5 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2023 On Rokuchannel

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

Abel Ferrara's protagonists have always searched for higher meaning in a flawed, messed-up world of pain and violence. If 1992's Bad Lieutenant took Harvey Keitel to church for one of American indie cinema's most spectacular endings, Padre Pio doesn't offer such solace. Ferrara (who's been living and working in Rome for years now) teamed up with Italian screenwriter Maurizio Braucci to direct a period piece that brings together the real life of a Catholic Church saint (the titular Padre Pio) and the rise of socialism after WWI. What seems like a straightforward historical approach turns first gruesome and then profound to capture the contradictions at the heart of Italy as a nation. A character study that breaks free of its biographical chains, Padre Pio shows that Ferrara has still got it, 50 films in. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Asia Argento, Brando Pacitto, Cristina Chiriac, Ignazio Oliva, Luca Lionello, Marco Leonardi, Martina Gatti, Roberta Mattei, Salvatore Ruocco, Shia LaBeouf, Vincenzo Crea

Director: Abel Ferrara

Rating: R

Sophia Castuera's first feature after two indie shorts seems like a low-key affair, but it fits neatly into a canon of post-mumblecore, or a Gen Z mumblecore. It features a fumbling protagonist named Cal and played by Ali Edwards (who also wrote the script), a wanna-be actress fresh out of college who finds herself stuck between two people. Not just any people, but her childhood best friend Jay and his long-term girlfriend Emily. August at Twenty Two queers the love triangle trope and makes the most of the characters' anxieties, their hopes, and awkward daily sacrifices to climb up into each other's good books. Appearances are key, of course, since everyone's delightfully immature. The good thing is that the film knows all this very well and even sneaks a post-ironic hint or two. That said, its self-assurance is also its Achilles heel: you cannot convince me that twenty two year olds would call each other often enough to have voicemail. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ali Edwards, Clay Singer, Jorge Felipe Guevara, Lilli Kay, Mia Rose Kavensky

Director: Sophia Castuera

, 2023

The Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, so it can understandably be difficult to create a nuanced and accurate depiction. Jacir is an earnest attempt at this. Keeping it on the more personal side, the film focuses on the journey of one Syrian refugee as he gets to know members of his neighborhood, like his black co-worker Jerome and his opioid-addicted neighbor Meryl. Though occasionally bogged down by clunky dialogue, their struggles genuinely outline the same struggles faced by communities failed by their institutions. It’s only through banding together as a community that Jacir and his friends can survive.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Jonathan Stoddard, Lorraine Bracco, Luke Barnett, Mark Jeffrey Miller, Rosalyn R. Ross

Director: Waheed AlQawasmi

“There is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” a famous socialist belief goes, but like many activists, Jo is trying to curb that. She marries her two conflicting passions, coffee and the environment, by establishing a vegan cafe that only serves plant-based drinks. If a customer so much as mentions dairy, they're humiliated before being kicked out of the place. It’s both impressively assertive and gratingly obnoxious, which is something you could also say about the tone the entire film strikes. It’s well-meaning in its attempt to shed light on the ongoing climate crisis, but rather tone-deaf in trying to place the blame on everyday consumers rather than large-scale corporations. The editing choices, while meant to be cheeky, also go overboard with the cuts and colors, making it more annoying than anything else. Which is a shame, because apart from a noble cause, Coffee Wars also has a funny script and engaging performances going for it. It also gives us an insightful look into the highly competitive coffee tournaments being staged around the world. If only Coffee Wars let things brew for longer, maybe removed some elements and expanded others—specifically, dwell more on the contradiction of wanting to change a system while participating in it—then it would’ve been even more enjoyable and educational than it is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Freddie Fox, Hugh Dennis, Jenny Rainsford, Jordan Stephens, Kate Nash, Lydia West, María Conchita Alonso, Owain Arthur, Ray Fearon, Rosie Cavaliero, Sally Phillips, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Tobias Forrest, Toby Sebastian

Director: Randall Miller

The suggestion that life gets better if only you stand up for yourself is a helpful one. After all, self-confidence is something young kids could use a lot more of. But it’s also not true, and for Sid to instantly get his dream life once he starts applying himself just doesn’t ring true. Things unfold a little too smoothly and conveniently in this movie, making it less of an actual coming-of-age journey (which is complicated and messy) and more of a young boy’s simpleminded fantasy (that is, idealistic and egotistic). I just don’t buy that Sid, a kid who has been shy and avoidant all his life, gains all the wisdom, courage, and charisma of a hero overnight. And it certainly doesn’t help that everyone in his high school looks like they’ve long graduated from college. Ultimately, Sid is Dead lacks the authenticity to stand out from the wealth of excellent teen dramas we’ve been spoiled with in recent years. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Anjelica Bette Fellini, Aubrey Cleland, Audrey Whitby, Belissa Escobedo, Carla Gallo, Denisea Wilson, Eileen Galindo, Genevieve Hannelius, Helen Hong, Jack Griffo, Joey Bragg, Luke Massy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Suraj Partha, Tyler Alvarez

Director: Eli Gonda