3 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2023 On Criterionchannel

Staff & contributors
Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 2023. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Director: Maryam Touzani

Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe gave us the free-flowing fandom doc The People vs. George Lucas in 2010 and hasn't stopped obsessing over his favorite filmmakers ever since. Can you blame him? Dedicating years of your life to research of the the weird Lynch-verse is a mammoth task, especially since the kernel of his new doc can be found in a single line uttered by the director. At a Q&A in 2001, he said:"There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about The Wizard of Oz," and that was reason enough to conceive of the 1939 Technicolor film as a lens to read Lynch's whole filmography through. Philippe is dedicated beyond measure, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage for the whimsical exploration of such a fascinating body of work deserves complete devotion. Perhaps even bordering on obsession. A wildcard documentary for the Lynchheads, Lynch/Oz includes not only excerpts from shorts, features, and TV he made, but also clips from various appearances. Plus, the six chapters feature different filmmakers and critics who imbue the film with their own interpretation of the enigma that Lynchian cinema is.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Aaron Moorhead, Amy Nicholson, David Lowery, David Lynch, Jack Paar, Jay Leno, John Waters, Judy Garland, Justin Benson, Karyn Kusama, Rodney Ascher

Director: Alexandre O. Philippe

, 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: Drama, Romance

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

Director: Christian Petzold

Rating: NR