Movies Like Licorice Pizza You Really Need To See

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Licorice Pizza" is one of the best films of 2021. The hilarious coming-of-age romance features breakout performances from its two young stars, 15-year-old Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim (who grew up working with Anderson). The pair captures the complicated emotions that come with an untraditional relationship. "Licorice Pizza" explores all the exciting highs and devastating lows of young love.

Anderson's film celebrates L.A. culture in the 1970s. It follows child actor Gary Valentine (Hoffman) as he builds his career and falls in love with a photographer named Alana Kane (Haim). Gary gets Alana to accompany him on his promotional tour in New York, and she becomes involved in his schemes. Gary manages to sell waterbeds, steal oil, clean celebrities' houses, run an arcade, and get into trouble with the law. Alana questions what her future will look like if she continues hanging out with him.

The film earned Academy Award nominations and is currently playing in theaters. If you loved "Licorice Pizza," then these are some other movies you should watch.

Punch-Drunk Love

Before "Licorice Pizza," Anderson created another unusual romantic dramedy with his 2002 film "Punch-Drunk Love." Although the premise is similar to a standard rom-com, Anderson incorporates wild non-sequiturs that disrupt the central narrative. He also proved once and for all that Adam Sandler could actually act; the "Billy Madison" star turns in the most sensitive, heartfelt performance of his career.

Sandler stars as Barry Egan, a lonely salesman of novelty items who is prone to extreme bouts of rage. Barry is dominated by his overbearing sisters, but his life changes when he meets his sister Elizabeth's coworker, Lena Leonard (Emily Watson). He instantly falls in love with her. Barry struggles to overcome his social anxieties so he can woo Lena. His pursuits are disrupted by a series of unexplained random circumstances.

Any "Licorice Pizza" fans curious about Philip Seymour Hoffman's collaborations with Anderson will definitely want to check out "Punch-Drunk Love" to see one of the actor's most hilarious performances. He has a cameo appearance as Dean Trumbell, the operator of a phone sex line. Barry calls Dean on a whim and lashes out at him. Dean is just as furious, and berates Barry with a fiery string of insults and threats. Watching the two men scream at each other is one of the funniest moments in the film.

American Graffiti

"Licorice Pizza" captures the energy of the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s with a touching coming-of-age story. Anderson does a great job exploring the music, culture, and social changes that were important to young people during this period in history. However, there's no better way to understand what growing up in the '60s felt like than watching one of the best coming-of-age dramedies of that decade. George Lucas' 1973 classic "American Graffiti" may take place in 1962, but it captures the bold attitude of the New Wave movement in '70s American filmmaking.

"Licorice Pizza" explores how its characters grow and develop over several months, but "American Graffiti" focuses on just one pivotal evening. The film follows a group of lifelong best friends on the night of their high school graduation. Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), John Milner (Paul Le Mat), and Terry Fields (Charles Martin Smith) contemplate what their futures will look like during their last stretch of adolescence.

Each of the teens discovers that romance is more complicated than they imagined. Curt searches for a mysterious girl he knows only as "The Blond," but Steve considers whether he should stay home indefinitely to be with his girlfriend Laurie Henderson (Cindy Williams). John is forced to set aside his romantic endeavors when he is forced to look after 12-year-old troublemaker by the name of Carol Morrison (Mackenize Phillips) hitches a ride with him. Surprisingly, it's only the geek Terry who has the night of his life.

The Spectacular Now

"Licorice Pizza" has more mature, self-sufficient lead characters than many other romance films about young adults. Gary and Alana are left to grow up and make mistakes on their own. While their families are somewhat present, the two protagonists are forced to make major decisions without any adult guidance.

James Ponsoldt's 2013 coming-of-age romance film "The Spectacular Now" is similar with its mature depiction of growing up. The two lead characters have to address adult issues, even though they haven't matured to the point that they can properly contemplate their futures. The film follows wild partygoer Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), who is determined to make his senior year of high school as enjoyable as he can. During a particularly heavy night of drinking, Sutter wakes up in the front yard of a timid poor girl, Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley). Aimee decides to take care of an embarrassed Sutter. They discover that they have much more in common than they ever would have realized.

The story of a slacker and a geek falling in love may seem generic, but "The Spectacular Now" doesn't go in a cliched direction. Sutter is much more sensitive than he lets on initially; he's terrified of making commitments because of the troubled relationship he has with his alcoholic absent father, Tommy (Kyle Chandler).

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Anderson isn't just one of the best filmmakers working today, but a major film buff in his own right. "Licorice Pizza" is a love letter to the 1970s and celebrates pivotal achievements in Hollywood cinema. Anderson has enjoyed honoring the work of other prominent filmmakers, and he recently praised the work of fellow writer/director Quentin Tarantino. He cited Tarantino's film "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" as one of his favorite recent moviegoing experiences. It's no wonder that Anderson loved "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," which is also a tribute to early Hollywood film history. 

