10 Must-Watch Movies Similar to On the Waterfront

"On the Waterfront" is a gripping crime drama that follows the journey of an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman as he battles against corrupt union bosses in New Jersey. If you loved the intense storyline and thrilling twists in this American classic, you won't want to miss out on this list of 10 must-watch movies that offer a similar captivating experience.

1) Johnny O'Clock

"Johnny O'Clock" takes us back to the golden age of film-noir with its gripping story and impeccable attention to detail. The film follows the eponymous character, Johnny O'Clock, a high-class crook who finds himself entangled in a web of mystery and danger. Inspector Koch is convinced that Johnny holds the key to a case, but it soon becomes clear that Johnny may be guilty only by association. The cinematography in this film is truly outstanding, with scenes that beautifully capture the emotions of the characters. One particular moment stands out when Johnny offers a cigarette to Nancy, the sister of the murdered Harriet, and the light perfectly illuminates her face, intensifying the emotion of the scene. Dick Powell delivers a stellar performance as Johnny, exuding both charm and vulnerability. Lee J. Cobb portrays Inspector Koch with his signature cigar-chewing intensity, leaving no stone unturned in his pursuit of the truth.

Release date: February, 1947
IMDB Rating: 6.8

2) Miami Exposé

Miami Exposé takes us back to the gritty world of crime and corruption, reminiscent of On the Waterfront. While On the Waterfront delves into the New Jersey docks and the struggle of a young ex-prize fighter against corrupt union bosses, Miami Exposé takes us to Miami and Cuba, where a Miami cop named Bart Scott tracks down a fugitive witness who can shed light on a double homicide and the activities of a Miami mob lawyer. Both movies explore the dark underbelly of society, where murder, gambling, and blackmail are the currency of power. However, Miami Exposé adds a twist with its film-noir style, giving it a unique atmosphere. With outstanding performances from Lee J. Cobb, Edward Arnold, and Alan Napier, this B-movie is definitely worth watching for fans of crime dramas.

Release date: September, 1956
IMDB Rating: 6.1

3) A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire: Disturbed Blanche DuBois moves in with her sister in New Orleans and is tormented by her brutish brother-in-law while her reality crumbles around her. Tennessee Williams himself wrote of Vivien Leigh's performance in "Streetcar Named Desire": "She brought everything I intended to the role and even much more than I had dared dream of". Brando is wonderful as Stanley Kowalski, but the new viewers to the film seem to come away with the haunting greatness of Vivien Leigh in what is one of the most harrowing and shattering pieces of acting ever committed to film. Although some have expressed regret that Jessica Tandy did not repeat her stage performance, it is probably good to note that her husband Hume Cronyn and Elia Kazan (the director of the film and play) both never felt that Tandy quite got the character right.

Release date: September, 1951
IMDB Rating: 7.9

4) The Madonna's Secret

The Madonna's Secret, released in 1946, is reminiscent of On the Waterfront. Both movies fall under the genres of Crime, Drama, and Thriller, and revolve around the theme of murder. However, the similarities end there. While On the Waterfront is a powerful piece of cinema that explores the struggles of an ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman in New Jersey, The Madonna's Secret takes a different approach. It tells the story of a sister who poses for the same artist to try and catch her killer. The Madonna's Secret does have its own charm, with its dark and serious tone, and the impressive cinematography by John Alton. The camera movements and dramatic lighting create depth in the scenes, making even ordinary conversations captivating. Despite its twists and turns, The Madonna's Secret lacks the emotional involvement that On the Waterfront brings.

Release date: February, 1946
IMDB Rating: 6.4

5) They Made Me a Killer

"They Made Me a Killer" is an intriguing crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Just like "On the Waterfront," this film explores themes of murder and justice, but in a completely different setting and style. While "On the Waterfront" takes place in the gritty world of New Jersey longshoremen, "They Made Me a Killer" is set in a fast-paced, noir-inspired atmosphere. The plot revolves around a young girl's quest to prove a man innocent of robbery and murder charges, leading to unexpected twists and turns. With its rapid pace and intense scenes, this movie is reminiscent of "On the Waterfront" in its exploration of moral dilemmas and the fight against corruption. However, unlike the critically acclaimed "On the Waterfront," "They Made Me a Killer" is a lesser-known gem that may not have received the same level of recognition.

Release date: May, 1946
IMDB Rating: 5.9

6) The Naked City

The Naked City is a captivating film that takes us through a murder investigation on the streets of New York. Shot entirely on location, it authentically captures the essence of the city in 1947, giving us a glimpse into the late florescent age of New York. From white-collar workers in suits and ties to sidewalk salesmen and ice men with oversized calipers, the film portrays a vivid picture of the city's unique charm. The documentary-style approach, with shots stolen from a van with tinted windows, adds to the realism and makes the movie feel like a hidden gem. While the performances are adequate, with Don Taylor as the relatable protagonist and Barry Fitzgerald as the folksy and compassionate detective, it's the supporting cast that truly shines. Arthur O'Connell, Nehemia Persoff, and James Gregory deliver standout performances that add depth to the story.

