Boasting three Academy Awards nominations, Sicario is the work of acclaimed French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (who more recently impressed again with his 2016 science fiction offering Arrival). The action crime thriller stars Emily Blunt as a straitlaced FBI agent who joins an inter-government task force on a clandestine mission to bring down the leader of a powerful Mexican drug cartel. Notable for its dark overtones, Sicario explores the shadowy shades of grey in the grim world of law enforcement that often fall outside clearly colored lines of black and white. The film’s agonizing mood and brutal energy is skillfully brought to a crushing crescendo by the cast’s skillful performance. If you enjoyed the film, here are 8 more dark, gritty action thriller movies like Sicario to sink your teeth into.
MOVIES LIKE SICARIO
Starring Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones
Traffic is a patchwork of stories intersecting to explore the illegal drug trade from various perspectives. A Mexican policeman finds himself caught in a web of corruption despite his best efforts. Elsewhere, a State Supreme Court judge deals with his daughter’s drug addiction in private even as he is publicly appointed to head the country’s War on Drugs. Finally, the pampered wife of a drug baron proves her mettle as she is suddenly thrown into the family business.
Fans of Benicio Del Toro’s performance as the brutal, enigmatic Alejandro in Sicario will appreciate his acting chops again, this time as a sharp, compassionate cop in Traffic. The film similarly depicts the hypocrisy and hollowness of anti-drug efforts, in a gripping story that highlights the immense human cost of the endeavor. If movies like Sicario appeal for the themes it explores, then Traffic is a must-watch.
Hell or High Water (2016)
Starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster
Divorced father Toby Howard reluctantly enlists his wild ex-con brother for a series of daring bank robberies in a last ditch attempt to gather enough money to pay off the bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. Hot on their heels is a Texas Ranger looking for one last grand pursuit before retirement.
Written by Taylor Sheridan, who also penned Sicario, the film is intelligent and tightly scripted, exuding the same aura of mayhem and tension that envelops an impactful look at the cycle of violence. A magnificent modern western crime thriller, Hell or High Water manages to be both sympathetic and brutal in its story of two men’s fight to safeguard their family’s future.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Maria Bello
Keller Dover finds himself in every parent’s worst nightmare when he discovers that his six-year-old daughter has been abducted along with her friend. The authorities’ only lead is an intellectually disabled young man whose RV had been seen parked on the street where the girls disappeared. Desperate to recover his child, Dover begins taking matters into his own hands.
Directed by the same mind behind Sicario, Prisoners once again showcases Denis Villeneuve’s penchant for delving into the murky depths of human morality and the age-old adage of the ends justifying the means. Not for the weak of stomach, the film is relentlessly savage as it barrels towards the devastating abyss of one man’s desperation and anguish. If you relish movies like Sicario for the haunting feeling that lingers long after the film ends, Prisoners will strike a similar cord.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin
While hunting proghorns in the desert, war veteran Llewelyn Moss stumbles into the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. Dead bodies lie littered around a bullet-strewn pickup truck and stashed in the back of the vehicle, Moss uncovers two million dollars in cash and a load of heroin. His decision to abscond with the money sets in motion a violent and dreadful chain of events.
The critically acclaimed movie won four Academy Awards and was voted the 10th best film of the 21st century as picked by 177 film critics on the BBC. A ferocious tale of the deranged and the doomed unfolds within the impotent grasp of the law in this masterful piece of cinematic brilliance. If you are looking to descend into the very depths of darkness and anarchy, this should be your pick in our list of movies like Sicario.
Starring Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, David Wilmot, Richard Dormer, Paul Anderson and Charlie Murphy
Taking place over a single night, ’71 tells the tale of a young British soldier who is accidentally separated from his unit during a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Amid the heated civil unrest, the soldier struggles to identify friend from foe as he tries to find his way to safety.
Movies like Sicario demonstrate how quickly the lines of right and wrong can begin to blur and ’71 poignantly drives home the point. The historical thriller adroitly unites the Byzantine nature of politics in a whirl of physical action-driven sequences that leave viewers breathless and emotionally spent.
Starring Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith and Mark Ruffalo
When cab driver Max picks up a wealthy passenger who offers him a hefty fee to drive to five locations in the course of one night, he thinks it’s a stroke of luck. But things soon take a traumatic turn when he realizes that his latest fare is a contract killer on his way to a string of paid jobs.
Tom Cruise is cast against type as a cold, vicious assassin in this stunning neo-noir crime thriller to great effect. He turns in a riveting performance, sustaining an intense cat-and-mouse chemistry opposite the talented Jamie Foxx who plays a cautious, hardworking cab driver. Visually striking, Collateral offers a sinister darkness reminiscent of the chilling tone in movies like Sicario.
Black Mass (2015)
Starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard and Dakota Johnson
Based on the true story of Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, the film follows his journey as he collaborates with the FBI as an informant in a bid to eliminate a common enemy – the Italian mafia. The misguided alliance, which enables the mobster to evade law enforcement, soon spins wildly out of control, turning Whitey into one of the most ruthless and violent gangsters in Boston history.
Johnny Depp puts in an impressively gritty performance as Whitey, a deviation from his recent fare of affected circus villains (i.e. Jack Sparrow, the Big Bad Wolf, Mortdecai, Mad Hatter etc.). A gripping character study, the film is an unnerving exploration of the pursuit of power and the regrettable decay of benevolent intentions. Black Mass is a gem of a film in our list of movies like Sicario.
Starring Jason Patric and Ray Liotta
When an undercover narcotics officer is murdered, the police department reinstates a former detective, Nick Tellis, to investigate the case. Along with the deceased’s partner, Tellis finds himself trawling through drug dens and alleyways in pursuit of the truth. As evidence begins to surface, Tellis faces an ethical dilemma when the law and justice appear to be two very different things.
The film received praise for its strong casting and the actors’ electrifying performances in this bracing thriller. Markedly missing the clichéd humour and good-cop-bad-cop formula of most police-buddy dramas, Narc is hard and grim from start to finish and crafted with a raw aggressive energy. Ruthlessly violent, expect Narc to leave a deep visceral impression in our list of movies like Sicario.