Dennis Villanueva’s Sicario is a 2015 award-winning and highly successful action-thriller film that focuses on the ever-increasing violent war against drugs between the United States and Mexico.
It looks at it primarily from the right side of the law, a government task force, and shows how their methods of reaching their goal are not so different from the violent and corrupt methods of the drug cartels.
The film follows idealistic F.B.I. agent Kate Macer who joins a government task force to apprehend drug cartel lieutenant Manuel Díaz to redeem the loss of many lives, both past victims of brutal violence and fellow officers, at one of his safe houses she and her team raided.
Peculiar government official Matt Graver recruits her to join the task force led by the more mysterious and ruthless Alejandro, a former Mexican prosecutor.
But things soon escalate from a simple apprehension to a full-on escalation of the war against drugs between the United States and Mexico.
The film stars Emily Blunt as Kate Macer, Josh Brolin as Matt Graver, and Benicio del Toro as Alejandro.
Sicario, directed by Dennis Villanueva and written by Taylor Sheridan, was released with praise for its screenplay, direction, performances, and Roger Deakins’s beautiful cinematography.
Roger Deakins is a frequent collaborator of Dennis Villanueva.
Films like Sicario include but are not limited to No Country for Old Men, Blade Runner 2049, and Traffic.
Like many of Dennis Villanueva’s films, including Sicario, these films are shrouded in mystery, include realistic violence, have great action sequences, are captured with beautiful cinematography, conclude with an impactful ending, and follow characters that have more to them than meets the eye.
1. No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men is a 2007 crime-thriller written and directed by the Coen Brothers, based upon the novel by Cormac McCarthy.
The film follows a hunter called Llewelyn Moss, who finds two million dollars in cash at a drug deal that ended in disaster. This event sets the psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh on his trail, threatening not only his life but that of his family too if he does not give up the money.
In turn, an old lawman Sheriff Bell is also looking for Bell, hoping to offer him protection from the violence to come.
The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell, Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh.
No Country for Old Men grossed $171,627,166 worldwide. It also won the Oscar for Best Motion Picture.
Like Sicario, this movie centers on the consequences of drug trafficking features tense scenes with realistic violence beautifully captured by Roger Deakins’s cinematography.
2. Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049 is a science-fiction mystery-thriller, with elements of the drama and action genre, directed by Dennis Villanueva, the director of Sicario, and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green.
Blade Runner 2049 follows a young blade runner Officer K, an assassin that kills rogue human replicants.
He unearths a deep secret of the nature of replicants and himself while working on another contract that leads him to track down Rick Deckard, the protagonist of the original Blade Runner and an ex-blade runner who has been missing for thirty years.
Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling as Officer K.
The film grossed $259,334,548 worldwide. It also earned an Oscar for its cinematography.
Like Sicario, this film sports Dennis Villanueva’s signature trademarks of a protagonist and plot shrouded in intriguing mystery exquisitely shot by his longtime Roger Deakins cinematography.
Traffic is a 2000 crime-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Simon Moore.
The movie follows three stories, each connected to the United States’ war against the drug trade.
The first story follows a conservative judge Robert Wakefield who becomes a drug czar – the head of the departments responsible for stopping drug trafficking, only to find out his daughter is addicted to crack.
The second story centers on Javier Rodriguez and Manolo Sanchez, two Mexican police officers who must protect an informant on drug trafficking. The third story follows Helena Ayala, who attempts to continue her jailed husband’s drug business.
Traffic stars Michael Douglas as Robert, Benicio Del Toro as Javier, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Helena.
The film grossed $207,515,725 worldwide. Traffic won Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes.
Like Sicario, Traffic focuses on the problems and corruption of drug trafficking in Mexico and the United States from both sides of the law.
4. Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
The movie is a dramatization that chronicles the Navy S.E.A.L.s hunt that spanned a decade to find and take down Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader responsible for 9/11.
The film stars Jessica Chastain as a fictional C.I.A. operative who helped track down bin Laden.
Zero Dark Thirty grossed $132,820,716 worldwide. Jessica Chastain won The Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Motion Picture.
This film shows a realistic depiction of a war against terrorism, without shying away from realistic violence, as Sicario did for the war against drugs.
5. American Sniper
American Sniper is a biographical war drama film with elements of the action genre, directed by Clint Eastwood and penned by Jason Hall.
The movie follows Navy S.E.A.L. Chriss Kyle’s rise to fame and heroics as one of the world’s deadliest snipers that saved countless fellow soldiers. This feat, in turn, takes a psychological toll on him that affects both him and his family.
