37 Movies Like The Flash (2023)

Staff & contributors

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

As the third instalment in Paul Schrader's "man in a room" trilogy after First Reformed (2017) and The Card Counter (2021), Master Gardner rounds up the issues at stake in a most profound way. For anyone who's seen a film either scripted by Schrader (such as Taxi Driver) or directed by him, there will be no surprises here: lost men, despairing men, men who are desperate to believe in something. But the salvation of love lurks around the corner and the new film makes no exception. An unconventional couple, Joel Edgerton and Quintessa Swindell (as Maya) make up the beating heart of this suspenseful drama with an emotional push and pull delivered in small doses. What could have been a kitschy, insensitive work blossoms into a treatise on how gentle the harshness of life can be. 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Eduardo Losan, Esai Morales, Jared Bankens, Joel Edgerton, Matt Mercurio, Quintessa Swindell, Rick Cosnett, Sigourney Weaver, Suzette Lange, Timothy McKinney, Victoria Hill

Director: Paul Schrader

Rating: R

Challenging, strange, and utterly captivating from start to finish, Sanctuary takes the relationship between a pathetic, wealthy man and a desperate, plucky young woman—a relationship built on consensual acts of sexual humiliation—and makes it so much more dynamic and entertaining than it has any right to be. The film takes place entirely in one hotel suite over the course of one night, becoming a series of increasingly absurd psychological scenarios, as the characters wrestle over ideas of power, shame, and identity by concealing and roleplaying various parts of themselves. It's a wild take on several different genres that director Zachary Wigon is able to effortlessly weave together with excellent pacing, stunning visuals, and two truly committed performances from Christopher Abbott and a wonderfully unhinged Margaret Qualley.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley

Director: Zachary Wigon

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.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adrien Brody, Aimee Mullins, Ara Hollyday, Bob Balaban, Bryan Cranston, Damien Bonnard, Deanna Dunagan, Dominique Fouassier, Edward Norton, Elena Uriz, Ella Faris, Erika Godwin, Ethan Josh Lee, Fisher Stevens, Francisco Javier Gomez, Grace Edwards, Gracie Faris, Hong Chau, Hope Davis, Jack Eyman, Jake Ryan, Jarvis Cocker, Jason Schwartzman, Jay Lau, Jeff Goldblum, Jeffrey Wright, Liev Schreiber, Margot Robbie, Matt Dillon, Maya Hawke, Palmira Ferrer, Patricia Colin, Paul Kynman, Randall Poster, Rita Wilson, Rodolphe Pauly, Rupert Friend, Sam Marra, Sandy Hamilton, Scarlett Johansson, Seu Jorge, Sonia Gascón, Sophia Lillis, Stéphane Bak, Stephen Park, Steve Carell, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hanks, Tom Hudson, Tony Revolori, Truman Hanks, Wendy Nottingham, Willa Skye, Willem Dafoe

Director: Wes Anderson

, 2023

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan

Director: Chris Smith

Rating: NR

The Innocents is a Norweigan thriller that follows four kids who discover they have supernatural powers over the summer. They play around and experiment in the woods nearby, but what begins as harmless fun quickly develops into something much more disturbing and sinister.

This unnerving film, a blend of fantasy and horror, doesn't waste time explaining the origins of its mysticism. Instead, it goes straight into action—bending, twisting, and splitting open anything and anyone that gets in its way. This kind of rawness is shocking given the age range of the characters, but it also works to subvert what we've come to expect from kids, youth, and goodness. The Innocents isn't for the faint of heart, but if you can manage some bloody and unhindged scenes, then it's sure worth checking out. Directed by Eskil Vogt, co-writer of critically-acclaimed films like Thelma and The Worst Person in the World

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Irina Eidsvold Tøien, Lisa Tønne, Marius Kolbenstvedt, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Morten Svartveit, Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Sam Ashraf

Director: Eskil Vogt

With Marvel and DC monopolizing the superhero landscape with high budgets, big-name actors, and CGI graphics, Shin Kamen Rider feels like a breath of fresh air. Also known as Shin Masked Rider in other territories, the adaptation recalls the campy costumes and over-the-top action of the original 70s tokusatsu series. It’s fun, if a little bit silly, and slightly unhinged, albeit with a more modern polish. The bizarre action sequences tend to be paired with old 70s rock, blood oversplashing, motorcycle stunts, and exaggerated expressions, especially from the villains. It’s a fitting love letter for the series’ 50th anniversary.

