9 Movies Like Sharper (2023)

Staff & contributors

The late, great William Friedkin’s final film is staged with all the military precision of its naval court setting. We never leave the courtroom from the moment we’re plunged into it — the first minute — meaning the contentious action around which the film revolves happens only in our imagination, spurred on by the competing accounts of Lieutenant Maryk (Jake Lacy) and Commander Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland). Maryk is accused of mutiny, but, as he tells it, he only seized command from Queeg during a typhoon because he feared that the Commander was experiencing an episode of mental instability that would endanger the lives of everyone onboard. 

The lack of flashbacks to this crucial moment places the burden of bearing out the truth on the cast, which includes Jason Clarke as Maryk’s lawyer, Monica Raymund as Queeg’s counsel, and Lance Reddick — the naturally authoritative late actor to whom the film is dedicated — as the judge. The film's lack of visual pizzazz is to its advantage, then, because it allows this excellent cast (and Friedkin’s searing script) to flex under the full, burning gaze of the spotlight. Clarke, in particular, emerges as the standout as the reluctant navy lawyer — a man caught between the impulse to expose one truth and conceal another.

Genre: Drama, TV Movie, War

Actor: Dale Dye, Denzel Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Francois Battiste, Gabe Kessler, Gina Garcia, Jake Lacy, Jason Clarke, Jay Duplass, Kiefer Sutherland, Lance Reddick, Lewis Pullman, Monica Raymund, Stephanie Erb, Tom Riley

Director: William Friedkin

Rating: PG-13

, 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, Anna Lavrentyeva, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi, Ayano Yamamoto, Ben Miles, Bhav Joshi, Christine Koudreiko, Dmitriy Sharakois, Greg Kolpakchi, Ieva Andrejevaitė, Igor Grabuzov, Irina Kara, Jenni Keenan-Green, Kanon Narumi, Karin Nurumi, Katarzyna Sanak, Ken Yamamura, Len Blavatnik, Mara Huf, Mark Khismatullin, Matthew Marsh, Miles Barrow, Moyo Akandé, Natalia Gonchar, Niino Furuhata, Nikita Efremov, Nino Furuhata, Oleg Shtefanko, Peter Burlakov, Rick Yune, Rob Locke, Roger Allam, Sergii Levchenko, Sofia Lebedeva, Taron Egerton, Timur Kassimikulov, Toby Jones, Togo Igawa, Zane Mihailova

Director: Jon S. Baird

Somewhere in Queens has the familiar feel of an indie dramedy. It’s intimate and unassuming, casually funny and effortlessly moving. It has the low-key charm that evades more large-scale productions, lending the film that rare poignancy that makes something feel special. 

All these boost an otherwise simple story of family and acceptance. Couple Leo and Ange (a very compelling Ray Romano and Laurie Metcalf) are getting on in years, and watching them navigate the common pitfalls of people their age is both funny and heartwarming to watch. This is cleverly paralleled with their son Sticks’ (Jacob Ward) coming-of-age journey, which is just as expected but tender as ever. 

Theirs is a tight-knit family that fights as much as they love, and watching them in a modest production like this isn't just feel apt but authentic and dear too, like an old family picture come to life.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Caryn Richman, Danny Garcia, David St. Louis, Elizabeth Yu, Erik Griffin, Geoffrey Owens, J. C. MacKenzie, Jackson Pace, Jacob Ward, James Ciccone, Jennifer Esposito, Jennifer Simard, Joe Caniano, Jon Manfrellotti, June Gable, Karen Lynn Gorney, Katie Kreisler, Lauren Biazzo, Laurie Metcalf, Matt Romano, P. J. Byrne, Ray Romano, Sadie Stanley, Sebastian Maniscalco, Seth Barrish, Tony Lo Bianco

Director: Ray Romano

Rating: R

, 2022

Before anything else, Utama will knock you off your feet with its breathtaking beauty. Set in the Bolivian highlands, it captures the arid landscape both in gorgeous wide shots and in unique detail. Then, after you take it all in and remember the vastness of the world and the smallness of humanity, the film ushers you into the lives of Virginio and Sisa, an elderly couple who get by with llama grazing. 

