21 Movies Like The Mother (2023)

Staff & contributors

Kill Bill meets Bend It Like Beckham in this wild ride about a martial arts-obsessed British-Pakistani teenager who views her older sister’s impending marriage as a catastrophe to be averted at all costs. Aspiring stuntwoman Ria (Priya Kansara) can’t stomach the idea of free-spirited Lena (Ritu Arya) giving up on her creative dreams to marry a nauseatingly perfect man — not least because art school dropout Lena is her hero for refusing to conform to their community’s traditional ideas about respectability and success.

Polite Society makes room to sensitively explore Ria’s disappointment and the loneliness of rebellion, but writer-director Nida Manzoor doesn’t stop there, throwing in a sharp allegory disguised as a zany twist. Rather than upending our expectations for upending’s sake, the surprise metaphor refigures the movie as perceptive cultural commentary on the age-old devaluation of women as mere vessels for the next generation. What’s more, Manzoor takes the analogy full circle to thoughtfully imagine how this kind of dehumanizing misogyny might have affected previous generations, suggesting that the real villains lie offscreen. Movies as inventive and intelligent as this don’t come around often, but one that’s this funny, visually bold, unabashedly feminist, and full of stars-in-the-making is rarer still.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akshay Khanna, Ella Bruccoleri, Eunice Huthart, James McNicholas, Jeff Mirza, Jenny Funnell, Nimra Bucha, Priya Kansara, Rekha John-Cheriyan, Renu Brindle, Ritu Arya, Seraphina Beh, Shobu Kapoor

Director: Nida Manzoor

An all-female action comedy that doesn’t get self-serious about the way it’s subverting the genre — Wingwomen feels like a breath of fresh air. It wisely grasps that plot isn’t paramount for a movie like this, and so it joyously dunks on cerebral scenarios with its unabashedly silly story convolutions, like when its professional thieves take a brief pause from their momentous One Last Job™️ to sail to Italy and exact bloody, flamenco-delivered revenge on the gangsters who killed their beloved rabbit. Exotic Mediterranean location-hopping isn’t the only way Wingwomen milks Netflix’s finance department for all it can get, either: director-star Mélanie Laurent also packs in all manner of stunts, from spectacular base-jumping sequences to dramatic drone shootouts. 

For all its breezy style, though, there is real heart here, and not the kind that feels crafted by an algorithm. It’s true that a late twist unwisely uses the movie’s embrace of implausibility for emotional ends, but otherwise, the relationship between its professional thieves — ostensibly platonic but very much coded otherwise (a la Bend It Like Beckham) — has surprisingly sincere warmth. Thanks to the cast’s natural chemistry and characters that feel human despite the ridiculous plot, Wingwomen is much more moving than you might believe possible for a Netflix action-comedy.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Annick Roux, Aurélien Gabrielli, Camille Verschuere, Felix Moati, Foued Nabba, Isabelle Adjani, Jean-François Perrone, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Leona D'Huy, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Meriem Serbah, Myriam Azencot, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

It may seem like it’s targeted at a specific demographic, but Spoiler Alert is actually a universal tale about love, grief, and moving on. Jim Parsons affectingly plays Michael, a romantic and TV aficionado who has trouble separating fact from fiction. He views life as one big sitcom, but his cheery outlook is increasingly challenged by the tragedies he encounters, not least of which is the surprise diagnosis of his boyfriend Kit (Ben Aldridge). 

