Do yourself a favor: watch the new Netflix show, then check out these movies and TV series.
Netflix’s The End of the F***ing World (helpfully shortened by most to TEOTFW) is, in a word, unexpected. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, the first (and perhaps only) season is a pitch black British romantic comedy about a girl who wants a fresh start and the boy who wants to kill her. The initially off-putting concept blooms under the direction of Jonathan Entwistle and Lucy Tcherniak, with an endearingly twisted script by Charlie Covell and dynamic performances by Alex Lawther and Jessica Barden. Toss in an ironic soundtrack of classic love songs and a spontaneous, potentially fatal road trip, and you have an inexplicably great series.
If you’ve already burnt through the available episodes and need more to watch, here are 10 movies and TV shows that might satisfy your highly specific craving. As expected, the below recommendations contain spoilers for the show’s first season.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Resist your instinct to correlate your new favorite teens on the run with Bonnie and Clyde — the series’ surprising warmth and considerable moral character hews much closer to that of Ridley Scott and Callie Khouri’s iconic girl power road trip film. When Bonnie and Clyde reach the end of the line, their demise feels inevitable. When James and Alyssa do, as with Thelma and Louise, their goodbye is both strangely romantic and heartbreaking. And the teens’ journey parallels that of their counterparts in more ways than one. Both pairs are bonded in some primal way early on by a murder that was mostly committed in self-defense but leaves one party (Alyssa, Thelma) feeling hollowed out and traumatized. The characters in both pairs know each others’ vulnerabilities and take care of one another in a way that’s weirdly sweet within the context of the stories’ violent premises. If you’re ready to laugh and fight back tears again after the TEOTFW finale, this road trip classic is your best bet.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
On a superficial level, TEOTFW is only a little bit like Wes Anderson. The series borrows a few of his signature framing techniques, like when it reveals James’s artful arrangement of dead animals categorized neatly on screen. But it’s Anderson’s tone more than anything that comes through in Covell’s writing and the cast’s understated acting. Like many of Anderson’s characters, James and Alyssa are profoundly lonely people who decide that it’s better to be lonely together. The Netflix ad campaign actually described the show as Moonrise Kingdom meets Natural Born Killers, and although it has the misguided youthful confidence and wild-in-the-woods hook of the former, the show’s brand of milieu is much more The Royal Tenenbaums. Both TEOTFW and Tenenbaums explore the deep pain of familial and social alienation, self-imposed or otherwise, and both are accompanied by dreamy, evocative soundtracks.
The quintessential pitch-black comedy, Heathers treats murder like an elective to try out between Spanish and gym class. James’s initially flippant attitude about the crime is reminiscent of Christian Slater’s J.D. in the movie, though the character similarities end there — J.D. is suspiciously confident, while James is fragile on many levels. Both stories snowball quickly in a way that’s both funny and inherently suspenseful, with offbeat meet-cutes spiraling into a series of criminal acts within a matter of days. Heathers hasn’t aged as well as other films on this list (these days, teen suicide and school violence jokes just leave most of us feeling sick to our stomachs), but the biting script and sweet-as-cyanide central couple are definitely a major part of TEOTFW’s twisted, satisfying DNA.
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
John Cusack’s depressed hitman Martin is an alternate timeline version of James, a mostly unassuming guy who became a mercenary because he really wanted to kill people. Despite his nonchalant take on the act of murder, he’s not a psychopath nor incapable of love. When he returns home to both attend his high school reunion and carry out a job, he falls for his ex-girlfriend (Minnie Driver) all over again. I’ll admit, the comparison here is partly aesthetic —Cusack and Lawther are both pale, perpetually boyish, and mopey in a reluctantly adorable way. Grosse Pointe Blank also features a moment that was sorely lacking in TEOTFW: late in the film, Martin’s love interest finds out about his urge to kill, a confrontation that James and Alyssa never have thanks to James’s hyper-passive attitude and other mitigating circumstances. Whether or not you wanted a confession scene in the show, there’s one poignant moment that most everyone would’ve loved to see the lead characters experience. When Martin stares at an old classmate’s baby while Bowie’s “Under Pressure” plays, he silently and calmly realizes that even he could have a normal life. The closest thing we’re given in TEOTFW is the retail security guard’s mercy on Alyssa, but alas, an ordinary ending wasn’t in these lovers’ playbook.