Theirs is a small but peaceful life, but it is endangered when a drought in the area makes it harder for everyone—especially a sickly Virginio—to live. Underlying conflicts start to emerge, such as old vs. new and country vs. city, when everyone but Virginio considers leaving the mountains. It's a simple story told at a purposefully slow pace, but it's one worth viewing for the tender performances, the urgent themes, and of course, the stunning cinematography.

Genre: Drama

Director: Alejandro Loayza Grisi

In The Kid Detective, Adam Brody stars as Abe Applebaum, a once-beloved child prodigy turned pathetic P.I. stuck in the glory days of his past. At 32 years old, he’s still solving petty mysteries and coasting on his parents’ money, but things start to change when he is finally dealt with a real, adult case: a murder that confounds even the local police. As Abe uncovers more details about the case, he also unwittingly finds a connection to his traumatic past and begins a long-overdue coming-of-age journey. 

Released during the first year of the pandemic, The Kid Detective understandably flew under the radar when it first came out, garnering sufficient critical praise but not enough fanfare. It will no doubt find a second life among film lovers, though; it’s too smart and riveting to go unnoticed. Most impressive is how director Evan Morgan, in his feature debut, deftly balances multiple genres in a movie that often feels as if Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, Roman Polanski's Chinatown, and modern stoner humor were somehow rolled into one. The gags consistently amuse, the drawn-out mysteries pay off, and the human element persists throughout. Adam Brody, himself a kid celebrity back in the day, expertly carries this delightful and sobering film. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Adam Brody, Alan Catlin, Alicia Brand, Amalia Williamson, Avery Esteves, Barbara Rajnovich, Bethanie Ho, Brent Skagford, Bruce McFee, Dallas Edwards, David Rosser, Deborah Tennant, Devin Myler, Giovanna Moore, Isaac Kragten, Jake Bell-Webster, Jesse Noah Gruman, Jonathan Whittaker, Kaitlyn Chalmers-Rizzato, Kaleb Horn, Kevin Hoffman, Kira Gelineau, Lisa Truong, Marcia Bennett, Marcus Zane, Marlaina Andre, Maurice Dean Wint, Peter MacNeill, Sarah Sutherland, Sharon Crandall, Sophia Webster, Sophie Nélisse, Sophie Nélisse, Steve Gagne, Tracy Rowland, Tyler Duke, Tzi Ma, Wayne St-George, Wendy Crewson

Director: Evan Morgan

Rating: R

, 2022

Irish director Lorcan Finnegan's follow-up to the social dystopia Vivarium, too, centers around the trials and tribulations of a nuclear family. Overwhelmed by work and struck by an inexplicable disease, Christine (played by Eva Green) seems to have forgotten she employed a caretaker for her daughter Bobs. The plot thickens when a Filipino woman named Diana rings the door bell: what kind of mother forgets something like that? What follows is as nightmarish as it sounds, the film's visual potency summoning one's deepest fears and anxieties about reality slipping away. Green and Chai Fonacier (Diana) play an exquisite game of cat and mouse, but even the psychological thrill of that chase is not significant enough to overthrow the dubious racial politics at play. By the end, Nocebo makes an effort to position itself on the right side of history, but the power of its political critique wanes and wanes.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Falcon, Billie Gadsdon, Cathy Belton, Chai Fonacier, Eva Green, Mark Strong

Director: Lorcan Finnegan

To Catch a Killer feels like a limited series shrunken down to fit a movie’s runtime: its many ideas, though potentially compelling on their own, are so underserved by the breezy treatment here that they lose all value. The film wants to hit every hot button — misogyny in the police force, demagoguery on TV news channels, high-level corruption, white supremacy, and the mental health crisis — but its frantic box-ticking makes it feel like a speed-run of topical issues rather than anything genuinely reflective. 

