Awards season is a time to argue about the “best” films of the year, but it’s also a time to reconsider some of the films that flew under the radar or have been forgotten. We’ve put together our own Like That/Watch This list, where we take highly touted films and pair them with lesser-known counterparts that share similar themes, narratives, or aesthetics. Let us know of any comparisons we missed or underrated films that you think folks should see.
Like Lady Bird? Watch Columbus
Lady Bird is topping many critics’ list as the best film of the year. It’s certainly in our top three. Ronan’s performance is perfection, and Gerwig’s direction and script simultaneously capture the particularities and universality of her experience. Premiering at Sundance last January, Kogonada’s Columbus shares similar themes of life in a small town, longing to break free, and tensions between young adult children and their parents. You can read our review of Columbus here. Columbus is available on iTunes.
Like Call Me By Your Name? Watch Princess Cyd
Call Me By Your Name feels familiar for the first half of the film, but then rises to another level from there on out, culminating in a heart- and gut-wrenching conclusion and a speech from Michael Stuhlbarg that should have landed him an Oscar nomination. Many critics praised Princess Cyd (directed by Stephen Cone) for its strong portrayal of women and female sexuality. Like Call Me By Your Name, Princess Cyd is also a coming-of-age story with relationships between older and younger characters. You can read our review of Princes Cyd here and our interview with Cone here. Princess Cyd is available for download on iTunes.
Like Dunkirk? Watch Their Finest
It feels like Dunkirk would be higher on many people’s end-of-the-year lists had it released later in the year. You can read our review of it here. Though less critically-acclaimed than Dunkirk, Their Finest sheds light on the heroism of the moment, but clothes it in humor. At the same time, it reveals women’s struggles to break into the film and television industries across the pond. You can read our review of Their Finest here and watch it here.
Like Get Out? Watch Burning Sands
Get Out isn’t only one of the best films of last year, it’s one of the best of the last several. That it’s in the current conversation reveals its staying power in our hyper-distracted culture. Another film that premiered at Sundance 2017, Burning Sands may not have the shock value of Get Out, but the abuses of fraternity initiation rituals (inspired by real-world events) that it portrays are horrific. Burning Sands is streaming on Netflix.
Like I, Tonya? Watch Patti Cake$
I liked I, Tonya less than I thought I would and probably need to re-watch it. A film with a similar narrative of a talented, underdog, young woman with dreams of stardom suffers, in part, at the hands of a flawed and abusive mother, Patti Cake$ premiered at Sundance in 2017 to critical acclaim. It would eventually suffer abysmal box office results later that summer., but don’t let that scare you off. It features one of the best performances of the year from newcomer Danielle Macdonald and is still one of the most enjoyable films of the year. Patti Cake$ is available to buy on iTunes.
Like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? Watch Strong Island
Three Billboards boasts another strong script from Martin McDonagh, and it’s bolstered by stellar performances from the entire cast, even though Francis McDormand and Sam Rockwell are getting all the attention. It’s central theme of one woman’s tireless pursuit of justice resonates at the moment. Completely different in style (documentary, not fiction), Strong Island focuses on one individual’s pursuit of justice for a murdered family member. The Guardian called it “an anatomy of injustice.” Strong Island has been nominated for a best doc Oscar and is now streaming on Netflix.
Like The Shape of Water? Watch Okja
I wasn’t expecting the intensity of the relationship between Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and the fish-man in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. An homage to the creature features of film history, it’s also a testament to the boundless nature of love. In Okja, Bong Joon Ho uses a mythical creature to comment on clashing cultures, capitalism, greed, and our current obsession with fame. It’s far from a perfect film: like Shape, it wears its politics and emotions on its sleeves. But it boasts impressive performances and strong production design. You can read our review of Okja here and stream it on Netflix.