17 Must-Watch Movies Similar to City of God

"Step into the gritty and captivating world of the City of God, where the paths of two young boys take dramatically different turns in the slums of Rio. This blog post unveils 17 equally mesmerizing movies that explore the realms of crime and drama, each with its own unique story and thrilling twists. From the captivating plots to the masterful direction, these films will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you craving for more.

1) Veronica

Veronica, released in 2009, shares some striking similarities with City of God. Both movies are set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and explore the gritty and dangerous reality of life in these neighborhoods. However, while City of God focuses on the diverging paths of two kids, with one aspiring to become a photographer and the other a kingpin, Veronica centers around a teacher who takes a student to his house in the slum, only to discover that drug traffickers have killed his parents and are now after him. Both films delve into the themes of crime and drama, showcasing the harsh realities of life in the slums. While City of God has been widely acclaimed and received numerous nominations and awards, Veronica has received mixed reviews. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed the intense storytelling and raw portrayal of life in the slums in City of God, Veronica offers a similar experience with a different storyline and perspective.

Release date: February, 2009
IMDB Rating: 6.5

2) Polisse

Polisse: A journalist covering police assigned to a juvenile division enters into an affair with one of her subjects.
"Polisse" reminds me of "City of God" due to its gritty portrayal of the criminal underworld. Both films explore the darker aspects of society, shedding light on the challenges faced by those who try to maintain law and order. While "City of God" takes place in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, "Polisse" focuses on the struggles of the police in a juvenile division. Both films provide an unflinching view of the harsh realities faced by their respective characters, showcasing the complexities of crime and its impact on individuals and communities. Despite their differences in setting and plot, both movies are captivating in their own right, offering thought-provoking narratives and exceptional performances. If you enjoyed the raw intensity and gripping storytelling of "City of God," "Polisse" is definitely worth watching.

Release date: May, 2012
IMDB Rating: 7.3

3) Johnny Skidmarks

Johnny Skidmarks is reminiscent of City of God in its exploration of the dark underbelly of society, but with a twist of dark humor. While City of God delves into the slums of Rio and the lives of two boys on opposite paths, Johnny Skidmarks takes us into the world of a freelance crime-scene photographer and part-time blackmailer. Both films involve photographers as central characters, but where City of God focuses on the struggle for success and power, Johnny Skidmarks adds a layer of mystery and danger. The plot of Johnny Skidmarks starts off intriguing, with Peter Gallagher playing the role of the photographer in a low-key and detached manner. However, the film teeters on the edge of being entertainment or nonsense, with an uneven mix of black comedy, thriller, and noir elements.

Release date: May, 1998
IMDB Rating: 5.5

4) Down 'n Dirty

Down 'n Dirty is reminiscent of City of God, although in a completely different way. While City of God takes us to the slums of Rio and explores the lives of two kids who take different paths, Down 'n Dirty introduces us to Dakota Smith, a hard-nosed cop with a knack for honesty. Both movies belong to the Crime and Drama genres, but that's where the similarities end. City of God received critical acclaim and numerous nominations, while Down 'n Dirty went under the radar. However, if you're a fan of Fred Williamson's humor and enjoy some good old action, Down 'n Dirty might just be the entertaining ride you're looking for. So, if you're up for a change of pace and want to see a cop trying to solve a murder case while cracking jokes along the way, give Down 'n Dirty a shot.

Release date: October, 2000
IMDB Rating: 3.7

5) Sway

Sway is reminiscent of City of God as both movies fall under the Crime and Drama genres. While City of God takes place in the slums of Rio, Sway is set in Tokyo. However, both films explore the themes of photography and its connection to the characters' lives. In City of God, one of the main characters strives to become a photographer, while in Sway, the protagonist is a photographer returning to his hometown for his mother's funeral. Both movies delve into the characters' pasts and the impact it has on their present lives. While City of God received numerous nominations and wins, Sway also garnered its fair share of critical acclaim. Although they have their differences, Sway's exploration of old relationships, conflicts, and memories colliding makes it a compelling watch, especially for those who enjoyed the captivating narrative of City of God.

