to haunt America in the 2020s. The film is fierce as it is funny, harsh as it is playful. Uplifting and unsettling.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ben Munoz, Curtiss Cook Jr., David So, Isaiah Jarel, Justin Chon, Natalie Sutherland, Omono Okojie, Sang Chon, Simone Baker

Director: Justin Chon

Rating: Unrated

The bare bones of The Limey’s story — vengeful Cockney ex-con Wilson (Terence Stamp) flies to LA to investigate the suspicious death of his daughter Jenny — are gripping enough, but what Steven Soderbergh does with them elevates this neo-noir thriller into something utterly singular and stacked with layers upon layers of meaning. An icon of London’s Swinging ‘60s scene, Stamp is pitted against laidback symbol of ‘60s American counterculture Peter Fonda (as Jenny’s sleazy older boyfriend), giving their face-off grander cultural stakes. The extra-textual significance of the casting is deepened by Soderbergh’s ingenious references to the actors’ heyday: in flashbacks to Wilson’s happier past, for example, we’re shown the actual Stamp in his younger years (courtesy of scenes borrowed from 1967’s Poor Cow).

The Limey is also a brilliant showcase for editor Sarah Flack’s technical inventiveness: though the narrative is largely linear, the film cuts to and from scenes and sounds at unexpected points, giving the film an almost David Lynch-like sense of eerie fragmentation. Conjuring up a nightmare LA atmosphere isn’t all the editing does, either, as the film’s puzzle pieces are expertly reassembled to reveal an emotional gut-punch of an ending. In short, this high point in Soderbergh’s filmography is a must-see for any fan of cinema.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Allan Graf, Amelia Heinle, Barry Newman, Bill Duke, Brandon Keener, Brooke Marie Bridges, Carl Ciarfalio, Carol White, Clement Blake, Dwayne McGee, George Clooney, Jim Jenkins, Joe Dallesandro, John Cothran, John Robotham, Johnny Sanchez, Lesley Ann Warren, Luis Guzman, Matthew Kimbrough, Melissa George, Michaela Gallo, Nancy Lenehan, Nicky Katt, Ousaun Elam, Peter Fonda, Rainbow Borden, Randy Lowell, Steve Heinze, Terence Stamp, Wayne Pére, William Lucking

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Rating: R

Director Crystal Moselle based Skate Kitchen on NYC’s eponymous crew of young female skateboarders, who actually play fictionalized versions of themselves here. That real-life casting lends the film a documentary-esque quality: the girls’ bantering chemistry and die-hard loyalty feel warmly authentic, and the movie would be well worth a watch just to bask in this vibe alone.

The Skate Kitchen girls are an eclectic bunch, but what’s so refreshing — and therapeutic — about the film is that they’re also deeply, instinctively empathetic. These misfits don’t just tolerate but celebrate one another’s uniqueness and respect their differing boundaries (the way the girls and the movie treat shyness as a feature rather than a flaw to be resolved is particularly moving). What’s more, in its own low-key way, Skate Kitchen is an inspirational watch for its portrait of young women building the sanctuary they need themselves — not just in a largely male subculture but on a broader canvas, too. Rather than skulk anxiously on the sidelines, the girls use skating to carve out a space of their own in New York, a way to make the big, scary city feel warm and intimate. Amidst all the steezy ollies and clean rail grinds, these might just be the greatest tricks they pull off.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Ajani Russell, Darlene Violette, Dede Lovelace, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Hisham Tawfiq, Jaden Smith, Javier Nunez, John Palumbo, Kabrina Adams, Kobi Frumer, Nico Hiraga, Nina Moran, Rachelle Vinberg, Samuel Smith, Tashiana Washington, Taylor Gray, Thaddeus Daniels, Tom Bruno

