Movies like Drive swiftly gain cult status (and, in some cases, notoriety) among movie lovers worldwide. This is because of how thrilling they are.
Driven by Nicolas Winding is the idea of a relatively unknown Danish filmmaker helming an art picture. Movie stars like Ryan Gosling from The Notebook featured in what felt like a pretty hit-or-miss proposition.
However, the movie made six times its budget despite only having Ryan Gosling’s star power and positive response at film festivals as support.
These are the top 10 movies like Drive, which frequently blurs the line between an ultra-stylish action thriller and a restrained art picture.
1. Thief (1981)
- Director: Michael Mann
- Star cast: James Caan, Jim Belushi, Tuesday Weld, Sam T. Louis, John Santucci, Ron L. Cox
- IMDb rating: 7.4/10
The anxious first film from American filmmaker Michael Mann is a brazenly audacious criminal thriller that exudes confidence. James Caan plays Frank, a skilled burglar and an ex-con who finally wants to settle down after decades as a free-lance robber.
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles mafia thwarted his retirement plans when they offered him one more robbery.
That may net him enough money to start again. But, as Frank quickly discovers, getting out of the game is seldom that simple.
Thief is similar to Drive, as both films are set in Los Angeles. In addition, both movies have almost identical stories and startlingly similar visual aesthetics that emphasize LA nightlife’s dreamy, neon-tinged aspect.
The connections are so obvious that it’s fair to believe that Drive is an unauthorized remake of Thief.
2. Le Samourai (1967)
- Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
- Star cast: Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Cathy Rosier, Jacques Leroy, Jean-Pierre Posier, André Salgues
- IMDb rating: 8.0/10
Both reviewers and the general audience were split on whether Ryan Gosling’s extremely stoic portrayal of Drive’s unnamed protagonist was a good aesthetic choice or merely an irritating sign of a two-dimensional protagonist.
Regardless of the character’s mixed reaction, everybody who has watched Le Samourai can attest to his detached personality—or lack thereof.
As mentioned earlier, Alain Delon’s portrayal of master hitman Jef Costello in the film was equally subdued and impacted the creation of Ryan Gosling’s character.
Like Gosling in movies like Drive, his character is a nonverbal yet completely professional criminal bound by a stringent set of rules. In this case, the bushido, the hash code to which feudal Japan’s warriors were bound.
3. Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai (1999)
- Director: Jim Jarmusch
- Star cast: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Gene Ruffini, Tricia Vessey, Dennis Liu, Damon Whitaker
- IMDb rating: 7.5/10
Ghost Dog, a modern take on the samurai film seen via Jim Jarmusch’s eccentric vision, wears its influences on its sleeve while still standing alone as its unique beast.
At its most basic, the story is unmistakably familiar: a master samurai owed to a lord finds himself embroiled in the crossfire when a hit is placed on his head.
The film is set in New York City, the samurai is a contract killer portrayed by Forrest Whitaker, and his notion of a lord is an Italian mob boss named Louie, complicating what would otherwise be a straightforward and acceptable storyline.
Nonetheless, there are enough B-movie-inspired killings to keep the weird and often contemplative storyline going.
4. Bullitt (1968)
- Director: Peter Yates
- Star cast: Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, Jacqueline Bisset, Don Gordon, Pat Renella, Simon Oakland
- IMDb rating: 7.4/10
It’s difficult to divorce Bullitt from its renowned chase scene, which covers many San Francisco streets and lasts 10 minutes but feels like twenty; the car pursuit is the film’s beautiful centerpiece and, by far, its most electrifying episode.
It’s simple enough to have automobiles leap over hills at high speeds, but never before had it been done with such style and devotion as in this video.
While the rest of the film is a surprisingly terrific criminal thriller, the insanely dynamic chase sequence is why Bullitt is still regarded as Steve McQueen’s best performance.
But, of course, the picture is more than just one moment, and McQueen’s portrayal as lieutenant Frank Bullitt is the part that most closely relates it to movies like Drive.
5. Diva (1980)
- Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix
- Star cast: Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Richard Bohringer, Jacques Fabbri, Anny Romand, Gérard Darmon
- IMDb rating: 7.2/10
Diva, the unofficial premiere film of the cinema du look of the French cinema, is a fast-paced thriller in all the right ways.
This movie contains sleek, artistically outstanding images of alienated young people during a time when most French films favored realism and restraint.
The film’s plot, which follows a classical music-obsessed postman who unwittingly becomes the target of a dishonest police chief after obtaining a tape implicating the chief in a prostitution ring, is undoubtedly convoluted, but that is beside the point.
There’s no denying that the film has nothing to offer regarding ideas or lessons to take away from it. Still, the profusion of flair and romance renders any discussion of narrative and depth irrelevant: this is cinema at its most pure and hedonistic.
