14 Movies Like Champions (2023)

Staff & contributors

Chasing the feel of watching Champions ? Here are the movies we recommend you watch right after.

Champions is as formulaic as it gets, but it’s impossible not to smile watching it. It’s based on a 2018 Spanish movie of the same name, but it feels a lot like the 2023 Korean movie Dream too. In both (and indeed a lot of other) films, we follow a sad sack antihero who, by virtue of being exposed to less fortunate people, is magically transformed into a good guy who gets all the glory he wished for by the end of the story. You know where it’s headed and you even know how it gets there, so it’s devoid of genuine twists and thrills. But the ways in which it gets there, however familiar, are sometimes funny and heartwarming. If you can stomach the cheesiness and predictability of it all, then Champions comes as an effectively hopeful and feel-good film that’s worth tuning into if you want a light laugh. Otherwise, it's all familiar fluff you can skip for better fare.

Kill Bill meets Bend It Like Beckham in this wild ride about a martial arts-obsessed British-Pakistani teenager who views her older sister’s impending marriage as a catastrophe to be averted at all costs. Aspiring stuntwoman Ria (Priya Kansara) can’t stomach the idea of free-spirited Lena (Ritu Arya) giving up on her creative dreams to marry a nauseatingly perfect man — not least because art school dropout Lena is her hero for refusing to conform to their community’s traditional ideas about respectability and success.

Polite Society makes room to sensitively explore Ria’s disappointment and the loneliness of rebellion, but writer-director Nida Manzoor doesn’t stop there, throwing in a sharp allegory disguised as a zany twist. Rather than upending our expectations for upending’s sake, the surprise metaphor refigures the movie as perceptive cultural commentary on the age-old devaluation of women as mere vessels for the next generation. What’s more, Manzoor takes the analogy full circle to thoughtfully imagine how this kind of dehumanizing misogyny might have affected previous generations, suggesting that the real villains lie offscreen. Movies as inventive and intelligent as this don’t come around often, but one that’s this funny, visually bold, unabashedly feminist, and full of stars-in-the-making is rarer still.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Actor: Akshay Khanna, Ella Bruccoleri, Eunice Huthart, James McNicholas, Jeff Mirza, Jenny Funnell, Nimra Bucha, Priya Kansara, Rekha John-Cheriyan, Renu Brindle, Ritu Arya, Seraphina Beh, Shobu Kapoor

Director: Nida Manzoor

The agonizing tug of war between dogma and desire is sharply illustrated in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut, set inside the claustrophobic confines of a conservative Christian community in Kentucky. Seventeen-year-old Jem (Eliza Scanlen) is at the age her elders believe is the right time to start thinking about a lifelong partner — a choice they’ve pretty much already made for her by setting her up with the pastor’s youngest son. But it's his brooding older brother, married youth leader Owen (Lewis Pullman), who catches Jem’s eye.

The attraction is returned — but, while The Starling Girl does subtly indicate the toxicity of their relationship, it never lets this point eclipse either the more interesting coming-of-age story at its heart or its keen exploration of the wholesale damage that the cult-like church has done to all of its congregants (including Owen). While some of those threads threaten to distract the film’s focus away from its greatest strengths at times, the anguish of that central tussle between Jem's burgeoning sexuality and her otherwise rigidly controlled existence is brought to aching life by sensitive writing and direction and a brilliantly complex lead performance — qualities that ultimately win out to let The Starling Girl fly.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Abrams, Claire Elizabeth Green, Eliza Scanlen, Jessamine Burgum, Jimmi Simpson, K.J. Baker, Kieran Sitawi, Kyle Secor, Lewis Pullman, Wrenn Schmidt

Director: Laurel Parmet

, 2023

Who knew that behind the puzzle Tetris lies a political thriller of a backstory that is just as fun and challenging as the game itself? Tetris, the film, is a playful telling of the game behind the game, a surprising account of the otherwise unbelievable events that had to happen in making Tetris available to the masses. 

