In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Edgar Wright’s geek fuel Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, we’ve decided to do something different. Rather than belabor why you should watch Scott Pilgrim (which you should and probably will anyway), here are 10 films that take on the film’s pop culture homage extravaganza, chaotically energetic geek marathon, rock music jam-outs, and iconic 2010s underdog transmedia narrative.
We'll let these 10 movies — that remind us in some way about Scott Pilgrim — inform how you look at the 2010 flick. Perhaps you’ll discover a new favorite or go back and rewatch one in a new light.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Ah! The colorful chaos of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)! The extended title really exudes the same energy as Scott Pilgrim. This one’s an obvious choice, really — both include larger-than-life battles combined with light, color, and a bangin’ soundtrack that’ll have you rocking in your seat or get you hyped up enough to run a few miles.
From director Cathy Yan (whose first feature was a just-as-colorful satire on contemporary China), you’re in good hands with the no-holds-barred madness of Birds of Prey. If you needed a palate cleanser after the messiness of the 2016 Suicide Squad, you’ll be overjoyed to discover Birds of Prey, which is messy but in all the right ways instead of the wrong. (As an added bonus, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in both films, as Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim and Huntress in Birds of Prey.)
As the superior Ready Player One for the ‘00s, Speed Racer is one of those films you thought you dreamt up as a Mandela-effect-style mass hallucination — but no, it’s real! It might be the closest to Scott Pilgrim in terms of style, with those part-animated, part-live action racing sequences accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s epic music (think back to the iconic techno-infused electronic scoring of J.J. Abrams’s Alias).
After going through development hell and being slammed by critics, it seems like everyone forgot it existed. If you don’t mind a bit (or a lot) of cheesiness and long for a throwback that embraces filmmaking as fun, then Speed Racer might just be a jam. Maybe it’s really the Wachowskis’ masterpiece — yes, they wrote and directed Speed Racer — and now’s the time for Speed Racer to emerge as the real Ford v. Ferrari.
Winner of the inaugural Queer Palm at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival (joining others that have filtered into mainstream media like Todd Haynes’ sensual Carol in 2015 and Céline Sciamma’s queer awakener Portrait of a Lady on Fire in 2019), Kaboom is our wild card pick. You might find Kaboom energy in Kieran Culkin’s Wallace Wells as Scott Pilgrim’s gay best friend — dry, hilarious, and honestly more fun than Scott. But the Venn diagram intersection of Kaboom and Scott Pilgrim actually lies in the relentless speed of both films as their protagonists race through life — Scott with his quick cuts from battle-of-the-band to battle-of-the-band, Smith (Thomas Dekker) from college party to college party.
By writer/director Gregg Araki, a queer Asian American director and foundational participant in the ‘90s/early ‘00s New Queer Cinema movement, the super-saturated science-fiction dark comedy Kaboom is unapologetically queer but also unapologetically absurd — not quite arthouse, but more out-there than most of the other films on the list. It’s a film to be experienced rather than described, really, and Kaboom embraces the strangeness of its appeal as a self-described “hyper-stylized Twin Peaks for the Coachella Generation.”
Can you believe it came out the same year as Scott Pilgrim? We were doubly blessed that year. 2010, never change.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This might’ve been the easiest choice on the list. The new crown jewel of the Marvel world, Into the Spider-Verse built off of the graphic-novelization in Scott Pilgrim and gave a master class on how to effectively adapt comics for screen without giving up the unique format that makes comics comics. It’s clear where the parallels lie between Into the Spider-Verse and Scott Pilgrim, all while uplifting Black and Afro-Latinx creators and stories in a way that Scott Pilgrim, naturally, was never meant to do.
Plus, Into the Spider-Verse showed us the versatility of film scores and soundtracks and exposed a whole slew of film audiences to something other than cinematic orchestral music and angsty white boy rock. Maybe Scott Pilgrim could do a folklore reboot? (Please don’t, but sometimes it’s fun to think about terrible ideas.)
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay
This animated DC film is proof that animated films are not exclusively for kids. The action in Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay is hands-down gory, the humor raunchy and crude — it’s rated Mature for a reason. But it’s also an exceedingly truthful portrayal of the Suicide Squad — that is, the fact that they’re all out for each other’s blood and really don’t care about anything else, let alone being redeemable.
Hell to Pay might be a little further out on the “similar to Scott Pilgrim” spectrum, but it’s got an infectious, manic, and magical energy that lives off of the legacy of Scott Pilgrim. It doesn’t have to make strict sense as long as it’s entertaining, driving, and unpredictable. Did we mention it features an all-star cast combining a selection of live-action actors with the best of the voice acting world? Now we have — Hell to Pay includes Christian Slater as Deadshot, Vanessa Williams as Amanda Waller, Billy Brown as Bronze Tiger, and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, among others.
