19 Movies Like 65 (2023)

Staff & contributors

Many people lament the decline of the mid-budget drama with Hollywood A-listers in the lead roles, and for good reason: when the charms of an inspirational, feel-good true story work, they really work. The Burial seems to have been made with this same, unabashedly sentimental attitude, and it makes for an endlessly watchable courtroom underdog tale. The film moves with real energy between its more comedic asides and its more urgent themes of underprivileged people being taken advantage of by wealthy companies. And while it still would've probably been effective as just a straightforward legal drama, the movie makes the effort to seek out a bigger picture—deepening its own title by grounding all its characters against complicated race relations in Mississippi.

Director and co-writer Maggie Betts doesn't stray too far from the template that these kinds of films operate with (perhaps to a fault, especially during its climactic moments), but the cast she's assembled is unimpeachable. Jamie Foxx turns in the kind of funny, energetic, deeply felt star performance that earned him an Oscar almost 20 years ago, while Tommy Lee Jones brings a powerful sense of modesty and centeredness to a role that could've easily taken a back seat to his flashier co-lead. Supporting turns from Jurnee Smollett and Alan Ruck round out a uniformly great ensemble that gives this small movie a commanding air of prestige.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Alan Ruck, Amanda Warren, Andrea Frankle, B.J. Clinkscales, Bill Camp, Billy Slaughter, David Alexander, David Maldonado, David Shae, Donna DuPlantier, Dorian Missick, Doug Spearman, Eric Mendenhall, Erika Robel, Fracaswell Hyman, George Ketsios, Gralen Bryant Banks, Jalene Mack, Jamie Foxx, Jason Bayle, Jim Klock, Jurnee Smollett, Keith Jefferson, Lance E. Nichols, Logan Macrae, Lorna Street Dopson, Mamoudou Athie, Mike Harkins, Olivia Brody, Pamela Reed, Sam Malone, Summer Selby, Teisha Speight, Tommy Lee Jones, Tywayne Wheatt, Vince Pisani

Director: Margaret Betts

Rating: R

, 2023

Who knew that behind the puzzle Tetris lies a political thriller of a backstory that is just as fun and challenging as the game itself? Tetris, the film, is a playful telling of the game behind the game, a surprising account of the otherwise unbelievable events that had to happen in making Tetris available to the masses. 

Between the 8-bit editing, the immensely likable lead, and the cat-and-mouse chase between heroes and villains, there is much to like about the movie. You put it on out of curiosity (how the hell does a brick game have this much back story?) but you stay for the intrigue, the playfulness, and the irresistible urge to see who wins the race.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Vodovoz, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi, Ayano Yamamoto, Ben Miles, Bhav Joshi, Dmitriy Sharakois, Greg Kolpakchi, Ieva Andrejevaitė, Igor Grabuzov, Irina Kara, Jenni Keenan-Green, Ken Yamamura, Len Blavatnik, Matthew Marsh, Miles Barrow, Moyo Akandé, Niino Furuhata, Nikita Efremov, Nino Furuhata, Oleg Shtefanko, Rick Yune, Rob Locke, Roger Allam, Sofia Lebedeva, Taron Egerton, Toby Jones, Togo Igawa

Director: Jon S. Baird

, 2023

In 1984, Michael Jordan was a rising star and Nike had yet to make its mark in the basketball industry. With nothing to lose, Nike had to make a choice: settle behind the far more successful Adidas and Converse or shoot its shot and bet everything they have to win Jordan? 

You don’t have to be an NBA fanatic to know what Nike went with. The real-life story of how Air Jordans came to be is compelling in itself, but the dramatized version of it in Air is told with extra verve and charm, with director Ben Affleck and writer Alex Convery successfully turning a business pitch into something funny, moving, and highly watchable, predictable beats and all. 

Air covers the big hits and misses of business (which it buoys with lighthearted jokes and tender backstories), provides an addictive 80s soundtrack (without caricaturing the era), and gives us likable, rootable characters (an impressive feat given that this is, essentially, a Nike ad campaign). Matt Damon and Viola Davis, especially, turn in performances that elevate Air into something quite special. And while this film may be more about the Air than the Jordans, it is still a champion's story—familiar and cheesy at times, sure, but feel good, inspiring, and truly winning. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Al Madrigal, Albert Stroth, Andy Hirsch, Ari Davis, Asanté Deshon, Barack Obama, Barbara Sukowa, Ben Affleck, Billy Smith, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Damian Young, Dan Bucatinsky, Deloris Jordan, Dempsey Gibson, Gabrielle Bourne, Geoffrey Gould, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jackson Damon, Jason Bateman, Jay Mohr, Jerry Plummer, Jessica Green, Joel Gretsch, Joshua Funk, Julius Tennon, Mackenzie Rayne, Marlon Wayans, Matt Damon, Matthew Maher, Michael Jordan, Michael O'Neill, Richard Allan Jones, Tami Jordan, Tom Papa, Ure Egbuho, Viola Davis

