4 Movies Like Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996)

Staff & contributors
Though the drag scene is alive and well today, Paris is Burning is an important reminder that it didn’t always used to be that way. Over the course of seven years, Director Jennie Livingston leads us underneath the crime-ridden streets of 80s New York, where a glittery drag subculture is flourishing, despite all odds. Leading the community are the so-called mothers, the best performers and most fashionable of them all, tasked with inspiring and caring for newcomers. Nevermind that they’re shunned by society and suffocated (sometimes literally) by hateful homophobes and racists; when there is a ball, all that matters is that they strut, dance, and put on the best damn show of their lives. What they do is art, and Livingston makes sure to exalt the craft and pride that goes into it. At the same time, intimate interviews with iconic queens like Pepper LaBeija and Willi Ninja reveal the heartbreaking nature of the community. Most, if not all, have endured some form of abuse, and many risk their lives to earn a decent living. But again, Livingston refuses to reduce them to pure tragedy; she gets them to share their wonderfully big dreams, then gets us to hope along with them that they might just come true.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Dorian Corey, Kim Pendavis, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija, Sol Williams Pendavis, Venus Xtravaganza, Willi Ninja

Director: Jennie Livingston

Rating: R

Is courage still courage when you have no choices left? What do you do when you're pressed to the wall and have no way to go? Maria, a pretty, modest and hardworking girl living in a small Colombian town, where the only career choice (thus not being a choice, really) is working in a floral plant, packing and distributing flowers - a dead-end job with killer hours and zero-tolerance boss. Yet, it's money. Until the day Maria gets pregnant and her choices become even more limited. By accident, she makes acquaintance with a guy who turns out to be her way out - and the way is out to become a drug mule, transporting drugs in your stomach across the border to the American soil. A job dangerous in many aspects, illegal and potentially deadly, but also paid well. Maria decides to take the only way out, a way that may be a one-way street. Maria Full of Grace is a gut-wrenching story about survival in a seemingly hopeless situation. It's about taking that one chance that has all the potential to go south, and investing in it all the hope you have left, and all the survival instinct you have in your heart and soul. And when everything that could go bad does, and everything turns from bad to worse beyond imagination, it's about standing strong and not giving up, no matter what. Though technically not a documentary, it's real beyond belief, and you can be sure Colombia is full of Marias - just hoping for a decent life, ready to sacrifice the very life itself to obtain it. It's a masterpiece of its genre and it also boasts one of the best posters in the history of the cinema. Highly recommended.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Charles Albert Patiño, Guilied Lopez, Jaime Osorio Gómez, Jhon Álex Toro, Johanna Andrea Mora, John Álex Toro, Orlando Tobón, Patricia Rae, Selenis Leyva, Victor Macias

Director: Joshua Marston

Rating: R

Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is a dark comedy that follows the exploits of teenage outcasts Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) as they navigate the many complexities of burgeoning adulthood. Central to the story is the unlikely friendship that Enid strikes up with a lonesome older man (played by Steve Buscemi), a curious relationship that drifts through various humorous and melancholy situations. It’s an original and often poignant look at alienation and identity, with Birch delivering a wonderfully deadpan and often hilarious performance, despite her entirely pessimistic attitude. It’s the type of film that’s just right when you’re in the mood for something just a little bit different.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alex Solowitz, Anna Berger, Ashley Peldon, Bob Balaban, Brad Renfro, Brett Gilbert, Brian George, Bruce Glover, Chachi Pittman, Charles C. Stevenson Jr., Charles Schneider, Daniel Graves, Dave Sheridan, David Cross, Debi Derryberry, Debra Azar, Diane Salinger, Ezra Buzzington, Illeana Douglas, Jake La Botz, James Sie, Jerry Rector, Joan Blair, Joel Michaely, John Bunnell, Joseph Sikora, Joy Bisco, Kaileigh Brielle Martin, Lauren Bowles, Lindsey Girardot, Lorna Scott, Marc Vann, Martin Grey, Matt Doherty, Pat Healy, Patrick Fischler, Paul Keith, Rini Bell, Scarlett Johansson, Sid Hillman, Stacey Travis, Steve Buscemi, T. J. Thyne, Teri Garr, Thora Birch, Tom McGowan, Venus DeMilo Thomas, Will Forte

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Rating: R

Directed by Roma auteur Alfonso Cuarón, this sexually charged, coming-of-age road trip film traverses the landscapes of Mexico while interspersing social commentary on the socio-economic realities of the 1990s. The film follows the adventures of two young friends, Julio and Tenoch, who embark on a trip with an older woman named Luisa. As they explore the beautiful and complex tapestry of their country, their own desires and identities are laid bare. As expected, Cuarón's interpersonal yet political storytelling uniquely captures the raw emotions and conflicts of youth with a mix of intimacy and societal critique. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ana López Mercado, Andrés Almeida, Arturo Ríos, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Diana Bracho, Diego Luna, Emilio Echevarría, Gael García Bernal, Juan Carlos Remolina, Liboria Rodríguez, María Aura, Maribel Verdú, Marta Aura, Mayra Sérbulo, Silverio Palacios, Verónica Langer

Director: Alfonso Cuarón