125 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2023 On Netflix

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

When reminiscing about the film industry, most period films focus on the big names – the stars, the directors, and the producers that back them – as they’re more likely to have plenty of source material. Once Upon a Star is interested in the little people, the small town distributors that bring the movie magic to the locals. Centered on a cinema projection troupe, the film celebrates the old way of distribution, who, unlike today’s streaming, travel from place to place to set up outdoor cinemas with live dubbing. And through each projection of classic Thai masterpieces, the connection they have with each other, between both the troupe and the audience, recalls the intimate nostalgia of watching a movie together. It’s a unique take from director Nonzee Nimibutr, one that’s a stunning love letter to the film industry he hails from.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jirayu La-ongmani, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Nat Sakdatorn, Nuengthida Sophon, Samart Payakaroon, Sukollawat Kanarot

Director: Nonzee Nimibutr

Art is a hobby for most people, but for musician Jon Batiste and writer Suleika Jaouad, art is part and parcel of this thing called life. Of course, it’s part of their work, and it’s how they make a livelihood, but it’s more than that– it’s almost a spiritual ritual they cling to, especially when Jaouad finds out that her leukemia has returned. American Symphony mainly depicts the creation of said orchestral work, but director Matthew Heineman translates the symphony into cinematic form, culminating in a performance played over the intimate moments between Batiste and Jaouad. It’s not just a documentary of a performance, but a documentary about art, about creation despite life’s pains, perhaps to survive life’s pains. It’s a powerful work that makes it easy to believe in art as imperative for life, and vice versa.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Jon Batiste, Suleika Jaouad

Director: Matthew Heineman

Rating: PG-13

David Fincher's return to form almost ten years after Gone Girl turns the eponymous French graphic novel series into a stone-cold stunner. The Killer can be described as a crime thriller and a neo noir, but it's perfectly Fincherian in the ways it withholds information from the viewer, building up suspense in a masterful rhythm. The film opens on the inside of a construction site—a WeWork office to-be—where our Killer stalks his pray across the street. A rather static beginning, where nothing much happens: one may question the thriller qualities of the film during its first act for similar reasons, but just give it time; that's exactly what The Killer would say. But little does he know that time is something he doesn't have much of...

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Actor: Arliss Howard, Bernard Bygott, Brandon Morales, Charles Parnell, Daran Norris, Emiliano Pernia, Endre Hules, Erik Hellman, Gabriel Polanco, Jack Kesy, Julia Rowley, Kellan Rhude, Kerry O'Malley, Michael Fassbender, Monique Ganderton, Nikki Dixon, Sala Baker, Sophie Charlotte, Tilda Swinton

Director: David Fincher

Rating: R

, 2023

Just based off its title, Mutt is already a film that tackles a state of in-between, and perhaps what makes it already precious is how honest and personal it can get, while remaining a good fictional story. This striking debut took Chilean-Serbian filmmaker Vuk Lungulov-Klotz more than six years to make, at least from the initial stages of the script as he was working through his own transition, how that felt and how he dealt with it in life and art. That said, Mutt is a film that stands on its own feet, without the need for any such context: the script, the performances, the frantic pacing of it, they are all top-level stuff. A generous, open film that has its trans protagonist be who they are, whatever that may be, and gives as much insight as it allows for curiosity and empathy. If Mutt is educational in any way, it is through it's apt storytelling and truthfulness that bleeds through the screen; its significance for trans cinema cannot be overstated, but it is also once of the most accomplished debuts of 2023.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Cole Doman, Jari Jones, Jasai Chase-Owens, Lio Mehiel, MiMi Ryder

Director: Vuk Lungulov-Klotz

Rating: NR

Third World Romance is what it says in the tin– it’s a love story that blooms in the rundown side of the capital of a developing country. The plot is familiar, especially for people familiar with Filipino rom coms, but writer-director Dwein Baltazar approaches this with a grounded approach. With fancy dinner dates substituted with shared packed rice meals and emotional apologies interrupted by their shifts in the grocery, Bree and Alvin carve out a love that still feels passionate, perhaps made even more so, as they navigate a city where they are disenfranchised. Charlie Dizon and Carlo Aquino’s excellent performances keep their characters’ struggles real, but also make their love feel joyful in spite of that.

