10 Best Movies Like Dear Zoe | Pretty Reel

Already establishing herself as an acting force outside of Stranger Things, rising star Sadie Sink is making waves with her dramatic turns in The Whale (in theaters December 9) and new movie Dear Zoe. Telling the story of a grieving teenage girl who reconnects with her father, Dear Zoe is a poignant teardrop about family.

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

Personal Customer (2016)

Stream on Kanopy, Tubi TV and Pluto TV

Helping to launch Kristen Stewart’s renaissance, Personal Shopper was another feather in the accomplished actor’s hat. Working as a personal shopper for a world famous model in Paris, a young woman tries to cope with the grief of losing her brother. Things take a strange turn when she starts receiving text messages from her dead brother.

The grief of losing a sibling is a big part of both films, and unlike Dear Zoe, Personal Shopper tackles this theme through supernatural subterfuge. While the latter film is certainly creepier, the thread of heartbreak is what unites them. Proving that the bond between siblings is strong, Personal Shopper shows that the grave can’t 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 topic, and while some projects completely spoil the topic, films like It’s a Funny Story treat it with class and finesse. Stressed by his daily life, a teenager checks into a psychiatric hospital but is relegated to the adult wing because the youth service is full.

Often ranking among actor Zoë Kravitz’s best films, the indie comedy was actually an ensemble 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 poignant.

Broken Flowers (2005)

Stream on Freevee

Flipping the script on the format, Shattered Flowers is a middle-aged story that still touches on issues like grief and reconciliation. An aging Don Juan receives the shock of his life when he learns he has a grown son. Desperate to reconnect, the man sets off on a quest to visit all the women from his past who might be the mother of his child.

Dear Zoe fans might be shocked by the film’s incredibly abrupt ending and lack of closure, but they’ll still appreciate the clever twist on the classic story of parent-child reconnection. 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 the family bond. Out of necessity, a radio journalist takes care of his nephew while traveling the country and interviewing subjects for a documentary project.

Watching the bond between Johnny and Jesse form over the course of the film is a rewarding experience, and fans of Dear Zoe will see parallels between their relationship and Tess with her father. There is nothing magical or artificial about the execution 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 movies have executed that 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.

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

When Marnie Was There (2014)

Stream on HBO Max

While Studio Ghibli’s best films are usually whimsical and fun, they also know exactly how to stir up the most heartbreak. When Marnie Was There is the story of a young girl who is sent to the countryside for health reasons, and there she makes a connection with an unusual girl who may come from her mysterious past.

Beautiful 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 movie, the animated hit approaches grief from an original place, and it takes things a step further by bringing the supernatural into the story without being scary.

Ordinary People (1980)

Stream on Paramount+ and Showtime

As films like Dear Zoe explore, the loss of a loved one can bring up complicated emotions, especially in grieving parents. Ordinary People is the story of a teenager who suffers from severe depression following the accidental death of his older brother. On top of that, he is harshly judged by his parents who resent him for having survived the accident.

Known for their powerful performances from Timothy Hutton and Mary Tyler Moore, Ordinary People were way ahead of their time with their treatment of youth mental health. Like Dear Zoe, the film is adept at tugging at audiences’ heartstrings, and it’s an uncompromisingly dark narrative that never veers into melodrama.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Stream on Disney+

Although they may look completely different on the surface, Dear Zoe and Big Hero 6 are actually very similar movies. Following the death of his older brother, a young man strikes up an unlikely friendship with a robot that leads to him becoming a superhero.

Stripping away all the comic book-inspired paraphernalia of the movie, Big Hero 6 is a relatively straightforward tale 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 bring audiences to tears, Big Hero 6 uses its fun exterior to make its deeper themes more palatable to the masses.

Childhood (2014)

Stream on Criterion Channel, Kanopy and Pluto TV

Often overshadowed by its decade-long production process, Boyhood is actually the quintessential coming-of-age film. The film chronicles the life of a young 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 over with themes from Dear Zoe. As loss is a natural part of growth, audiences can see the best of times and the worst of times in equal measure, and Boyhood feels like a true cinematic experience.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Stream on Hulu and Paramount+

Dear Zoe is a film about reconnecting with a parent, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower is essentially a film about reconnecting with oneself. A shy, introverted teenager is brought out of his shell by a pair of new friends he made in high school who show him the beauty of life and love.

Unafraid to take its story to dark places, Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of the classic novel made people think twice before dismissing it as just a teen drama. Like Dear Zoe, the story is designed to be consumed by younger audiences, and it goes a long way in teaching its viewer about emotional intelligence and the importance of friendship.

10 Best Movies Like Dear Zoe | Pretty Reel