Rahul is a movie addict who can never get enough of good films. His all time favorites are Inception, 12 Angry Men, and Scarface.
What Movies Are Like Malena?
Summer is almost here again and love is in the air. Be it crush or a spouse, girlfriend or a secret lover, we’ve all been in love in one way or another. And as the saying goes, the world loves a lover. Is that completely true though?
What about the forbidden and widely frowned upon intimate relationships between an adult and a minor? More than frowned upon, this kind of love is felonious, with adults who should have known better being put behind bars for engaging in this crime. When it comes to our world, there is absolutely no place for love expressed as intimacy between an adult and a minor.
There is one medium, however, where the theme of this tabooed love is explored without reserve. Cinema. Take the film Malèna for example. Set in an idyllic town in Italy, the film follows the story of a teenage boy who falls in love with a sensual woman in a community not used to a deviation from the norm. Albeit questionable in its sexual themes, the movie is a cinematic masterpiece, managing to tell a very complex plot with genius simplicity.
It’s erotic, cruel, and heart-wrenching—a perfect portrait of the human condition in relation to love, regardless of age. This particular sub-genre is nothing new with various movies throughout history and across different countries telling the story of underage-adult relationships.
The film was very well received, indicating that there indeed is an audience interested in exploring themes of forbidden love from behind the safety of their screen. If you’re one of those, this list should present you with a few new options. Here’s a list of 18 movies like Malèna to take you into the world of forbidden desires.
Films Similar to Malena
- Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
- In The Heat of The Sun (1994)
- The Legend of 1900 (1994)
- The Dreamers (2003)
- Green Chair (2005)
- Prime (2005)
- Amarcord (1973)
- I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007)
- Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978)
- The Second Wife
- All Things Fair
- Heimlich Liebe - Der Schüler Und Die Postbotin
- S For Sex
- Sentimental Education
- Alex is Lovesick
- My First Sin
1. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
This film depicts the often topsy-turvy journey of self-discovery and youthful sexual desires. Two best friends whose girlfriends are leaving for a holiday overseas manage to convince a woman who has just discovered her husband’s infidelity to go on a road trip with them.
The trip turns into a journey of self-discovery, unveiling lessons regarding friendship and sexuality. Hardly the only film on this list where the underaged is seen as the aggressor, this Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece is a provocative and stimulating piece of art, exploring topics that many would find uncomfortable.
The payoff, however, is evident with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92%. Stream Y Tu Mamá También on Netflix.
2. In the Heat of the Sun (1994)
Set in China during its cultural revolution, this film revolves around a young group of friends. The movie documents the events of a particularly hot summer, where a young teenage boy develops a crush on an older girl who ultimately (and to his disappointment) ends up falling for his friend.
This Chinese film directed and written by Jiang Wen and loosely based on author Wang Shuo's novel, Wild Beast, has received high praise with even legendary director Quentin Tarantino joining the throng of admirers.
If you're looking for movies like Malena, this capricious flick should fit the bill.
3. The Legend of 1900 (1998)
The Legend of 1900 is a romantic musical by Giuseppe Tornatore revolving around a baby boy, discovered in 1900 on an ocean liner, who grows into a musical prodigy. His legend reaches the land, however, and his friend tries to convince him to set foot ashore as he will be met with success, but this prodigy is not interested in a life away from the ocean.
Without giving away too much, this film starring Tim Roth and Pruitt Taylor holds an 8/10 rating on IMDB, was nominated and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score. So, if you enjoy watching your love stories accompanied by a rousing soundtrack, this film will check all your boxes.
The Legend of 1900 is available for purchase on the Google Play Store.
4. The Dreamers (2003)
Following the story of a young American studying in Paris in 1968 during the student riots, the story documents the events that follow when the American student strikes up a friendship with a French brother and sister—a bond that hinges on their mutual love for cinema.
Unlike Malèna, however, this film does not deal with adult-minor relationship, but still manages to portray an unsettling and uncomfortable kind of love. Starring Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, and Eva Green, The Dreamers is yet another masterstroke of cinema by Bernardo Bertolucci with dialogues that brings the movie alive with refreshing laugher and joy, albeit with unexpected twists.
The Dreamers deserves more attention and is available for streaming on Netflix.
5. Green Chair (2005)
Another reminder that no one culture owns a monopoly on forbidden love, this South Korean romantic drama by Cheol -Su Park tells the story of a divorced housewife who is found guilty of seducing a minor. The two, at their wit's end, find refuge in the home of the woman’s friend where things begin to take an unsuspecting turn for the worst.
Green Chair documents the journey of these two lovers as they deal with their mutual attraction, sexuality, and societal disapproval. Green Chair is available for purchase on Amazon Prime.
6. Prime (2005)
A romantic comedy starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, and Bryan Greenberg, Prime is a story about a career-driven professional who is wooed by a young painter. The problem is, this young painter also happens to be the son of her doctor.
Showing that forbidden love is not exclusive to the masses, Prime ventures into the world of the elite and paints a picture of the secrets they hide in a hilarious way while raising a difficult question: should this love be allowed?
Find out how it resolves itself in this film written and directed by Ben Younger. Those looking for a steamy movie like Malena will like what Prime bring sot the table. Prime is available on iTunes and the Google Play Store.
7. Amarcord (1973)
This film by Frederico Fellini is considered one of his best ever. Set in a little Italian town by the seaside, Amarcord tells the story of a fascist Italy through the eyes of a young boy named Titta.
Ranging from his relationship with his family to the unbridled promiscuity of the women about town, the film portrays the attitude and lack of conscience in an Italy under fascist rule. Winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and with an iMDb score of 8/10, Amarcord is a lesson in historical events as well as the human condition.
