27 Movies Like Wrath of Man (2021)

Staff & contributors
Poland's nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2020 Academy Awards may have lost to Parasite, but director Jan Komasa's film is still utterly compelling. The crazy sounding premise is inspired by true events: after having had a transformative experience in jail, an ex-convict, played by the wiry, blue-eyed Bartosz Bielenia, decides he wants to become a priest. When he is told that his criminal history prohibits it, he goes down the path that got him into trouble in the first place and just pretends he is. Apparently, he does so quite convincingly—and serves the community well, which is collectively grieving for the victims of a tragic accident. For all his charisma, there's no way not to root for the crooked clergyman conning his way to the top. The complex character at the heart of Corpus Christi is refreshing and three-dimensional, and the smart writing of the film excels at exploring they grey areas of truth and religion. The ending, too, circumvents the soppy and the melodramatic. Thought-provoking European drama.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Łukasz Simlat, Aleksandra Konieczna, Anna Biernacik, Barbara Jonak, Barbara Kurzaj, Bartosz Bielenia, Eliza Rycembel, Jakub Sierenberg, Juliusz Chrząstowski, Leszek Lichota, Lidia Bogacz, Lidia Bogaczówna, Łukasz Simlat, Tomasz Ziętek, Tomasz Ziętek, Zdzisław Wardejn, Zdzisław Wardejn, Томаш Зитек

Director: Jan Komasa

Despite the amusing specificity of its title, this lovely documentary from director Les Blank is really for all of us. Through the example of gap teeth — a physical feature many of the participants here report being made to feel self-conscious about — the film makes a rallying call to embrace ourselves and all of our physical “flaws.”

A big part of what makes this film so heartening is that so many of the women featured here (including model Lauren Hutton) have come out on the other side of loathing their gap teeth, giving us a tangible example of what it looks like to love yourself in spite of other people’s opinions about your body. What’s more, even within a limited runtime, Blank finds space to devote to exploring other aspects of the featured women’s lives — their art, professions, religious practices — and thereby quietly expands the film’s focus from physical beauty and onto the myriad beauties of life itself. It’s an ironic pleasure that Gap-Toothed Women ultimately refuses to define its subjects by the very feature described in its title, and instead gives us this life-affirming shot of wisdom for the ages.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Lauren Hutton, Lauren Moore, Sandra Day O'Connor

Director: Les Blank

Nat Geo is still the champion of pristine nature documentaries: the skies, the seas, the snow, and the coloring everywhere is divine. But the serene seaside in Scotland, combined with the reflective, poetic musings about love from Billy and Susan isn’t just cutesy light viewing. I’m confident it can heal an exhausted person. This documentary is a mesmerizing meditation on love and connection, on the things that unite people and other creatures. It might feel like a chunky 77 minutes, especially in the latter half given the pace it goes by, but it’s a warm experience that you instantly know you’ll want to revisit.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Billy Mail, Susan Mail

Director: Charlie Hamilton James

Rating: G

There's a degree of removal in Perpetrator which some viewers may find jarring: most visibly, in the performances, whose heightened sensitivity can seem unlikely for a horror film. That said, director Jennifer Reeder's main conceit here is to entertain and make you think, and she doesn't want you to get too comfortable. In the central concept of "Forevering," a family curse spell that Jonny goes through, Reeder vests her character with metamorphic potential, and with that, ignites hope for a future that is better for women and for horror cinema as a whole. But the film is not overly intellectual. It's rather intuitive in its world-building and celebrates horror's final girl trope in a well-deserved way. A little gore, some slasher tropes, LGBTQ+ themes, and strong central characters make it a perfect pre-Halloween treat.

Genre: Horror

Actor: Alicia Silverstone, Casimere Jollette, ​Christopher Lowell, Ireon Roach, Kiah McKirnan, Melanie Liburd, Sasha Kuznetsov, Tim Hopper

Director: Jennifer Reeder

As a crime thriller, Holy Spider is taut and terrifying, a modern noir that manages to unnerve despite the familiar moves it employs. The cat and mouse chase between serial killer and investigative reporter, for instance, is a classic tale, but that doesn’t make Holy Spider any less gripping. The film benefits from artful camerawork, considered acting (as the daring journalist Rahimi, Zar Amir Ebrahimi nabbed the Best Actress award at Cannes), and most of all a nuanced take on the situation in Iran. 

Despite having a clear stance against violence and corruption, nothing in Holy Spider is black and white. Contradictions abound, and even when presented with brief moments of justice, we’re left scratching our heads looking for more. Such is the case when the system, and not just an individual, is the true pest. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alice Rahimi, Ariane Naziri, Majd Eid, Mehdi Bajestani, Nima Akbarpour, Sara Fazilat, Sina Parvaneh, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Director: Ali Abbasi

Watch this documentary and find yourself amazed at how much of Hollywood history was determined by one woman: legendary casting director Marion Dougherty. At a time when studios were casting actors based on “type,” Dougherty revolutionized the process with her preternatural ability to see the potential in budding actors like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, and Glenn Close. Her work in introducing NYC’s theater actors to the silver screen launched countless careers and indelibly shaped iconic films like Midnight Cowboy and Lethal Weapon.

