The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2023

2023 was the year of “Barbenheimer”, an unlikely double-feature showdown that caught on as a social media craze and dominated multiplexes last summer to become the biggest theater-going experience in recent memory. Last year also saw the return of veteran household names in Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Todd Haynes, and Hayao Miyazaki. And while high-profile studio tentpoles like “Spider-Verse”, “John Wick” and “Super Mario” all earned impressive box office receipts, plenty of lower-budget indies and arthouse sensations like “Past Lives”, “The Holdovers”, and “Anatomy of a Fall” surpassed expectations to find the audience they were supposed to.

For the purpose of this list, however, we’re digging a little deeper beyond the basics to focus on 10 overlooked gems from last year that slipped under the radar, didn’t get a proper release, or just haven’t gotten the attention or accolades we think they deserve. From star-studded biopics and soul-stirring romances that made us swoon at the big screen to acerbic comedies that hit way too close to home, keep reading for our selection of 2023 movies that deserve a second look.


1. Rye Lane

It is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical about yet another schmaltzy Hollywood meet-cute rom-com, but Raine Allen-Miller’s soaring debut is the sort of left-field discovery that not only managed to cater to pre-existing fans of the time-honored genre but also won over a swathe of sworn skeptics such as myself. Searchlight Pictures wasted no time snatching up distribution rights for this British standout shortly after it garnered near-universal acclaim at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, in no small part for the way it deftly retools the traditional meet-cute narrative and swerves around all the generic conventions and clichés Hollywood tentpoles have accustomed us to in recent years.

Meet Yas and Dom, two impossibly charming and witty twenty-somethings who have a chance encounter and roam through the colorful streets of south London while recalling past flings, painful breakups, and missed connections. For all of you familiar with Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, this talk-heavy, romantic set-up might all smack of déjà vu, but rest assured — first-time director Raine Allen-Miller’s breakout hit is too specific, original, and disarmingly funny to feel anything but wholly its own thing. And with a runtime that barely stretches past the 80-minute, you just know that watching this gem will be time well spent.


2. Ferrari

One of cinema’s foremost purveyors of tortured masculinity returned to the festival circuit with an old-fashioned if also decisively unconventional sports biopic about Enzo Ferrari — take a bow, Adam Driver — based on the 1991 biography by Brock Yates.

Michael Mann’s latest offering transports viewers into a turbulent time in the life of the legendary Italian automaker, whose car factory is on the verge of bankruptcy and increasingly eclipsed by arch-rival Maserati. To make matters worse, Enzo’s domestic life also happens to be in complete disarray — while mourning the tragic loss of his first-born child with her distraught wife (a pitch-perfect, unruly Penelope Cruz), the former racing driver must decide whether to recognize his extramarital son (and future Ferrari heir) as his own.

As is the case with the stylish early-80’s and ’90s movies that launched Mann’s career in the first place, what we got here is a thorny studio film that presents itself as conventional prestige-fare before slowly revealing its true colors as a subversive examination of masculinity — and the otherworldly lengths some men go to realize their goals, without realizing that precisely that near-obsessive pursuit will be their downfall. If any of that sounds enticing enough, the pulse-pounding climactic race sequence of the 1957 Mille Miglia will surely get your adrenaline juices pumping.


3. You Hurt My Feelings

Words cut deeper than knives in this piercing, bittersweet comedy of manners by Nicole Holofcener about a middle-aged novelist who eavesdrops on her beloved husband (Game of Thrones alumni Tobias Menzies) while he’s lambasting her new finished book. Among many other things, the latest collaboration between the New York-based director and comedy stalwart Julia Louis-Dreyfus illustrates the little white lies we often tell our loved ones in order to support and protect them, and the thin line between courtesy and dishonesty.

It’s all remarkably low-fi but unfailingly entertaining, hailing from the proud bloodline of Elaine May, Woody Allen, and Paul Mazursky, and altogether just the kind of adult-oriented, sophisticated romcom that’s regrettably become all but extinct in today’s cinematic landscape. Particularly in a banner year for A24 where so many films released by the acclaimed studio dominated the festival circuit and broke into the mainstream (The Zone of Interest and Past Lives, just to name a couple), it’s a crying shame that one of the absolute highlights of the Sundance Film Festival got swept under the rug with little to no fanfare. Don’t miss it.


4. Priscilla

Merely a year after Aussie director Baz Luhrmann razzled and dazzled his way into the Best Picture conversation with a go-for-broke, migraine-inducing music biopic charting the meteoric rise and fall of the undisputed King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Sofia Coppola turned her gaze to Elvis Presley’s longtime romantic partner Priscilla, an oft-ignored historical figure who was merely 14 (!) at the time the two were introduced in 1959.

As yet another lonely young woman struggling to cope with her surroundings and becoming ever so emotionally disconnected — the namesake of Sofia Coppola’s latest movie fits squarely within the director’s canon of tortured heroines. Cailee Spaeny earned raves and won top acting honors at Venice for an understated yet undeniably powerful performance in the titular role. The 25-year-old actress is joined by the equally compelling Jacob Elordi who, fresh off his scene-stealing outing in “Saltburn”, takes up the mantle from Austin Butler to deliver a finely tuned supporting turn as The King himself.

The film’s offbeat tone, slow buildup and bracingly confrontational approach meant Coppola’s latest mood piece never had much of a chance of becoming a mainstream hit, but the fact that it was completely shutout of the Oscar nominations stings all the same.


5. Passages

Simmering erotic tension escalates and begins to boil over in this sumptuous, provocative love drama by Ira Sachs, starring Franz Rogowski as a self-absorbed German filmmaker married to an English artist (Ben Whishaw) who falls head over heels for a younger French schoolteacher called Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) while wrapping up production on his last film in Paris. Thus begins a thorny and potentially cataclysmic love triangle that puts Franz’s long-term marriage and jealousy to test, as we learn that Agathe might have developed deep feelings for his husband instead.

As the public discourse around on-screen sex raged on throughout 2023 (suggesting that most young audiences and Hollywood execs seem to have officially become pearl-clutching Puritans), “Passages” stirred up the flames of discourse with a heavy dose of explicit, censor-rattling sex scenes that are nevertheless unequivocally integral to the story and characters’ arc. Sadly, the MPAA bestowed it with a harsh NC-17 rating that greatly limited its chances of getting a fair shake overseas before global streaming platform Mubi came to the rescue.