31 Movies Like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

At once intimate and sweeping, A Thousand and One seamlessly weaves Inez's personal turmoil and familial troubles with the systemic inequality that was rampant in '90s New York. The hideous faces of gentrification, poverty, and police brutality are constantly appearing in the film, not merely because they lend weight to the story, but because they are inevitable for people like Inez. People who, despite their best efforts at achieving upward mobility are continually pushed down by self-serving institutions. 

It's easy for social issue dramas like this to buckle under the weight of their lofty goals, but nothing about A Thousand and One feels forced. Just the opposite, the film has an authentic quality to it—almost documentary-like in its precise depiction of Harlem throughout the years. It's deeply personal and achingly tender, and everything else—the social commentary and the political beats—stems from that specificity. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adriane Lenox, Amelia Workman, Aven Courtney, Delissa Reynolds, Jennean Farmer, Josiah Cross, Terri Abney, Teyana Taylor, William Catlett

Director: A.V. Rockwell

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

, 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

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

, 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

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

Freediving is a particularly cinematic sport because it taps into something beyond what the human body is capable of. Skilled divers hold their breath for long enough to reach more than 100 meters deep, and watching footage of that incredible feat is exhilarating, to say the least. The Deepest Breath capitalizes on that very spectacle—being exposed to death and conquering it—and banks on using archival footage of world records and training. It's a smart move, as it keeps the spectator on edge, but it can also be a cruel way to put thrills over ethics. The editing is kept suggestive, but sometimes, shamefully, at the cost of misrepresenting Alessia Zecchini and toying with the viewer's expectations to the point of callousness.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alessia Zecchini, David Attenborough, Natalya Molchanova, Stephen Keenan

Director: Laura McGann

Rating: PG

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, Science Fiction

Actor: Mark Duplass, Sterling K. Brown

Director: Mel Eslyn

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

After more than six years in the making, The Little Mermaid should be a spectacle for the ages, but even the magic of Rob Marshall (Chicago) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) cannot save the live-action remake. The film feels at once too stunted for an actual musical and too expansive to be just another movie. There's something uncanny, too, in how the humans look underwater and inland so that the wetness of the characters (of all things!) becomes a weirdly icky factor. Not to mention Scuttle the diving bird who looks more like a demonic creature than a feathery companion, or the flat disappointment that is Flounder. If that's the price we must pay for reality, we don't want it.

Genre: Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Music, Romance

Actor: Art Malik, Awkwafina, Christopher Fairbank, Craig Stein, Daveed Diggs, Emily Coates, Halle Bailey, Jacob Tremblay, Javier Bardem, Jessica Alexander, Jodi Benson, John Dagleish, Jon-Scott Clark, Jonah Hauer-King, Jude Akuwudike, Kajsa Mohammar, Lorena Andrea, Martina Laird, Melissa McCarthy, Noma Dumezweni, Russell Balogh, Simone Ashley

Director: Rob Marshall

Rating: PG

More streamlined and more technically ambitious than its predecessor, yet even less interested in developing an interesting setting or characters, Extraction 2 takes the most predictable route available for an action sequel. The first film's attempts to center its narrative on the unnecessary loss of life of children is nothing but an inconsequential footnote in this movie—which gestures toward the same ideas but never actually allows its already generic characters to be emotionally affected by anything.

So thank goodness that Extraction 2's action is so frequently fun to watch, proudly wearing its influences from movies like The Raid, and from the most relentless of video game set pieces. There's genuine inspiration behind how creative and how brutal the violence can get here, brought to life by crisp sound design and production design that the characters can constantly interact with. So while all the halfhearted character work doesn't give the action any extra weight, the action on its own is already so dynamic, that every set piece is still worth the wait.

Genre: Action, Thriller

Actor: Adam Bessa, Andro Japaridze, Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bernhardt, Dato Bakhtadze, George Lasha, Golshifteh Farahani, Idris Elba, Irakli Kvirikadze, Justin Howell, Levan Saginashvili, Olga Kurylenko, Patrick Newall, Sam Hargrave, Sinéad Phelps, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Tornike Bziava, Tornike Gogrichiani

Director: Sam Hargrave

Rating: R

After Nimona's long journey to the big screen (involving the shutdown of animation studio Blue Sky, and Disney's resistance to LGTBQ+ themes), the fact that the movie has been completed and allowed to tell its story at all is something to be celebrated. The film itself is pretty standard fare for American children's animation, with a script that spends far too much time on quips, and visuals that don't take advantage of the movie's science-fantasy world. But if you can get beyond its more ordinary aspects, Nimona becomes a surprisingly thorough metaphor of Otherness and queerness—best represented in the title character's shapeshifting abilities, and how people fear and become violent with her before even trying to understand her. It's a film that's sadly become more relevant than ever now, addressing how prejudice is something that's taught and passed down, packaged in an easy, entertaining manner for younger audiences.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Beck Bennett, Chloë Grace Moretz, Cindy Slattery, Eugene Lee Yang, Frances Conroy, Indya Moore, Julio Torres, Karen Ryan, Lorraine Toussaint, ND Stevenson, Nick Bruno, Riz Ahmed, RuPaul, Sarah Sherman, Troy Quane

Director: Nick Bruno, Troy Quane

Rating: PG