Director: Crystal Moselle

A dark and existential comedy, Wristcutters: A Love Story follows Zia (Patrick Fugit), a young man who commits suicide, only to find himself in a bleak afterlife filled with other suicide victims. He discovers that his former partner has just joined him in this dreary realm and sets out to find her. From there, the film transitions into a macabre road-trip film as Zia and several acquaintances strike out in a beat-up old car in the name of love and redemption. Based on a short story by award-winning Israeli writer Etgar Karet, Wristcutters is a stunningly original film that will haunt viewers forever.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Abraham Benrubi, Adam Gifford, Amy Seimetz, Anthony Azizi, Azazel Jacobs, Azura Skye, Bonnie Aarons, Bridget Powers, Cameron Bowen, Chase Ellison, Clayne Crawford, Eddie Steeples, Goran Dukić, Irwin Keyes, Jake Busey, Jazzmun, John Hawkes, Julia Sanford, Leslie Bibb, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Fredrichs, Mary Pat Gleason, Mikal P. Lazarev, Nick Offerman, Nils Allen Stewart, Patrick Fugit, Reedy Gibbs, Sarah Roemer, Shannyn Sossamon, Sharone Meir, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Zia Harris

Director: Goran Dukić

Rating: R

You’ll recognize more than a few faces in Uncle Frank. There are no mega-stars but the caliber of acting in this 70s story is truly impressive.

Beth is an 18-year-old in rural South Carolina who grew up admiring the family member she could relate to the most: her uncle, a college professor living in New York.

When she finishes high-school, she makes the move to the city her beloved uncle told her so much about. Once there, she discovers that he has been living a double life which he kept a secret from the family.

This is the perfect holiday movie for those looking for a story that’s not about the actual holidays. It’s sweet, often funny, and packs a heartfelt and genuine story without being too predictable.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Banks Repeta, Britt Rentschler, Burgess Jenkins, Caity Brewer, Christopher Speed, Cole Doman, Colton Ryan, Hannah Black, Jane McNeill, Judy Greer, Lois Smith, Margo Martindale, Michael Banks Repeta, Paul Bettany, Peter Macdissi, Sophia Lillis, Stephen Root, Steve Zahn, Voltaire Colin Council

Director: Alan Ball

Rating: R

This fiery coming-of-age drama has an unlikely origin story: director Jonas Carpignano was first introduced to the sprawling Roma clan that makes up most of the movie’s cast when one of them stole his car while he shot another film. The charismatic Amato family made such an impression on him that he decided to center a movie around their real lives, naming it for the insular neighborhood they live in on the outskirts of a Southern Italian town.

The Amatos are part of a much-maligned ethnic minority, but not the only one in the film. The Ciambra pokes at the idea of solidarity between the Amatos and local African migrants: while his elders are quick to reject the idea, plucky 14-year-old Pio (Pio Amato) flits across these invisible borders and bonds with Ayiva (Koudous Seihon). But Pio is desperate to win the respect of the men in his family, who might then allow him to take part in their criminal exploits — a crisis point The Ciambra chronicles with raw emotion. This is a movie whose grit and bleakness often recall the uncompromising gaze of neo-realist classics, as a child is heartbreakingly forced to declare his allegiances in the dog-eat-dog world his elders can’t imagine an alternative to.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Damiano Amato, Francesco Papasergio, Iolanda Amato, Koudous Seihon, Patrizia Amato, Pio Amato, Rocco Amato, Susanna Amato, Swamy Rotolo

Director: Jonas Carpignano

A Swedish film about a world-famous conductor who suddenly interrupts his career to return alone to his childhood village in Norrland. It doesn't take long before he is asked to come and listen to the fragment of a church choir, which practices every Thursday in the parish hall. "Just come along and give a little bit of good advice". He can't say no, and from that moment, nothing in the village is the same again. The choir develops and grows. He makes both friends and enemies. And he finds love. It's a wonderful movie about faith, values, and the exploration of one's spirit.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: André Sjöberg, Barbro Kollberg, Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjöholm, Helen Sjöholm, Ingela Olsson, Kristina Törnqvist, Lasse Petterson, Lasse Pettersson, Lennart Jähkel, Lennart Jähkel, Michael Nyqvist, Mikael Rahm, Mircea Krishan, Niklas Falk, Per Morberg, Ulla-Britt Norrman-Olsson, Verena Buratti, Ylva Lööf, Ylva Lööf

