10 Underrated Movies of 2023 You Should Watch

Here are some movies that may have slipped your notice in 2023.

Underrated Movies of 2023

December has been an exciting month, since critics have been hard at work voting for the best movies they’ve seen all year. We’ve also been hard at work on our own best movies of 2023 list. However, even though our best movies list has 15 movies in total, there are still plenty of other movies that were pretty great, but have been left behind slightly by the awards buzz.

That’s the intention of this list: to highlight underrated movies that were pretty stunning and deserve their time in the spotlight too. Here are, in alphabetical order, 10 of the most underrated movies of 2023.

 

1. BlackBerry

BlackBerry movie
BlackBerry

Director: Matt Johnson

From the title alone you can guess what this film is about, and what we get is a fascinating dive into the origins of the BlackBerry, which spearheaded the entire momentum behind the modern day cellphone. Director Matt Johnson, who is triple-hatting here, plays hard and loose with the facts a little – as is the case with every film based on a real life story – and crafts a compelling movie about the ebbs and flows of success.

There’s so much humour in the movie itself, which helps paint these tech bros with an added nuance. Films of the 80s and 90s often portrayed men with interest in tech fields as dweebs or losers, a stereotype Johnson’s film ardently steers away from.

With fantastic performances from Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton, BlackBerry is the product film you should watch this year.

 

2. Emily

Emily
Emily

Director: Frances O’Connor

Frances O’Connor’s movie Emily is a fictional creation of the possible romantic reality writer Emily Bronte might have experienced, which would have given her the passionate material she needed to write a book like Wuthering Heights. Emma Mackey is brilliant as Emily. She’s fiery, irreverent, and manages to convey Emily’s sense of isolation so well. She allows us to feel closer to Emily, and see her rich, inner life up close.

Mackey and Oliver Jackson-Cohen are so magnetic together, and portray so well their characters’ feelings of push and pull. O’Connor does so well setting up the tension of the romantic spaces between the pair, where even the untying of a corset can be the most beautiful, luminous thing.

A must-watch for fans of Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

 

3. Fair Play

Fair Play
Fair Play

Director: Chloe Domont

Fair Play is labelled an erotic thriller, which isn’t fairly accurate. Sure, there are erotic elements, but for the most part this plays out as an intriguing drama, as a battle between two lovers unfolds.

When Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) gets the news that she’s just been promoted, her fiancé Luke’s (Alden Ehrenreich) reaction isn’t what she hoped for. Instead of feeling happy for her, he’s furious and accusatory, heaping judgement upon her for stealing his promotion and presumably sleeping her way to the top to get the job. Emily then has to watch the man she fell in love with slip away, replaced with a monster she cannot fathom.

Fair Play is not about a battle between the sexes, it’s about how things are far from fair for women, at the workplace and within romantic relationships.

 

4. How to Blow Up A Pipeline

How to Blow Up a Pipeline
How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Daniel Goldhaber’s film is a heist sort of film, with young people in their early 20s coming together to – as the title suggests – blow up a pipeline. Each young person that becomes part of the plan to blow up a pipeline is due to inciting personal reasons. These stories are told to us through measured flashbacks that take place throughout, giving us insight into these individuals and how they came to be part of the fight.

The film makes it clear that when such escalation tactics are involved, things will get messy. Goldhaber’s film notes that there are other ways to go about dealing with climate change, but are they incendiary enough to incite some measure of difference? Do we grow seeds or blow things up?

It is a thrilling, well-made film, which fleshes out the very real realities we have to contend with now.

 

5. Jules

Jules
Jules

Director: Marc Turtletaub

Every so often, there comes a movie so moving and thoughtful that it just makes you feel life a little differently post-watch. This year that film for me is Jules.

Sir Ben Kingsley plays Milton, a 78 year old man who’s demonstrating early signs of dementia. His life is interrupted when a UFO crashes into his azaleas and an alien enters his life. Despite telling everyone quite blatantly that there’s a UFO is in his backyard, no one believes him because of his prior dementia symptoms.

Soon, other community members like Sandy (Harriet Sansom Harris) and Joyce (Jane Curtin) also get involved in the situation, and they end up calling the alien Jules (Jade Quon).