Spoiler Alert is very sweet, perhaps too sweet for some viewers, but if you enjoy the unabashed schmaltz of romantic dramas, then this comes highly recommended. Of course, for that extra fluff, Spoiler Alert is mostly set during the holidays, so it’s best to watch while cozying up with a loved one—just make sure you have spare tissues on-hand for those tearjerking moments.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allegra Heart, Antoni Porowski, Ben Aldridge, Bill Irwin, Christine Renee Miller, Eleni Yiovas, Erica Cho, Jeffery Self, Jim Parsons, Josh Pais, Kate Pittard, Nikki M. James, Paco Lozano, Sadie Scott, Sally Field, Scott Burik, Shunori Ramanathan, Supriya Ganesh, Tara Summers, Winslow Bright

Director: Michael Showalter

, 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

, 2021

Palmer may not be treading new ground, but it does tackle relevant themes with impressive sensitivity. With Palmer (Justin Timberlake), it reveals the stigma that haunts ex-convicts well after they’ve redeemed themselves. And with Sam (a charming Ryder Allen), it brings to light the heartbreaking and often dangerous bigotry queer children face. These are heavy issues, but Palmer takes them on with the utmost care and compassion. Though it reads cheesy at times, the sweetness is a welcome note considering the more tragic turns narratives like this tend to take. Empathetic and hopeful, Palmer is a pleasant enough film about second chances and found families.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alisha Wainwright, Carson Minniear, Charmin Lee, Craig Sheffer, Dane Rhodes, Dean Winters, Fisher Stevens, Hero Hunter, J.D. Evermore, Jake Brennan, Jesse C. Boyd, June Squibb, Juno Temple, Justin Timberlake, Lance E. Nichols, Molly Sue Harrison, Nicholas X. Parsons, Ray Gaspard, Ryder Allen, Stacie Davis, Stephen Louis Grush, Theodus Crane, Wynn Everett

Director: Fisher Stevens

Rating: R

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

One wouldn't expect to see Count Dracula's youthful-looking helper at your local 12-step self-help group for people in codependent relationships, but Renfield holds more than one surprise up its sleeve. By translating the working relationship (or master-slave, since the latter doesn't get any pay) into the vocabulary of common relationship counselling parlance, the film actually elevates its symbolic status. Even more, I'd dare call it a hoot. Not that many vampire films have managed to make a proper comedy out of the figure in question, and Renfield with its simplistic appeal puts to shame even the artsy Netflix production El Conde, which also came out earlier this year. With Awkwafina in the mix and iconic lines such as "I don't want your murder cookies", how can you resist?

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Adrian Martinez, Anil Bajaj, Awkwafina, Ben Schwartz, Bess Rous, Betsy Borrego, Brandon Scott Jones, Brian Egland, Camille Chen, Caroline Williams, Chloe Adona, Christopher Winchester, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, James Moses Black, Jenna Kanell, Joshua Mikel, Keith Brooks, Lacey Dover, Lena Clark, Lucy Faust, Marcus Lewis |, Marvin Ross, Mike Harkins, Nicholas Hoult, Nicolas Cage, Rhonda Johnson Dents, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Stephen Louis Grush, Susan McPhail, T.C. Matherne, William Ragsdale

Director: Chris McKay

Rating: R

, 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

While it starts off slow and rocky, River Wild sails smoothly as soon as it hits the waters. The rafting on the rapids, the wild chases, the suspenseful silences—all are effectively shot and believably terrifying, even if they border on predictability at times. Real-life couple Meester and Brody are vulnerable and intense, adding some depth to an otherwise basic story. Killam is compelling too, especially during the action sequences, but I might have seen him in one-too-many comedy sketches to trust his sincerity here. It’s not the best outdoor thriller by a long shot, especially if you compare it to the superior 1994 original film starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon, but it is entertaining in its own right. 

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Brody, Courtney Chen, Eve Connolly, Leighton Meester, Matt Devere, Nicholas Wittman, Olivia Swann, Taran Killam

