3 Movies Like You've Got Mail (1998)

Staff & contributors

Plenty of films have been made about the grueling climb to rock-and-roll fame, but few carry the effortless charm that That Thing You Do! has. Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film is as cookie-cutter as it gets, dodging the dark depths that typically haunt rock biopics. But that isn’t to say That Thing You Do! is boring—just the opposite, its simplicity and nostalgia make it wholly enjoyable. It’s a confection of a film that goes down easy, and it will have you smiling and bopping your head from start to end.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Alex Rocco, Barry Sobel, Benjamin John Parrillo, Bill Cobbs, Brittney Powell, Bryan Cranston, Charlize Theron, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaak, Claudia Stedelin, Clint Howard, Clive Rosengren, Colin Hanks, Dawn Maxey, Elizabeth Hanks, Erika Greene, Ethan Embry, Gedde Watanabe, Gina Aponte, Giovanni Ribisi, Heather Hewitt, Holmes Osborne, Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Demme, Kathleen Kinmont, Keith Neubert, Kevin Pollak, Lee Everett, Liv Tyler, Marc McClure, Mars Callahan, Michael P. Byrne, Obba Babatundé, Paul Feig, Peter Scolari, Renée Lippin, Rita Wilson, Robert Ridgely, Robert Torti, Robert Wisdom, Sarah Koskoff, Sean Whalen, Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Hanks, Tracy Reiner, Warren Berlinger

Director: Tom Hanks

Rating: PG

Far from feeling like English literature homework, this version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy of errors fizzes with vitality and wit. Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in his own sumptuous adaptation, which also features a banquet of dashing talent in their prime, including Emma Thompson and a winning Denzel Washington.

Even amongst the film’s superlative ensemble (which also features a melodramatically villainous Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton as a farcically inept policeman), Thompson stands out for her instinctive grasp of Shakespeare’s genius and easy ability to lift it off the page and give it sparkling life. As Beatrice, she deals out wry cut-downs of Branagh’s vain Benedick, all while trying to suppress the roiling romantic tension that nevertheless persists between them. It might not be set to the music of ABBA, but with Patrick Doyle’s radiant score, an intoxicatingly beautiful Tuscan setting, and an infectious, non-stop party vibe, the joyous Much Ado About Nothing feels more akin to Mamma Mia than any of cinema’s other Shakespeare adaptations.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Lowe, Andy Hockley, Ben Elton, Brian Blessed, Chris Barnes, Conrad Nelson, Denzel Washington, Edward Jewesbury, Emma Thompson, Gerard Horan, Imelda Staunton, Jimmy Yuill, Kate Beckinsale, Keanu Reeves, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Keaton, Patrick Doyle, Phyllida Law, Richard Briers, Richard Clifford, Robert Sean Leonard

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Written and directed by the film’s star, Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life imagines an afterlife in which purgatory is a courtroom, and whether you’ll be saved or damned is judged based on the life you led on Earth.

Did you live courageously, or did you live fearfully? Were you ashamed, meek, afraid of being vulnerable? Or did you risk some tender part of yourself in order to connect with others, to meaningfully impact another life?

Daniel Miller (Brooks) discovers he may not have lived as boldly as he assumed. In the afterlife and awaiting his day in afterlife court, he meets Julia (Meryl Streep, in what is possibly one of her most captivating roles), who is kind and thoughtful and a capital-G Good person. Of course, it’s only after dying that Daniel tunes in to the great possibility of a life not lived on autopilot. But is he too late to atone for his unexamined life—or is there time yet for a second chance?

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alex Sheafe, Arell Blanton, Art Frankel, Bob Braun, Buck Henry, Cathleen Chin, Clarke Coleman, Clayton Norcross, Clifford Einstein, David Purdham, Ernie Brown, Ethan Embry, Gary Ballard, Gary Beach, George D. Wallace, George Wallace, Glen Chin, Greg Finley, Hal Landon Jr., Ida Lee, James Eckhouse, James Paradise, Jennifer Barlow, Jennifer Barlow Grodsky, Jerry Prell, Jim McKrell, Joey Miyashima, Julie Cobb, Ken Thorley, Kristopher Kent Hill, Lee Grant, Leonard O. Turner, Lillian Lehman, Marilyn Rockafellow, Mary Pat Gleason, Maxine Elliott Hicks, Meryl Streep, Michael Durrell, Newell Alexander, Noley Thornton, Nurit Koppel, Peter Schuck, Rachel Bard, Raffi Di Blasio, Rip Torn, Roger Behr, Ronald L. Colby, S. Scott Bullock, Sage Allen, Shirley MacLaine, Sidney Chankin, Susan Walters, Time Winters, Wil Albert

Director: Albert Brooks