88 voters

The Best Movies About Immigration

Updated July 23, 2021 475 votes 88 voters 8.6k views85 items

List RulesMovies about immigrants, immigration, and life in a new country.

This is a crowdranked list of the top films where immigration is a major focus or plot element. Since America is a country of immigrants, settled by numerous different cultural groups over the years. It's no wonder that much of American cinema features stories about immigrants and immigration. From Ellis Island, to an influx of Irish Americans displaced by the Potato Famine, to Latino immigrants today, it's no surprise that this list has so many classic films about immigration - a classic American issue. But in recent times we have also seen an influx of films by non-American filmmakers tackling the subject of immigration, usually in a dramatic as opposed to comedic manner. 
The movies on this list all tackle the topic of immigration in one way or another – whether through a historical lens, looking at how life was affected by immigration through Ellis Island into New York City (including the formation of gangs for survival), or whether it takes a more dramatic approach by featuring a modern couple kept apart due to an immigration law. There are even "genre movies" in recent years that at their core are really about immigrants and cultural aliens - see District 9 or Children of Men
This list features the best immigration movies including: Scarface, Children of Men, Like Crazy, In America, House of Sand and Fog, The Border, The Kite Runner, and Journey of Hope. Vote up your favorite immigration film or add one you love that isn't already on the list.
  • 1
    The Other Side of Immigration is a 2010 documentary film directed by Roy Germano that explores why so many people leave the Mexican countryside to work in the United States and what happens to the...  more
  • 2


    Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet


    Directed byJames Cameron

    Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed by James Cameron. A seventeen-year-old aristocrat (Kate Winslet) falls in love with a kind but poor artist (Leonardo DiCaprio)...  more

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  • 3


    Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer


    Directed byBrian De Palma

    Scarface is a 1983 American crime drama film directed by Brian De Palma, and a remake of the 1932 film. In 1980s Miami, Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) rises up and becomes a powerful drug...  more

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  • 4

    The Kite Runner

    Shaun Toub, Saïd Taghmaoui


    Directed byMarc Forster

    The Kite Runner is a 2007 American drama film directed by Marc Forster, based on the 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini. After spending years in California, Amir returns to his homeland in Afghanistan to...  more
  • 5

    Children of Men

    Julianne Moore, Clive Owen


    Directed byAlfonso Cuarón

    Children of Men is a 2006 science fiction thriller film directed and co-written by Alfonso Cuarón. The screenplay, based on P. D. James's 1992 novel of the same name, was credited to five writers,...  more

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  • 6

    In America

    Djimon Hounsou, Samantha Morton


    Directed byJim Sheridan

    In America is a 2002 Irish-American-British drama film directed by Jim Sheridan. The semi-autobiographical screenplay by Sheridan and his daughters Naomi and Kirsten focuses on an immigrant Irish...  more

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  • 7

    America America

    Lou Antonio, John Marley


    Directed byElia Kazan

    America, America is a 1963 American dramatic film directed, produced and written by Elia Kazan, from his own book....  more
  • 8

    The Visitor

    Richard Jenkins, Danai Gurira


    Directed byThomas McCarthy

    The Visitor is a 2007 American drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy and produced by Michael London and Mary Jane Skalski. Executive producers were Jeff Skoll and Omar Amanat. The...  more
  • 9

    District 9

    Sharlto Copley, Jed Brophy


    Directed byNeill Blomkamp

    District 9 is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Neill Blomkamp, released August 13, 2009. It takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. District 9 is based on Alive in Joburg, a short film...  more

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  • 10

    Gangs of New York

    Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio


    Directed byMartin Scorsese

    Gangs of New York is a 2002 American fictionalized historical drama film set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of Lower Manhattan in 1863. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese...  more

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  • 11

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

    Judi Dench, Maggie Smith


    Directed byJohn Madden

    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2012 British comedy-drama film, directed by John Madden. The screenplay, written by Ol Parker, is based on the 2004 novel These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach,...  more

