12 Best Movies & Shows Released in 2023 On Tubi

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

This taut chamber piece about NSA whistleblower Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name) is based on the FBI’s account of her interrogation one June day in 2017. “Based on” doesn’t quite capture Reality’s exhaustive commitment to the facts, though, because this movie is essentially a dramatic reading of a verbatim transcript of the FBI agents’ recording that day. The only time it breaks with reality is when it reaches a redacted portion of the transcript, at which point characters glitch out of view, leaving us staring into the blank set around them. Otherwise, every cough, false start, and even every off-topic remark is recreated with exacting precision here, lending the film a paradoxically stilted, slightly stagy air. But rather than pull you out of the proceedings, Reality’s palpable artificiality only immerses us into the uneasy tension and surreality that its anxious protagonist must have been feeling that day.

That anxiety is contagious, thanks to the movie’s clinical style and central performance. The camerawork is largely unblinking, moving in uncomfortably close on Reality (Sydney Sweeney) as two FBI agents (Josh Hamilton and Marchánt Davis) subject her to their bizarre hot-cold interrogation, which ranges from seemingly friendly inquiries about her dog to jugular-aimed questions about the allegations against her. Sweeney shoulders all this pressure remarkably well, deftly keeping us as much in the dark as Winner tried to keep the FBI in — which makes not knowing the real story a benefit, rather than a barrier, to watching Reality.

Outside of Sweeney’s commanding performance, Reality feels somewhat limited by its absolute loyalty to the FBI’s transcript, though. Much of the film’s 83-minute runtime is dedicated to recreating the text, which leaves only a few minutes at the end for it to express its own point of view on Winner’s actions. Though these scant moments make for a compelling reframing of the charges against Winner, they feel overshadowed by and separate from the movie’s rigorous devotion to the transcript, which ultimately means Reality can’t quite transcend its status as merely an interesting filmmaking curio.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Allan Anthony Smith, Benny Elledge, Bill Maher, John Way, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis, Sydney Sweeney, Tucker Carlson

Director: Tina Satter

, 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

This Hits Home has an important mission: make the connection between traumatic brain injury and domestic abuse victims more well-known to the public. Every day, wives, girlfriends, and children get their skulls knocked, slammed, and smashed by their abusers, their heads targeted because the injuries are easier to hide and the symptoms of trauma don’t manifest until much later. But despite this prevalent violence, concussions and brain disorders are less associated with domestic abuse than they are in contact sports like wrestling and football. This Hits Home gathers experts and victims alike to change that conversation. It’s a noble effort, but it’s unfortunately masked by weird editing choices that ultimately weaken a strong premise. The film interviews multiple experts in the same field, so it often feels like it’s going in circles instead of propelling forward with new points. In an effort to be comprehensive, it includes commentaries from incidental subjects, which creates a lull that detracts from the main focus. And maybe the biggest fault here is that it relies too much on the survivors’ (admittedly powerful) anecdotes, so much so that it fails to bring any of its own flourishes to the documentary. I appreciate the filmmakers opting to be more straightforward than sensationalist, especially with such a sensitive topic. Still, without its own clear voice and cinematic style, it fails to set itself apart from the many informational videos that are already out there. 

Genre: Documentary

Director: Sydney Scotia

“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

To be fair to this visibly low-budget adaptation of H. G. Wells' seminal science-fiction novel, it doesn't always settle for the cheap way out. Though it still leaves much to be desired in its visual effects, awkward action scenes, and generally unimaginative direction, Fear the Invisible Man makes a valiant effort to deepen its story by placing a strong, unlikely protagonist at its center (played in all seriousness and with admirable resolve by Mhairi Calvey). Since the titular villain isn't actually the star of the show—nor is he made out to be an ever-present threat, like in the modern 2020 adaptation—this version of The Invisible Man is able to circle relatively newer ideas about a woman's "invisible" place in the world, and how she's tempted to go down a path of pride and violence. If only the rest of the film could keep up with the script's ambition.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: David Hayman, Delroy Brown, Emily Haigh, Grahame Fox, Joe Tucker, Marc Danbury, Mark Arnold, Mhairi Calvey, Mike Beckingham, Simon Pengelly, Wayne Gordon

Director: Paul Dudbridge

There is a version of Moon Students that solely focuses on the students of color themselves, victims of racial profiling and injustice, instead of their white teacher and his overbearing white guilt. That would’ve been a slightly better movie to watch, but even then, Moon Students seems broken beyond repair. The film is riddled with technical blunders. The timeframe is confusing, the pacing is off, and the dialogue is unrealistic (and unintentionally funny, because what young person actually says, with full sincerity, “You know what time is it? Party time!”). The actors deserve credit for breathing a bit of life into a limp script, and the cinematography can be nice at times—fuzzy and hazy like an LA dream. But the film’s misguided sense of justice ultimately brings it down.