Between the 8-bit editing, the immensely likable lead, and the cat-and-mouse chase between heroes and villains, there is much to like about the movie. You put it on out of curiosity (how the hell does a brick game have this much back story?) but you stay for the intrigue, the playfulness, and the irresistible urge to see who wins the race.

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Vodovoz, Anna Lavrentyeva, Anthony Boyle, Ayane Nagabuchi, Ayano Yamamoto, Ben Miles, Bhav Joshi, Christine Koudreiko, Dmitriy Sharakois, Greg Kolpakchi, Ieva Andrejevaitė, Igor Grabuzov, Irina Kara, Jenni Keenan-Green, Kanon Narumi, Karin Nurumi, Katarzyna Sanak, Ken Yamamura, Len Blavatnik, Mara Huf, Mark Khismatullin, Matthew Marsh, Miles Barrow, Moyo Akandé, Natalia Gonchar, Niino Furuhata, Nikita Efremov, Nino Furuhata, Oleg Shtefanko, Peter Burlakov, Rick Yune, Rob Locke, Roger Allam, Sergii Levchenko, Sofia Lebedeva, Taron Egerton, Timur Kassimikulov, Toby Jones, Togo Igawa, Zane Mihailova

Director: Jon S. Baird

Rye Lane knows it’s treading familiar ground by having its charming leads fall in love as they walk and talk their way through a beautiful city. So instead of experimenting on a tried-and-tested setup, it smartly focuses on specificity. It hones in on the characters’ Gen Z woes and cranks up the British references, giving itself character and charm for days. It also finds other ways to be inventive as it trades plot twists for bold editing and camerawork. Rye Lane is a refreshing entry into romcom cinema, but it is also obviously a big fan of it as it holds plenty of homages and subversions of the genre. This one is made for and by romcom fans, and it's always nice to see a modern love story set during our times.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Hewkin, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Cain Aiden, Charlotte Melia, Colin Firth, David Jonsson, Delroy Brown, Esme Molly, Gary Beadle, George Taylor, Karene Peter, Levi Roots, Llewella Gideon, Malcolm Atobrah, Marva Alexander, Michael Dapaah, Munya Chawawa, Omari Douglas, Poppy Allen-Quarmby, Raine Allen-Miller, Sandra Daley, Simon Manyonda, Vivian Oparah, Yasmin Al-Khudhairi

Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Rating: R

Funny, refreshing, and heartwarming, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah gives the seminal girlhood film Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. a Gen Z update. Stacy and her friends are constantly on social media and watch each other for potentially politically incorrect terms, but they also struggle with period pain, crushes, and falling out with former friends. It’s a confusing time in a kid’s life, and  You Are So Not Invited, like Are You There God? before it, honors that. It never condescends, never strays far from the child’s perspective. It’s jubilant and heartwarming, and (to me at least) it’s always fun to see real-life families play themselves in movies. Judd Apatow experimented with this structure in his semi-autobiographical films Knocked Up and This Is 40, which first gave us a glimpse into his daughter Maude Apatow’s acting prowess. I feel You Are So Not Invited will do the same to its young star Sunny Sandler, whose effortlessly funny and charming performance will surely carve a path for a promising career in the future.  

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Sandler, Allison McKay, Beth Hall, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Bunny Levine, Dan Bulla, Dean Scott Vazquez, Dylan Chloe Dash, Dylan Hoffman, Idina Menzel, Ido Mosseri, Jackie Hoffman, Jackie Sandler, Jean Edwards, Joseph Vecsey, Luis Guzman, Michael Buscemi, Miya Cech, Nigel Downer, Oscar Chark, Sadie Sandler, Samantha Lorraine, Sarah Sherman, Sunny Sandler

Director: Sammi Cohen

Rating: PG-13

In Baby J, SNL-writer-turned-stand-up-star John Mulaney brutally embraces his messy past and turns it into relatable material and hilarious anecdotes. Confronting his controversial stint at rehab, his struggle with addiction, and his experiences with fatherhood and the resulting reinvention, Mulaney proves himself to be a compelling storyteller, a master at set-ups and pay-offs. He grabs your attention from start to end, with no time to let your mind wander. Before you know it, it’s been an hour of you watching and laughing at this tiny man commanding a sold-out hall. 