Director: Kay Pollak

Rating: Not Rated

Two brothers played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver decide to rob a local NASCAR event, the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. They put together a team to help them, with Daniel Craig as the demolition expert and Katie Holmes as the gateway driver. Other big names behind this project are actors Seth MacFarlane and Hilary Swank; and director Steven Soderbergh, who is best known for Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Thirteen, and Magic Mike. The main characters are cheerful and just goofy enough to be completely unpredictable. Their heist is as chaotic as it is random, which inevitably leads to many funny moments. The performances by the whole cast are amazing, Daniel Craig is almost unrecognizable. A friend once described this movie as Ocean's 7 Eleven, and it’s hard to come up with a better line.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Adam Driver, Alex Ross, Alex ter Avest, Ann Mahoney, Autumn Dial, Boden Johnston, Brandon Ray Olive, Brian Allen, Brian Gleeson, C.C. Taylor, Caleb Emery, Carl Edwards, Channing Tatum, Charles Halford, Daniel Craig, Daniel Jones, Darrell Waltrip, David Denman, Deneen Tyler, Dwight Yoakam, Edward Gelhaus, Farrah Mackenzie, Hank Quillen, Helen Abell, Helen LeRoy, Hilary Swank, Ito Aghayere, Jack Quaid, Jay Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Jerri Tubbs, Jesco White, Jim O'Heir, Jimmy Kustes, Joey Logano, Jon Eyez, Joshua Hoover, Karen Wheeling Reynolds, Katherine Waterston, Katie Holmes, Keith Hudson, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, LA Winters, Lauren Revard, LeAnn Rimes, Lesa Wilson, Macon Blair, Matthew Brady, Matthew Cardarople, Michael Tourek, Mike Joy, Neva Howell, PJ McDonnell, Randy Havens, Rebecca Koon, Reid Carolin, Riley Keough, Robert Fortner, Ron Clinton Smith, Ryan Blaney, Scott Parks, Sebastian Stan, Seth MacFarlane, Shaun Michael Lynch, Stephanie Langston, Steven Soderbergh, Sutton Johnston, Suzanne Jordan Roush, Terence Rosemore, Timothy J. Richardson, Tom Archdeacon, William Mark McCullough

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Rating: PG-13

The Murder Case of Hana & Alice is a charming and whimsical anime film that tells the story of two teenage girls who team up to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a classmate. The film is beautifully animated in a rotoscoped style giving it a unique and dreamlike quality. Hana and Alice, who is new to the town, decide to team up to solve the case. 

Part mystery, part coming-of-age story, and part slice-of-life make for a refreshing and unpredictable viewing experience as the film commits itself to each. The cast makes the story funny and heartwarming with their well-timed quips and well-written dialogue. This is a truly unique and enjoyable animated film about a beautiful friendship budding most unexpectedly.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Anne Suzuki, Haru Kuroki, Kaku Tomohiro, Midoriko Kimura, Ranran Suzuki, Ryo Katsuji, Sei Hiraizumi, Shoko Aida, Tae Kimura, Tomohiro Kaku, Yu Aoi

Director: Shunji Iwai

Krisha opens with the image you see above, a bright yet stark portrait of the lead of the movie, staring with defiance at the camera. You are invited into the world of an unpredictable 65-year-old who returns home for Thanksgiving after a long disappearance. Her family greets her with mixed emotion, and her nephew (played by the director of the movie), doesn’t even want to be near her. In fact, Krisha is played by the director’s real-life aunt. His mother and grandmother also star in the movie. And the story is inspired by real-life pain: a member of his family who was a recovering addict and who fell back into drugs after a family reunion. This is a low-budget but high-dedication movie. The director, Trey Edward Shults, is a disciple of Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Knight of Cups), whose style will be easily recognizable to those familiar with it.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alex Dobrenko, Atheena Frizzell, Augustine Frizzell, Bill Wise, Billie Fairchild, Bryan Casserly, Chase Joliet, Chris Doubek, Krisha Fairchild, Olivia Grace Applegate, Robyn Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults, Victoria Fairchild

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Rating: R

Jessica Chastain plays a driven Washington lobbyist called Elizabeth Sloane in this high-speed political thriller. After being pitched to work for the gun lobby, she decides to work for the opposition: an NGO trying to pass a background check bill. It's a long movie, and even if everything happens fast, it still lags. 