Genre: Drama

Actor: B.A. Tobin, Cedrick Terrell, Eddie Navarro, Nicholas Heard, Nicholas Thurkettle, Sydney Carvill

Director: Daniel Holland

, 2023

You should know from the get-go that Cocoa is a wild farce that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither should you. The mafia, a wild scientist, and a giant clumsy dog somehow weave themselves into what initially seems to be just a story of two sisters selling pastries and bonding along the way. It goes in for multiple twists and turns, which on paper, sounds like a fun ride, but shoddy production value can only get you so far. After a few chuckles, the poor direction, elementary acting, and stilted editing all catch up on you, and Cocoa soon becomes the kind of movie you have to sit through and endure rather than breeze through. It’s great to put on if you have undiscerning kids around, but otherwise, this TV movie just doesn’t cut it. 

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Cedric Gegel, Jody Mortara, Megan McGarvey, Siena D'Addario, Tony Cucci

Director: Jody Mortara, Joe Gawalis

After his brother's gruesome death at the infamous drug den, Trap House, Detective Grant Pierce is removed from the case to find its creator. He goes rogue and recruits a teenage drug dealer working for the Trap House with a plan to infiltrate. Whatever the film lacks in intrigue is not compensated by good writing or interesting traps/scares/twists that would befit its horror categorization. Even expectations to match its counterparts in the escape room genre are quickly lowered thanks to uninventive traps and shallow characters whose deaths weigh nothing in the grand scheme of the plot. The potential of a trap house horror/thriller to comment on addiction, race, poverty, or anything substantial outside of "crackheads are crazy" is ultimately wasted. Instead, there's stilted dialogue, caricatures of drug addicts, and a narrative that is hard to sit through, much less enjoy. 

 

Genre: Crime, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Anthony Timpano, Benjamin Wilkinson, Bruce Crawford, Fletcher Donovan, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Jaime M. Callica, Jason Tremblay, Peter Bundic, Ryan Mah

Director: Nicholas Humphries

I appreciate what Famous, the movie, tries to do with its small budget. To portray the wealthy and luxurious life Famous, the character, supposedly leads, the movie opts for clean minimalist designs and tasteful close-ups that don’t betray the scruffy studio it’s actually set in. And the music, produced by Friyie, provides a nice ambiance to Famous and Wayne’s fraught relationship. But those are the only good things you could say about this film; everything else is a flat-out mess. The story feels limp, the acting forced, the dialogue loaded with exposition, and the overall execution clunky. Also, tell me why doesn’t Famous rap even once in a movie centered around him? We’re constantly told that Famous is a celebrated rapper, but not once are we made privy to his skills. What was the reason? This choice, like pretty much everything about the movie, is just baffling.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Brendan Jeffers, Farid Yazdani, Jas Dhanda, Lovina Yavari, Patrick Kwok-Choon

Director: Martha McGrath

Despite a solid premise that should lead to compelling drama—about men scarred by war and the morally grey inner workings of the police—Confidential Informant devolves into a half-baked thriller that's as dull as its title. Flat direction, a lack of connective tissue between scenes, and an unfortunately visible lack of production resources suck the life out of the script and from the actors' performances. There's clearly a foundation to be built upon here, but the film makes a crucial mistake in trying to have its cake and eat it too: it wants to deliver all the (unsatisfying) thrills of an antihero police procedural, but it just doesn't have the money or the creativity to do this, on top of being a character drama. And so any tension that it tries to build up deflates by the end, its characters nothing but hollow shells, stuck in a story that that never gives them a chance to be anything more interesting.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Arielle Raycene, Dominic Purcell, Erik Valdez, Jon Lindstrom, Kate Bosworth, Mel Gibson, Nick Stahl

Director: Michael Oblowitz

Rating: R