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  • 12

    A Better Life

    Demián Bichir, Joaquín Cosío


    Directed byChris Weitz

    A Better Life is a 2011 American drama film directed by Chris Weitz. The screenplay, originally known as The Gardener, was written by Eric Eason based on a story by Roger L. Simon. Demián Bichir was...  more
  • 13

    Journey of Hope

    Dietmar Schönherr, Teco Celio


    Directed byXavier Koller

    Journey of Hope is a 1990 film directed by Xavier Koller. It tells the story of a Turkish Alevi family trying to illegally emigrate to Switzerland, a country they know only from a postcard. The film...  more
  • 14

    House of Sand and Fog

    Jennifer Connelly, Ben Kingsley


    Directed byVadim Perelman

    House of Sand and Fog is a 2003 American drama film directed by Vadim Perelman, based on the novel by Andre Dubus III. A young woman (Jennifer Connelly) and an immigrant Iranian family battle over...  more

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  • 15

    The Border

    Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel


    Directed byTony Richardson

    The Border is a 1982 American drama film directed by Tony Richardson and starring Jack Nicholson, Harvey Keitel, Valerie Perrine and Warren Oates....  more
  • 16

    Like Crazy

    Jennifer Lawrence, Keeley Hazell


    Directed byDrake Doremus

    "Like Crazy is a film from and about the heart. Jacob, an American, and Anna, who is British, meet at college in Los Angeles and fall madly in love. It’s the purest kind of romance—they’re each...  more

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  • 17

    Anita and Me

    Lynn Redgrave, Omid Djalili


    Directed byMetin Hüseyin

    Anita and Me is a British comedy-drama film released in 2002 based on the book of the same name by Meera Syal. It was released during a period of popularity for British Asian films, alongside such as...  more
  • 18

    Crossing Over

    Harrison Ford, Sarah Shahi


    Directed byWayne Kramer

    Crossing Over is a 2009 American independent crime drama film about illegal immigrants of different nationalities struggling to achieve legal status in Los Angeles, and stars Harrison Ford as an...  more
  • 19

    An American Rhapsody

    Scarlett Johansson, Emmy Rossum


    Directed byÉva Gárdos

    An American Rhapsody is a 2001 Hungarian-American biographical drama film that tells a story of 15-year-old girl from a Hungarian-American family. The film is based on the true story of the director,...  more
  • 20

    An American Tail

    Christopher Plummer, Madeline Kahn


    Directed byDon Bluth

    An American Tail is a 1986 American animated musical adventure film directed by Don Bluth and produced by Sullivan Bluth Studios and Amblin Entertainment. The film tells the story of Fievel...  more

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  • 21


    Elijah Wood, Elizabeth Perkins


    Directed byBarry Levinson

    Avalon is a 1990 American drama film directed by Barry Levinson. It is the third in Levinson's semi-autobiographical four "Baltimore Films" set in his hometown during the 1940s, '50s, and '60s:...  more
  • 22


    Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett


    Directed byAlejandro González Iñárritu

    Babel is a 2006 American-Mexican-French drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga, starring an ensemble cast. The film portrays multiple stories taking...  more

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  • 23

    Bend It like Beckham

    Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers


    Directed byGurinder Chadha

    Bend It like Beckham is a 2002 British comedy-drama film starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Shaznay Lewis and Archie Panjabi, first released in the United...  more

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  • 24

    Colossal Youth

    António Semedo, Ventura


    Directed byPedro Costa

    Colossal Youth is a 2006 docufiction feature film directed by Portuguese director Pedro Costa. The film was shot on DV in long, static takes and mixes documentary and fiction storytelling. The third...  more
  • 25

    Dancer in the Dark

    Björk, Catherine Deneuve


    Directed byLars von Trier

    Dancer in the Dark is a 2000 Danish musical drama film directed by Lars von Trier and starring Icelandic singer Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Cara Seymour, Peter Stormare, Siobhan Fallon...  more

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