Release date: July, 2006
IMDB Rating: 7.1

6) Assault on the Pay Train

Assault on the Pay Train is reminiscent of City of God in its portrayal of crime and the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Both movies delve into the dark underbelly of the city, showcasing the struggles and ambitions of individuals caught up in a life of crime. However, while City of God focuses on the rise of a gang leader and a photographer, Assault on the Pay Train tells the true story of a sensational railroad heist led by the infamous outlaw Tião Medonho. Despite their differences in plot, both movies captivate the audience with their compelling characters and intense action. So, if you enjoyed the gritty realism and tension of City of God, you should definitely watch Assault on the Pay Train for a thrilling crime drama set in the heart of Brazil.

Release date: June, 1962
IMDB Rating: 7.8

7) Trash

Trash is reminiscent of City of God because both movies take place in Brazil and explore the lives of children living in poverty. While City of God focuses on the rise of a kingpin and a struggling photographer, Trash follows three kids who find themselves running from the police after making a discovery in a garbage dump. Both films showcase the harsh realities of life in the slums and the corruption that exists in the country. However, Trash has a more adventurous and mysterious tone compared to the gritty and violent nature of City of God. The stunning visualizations and fast-paced editing in Trash make it a visually captivating film, while City of God is known for its unflinching portrayal of gangland rivalry. Although the characters in Trash may not be as involved in the action as those in City of God, the movie still manages to convey a sense of hope and the will to live in a brutal world.

Release date: November, 2014
IMDB Rating: 7.1

8) American History X

American History X is reminiscent of City of God in its exploration of crime and its consequences. Both movies delve into the dark underbelly of society, exposing the harsh realities of gang violence and racial tension. However, while City of God focuses on the slums of Rio and the struggle of two young boys, American History X takes place in the United States and follows the journey of a neo-Nazi named Derek. The films share a similar theme of redemption, as both protagonists strive to change their lives and prevent their loved ones from following their destructive paths. American History X, like City of God, is a thought-provoking and powerful film that challenges its viewers to confront their own prejudices and examine the impact of hate. If you enjoyed City of God's gritty portrayal of life in the slums, you will find American History X equally captivating and enlightening.

Release date: November, 1998
IMDB Rating: 8.5
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9) Tsotsi

"Tsotsi" is a captivating film set in the vibrant city of Johannesburg. Similar to "City of God," it explores the gritty realities of slum life and the criminal underworld. However, "Tsotsi" takes a more intimate approach, focusing on the six turbulent days in the life of a young gang leader. As a Jo'burg resident, I was thrilled to see my city showcased on the big screen, and this film did not disappoint. While there are undeniable similarities between the two movies, "Tsotsi" tells a smaller, more personal story that resonates deeply. The lead actor delivers a brilliant performance, effortlessly balancing between victim and aggressor, good and evil. The film is a testament to the talent and potential of South African cinema, leaving me hopeful for the future. If you enjoyed "City of God," "Tsotsi" will offer a fresh perspective on the complexities of slum life and the human spirit.

Release date: May, 2006
IMDB Rating: 7.2

10) Parting Shots

Parting Shots is a movie that, like City of God, follows the journey of a photographer. However, the similarities end there. While City of God is a gritty crime drama set in the slums of Rio, Parting Shots takes a comedic approach to the story of a man named Harry Sterndale. When Harry is told by doctors to get his affairs in order, he decides to take revenge on everyone who has wronged him. With nothing to lose, he sets out to give each person exactly what they deserve. Directed by Michael Winner and featuring a great cast including Chris Rea and Felicity Kendal, Parting Shots is a fun-filled movie that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. So if you enjoyed City of God and want to see a different take on the life of a photographer, give Parting Shots a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Release date: May, 1999
IMDB Rating: 5

11) Se7en

Se7en: Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his motives. Dark and depressing but just fascinating. Director David Fincher shots the entire film in dim light and shoves the victims mutilated bodies in our face. The grimness of the tone wears you down but that's appropriate considering the subject matter. No humor either. It all leads to a truly harrowing ending. There was supposed to be a happy ending but they (wisely) chose not to do it. Freeman and Pitt work very well together and both give excellent performances. I even thought Paltrow (who I hate) was good! Kevin Spacey is very good too in a small role. If you have trouble with blood, gore and disturbing subject matter stay far away from this movie. But if you can handle that, watch this one. It's depressing and unpleasant but riveting.

