10 best movies like Dear Zoe

Already establishing itself as an acting force outside of Stranger Things, rising star Sadie Sink is causing a stir with her dramatic performances in The Whale (in theaters December 9) and the new film Dear Zoe. Telling the story of a grieving teenager who reconnects with her father, Dear Zoe is a touching tear on the family.

From Oscar-winning films like Ordinary People to animated gems like Big Hero 6, films like Dear Zoe show that there are many ways to tell a darker coming-of-age story on screen. Although many films have tried to address the same themes, only a few are worth watching for fans of the new teen drama.

Personal client (2016)

Stream on Kanopy, Tubi TV and Pluto TV

Helping to launch the rebirth of Kristen Stewart, Personal Shopper was another flagship of the established actor. Working as a personal shopper for a world-famous model in Paris, a young woman tries to cope with the pain of losing her brother. Things take a strange turn when she starts getting text messages from her dead brother.

Grief over the loss of a sibling is a big part of both films, and unlike Dear Zoe, Personal Shopper addresses this issue through supernatural subterfuges. While this latest film is certainly more disturbing, the heartbreak thread is what unites them. By proving that the bond between siblings is strong, Personal Shopper shows that the grave cannot even separate them.

It’s kind of a funny story (2010)

Rent on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video

Teenage mental health is always a sensitive subject, and although some projects completely spoil the subject, films like It’s a Funny Story treat it with class and finesse. Stressed by his daily life, a teenager is admitted to a psychiatric hospital but is relegated to the adult wing because the youth service is full.

Often ranked among actor ZoĆ« Kravitz’s best films, the indie comedy was actually a choral effort. The heart of the story is the unconventional relationship between Craig and Bobby, and there are parallels to be found in Dear Zoe between Tess and her father. Dear Zoe is much more dramatic, but It’s Kind of a Funny Story is just as touching.

Broken Flowers (2005)

Stream on Freevee

Reversing the format’s script, Shattered Flowers is a middle-aged story that still touches on issues like grief and reconciliation. An elderly don Juan receives the shock of his life when he discovers he has an adult son. In a desperate attempt to reconnect, the man sets out in search of all the women from his past who could be the mother of his son.

Dear Zoe fans may be shocked by the incredibly abrupt ending and lack of closure of the film, but they will still appreciate the clever twist on the classic parent-child reconnection story. Bill Murray is excellent in one of his most dramatic roles, and it was an interesting departure from director Jim Jarmusch’s usual offerings.

Go Go (2021)

Stream on Showtime and Fubo TV

Parenthood comes in all forms, and the low-key comedy drama C’mon C’mon showed an underused corner of family bonding. Out of necessity, a radio reporter takes care of his grandson as he travels the country and interviews subjects for a documentary project.

Watching the bond between Johnny and Jesse form over the course of the film is a rewarding experience and Dear Zoe fans will see parallels between their relationship and Tess with her father. There is nothing magical or artificial about the performance of the film and the viewer leaves the film feeling like they have witnessed a real and authentic moment.

Lady Bird (2017)

Stream on Showtime, Fubo TV and Kanopy

In many ways, Dear Zoe is a coming-of-age story with a twist, and few films have performed this mix better than Greta Gerwig’s seminal work, Lady Bird. Set in the early years of the new millennium, the film follows a rebellious teenager who experiences life and love during her senior year of high school.

While it’s not obvious, Lady Bird is a movie about reconnecting with a parent, even if that parent isn’t absent. Christine’s bond with her mother is strained, and one thing the film does best is to show the slow repair of that lifelong bond. Lady Bird is a drama, but Dear Zoe fans should be prepared to shed a few tears.

When Marnie Was There (2014)

Stream on HBO Max

While the best Studio Ghibli movies are usually wacky and fun, they also know exactly how to stir up the biggest heartbreak. When Marnie Was There is the story of a young girl who is sent to the country for health reasons and there she establishes a bond with an unusual girl who may have come from her mysterious past.

Nice animation is to be expected, but the gripping storyline means the animated film rivals live-action films like Dear Zoe in its complexity. Like the new film, the animated hit approaches pain from an original location and takes it one step further by bringing the supernatural into the story without being scary.

Ordinary people (1980)

Stream on Paramount + and Showtime

As movies like Dear Zoe explore, the loss of a loved one can stir up complicated emotions, especially in bereaved parents. Ordinary People is the story of a teenager suffering from severe depression following the accidental death of his older brother. Furthermore, he is harshly judged by his parents who resent him for surviving the accident.

Known for their powerful Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore performances, ordinary people were way ahead of their time in the treatment of youth mental health. Like Dear Zoe, the film is adept at pulling audiences’ heartstrings, and is an uncompromising dark narrative that never veers into melodrama.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Stream on Disney +

While they may look completely different on the surface, Dear Zoe and Big Hero 6 are actually very similar films. After the death of his older brother, a young man forms an unlikely friendship with a robot that leads him to become a superhero.

Ditching all the comic book-inspired accessories from the film, Big Hero 6 is a relatively simple story that shares a lot with Dear Zoe in terms of its focus on unconventional bonding and youthful heartbreak. Often remembered as a Disney movie that will make audiences cry, Big Hero 6 uses its fun side to make its deeper themes more appealing to the masses.

Childhood (2014)

Stream on Criterion Channel, Kanopy and Pluto TV

Often overshadowed by its decades-long production process, Boyhood is actually the quintessential coming-of-age film. The film chronicles the life of a boy as he is raised by his divorced parents from the age of six through college.

Covering all aspects of the boy’s life, the film sometimes crosses the themes of Dear Zoe. Since loss is a natural part of growing up, audiences can see the best and worst moments in equal measure, and Boyhood feels like a true cinematic experience.

Advantages of being a wallflower (2012)

Stream on Hulu and Paramount +

Dear Zoe is a movie about reconnecting with a parent, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is essentially a movie about reconnecting with yourself. A shy and introverted teenager is pulled out of his shell by a couple of new friends he met in high school who show him the beauty of life and love.

Without fear of taking its story to dark places, the adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s classic novel made people think twice before dismissing it as a mere teenage drama. Like Dear Zoe, the story is designed to be consumed by a younger audience and goes a long way in teaching its viewer emotional intelligence and the importance of friendship.

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