Spotlight, released in 2015, is a biographical drama directed by Tom McCarthy and was written by him and Josh Singer. The film has an ensemble cast of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton, among others. The film follows the “Spotlight” team that investigates widespread child sex abuse within the Boston area.
The film is a grueling depiction of the real-life cases that The Boston Globe team uncovered about numerous Roman Catholic priests involved with child sex abuse. The film offers stellar performances and tackles the subject matter in a genuinely gritty manner.
The Globe earned itself a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003, and the film garnered immense critical praise. Critics lauded it for the performances, its historical accuracy, and the screenplay. Additionally, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Our top picks for similar films are The Post (2017), The Report (2019), and Snowden (2016). For these and more, be sure to read on.
1. The Post
The Post, released in 2017, is a historical political thriller directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film is about the publisher of the Washington Post and an executive editor. It regards a cover-up that spanned over four American presidents and pushed our heroes into a battle between the government and the press.
The film stars, in the leading roles, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film was nominated for Best Actress and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Additionally, it was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards.
The film had a budget of $50 million and made a box office return of $179.8 million. If you enjoyed how the characters in Spotlight had to fight to uncover and reveal the truth, this film is your next must-watch.
2. The Report
The Report, released in 2019, is a political drama written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The film follows Daniel J. Jones, who is given the job of investigating the CIA’s post 9/11 Detention and Interrogation program. What he discovers is genuinely terrifying.
Starring in this film are Adam Driver, Ted Levine, and Annette Bening. The film was noted for being a sobering look at one of the darker parts of American history. The critics awarded the film with good reviews, and audience members were enthralled.
The production budget was $8 million, and the film had a short theatrical release where it made $517,788. After this, it was made available on Amazon Prime. If you enjoyed the realizations of how deep the secret ran in Spotlight, then you’re sure to be stunned by this film.
Snowden, released in 2016, is a biographical thriller directed by Oliver Stone. The film is about Edward Snowden, who copied and made publically known highly classified information from the NSA. He managed to leak thousands of documents to the press.
In the lead, like Snowden, we have Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and with him are Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, and Melissa Leo, among others. The critics gave the film mixed reviews as they criticized the direction, but praised Gordon-Levitt’s performance.
The film was also unsuccessful at the box office and only made back $37.3 million of its $40 million budget. In Spotlight, a whole team, backed by their paper, went out in search of the truth. Snowden had to do it alone and now lives in Russia as he cannot return home to America.
Truth, released in 2015, is a historical political drama written and directed by James Vanderbilt. This film was his directorial debut. The story focuses on the Killian documents controversy. It involves the investigation of George W. Bush’s military service and the criticism that ensued and ended up costing Dan Rather and Mary Mapes their careers.
The film stars Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford. The film generally received favorable reviews but did not perform very well at the box office, only making $5.6 million back of its $9.6 million budget.
Like in Spotlight, the real-life individuals represented by the characters felt affected by the investigation they were running. So it is in this film, where our heroes lose everything to get the story out.
Joy, released in 2015, is a biographical comedy-drama written and directed by David O. Russell. The film is not about any form of investigation, but rather the story of a woman who managed to turn herself into a millionaire by creating a business empire.
The film stars Jennifer Lawrence in the lead as Joy Mangano, and with her are Isabella Crovetti-Cramp, and Robert De Niro, among others. The film earned a nomination for a Golden Globe Award, and Lawrence won for Best Actress. Additionally, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
The film’s budget was $60 million and made back an adequate $101.1 million. If you are searching for a film where one has to strive against all odds to succeed and has a fair dash of comedy in the mix, be sure to give this a watch.
6. True Story
True Story, released in 2015, is a mystery drama directed by Rupert Goold (in his directorial debut). The film drew from the memoir of the same name. The film follows a disgraced New York Times reporter, Michael Finkel, who meets Christian Longo, an accused killer. Longo has taken on Finkel’s identity, and Finkel’s investigation quickly takes some interesting turns.
The film’s cast includes Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Felicity Jones. Despite its good performances, the film received average to mixed reviews, and it only made a box office return of $5.3 million.
Suppose you were intrigued by the characters’ hunger for the truth in Spotlight. In that case, you’ll enjoy this one, which also offers an exciting look at the development between characters as the movie progresses.