Director: Ben Affleck

Rating: R

Rye Lane knows it’s treading familiar ground by having its charming leads fall in love as they walk and talk their way through a beautiful city. So instead of experimenting on a tried-and-tested setup, it smartly focuses on specificity. It hones in on the characters’ Gen Z woes and cranks up the British references, giving itself character and charm for days. It also finds other ways to be inventive as it trades plot twists for bold editing and camerawork. Rye Lane is a refreshing entry into romcom cinema, but it is also obviously a big fan of it as it holds plenty of homages and subversions of the genre. This one is made for and by romcom fans, and it's always nice to see a modern love story set during our times.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Hewkin, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Colin Firth, David Jonsson, Delroy Brown, Gary Beadle, George Taylor, Karene Peter, Levi Roots, Llewella Gideon, Malcolm Atobrah, Marva Alexander, Michael Dapaah, Munya Chawawa, Omari Douglas, Raine Allen-Miller, Sandra Daley, Simon Manyonda, Vivian Oparah, Yasmin Al-Khudhairi

Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Rating: R

It's an incredible story, but it's one that only really deserves to be told a certain way, which director Arthur Harari gets right. Onoda's one-man crusade to continue World War II is nothing short of delusional, and Harari spends most of the film following the soldier as his companions die one by one, worsening his delusions even further. Unfortunately, even with how impressively strange this story is, 10,000 Nights in the Jungle still misses the opportunity to look through the lens of Onoda's victims. He is, after all, a literal embodiment of colonization's lingering effects, so it's sad that the Philippines here is just window dressing more than anything.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History, War

Actor: Angeli Bayani, Chiba Tetsuya, Issey Ogata, Kai Inowaki, Kanji Tsuda, Kuu Izima, Kyūsaku Shimada, Mutsuo Yoshioka, Ryu Morioka, Shinsuke Kato, Taiga Nakano, Yuya Endo, Yuya Matsuura

Director: Arthur Harari

When Big Tech and trolls have all but villainized the internet, it's hard to forget that good can come out of it sometimes. But Missing makes a case for its usefulness by making it the sole means by which an 18-year-old tries to find her missing mother. Played by Storm Reid, June Allen is endlessly creative in the digital sphere, which makes sense given she's from a generation that grew up with cutting-edge technology. She makes use of geotrackers, earth cams, and even digital watches to get ahead of the authorities, who for their part, are tied down by legalities and red tape. Missing shows us the potential of the internet, what it can do if used resourcefully and for good, and it's a refreshing take given the (understandably) many films that are fearful of tech. 

Missing embraces all this newness and builds a solid thriller out of it, making it a worthy and possibly seminal entry in the screenlife genre. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Amy Landecker, Briana McLean, Daniel Henney, Danielle Nottingham, Esteban Dager, Jalil Jay Lynch, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Javier Grajeda, Jill Remez, Joaquim de Almeida, Karina Noelle Castillo, Kelly Stables, Ken Leung, Kimberly Cheng, Lisa Yamada, Mauricio Mendoza, Megan Suri, Michael Segovia, Monica Bhatnagar, Nia Long, Oscar Camacho, Rick Chambers, Roy Abramsohn, Scott Menville, Sean O'Bryan, Storm Reid, Thomas Barbusca, Tim Griffin, Tracy Vilar, Wolfie Trausch, Zeke Alton

Director: Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick

Rating: PG-13

Told in a playful mockumentary format, Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game delivers precisely what the title promises and a bit more. Apart from imparting interesting information about pinball's complicated past (it was only declared legal in New York as recently as 1976), the film doubles as a touching family drama and a fun experiment on genre. As Robert Sharpe, the real-life games expert who helped decriminalize pinball, Mike Faist is winsome, compelling, and maybe the best thing about the film.