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Kanata Hongo, Ken Yasuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mikako Ichikawa, Minami Hamabe, Mirai Moriyama, Moriyama Mirai, Nanase Nishino, Nao Ōmori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Shuhei Uesugi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Suzuki Matsuo, Takumi Saitoh, Tasuku Emoto, Tori Matsuzaka, Toru Nakamura, Toru Tezuka, Yutaka Takenouchi

Director: Hideaki Anno

Rating: NR

True to its name, Joy Ride is a raucous delight that has everything you want out of a road trip comedy and more. There’s love, sex, adventure, and even music, but most of all there’s friendship, the interesting complexities of which are explored against the backdrop of race. There’s something meaningful keeping everything together at the core, and first-time director Adele Lim—helped by a strong script and cast—does an excellent job of holding it down. The film is also just plain funny. There are physical gags and of-the-moment jokes, plus a couple of insider quips made for and by the Asian community. But apart from the hilarity and tenderness, the film also delivers in the visual department: it looks gorgeous, not only because the characters are tourists who embark on a jet-setting adventure, but because of the inspired animation and vibrant editing. 

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alexander Hodge, Annie Mumolo, Ashley Park, Baron Davis, Chris Pang, Daniel Dae Kim, David Denman, Debbie Fan, Desmond Chiam, Isla Rose Hall, Lori Tan Chinn, Meredith Hagner, Ronny Chieng, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Timothy Simons

Director: Adele Lim

Rating: R

, 2023

Renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied brings an 1875 opera leaping into the 21st century with this modern retelling — through dance and drama — of Carmen. The plot is reimagined along the US border and recenters the titular character (Melissa Barrera), a newly orphaned refugee from Mexico making her way to her godmother (a fabulous Rossy de Palma) in LA. In places, Carmen recalls Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet: aided by Nicholas Britell’s operatic score, it embraces its grand origins to evoke a star-crossed sense of looming tragedy over the romance that blossoms when reluctant border patrol guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) saves Carmen’s life and flees with her to California. 

Where Carmen really soars is in its translation of drama into dance. It’s an inspired move, pairing this almost mythical story with such a primal medium — but, while the movie achieves visceral emotion that words would struggle to produce in its choreographed scenes, there’s something lacking in the moments where dialogue is crucial. The conversations never move as fluidly as the dancing bodies do, and the passion and the fury falter as a result. That being said, this is largely still a boldly inventive filmmaking experiment, one that spotlights the thrilling potency of pure movement as a storytelling medium.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky, Kaan Guldur, Melissa Barrera, Nico Cortez, Nicole da Silva, Paul Mescal, Richard Brancatisano, Rossy de Palma, Tara Morice

Director: Benjamin Millepied

The directorial debut of Australian twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou—more popularly known together as the YouTube creators RackaRacka—Talk to Me finds a surprisingly unique way of exploring themes that contemporary horror films have made commonplace. At its heart this is still a movie about one's inability to come to terms with loss, but the emotions that come with this experience are filtered through suburban ennui and the numbing effect that social media has on depictions of tragedy. It's in this specific milieu where Mia (a terrific Sophie Wilde) feels compelled to act irresponsibly and continue inviting a malevolent presence into her life. Her feelings are real, but because her peers and the adults around her aren't the best at being vulnerable, Mia begins to underestimate how destructive her grief really is.

Talk to Me only grows more despairing the longer it goes. But impressively, the film doesn't rely on the usual jump scares and excesses that would normally make a YouTube horror short go viral. The situations escalate organically (if you can suspend a little disbelief for the moments when the characters simply watch terrible things happen) and as the supernatural forces haunting these teenagers get stronger, so do Mia's isolation and her desperation to make up for her mistakes. It's bleak stuff, but sharp direction and great performances (especially from Wilde and young Joe Bird) make this a particularly exciting vision of horror.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Jensen, Alexandria Steffensen, Ari McCarthy, Chris Alosio, Ethan Payne, Harli Ames, Harry Lewis, Jacek Koman, Jodie Dry, Joe Bird, Josh Bradley, Kelly Butler, KSI, Leeanna Walsman, Marcus Johnson, Mark Duncan, Miranda Otto, Otis Dhanji, Robin Northover, Simon Minter, Sophie Wilde, Tobi Brown, Vik Barn, Zoe Terakes

Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou

Rating: R

They Cloned Tyrone is a genre-bending gem. It combines Deep State conspiracy theories with sci-fi and social commentary, all while looking like a futuristic 1970s Blaxploitation film. It’s outrageous good fun and pleasing to look at (here is a film that knows how to properly light Black actors), but there are times when it feels too far fetched. The science can get wonky and its commentary on gentrification lacking, but all is forgiven when you have such a strong trio of leads. One of the smartest things They Cloned Tyrone does is pair Boyega with Teyonah Parris, who plays the call girl Yo-yo, and Jamie Foxx, who plays the pimp Slick Charles. They have a fun-loving no-nonsense chemistry about them that makes them easy to attach to and root for. They’re also just very funny, which might be expected of Foxx but it comes as a pleasant surprise for Parris, whose popular turns in Mad Men and WandaVision prove that she’s been severely underutilized as a comic.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adam Cronan, Al-Teron, Austin Freeman, Charity Jordan, David Alan Grier, David Shae, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Jamie Foxx, Jason Burkey, Jason Louder, John Boyega, Joshua Mikel, Kiefer Sutherland, Leon Lamar, Megan Sousa, Ryan Dinning, Shariff Earp, Swift Rice, Tamberla Perry, Teyonah Parris, Trayce Malachi

Director: Juel Taylor

Rating: R

, 2023

Low-budget but imagination-rich, this singular sci-fi crosses a vintage found-footage aesthetic with an inspired time-travel concept. It’s 1938, and two brilliant sisters — Thomasina (Emma Appleton) and Martha (Stefanie Martini) — have invented a machine that can anticipate future radio and television broadcasts. The device (named Lola) allows them to support themselves with bullseye bets on upcoming horse races, as well as revel in the cultural output of the decades to come. When WW2 strikes, however, Lola takes on life-saving potential.

As with every time-travel story, there’s the domino effect to be considered. Lola ends the Blitz, but its timeline-meddling paves the way for a darker future — chillingly realized by the film’s clever manipulation of real archival footage — and an ideological schism between the sisters. The movie’s tight runtime doesn’t allow for full exploration of this emotional fallout, but the actors fill in the outlines enough to make this flaw less gaping than niggling.

Shot with vintage film cameras, the movie looks like a product of its setting, but it absorbs some of the modernism of the contraption's intercepted broadcasts — and it's this beguiling anachronism (plus its narrative ingenuity) that ultimately win out to make Lola a fascinating sci-fi, despite some tantalizingly unrealized potential. 

Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, War

Actor: Aaron Monaghan, Adolf Hitler, Ayvianna Snow, David Bowie, Emma Appleton, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gerald Tyler, Hugh O'Conor, Lorcan Cranitch, Nick Dunning, Richard Elfyn, Rory Fleck Byrne, Stefanie Martini, Winston Churchill

Director: Andrew Legge

Based on four different books by Colombian author Mario Mendoza, The Initiated (or Los Iniciados) is perhaps too much of a good thing at times, as it struggles to have its many different pieces cohere into one thematic idea. These separate pieces are intriguing on their own, for sure: poisoned water supply, underground activists, the mayor potentially being involved in mysterious disappearances of bodies. But by the end, the film's noir elements seem to be mostly ornamental in nature, with the supposedly twisty narrative arriving at an overly tidy conclusion.

With that said, even just spending time in The Initiated's gloomy city streets and grimy underbelly should be a joy for anyone who already enjoys hardboiled crime dramas. Solid performances and strong technical craft all around keep this world immersive no matter if the central investigation is actually progressing logically or not. It's a film that, impressively, manages to still be suspenseful just on the strength of its mood and atmosphere alone. All the danger feels raw and threatening, and leads us to imagine an even harsher world outside of what we see on screen.

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ana Wills, Andrés Parra, Aria Jara, Francisco Denis, Jorge Cao, Juan Pablo Urrego, Julio Pachón, Patricia Tamayo

Director: Juan Felipe Orozco

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

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