Set in Los Angeles in 1969, "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" focuses on systemic changes within the industry. Tarantino homages the last days of the Golden Age of Hollywood before the shocking Charles Manson murders rocked the industry. Like "Licorice Pizza," the film recreates many famous Hollywood historical figures. Fictionalized versions of celebrities like Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), Jay Sebring (Emile Hirsch), Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis), and Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) all appear. 

Anderson honors some of the most famous films of the era, but he also takes a realistic look at the realities of being a struggling actor. "Licorice Pizza" centers on a young actor like Gary, who is at the beginning of his career. "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" shows what its like for an older star, like Leonardo DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, who fears that he is at the end of his.

Boogie Nights

"Licorice Pizza" is one of the best films of Anderson's career, which is not something to be said lightly. It brought Anderson back to a city and decade that he'd explored in his earlier masterpieces. Anderson launched his career in 1996 with the low budget crime thriller "Hard Eight," but he didn't become a major industry presence until the success of his second film, "Boogie Nights." "Boogie Nights" was acclaimed for how Anderson humanized the sordid Golden Age of Porn, and earned the filmmaker his first Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. "Boogie Nights" established many trademarks that appear throughout Anderson's filmography, and showed his willingness to tackle subject matter that could be deemed controversial.

Like "Licorice Pizza," "Boogie Nights" is also centered in the San Fernando Valley during the 1970s (and extends slightly longer to show how the main characters evolve in the 1980s). Both films fluidly combine humor and realism. The characters in "Boogie Nights" cope with the reality of working within an industry that no one respects. This untraditional family of performers gets into a variety of wild, wacky, and occasionally dark scenarios as they attempt to provide for each other.

While "Boogie Nights" gives each character enough screen time, it begins by following high school dropout Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) as he enters the porn industry. Eddie is approached by the producer Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who invites him to join his production company. Eddie takes on the moniker "Dirk Diggler." 

Everybody Wants Some!!

It's a good thing that "Licorice Pizza" is doing so well in its theatrical run, because hilarious scenes like Bradley Cooper's extended cameo are best enjoyed with an audience. Amidst the great humor, Anderson tells an authentic story. Gary and Alanas' hopes, fears, and emotions are realistic given the circumstances they are in. Anderson was able to craft a dramedy about real people, a skill he shares with one of his contemporaries: Richard Linklater.

Linklater also emerged in the 1990s, and likes to homage his established classics with his new films. One of Linklater's best recent projects was his 2016 college comedy "Everybody Wants Some!!," which acts as a "spiritual sequel" to his beloved 1993 film "Dazed and Confused."

Like "Licorice Pizza," "Everybody Wants Some!!" shows all the hilarious and heartbreaking mistakes that young adults make when they're left to their own devices. The film centers on college freshman Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), who is accepted into a highly competitive Texas college baseball team. During the week before college classes start, Jake and the other new recruits are invited to live with the upperclassman in an off-campus house and train for the new season. The older men have planned a rigid schedule that includes an equal amount of practicing and partying.

Almost Famous

Cameron Crowe's 2000 film "Almost Famous" has a lot in common with "Licorice Pizza." Both tell authentic stories about growing up in the art scene and center on unusual romances. "Almost Famous" was unquestionably a very personal film for Crowe, as he based the story on his own youthful experiences – as a young writer, Crowe landed a gig interviewing musicians for "Rolling Stone" magazine. This personal inspiration allowed him to bring the same authenticity to "Almost Famous" that Anderson captured so beautifully in "Licorice Pizza."

"Almost Famous" revolves around a young music buff named William Miller (Patrick Fugit). William is introduced to the world of rock music by his older sister, Anita (Zooey Deschanel). After Anita leaves home, William escapes their strict mother Elaine (Frances McDormand) and learns about music history from the eccentric radio DJ Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

William begins writing about his experiences, and befriends the touring band Stillwater. Stillwater's lead guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) enjoys the young man's company, and invites William to join the band as he spotlights them in a freelance piece for "Rolling Stone." William falls in love with long-time Stillwater groupie Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), and learns that the music scene isn't the idealized paradise that he imagined.


"Licorice Pizza" explores the anxieties that adolescents feel as they fall in love for the first time. Gary and Alana aren't sure how to express their feelings for each other; Gary is very open and expressive, but Alana is more emotionally closed off. This sharp contrast makes their relationship more engaging.

The British writer/director Richard Ayoade captured a similar awkward tension in his 2010 coming-of-age comedy "Submarine." Like "Licorice Pizza," the film is so funny that even the more embarrassing moments don't feel uncomfortable to watch. "Submarine" follows lonely 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), who makes a checklist of everything he wants to accomplish by the time he graduates high school. At the top of Oliver's list is having his first relationship.

Oliver is hopelessly in love with his classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige), whose only priority at the moment is making her cheating ex-boyfriend jealous. Jordana decides to accept Oliver's advances. What she doesn't realize is that Oliver has already planned a future for a relationship that lasts much longer than what she had in mind.

Saturday Night Fever

One of the ways that "Licorice Pizza" captured the 1970s was its incredible soundtrack of classic hits. Jonny Greenwood's brilliant score was very important to the film, but many of the most memorable scenes are set to classic tracks, such as David Bowie's "Life on Mars?" and Paul McCartney & Wings' "Let Me Roll In." 