“You shouldn’t just make people if you’re going to abandon them, because they’ll think they’ve done something wrong their whole lives.” That line from the season finale of TEOTFW may as well be the slogan for this Showtime adaptation of a long-running British dark comedy of the same name. The series has wavered in quality in recent years, but for the first four seasons, it was a hilarious, dexterous, and often bleak show about six scrappy, bold, and bizarre siblings who — neglected by a set of deadbeat parents to end all deadbeat parents — juggled the will to be better people with deeply ingrained self-destructive impulses. They each take turns embodying Alyssa’s wonderfully fiery attitude and deep, quiet sadness, but Emmy Rossum’s caretaker Fiona Gallagher is the anti-heroine’s surest analog. Be warned: despite the outlandish comedic plots, the Gallaghers’ path to redemption is a long and tragic one with no single turning point to magically make them into good people.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
The end of the world in TEOTFW is mostly metaphorical. Alyssa points out moments in her life that have felt like endings, and we can presumably add a few from the couples’ road trip to her mental list. Still, the finale feels like an actual end to their world, both in terms of geography —they ran until they hit the ocean — and safety. Lorene Scafaria’s comedic drama, which received mixed reviews upon release, stars Keira Knightley and Steve Carell as an odd couple who meet up in the wake of news announcing the actual end of the world. Their apocalypse is a literal one, featuring a road trip set to the ticking clock of an impending asteroid rather than looming law enforcement. Both stories start off caustic, meander a bit as the characters attempt to reconcile their needs and desires and eventually flower into something remarkably gentle and self-sacrificial.
Search Party (2016-present)
Just ask Hitchcock: few storylines are more exciting than those in which sympathetic characters almost get caught. Luckily for the makers of Search Party and TEOTFW (and us) those plots are also some of the funniest. If you found James and Alyssa’s amateur crime spree more fun than frightening, you need to check out TBS’s mystery-comedy, which follows a New York woman named Dory (Alia Shawkat) who becomes obsessed with finding a missing college classmate. Dory’s vapid, clueless, and strangely lovable friend group becomes increasingly overwhelmed by the case, especially after a stakes-raising first season finale. Search Party can be more broadly funny than TEOTFW, but it also has a generous bit of the latter’s venom, evoking the best dark laughs from the down and dirty details of covering up a horrible crime.
Fish Tank (2009)
If Grosse Pointe Blank shows a path James could have taken, Andrea Arnold’s acclaimed British indie feels like Alyssa’s life if she hadn’t left on the duo’s ill-fated but liberating road trip. Katie Jarvis plays Mia, a spitting mad outcast who is disliked by her mother and taken advantage of by her mother’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender). A beautiful film with a constant, underlying yearning for escape, Fish Tank and its protagonist are profoundly sad in a way that transcends teen angst in exchange for uncomfortable realism. While Alyssa’s voiceover is open about her complicated thoughts on her body and gender (“Sex can go from something you want to do to a punishment really f***ing quickly”), Mia isn’t a narrator in her own life, so her equally intense feelings go mostly unspoken. Fish Tank has none of the gloss and romanticism of TEOTFW, but values female interiority in much the same way.
True Romance (1993)
The new series hits enough exact beats of this Tarantino-penned film (directed by Tony Scott) that some homage must be intentional. From an opening scene meet-up with ulterior motives, to a darkly romantic beach-set ending, to an on-the-run visit with an estranged dad — even the garish blood orange Hawaiian shirts worn by the male leads mirror one another. True Romance has more edge and less heart than TEOTFW, which ends up much more preoccupied with its characters’ internal journeys than with the cool-murder-kids image conveyed by the marketing campaign. I hope True Romance was a direct inspiration for Covell’s script, if only because the former’s final scene could lend us some peace of mind if viewed in conjunction with Alyssa and James’s final scene. After a fake-out death scene (which, unlike the ambiguous ending of TEOTFW, is cleared up pretty much immediately), Patricia Arquette’s final internal monologue reassures us that she’d be alright if her true love died. If the series chooses to end after one season, and the scene on the beach is our last glimpse of James and Alyssa, that’s something nice to think about.
Black Mirror Season 3 (2016)
Okay, Charlie Brooker’s edgy sci-fi anthology actually has nothing to do with The End of the F***ing World, but if you can’t get enough of the cast, this should be your next stop. In the thoroughly disturbing episode “Shut Up and Dance,” Alex Lawther plays a desperate teenager hiding something awful. Meanwhile, horror-tinged “Playtest” features more underrated work from Wunmi Mosaku, who plays no-nonsense policewoman Teri in TEOTFW.