Amarcord is available for purchase on iTunes and the Google Play Store.
8. I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007)
It’s always great to do things for the first time with someone you trust and love. However, when a mother falls in love with a younger man just as her daughter falls in love for the first time, things don’t go as they should as Mother Nature looks to intervene.
Written and directed by Amy Heckerling and starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, and Saoirse Ronan,I Could Never Be Your Woman is one of the lighter films you will find on this list and most definitely deserves your attention.
Watch I Could Never Be Your Woman on Netflix.
9. Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978)
Get out your pitchforks for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs because this one is a doozy. Following a worried husband’s attempts to help his depressed wife by finding her a lover (yes, you read that right), things begin to go awry when she falls in love with a bullied thirteen-year-old math prodigy and declares she wants to have his baby.
It really doesn’t get any more bonkers than that. If you’re not put off by the near insane plot of Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, you’re definitely in for a rewarding end with this romantic comedy. It's one of the most similar movies to Malena you'll find.
10. The Second Wife (1998)
The Second Wife is a romantic comedy set in the early 1960s. When a remarried single mother’s unbearable new husband is arrested, she finds herself falling in love with her stepson. Slowly but surely, their bond turns into something else - something that'll be hard to stomach, even for hardcore cinephiles.
Though the subject is not new for Italian movies, this sly feature brings something refreshing to the table, standing heads and shoulders above its brethrens. This obscure film directed by Ugo Chiti, touches on topics of incest, asking the audience to decide for themselves where the line should be drawn between inherited relationships.
11. All Things Fair (1995)
Just as with Malèna, All Things Fair takes place in 1943 Sweden during the Second World War and follows Stig, a 15-year-old, as he meets his teacher, a 37-year-old named Viola.
Attracted to her beauty and maturity, Stig falls in love with Viola who in turn is drawn to his youth and innocence. When Viola finds that her often drunk husband is being unfaithful, she begins an affair with Stig. However, hiding their forbidden relationship proves to be more difficult than they both anticipated and events are set in motion that they both could never have imagined.
Watch the riveting tale of love and consequences in All Things Fair on Netflix.
12. Malicious (1973)
Directed by Salvatore Samperi and not to be confused with the 2008 movie of the same name, this heavily erotic romantic comedy pits the wisdom of age against the exuberance of youth.
Malicious is the story of a widower and his two sons who all fall in love with their beautiful housekeeper. Each wanting her for themselves sets out to seduce her, each using their own set of tricks.
The plot might make it sound like another eccentric feature that follows the same old trope of seduction and trickery, but surprisingly, Malicious is much more than that. This elegant flick, a rarity in this list, will have you glued to your seat till the credits roll.
13. Heimliche Liebe - Der Schüler und die Postbotin (2005)
Starring Kostja Ullmann and Marie Bäumer, Heimliche Liebe tells the story of a 17-year-old boy who falls in love with a 37-year-old woman of different social standing. Also, she is married. Things, however, don't quite go according to the plan. Will he get what he desires the most?
The film was met with critical acclaim with Kostja Ullmann’s performance being hailed as a masterclass in acting. This 2005 romantic drama like many on this list tells a tale of forbidden love but adds an extra dimension of difficulty.
14. S for Sex (1971)
A deeply dark and erotic coming of age story, S for Sex (originally called Chaleurs) features a teenager who has intercourse with the family’s maid while harboring incestuous desires for his mother. The storyline becomes more complex when his father also begins to have an affair with the maid.
This synopsis should be enough to tell you about the kind of film it is. Crammed with uncomfortable erotic scenes, S For Sex is one of the most similar movies to Malena. Written and directed by Daniel Daërt, this sly feature will make you think, long after credits have rolled.
15. Sentimental Education (2013)
The plot follows the story of Áurea, a sentimental older woman, who befriends a teenager named Áureo. Finding pleasure in their mutual companionship, they both open up, striking conversations about themes bordering on spirituality, mysticism, and existence itself. However, as their relationship progresses and they become inseparable, Áureo’s jealous mother steps in.
Sentimental Education is more benign of the movies on this list as it deals with the implications of a relationship between an older woman and a teenager.
16. Alex Is Lovesick (1986)
Also known as Alex Holeh Ahavah, this romantic comedy takes you back to 1950s in Israel. The film follows Alex, a 13-year-old boy, who falls in love with the new girl in his class, Mimi. Everything changes, however, when his aunt Lola arrives and Alex finds himself falling in love with his aunt who apparently is only too happy to oblige.
Director Boaz Davidson does an amazing job of describing the exact conditions that dominated the country in the 1950s, making the love story playing out on the screen even more poignant.
17. Seduction (1973)
Flipping the trope of an older woman leading a younger man on, Seduction presents another situation equally thought-provoking.
A man reunites with his old lover after he returns to the city. However, her fifteen-year-old daughter begins to seduce him and soon enough, the two begin to have an affair. Tensions begin to rise between the man and his lover when she starts to suspect the relationship between her daughter and him.
Seduction handles itself gracefully, for the most part, only to brazenly trade it for raunchy scenes in the second half. Catch this obscure Italian gem on YouTube. For your convenience, I have embedded the link below.
18. My First Sin (1977)
Also known as Mi Primer Pecado, My First Sin follows the story of Curro, a 16-year-old boy who is tired of being a virgin. Always a recipe for disaster when thinking with lust instead of logic, he falls deeply in love with a prostitute ten years his older.
Finding it difficult to approach her, he hatches upon a scheme to make her fall in love with him. What is it? He decides to pay her to be around him. Does his plan pan out the way he envisions? You just might be surprised.
My First Sin is available on Amazon.
Did I miss out on any good movies like Malena? Let me know in the comments section.