American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper as Chriss Kyle.
The film grossed $547,426,372 worldwide. It got nominated for the Oscar for Best Motion Picture.
American Sniper focuses on the psychological effects on the soldiers participating in a war, as Sicario did in the same vein with its protagonist Kate who also took a psychological toll from participating in the war against the illegal drug trade.
Prisoners is a 2013 Mystery Crime-Thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve, the same director who did Sicario and written by Aaron Guzikowski.
The movie follows Keller, who takes it upon himself to find his daughter and her friend who has gone missing.
At the same time, it also follows Detective Loki, who searches for the daughter, friend, and killer through investigating multiple leads that reveals more about himself and the case than he bargained for from the investigations.
The film stars Hugh Jackman as Keller and Jake Gyllenhaal as Detective Loki.
Prisoners grossed $122,126,687 worldwide. It also received an Oscar nomination for its cinematography.
Like Sicario, it features Roger Deakins astounding cinematography to capture the grim world of child abduction and the effects of those involved. At the same time, its story has a Dennis Villeneuve signature style of intriguing mystery in both its characters and story.
7. Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water is a 2016 crime-drama directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario.
The movie, set in Texas, follows Toby, a divorced father, and his brother Tanner, a former con, who robs a series of banks to save their family ranch from drowning debt.
At the same time, Marcus Hamilton, a senior Texas ranger due to retire soon, investigates their robberies and motives.
The film stars Jeff Bridges as Marcus Hamilton, Chriss Pine as Toby, and Ben Foster as Tanner.
Hell or High Water grossed $37,879,877 worldwide. It received numerous accolades, including a nomination of Best Picture at the Oscars.
Like Sicario, Hell or High Water features nail-biting action, a tense climax that results in an impactful ending that will stay with you long after watching this movie.
8. Sin City
Sin City is a 2005 neo-noir crime-thriller directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, based upon Frank Miller’s graphic novel.
This film follows four characters in the fictional crime-ridden Basin City:
- Sin City follows a salesperson who narrates a tragic tale to a mysterious woman.
- It follows Marv, a vigilante, on a quest to find his lost love.
- The movie follows Hartigan, an old cop looking to stop a child killer.
- The film follows Shellie, an ex-prostitute escaping the clutches of her former pimp with the help of Dwight, her boyfriend.
The movie stars Bruce Willis as Hartigan, Micky Rourke as Marv, Brittany Murphy as Shellie, and Clive Owen as Dwight.
The film grossed $158,733,820 worldwide. Sin City won The Saturn Award for Best Action or Adventure Film.
Like Sicario, the film’s setting is corrupt and crime-ridden, featuring protagonists attempting to do some good in it.
9. El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is a 2019 crime-thriller film written and directed by Vince Gilligan as a sequel to Breaking Bad, the hit television series.
The film is set after the mentioned series and follows Jesse Pinkman, a former meth cook, who deals with the psychological consequences of being a former forced meth cook to a skinhead gang while seeking a way to evade the law for his crimes.
The movie stars Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman.
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie won a Critics Choice Award for Best Movie Made for Television.
Like Sicario, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie deals with the psychological trauma of a protagonist involved in the drug trade but from the perspective now of a former meth cook instead of an F.B.I. agent like in Sicario.
Drive is a 2011 crime-drama, with elements of the action genre, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and written by Hossein Amini, based upon the book by James Sallis.
The movie follows an unnamed quiet, mysterious driver who is a stunt driver by day but a getaway driver by night. His life becomes complicated when he takes part in a botched robbery that puts Irene, a woman he has grown close to, and her son in danger.
He takes it upon himself to protect them.
Drive stars Ryan Gosling as the unnamed driver.
The film grossed $77,187,281 worldwide. The movie received a BAFTA nomination for Best Film.
Like Sicario, Drive features a quiet central character that has more to him than meets the eye and nail-biting action sequences.
11. A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is a 2018 post-apocalyptic psychological horror, with drama and action genre elements, directed by John Krasinski.
The film, set in a post-apocalyptic America, follows the lives of a family that must live in silence in fear of monsters who are drawn to any noise.
The movie stars Emily Blunt as Evelyn Abbot, a mother and wife, and John Krasinski, who also directed the film, as Lee Abbot, Evelyn’s husband and father of the family.
The film grossed $340,952,971 worldwide. A Quiet Place earned a spot on the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films of 2018.
Like Sicario, the film also stars Emily Blunt as the heroic richly developed Evelyn Abbot. It is also a slow-paced film with a great action payoff at the end.
