Split image of 8 Mile, Birdman and Black Swan

Whiplash is an intense and riveting drama that helped launch Damien Chazelle as one of the most interesting new directors working today. The movie stars Miles Teller as Andrew, a young and talented drummer pushed to his limits and beyond by his abusive and demanding jazz instructor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). The movie is an exploration of obsession and the teach-student relationship. It is also the kind of movie that leaves viewers sweating from all the tension on display. While it is certainly a unique movie, there are others that are similar enough to please fans of Whiplash.

Damien Chazelle’s latest movie Babylon may have bombed at the box office and received a mixed response from critics, but it continues to show the talents of the young filmmaker. Most people were first introduced to him with Whiplash, a stunning movie about obsession, a desire to be the best, and one of the most warped mentor relationships of all time. While Babylon is certainly a much different movie, fans can easily find some exciting movies like Whiplash to enjoy.


Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross

  • Available on Hulu, Peacock, Peacock Premium, The Roku Channel, Hoopla, Vudu, Kanopy, Pluto TV and Plex

Part of what makes Whiplash such an exciting movie is the fast-paced energy and captivating dialogue in a high-pressure world. In that way, Glengarry Glen Ross is a similar movie as it follows the various desperate men working as real estate brokers hungry for a sale.

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The movie is stacked with talent, with Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and more giving wonderful performances. Written by the great David Mamet, it is a funny, tense, and thrilling movie that is all about people talking to each other.

The Prestige (2006)

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman talking on the street in The Prestige

Though not talked about as often as some of Christopher Nolan’s other movies, The Prestige is an excellent thriller that deserves more attention. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as rival stage magicians in the late 1800s who long war with each other terms darker over the years.

While a movie about magicians might not seem to have much in common with Whiplash, The Prestige is another movie about the obsession for perfection. The need to find the perfect trick drives both men to some dark places in this gripping mystery tale.

First Man (2018)

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

While La La Land is another of Damien Chazelle’s movies to focus on jazz, Whiplash actually has more in common First Man. Ryan Gosling plays Neil Armstrong who, after suffering his own tragedy, dedicates himself completely to his ambitions with going to space, regardless of the risks.

No movie has made space exploration look as terrifying as Chazelle does here. It is an endeavor filled with dangers and a million things that could go wrong. It is also an interesting look at a side of this American hero the world doesn’t often get to see.

Foxcatcher (2015)

A scene from Foxcatcher

  • Available on Starz and DIRECTV

Whiplash goes to some dark places in this tale of a young man who put his trust in an older mentor. However, it is nothing compared to what is seen in the sports drama Foxcatcher. Based on a true story, it follows wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) who is given a shot at Olympic glory by eccentric millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carrell).

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The movie is a mix of Whiplash‘s story of a young man looking to make a name for himself at all costs and the dark path a manipulative relationship like this can take. The cast is exceptional, including Mark Ruffalo as Mark’s brother who is weary of John from the beginning.

Chef (2004)

  • Available on HBO Max and DIRECTV

Chef is a much lighter movie than Whiplash and is perhaps the more optimistic way of telling a similar story with the movie set in the restaurant world. Jon Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in this movie about a renowned Los Angeles chef who loses his job following a breakdown and attempts to reconnect with his love of food by going cross-country in a food truck.

The movie is a light and funny comedy with Favreau leading a great cast including John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, and Robert Downey Jr. It also holds a nice message about embracing a passion however possible.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Viola Davis raising a hand in front of the mic while the band plays in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Netflix

  • Available on Netflix and Netflix Basic

Another movie set in the music world that tells a story of trying to make it is Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Viola Davis stars as the titular singer with the movie focusing on a recording session with her and her band, including the ambitious yet rebellious trumpet player, Levee (Chadwick Boseman).

While a very different movie from Whiplash in many ways, there are some interesting similarities to find. The combative relationship between Ma Rainey and Levee is another tense power dynamic while Levee’s own desperate journey mirrors Andrew in some ways.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Matt Damon and Robin Williams on a park bench in Good Will Hunting

  • Available on Showtime and DIRECTV

While there are various possible interpretations for what the ending of Whiplash says, it seems quite clear that the movie sees the student-teacher relationship between Andrew and Fletcher to be an unhealthy one. Yet it is hard to deny the relationship is the most compelling aspect of the movie.

