51 Movies Like Asteroid City (2023) (Page 3)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Asteroid City ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

After experimenting with multiple storylines in The French Dispatch, the inimitable Wes Anderson goes one step further with the mind-bendingly meta Asteroid City. Framed as a TV documentary about the making of a play, Asteroid City’s Russian doll setup reflects the neurosis of its period (the Cold War-struck ‘50s), art-making, and the intimidating vastness of outer space.The play takes place in a tiny desert town where atom bomb tests routinely rattle the doorframes and where a convention for young geniuses is being held, attended by a host of typically idiosyncratic characters (played by Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, and many, many more). Still, it retains a central focus: the grief of new widower Augie (Jason Schwartzman) and his kids, and the connections he and his son (Jake Ryan) forge with a visiting actress (Scarlett Johansson) and her daughter (Dinah Campbell). Asteroid City draws much of its poignancy from this story (and its behind-the-scenes goings-on), as these people stare into the cosmic wilderness and a future without their loved one. Shot in gorgeous bleached postcard tones and full of the imaginative flourishes we’ve come to expect from Anderson, this is a profound rumination on existential angst that miraculously finds hope amidst all its characters’ nihilism.

There's an elephant lurking in the room from the outset of Biosphere, in which two men are the last survivors of an apocalypse: how will humanity live on? Best friends Billy (Mark Duplass) and Ray (Sterling K. Brown) have only survived thanks to the ingenuity of Ray, who built the glass dome in which they live, insulated from whatever it is that’s keeping the sky perpetually black outside. But the dome’s protective glass increasingly needs patching up, and their last female fish (responsible for the continuation of their food supplies) has just died, setting their clocks ticking.

What happens next — to the remaining male fish and humans — is an astonishing evolution that speaks to the strangeness of nature, which will break its most rigid laws in pursuit of its ultimate goal: furthering the species. Biosphere undergoes a similar metamorphosis: while its zany twist (which we won’t spoil) seems to direct it towards gross-out bro-comedy territory, it transforms, surprisingly, into something more profoundly philosophical. Like the dome, Biosphere’s structure isn’t as solid as it could be — it often meanders — but, with its thoughtful meditations on gender, sexuality, and evolution in all its forms, it’s easy to forgive this quirky indie gem that flaw.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Mark Duplass, Sterling K. Brown

Director: Mel Eslyn

Unlike other films about great inventions of a bygone era, BlackBerry isn’t nostalgic nor sentimental in the least bit. Instead, it’s chilly, calculating, and surprisingly comic (it has to be, with comedians Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton as leads). And it’s less about the brilliance of this one product than the cycle of greed, corruption, and vanity that eventually traps its too-ambitious creators. 

It's a smart film that refuses to dumb down the tech and business side of things, and what it lacks in characterization (there is little to no backstory to be found), it more than makes up for in drama and a superb pace, which propulsively and practically brings you to its wonderful peak and bleak end. Equipped with a no-nonsense yet thrilling approach to facts, BlackBerry is a refreshing entry into the biopic genre.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Al Bernstein, Ben Petrie, Cary Elwes, Conor Casey, David Christo, Dillon Casey, Elena Juatco, Eric Osborne, Ethan Eng, Evan Buliung, Glenn Howerton, Greg Calderone, Gregory Ambrose Calderone, Gwynne Phillips, Jay Baruchel, Kelly Van der Burg, Laura Cilevitz, Lauren Howe, Lyndon Casey, Malakai Fox, Mark Critch, Martin Donovan, Matt Johnson, Michael Ironside, Michelle Giroux, Pranay Noel, Rich Sommer, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, Saul Rubinek, Sean Jones, Stephanie Moran, SungWon Cho

Director: Matt Johnson

Rating: R

, 2023

There's something rich at the heart of Afire that, whether intentionally or not, is kept at arm's length from the viewer. Over the course of Leon's (Thomas Schubert) quiet summer retreat to work on the manuscript for his second book, we come to understand his generally irritable nature as not just creative but existential. Through his eyes and writer-director Christian Petzold's expertly restrained sensibilities for drama, every moment becomes tinged with a vague jealousy—insecurity about other people leading satisfied lives, and his inability to let anything be without finding fault in it first. Leon is meant to be difficult to sympathize with, but at his core is an emptiness that comes with the acknowledgement of how limited one's future really is.

