Table of Contents
- Some of the best movies from the last couple of years went unnoticed, but their quality shines through.
- Hidden gems from 2022 and 2023 prove that modern cinema is thriving beyond big-budget blockbusters.
- Looking beyond popular movies can be a rewarding experience, with intimate romances, animated adventures, and stylish action films to discover.
Some of the best movies from the last couple of years didn’t get the audiences they deserved, and cinephiles should show them some love. People can only ever see a fraction of the movies which get made each year, and not every film is able to cut through in such a crowded marketplace. Movies with smaller marketing budgets or a lack of big-name stars can easily go unnoticed, but their quality eventually shines through.
2023 was a great year for movies, and not just big-budget blockbusters. Some hidden gems from 2022 and 2023 prove that the landscape of modern cinema is still thriving, in many countries and in many different genres. Looking beyond the most popular and most talked-about movies can be a deeply rewarding experience, as these great films show. There are intimate romances, animated adventures, and stylish action movies which all flew under the radar in recent times, but revisiting them can be a surprise treat for film lovers.
15 Past Lives (2023)
Emotionally mature and deeply moving
Past Lives is one of the best movies of 2023, and it deserves a much broader audience. It tells the story of two childhood sweethearts who serendipitously reconnect years later, halfway across the world. Past Lives is an emotionally complex romance which explores the idea of fate and regret through the Korean concept of Inyun. It has a sly sense of humor, but it isn’t exactly a romcom. Rather, it’s an old-fashioned romance in the style of Hollywood classics like Roman Holiday, updated for the age of the internet.
14 You Hurt My Feelings (2023)
Two fine performances and a tender script
Julia Louis-Dreyfus once again flaunts her comedy chops in You Hurt My Feelings, as she plays a successful writer who discovers that her husband lied about liking her new book. From this jumping off point, You Hurt My Feelings breaks open the difficult marriage of Beth and Don, in ways both hilarious and tragically raw. You Hurt My Feelings uses its media-elite Manhattanite characters to explore the deceit and flimsy facades which pervade high society, but its acute focus on relationship issues is applicable to a much broader audience.
13 Rye Lane (2023)
A throwback romcom with infectious joy
Rye Lane has a deliciously simple premise, and this allows its stars to add plenty of unique flourishes.
Rye Lane is a throwback to the glory days of breezy, character-driven romantic comedies. Set over the course of one evening in South London, Rye Lane pairs two characters who have both experienced a recent heartbreak, and it sets them loose on the markets, karaoke bars, and art galleries of the city. It’s a tender love letter to the area, but the electric dynamic between David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah remains at center stage. Rye Lane has a deliciously simple premise, and this allows its stars to add plenty of unique flourishes.
12 Sisu (2022)
Gory Finnish fun
The Finnish action thriller Sisu received only a limited run in American theaters, so not many people got the chance to witness its glorious carnage on the big screen. Sisu follows a gold prospector in Lapland during World War II who gets chased through the wilderness by a platoon of Nazis. Aatami is a one-man death squad, and Sisu revels in conjuring increasingly graphic ways for him to use his skills to kill Nazis, and eventually reunite with his beloved dog.
11 Polite Society (2023)
A comedy of manners and martial arts
Polite Society is a martial arts comedy which skewers the generational dissonance in certain South Asian societies. Ria Khan doesn’t want the same life her parents have set out for her, and when her older sister relents to accept an arranged marriage, she finds herself at odds with her entire family. Polite Society incorporates a nefarious sci-fi twist to facilitate its feminist allegory and some beautifully choreographed fight scenes. The ending of Polite Society manages to tie up the roller coaster plot with stylized, high-kicking action.
10 Nimona (2023)
A freewheeling adventure which turns fairy tales upside-down
Based on the popular graphic novel, Nimona subverts traditional fairy tales with its shapeshifting, trouble-seeking protagonist. Nimona teams up with a former knight to wreak havoc, but their bond helps them both in unexpected ways. There’s a revolution taking shape in the animation industry, and Nimona’s bold art style and fluid movements put it at the forefront of this shift. The ending leaves open the possibility of a Nimona sequel, and the characters mean that the potential story lines are endless.
9 See How They Run (2022)
Buddy cop comedy with retro style
Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan strike up excellent chemistry as two detectives in 1950s London, as they investigate a murder in a famous theater. Rockwell is the beleaguered inspector who’s been around the block, and Ronan is his overzealous rookie partner. It’s a classic dynamic for a buddy cop movie, but the duo bring their own fresh approach. See How They Run’s characters are each stereotypes of self-serious theater types, and a lot of the comedy comes from the fact that each desperately craves the spotlight, even during a murder investigation.