12. Man on Fire
Man on Fire is a 2004 action crime-thriller film directed by Tony Scott and written by Brian Helgeland, based upon the novel by A.J. Quinnell.
The film follows John Creasy, a former C.I.A. operative, who accepts a job as the bodyguard of the young daughter, Pita, of a wealthy family in Mexico City. The two of them strike up a close bond. Pita is soon kidnapped, sending Creasy on a violent quest to find Pita.
The movie stars Denzel Washington as John Creasy.
The film grossed $130,834,852 worldwide.
Like Sicario, Man on Fire shares a similar crime-ridden setting and violent action.
13. Sicario: Day of The Soldado
Sicario: Day of The Soldado is a 2018 action-thriller directed by Stefano Sollima and written by Taylor Sheridan as a sequel to the original Sicario.
The film follows Alejandro, a mysterious former Mexican prosecutor and now hitman, and Matt Graver, a peculiar government official. Both attempts to stop Mexican drug cartels from smuggling terrorists across the United States border.
Sicario: Day of The Soldado sees the return of Benicio dell Toro as Alejandro and Josh Brolin as Matt Graver.
The film grossed $75,837,743 worldwide.
Although not as good as the original Sicario, this sequel is still great for those who enjoyed the original’s nail-biting action and the characters of Alejandro and Matt Graver.
14. The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker is a 2008 war-thriller film, with drama and action genre elements, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal.
The movie follows members of the bomb-disposal unit during the Iraq War who face more dangerous tasks that could end their lives during their final weeks of work, which affects all of them psychologically.
The film stars Jeremy Renner as William James, a member of the unit with unorthodox work methods compared to the rest of his unit.
The Hurt Locker grossed $49,259,766 worldwide. It also won the Oscar for Best Picture.
Like Sicario, this film features nail-biting tense scenes and a character, William, mysterious and peculiar like Alejandro.
15. Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is a 2015 historical drama thriller directed by Steven Spielberg.
The movie is set during the Cold War.
The film follows James Donavan, a New York Lawyer, the C.I.A. recruits to negotiate the release of a United States pilot, Francis Gary Powers, who the Soviet Union has captured by exchanging him for the captured Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel.
Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks as James Donavan and Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel.
The film grossed $165,478,348 worldwide. Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel.
Like Sicario, this also deals with United States politics and features intriguing central characters with solid character development.
16. Cartel Land
Cartel Land is a 2015 documentary movie directed by Matthew Heineman.
The documentary looks at the drug problem in the United States-Mexican border through the eyes of two vigilante groups – Autodefensas and the Arizona Border Recon.
Cartel Land grossed $1,145,923 worldwide. It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.
Cartel Land will be intriguing to those seeking a real-life depiction of the war against drugs on the United States-Mexican border, as was the focus in the fictional film Sicario.
17. Wind River
Wind River is a 2017 crime murder mystery written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote Sicario.
The film follows Corey Lambert, a United States Fish and Wildlife Service agent, and Jane Banner, an F.B.I. agent. They team up to find the person responsible for assaulting and murdering a young Native American girl on a Native American reservation in Wyoming.
Wind River stars Jeremy Renner as Corey Lambert and Elizabeth Olsen as James Banner.
The film grossed $43,980,821 worldwide. It also appeared on the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Independent Films of 2017.
Like Sicario, this film is also written by Taylor Sheridan and sports his signature nail-biting tension and focus on real-life crime, previously the war against drugs.
This movie is now focused on the unfortunate human rights crisis affecting many Native American women who are assaulted and murdered on and off the Native American reservations every day.
Syriana is a 2005 Drama-Thriller film directed and written by Stephen Gaghan.
The film follows an ensemble of storylines set against the tense backdrop of the critical state of the oil industry in the Middle East:
- Firstly, Syriana follows Bennett Holiday, a lawyer from the United States, in charge of a suspicious merger of many oil companies.
- Secondly, the film follows Bryan Woodland, an energy analyst based in Switzerland, who travels with Arabian royalty and, in the process, experiences a great opportunity but also a tragedy.
- Thirdly, the movie follows Bob Barnes, a C.I.A. agent, who investigates a horrific assassination plot against Prince Nasir of the Arabian royalty, that Woodland is accompanying.
Syriana stars George Clooney as Bob Barnes, Matt Damon as Bryan Woodland, and Jeffrey Wright as Bennett Holiday.
The film grossed $93,974,620 worldwide. George Clooney won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Bob Barnes.