And on the opposite end is Nadja (Paula Beer), a woman who just happens to be staying at the same vacation home due to an overlap in booking, whom Leon sees as a reminder for everything he lacks: romance, thoughtful attentiveness, and a love of life that helps her to stop focusing on what she thinks she lacks. The film stops short of having these characters undergo change that feels truly meaningful, but just seeing them dance around each other with a sharpening tension is well worth the experience.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Enno Trebs, Esther Esche, Jennipher Antoni, Langston Uibel, Matthias Brandt, Paula Beer, Thomas Schubert

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: NR

Kenneth Branagh’s third Hercule Poirot movie does everything it can to divorce itself from the quaintness of a typical Agatha Christie adaptation. Loosely based on the novel Hallowe’en Party, this outing swaps exotic locales for the claustrophobic confines of a gothic Venetian palazzo and flirts outright with horror. The film, shot through more Dutch angles than an Amsterdam maths class has ever seen, uses the genre's visual language to credibly suggest that this mystery might actually have paranormal undertones. Forcing Poirot to reconsider his die-hard loyalty to rational explanations is an interesting twist — it punctures the idea of him as a mystery-solving god and gives the film bigger questions to chew on than whodunnit.

What that does, however, is sap the satisfaction of watching him expertly crack the puzzle, because the movie spends so much time centering Poirot’s crisis of confidence. A Haunting in Venice’s tone switch to serious horror is also at odds with the campily bad accents and mostly overwrought acting from the (much less starry than usual) cast. It’s not the same kind of reliable guilty pleasure we expect these vehicles to be, then, but this outing of Branagh’s Poirot is at least an interesting experiment in expanding these stories' usual limits.

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ali Khan, Amir El-Masry, Camille Cottin, David Menkin, Emma Laird, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Kelly Reilly, Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen, Lorenzo Acquaviva, Michelle Yeoh, Riccardo Scamarcio, Rowan Robinson, Tina Fey, Vanessa Ifediora

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Rating: PG-13

The tired stereotype is that in horror films, it’s always the Black characters who are the first to die. The Blackening turns that on its head and gives us an interesting premise by asking, what if all the characters are Black? While it’s not the first film to do this (in fact, a lot of Black creatives are reclaiming horror and dominating the genre), it just might be the first to tackle the issue in a smart and funny way. This is a ridiculous parody filled with outsized performances and observational jokes, but it’s equally meta and socially aware as it literally (and thankfully) beats the stereotype to its final death. 

 

Genre: Comedy, Horror

Actor: Antoinette Robertson, Dewayne Perkins, Diedrich Bader, George Fisher, Grace Byers, James Preston Rogers, Jay Pharoah, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, Sinqua Walls, X Mayo, Yvonne Orji

Director: Tim Story

Rating: R

In the world of excavation and wonderous breakthroughs, Unknown: The Lost Pyramid is a refreshing take on archaeology by showing the discoveries of Egyptian history from native Egyptian archaeologists. Following Dr. Hawass and his mentee, Dr. Waziri, as they race against the elements of the desert, the documentary uses their passion and egos to spearhead the narrative. Thus, every step closer feels both prideful and invasive with the constant reminder that they're excavating 2000+-year-old tombs. Comprehensive explanations and illustrative cinematography illuminate the meticulous labor that goes into Egyptology.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Zahi Hawass

Director: Max Salomon

The latest installment in Netflix'S “Unknown” docuseries, Unknown: Killer Robots puts the evolution of artificial intelligence under an ethical microscope. Although the title could be misleading, it does cover the possible dangerous applications of AI as it forces us to question the growing divide between human morality and machine efficiency. With advances in war and medicinal applications, the capabilities of AI to heal, save and destroy are terrifying and awe-inspiring in equal measure. Like the previous films in the series, it is hyper-concentrated to an almost-stifling degree, but it’s also powered by the passionate subjects on either side of these advancements. Forgoing sensationalism, this digestible documentary questions intention over the technology itself. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Jesse Sweet