There are many Netflix comedy specials out there, but only a handful are as purely enthralling and unskippable as this.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: John Mulaney

Director: Alex Timbers

, 2023

More shooting and spectacle than story, Sisu is a stunningly shot and unapologetically gory action film set at the tail end of World War II in Finland. It follows former commando turned prospector Aatami (nicknamed "Koschei" or immortal by the Russians) as he retrieves his stolen gold from the Nazis who've occupied and pillaged the nearby town.  

Not much happens in the way of plot, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in action, which easily matches the likes of John Wick. In fact, Aatami is a kind of John Wick with his undefeatable killer moves and trusty dog pal—a reprieve of cute in a sea of endless carnage. But in the long list of grindhouse movies, Sisu distinguishes itself as astutely patriotic. Of course, it's hard not to root for anyone going against Nazis, but Sisu compels you to its side in subtle but powerful ways. 

You'll be reminded of John Wick, Mad Max, and many a Tarantino film watching Sisu, but you'll be struck by the film's singular hero, a stand-in for a nation unwilling to give up in the face of oppression. 

Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, War

Actor: Aamu Milonoff, Aksel Hennie, Arttu Kapulainen, Elina Saarela, Ilkka Koivula, Jack Doolan, Joel Hirvonen, Jorma Tommila, Max Ovaska, Mila Leppälä, Mimosa Willamo, Onni Tommila, Pekka Huotari, Severi Saarinen, Tatu Sinisalo, Vincent Willestrand, Wilhelm Enckell

Director: Jalmari Helander

Rating: R

, 2023

Inside is a technical wonder and a fascinating vehicle for Dafoe’s character Nemo, who holds the entire thing together with a singularly insane performance. It also poses interesting questions about art, namely, what value does it hold at the end of the day? When you’re seconds away from dying of hunger and thirst, what good is a painting, a sculpture, a sketch? Are they really only as good as what they’re materially made out of or can they contribute something more? Inside plays with these questions, but unfortunately, not in any engaging, thoughtful, or creative way. The movie stretches on and on, recycling the same ideas and leaning on the inevitably disgusting ways humans survive as a crutch. An argument could be made that that is the point, to reveal the emptiness and dullness of expensive art, but Inside tries so hard to capture that feeling that it becomes the thing it critiques in the end.  

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Andrew Blumenthal, Cornelia Buch, Eliza Stuyck, Gene Bervoets, Josia Krug, Vincent Eaton, Willem Dafoe

Director: Vasilis Katsoupis

Rating: R

If you’ve ever been puzzled by “Greek life”, this documentary will go some way to demystifying that somewhat baffling phenomenon of American college culture. Bama Rush follows four hopefuls as they “rush” the University of Alabama’s sororities, a TikTok-viral weeklong recruitment process so cutthroat some candidates spend months preparing for it. The documentary digs deep into why these young women put so much time, energy, and money into joining what the film hints is a largely unforgiving and reductive element of campus life. What it finds is pretty affecting: they’re really just looking for acceptance and belonging.