8 How To Blow Up A Pipeline (2022)
A thought-provoking eco-thriller for the 21st Century
If it achieves nothing else, How to Blow Up a Pipeline will surely spark conversation about the validity of the actions of its antiheroes. Based on a non-fiction book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline represents a fictional call to arms in the fight against the ongoing global climate disaster. The movie examines where the moral limits of activism lie, and how much unlawful disruption is necessary when trying to enact large-scale social change. It’s been wildly controversial, but How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a great distillation of some of the climate movement’s most prescient questions.
7 They Cloned Tyrone (2023)
A charismatic cast investigating sci-fi shenanigans
Netflix’s record with original movies is notoriously hit-and-miss, but the madcap sci-fi comedy They Cloned Tyrone is right up there with the streaming platform’s very best. A superb cast of comedic talents are given license to swagger about their stylish 1970s surroundings, but They Cloned Tyrone uses its funky setting to conceal a sinister government conspiracy. The parallels with American government plotting in low-income neighborhoods are clear to see. They Cloned Tyrone is a fantasy of fighting back against the system. The twisty ending of They Cloned Tyrone means that a potential sequel could go even deeper.
6 Robot Dreams (2023)
A character-driven comedy without words
Although Robot Dreams is a Spanish-French co-production, its lack of dialogue means that it can be appreciated by audiences with no understanding of either language. It follows the unlikely friendship between an anthropomorphic dog and a robot in New York City in the 1980s. Robot Dreams is tender without being overly sentimental, and it intersperses its sweetest moments with bright physical comedy. It’s a bold experiment in visual storytelling which relies on detailed animation to humanize its quirky characters.
5 Outlaw Johnny Black (2023)
Blaxploitation parody with Western drama
After the runaway success of Black Dynamite, Michael Jai White cooked up another hilarious blaxploitation parody with Outlaw Johnny Black, this time set in the Old West. White plays a typical Western hero, an outlaw and protector rolled into one. Outlaw Johnny Black has just as much roundhouse-kicking, pistol-whipping action as Black Dynamite, but it isn’t a pure parody. It also tries to tell a compelling Western story about racial injustice in the Old West.
4 Ballerina (2023)
A visually stunning revenge epic
Bathed in neon light, and with a camera shuddering at each punch, Ballerina is a gorgeous action movie.
Ballerina is a hyper-stylish Korean revenge thriller which somewhat flew under the radar when it was first released on Netflix. The fight scenes incorporate elements of dance, and Ballerina carries this artistic approach to violence throughout the movie. Bathed in neon light, and with a camera shuddering at each punch, Ballerina is a gorgeous action movie. Its righteous crusade against injustice is a cathartic release for anyone who has ever felt helpless in the face of brutal misfortune.
3 Joy Ride (2023)
Raunchy and ridiculous comedy
Joy Ride features four young Asian-American friends on a frenzied trip to China. It’s a rare R-rated comedy that leans into its raunchy, brash nature to produce a string of hilarious moments. Joy Ride probes at themes of identity and heritage, but it never allows its lofty ideas to weigh down the fun sense of adventure, and the plot bounces effortlessly from one outlandish scheme to the next. Joy Ride is proudly dismissive of traditional stereotypes of Asian women and non-binary people. It lets them tell their own stories without any preconceptions.
2 Godzilla Minus One (2023)
A more refined monster movie
Although it overperformed compared to its box office projections in the US, Godzilla Minus One still didn’t reach the same broad audience that American Godzilla movies have historically enjoyed. This is a shame, because Godzilla Minus One could well be the best Godzilla movie ever. It delivers on all the seismic carnage that can be expected from the genre, on a fraction of the budget of similar movies, but it’s also a towering achievement in storytelling. Human characters in Godzilla movies have rarely ever been so compelling and detailed.
1 Fire Of Love (2022)
A documentary steeped in poetic imagery
One of the most outstanding documentaries of the last few years, Fire of Love tracks the epic saga of two French volcanologists, Katia and Maurice Kraft, who travel the world exploring their passion for the natural world together. The booming eruptions and cascading rivers of lava are a gorgeous visual representation of their romance, and the dangerous conditions they willfully wade into to chase their passions. Fire of Love is a cinematic portrait of two scientists with art in their souls, and their remarkable true story is full of poetic coincidence.