Stan Lee, the documentary, is a charming introduction to the iconic creator. He enthusiastically narrates his journey into comics – from lowly intern to famous publisher – giving a seemingly modest account of events. With his voice making most of the narrative, Lee’s voice reveals his creative process and mindset, detailing the day-to-day writing process and the Marvel method. However, the documentary isn’t Lee’s voice alone. Director David Gelb brings a charming approach to this documentary, as seen in his previous work, that helps turn his subject palatable, despite the disagreement displayed by other people. Overall, the film is an okay introduction, though the full story behind Lee’s most contentious events, deserves a documentary of its own.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Jack Kirby, Joan Lee, Joe Simon, Kevin Feige, Roy Thomas, Stan Lee

Director: David Gelb

Rating: TV-14

It’s best not to overthink the details of No Hard Feelings, an uproarious comedy that benefits from the lead actors’ physicality. It’s meant to be enjoyed as it happens, at the moment, with Lawrence lighting up every scene with full-bodied commitment and Feldman, a worthy co-lead, delighting at every turn. They’re playing stock characters, and the script doesn’t give much beyond the usual backstories, but Lawrence and Feldman play them with so much heart and gusto, knocking every scene they’re in out of the park. Everything else plays second fiddle to their two-hander show. The cameos are star-studded but forgettable (except for Kyle Mooney, who I wished was onscreen more as Percy’s male nanny), the character development is heartwarming but predictable, and though it bills itself as a sex comedy, the film never really touches past third base. But all that is water under the bridge when you’re watching Maddie and Percy flirt and fumble their way through the film.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alaina Surgener, Alysia Joy Powell, Amalia Yoo, Andrew Barth Feldman, Ari Frenkel, Brian Calì, Christina Catechis, Christopher Bailey, Darren Valinotti, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Hasan Minhaj, Jacob Augustin, Jennifer Lawrence, Jordan Mendoza, Kyle Mooney, Laura Benanti, Luca Padovan, Madison McBride, Matt Walton, Matthew Broderick, Matthew Noszka, Melissa Lehman, Natalie Morales, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Scott MacArthur, Sophie Tananbaum, Victor Verhaeghe, Zahn McClarnon

Director: Gene Stupnitsky

Rating: R

With a new, fast-paced media landscape, Call Me Chihiro might feel too slow for people new to the story. Composed of serene, slice-of-life moments, the film starts off feeling plotless, as the titular protagonist builds random interactions with the townspeople. She makes friends with people who seemingly don’t have much in common with her. Despite this, each interaction feels meaningful and genuine, thanks to the subtle acting of Kasumi Arimura. And as these scenes build up, and Chihiro’s friends begin to become friends with each other, these day-to-day moments form a character study of a lonely woman whose kindness and appreciation for life make her feel so admirable. For those wistful Sunday nights, Call Me Chihiro might be a great watch, but only if you’re in that certain mood.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Fusako Urabe, Hana Toyoshima, Itsuki Nagasawa, Jun Fubuki, Kasumi Arimura, Keiichi Suzuki, Lily Franky, Mitsuru Hirata, Miwako Ichikawa, Ryuya Wakaba, Shigeo Ôsako, Tetta Shimada, Toshie Negishi, Van, Wakaba Ryuuya, Yoichiro Saito, Yui Sakuma

Director: Rikiya Imaizumi

Rating: R, TV-14

Two months after its premiere in TIFF, Quiz Lady arrived on streaming this November. The comedy film has a sort-of buddy cop dynamic, with an anxiety-ridden, tightly-wound Awkwafina as Anne, and a chaotic Sandra Oh that lets loose with free-spirited Jenny. The film does take its time to get to the good part, and in certain scenes, it feels like it’s torn between the heartfelt and the humorous, but the leads’ acting smooths over some of the awkward writing. Quiz Lady still leads up to a fun watch, though better pacing and writing could have made this charming comedy a classic.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Al Bayan, Alan Heitz, Ammie Masterson, Amy Tolsky, Angela Trimbur, Annie Boon Karstens, Atul Singh, Awkwafina, Betsy Holt, Camrus Johnson, Charles Green, Charlie Talbert, Choppy Guillotte, Christine Lin, Davina Reid, Derek Roberts, Eddy Lee, Holland Taylor, Jane Yubin Kim, Jason Schwartzman, Joe Chrest, Jonathan Park, Jophielle Love, Justiin A. Davis, Larry Weissman, Maria Bamford, Martin Yu, Matt Cordova, Ned Yousef, Nicole Marie Appleby, Paul Reubens, Phil LaMarr, Sandra Oh, Shirley Chen, Summer Selby, Tawny Newsome, Tony Hale, Will Ferrell