Release date: February, 1996
IMDB Rating: 8.6
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12) Midnight

Midnight, also known as O Primeiro Dia, is a crime drama that takes place on December 31st, 1999, as the new millennium approaches. It tells the story of a fugitive prisoner and a depressed middle-class teacher whose paths cross unexpectedly. While City of God is set in the slums of Rio, Midnight captures the extremes of Rio de Janeiro, from its slums to its beaches, from labor to party, from prison to the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue. Both films share the genres of crime and drama, and they both provide a glimpse into the gritty reality of life in Brazil. However, Midnight takes a more introspective approach, exploring the themes of hope and change as the characters face the uncertain future of the new millennium. With beautifully filmed scenes and a talented cast, including Fernanda Torres and Matheus Nachtergaele, Midnight offers a unique perspective on the transition from one year to the next.

Release date: October, 1999
IMDB Rating: 6.9

13) Man with a Camera

Man with a Camera is reminiscent of City of God in that both movies revolve around photographers and their unique perspectives. While City of God explores the lives of two kids in the slums of Rio, with one aspiring to be a photographer, Man with a Camera follows former combat cameraman Mike Kovac, now a freelance photographer in New York City. Both films highlight the protagonists' determination to capture images that others won't. However, the two movies differ in their settings and time periods. City of God is set in the slums of Rio, showcasing the gritty reality of gang life, while Man with a Camera takes place in 1950s New York City, providing a glimpse into the challenges and dangers faced by a freelance photographer. Despite their differences, both movies offer captivating stories centered around the art of photography.

Release date: October, 1958
IMDB Rating: 7.3

14) Nine Lives Are Not Enough

Nine Lives Are Not Enough is a thrilling crime drama that takes us back to the golden age of Hollywood. While not as intense or gritty as City of God, it still manages to captivate the audience with its intriguing plot and talented cast. The film follows an investigative crime reporter who assists the police in solving the case of a missing tycoon, only to discover his lifeless body in a rundown boarding house. What sets this film apart is the standout performances of Howard Da Silva and Peter Whitney, both of whom deliver compelling portrayals that leave a lasting impression. Ronald Reagan, in one of his earlier roles, may not be a natural fit for slapstick comedy, but he shines as the slightly bashful lead character. The chemistry between the cast members is evident, and the film benefits from the presence of unsung talents like John Hamilton, who adds depth to the story.

Release date: September, 1941
IMDB Rating: 6

15) Escape from Crime

Escape from Crime is reminiscent of City of God in several ways. Both movies fall under the Crime and Drama genres and revolve around characters involved in illegal activities. While City of God is set in the slums of Rio and follows two kids on diverging paths, Escape from Crime tells the story of ex-convict Red O'Hara who becomes a daring news photographer. Both movies explore the theme of redemption and the consequences of one's past actions. However, there are some notable differences between the two films. City of God, released in 2004, is a critically acclaimed Brazilian film with a runtime of 7800 seconds and a people vote average of 8.6 out of 10. On the other hand, Escape from Crime, released in 1942, is an American film with a shorter runtime of 3060 seconds and a people vote average of 5.8 out of 10.

Release date: July, 1942
IMDB Rating: 5.8

16) Quai des Orfèvres

"Quai des Orfèvres" is a classic French film directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, reminiscent of "City of God." While the two movies are set in different times and places, they both explore the darker side of human nature in gripping and compelling ways. "City of God" takes us to the slums of Rio, where two kids' paths diverge?one becoming a photographer, the other a kingpin. Similarly, "Quai des Orfèvres" delves into the depths of jealousy and murder as a flirtatious wife runs off to meet an older man, leading her husband to plot his own deadly revenge. Both films skillfully capture the gritty atmosphere of their respective settings, with "Quai des Orfèvres" showcasing post-war Paris and the world of theater and nightclubs.

Release date: October, 1947
IMDB Rating: 7.7

17) Open Secret

"Open Secret" is a captivating film that takes us back to the noir era of the 1940s. While it may seem like a world away from "City of God," the two movies share a common thread: the power of secrets and the impact they have on a community. In "City of God," we witness the consequences of secrets within the slums of Rio, as two friends take divergent paths. Similarly, in "Open Secret," a newlywed couple's investigation uncovers a ring of anti-Semites terrorizing their neighborhood. Both films delve into the dark underbelly of society, exposing the hidden prejudices and tensions that simmer beneath the surface. However, where "City of God" showcases the gritty reality of gangland rivalry in the favelas of Brazil, "Open Secret" reveals the insidious nature of bigotry in a small town.

Release date: February, 1948
IMDB Rating: 6.4

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