(Photo by A24 / courtesy Everett Collection)
20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems: Critics loved it. Adventurous audiences loved it. Even the Academy…Well, they probably did, but not enough to get Adam Sandler an Oscar nomination. If you got mauled by the relentless, noisy, vice-tightening style — and loved every second of it — and you’re looking for more movies like Uncut Gems, we’ve got a spread of 20 for you to challenge and throttle the senses.
Uncut Gems was directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, two brothers who’ve honed their intimate filmmaking over several features. They really gained traction with heroin drama Heaven Knows What, and 2017’s Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson trapped in a similar anxiety-inducing trip as the one Sandler’s unscrupulous jeweler, Howard, goes on in Uncut Gems. Howard is largely driven by his addiction to high-stakes gambling, a potentially lethal path to go down also seen in Rounders, The Gambler, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.
The fashionable hell Howard has created for himself invites many players of the criminal world in, and Uncut Gems is in many ways that classic kind of thriller where a small player cobbles together a risky plan to bet against the underworld, hoping for that big score. Some of the best that this grim genre has to offer: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Thief (if you can’t find this, try Collateral, another Michael Mann nocturnal classic), and Sidney Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Conversely, The Long Good Friday and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher III: I’m the Angel of Death (you can generally watch this without having seen the other Pushers) are from the kingpin’s perspective, which show that when you know everybody, everybody’s potentially out to kill you.
Of course, plenty of Uncut Gems fans admire the nerve-wracking pace, where problems just pile up one after the other, frequently because characters just can’t get out of their own way. If you’re looking for more of that, seek out Dog Day Afternoon, Victoria (an after-hours thriller legitimately shot in one take), Running Scared (a fan favorite with Paul Walker), Whiplash, and Run Lola Run.
Howard is arguably Sandler’s most memorable character ever: A man in deep agitation, both financial and existential in nature. You can find more deep character work from the likes of Dustin Hoffman in Straight Time, about a thief who struggles to abide by society’s pecking order after release from jail. Or Nicolas Cage in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead as a burned-out philosophical paramedic who red-eyes across multiple New York shifts. And Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant, a crooked cop who loses the will to make sound decisions. These movies lay the pressure on their wayward protagonists, compressing, until out comes, well, some gritty gems of filmmaking. —Alex Vo
Adjusted Score: 45946%
Critics Consensus: This film runs with frenetic energy punctuated by gratuitous violence but sorely lacks in plot, character development and stylistic flair.
Mafia flunky Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker) is ordered to dispose of the guns that killed a pair of policemen. He... [More]
Adjusted Score: 68631%
Critics Consensus: Richly atmospheric and colorful performances contributed to the movie's entertainment value.
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) loses his money in a poker game against Russian gangster Teddy "KGB" (John Malkovich). Under pressure... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78271%
Critics Consensus: Stunning and compelling, Scorsese and Cage succeed at satisfying the audience.
After a disheartening and haunting career wears him down, New York City paramedic Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) begins to collapse... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78658%
Critics Consensus: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is a grimy, twisted, and funny twist on the Tarantino hip gangster formula.
Eddy (Nick Moran) convinces three friends to pool funds for a high-stakes poker game against local crime boss Hatchet Harry... [More]
Adjusted Score: 83517%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
A career criminal, Max Dembo (Dustin Hoffman) is determined to go straight after his latest stint in prison. He takes... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82088%
Critics Consensus: Bad Lieutenant will challenge less desensitized viewers with its depiction of police corruption, but Harvey Keitel's committed performance makes it hard to turn away.
The Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel) is a corrupt cop steeped in gambling debt who exploits his authority to sexually harass teenage... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82454%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
New York City English professor Axel Freed (James Caan) outwardly seems like an upstanding citizen. But privately Freed is in... [More]
Adjusted Score: 82062%
Critics Consensus: Ben Gazzarra gives a grand performance as a hard-pressed debtor with delusions of grandeur in this naturalistic and tense thriller.
Cosmo Vittelli (Ben Gazzara), the proprietor of a sleazy, low-rent Hollywood cabaret, has a real affection for the women who... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89163%
Critics Consensus: Victoria's single-take production is undeniably impressive, but it's also an effective drama in its own right -- and one that juggles its tonal shifts as deftly as its technical complexities.
Four local Berliners recruit a thrill-seeking Spanish woman (Laia Costa) to be their getaway driver for a bank robbery.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 89625%
Critics Consensus: Grueling and rewarding in equal measure, Heaven Knows What hits hard -- and serves as a powerful calling card for its captivating star, Arielle Holmes.
A young heroin addict (Arielle Holmes) roams the streets of New York to panhandle and get her next fix, while... [More]
Adjusted Score: 95908%
Critics Consensus: A tense and effective thriller, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead marks a triumphant return to form for director Sidney Lumet.
Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a debt-ridden broker, needs some quick cash. He ropes his younger brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), into... [More]
Adjusted Score: 79100%
Critics Consensus: Undisciplined direction and a clichéd story prevent The Pope of Greenwich Village from achieving greatness, but it's an entertaining showcase for its stars.
Cousins Paulie (Eric Roberts) and Charlie (Mickey Rourke) plan to rob a merchant in the New York City neighborhood that's... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103873%
Critics Consensus: A visual treat filled out by consistently stellar work from Robert Pattinson, Good Time is a singularly distinctive crime drama offering far more than the usual genre thrills.
A bank robber stops at nothing to free his brother from prison, launching himself into a nightlong odyssey through New... [More]
Adjusted Score: 97909%
Critics Consensus: More fun than a barrel of Jean-Paul Sartre, pic's energy riffs on an engaging love story and really human performances while offering a series of what-ifs and a blood-stirring soundtrack.
In this visually and conceptually impressive film, two-bit Berlin criminal Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) delivers some smuggled loot for his boss,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 88033%
Critics Consensus: Thief's enigmatic conclusion will rob some audiences of satisfaction, but it's an authentic and sleekly rendered neo-noir, powered by a swaggering James Caan at the peak of his charisma.
A highly skilled jewel thief, Frank (James Caan) longs to leave his dangerous trade and settle down with his girlfriend,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 57999%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Milo (Zlatko Buric) is a drug dealer and recovering addict who's slowly coming unraveled. While trying to prepare for his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 108673%
Critics Consensus: Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller.
Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, in pursuit of rising to the top of his elite... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101931%
Critics Consensus: Framed by great work from director Sidney Lumet and fueled by a gripping performance from Al Pacino, Dog Day Afternoon offers a finely detailed snapshot of people in crisis with tension-soaked drama shaded in black humor.
When inexperienced criminal Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) leads a bank robbery in Brooklyn, things quickly go wrong, and a hostage... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99593%
Critics Consensus: Bob Hoskins commands a deviously sinister performance in The Long Good Friday -- a gangster flick with ferocious intelligence, tight plotting and razor-edged thrills.
In the late 1970s, Cockney crime boss Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), a gangster trying to become a legitimate property mogul,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101701%
Critics Consensus: The Friends of Eddie Coyle sees Robert Mitchum in transformative late-career mode in a gritty and credible character study.
Aging Boston gunrunner Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) is looking at several years of jail time for a hold-up if he... [More]
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