While Pinball could've leaned into its silliness more instead of just dipping its toes in avant-garde territory, the film is pleasant enough with plenty of fun and tender moments to enjoy. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History, Romance

Actor: Bryan Batt, Christopher Convery, Connor Ratliff, Crystal Reed, Damian Young, Dennis Boutsikaris, Donna Del Bueno, Eric William Morris, Hope Blackstock, Jake Regal, Kenneth Tigar, Michael Kostroff, Mike Doyle, Mike Faist, Rosa Arredondo, Supriya Ganesh, Toby Regbo, Zac Jaffee

Director: Austin Bragg, Meredith Bragg

In Baby J, SNL-writer-turned-stand-up-star John Mulaney brutally embraces his messy past and turns it into relatable material and hilarious anecdotes. Confronting his controversial stint at rehab, his struggle with addiction, and his experiences with fatherhood and the resulting reinvention, Mulaney proves himself to be a compelling storyteller, a master at set-ups and pay-offs. He grabs your attention from start to end, with no time to let your mind wander. Before you know it, it’s been an hour of you watching and laughing at this tiny man commanding a sold-out hall. 

There are many Netflix comedy specials out there, but only a handful are as purely enthralling and unskippable as this.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: John Mulaney

Director: Alex Timbers

, 2023

More shooting and spectacle than story, Sisu is a stunningly shot and unapologetically gory action film set at the tail end of World War II in Finland. It follows former commando turned prospector Aatami (nicknamed "Koschei" or immortal by the Russians) as he retrieves his stolen gold from the Nazis who've occupied and pillaged the nearby town.  

Not much happens in the way of plot, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in action, which easily matches the likes of John Wick. In fact, Aatami is a kind of John Wick with his undefeatable killer moves and trusty dog pal—a reprieve of cute in a sea of endless carnage. But in the long list of grindhouse movies, Sisu distinguishes itself as astutely patriotic. Of course, it's hard not to root for anyone going against Nazis, but Sisu compels you to its side in subtle but powerful ways. 

You'll be reminded of John Wick, Mad Max, and many a Tarantino film watching Sisu, but you'll be struck by the film's singular hero, a stand-in for a nation unwilling to give up in the face of oppression. 

Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, War

Actor: Aamu Milonoff, Aksel Hennie, Arttu Kapulainen, Elina Saarela, Ilkka Koivula, Jack Doolan, Joel Hirvonen, Jorma Tommila, Max Ovaska, Mila Leppälä, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila, Pekka Huotari, Severi Saarinen, Tatu Sinisalo, Vincent Willestrand, Wilhelm Enckell

Director: Jalmari Helander

Rating: R

Champions is as formulaic as it gets, but it’s impossible not to smile watching it. It’s based on a 2018 Spanish movie of the same name, but it feels a lot like the 2023 Korean movie Dream too. In both (and indeed a lot of other) films, we follow a sad sack antihero who, by virtue of being exposed to less fortunate people, is magically transformed into a good guy who gets all the glory he wished for by the end of the story. You know where it’s headed and you even know how it gets there, so it’s devoid of genuine twists and thrills. But the ways in which it gets there, however familiar, are sometimes funny and heartwarming. If you can stomach the cheesiness and predictability of it all, then Champions comes as an effectively hopeful and feel-good film that’s worth tuning into if you want a light laugh. Otherwise, it's all familiar fluff you can skip for better fare.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Hughes, Alexandra Castillo, Alicia Johnston, Ashton Gunning, Barbara Pollard, Champ Pederson, Cheech Marin, Clint Allen, Ernie Hudson, Heath Vermette, Jacob Blair, Jalen Rose, Jean-Jacques Javier, Kaitlin Olson, Kevin Iannucci, Lauren Cochrane, Lois Brothers, Matt Cook, Mike Smith, Scott Van Pelt, Seán Cullen, Stephanie Sy, Woody Harrelson

Director: Bobby Farrelly

Rating: PG-13

Inside is a technical wonder and a fascinating vehicle for Dafoe’s character Nemo, who holds the entire thing together with a singularly insane performance. It also poses interesting questions about art, namely, what value does it hold at the end of the day? When you’re seconds away from dying of hunger and thirst, what good is a painting, a sculpture, a sketch? Are they really only as good as what they’re materially made out of or can they contribute something more? Inside plays with these questions, but unfortunately, not in any engaging, thoughtful, or creative way. The movie stretches on and on, recycling the same ideas and leaning on the inevitably disgusting ways humans survive as a crutch. An argument could be made that that is the point, to reveal the emptiness and dullness of expensive art, but Inside tries so hard to capture that feeling that it becomes the thing it critiques in the end.  

