If 'The Polka King' On Netflix Had You Totally Hooked, Here Are 16 Movies You Need To See
If you're not familiar with The Polka King, the new Netflix movie chronicling the real darkly comedic rise and fall of a self-made Polka empire, the story is bizarre. Jack Black plays real-life Polish-American band leader Jan Lewan, who in 2004 was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. Lewan sold shares in his personal brand, which included his touring band, albums, and a gift shop, promising a big return on investments. His habit of optimistically stating as fact things he only hoped were true, along with several mishaps and bribery schemes (including allegedly fixing the 1998 Mrs. Pennsylvania pageant so his wife would win the crown), got him in hot water. For those who can't get enough of Lewan's tale, here are 16 movies to see if you loved The Polka King.
Lewan's self-made story is full of optimism, even as he keeps making the wrong choices. Born in Poland, he fled while touring Canada, spending years working at a Niagara Falls hotel to build a new life. He had a side business selling amber jewelry brought back from European visits, but after 9/11 the market completely crashed, leaving him deeply in debt. He readily confessed to his wrongdoings, but even in jail things went wrong — his cellmate slashed his neck (Lewan recovered). It's a hell of a story, and each of the movies below has elements of Lewan's enthusiasm, optimism, and desperation, with a touch of his oddball charm, too.
In a delightful coincidence, Jack Black starred in another bizarre based-on-a-true-story movie, this one about a beloved town mortician Bernie, who befriends notoriously cranky widow Marjorie Nugent. The town is shocked when the news hits that Margorie's been dead for some time, and Bernie's arrested for the murder. You can stream it on Netflix.
Jason Schwartzman's star turn in this earlier Wes Anderson film is equal parts earnest and odd, as he vies with Bill Murray for the love of a teacher at his school.
3. 'Pain & Gain'
Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg play gym rats who team up to get swole and live the dream. Unfortunately they decide the best way to achieve the latter is kidnapping a local wealthy businessman.
4. 'Gates Of Heaven'
Famed documentarian Errol Morris (Wormwood) got his start with this sweet, strange look at a family-run pet cemetery struggling to stay afloat. You can stream it on Netflix.
5. 'The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years'
From the director of Wayne's World comes this brutally funny, unsparing look at the macho swagger of hair metal, and the cluelessly narcissistic people behind it.
6. 'Burn After Reading'
Two gym employees get their hands on a CIA agent's memoirs and see it as their ticket to the big time, but in typical Coen brothers fashion, everything that can go wrong, does. You can stream it on Netflix.
7. 'Catch Me If You Can'
The outlandish true story of a young con man and the FBI agent trying to track him down gets the full Hollywood treatment, with Leonardo DiCaprio as chameleon Frank Abagnale Jr., and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent just one step behind him. You can stream it on HBO Go.
8. 'Ed Wood'
Eternal optimist, crossdresser, and director nothing stopped Ed Wood from following his dreams, not even being labeled World's Worst Filmmaker. Tim Burton's biopic turns a sad story into a genuinely sweet tale.
9. 'The Burbs'
Sometimes the pressures of suburban life are too much. Tom Hanks takes a week off intending to relax, only to find himself enmeshed in his neighborhood's gossip and paranoid delusion...or maybe those new neighbors really are murderers?
10. 'Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind'
Based on the biography of gameshow host Chuck Barris, which may or may not have been rooted in reality, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind has Barris living a double life as CIA assassin.
11. '24 Hour Party People'
The surreal, ludicrous, and surprisingly true story of the rise and fall of Factory Records, home to musicians like Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays.
12. 'American Vandal' (series)
This miniseries homage to Serial and other true-crime shows starts off as variations on one dumb joke, but quickly becomes more engrossing than the supposed real deal. You can stream it on Netflix.
13. 'The Electronic Diaries'
This 12-year personal video diary is equal parts confessional, compelling, and experimental.
14. 'Heavenly Creatures'
A shocking true tale of female friendship taken to its extremes, Peter Jackson's earlier film follows the interior and exterior lives of two overly-best friends.
15. 'Kind Hearts And Coronets'
A blacker-than-black comedy about a young man determined to work his way through the family tree to get his inheritance sooner rather than later. Featuring Alec Guinness in multiple roles.
16. 'Battle Of The Sexes'
Based on the real-life epic tennis match pitting top female tennis player Billie Jean King against hammy former champ Bobby Briggs, this competition carried serious cultural weight, as well as tennis honors.
The old saying "truth is stranger than fiction" gets stranger when Hollywood turns truth into fiction. These results are so entertaining and odd, it's easy to forget many are rooted in real life, and many outdo their made-up counterparts.