Director: Jessica Yu

Rating: R

Seven years after Zootopia, Pixar takes another crack at a racial prejudice metaphor — but, while the analogy is less creaky here, it’s still an awkward one, as diametrically opposed elements like fire and water stand in for human beings. The gaping flaws in its central concept aside, Elemental does wring something compelling out of its story: an exploration of second-generation immigrant guilt.

That might seem like an oddly specific and complex topic for what is ostensibly a kids’ film to grapple with, but this is the Pixar of Soul and Bao, not Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Ember (Leah Lewis) is an anthropomorphized young flame whose parents migrated from their home in Fireland to run a store in the NYC-like melting pot of Element City; she’s keenly aware of the sacrifices they made to give her a better life and believes the only way to repay them is to abandon her own dreams and run their store. This is the one part of Elemental’s metaphor that really lands, but it’s unfortunately sidelined to make way for an inter-elemental romance between Ember and a water-man that only pulls the focus back onto the film’s biggest weakness. Still, its emotional specificity and beautiful animation prevent it from being a total washout.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Alex Kapp, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Pera, Jonathan Adams, Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Mason Wertheimer, Matthew Yang King, P.L. Brown, Ronnie del Carmen, Ronobir Lahiri, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Wilma Bonet

Director: Peter Sohn

If you’ve ever been puzzled by “Greek life”, this documentary will go some way to demystifying that somewhat baffling phenomenon of American college culture. Bama Rush follows four hopefuls as they “rush” the University of Alabama’s sororities, a TikTok-viral weeklong recruitment process so cutthroat some candidates spend months preparing for it. The documentary digs deep into why these young women put so much time, energy, and money into joining what the film hints is a largely unforgiving and reductive element of campus life. What it finds is pretty affecting: they’re really just looking for acceptance and belonging.

Threaded throughout are director Rachel Fleit’s reflections on her own history with those motivations, having grown up with alopecia. Though it does illustrate that rushing isn’t so dissimilar from other quests for acceptance, this parallel is sometimes clunkily drawn — and can seem somewhat self-indulgent in places, given the documentary’s comparatively surface-level exploration of more systemic issues. A late development shifts Bama Rush into an even deeper self-reflexive mode, as the film itself becomes a contentious issue in the process it’s documenting. Despite its flaws, turns like this — and its participants’ extraordinary candor — help make Bama Rush an often illuminating look into an opaque world. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Rachel Fleit

As a growing number of horror movies are, Influencer is inspired by the fact that we’re increasingly spending our lives in the digital, rather than physical, world. Kurtis David Harder’s film makes some effort to highlight the tension between those two realms: its plot hinges on the idea that vapidly sunny influencer-speak often masks gloomier realities, and suggests that, if your existence is mainly validated through a screen, would anyone really know if something truly dark happened to you?

It’s an interesting premise, to be sure, but Influencer’s critique settles there. Instead of striving for social thriller status by exploring the paradox of social media with any real rigor, the rather broad writing here means it lands as a run-of-the-mill scary movie, one that verges on being a forgettable experience once the credits have rolled. One element saves it from that fate, though: Cassandra Naud, who gives an unnerving performance that brings intriguing psychological depths to the role of CW, the film’s villain. She can only do so much to elevate a script that is shallowly interested in her character, though, meaning Influencer can’t quite transcend its status as a middling social media horror.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Cassandra Naud, Emily Tennant, Justin Sams, Paul Spurrier, Rory J. Saper, Sara Canning

Director: Kurtis David Harder

Unknown's next documentary installment takes us to the stars following the construction and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. The documentary centers on the behind-the-scenes of launching the telescope, which eradicated all possible errors as it was the most expensive operation to enter space without human intervention. Explanations are palatable, and the highlights of their successes and failures are enough for casual viewers. Packed with emotion from NASA's scientists and engineers (and global spectators during Covid), the investment in this project and journey carry the film even though the concepts are too large to condense. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Joe Biden

Director: Shai Gal

Rating: G