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5 Character-Driven Movies That Perfectly Capture the Human Experience

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5 Character-Driven Movies That Perfectly Capture the Human Experience
written by
Aya Elgohary

Picture this – it’s a cosy autumn night, and you’re in the mood for some company to watch a movie with. We suggest you dive into the world of character-driven films, a genre Quentin Tarantino calls “hang-out movies”. 

Although they’ve been viewed as movies where not much happens, these kinds of stories do not lack a plot or a message to convey. Instead, they represent a narrative approach where the development and motivations of the characters take precedence, often resulting in a more intimate and immersive cinematic experience. So, we’ve compiled a list of five great character-focused movies we think you’ll love.


Chungking Express (1994)

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The melancholic classic Chungking Express is a story about falling in love, heartbreak, and all the emotions humans experience in between, a journey that lingers long after the credits roll. This movie tells two stories at once, both depicting the romantic encounters of police officers. It is unique in the way it documents the journey of the two of them experiencing a mix of emotions. The music in the film adds to its unique charm and keeps us engaged in the story. With its distinctive song selection, we cannot help but be sent back to the movie every time we hear the enchanting melodies of California Dreamin’ – a tune that will forever bring us back to the film after watching it. Set against the vibrant backdrop of Hong Kong, the movie captures the bustling energy of the city while delving into the character’s internal struggles and desires. The film’s portrayal of fleeting encounters, missed opportunities, and the poignant beauty of life’s transitory moments evokes a deep sense of nostalgia and longing.


Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande follows the journey of a young and curious woman named Nancy, who is dealing with personal challenges in her life. In an attempt to find a new direction, she hires a male escort called Leo Grande. Leo’s charismatic and unconventional approach to his job begins to have a positive impact on Nancy’s life. As they spend time together, their relationship evolves into an unexpected friendship, leading both of them to confront their own insecurities and grow in meaningful ways. The film explores themes of companionship, self-discovery, and the transformative power of genuine connections.


The Spanish Apartment (2002)

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Numerous films have captured the exciting adventure of studying abroad, yet only a few have dared to depict the genuine reality of this experience. The Spanish Apartment (L’Auberge Espagnole) is a charming coming-of-age comedy that revolves around the life of French student Xavier. Eager to broaden his horizons and gain international experience, Xavier moves to Barcelona to study as part of the Erasmus programme. He becomes a part of a diverse group of roommates from various countries, each with their own cultural backgrounds, languages, and personalities. As Xavier navigates the challenges of living with his eclectic flatmates, he discovers the complexities of relationships, friendships, and self-love. The film humorously and poignantly portrays the cultural clashes, romantic entanglements, and personal growth that unfold in the midst of this shared living experience. The movie has two subsequent films that continue through the adult life of Xavier and the whole group. 


The Worst Person in the World (2021)

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This movie is basically a reminder that it is okay to mess up. Things can go wrong and seem irreparable, but we are still going to be okay. The Worst Person in the World revolves around the life of a woman named Julie. Within the backdrop of Oslo, the story tenderly captures Julie’s profound journey through the intricacies of adulthood. As she grapples with the tides of ambition, love, and self-discovery, the film artfully unfolds her interactions and experiences, each a thread weaving into the tapestry of her existence. With a touch of nostalgia and vulnerability, the movie paints a poignant portrait of Julie’s emotional odyssey, echoing the universal quest for purpose and connection in a world that is constantly evolving.


Before Sunrise (1995)

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We cannot have a “hang-out” movie list without including the renowned classic Before Sunrise. It is a romantic drama that follows the chance encounter of Jesse and Céline, two strangers who meet on a train in Europe. They decide to spend a fleeting but unforgettable night together in Vienna, engaging in deep conversations about life, love, and the world around them. The film beautifully captures the essence of a serendipitous connection, offering a snapshot of genuine human connection and the magic that can unfold in just one night. The subsequent films, “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight,” continue their story at different stages of life, exploring the complexities of love, time, and personal growth.