Sicario is one of the most engrossing and intense of cartel thrillers ever made. FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a dedicated enough agent that she becomes of great use in bringing down one of the toughest Mexican cartels. Recruited for a government task force, she works alongside the gruff and stoic government official Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious leader Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro). The missions between the US and Mexico grow ever more dangerous and terrifying. But Kate fears that her own task force may be just as frightening as the cartels for such violent methods as they attempt to out the bosses of the cartel.
Sicario comes from director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) and was considered a bit of a hit for boasting both an intense neo-western atmosphere and an impressive ensemble. The film was revered enough to be nominated for the Academy Awards of Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Editing. As a brooding portrayal of crime and corruption, the film may leave you wanting more. Now, yes, there is the 2018 sequel of Sicario: Day of the Soldado (sans Emily Blunt), but that may not be enough if you’re craving even more gritty and brooding thrillers. If that type of film is your thing, take a look at these ten films that are similar to Sicario.
Before Villeneuve crafted Sicario, he directed this equally intense picture of taking the law into your own hands. Keller Dover is a parent who has just experienced the worst tragedy for a father by losing track of his six-year-old daughter Anna when she plays with a friend. The detective Loki helps out with the investigation which leads him to questioning a driver at the scene but the interrogation brings up nothing. Deciding to enact his own brand of justice, Keller kidnaps the driver and holds him hostage, torturing the man until he will talk about where his daughter is being held. Nominated for the Academy Award of Best Cinematography, Prisoners features a robust cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, and Paul Dano.
No Country for Old Men
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men is a neo-western of drugs, cartels, and lone wolves who doggedly pursue greed. It is 1980 in Texas and the desert hunter Llewelyn Moss has just found the ultimate prize when he stumbles onto the remains of a drug deal gone wrong. He swipes the suitcase full of money and makes a run for it. What he doesn’t realize is that the expert assassin of Anton Chigurh is tailing him with his deadly captive bolt pistol, aiming to complete his mission by any means. Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (Fargo), this dark yet off-beat thriller stars Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin.
A Native American woman is found dead and raped in the snow on a Wyoming reservation. Seeking answers to such a crime is the visiting FBI agent Jane Banner, not as adept at navigating the snowy wilderness. She relies on the local wildlife officer of Cory Lambert to help her find her way about the chilly and vast Wyoming landscape. But their investigation overturns the darker nature that lurks in the corners of trailers and mountains, as the duo struggle to bring justice to the real-world issue of Native American women being beaten and brutalized in such a tentious community. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone), this neo-western thriller stars Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Gil Birmingham, and Jon Bernthal.
The war on drugs in America is given a frank, scathing, and dark critique in this brooding thriller. Told as an anthology of sorts, the film follows various characters and their interconnected lives that revolve around drugs. A Supreme Court judge of Ohio finds himself handling a drug task force but doesn’t realize that his very daughter is addicted to heroin. A Mexican cop tries to do the right thing by standing up to the cartels, even if he is outnumbered. A couple of DEA agents pursue the wife of a criminal with drug ties as well. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich) and based on the novel by Simon Moore, the film features an ensemble cast that includes Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzmán, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Hell or High Water
Toby and Tanner are brothers who fear they are losing a legacy with their farm. Seeking to improve their impoverished lives, the two set out robbing banks across their Texan community. Pursuing the boys and their crime spree is the aged and edgy Texas Ranger of Marcus. He may just be a few days away from retirement but doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing the criminals with his co-worker Alberto. But both duos may not be prepared for what happens when they stand off against each other in the thrilling conclusion. Directed by David Mackenzie (Outlaw King) and written by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River), this neo-western stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Gil Birmingham.
Max is a Los Angeles taxi driver who is looking forward to his future. But that future may be cut short when he takes on the customer of Vincent, a mysterious man who offers to pay him for a full night of driving. What Max soon comes to discover is that he’s driving around a hitman. Fearing for his life, Max tries to find a way out of this night of brutality before Vincent turns his gun on him. It’s a race to make it out alive as dying cell phones and late-night trains may be Max’s only escape from death. Directed by Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), this intense neo-noir thriller stars Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett Smith, Mark Ruffalo, Peter Berg, and Bruce McGill.
As one of Michael Mann’s most iconic action pictures, Heat is a brooding and raw crime picture that is unlike any other in the genre. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the master criminal criminal Neil McCauley and the dedicated law enforcer Lieutenant Hanna clash amid a heist. Neil has grown weary of the crime world and is hoping to retire with one last heist to end them all. But may also be his most dangerous as things go awry and quickly lead an explosive shootout in city streets for what is easily one of the best gunfights in all of movie history. Written by Mann as well, the all-star casting Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Jon Voight, and Val Kilmer.
If you like your crime stories to have an extra flair of exaggerated grit, Sin City is a more comic-booky dose of action and vengeance. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, the film is an anthology that follows a collective of anti-heroes who seek justice in such a cruel urban setting. Gangsters start turf wars, a murdered prostitute sends a loner over the edge, and a dedicated detective makes it his live mission to get his revenge on a grotesque killer. The film, shot entirely in front of a green screen, is shot almost entirely in black and white with small bursts of color here and there. Directed by Frank Miller (The Spirit) and Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) with a guest-directed scene by Quentin Tarantino, the film features an all-star ensemble that includes Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and Elijah Wood.
If you prefer something a little more real in the dangerous world of cartels, consider the enthralling documentary of Cartel Land. The film focuses on two key figures in such a battle against gangs and drugs; Tim “Nailer” Foley of the Arizona Border Recon and Dr José Mireles leading the anti-cartel vigilante group of Autodefensas. We get to see both sides in this war where life is not easy for those who fight against dangerous drug dealers who target communities and threaten their safety. As the war wages on, however, Mireles starts to question just how much of a difference he is making in this never ending battle against corruption. Directed by Matthew Heineman, this engrossing picture was nominated for the Academy Award of Best Documentary.
Ron Fleury is a federal agent who finds himself in a dangerous war zone. He must assemble a resourceful team in a short amount of time to venture into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and take town a collective of terrorists. His mission is further complicated by the local law enforcement not only being unwilling to aid in his team’s task but even hindering it as well. Despite bringing about an elite team to stop the terrorists, the situation soon turns chaotic and deadly. Directed by Peter Berg (Cop Land), this military action-thriller stars Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Piven, Danny Huston, and Richard Jenkins.