The events do wrap up by the end to explain the complex plot. Not to mention, Chastain's performance something to behold and is reason enough to watch. Her character's hidden motive and questionable methods make her an anti-hero, but Chastain always keeps a lure of hope that her character will redeem herself. That delicate balance might be the most thrilling aspect of Miss Sloan.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Hale, Al Mukaddam, Alexandra Castillo, Alison Pill, Anand Rajaram, Andrew Moodie, Angela Vint, Austin Strugnell, Christine Baranski, Chuck Shamata, Courtenay J. Stevens, Craig Eldridge, David Wilson Barnes, Doug Murray, Douglas Smith, Dylan Baker, Ennis Esmer, Grace Lynn Kung, Greta Onieogou, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Gurdeep Ahluwalia, Helen Johns, Jack Murray, Jake Lacy, Jessica Chastain, Joe Pingue, John Lithgow, Kevin Jubinville, Kyle Mac, Lucy Owen, Mark Strong, Meghann Fahy, Michael Cram, Michael Stuhlbarg, Murray Furrow, Noah Robbins, Ola Sturik, Raoul Bhaneja, Sam Waterston, Sergio Di Zio, Zach Smadu

Director: John Madden

Rating: R

Esteros revolves around the childhood friends Matías and Jerónimo, who reach adolescence and experience sexual attraction to each other before being separated by circumstance. When they meet again ten years later, they explore their long-repressed feelings for each other. 

This moving and emotionally satisfying love story is shot against the backdrop of the Argentinian countryside whose glories are beautifully captured throughout the movie. The performance of the two leads is excellent and the chemistry between them is almost palpable. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Blas Finardi Niz, Esteban Masturini, Felipe Titto, Ignacio Rogers, Joaquín Parada, Marcelo Subiotto, María Merlino, Mariana Martinez, Renata Calmon

Director: Papu Curotto

If I must imagine strange creatures to process grief over a parent, I would rather have it be the fluffy Totoro rather than three creepy looking Gollum-esque yokai creatures that lick legs, steal random food items, and overall act like terrible roommates. Still, there’s a certain gremlin-like charm to A Letter to Momo that could captivate animation fans. As these yokai spirit creatures push Momo to explore her new quaint island town, and as Momo eventually befriends them or force them to act better through threats, it’s precisely the sort of chaotic, whimsical adventure that can get a girl to open up, to hope again, and to be open to what life still has to offer. The pacing might deter some viewers, but A Letter to Momo still works as a touching coming-of-age journey marked by loss.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Cho, Daizaburō Arakawa, Ikuko Tani, Karen Miyama, Koichi Yamadera, Takeo Ogawa, Toshiyuki Nishida, Yoshisada Sakaguchi, Yuka

Director: Hiroyuki Okiura

Rating: PG

This little gem of a sci-fi is based on actual physics theory and doesn't make you cringe every time some technobabble word comes out. Watching it the first time around leaves most viewers puzzled at the end, but wanting to see it again. Shot at a budget of ~$7000, don't expect any flashy special effects or CGI. Do be prepared, however, for some mind boggling paradoxical ideas that require some effort to wrap your brain around.

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Anand Upadhyaya, Ashley Warren, Ashok Upadhyaya, Carrie Crawford, Casey Gooden, Chip Carruth, David Sullivan, Jay Butler, John Carruth, Juan Tapia, Keith Bradshaw, Kevin Lucero Less, Samantha Thomson, Shane Carruth

Director: Shane Carruth

Rating: PG-13