7. The Big Short
The Big Short, which was released in 2015, is a biographical comedy-drama directed by Adam McKay. The film’s setting is during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, which was sparked by the housing bubble.
The film stars Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Hamish Linklater. The film earned itself an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and also received other nominations. The film had a good reception from critics, and it made a return of $133.4 Million on its budget of $50 million.
The film follows three simultaneous stories connected by the actions of the people involved, and we witness how these decisions aided in bringing about the crash of the housing market. If you would like to see a film where you get a picture of the shady happenings from within, then you’ll like this award winner.
Room, released in 2015, is a drama directed by Lenny Abrahamson and based on the 2010 novel of the same name. The movie centers on a young woman who is held captive for seven years. During her captivity, she gives birth to a son, and the pair lives in a room, which is all the boy knows of the world. Ultimately they manage to escape.
The film stars Brie Larson as Joy Newsome and Jacob Tremblay as Jack Newsome. With them are also Joan Allen, William H. Macy, and Sean Bridgers. The film had numerous nominations and won many awards, including Larson earning an Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and Golden Globe Award.
The film does not follow the investigation of sexual abuse, but rather the lived experience of one young woman who also has a son by her perpetrator. Once they escape, the two need to find a way to adapt back into living in the outside world.
9. Shattered Glass
Shattered Glass, released in 2003, is a biographical drama film written and directed by Billy Ray. The film is about the journalist Stephen Glass and the scandal involving him at The New Republic when it is discovered that his stories have been fabricated.
The film stars Hayden Christensen as Glass, and with him are Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, and Steve Zahn. The film garnered various awards and nominations, including a nomination for a Golden Globe Award.
Unfortunately, even after receiving exceptional reviews from critics, the film performed poorly at the box office and only earned $2.9 million against its $6 million budget. This film is slightly different from Spotlight in that this time it is the journalist under scrutiny, but if you enjoy the tensions built by truths being uncovered, you’ll relish this one.
10. Molly’s Game
Molly’s Game, released in 2017, is a biographical crime drama written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in his directorial debut. In this film, we follow the true story of Molly Bloom, who ran the world’s most exclusive poker games and who ultimately became a target of the FBI.
Jessica Chastain plays the lead role, and with her are Idris Elba, Jeremy Strong, Kevin Costner, and Michael Cera. Chastain earned a Golden Globe nomination, and the movie received nominations for various other awards. The reviews were excellent; however, its budget of $30 million only saw a return of $59.3 million.
The film is not about the wrongdoings of the Catholic church or the cover-ups thereof but instead looks at another type of world, that of high-stakes poker, and how a woman who builds up an empire is left to watch it collapse.
11. Dark Waters
Dark Waters, released in 2019, is a legal thriller and was directed by Todd Haynes. The film is a dramatization of the story about Robert Bilott’s case against Dupont, a chemical manufacturing company. This, following them contaminating a town with unregulated chemicals.
Starring as Bilott is Mark Ruffalo and with him are Anne Hathaway, Bill Camp, and Tim Robbins. The film was given good reviews from critics and audience members and earned $23.1 million from its limited theatrical release.
The film, like Spotlight, sees a large organization being put on the witness stand to give account for their actions, and if you enjoyed the fight and tenacity of those in Spotlight, you’ll appreciate this film.
Vice, which was released in 2018, is a biographical black comedy-drama written and directed by Adam McKay. The film is about the story of Dick Cheney, the former U. S. Vice President who was on an unstoppable trajectory to becoming the most powerful vice president in America’s history.
Starring in the lead role is Christian Bale, and with him are Amy Adams, Justin Kirk, Steve Carell, and Sam Rockwell. The critics either loved or hated the film, but despite this, the film earned numerous accolades and garnered nominations for the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA Awards.
The film’s budget was $60 million, and, unfortunately, it only made back a box office of $76.1 million. Unlike the characters from Spotlight, who were trying to uncover the story by doing things more by the book, Cheney had questionable methods which he utilized.
13. The Ides Of March
The Ides of March, released in 2011, is a political drama film directed by George Clooney, who also wrote the screenplay, along with Beau Willimon and Grant Heslov. The film is about an idealistic staffer working for a new presidential candidate, and during his time on the campaign trail, he gets an inside look at the nature of dirty politics.