Director: Ben Ketai

Big George Foreman ticks all the boxes of what a biopic should be. It shows us his troubled childhood, his bumpy rise to the top, and his eventual reconciliation with fame and boxing. It’s also nicely shot and polished, an accurately dressed period piece that looks and feels the part. But nothing about the film hits you as particularly new or exciting. Prickly topics like faith and infidelity aren’t so much explored as they are simply covered, and the dialogue sounds like something you’ve heard a thousand times. There’s also a sense that the filmmakers noticed this problem because halfway through, the movie switches into a more lighthearted tone, as if it were suddenly bored of itself. Sure, Big George Foreman is easy to follow and nice to look at, but its formulaic structure fails to distinguish itself from a long and ever-growing line of sports biopics.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Al Bernstein, Al Sapienza, Anthony Marble, Austin David Jones, Azaria Carter, Barry Hanley, Bill Martin Williams, Billy Slaughter, Brian Ibsen, Deion Smith, Deneen Tyler, Dwayne L. Barnes, Eric Hanson, Erica Tazel, Forest Whitaker, Greg Wattkis, Jasmine Mathews, John Magaro, Jonathan Mercedes, Joshua Wade, Judd Lormand, Julia Lashae, K. Steele, Kei, Khris Davis, Lara Grice, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Madison Dirks, Martin Bats Bradford, Matthew Glave, Matthew Rimmer, Michael Harrity, Michael Papajohn, Philip Fornah, Raion Hill, Robert Cicchini, Robert Larriviere, Sam Trammell, Samantha Beaulieu, Shein Mompremier, Sonja Sohn, Sullivan Jones, T.C. Matherne, Tom Virtue

Director: George Tillman Jr.

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: Andrea Gara, Antonio Pagudo, Belén Rueda, Carlos Cañas, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Fran Cantos, Gracia Olayo, Ivan Massagué, Jesús Puente, Lorena López, Manuel Regueiro, Miren Ibarguren, Óscar Ortuño, Pedro Casablanc, Roberto Chapu, Toni Acosta

Director: Carlos Therón

In the saturated sphere of sci-fi and superhero movies, Gray Matter just doesn’t cut it. The film, which was produced as part of the filmmaking workshop/reality show Project Greenlight, doesn’t add anything new, much less its own spin, to a story we’ve heard countless times: that of a young kid learning to harness her supernatural powers for the first time. If you’ve seen Carrie, Firestarter, or more recently Stranger Things, then you’ll be able to predict how most of Gray Matter turns out. It is watchable, sure, enjoyable even in the first few minutes where it promises a world chockful of lore, but it never fulfills that promise. To be fair, the performances are solid and the technicals maximize what limited resources the movie has (it looks more decent than you’d expect a small-budgeted sci-fi production to be), but the pros don’t outweigh the cons in this case. It’s simply too empty and generic to be elevated by anything else. 

Genre: Science Fiction

Actor: Andrew Liner, Garret Dillahunt, Jessica Frances Dukes, Mia Isaac

Director: Meko Winbush

Rating: PG-13

Ambitious and sincere, Where the Tracks End is a sweet coming of age centered on a tender community and mutual aid in the face of worker exploitation. Alternating between the young son of a traveling worker adjusting to a new town and an inspector tasked with informing small schools of an initiative that will force their doors closed, the film loses the chance to be impactful with either. This love letter to teaching and the importance of education is admirable as it holds together the community element of the script. Although the impact goes off-track due to its lack of commitment to one solid narrative, the heart behind it (and the children's innocent will to live a better life) shines through every so often.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family

Actor: Adriana Barraza, Blanca Guerra, Clementina Guadarrama, Fátima Molina, Gabriela Cartol, Guillermo Villegas, Jero Medina, Leonardo Alonso, Tete Espinoza

Director: Ernesto Contreras

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, Laila Barwick, Laurel Marsden, Marc Velasco, 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

Built on promising ideas revolving around toxic relationships, exploitation of Black bodies, and a fading African heritage, Jagged Mind comes up with reasonably diverting genre thrills but stops short of taking advantage of the rich material it has at its fingertips. In getting caught up with its own premise, the film isn't able to craft a compelling enough journey for its protagonist to break free of the cycles she finds herself in. As a result, it becomes something that's fun to watch in the moment—thanks to some playful, misleading editing and a solid lead performance by Maisie Richardson-Sellers—but not something that leaves a lasting impression or makes a full, compelling statement.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Casey Ford Alexander, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Kate Szekely, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Rosaline Elbay, Shannon Woodward, Shein Mompremier

Director: Kelley Kali

Rating: R