8 Movies Like XXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Staff & contributors

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Guka Han, Heo Jin, Hur Jin, Kim Dong-seok, Kim Sun-young, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Yoann Zimmer

Director: Davy Chou

Rating: R

Fire of Love is a documentary that follows Maurice and Katia Krafft, a scientist couple who’ve dedicated their entire professional lives to studying (and marveling at) volcanoes. The two met at university and have been inseparable ever since, chasing explosions around the world until their death at the Mount Unzen eruption in 1991. 

The fiery passion the title refers to is as much about Maurice and Katia as it is about their dedication to volcanoes. Like any love story, it tracks how they were first wonderstruck by the formation and how that awe shaped their lives and led them to each other, as well as how they came to discover hard truths about it and dealt with the heartbreak that soon followed. 

Combining the breathtaking footage the couple left behind with lovely writing and artful animation, director Sara Dosa creates a moving documentary about passion, adventure, and the world itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Alka Balbir, Guillaume Tremblay, Katia Krafft, Maurice Krafft, Miranda July

Director: Sara Dosa

Rating: PG

While more people are familiar with its US adaptation, Il Mare is far more striking and emotionally resonant. The Korean romance, separated by timelines, depicts two lonely people who lived in the same seaside residence. They form a bond through the titular house’s mailbox, by sharing letters, voice recorders, and suggestions to deal with loneliness. As they receive each other’s messages, the film slowly reveals the reason for their loneliness– that they’ve been left behind. Matched with shots of creeping urbanization, migration, and the Y2K scare, Il Mare understands modern isolation, but it also underscores how solitude helps us connect with other people.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Cho Seung-yeon, Hong So-yeong, Ji-hyun Jun, Jun Ji-hyun, Jung-jae Lee, Kim Moo-saeng, Kim Mu-saeng, Lee Jung-jae, Mu-saeng Kim, Seung-yeon Jo

Director: Hyun-seung Lee, Lee Hyeon-seung, Lee Hyun-seung

Rating: N/A

In The Beasts, the idyllic semi-retirement that a French couple seeks in the Galician countryside — growing organic vegetables, fixing up abandoned farmhouses — devolves into a terrifying slow-burn nightmare. This beautifully shot yet spiritually ugly thriller plunges us straight into an atmosphere of crackling social tension that never abates. We begin after the event that turns local farmer Xan (Luis Zahera) and his brother Loren (Diego Anido) against French transplants Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Olga (Marina Foïs): the latter two have vetoed the sale of land to a wind turbine company in favor of preserving the village’s rustic character. Incensed by what he sees as the theft of his birthright by an outsider, Xan orchestrates a steadily intensifying campaign of terror against the couple.

Though much slighter than the physically imposing Ménochet, Zahera makes for a profoundly menacing presence, and Xan’s seemingly endless appetite for hostility and vindictiveness charges the film with a deeply unsettling sense of inevitability. His performance alone would mark The Beasts as a standout, but an unexpected switch in character focus late on in the film wrests it out of Xan’s grasp and reorients the movie as a study of grim resolve — making it a film of two equally remarkable halves.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: David Menéndez, Denis Ménochet, Federico Pérez Rey, Luis Zahera, Luisa Merelas, Machi Salgado, Marie Colomb, Marina Fois, Xavier Estévez

Director: Rodrigo Sorogoyen

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

Perfect for Halloween marathons with friends, The Return of the Living Dead treads the now well-worn template of zombie apocalypse movies with outstanding practical effects and a refreshingly unserious attitude. What the film might lack in terms of character writing or deeper themes, it more than makes up for with a relentless forward momentum. There isn't any grand mission to be accomplished when these morticians collide with a group of young punks, other than understanding what drives the undead creatures outside in order to survive the night. As a result, this is a movie that lives firmly in the moment, with thrills aplenty and its greatest moments found in the freaked-out reactions of its ensemble cast. The late James Karen, with his hilariously exaggerated hollering and whimpering, only nearly steals the show from the film's wonderful animatronics and disgusting prosthetic makeup. It's a great zombie movie for the reluctant horror newbie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror

Actor: Allan Trautman, Beverly Randolph, Brian Peck, Cathleen Cordell, Cherry Davis, Clu Gulager, David Bond, Don Calfa, Drew Deighan, James Dalesandro, James Karen, Jewel Shepard, John Durbin, John Philbin, Jonathan Terry, JR, Linnea Quigley, Mark Venturini, Michael Crabtree, Miguel A. Núñez, Miguel A. Núñez, Jr., Robert Craighead, Thom Mathews

Director: Dan O'Bannon

Even with its haphazard construction and occasionally unnecessary and corny flourishes (what's with all the mellowed-out covers of pop songs?), there's a sense of intense, sincere pride and joy that shines through Every Body's many testimonials. Intersex people are barely represented whether in media or in legislation, and countless people still have very little understanding of what intersex is. But while this subject is usually viewed as uncomfortable—and this documentary definitely doesn't hold back in explaining the various ways intersex people are mutilated and mentally abused just to force them to conform to the gender binary—the film grounds everything by showing us how its main characters are as ordinary, creative, and full of good humor as the rest of us. So as Every Body skips through various aspects of the intersex experience, even its disorganization takes on the charm of a simple chat with friends. And either way, the discussions held here are the stuff of real courage—demanding our attention and earning our respect.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alicia Roth Weigel, Julie Cohen, River Gallo, Sean Saifa Wall, Steven Crowder

Director: Julie Cohen

As exciting as it sounds to have a real person transported into a fictional story, An American an Austen really doesn't do much with its protagonist's foreknowledge of the plot, nor is it particularly clear about the rules or consequences of Harriet's situation, if any. This means that much of the film consists of watching Pride and Prejudice play out in a slightly more tongue in cheek fashion, as the main character comments on things without doing too much about them. Similar to Hallmark's other recent Jane Austen-themed movies, however, there is a thoughtful message here about learning to face reality and not idealizing fictional romances—delivered in a pretty competent visual package. It's just a shame that this is buried at the end of a plot that has no stakes to speak of.

Genre: Comedy, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Bert Seymour, Calypso Cragg, Catherine Hannay, Dominic Andersen, Eliza Bennett, Erica Ford, Grace Hogg-Robinson, J.R. Esposito, Kate Nichols, Nell Barlow, Nicholas Bishop, Olivia Benjamin, Richard Gibson, Robert Portal, Robin Weaver, Sarah Ferguson, Shin-Fei Chen

Director: Clare Niederpruem

Rating: G