And yet, Dougherty’s work — and that of those who followed in her steps — is criminally underappreciated, as this doc both lays bare and seeks to redress. A largely female profession, casting was long devalued by a casually misogynistic industry, the persistent legacy of which is subtly highlighted in some interviews here. Among the talking heads sharing appreciation and anecdotes are many of the actors and casting directors whose careers Dougherty launched, as well as filmmakers (including Martin Scorsese) testifying to the pivotal role casting has played in their work. Playing the villain is Ray director Taylor Hackford, who believes casting directors add little to the filmmaking process — an argument that the doc wryly disproves with the sheer weight of refuting evidence it offers up.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Al Pacino, Amanda Mackey, Bette Midler, Buck Henry, Burt Young, Clint Eastwood, Cybill Shepherd, Danny Glover, David Rubin, Deborah Aquila, Diane Lane, Don Phillips, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Asner, Ed Lauter, Ellen Chenoweth, Ellen Lewis, Fred Roos, Glenn Close, Gretchen Rennell, Jeanine Basinger, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, John Papsidera, John Sayles, John Travolta, Jon Voight, Juliet Taylor, Linda Lowy, Lora Kennedy, Lynn Stalmaster, Marion Dougherty, Martin Scorsese, Mel Gibson, Mike Fenton, Nancy Klopper, Ned Beatty, Nessa Hyams, Norman Lear, Oliver Stone, Paul Haggis, Paul Mazursky, Paul Rudd, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Donner, Richard Dreyfuss, Risa Bramon Garcia, Rita Hayworth, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Ronna Kress, Ronny Cox, Taylor Hackford, Tony Bill, Wallis Nicita, Woody Allen

Director: Tom Donahue

Although Who We Are is essentially a professionally recorded masterclass interspersed with additional interviews, it only emphasizes Jeffery Robinson's skill as an orator and his compassion as a teacher. In a clear and levelheaded manner, he lays out how even the historical documents that formed the blueprint of the United States are exclusionary in key ways. Robinson does this not to condemn his country, but to challenge the way we view traditions as sacred, and to see how modern-day white nationalism is upheld by these institutions, intentionally or not. The new interviews that accompany Robinson's talk take these lessons on the road, reminding us of those who are directly affected by these centuries-old decisions.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Jeffery Robinson, Martin Luther King Jr.

Director: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler

Focusing on the personal over the global, 76 Days serves as a valuable reminder for generations to come, of the catastrophic human cost of a pandemic. The film's directors (including one or more filmmakers who have had to keep themselves anonymous) take an entirely boots-on-the-ground approach in Wuhan, China. Together they find both humanity and the loss of humanity in these individual cases of COVID that are stalled by small inconveniences or a general lack of understanding of the disease. And all of this confusion is punctuated by the humbling fact that we never see the nurses' faces. It's a harrowing watch, but it tells us everything we need to know about how much assistance our health workers need and the kind of superhuman things they're tasked with doing every single day.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen

Two elderly gay men, Pak and Hoi, start a secret relationship during their twilight years. The catch: Pak is married and both are, well, old. Beneath their shared moments of tenderness, there is an undercurrent that the romance is ultimately futile, their remaining years too short to start life anew. Yet at the same time, director Ray Yeung uses the protagonists’ old age as justification for their love affair. Having dedicated their entire lives to their families and loved ones, romance is presented as a rewarding experience indicative of queer freedom, no matter how ill-fated or short-lived it might be.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ben Yuen, Ben Yuen Foo-Wa, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Kong To, Lam Yiu-Sing, Lo Chun Yip, Patra Au Ga-Man, Tai Bo, Yuk-Guen Tsang

Director: Ray Yeung

Similar in spirit and in subject matter to the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, The Wrecking Crew pulls back the curtain on the recording of many of the greatest American songs of the 1960s and '70s: that a single group of unassuming session musicians were responsible for bringing out the sound in these tracks. The film is a treasure trove for musicians and music fans, making you hear certain instrumental nuances in a different light and deepening your perception of music between what was written and what was recorded. Then inevitably and tragically, the realization sets in that few—if any—of these musicians have received the recognition they truly deserve, as essential but unfairly small parts of a music industry ecosystem that often cares more about image and entertainment than musicianship.