By contrast, Good Will Hunting is a story that shows the power a relationship like this can have. Though the conversations between troubled young man Will (Matt Damon) and psychiatrist Sean (Robin Williams) start with a lot of tension, Sean teaches Will to forgive himself and accept a life he deserves. It makes Good Will Huntingone of the most inspiring movies.

Birdman (2014)

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Birdman is another movie about an artist trying to create something great and pushing himself too far to achieve it. Michael Keaton stars as an actor made famous for playing a superhero who tries to regain some credibility by staging an ambitious Broadway play.

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Alejandro González Iñárritu directed the movie in long takes to make it all appear as one continuous take and help to further resemble a play itself. It makes for a unique cinematic experience with great performances from the cast that also includes Edward Norton and Emma Stone.

The Social Network (2010)

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

The interesting thing about Whiplash is that the more Miles Teller’s character becomes a talented musician, the worse he becomes as a person. This kind of tortured genius approach also helps to make The Social Network such a brilliant movie with a fascinating main character.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Mark Zuckerberg in the riveting exploration of how he built the massive, ground-breaking company Facebook and the relationships that were destroyed along the way. The movie has been hailed as one of the best of the decade with a sharp script and quotes that have already become classics.

8 Mile (2002)

Eminem 8 Mile

Jazz drumming and freestyle rapping might not appear to have too much in common, but 8 Mile does feel like a similar story to Whiplash in many ways. The movie marks the screen debut of Eminem in the semi-autobiographical story of a young man from Detroit looking to break out in the world of underground rap.

The movie is a fascinating look into a kind of music not everyone will be familiar with, yet it hooks the audience effectively. It is also about someone whose dedication to their craft does not waiver no matter what is thrown in his way.

Amadeus (1985)

Amadeus Mozart

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Though set a couple of hundred years before Whiplash, Amadeus feels like a similar story of obsession over art. The movie tells the story of Italian composer Antonio Salieri who developed deep and resentful jealousy towards the more successful and younger Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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Though largely fiction, the story is nonetheless compelling as it sees the lengths this man will go to rid himself of his supposed rival. It is a beautiful-looking, wonderfully acted drama with an epic scope.

Uncut Gems (2019)

  • Available on Peacock Premium

Despite focusing on the world of jazz, Whiplash is one of the most anxiety-inducing movies in recent memory. It is the kind of movie that will tie the audience’s stomach in a knot yet still entertain you. Uncut Gems also pulls off that special trick with an even more heart-racing story.

Adam Sandler stars as a New York City jeweler who is also a gambling addict. The movie follows him as he makes deal after deal, barely keeping his head above water as it all threatens to come crashing down on his head. Sandler is astounding in the role, giving one of the great dramatic performances from a comedic actor.

Black Swan (2010)

Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

  • Available to rent on Apple TV

Black Swan is another movie that takes a look at a unique and stylish art form and explores the sacrifices a character has to make in order to achieve perfection. Natalie Portman stars as a ballet dancer who is given the chance to perform the lead in Swan Lake. As the pressure mounts, she begins to lose touch with reality.

Portman gives a powerhouse performance which earned her a well-deserved Oscar while the movie is a dark and mind-bending nightmare from Darren Aronofsky. It is unsettling, beautiful, and unforgettable.

Sound of Metal

While drummers might get a lot out of Whiplash, it is not necessarily just a movie for music lovers even if it does a great job of showing that passion. Sound of Metal follows a similar path as it focuses on the story of a heavy metal drummer who must cope with losing his hearing.

Ruben isn’t so much on a mission to be the best but is rather desperate to have the life back that he loved. His slow realization that all that is gone and his trying to make this new life work is heartbreaking yet inspiring.

Nightcrawler (2004)

Lou Bloom pointing and smiling in Nightcrawler

  • Available on HBO Max and DIRECTV

Like Whiplash, Nightcrawler is an intense movie that explores the dark side of ambition. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a man with endless determination to become successful yet is willing to do immoral things to achieve that success. He finds his calling with the seedy world of freelance crime scene videographers.

The movie is a chilling and compelling look at a self-made man who is deeply unsettling to watch. Gyllenhaal gives a haunting performance in this grim and gripping tale of Los Angeles at night.

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