The first of months in 2023 have brought both highs and lows to the world of cinema. The good news is that non-superhero and non-franchise movies have been performing well at the box office. In the top ten earners, only one is from Marvel (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), and just three others are sequels (Creed III, Missing and Scream 6). In fact, February saw the highest average gross per release since 2018, proving that movie theaters are still alive and kicking.
On the downside, original stories without capes and Roman numerals can sometimes disappoint. Aneesh Chaganty’s Missing transforms the clever concept from Searching into a predictable and tiring experience. M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin validates conspiracy theorists’ wildest dreams in an overly sincere manner. And Cocaine Bear’s entire appeal seems to be it’s so bad that it’s good. Although these films didn’t make it into our Best Movies of 2023 list, a few new releases did.
M3GAN: A horror movie from Blumhouse with a twist, featuring a luxury AI doll that moves in uncanny and hilarious ways, providing jump scares and comic relief.
Alcarràs: Carla Simón’s second feature film, depicting a peach-harvesting family in Catalonia facing the end of their orchard due to the construction of solar panels, offering a humanizing perspective on progress.
Skinamarink: Kyle Edward Ball’s debut film mixes fresh and nostalgic elements in a slow-paced, suburban horror that translates analog fear to the digital age.
Saint Omer: Alice Diop’s narrative debut, exploring the trial of a woman charged with killing her young daughter through the eyes of a novelist and literary scholar, raising interesting questions about true crime spectatorship, cultural dislocation, myth, and motherhood.
When You Finish Saving The World: Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut, a smart and thoughtful adaptation of his own audiobook, featuring Julianne Moore and Finn Wolfhard as a social worker mother and her teenage musician son.
The Civil Dead: A comedy directed by Clay Tatum and written by Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, following the story of a ghost only Tatum’s character can see, focusing on friendship and its occasional annoyances.
Godland: Hlynur Pálmason’s third feature, set in the late 19th century, taking a nuanced look at colonialism, religion, and mortality in a young Danish priest’s harrowing journey to a remote region of Iceland.
Close: Directed by Lukas Dhont, this film captures the amplified emotions of early adolescence as two best friends struggle with growing up and the way their affection is perceived by their peers.
Infinity Pool: Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature, starring Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgaard, delving into graphic and hallucinatory experiences at a luxury resort that explores identity, self-destruction, and tourism.
Jethica: Pete Ohs’s film, utilizing an innovative filmmaking method, tells a stylish New Mexico-set comic noir about a woman haunted by the ghost of her stalker, blending a playful spirit with auteur-like rigor.
Huesera: The Bone Woman: Michelle Garza Cervera’s debut film, inspired by Mexican mythology, offers a bone-chilling take on the pregnancy thriller genre, exploring the bodily horror and gendered double standards of motherhood.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance: The third installment in the Magic Mike franchise, featuring Channing Tatum and Salma Hayek Pinault, focusing on artistic processes and the complications that arise when relying on a wealthy, mercurial benefactor.
These films showcase a diverse range of storytelling, tackling themes like friendship, cultural dislocation, motherhood, identity, self-destruction, and the artistic process. With captivating visuals, engaging narratives, and standout performances, these movies have left a lasting impression on audiences and critics alike.