The film stars Ryan Gosling and alongside him is Clooney. With them are Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Paul Giamatti. The film earned positive reviews, and the National Board of Review selected it as one of the top ten films of 2011. Gosling earned a nomination for a Gold Globe, and the film was nominated for an Oscar for the Best Adapted Screenplay.
The film had a budget of $12.5 million and earned back a decent $76.3 million at the box office. If you would enjoy a film that gives you an inside look at the true nature of those involved with politics, this is undoubtedly worth watching.
14. The Judge
The Judge, released in 2014, is a legal drama directed by David Dobkin. The film follows Hank Palmer, a big-city lawyer who goes back to his childhood town where his father, the local judge, is suspected of murder. Hank is determined to defend his father and discover the truth, and in doing so, he reconnects with his family.
The cast of this film includes Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, along with them are Vera Farmiga, Jeremy Strong, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Critics praised the film for the performances of Downey and Duvall, but the lack of development in the supporting characters was criticized.
The film had a budget of $45 million and managed to make $84.4 million at the box office. The film is more personal than Spotlight and far more focused on an individual case. If you enjoyed the immense efforts those in Spotlight went to, then you’ll admire the character of Hank Palmer, even though it takes some time for us to warm to him.
15. The Laundromat
The Laundromat, released in 2019, is a biographical comedy-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh. The film consists of three concurrent stories of people from around the world connected by the afflictions caused by the schemes of their company. The film is true to the actual life events, even if it is somewhat fictionalized.
The film stars Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, and David Schwimmer. Despite the star-studded cast, the film received mixed reviews. It was released theatrically before being made available for streaming on Netflix.
The film does not deal with the journalistic investigation of child molestation, but rather the shady business of money laundering and how some benefiting harms others. It is also a story of divulging the truth of matters, though.
Conviction, released in 2010, is a biographical legal drama directed by Tony Goldwyn. The film is about Betty Anne Waters, a mother who works as a waitress, but once her brother has been wrongfully convicted of murder, she puts herself through law school to defend him.
The film stars Hilary Swank, and Sam Rockwell, along with them are Minnie Driver, Ele Bardha, and Melissa Leo. The compelling true story and the performances of the leads were commended, but on the whole, the film received average reviews.
The film had a budget of $12.5 million and unfortunately only earned back $11.1 million. This film is similar to Spotlight in that it is a taxing journey of those trying to disclose the truth; the only difference, in this case, is that the one convicted is innocent.
17. Money Monster
Money Monster, released in 2016, is a crime thriller directed by Jodie Foster and is a film that was well written and executed. The film is about a man who lost everything due to those on Wall Street, and he takes Lee Gates, a Financial TV host and, Patty, the producer hostage.
George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and Jack O’Connell star in this thrilling film, and there is exceptional tension built throughout their interactions. Critics were divided about how they felt over the film. Some were astounded, and some, unfortunately, were unimpressed.
Despite this, the film was able to make $93.3 million on its $27.4 million budget. If you are interested in a film where the one asking questions gets up close and personal to the people he feels misled him, then this film will not disappoint.
18. Black Mass
Black Mass, released in 2015, is a biographical crime drama directed by Scott Cooper. In this film, we follow the story of Whitey Bulger, a small-time criminal who ultimately expands his business at an astounding rate. This is greatly owed to the FBI voluntarily not charging him for the increasing offenses he has committed.
The film stars exceptional talents such as Johnny Depp, who takes the lead, and with him are Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, and Jesse Plemons. The critics predominantly gave the film good reviews, and audience members were delighted.
Despite this, the film only made $99.8 million from its initial budget of $53 million. If you want a film that is dark and gritty and deals with all kinds of criminal offenses while seeing how the authorities stand by and do nothing, then you’re in for a treat here. What is scary, though, is that it was based on actual events.
19. The Infiltrator
The Infiltrator, released in 2016, is a biographical crime thriller directed by Brad Furman. The film follows a U. S. Customs official, Robert Mazur, who goes undercover and reveals a money-laundering scheme with Pablo Escobar, a Colombian drug lord, at the head.
In the lead, we have Bryan Cranston and with him are Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, and John Leguizamo. The film found favor with the critics, who particularly commended the performances. Unfortunately, the film underperformed, and its $28 million budget only saw a return of $20.7 million.
One main difference here is that drug cartels are known for being devious and ruthless individuals who commit crimes. In contrast, in Spotlight, we see how many affected people had trusted in the Catholic Church. If you enjoyed the investigative nature of Spotlight and like an excellent undercover agent trope, then this is the film for you.