Oh, you didn’t expect this one? But you didn’t think we’d let you get away with this without this Disney masterpiece, did you? It’s not even worth denying that you liked this Disney Channel Original Movie — original film, if you will. With its Breakfast Club narrative beginning when all the students meet in detention to their newfound positions as anti-bureaucracy figureheads in their community when the high school tries to shut down their band (political statements, baby!), it’s obvious that this movie is perfection.
But where does Scott Pilgrim fit, you ask? Starting with the absolutely nonsensically-titled banger “Determinate” (with an inexplicable rap sequence by a white guy) to their band’s meteoric rise and performing at — spoiler! — Madison Square Garden (unfortunately filmed in an arena in New Mexico, but exciting nonetheless), the band parallels are too good to be ignored.
If you were one of those cusp-of-the-millennium kids who went around asking “Am I a millennial or am I Gen Z?” and you know Lemonade Mouth, then you’re definitely Gen Z. If you don’t know it, it’s time to get inducted into the cult of Lemonade Mouth. Plus, it gave us Hayley Kiyoko and Naomi Scott performing together in one film. We'll let Disney slide on this one.
Blinded by the Light
From Gurinder Chadha — the director of the iconic 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham — comes Blinded By the Light. Set in 1987 suburban England and inspired by a true story, it’s a period film in a wholly different form, but it captures the energy of the music in Scott Pilgrim through unique music video-like sequences. Our hero Javed (Viveik Kalra) rocks out and finds empowerment through music in a similar way, but instead of playing music, it’s listening to Springsteen — the Boss.
Like Scott, Javed is the unpopular kid and the odd one out. Blinded By the Light is a feel-good film that takes a more grounded approach to the whole “music will set me free” kind of thing (no martial arts sequences, sorry), but it’s no doubt got a sort of Scott Pilgrim energy that’ll make you want to go out and join a band. Or buy a Walkman.
There had to be a video game film on this list. What better than Wreck-It Ralph, one that traverses worlds and elements of gaming wrapped up in a tidy (or not-so-tidy) little bow? Wreck-It Ralph is the adorable choice on this list and one that’ll be a long-lasting favorite of kids and adults alike. It moves seamlessly between video game styles without losing sight of its overall narrative — if anything, even more effectively than Scott Pilgrim.
Wreck-It Ralph was also able to synthesize many elements of gaming throughout the decades in a way that was comprehensible for audiences of all ages. Even if gaming interfaces and platforms have changed, some aspects will forever be cemented as gaming culture — and Wreck-It Ralph captures the best of it. If you thought you liked Scott Pilgrim’s nods to power-ups and combos, Wreck-It Ralph takes it to a whole new level.
From Richard Kelly, the director of Donnie Darko, you might not think that this peak absurdist film has anything in common with Scott Pilgrim. But the sci-fi dystopian Southland Tales combines pieces of live-action with stop motion and hallucinatory dance sequences in a way that is so vaguely reminiscent of Scott Pilgrim’s cross-genre jumping and complete ignorance of any sense of genre fluidity (that Seinfeld scene, anyone?).
Like Scott Pilgrim, Southland Tales was originally formulated as a graphic novel series (meant to accompany the film). However, the story was eventually boiled down to a short prequel series, making the entire story a six-episode saga — so those watching the film are only getting the second half of the narrative, and most people don’t even know that the prequel series exists. Confusing much?
Its bizarro style of comedy featuring big-name actors, primarily courtesy of Dwayne Johnson and Sarah Michelle Gellar, makes Southland Tales even more of a wild ride. You might end up more confused than you will be at the end of Scott Pilgrim, as it’s one of those galaxy brain films that you’ll most likely either love or hate. But if you’re into more cross-medium content, the three prequel graphic novels actually give a lot more background to understanding the film.
Maybe we all need to reach enlightenment first. But with its satirical commentary on the military-industrial complex and neo-Marxist characters advocating for the elimination of what emerges as an American surveillance state, maybe Southland Tales is more prophetic than anything else.
Whip It is one of those late ‘00s/early ‘10s underdog coming-of-age stories that you can’t help but hate to love. To boot, both Whip It protagonist Bliss (Ellen Page, just coming into her post-Juno fame) and Scott are indie-rock obsessives. Man, they just don’t make films like they used to.
The pacing of those roller derby scenes also reminds us of Sex Bob-Omb performances in Scott Pilgrim. It’s a battle to win, people. Playing bass allows the insecure Scott to come out of his shell, just like Bliss is able to harness her unlikely passion for roller derby.
Don’t lie — we know you have those roller skates sitting in a closet somewhere. Plus, roller skating is cool again, thanks to some viral Tik Toks from around the globe. Maybe it’s time to break them out.