6. Tokyo Drifter (1966)
- Director: Seijun Suzuki
- Star cast: Tetsuya Watari, Tamio Kawachi, Hideaki Nitani, Chieko Matsubara, Ryūji Kita, Tsuyoshi Yoshida
- IMDb rating: 7.1/10
Seijun Suzuki was an outsider even though he worked within the Japanese studio system. He never made a typical picture by anyone’s definition.
Tokyo Drifter is an atypical yakuza film influenced equally by American gangster films and the Japanese avant-garde movement that flourished in the 1960s.
However, it is largely regarded as his creative apex at Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest and most famous studio. The film follows a former Yakuza assassin who now travels Tokyo, evading opposing gangs trying to murder him.
It’s tough to ignore the sheer lunacy of the film’s chaotic approach, even when the cutting is so unusual that the action is concealed. Nevertheless, If you enjoy movies like Drive, you should watch this movie.
7. The Driver (1978)
- Director: Walter Hill
- Star cast: Bruce Dern, Ryan O’Neal, Isabelle Adjani, Denny Macko, Ronee Blakley, Bob MINOR
- IMDb rating: 7.1/10
This is the film most frequently connected with movies like Drive. For a good reason: the two films are nearly identical in virtually every regard.
Nicolas Winding Refn took inspiration from The Driver. They featured things from the anonymous getaway driver protagonist to the pursuit sequences through Los Angeles’ streets to the vibrant neon color palette.
What distinguishes this beautiful neo-noir from Refn’s vision is that the taciturn driver in this picture – portrayed with great delicacy by Ryan O’Neal – is up against the law rather than the mob.
Veteran actor Bruce Dern plays that law as the nameless investigator. He is obsessed with the motorist and will stop at nothing to bring him to punishment.
It’s a film for film fans, with countless tropes and devices that will be instantly recognizable to devoted fans of neo-noir or westerns.
8. The Guest (2014)
- Director: Adam Wingard
- Star cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Tabatha Shaun, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Candice Patton
- IMDb rating: 6.7/10
Adam Wingard, a relatively new director, rose to fame with indie horror films such as 2011’s home invasion thriller, You’re the Next One.
He appeared in the 2012 horror anthology V/H/S. Still, his most renowned picture is his most recent: The Guest, a stunning, violent action thriller similar to some movies like Drive.
While most films that mimic the synth-filled, neon-drenched cinematic style of the 1980s try for a witty tone, The Guest takes a significantly more serious approach.
Wingard employs a basic narrative framework reminiscent of films from the 1980s, such as Manhunter, Dressed To Kill, and To Live And Die.
In LA, a mystery visitor enters the house of a suburban family and begins fixing their issues through severe violence. Then makes the mood of dread exciting without a trace of satirical distancing.
Therefore, they were making a picture that pays homage to its forefathers while being unquestionably current.
9. The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
- Director: Derek Cianfrance
- Star cast: Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, Bradley Cooper, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan, Ben Mendelsohn
- IMDb rating: 7.3/10
Blue Valentine filmmaker Derek Cianfrance’s crime story The Place Beyond The Pines breaks genre borders throughout its elliptical narrative. But, it is, first and foremost, a riveting crime thriller similar to movies like Drive.
The story is about fathers, sons, and sad family legacies passed down through generations. However, the Place Beyond The Pines takes this ambition to the extreme and paints its story on a more epic canvas.
The story is divided into three interconnected and distinct acts. Each of these stories takes place a few years after the last and with a different persuasion.
The narrative scale of the film is so big that it would have been better suited for a less time-constrained media like an HBO miniseries.
Yet, it manages to be a remarkably consistent criminal thriller at over two and a half hours. Also, it analyzes the ripple effect of a failing parent.
10. The Warriors (1979)
- Director: Walter Hill
- Star cast: Michael Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, David Patrick Kelly, Terry Michos
- IMDb rating: 7.5/10
The Warriors is a well-deserved entry in the pantheon of great cult action pictures, with a reputation that precedes it.
The video exposes the audience to a post-apocalyptic vision of New York City, where martial law reigns and the city is divided into the regions of several street gangs.
This is propelled by a piece of frenetic synth-heavy music that could only have been written during the 1980s.
The film’s heroes are members of the eponymous gang, who are framed for the death of a rival gang boss and must battle their way across the city to their home territory on Coney Island.
The film’s ultra-stylish blend of meticulously orchestrated gang battles and dramatic drama creates a bizarre take on the conventional gangster picture. Although a far more action-heavy variation than other movies like Drive.
It’s a brilliantly quirky thriller that entertains on a primitive level, with stylized violence and melodrama abounding.
If you liked the movie Drive and want to see more like it, we hope our list of the top 10 movies similar to Drive helped you pick what to watch next. Also, if you believe a movie we overlooked should be included on this list, please leave a comment below.