If you're a fan of '70s music, you can't ask for a film that's much more iconic than the 1977 classic "Saturday Night Fever." The Bee Gees' original soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever" is one of the best in cinematic history; this is the film that spawned such beloved songs as "Stayin' Alive" and "How Deep Is Your Love," among many others. While the great music would be enough to warrant a recommendation, "Saturday Night Fever" features an engaging story of youthful romance that's similar to "Licorice Pizza."

John Travolta delivered his breakout performance as Tony Manero, an aspiring dancer who hits the Brooklyn dance floors every night. Travolta received an Academy Award nomination for best actor.

Love Story

In "Licorice Pizza," Gary and Alana don't come from similar backgrounds. Gary has grown up in the film industry, and he's been hustling for his entire life. Alana has never quite found her place in the world. She's embarrassed to have awkward conversations with her family about her plans for the future. Both characters realize that they have much more in common than they initially expected; they both have always had an independent streak. Their free-spirited emotions are reminiscent of many '70s romantic classics.

"Licorice Pizza" has been praised for its timelessness, but 1970's "Love Story" has already proven that it's just as effective a half century later. Like "Licorice Pizza," the film centers on a romance between two characters that seem like polar opposites.

Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) comes from a wealthy family, and aims to escape from his parents' influence. Oliver wants to meet people from different walks of life as he studies at Harvard College. He falls in love with Jenny Cavilleri (Ali McGraw), a poor girl who can't relate to his privileged upbringing.

Foul Play

Due to Gary's various risky schemes, "Licorice Pizza" often feels like a caper; generally speaking, his plans are not very well thought out. They add a sense of danger to the story, but it doesn't distract from the light tone.

The 1978 film "Foul Play" captures a similar mix of humor and suspense. You don't hear about a "comedy-thriller" very often, but writer/director Colin Higgins pulls it off. "Foul Play" features an equal amount of action, humor, and heart.

The film opens with the genuinely shocking murder of a Catholic archbishop. Soft-spoken librarian Gloria Mundy (Goldie Hawn) is caught within a murder investigation when her date, Bob Scott (Bruce Solomon), is killed during a film screening. The San Francisco Police Force doubt her story in their offical investigation, but the noble lieutenant Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) comes to Gloria's defense. They team up to find the actual killer. Chase and Hawn have great chemistry, and the two mismatched crimefighters gradually begin to fall in love.

The Way Way Back

Many of the best coming-of-age films are about characters who are forced to step outside of their shells. In "Licorice Pizza," Gary is used to the rigors of being a child star, but discovers he's in no way prepared for adult responsibilities. Alana is also put in an uncomfortable position, and learns that she hasn't quite figured out how she wants to spend her future. Watching these two open themselves up to new experiences makes their character development more engaging.

The 2013 dramedy "The Way Way Back" is very similar, as it's all about growing up and adjusting to change. The film centers on the shy, 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James), who spends a summer with his mother Pam (Toni Collette) in her pretentious boyfriend Trent's (Steve Carrell) lake resort. Trent torments Duncan, who feels all alone. However, the local water park operator, Owen (Sam Rockwell), decides to take the shy teenager under his wing. He gives Duncan a job, and teaches him important life lessons.

Moonrise Kingdom

"Licorice Pizza" has a sensitive depiction of young love. It acknowledges that while the characters Gary and Alana are very naive, they may have more wisdom than any of the adults in the story. Wes Anderson told a similarly insightful story of childhood innocence in his 2012 coming-of-age comedy "Moonrise Kingdom." Like "Licorice Pizza," "Moonrise Kingdom" features a large ensemble of famous actors, but it focuses on two young breakout stars with a fun new take on a "Romeo and Juliet" style romance.

"Moonrise Kingdom" follows an orphan named Sam Shakusky (Jared Gillam), who spends his entire summer at a New England Khaki Scout summer camp led by the Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton). The rich girl Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) lives on the same island with her parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand). Sam and Suzy soon develop strong feelings for each other, and they decide to run away together. Suzy's parents call in the local police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to track them down.

Reality Bites

"Licorice Pizza" centers on a somewhat niche generation that grows up during an exciting period of change in the country's history. American youth culture changed radically within the 1970s. Although "Licorice Pizza" looks back at this pivotal decade in retrospect, it still feels very "in the moment."

Sometimes, a film can spotlight a cultural movement right as it emerges. Ben Stiller captured Generation X with his 1994 feature film directorial debut, "Reality Bites." It became one of the quintessential films about the era. Like "Licorice Pizza," "Reality Bites" examines young lovers who are exploring the freedoms of artistic expression.

The film follows aspiring documentarian Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder), who lives with her musician boyfriend, Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke), after they both graduate college. Lelaina wants to make a documentary about her generation. She is very ambitious, but Troy is an underachiever. After a major argument, they both go their separate ways. However, when Lelaina starts a new relationship with the wealthy Michael Grates (Stiller), Troy tries to win her back.