The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2023

6. Showing Up

Despite quietly putting together one of the strongest directorial outputs of our time, Kelly Reichard is not exactly what you’d call a household name. That might be attributed to the fact that nothing much happens in her movies, but that’s precisely the point.

In the director’s fourth collaboration with the brilliant Michelle Williams, a struggling Portland-based sculptor called Lizzy puts the finishing touches to her work in the lead-up to her first gallery exhibition. As the big deadline approaches, we see her frantically navigate a whirlwind of personal and professional setbacks, whether it’s butting heads with her landlord-slash-best friend (Hong Chau), taking care of an injured pigeon, or trying to earn an extra dime as a part-time college teacher.

There’s a kind of movie you presume you’re getting when you hear “low-budget indie about a neurotic artist in the throes of a nervous breakdown”, but “Showing Up” is not that. Among other things, this slice-of-life drama is funny as hell, wryly self-aware, and astute in its many observations. It’s also worth watching if for no other reason than to see the one of Hollywood’s finest in Michelle Williams at the top of her game.


7. All of Us Strangers

When it comes to discussing generational tearjerkers that hit the multiplex in 2023, I see your “Past Lives” and “The Holdovers”, and I raise you “All of Us Strangers”. Arguably no movie release tugged at our heartstrings and made us swoon at the big screen last year as much as Andrew Haigh’s soul-crushing novel adaptation based on Taichi Yamada’s 1987 novel, about a lonely London writer named Adam (Andrew Scott) who’s reeling off various personal setbacks and decides to come back home while still mourning the death of his parents 30 years ago.

Pent-up feelings of grief, romantic yearning and the familiar pang of heartache all coalesce into one upon his return to his childhood neighborhood, as we watch Adam reminisce about his past before striking up an unlikely relationship with a younger, seductive neighbor (a BAFTA-nominated Paul Mescal of “Aftersun” fame, who’s making a habit out of shattering our hearts into a million pieces lately). Intimate, stylish, and with a dash of supernatural phenomena, “All of Us Strangers” is the sort of lightning-in-a-bottle masterpiece that will single-handedly reignite your love for cinema. Just remember — don’t forget to bring tissues for this one.


8. Infinity Pool

At Taste of Cinema, we’ll be the first to admit that gushing comparisons between Brandon Cronenberg and his renowned father David, better known around these parts as the patron saint of body horror cinema, are not only way overblown but ultimately do no favors to either director. But watching Brandon’s much-anticipated follow-up to his 2020s “Possessor”, it’s almost impossible not to draw parallels with the spine-tingling midnight-crowd staples that his 80-year-old father earned his name and reputation during the 1980s decade.

Boasting a stacked A-list ensemble cast including deliciously hammy acting by Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, “Infinity Pool” follows downtrodden novelist James Foster as he arrives at the idyllic vacation destination Li Tolqa. There’s more than meets the eye with this mysterious island, as James soon realizes after being lured into a morbid scheme by a fan of his novels staying at the same resort. Delving too deep into spoiler territory is a sure way to ruin most of the fun, but suffice to say nothing is off the table here — we’re talking gruesome violence, murder, sci-fi twists, nation-sanctioned executions, drug hallucinations, clones, and whatnot.

The wildest, most unpredictable movie of 2023 by a country mile, “Infinity Pool” is a title that should particularly appeal to veteran Cronenberg-heads who’ve seen “Videodrome” and “Dead Ringers” too many times to count.


9. Afire

If you love densely layered, existentialist arthouse fare that is high on metaphor and subtext and only improve as you wrestle with them, then this one’s for you.

The winner of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the latest Berlin Film Festival kicks off as a sort of breezy, Rohmer-inspired hangout movie about two best buddies, an obnoxious, misanthropic writer and an aspiring artist, sojourning in a remote cottage on Germany’s Baltic coast that is eventually surrounded by forest fires. Soon, as the two guests are joined by an alluring woman and a beach lifeguard, the film reveals its true colors as a scathing portrait of the creative process filtered through the lens of a tortured artist that also happens to be a pompous and borderline-insufferable companion that couldn’t possibly be more full of himself.

Now’s as good a time as any to get yourself acquainted with German auteur Christian Petzold, a festival circuit mainstay also known for hard-hitting dramas like “Phoenix” that has already made a name for himself as a must-see director that should be on every hardcore cinephile’s radar.


10. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

Industry titan and Hollywood trailblazer William Friedkin passed away last summer at the age of 87. With no less than a handful of stone-cold masterpieces already to his name, the late mastermind behind “The Exorcist”, “Sorcerer”, and “The French Connection” returned to the big screen to tie an elegant knot in his legendary career with this sturdy courtroom drama based on the same Herman Wouk play as the 1954 Humphrey Bogart vehicle of the same name.

Told with razor-sharp precision and not an ounce of fat — no wonder the movie was shot in just 14 days — “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial” recounts the trial of a naval officer accused of mutiny after acting against his superior officer and endangering the entire ship. It goes without saying that as someone who learned his trade directing movies about morally duplicitous men, Friedkin is an obvious no-brainer to helm the source material, and his modern-day update threads a potent study of ordinary men thrusted into extraordinary circumstances that subverts the viewer’s expectations and packs a mighty punch. Guillermo del Toro reportedly filled in as Friedkin’s personal back-up director during production out of respect to his late friend.