Genre: Documentary, Family, Music

Actor: Adam West, Al Casey, Al Jardine, Annette Funicello, Bones Howe, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Carol Kaye, Cher, Dean Martin, Dick Clark, Don Randi, Eva Gabor, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frankie Avalon, Glen Campbell, Graham Nash, Hal Blaine, Herb Alpert, Jan Berry, Jimmy Webb, Jody McCrea, Lou Adler, Micky Dolenz, Mike Love, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Tork, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny Bono, Tommy Kirk, Tommy Sands

Director: Denny Tedesco

Surprisingly dramatic for a documentary but without exoticizing its central characters for a privileged audience, The Territory is that rare film that rightfully portrays indigenous peoples as living firmly in the present. In their continuing struggle to protect their land and culture, the Uru-eu-wau-wau people of the Amazon may be vulnerable, but they aren't helpless. They're organized, have access to technology, and know exactly how they want to represent themselves—armed with bows and arrows and defending what's theirs in beautiful, thrilling footage. In this way, even as The Territory ultimately touches on issues that have affected all of Brazil, namely the destructive effects of Jair Bolsonaro's presidency, it still feels like a documentary co-authored by these indigenous people themselves.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ari Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau

Director: Alex Pritz

After two adaptations, with the 1982 version considered a Christmastime classic for Polish families, Forgotten Love can seem like a redundant take on the iconic Polish novel. With twenty more minutes, it seems like the new Netflix adaptation could only improve its take through better production design, and sure, it certainly delivers that pre-war aesthetic through period-accurate costumes, props, and sets. However, Forgotten Love takes a more streamlined approach to the novel’s plot, through changing certain character choices. Without spoiling too much, some choices paint certain characters in a better light, while other changes prove to add an entertaining twist, such as the humorous way the villagers defend Kosiba. Znachor takes the 1937 story into the present, bringing a new generation through the emotional journey of the cherished Polish tale.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Nawojczyk, Agata Łabno, Alicja Jachiewicz, Anna Szymańczyk, Artur Barciś, Dawid Ściupidro, Ewa Kolasińska-Szramel, Ewa Szykulska, Henryk Niebudek, Ignacy Liss, Izabela Kuna, Jarosław Gruda, Joachim Lamża, Kamil Pardo, Karolina Piechota, Krzysztof Dracz, Leszek Lichota, Maciej Damięcki, Małgorzata Mikołajczak, Maria Kowalska, Mikołaj Grabowski, Mirosław Haniszewski, Patryk Szwichtenberg, Paweł Janyst, Paweł Tomaszewski, Piotr Rogucki, Robert Gonera, Sławomir Holland, Stanisław Brudny, Waleria Gorobets

Director: Michał Gazda

Rating: PG-13

Two misfits, an immigrant and a traveling cook, team up to start an unlikely enterprise in this slow but captivating drama. The story, set in 19th century Pacific Northwest, evolves around the arrival of the first cow to that part of the world. This presents a unique opportunity that the two main characters try to benefit from. 

First Cow is a mix between a Western and a modern-day plot-less indie drama.  It has likable characters, stunning scenery, and a fascinating look into how social outcasts lived back then.

Genre: Drama, History, Western

Actor: Alia Shawkat, Don MacEllis, Dylan Smith, Eric Martin Reid, Ewen Bremner, Gary Farmer, Jean-Luc Boucherot, Jeb Berrier, John Keating, John Magaro, Kevin-Michael Moore, Lily Gladstone, Mary Ann Perreira, Mike Wood, Mitchell Saddleback, Orion Lee, Patrick D. Green, Phelan Davis, Rene Auberjonois, Scott Shepherd, T. Dan Hopkins, Ted Rooney, Toby Jones, Todd A. Robinson

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Rating: PG-13

Before her triumphant Oscar win for her role in Minari, Youn Yuh-jung starred in The Bacchus Lady as So-young, an aging sex worker strugglin to make ends meet. Youn brings a certain dignity to the role that’s rarely seen in typical depictions of sex work around the world. Her work isn't framed as something disgusting or immoral, but as something that's natural and normal. Writer-director E J-yong clearly sides with and respects the people that you don't normally see in K-dramas—characters that have been pushed aside in favor of the stereotypical “ideal” Korean. While meandering at times, the film's warm and bittersweet approach to these characters acts as a reprimand to Korean society on how they fail those at the margins.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Chon Moo-song, Hyun-jun Choi, Jeon Moo-song, Jo Sang-gun, Joo In-young, Jung Jae-woong, Kim Han-na, Kim Hye-yoon, Moon-Song Chon, Park Gyu-chae, Seo Hyun-woo, Ye Soo-jung, Ye Su-jeong, Yeo-jeong Yoon, Yoon Kye-sang, Youn Yuh-jung

Director: E J-yong, Je-yong Lee, Lee Je-Yong

Rating: N/A, Not Rated

Judy Blume, the author behind enduring classics like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Superfudge, and Forever, gifts us with her comforting presence and precise insight in Judy Blume Forever, a delightful documentary about a delightful woman.

Here, Blume looks back and lets us in on the eventful private life that inspired her prolific work life. Each book has a behind-the-scenes story, which the documentary pairs with commentary from well-known fans like Molly Ringwald, Lena Dunham, and Samantha Bee. Additionally (and most memorably), the documentary also features the years-old correspondence Blume has kept with the children who wrote and confided in her. Whether or not you’ve read her work, watching this film is a heartwarming experience that will soon have you grabbing the nearest Blume classic.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Anna Konkle, Caitlin Kinnunen, Cecily von Ziegesar, Judy Blume, Lawrence Blume, Lena Dunham, Molly Ringwald, Samantha Bee, Tayari Jones

Director: Davina Pardo, Leah Wolchok

Rating: 16