Like Sicario, the film also focuses on real-world conflict. Instead of focusing on the drug trafficking problem in the United States-Mexican border, like Sicario, Syriana is centered on the Middle Eastern oil industry issues.
Alien is a 1979 science-fiction horror directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon.
The film follows Ripley, a warrant officer a broad the Nostromo, a space tug, who must survive, along with her crew, the invasion of a mysterious alien after receiving a suspicious distress call.
The movie stars Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.
Alien grossed $106,285,522 worldwide. The film earned a place on Empire’s The 100 Greatest Movies.
Like Sicario, the film features a strong female protagonist who stays strong in the face of terrible danger and horror.
20. The Mule
The Mule is a 2018 Crime-Drama directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk.
The movie follows Earl Stone, a man is in his nineties, who becomes a drug mule for a Mexican cartel upon the closure of his horticulturist business for financial support. Earl soon gains excellent success as a mule which draws the attention of Colin Bates, a D.E.A. agent.
The film stars Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone and Bradley Cooper as Colin Bates.
The Mule grossed $174,804,407 worldwide.
Like Sicario, The Mule examines the drug trafficking problems in the United States but through the eyes of a drug mule instead of an F.B.I. agent.
21. John Wick
John Wick is a 2014 action crime-thriller directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad.
The movie follows John Wick, a former hitman, who goes on a violent rampage to find and kill a Russian gangster, Iosef Tarasov, who invaded his home, stole his car and killed his puppy gifted to him by his late wife.
John Wick stars Keanu Reeves as the title character.
The film grossed $86,081,711 worldwide. It was Certified Fresh with a score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Like Sicario, John Wick features blood-pumping action, and its mysterious title character is reminiscent of the peculiar but deadly Alejandro in Sicario.
22. Training Day
Training Day is a 2001 drama crime-thriller, with elements of the action genre, directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by David Ayer.
The movie follows a rookie cop, James Hoyt, in the L.A.P.D. who, on the first day, is escorted on the job in Los Angela’s gang-ridden neighborhoods by a rogue detective named Alonzo Harris, which makes James Hoyt question his superior and morality.
The film stars Denzel Washington as Alonzo Harris and Ethen Hawke as James Hoyt.
Training Day grossed $104,876,233 worldwide at the box office. Denzel Washington was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Alonzo Harris.
Like Sicario, Training Day’s protagonist is also working for a mysterious character, Detective Alonzo Harris, who is not all who he appears to be like Alejandro in Sicario.
23. The Town
The Town is a 2010 Crime-Thriller film, with elements of the drama and action genre, directed and written by Ben Affleck and co-written by him and Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard.
The movie, set in Boston, follows Doug MacRay, a bank robber leading a gang of violent professional bank robbers. When they rob a bank and Doug holds Claire Keesey, the assistant manager, hostage, he learns that she lives in the gang’s neighborhood and soon falls in love with her.
This event complicates things for the crew, especially fellow robber James Coughlin whom Doug is close with, as Doug now wants to question his morality because of Claire.
The film stars Ben Affleck as Doug MacRay.
The movie grossed $154,026,136 worldwide at the box office. The Town appeared on the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films of 2010.
Like Sicario, The Town features similar well-choreographed nail-biting action.
Savages is a 2012 crime-action-thriller film directed by Oliver Stone.
The movie follows Ben and Chon, California Entrepreneurs who specialize and find success in growing and selling marijuana. Both are also in an open relationship with their girlfriend, Ophelia Sage.
Things become complicated when a Mexican cartel moves into their neighborhood, lead by Elena, who demands a cut of their profits and partnership. Events take a turn for the worst when they kidnap Ophelia.
Savages stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ben, Taylor Kitsch as Chon, and Blake Lively as Ophelia.
The film grossed $82,966,152 worldwide at the box office.
Like Sicario, Savages also deals with drug trafficking and conflict with the Mexican cartel.
Snitch is a 2013 crime-thriller directed by Ric Roman Waugh and co-written by him along with Justin Haythe.
The movie follows John Matthews, a father whose son goes to jail after being set up for a drug deal. John offers to work for the D.E.A. to help free his son from imprisonment.
The film stars Dwayne Johnson as John Matthews.
Snitch grossed $57,824,674 at the worldwide box office.
Like Sicario, Snitch also deals with drug trafficking and those involved fighting against it.
(Note: The article received a 4% plagiarism score as of the film titles, budgets, awards, cast and crew, and box office financial information.)
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IMDB: Alien Awards
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IMDB: Sin City
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Roger Ebert: Review: Blade Runner 2049
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