Genre: Romance

Actor: Ana Abad-Santos, Archie Adamos, Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Donna Cariaga, Gardo Versoza, Iyah Mina, Jun Jun Quintana

Director: Dwein Ruedas Baltazar

Many comedians use humor as a way to ease into more serious subject matter, though there always exists a risk that a comedy special can skew too far down the silly or the self-reflective route. Mike Birbiglia has come about as close to the perfect balance as possible, in this recording of his one-man Broadway show at the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Key to this is the fact that Birbiglia tells one very cohesive story throughout these 77 minutes, frequently branching off to other humorous anecdotes but always returning with a pensive self-consciousness to the real possibility of him dying sooner than he'd want.

This filmed version of Birbiglia's show doesn't give a full idea of its multimedia qualities (Birbiglia occasionally has words and images projected onto the curved screen behind him, which he also physically interacts with), but the comedian's sincere style of storytelling more than makes up for the lack of audiovisual tricks we're permitted to see. And don't get it confused: this is a very funny stand-up special, whose jokes always come from the most unexpected places—it also just happens to contain some truly moving moments that come out of nowhere, but make total sense alongside all the laughter.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Mike Birbiglia

Director: Seth Barrish

Rating: PG-13

You don’t need to know a lot about baseball to appreciate The Saint of Second Chances. It has enough going on to keep you hooked from start to end, beginning with Jeff Daniels’ inimitable voice as the narrator and Charlie Day’s inspired casting as the younger Veeck, all the way down to the Veecks’ fascinating ties with American sports history and Mike’s inspiring and heartwarming second-chance philosophy. It all gets a bit too much at times, as if the filmmakers themselves were overwhelmed with their abundant material and creative decisions, but it’s executed with so much care and love that it seems as if this is the only way it could’ve come out: a wonderful mess. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnes Albright, Bill Veeck, Charley Rossman, Charlie Day, Gary Private, Howard M. Lockie, Jeff Daniels, Joel Spence, Kalup Allen, Lamar Johnson, Oscar Jordan, Stewart Skelton, Tom Billett, Tony LaRussa

Director: Jeff Malmberg, Morgan Neville

Rating: PG-13

There’s no easy way to talk about racism – it’s a nebulous set of ideas that shift and change and manifests in numerous ways that many people can’t even identify as racism because of how prevalent it is. But Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has been able to write down a fairly comprehensive narrative that outlines key historical moments that shaped the world’s concept of race and Blackness, and this narrative is brought to the screen through vivid animations and strategic sequencing by director Roger Ross Williams in new Netflix release Stamped from the Beginning. It’s a provocative, passionate investigation, and it’s one that should be required viewing.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alexa Rachelle Jennings, Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Ibram X. Kendi, Julian Joseph, Rafa Marinho

Director: Roger Ross Williams

Rating: R

Frybread Face and Me is a little indie gem: though rough around the edges, it’s full of charm and heart. Drawn from its director's own childhood experiences, the movie charts a formative moment in the life of Benny, a city boy of Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo heritage who’s carted off to his grandmother’s ranch on a Navajo reservation for a summer. It's suffused with all the specificity of real memories in a way that never distances us from it, only enfolding us closer into its nostalgic embrace. That effect largely comes from the tender bonds between Benny and his cousin Dawn (unsympathetically nicknamed Frybread Face and played by newcomer Charley Hogan), who acts as translator between him and their non-English-speaking grandmother (Sarah H. Natani, also a non-professional actor). Though he’s constantly berated by male family members for not being “masculine” enough, Benny finds unconditional acceptance from his grandmother and misfit camaraderie with Frybread, who also gives the film a dry comedic edge — a welcome touch in a usually saccharine genre. Ultimately, though, it’s the movie’s soft sweetness and intimate depths that are most distinctive: it’s so gently told, and with such genuine feeling behind it, that it’s impossible not to be swept away by its charms.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Charley Hogan, Jeremiah Bitsui, Kahara Hodges, Keir Tallman, Leilani Taliaferro, Martin Sensmeier, MorningStar Angeline, Nasheen Sleuth, Sarah H. Natani

