‘Squid Game’ on Netflix has caught the imagination of global audiences as few other television shows have. The South Korean show focuses on 456 debt-ridden individuals. A mysterious, charming-looking man invites them to play a “game”. The organizers take them to an unknown location on a remote island. Masked soldiers, bearing circle, triangle, and square shapes, order them around. What is unknown to the desperate participants is that the prize money is comprised of each of their lives. ‘Squid Game’ puts itself beyond the survival genre and speaks to larger issues in society like capitalism and the class divide.

Its moral turpitude beautifully mixes a stirring test of human empathy and ethical dilemmas when participants are asked to kill someone to progress. We decided to bring you some of our picks, some of which are similar to ‘Squid Game’ in terms of plot, while others are raging anti-capitalism critiques. Happy reading!

10. 3%

Movies and Shows Like Squid Game - 3 percent

Another series you should give a try on Netflix is the dystopian Brazilian thriller series, ‘3%’. It is mostly an exotic culmination of singular elements from almost all entrants on this list. The drama unfurls in thrilling fashion, that is satisfying both, as a viewer and part of modern pop culture. The world of 20-year olds competes every year to transcend their macabre realities from abject poverty to a lavish life in ‘3%’s frightening plot.

Sharing the response to ‘Squid Game’, 3% has gained traction among audiences in past weeks. Comparatively, ‘3%’ boasts of a much more expansive universe that the creator develops with surgeon-like precision. The game/competition itself is not the universe, as is the case in ‘Squid Game’, and hence there’s more visually on offer here. Despite this, the focus on the core characters, six in number like ‘Squid’, is laser-like, helping the emotional core of the story to be engaging for viewers.

Watch 3% on Netflix

9. Black Mirror

The English show became an instant sensation when it was first released due to its offbeat and unconventional anthology setup. The plot of every episode itself was so interesting that its execution became ancillary to the experience. ‘Black Mirror’ realized every commoners’ worst nightmares in modern, technologically advanced living. Its futuristic use as a deterrent against us represents a fine satire on how reliant we are becoming on it. The pervasiveness with which it has changed our lifestyles has seen it become indispensable.

Just like the ‘Squid Game’, there are several episodes in the first two seasons, set around games/video games that participants dread playing but do not seem to have free will to run past them. Black Mirror’s socially critical fabric also merges a polemic commentary on traits from contemporary culture with the storytelling. If you did like ‘Squid Game’, have a go at how the British see the changing world around them.

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8. The Hunger Games

Movies and Shows Like Squid Game - The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games has a direct correlation to ‘Squid Game’, both in conception and messages beyond plot and story structure. Starring Jennifer Lawrence in a career-changing role, the first instalment revolves around Katniss Everdeen, who takes her younger sister’s place in the annual “Hunger Games”, a televised death show that features random boys and girls chosen by a tyrannic authority that only has one winner: the last man standing.

Exactly like ‘Squid Game’, the participants play games to advance to the next level, each of which sees some of them die. Hunger Games has a rich vein of themes explored over the course of the trilogy. Right from class divide, to feminist undertones of bravery and gender divide. Because of how important politics is to the plot, the film despises authoritative forms of government. It lays emphasis and professes an affinity for a libertarian society where the value of human beings is not determinative or measurable. The consumerism and reality television representation is similar to how ‘Squid Game’ shows how the boredom of the rich and able turned into a violent game of survival for the poor.

7. Alice in Borderland

Netflix released this new Japanese show along with “Squid Game’ on Netflix and became popular for striking similarities. Three friends meet casually in Tokyo on a fine sunny day. They try to run away from a police scuffle and end up hiding in the washroom at a metro station. Post a brief power cut, their phones stop working, and more surprisingly, the streets of Tokyo stand empty. With no one around, they see a sign that asks them to play a game. And thus begins their war for survival.

The series was just renewed for a second, hence continuing the saga that has enthralled audiences across cultures. The writers do a tremendous job in creating a layered narrative that isn’t just about the protagonist group participating in games. The effort put in beyond structure and storytelling puts ‘Alice’ among the best dramas of 2021.

Watch Alice in Borderland on Netflix

6. Sorry to Bother You

Boot Riley hit the very center of the toxic power nexus between politics and the so-called “1%” that is destroying our society today. Everything about his debut feature screams an inward introspection and an outward rage. There is no escaping the truth of what he shows the viewers; about themselves, about the cost behind the great success of industrialization, about the growing controlling nature of consumerism, and the equivalent downtrend in human virtues and togetherness. ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is as fierce an indictment of capitalism as ‘Squid Game’.

Both creations stay true to their cultural identity and use different tropes to essentially say the same thing. If ‘Squid Game’ sparked radiant and reminiscent conversations in the living room, initiated by the grandparents about the good old days of playing those games in peace, ‘Bother You’ is bound to push members of disenfranchised communities to talk about how they worked – more like grinded – tireless hours to bring home pennies for corporations that became multi-millionaires off of their backs.

All while they force you into a cut-throat battle to reach the top and then become them to force others like you to work. The vicious cycle comes a full circle with a brilliant Lakeith Stanfield, who has to be the most impressive actor at representing helplessness through his eyes (remember that scene in ‘Get Out‘?). The coked-up plot takes you unbelievable places realized grimly through significant boons of the new age.