20. The Wolf Of Wall Street
The Wolf of Wall Street, which was released in 2013, is an epic biographical black comedy that the prominent Martin Scorsese directed. The film’s source material is the memoir of Jordan Belfort. It involves him going from one who trades penny stocks to his company, eventually being caught out for high levels of fraud and corruption.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Belfort, and with him are Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Kyle Chandler. DiCaprio was awarded a Golden Globe for his performance, and the film earned itself numerous Academy Award nominations. Additionally, the film was a box office success and turned its budget of $100 million into a return of $392 million.
Although the crimes committed by Belfort were severe, the film offers a humorous lens through which to view his behavior. Unlike Spotlight, the film is far less serious, and the content is not as grievous. So if you are looking for something that offers a good laugh, provided by excellent performances, you might want to consider this one.
Zodiac, released in 2007, is a mystery thriller film that David Fincher directed. The film was based on a non-fiction book, which has the same title, published in 1986. The film depicts a San Francisco cartoonist who became an amateur detective who tried to hunt down the notorious Zodiac Killer.
The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo. For the most part, the film received positive reviews and received praise for various aspects from historical accuracy, directing, and performances. The film also earned nominations for several awards, including a Saturn Award.
If you were impressed by how those in Spotlight stuck to their convictions and pushed through to uncovering the truth, you will enjoy the grit shown by those in this film.
Capote, released in 2005, is a biographical film directed by Bennett Miller, and it predominantly focuses on the events during Capote’s writing of his non-fiction book, In Cold Blood. The film itself is based on the biography, Capote, by Gerald Clarke.
The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in the titular role of Truman Capote. Along with him are Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., and Chris Cooper. The film earned acclaim from the critics, and Hoffman was particularly praised. The film also won several awards, one being the Academy Award, which went to Hoffman for Best Actor.
Like Zodiac (2007), this one involves a character trying to delve into the matter of murder. In this case, Capote chose to write a book about the murder of a family from Kansas. Like Spotlight, the characters in this film get up close and personal with the matters they are dealing with.
Doubt, released in 2008, is a drama which was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. It was based on his stage play which won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. The film is set in a Roman Catholic elementary school and follows the story of a priest whose relationship with troubled youth is questioned.
The film stars Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who also played in Capote (2005). The film received praise from critics, and it, along with the performers, was nominated for numerous awards, including the Academy Awards.
One definite throughline in this film, which it shares with Spotlight, is the notion of Catholic priests having relationships with youth and children that are not acceptable in any way, shape, or form. This film will intrigue you as it has a premise similar to Spotlight, but puts the same idea under a microscope.
24. The Social Network
The Social Network, released in 2010, is a biographical drama directed by David Fincher. The film offers an insight into the founding of Facebook and the resultant lawsuits which followed.
Starring in the film’s lead role, of Mark Zuckerberg, is Jesse Eisenberg and with him are Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake. The film received immense praise for its excellent performances and expert direction. It also did itself justice at the box office and earned $224.9 million on a budget of $40 million.
There is a substantial amount of things that are not strictly illegal but are undoubtedly unethical acts. Something that this film has in common with Spotlight is that those who wronged others were very unapologetic and unwilling to take ownership of their pitfalls.
25. Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich, released in 2000, is a biographical legal drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, who also directed The Laundromat (2019). It is a dramatization of the actual story of Erin Brockovich, who entered a legal battle with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which polluted a town’s water supply.
Julia Roberts portrays the lead role, and along with her are Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, and Marg Helgenberger. The film got itself a positive reaction from critics and was a box office success. On its budget of $52 million, the film managed to make $256.3 million.
Once again, we see someone fighting for what is right and taking the perpetrators to task for their actions, which is the key point this stellar film shares with Spotlight.
IMDB: The Post
IMDB: The Report
IMDB: True Story
IMDB: The Big Short
IMDB: Shattered Glass
IMDB: Molly’s Game
IMDB: Dark Waters
IMDB: The Ides Of March
IMDB: The Judge
IMDB: The Laundromat
IMDB: Money Monster
IMDB: Black Mass
IMDB: The Infiltrator
IMDB: The Wolf Of Wall Street
IMDB: The Social Network
IMDB: Erin Brockovich