From massive hits like Barbenheimer to acclaimed darlings like Killers of the Flower Moon and May December, 2023 produced some of the most memorable movies in years. Indeed, the best movies of 2023 featured a healthy mix of everything, from comedies to sci-fi epics and animated adventures.
With so much content in cinemas and streaming, it’s safe to say many worthy 2023 movies slipped through the cracks and failed to receive the attention they deserved. These underappreciated films are every bit as worthy of praise as any of last year’s standouts. That doesn’t mean it’s too late to show them some love, though. A new year means a new chance to pay respects to these unsung pictures. So here are five underrated 2023 movies that you must watch in 2024; and when I say must, I really do mean must.
Judy Blume’s beloved and timeless novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. comes to the big screen courtesy of writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig. The film stars Abby Ryder Fortson as 11-year-old Margaret, who moves from the city to a New Jersey suburb and struggles to reconcile her faith with the usual coming-of-age business that comes with being a preadolescent.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is nothing short of a triumph. Heartfelt, honest, relatable, and deeply humane, the film is a tender and loving coming-of-age story made with an abundance of empathy and warmth. Particularly noteworthy is a scene-stealing Rachel McAdams delivering a career-best turn as Margaret’s mother, Barbara. If you’re looking for theatricality and high antics, this isn’t the movie for you. However, if you’re looking for a feel-good, yet insightful film to enjoy with your whole family, then Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is the one for you.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is now streaming on Starz.
What a weird, subversive, unique little movie is Eileen. Directed by William Oldroyd and based on the eponymous 2015 novel by Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen stars Thomasin McKenzie as the titular character, a sexually repressed young woman working in a juvenile detention facility in 1960s Massachusetts. Her life takes a drastic turn with the arrival of the enigmatic Rebecca, played with delicious gusto by an arresting Anne Hathaway.
Eileen tells its twisted story with refreshing and unrestrained honesty. It doesn’t concern itself with explanations or reasoning, resulting in a matter-of-fact tale of desire and repression that leaves its mark. McKenzie and Hathaway are stellar in the lead roles and might be the main draw; however, the supporting players are the reason to stay. The ever-underrated Shea Whigham is dastardly intriguing as Eileen’s abusive father, but it’s a ferocious Marin Ireland as the disturbing Mrs. Polk who runs away with the entire film.
Eileen can be purchased or rented on Amazon and other digital vendors.
Teyana Taylor gives one of the year’s best performances in A. V. Rockwell’s drama A Thousand and One. Set in the mid-90s, the plot follows Inez, a single mother who kidnaps her 6-year-old son, Terry, out of the foster care system. Together, they attempt to build some sense of normalcy in the hectic and ever-changing New York City landscape.
I won’t lie in saying A Thousand and One is a “happy” film; it isn’t. On the contrary, it’s an often harrowing, yet undeniably rewarding portrayal of motherhood and love that’s unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory. Taylor is utterly triumphant as Inez, confidently carrying this emotionally resonant film about parental bonds and human resistance. A Thousand and One seamlessly blends this narrative with larger themes of gentrification and social inequity, resulting in a thought-provoking story that is as heart-wrenching as it is eye-opening. If you have Amazon Prime Video, make sure to check this underappreciated gem; I promise it’ll be worth it.
A Thousand and One is now streaming on Amazon.
It’s 2023, and we’ve now exhausted all the major subjects for biopics. Thus, Hollywood is getting creative and turning to IPs no one would have guessed would make for compelling stories. Yet, against all odds, comes a film like BlackBerry to prove that, indeed, any story can be fascinating under the right guidance. Directed by Matt Johnson, BlackBerry dramatizes the creation of the titular, game-changing mobile phone.
BlackBerry succeeds because it understands exactly what audiences look for in their entertainment. Watching the rise and fall of a mobile phone would be nothing without wit and humor, and BlackBerry has it in spades. More importantly, the film has Glenn Howerton delivering a monstrous, overwhelming performance as diabolical businessman Jim Balsillie. Howerton devours the scenery, co-stars and all, in a portrayal so unhinged that it becomes masterful. In a year dominated by Kens, killers, and holdovers, I sincerely hope someone remembers Howerton’s tour de force; it’s the kind of performance awards bodies hardly ever recognize, but absolutely should.
BlackBerry is now streaming on AMC+.
And speaking of unlikely subjects for biopics, the Apple TV+ film Tetris is another worthy entry. Should-be Oscar nominee Taron Egerton stars as Henk Rogers, a game developer who discovers the groundbreaking game Tetris during a trade show in 1988. Traveling to the then-USSR at the height of the Cold War, he meets and joins forces with Tetris‘ inventor, Alexey Pajitnov, to bring the game to the masses.
Tetris effortlessly blends genres; it starts as a conventional biopic before transforming into a full-on political thriller that makes the most out of its unique premise and setting. Egerton is at his most charming, playing the unlikely hero racing against government bureaucrats and enforcers. Tetris is fun, thrilling, tense, and endlessly entertaining, an inspired and refreshing film that reminds us that Apple TV+ is among the best and most original streaming services around.
Tetris is now streaming on Apple TV+.
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