Release date: March, 1948
IMDB Rating: 7.6

7) No Orchids for Miss Blandish

No Orchids for Miss Blandish is reminiscent of On the Waterfront in terms of its portrayal of crime and violence. While On the Waterfront focuses on the corruption within a dockers' union, No Orchids for Miss Blandish tells the story of a kidnapping gone wrong. Both movies explore the dark underbelly of society, showcasing the ruthless nature of criminals and the impact their actions have on innocent individuals. However, unlike On the Waterfront, which delves into themes of redemption and standing up for justice, No Orchids for Miss Blandish takes a different approach. It offers a more cynical view of the world, where love emerges in the most unexpected circumstances. The film challenges the notion of a traditional hero and instead presents complex characters who navigate a treacherous landscape of violence and deceit.

Release date: April, 1948
IMDB Rating: 6

8) Rope

Release date: September, 1948
IMDB Rating: 7.9

9) 'C'-Man

"'C'-Man" is reminiscent of "On the Waterfront" in its exploration of crime and corruption. Both movies delve into the gritty underworld, exposing the dark underbelly of society. However, while "On the Waterfront" focuses on the struggles of a New Jersey longshoreman caught in a web of corruption, "C'-Man" follows a Treasury Department agent investigating smuggling and murder. While "On the Waterfront" is a powerful and thought-provoking drama, "C'-Man" offers a fast-paced and slightly confusing narrative. Despite its flaws, "C'-Man" is still a watchable film that will keep you engaged. So, if you enjoyed the gripping tale of "On the Waterfront" and have a penchant for crime dramas, give "C'-Man" a try. It may not reach the same heights as its predecessor, but it's an intriguing and entertaining movie in its own right.

Release date: May, 1949
IMDB Rating: 5.8

10) The Interrupted Journey

The Interrupted Journey is reminiscent of On the Waterfront in its ability to keep audiences engaged with its twists and turns. While it may not reach the same level of tension as Hitchcock's best films, it stands up well against his lesser efforts. The cinematography is excellent, the script is reasonably involving, and there are some surprising yet natural plot twists. The actors deliver solid performances, with Christine Norden particularly shining as the sexiest woman in British cinema at the time. The basic plot setup involves a married man and woman eloping together on a train, but the man soon becomes the prime suspect in a train wreck that kills ten people. However, there is much more to the story than meets the eye. Some viewers might find the ending a bit disappointing, but it was actually quite fresh in 1949 and avoids becoming a cliché. Overall, The Interrupted Journey is a worthwhile watch for fans of Hitchcock, film noir, detective stories, or romance movies.

Release date: March, 1950
IMDB Rating: 6.7

11) Johnny Stool Pigeon

"Johnny Stool Pigeon" takes us back to the noir era with its convoluted plot and intriguing characters. Similar to "On the Waterfront," this film revolves around betrayal and loyalty. However, the similarities end there. While "On the Waterfront" delves into the complex world of corrupt union bosses and the struggle for justice, "Johnny Stool Pigeon" focuses on a narcotics ring and a treasury agent's attempt to dismantle it. The stark contrast between the two films is evident in their settings and tones. "On the Waterfront" takes place in the gritty world of New Jersey's waterfront, immersing us in the harsh reality of the characters' lives. In contrast, "Johnny Stool Pigeon" transports us to the deserts of Arizona, where the line between good and evil becomes blurred.

Release date: April, 1949
IMDB Rating: 6.6

12) Too Late for Tears

"Too Late for Tears" is reminiscent of "On the Waterfront" in its exploration of the dark side of human nature. While "On the Waterfront" delves into the corrupt world of New Jersey longshoremen, "Too Late for Tears" takes us on a thrilling journey with a ruthless woman who stumbles upon a suitcase filled with $60,000 and becomes determined to keep it at any cost. Both movies expose the greed and moral dilemmas that arise when ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. However, unlike "On the Waterfront," where the protagonist struggles to stand up to corruption, "Too Late for Tears" showcases a femme fatale who is willing to commit murder to hold onto her newfound wealth. With its film-noir elements and gripping plot twists, "Too Late for Tears" is a must-watch for fans of "On the Waterfront" who enjoy delving into the darker side of human nature.

Release date: August, 1949
IMDB Rating: 7.3

13) House by the River

House by the River is reminiscent of On the Waterfront in its portrayal of deep-seated tensions and moral dilemmas. Both movies explore the consequences of individuals getting entangled in dangerous situations, ultimately leading to unexpected problems. While On the Waterfront focuses on a New Jersey longshoreman's struggle against corrupt union bosses, House by the River delves into the story of a deranged writer who murders a maid after she resists his advances. These films share a similar theme of individuals being drawn into acts of violence and their subsequent attempts to hide the truth. However, House by the River lacks the same level of complexity and depth as On the Waterfront. Although it has its moments, the story is more straightforward and lacks further twists that truly captivate the audience. Additionally, the ending of House by the River feels out of character and almost comical in its false horror.

Release date: March, 1950
IMDB Rating: 7.1

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