The movie highlights how we treat the elderly in society, how quickly we dismiss their agency just because we feel we know better, or take advantage of them just because we can. It’s a wonderful movie about the beauty of ageing, and how it’s actually proof of a life well-lived.

 

6. Sanctuary

Sanctuary
Sanctuary

Director: Zachary Wigon

Ever since I watched the TV show Maid on Netflix, I knew immediately what a star Margaret Qualley is. She plays a completely different character here in Rebecca. Rebecca is smart, assertive and loud. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it, well, when she’s role-playing with client Hal (Christopher Abbott) that is. He’s the sub to her dominatrix, and they enact scripts that he creates.

On this particular occasion, Hal has decided that he wants to end their relationship, since the games they play wouldn’t look good for his image when he becomes CEO of his family business. But Rebecca isn’t going to meekly walk away. She wants what she’s owed, even if she has to tear down all their boundaries to do it.

Sanctuary is a fascinating look into true intimacy in relationships, and how the games we play may just actually be truth.

 

7. Sharper

Sharper
Sharper

Director: Benjamin Caron

It’s such a shame that Sharper dropped quietly on Apple TV in February. Not many people talk about it, despite the stellar cast and delicious twists. What we see play out isn’t necessarily what is, and the fun part is trying to decipher the truth at the heart of things.

Tom (Justice Smith) and Sandra (Briana Middleton) meet, and they find themselves connecting over a shared love of books. A friend of Tom’s tells him later that Sandra is basically Tom’s dream girl made flesh. Only she’s not, and Tom learns that when something is too good to be true, it usually is. Tom is devastated, and we’re thrown back to the past to find out how things came to be, before propelled once again to the present to see how things turn out.

Sharper is the kind of film that you can watch through, know all the twists and turns, yet desire to take that trip all over again. That’s when you know it’s achieved what it set out to do.

 

8. Totally Killer

Totally Killer
Totally Killer

Director: Nahnatchka Khan

Years ago, the town that protagonist Jaime (Kiernan Shipka) lives in was plagued by a series of killings. The killer – labelled the Sweet Sixteen Killer – has been dormant for over 35 years, but returns this Halloween and kills her mother Pam (Julie Bowen).

As it turns out, conveniently, best friend Amelia (Kelcey Mawema) has been working on a time machine, allowing Jaime to go back in time to the point of the Sweet Sixteen killings and hopefully stop the killer, which would save her mom in the future.

The problem with these slasher-comedies is that things usually break down in the final act, when the killer is revealed. Totally Killer, however, manages to subvert expectations and brings something different to the table. The movie doesn’t reinvent the slasher comedy genre, but it’s still pretty clever and funny, and deals with time travel in a way that makes sense. It’s a fun time to be had.

 

9. The Lesson

The Lesson
The Lesson

Director: Alice Troughton

Liam Sommers (Daryl McCormack) is an English Lit major who has dreams of being a writer. So when the opportunity comes to be a tutor to his favourite author’s son Bertie (Stephen McMillan), and therefore be in proximity to the man himself, Liam leaps at the opportunity.

The narrative unravels slowly, bringing the viewer gradually into the lives of this family, as Liam’s officially invited to become a live-in tutor in order to provide Bertie with all the support he needs.

The Lesson’s thriller packaging isn’t the most original, and there might be a paperback somewhere out there with a similar premise. However, it’s managed to be something so fresh and new at the same time, and will probably be one of the most fascinating films you see this year.

 

10. The Royal Hotel

The Royal Hotel
The Royal Hotel

Director: Kitty Green

Good friends Hanna (Julie Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) find themselves having to work at a bar called ‘The Royal Hotel’ to make some money. The bar is located in the middle of nowhere, deep in the dusty Australian outback, in a town chock full of coal miners.

The most frightening thing about Kitty Green’s film is how familiar it all is. As Hanna and Liv find themselves at the centre of male attention, they have to walk the precarious balance of entertaining these men, but also be wary enough to detect the potential warning signs to keep themselves out of danger. Much like in her previous movie The Assistant, Green fleshes out the toxic masculinity present in male-dominated spaces, and the very real dangers women have to deal with.

The horror here isn’t supernatural, it’s utterly human, which makes it all the more terrifying.

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