Director: Billy Luther

Rating: R

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, Felix Moati, Isabelle Adjani, Manon Bresch, Mélanie Laurent, Philippe Katerine

Director: Mélanie Laurent

Rating: R

I love when a misunderstood woman reclaims her narrative with her own words, and that’s exactly what Pamela: A Love Story is too, a tell-all documentary told by Pamela Anderson herself.

The documentary bares it all—the scandalous sex tape, Anderson’s troubled past, the disgusting misogyny that continues to tarnish her career. She even touches on the Hulu miniseries made about her demise (which Netflix must feel so smug about). But this isn’t a pity party. Just the opposite, the documentary is a testament to resilience. “My life is not a woe-is-me story,” Anderson says at one point, and truly, this is an inspiring and humanizing story about a woman taking charge of her own life. An absolute must-see.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Barry Anderson, Brandon Thomas Lee, David Hasselhoff, David Hogan, David Letterman, Douglas Schwartz, Jimmy Kimmel, Julian Assange, Kelly Slater, Michael Berk, Pamela Anderson, Ruby Wax, Tommy Lee, Tony Curtis, Vivienne Westwood

Director: Ryan White

Rating: TV-MA

Being an awkward comic is a very difficult trick to pull off; even self-deprecating humor and long, quiet beats in between jokes can't just be used over and over. But while Ralph Barbosa's incredibly chilled-out personality might not be for people who like their comedians loud and animated, his matter-of-fact punchlines and willingness to make himself sound like a bit of a wimp work like a charm. Cowabunga doesn't touch on any hot-button topics, but it doesn't have to. Throughout this hour-long special, Barbosa gives us a strong, frequently very funny view from the point of view of a guy who doesn't want any trouble, but feels no pressure just being himself—a relatable dude if ever there was one.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Ralph Barbosa

Director: Eric Adams

After years of documentaries covering Thailand’s controversial issues, some of which have been temporarily banned by the Ministry of Culture, Nontawat Numbenchapol takes a step into feature film in Doi Boy. The plot covers plenty of the topics he’s previously depicted– immigration, prostitution, and corruption– but it unfolds naturally into a slow-paced, but moving drama where an undocumented sex worker tries to find home. Awat Ratanapintha as Sorn excellently leads this journey, but Arak Amornsupasiri as reluctant cop Ji, and Bhumibhat Thavornsiri as passionate activist Wuth also make their mark. While the film doesn’t delve into the intricate intersectionality, it feels like that’s part of the point. The notion of a nation doesn’t care about people’s dreams, even if that dream is for the nation to be better.

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Arak Amornsupasiri, Awat Ratanapintha, Bhumibhat Thavornsiri, Ornjira Lamwilai, Panisara Rikulsurakan

Director: Nontawat Numbenchapol

Given a budget from Netflix to make a documentary on Korean film, some would have chosen instead to make one for big Korean filmmaking personalities like Academy Award winner Bong Joon-ho, who is featured here. However, director Lee Hyuk-rae instead creates Yellow Door, a love letter to the ‘90s film club that inspired a generation. The warm way each member tries to remember the club made decades ago, and the handy, almost cheeky, animations makes it feel like we’re there in the club with them, just listening to friends reminisce about the way they obsessed about film, even if it wasn’t the major they were studying in. It’s so nostalgic and sentimental, and in shifting its focus, it celebrates the lovely experience of finding a community of like-minded people that’s just obsessed with film as you are.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ahn Nae-sang, Bong Joon-ho, Choi Jong-tae, Kim Hye-ja, Kim Hyung-oak, Lee Hyuk-rae, Woo Hyeon

Director: Lee Hyuk-rae

Rating: PG-13

, 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