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Blumenthal, Cornelia Buch, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Josia Krug, Willem Dafoe

Director: Vasilis Katsoupis

Rating: R

 As glad as I am to see a film celebrating the complex joys of interracial love and debunking the stigma of arranged marriages, I can’t help but wonder how and why a film about love got to be so dry and passionless. Is dating really this painfully awkward? Is marriage really this burdensome? Realistically, yes, but when you’re trying to make a point about true love supposedly trumping it all, including cultural differences and age-old traditions, then you should at least make it seem like the winner. The movie tries to have its cake and eat it too by serving us heaps of realism and fantasy on one plate, failing to understand that you only have to pick one to be palatable. “Love Contractually” is the title of Zoe’s documentary, but it’s also the name this movie should’ve gone with, seeing as how everyone acts like they’re obligated to be here. 

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Alexander Owen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Asim Chaudhry, Ben Ashenden, Emma Thompson, Jamal Andreas, Jeff Mirza, Lily James, Mim Shaikh, Munir Khairdin, Nikkita Chadha, Nosheen Phoenix, Oliver Chris, Peter Sandys-Clarke, Ravi Aujla, Sajal Ali, Shabana Azmi, Shaheen Khan, Shazad Latif, Sindhu Vee, Taj Atwal, Wasim Zakir

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Rating: PG-13

Inspired by the real-life Hepta Group, Phenomena is an entertaining, though familiar supernatural horror comedy. As the three women in the Hepta Group take on a case that took down their leader, Sagrario, Paz, and Gloria can’t help but bite and snap at each other affectionately, even just before conducting a seance. But it’s their chemistry that keeps the predictable plot entertaining. It’s a bit old school, and at times, inconsistent, but the technical aspects are decently executed. Big horror fans and viewers looking for a creepier thrill might not enjoy this lighthearted seance, but it might be a fun watch for viewers new to the genre.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Antonio Pagudo, Belén Rueda, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Gracia Olayo, Ivan Massagué, Jesús Puente, Lorena López, Miren Ibarguren, Óscar Ortuño, Pedro Casablanc, Toni Acosta

Director: Carlos Therón

As a supernatural horror, The Pope’s Exorcist doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It employs more or less the usual elements you’d expect from the genre, and to be fair, it does occasionally fright you with its bloody jumpscares and demonic screeches. But as a drama, the film is surprisingly watchable thanks to a committed and compelling performance from Crowe. The movie works best when it removes itself from its horror trappings and follows Crowe’s Gabriele as he moves through the ins and outs of the Vatican. When he challenges the church’s authority, when he defends his practice, when he inserts jokes in serious conversations because “the devil hates jokes,” these are when The Pope’s Exorcist shines and entertains. They’re also proof the film shouldn’t take itself too seriously when its star is having this much fun. 

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alessandro Gruttadauria, Alex Essoe, Andrea Dugoni, Bianca Bardoe, Carrie Munro, Cornell John, Daniel Zovatto, Derek Carroll, Ed White, Edward Harper-Jones, Ella Cannon, Franco Nero, Gennaro Diana, Jordi Collet, Laurel Marsden, Matthew Sim, Pablo Raybould, Paloma Bloyd, Peter DeSouza-Feighoney, Ralph Ineson, Russell Crowe, Ryan O'Grady, Santi Bayón, Tom Bonington, Victor Solé

Director: Julius Avery

Rating: R

Surrounded has the bones of a revenge-style Western. It turns the table on the white cowboy hero and gives us (on paper, at least) complex leads in Mo and Tommy. Mo is a young Black woman whose experience as a Buffalo Solider lends her not only the skills of an expert gunslinger but also the anger and motivation to push through any obstacle, while Tommy is the enigmatic thief who Mo reluctantly relies on in her quest for freedom. With all this pent-up tension, the film should work, and it does occasionally thanks to Wright and Bell’s deft performances (Bell is especially exceptional), the stunning mountainous terrains, and the worthy attempts at race and class commentary. But for the most part, the film's ambitions fall flat. The monologues are overlong and too evocative of modern speech to be historically believable. The action scenes, while exciting, only sputter here and there and never gain the momentum the film needs to genuinely thrill. And the thin backstories of Mo and Tommy raise more questions than answers. More often than not, Surrounded looks like a couple of good scenes strewn together on a lousy string; the foundations are off but there’s some enjoyment to be found.

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

Actor: Brett Gelman, David Manzanares, Jamie Bell, Jeffrey Donovan, Keith Jardine, Kevin Wiggins, Letitia Wright, Luce Rains, Lyle Sandoval, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nathaniel Augustson, Peter Diseth, Tatanka Means

Director: Anthony Mandler

Rating: R