The characters feel similarly underdeveloped, not least star Shailene Woodley’s, a Clarice Starling wannabe who winds up delivering emotional counseling to the film’s bafflingly motivated serial killer in just one of many implausible scenes. Add to that the cringe-inducing dialogue, which is crammed to bursting point with clunky metaphors, and you can call off the manhunt —  the script is the real killer here.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam LeBlanc, Alain Chanoine, Alex Gravenstein, Arthur Holden, Ben Mendelsohn, Benz Antoine, Bobby Brown, Chip Chuipka, Christian Jadah, Christian Paul, Christine Rodriguez, Daniel Brochu, Darcy Laurie, Dawn Lambing, Dusan Dukic, Erniel Baez, Frank Schorpion, Heidi Foss, Jason Cavalier, Joan Hart, Jovan Adepo, Karine Dion, Kevin Woodhouse, Lesley Pahl, Leyda Aleyli, Lilou Roy-Lanouette, Luc Morissette, Marcello Bezina, Mark Antony Krupa, Mark Camacho, Mark Day, Martyne Musau, Matt Langton, Maurizio Terrazzano, Michael Cram, Michael Dozier, Nabil Khatib, Nir Guzinski, Patrick Émmanuel Abellard, Patrick Labbé, Paul Ash, Ralph Ineson, Richard Zeman, Rosemary Dunsmore, Sean Tucker, Shailene Woodley, Ted Pluviose, Teneisha Collins

Director: Damián Szifron

Based on the autobiography of real-life evangelical pastor Greg Laurie, Jesus Revolution recounts how a Christian movement in the '60s turned lost hippies into dedicated Christians. It was an interesting moment in time, but instead of delving into the movement's peculiarities and intricacies, Jesus Revolution offers a myopic tale that paints Laurie as a hero and the movement as inspirational when, really, they are anything but. Laurie's story never feels significant enough to justify a feature film and the movement never seems as radical as the film thinks it to be. And even though it’s autobiographical, it never really digs into Laurie's spirituality and interiority deep enough to reveal complex truths. In fact, everyone’s a caricature in this simplistic film that feels more like propaganda as it paints religion as perfect and all-saving while glossing over its many imperfections and questionable rhetoric. It could have worked as commentary, satire, or maybe even a sincere memoir, but as it is, it just feels like a short-sighted attempt at telling history.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alexia Ioannides, Anna Grace Barlow, Billy Graham, Charlie Morgan Patton, DeVon Franklin, Jackson Robert Scott, Joel Courtney, Jolie Jenkins, Jonathan Roumie, Julia Campbell, Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Downes, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Matthew Montemaro, Mina Sundwall, Nic Bishop, Nicholas Cirillo, Paras Patel, Randall Newsome, Shaun Weiss, Steve Hanks

Director: Brent McCorkle, Jon Erwin

Rating: PG-13

, 2023

What a waste of a premise, and what a waste of Woodley’s talents. Based on the short story “The Robot Who Looked Like Me” by Robert Sheckley, Robots has some clever things to say about the state of advanced tech and its role in society, but its clumsy, heavyhanded approach fumbles the execution. There’s an awkward and unfinished feel to Robots that doesn’t make anything about it believable—not the technology, not the convoluted story, and certainly not the romance. And except for Woodley, none of the characters seem likable. The male-dominated cast makes constant jokes about fatness and femininity, presumably for the sake of satire, but they end up participating in the very things they’re supposedly calling out. It’s not nearly as smart nor as charming as it thinks it is, and if you’re looking for an alternative, I would recommend the far superior German film I’m Your Man, which accomplishes everything Robots tries to be and more. 

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Barney Burman, Case Matthews, Casey Messer, Charles Grisham, Chelsea Edmundson, David Grant Wright, Emanuela Postacchini, Hank Rogerson, Jack Whitehall, Jackamoe Buzzell, Keith Campbell, Kevin Foster, Leslie Fleming-Mitchell, Nick Rutherford, Paul Jurewicz, Paul Rust, Richard Lippert, Samantha Ashley, Samantha Gonzalez, Shailene Woodley, Tiffany Adams

Director: Anthony Hines, Casper Christensen

Rating: R