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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.

#20

Running Scared (2006)
41%

#20
Adjusted Score: 45.06%
Critics Consensus: This film runs with frenetic energy punctuated by gratuitous violence but sorely lacks in plot, character development and stylistic flair.
Synopsis: A minor crook finds himself in major peril when a "hot" weapon goes missing in this violent crime thriller. Joey... [More]
Directed By: Wayne Kramer

#19

Rounders (1998)
65%

#19
Adjusted Score: 69.087%
Critics Consensus: Richly atmospheric and colorful performances contributed to the movie's entertainment value.
Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of New York's high-stakes underground poker world. Mike McDermott, a master card player who trades the... [More]
Directed By: John Dahl

#18
#18
Adjusted Score: 76.606%
Critics Consensus: Stunning and compelling, Scorsese and Cage succeed at satisfying the audience.
Synopsis: Nicolas Cage plays EMS paramedic Frank Pierce. It is the early 1990's and New York has not yet undergone its... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#17
Adjusted Score: 77.343%
Critics Consensus: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is a grimy, twisted, and funny twist on the Tarantino hip gangster formula.
Synopsis: British writer Guy Ritchie made his feature directorial debut with this crime-caper comedy-drama set in London's East End and heavy... [More]
Directed By: Guy Ritchie

#16

Straight Time (1978)
75%

#16
Adjusted Score: 73.454%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Paroled criminal Max Dembo is compelled to withstand the calculated cruelties of parole officer Earl Frank. The more Max tries... [More]
Directed By: Ulu Grosbard

#15

Bad Lieutenant (1992)
77%

#15
Adjusted Score: 80.08%
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.
Synopsis: If police lieutenant Harvey Keitel's life could get any more sordid, he could probably sell tickets. The least of his... [More]
Directed By: Abel Ferrara

#14

The Gambler (1974)
78%

#14
Adjusted Score: 78.163%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The Gambler stars James Caan in the title role. Constantly in debt, college professor Caan must rely on his former... [More]
Directed By: Karel Reisz

#13
Adjusted Score: 81.449%
Critics Consensus: Ben Gazzarra gives a grand performance as a hard-pressed debtor with delusions of grandeur in this naturalistic and tense thriller.
Synopsis: John Cassavetes takes a contemporary film noir turn (which he would return to in Gloria) after exploring domestic melodrama in... [More]
Directed By: John Cassavetes

#12

Victoria (2015)
82%

#12
Adjusted Score: 86.584%
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.
Synopsis: A movie shot in a single take about Victoria, a runaway party girl, who's asked by three friendly men to... [More]
Directed By: Sebastian Schipper

#11
#11
Adjusted Score: 88.939%
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.
Synopsis: Directed by celebrated filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie (LENNY COOKE, DADDY LONGLEGS), HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT blends fiction, formalism and raw... [More]
Directed By: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

#10
Adjusted Score: 93.67%
Critics Consensus: A tense and effective thriller, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead marks a triumphant return to form for director Sidney Lumet.
Synopsis: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei star in director Sidney Lumet's thriller concerning two brothers who... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#9
Adjusted Score: 84.42%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Dos primos de la Pequeña Italia en Nueva York que roban dinero para apostarle a los caballos, se inician en... [More]
Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg

#8

Good Time (2017)
92%

#8
Adjusted Score: 101.842%
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.
Synopsis: After a botched bank robbery lands his younger brother in prison, Constantine Nikas (Robert Pattinson) embarks on a twisted odyssey... [More]
Directed By: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie

#7

Run Lola Run (1999)
93%

#7
Adjusted Score: 96.217%
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.
Synopsis: Presenting his third feature after last year's acclaimed Wintersleepers, Tom Tykwer cranks up the volume, stiffens the pace, and jettisons... [More]
Directed By: Tom Tykwer

#6

Thief (1981)
93%

#6
Adjusted Score: 94.827%
Critics Consensus: Thief is an invigorating cut of neon noir - proudly pulpy, steeped in authenticity, and powered by a swaggering James Caan at the peak of his charisma.
Synopsis: In Thief, James Caan plays Frank, a professional jewel thief who wants to marry Jessie (Tuesday Weld) and settle down... [More]
Directed By: Michael Mann

#5
Adjusted Score: 53.499%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This third installment of the "Pusher" trilogy follows Milo, the agining drug lord from the two first films. He is... [More]
Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn

#4

Whiplash (2014)
94%

#4
Adjusted Score: 105.717%
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.
Synopsis: Andrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite... [More]
Directed By: Damien Chazelle

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 99.333%
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.
Synopsis: Based on a true 1972 story, Sidney Lumet's 1975 drama chronicles a unique bank robbery on a hot summer afternoon... [More]
Directed By: Sidney Lumet

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 97.983%
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.
Synopsis: John Mackenzie's masterfully directed British crime drama features a star-making performance by Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, a successful London... [More]
Directed By: John Mackenzie

#1
Adjusted Score: 102.217%
Critics Consensus: The Friends of Eddie Coyle sees Robert Mitchum in transformative late-career mode in a gritty and credible character study.
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle chronicles the last days of a... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

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