5. Battle Royale

It was a hitherto unknown fact that the genre, “battle royale”, that defines a film where characters are engaged in a game and kill on instruction unless one emerges triumphant, was coined after this Japanese film. At the center of its fictional world is a draconian law passed by the government: the BR Act. Due to rising violence and juvenile delinquency, they seek to eliminate a whole bunch of through this game. Shuyo and Noriko are among others who are gassed and taken to a deserted island, where their erstwhile teacher Kitano runs the show. The students must kill one another over a span of three days in order to survive.

An important element in both ‘Battle Royale’ and ‘Squid Game’ is the lack of free will. The students, through no fault of their own, are forced into killing each other. Most do not exhibit any violent behavior. Exceptions like Mistuko or Kiriyama, who actually are in need of reform, sway the authorities to weed them out through competition and the lives of innocent students.

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Although, some might argue that the players in ‘Squid Game’ had a choice to go back, but did they really? As we saw in the second episode itself, those who returned could not bear looking at their loved ones in miserable circumstances. For them, going back was not an option but fighting for their lives by risking them seemed the only option. All the foremost characters return not because they want to but feel that the money offered might lift their families out of oblivion. Some can even construe this as cowardice and the fact that they should have stayed, struggled through the phase, and come out safely with their families. But that is the beauty of the show. Each person can have his opinion on it.

Related – Battle Royale (2000) Ending Explained: What does Kitano tell Noriko?

4. Lost

Movies and Shows Like Squid Game - Lost

Back when the JJ Abrams ‘Lost’ was released, it had a similar reaction to ‘Squid Game’. It became a global phenomenon, especially in the first three seasons and the mystique around the “black cloud monster”. The show tracked the aftermath of a plane crash on an island. The survivors, at first, are solely focused on recuperating and looking for a rescue. They soon realize they are not alone on the island, and the island itself harbors a thousand-year-old secret that dictates life as they know it.

As we discover in the later seasons, ‘Lost’ is very close to ‘Squid Game’ in plot structure and thematic exposition. ‘Lost’ is definitely more culturally seated and convoluted than ‘Squid Game’. The long run time ensures that writers had to pivot from their original plans and add dimensions that now seem like a hasty decision.

It is arguable that the plot in ‘Lost’ is like a rigged game with no clear winners. The survivors were strategically chosen and brought together on the island against their will. Their actions did not have much consequence on their outcomes, which were predecided. They functioned according to what the two ancient enemies wanted.

3. Snowpiercer

There is a reason why director Bong features on the list twice. His works heavily involve weighty social themes that are represented in storylines without much dilution. Bong never actively pursues the wrong or aspect he inculcates into the fabric of his films. Instead, they are craftily brought out characters and situations that require you to read in between the lines. This respect that Bong shows the viewer and his intelligence is an important part of establishing a dialogue with them. It beckons you to confront this moral realm with your own. in ‘Snowpiercer’, the introduction to the class divide and capitalist critique is not through an overt narrative tool like a voiceover or something even more obvious. His visual buildup is gradual and piercing as he makes his way up the hierarchy, symbolized by the train.

His use of space is genius in saying so much without doing a lot. It has all the elements that make humans flawed that ‘Squid Game’ uses to collaborate with the viewer. It is integral to the story but not the plot. Every character stands for something that Bong envisions in his beautiful writing with Kelly Masterson. The uniqueness of ‘Snowpiercer’ is its boldness in being self-critical. Bong does not wish to make heroes out of his characters but demands that you see beyond these tepid modicum trappings and see around for yourself for inspiration.

Similar to Squid Game on Netflix – 10 South Korean Thrillers With Notable Socio-Economic Commentary

2. Spirited Away

Arguably the greatest animation of all time, ‘Spirited Away’ shares some very particular and abstract details with ‘Squid Game’. The Studio Ghibli film is about Chihiro, a young girl, and her lost parents who mysteriously turn into pigs when they eat food in what they think is an abandoned theme park. The girl, through unprecedented bravery and compassion, tears through the ruthless and indifferent universe to get them back.

I found her to be really similar to Gi-Hun’s character. Both of them are thrust into worlds they do not understand. Their patience and morality are tested at every step of the journey. But most of all, their remarkably kind attitudes towards the story “antagonists” is the revelation. It is the biggest takeaway from both ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Squid Game’.

Watch Spirited Away on Netflix

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1. Parasite

Movies and Shows Like Squid Game - Parasite

Director Bong’s ‘Parasite‘ moved heads and shook up public forums. Not only is this masterpiece made and acted so beautifully, but it also says so much about our times. The rain metaphor has caught on with people across strata like no other movie imagery. Bong’s careful blocking places the motivation for our protagonist family: play your odds to see if you can reach the top. And once you are there, the cost to stay up, in this case specifically, is like getting crushed with a rock (no pun intended). Both the inward and outward probe of the individual and the society reaches filmmaking peak in ‘Parasite’.

Squid Game’ builds on the fantastic work that ‘Parasite’ and many other Korean films before it started. I know I have summoned Govind Nihalani’s ‘Party’ before, but this exchange between Avinash and the Doctor is worth reading and proves my point about why I feel works like ‘Parasite’ are superior to other similar films.

  • “Do you mean the message of art will just become a weapon of politics, does it not have its own independent nature?”
  • “If an artist isn’t politically committed, then his art isn’t relevant, why doctor?
  • “An artist has a responsibility to speak against injustice and arrogance.”
  • “At some point, the human and the artist will face each other and search for one answer. That’s when we must decide. We have to. Do we want to live as an artist or as a human?”

Bong’s searing work destroys the class trope that yesteryear films have come to generalize and make uninventive. The Korean maestro brilliantly brings out his voice as an artist and merges it with his unique style.

Watch Parasite on Prime Video

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