We discuss 10 Movies like Babylon you must watch. Add these well-recommended and highly-rated films to your watch list.
If you missed Damien Chazelle’s epic about the early years of Hollywood when it was released last December, you can catch up with it now that it’s on streaming services. The film might have been a box office disaster, but it did garner three Academy Award nominations and met with as many fans as it did detractors.
The film is centered around the transition from silent to sound films in the late 1920s as a wide cast – ranging from Brad Pitt to Jean Smart to Margot Robbie (Barbie herself!) – portrays different characters rising and falling in popularity in the entertainment industry.
The main character, Manny (played by Diego Calva), is a lens through which to view these larger-than-life movie stars, as the film shows that Hollywood has always been a dark and seedy business beneath the bright lights.
10 Movies like Babylon
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
I had to mention the most classic movie about the transition from silent to talking movies, particularly as it’s even referenced in Babylon. This movie musical, directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, stars Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.
The film features mostly music from 1929-1939 films, including now classics like “Good Morning,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” and (of course) the titular song. It’s a much brighter take on Hollywood than Chazelle’s movie, but it makes an interesting contrast.
Hail, Caesar! (2016)
This black comedy by the Coen Brothers also takes a somewhat critical look at the film industry, this time centering around the making of a (fictional) biblical epic in the 1950s.
It features a large cast, including Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Alden Ehrenreich, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton. Interestingly, it was originally meant to take place in the 1920s, as Babylon does.
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard is another classic film about Hollywood, named for the street that runs through Hollywood. It stars William Holden as a screenwriter and a glorious Gloria Swanson as silent film actress Norma Desmond. It’s another look at what happened to famous actresses when Hollywood made the switch to “talkies.”
If your favorite part of Babylon was getting a glimpse at what early filmmaking looked like, then you’ll also love Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as comedian Charlie Chaplin, you get a poignant look at his life with a stunning lead performance.
The Artist (2011)
The French black-and-white film written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius was made in the style of a part-talkie. Set between 1927 and 1932, it follows a rising actress (Bérénice Bejo) and a silent film actor (Jean Dujardin) during the same transition from silent film to “talkies” that we see in Babylon.
Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)
Babylon wasn’t the only film to come out last year with a plot line around the invention of sound film. The other one came from a surprising place: the second film sequel to the Downton Abbey series follows a film being made at the titular grand English home right as directors and actors alike are learning how to use new techniques.
Show People (1928)
If you enjoyed Babylon, then you could try going back to the source itself. Show People was released only a year after The Jazz Singer revolutionized filmmaking and reflected on Hollywood in the late 1920s.
This silent film was directed by King Vidor and stars William Haines and Marion Davies in perhaps her best role.
Maps to the Stars (2014)
David Cronenberg’s satirical drama reflects on the entertainment industry in a cynical way that feels similar to Babylon. It contains a fascinating set of actors, from Julianne Moore to John Cusack to Robert Pattinson. Like Babylon, it also looks at the situation of a washed-up actor (or, in this case, an actress) and has some strong messaging.
The Cat’s Meow (2001)
Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard, and Cary Elwes star in this adaptation of Steven Peros’s 1997 play. It’s based on the death of film mogul Thomas H. Ince in 1924, around the same time period that Babylon is set. Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, and columnist Louella Parsons are just a few of the characters in this film by Peter Bogdanovich.
La La Land (2016)
I would be remiss in not including Chazelle’s other film about the entertainment industry, La La Land. The beloved film that almost won Best Picture at the Oscars shows a much more starry-eyed look at Los Angeles than Chazelle’s latest. It follows a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone), with music by duo Pasek and Paul.
Do you have any other recommendations for movies like Babylon? Let us know in the comments.
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