Threaded throughout are director Rachel Fleit’s reflections on her own history with those motivations, having grown up with alopecia. Though it does illustrate that rushing isn’t so dissimilar from other quests for acceptance, this parallel is sometimes clunkily drawn — and can seem somewhat self-indulgent in places, given the documentary’s comparatively surface-level exploration of more systemic issues. A late development shifts Bama Rush into an even deeper self-reflexive mode, as the film itself becomes a contentious issue in the process it’s documenting. Despite its flaws, turns like this — and its participants’ extraordinary candor — help make Bama Rush an often illuminating look into an opaque world. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Rachel Fleit

 As glad as I am to see a film celebrating the complex joys of interracial love and debunking the stigma of arranged marriages, I can’t help but wonder how and why a film about love got to be so dry and passionless. Is dating really this painfully awkward? Is marriage really this burdensome? Realistically, yes, but when you’re trying to make a point about true love supposedly trumping it all, including cultural differences and age-old traditions, then you should at least make it seem like the winner. The movie tries to have its cake and eat it too by serving us heaps of realism and fantasy on one plate, failing to understand that you only have to pick one to be palatable. “Love Contractually” is the title of Zoe’s documentary, but it’s also the name this movie should’ve gone with, seeing as how everyone acts like they’re obligated to be here. 

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Alexander Owen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Asim Chaudhry, Ben Ashenden, Emma Thompson, Haqi Ali, Jamal Andreas, Jeff Mirza, Lily James, Michael Marcus, Mim Shaikh, Munir Khairdin, Nikkita Chadha, Nosheen Phoenix, Oliver Chris, Peter Sandys-Clarke, Ravi Aujla, Sajal Ali, Shabana Azmi, Shaheen Khan, Shazad Latif, Sindhu Vee, Taj Atwal, Wasim Zakir

Director: Shekhar Kapur

Rating: PG-13

This biopic of the little-known Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the world’s first prominent Black classical composer, opens with a fierce indictment of history’s ignorance of its subject. Even if it’s one example of the movie’s dramatic license-taking, the scene — in which the Chevalier (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) challenges his eminent contemporary Mozart to an onstage musical “duel” and easily bests him — is a dramatically thrilling statement of intent for the movie.

Unfortunately, the rest of its overlong runtime doesn’t quite fulfill the promise of that opener. That’s largely because of the writing, which leaves uber-talented performers like Harrison Jr. with only a limited range of notes to play. What’s more, Chevalier stops short of exploring some of the most fascinating facts of its multihyphenate subject’s life — like the role he played in the French Revolution, commanding the first all-Black regiment in Europe — in favor of hewing to a predictable screenwriting formula that demands a romantic element to the plot, even if the one in question is only thinly backed by actual evidence. Still, while some of Chevalier’s filmmaking choices seem to misjudge what makes its subject so interesting, the key facts of his life — his extraordinary skill at music and fencing, the role racism played in blocking his greatest ambitions — still get enough exposure here to make it an enlightening watch.

Genre: Drama, History, Music

Actor: Alec Newman, Alex Fitzalan, Ben Bradshaw, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Jessica Boone, Jim High, Joseph Prowen, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Lucy Boynton, Marton Csokas, Minnie Driver, Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Sam Barlien, Samara Weaving, Sian Clifford

Director: Stephen Williams

Playing the lead in an addiction drama has long been shorthand for “I’m a serious actor,” but that’s not something Florence Pugh needs to convince us of, especially not when the drama is as contrived as A Good Person is. Though it has a solid foundation from which to explore worthy subjects — Pugh’s character Allison begins abusing painkillers after accidentally causing the death of two people in a car accident —  writer-director Zach Braff overstuffs the film with too many distractingly histrionic happenings for a compelling reflection on guilt and forgiveness to really emerge.

What’s more, any potential A Good Person has is squandered by the film’s frequent and bizarre tonal swerves from tearjerking sincerity to generational comedy, a jarring effect mimicked by the soundtrack’s wild veering from moody melodies to bright piano music in a single cut. Though Pugh does her customary excellent work here, she’s ultimately undermined by all the overlong, transparently manufactured, and downright whiplash-inducing melodrama around her.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alex Wolff, Brian Rojas, Celeste O'Connor, Chinaza Uche, Drew Gehling, Florence Pugh, Ignacio Diaz-Silverio, Jackie Hoffman, Jessie Mueller, Lauren Yaffe, Molly Shannon, Morgan Freeman, Nichelle Hines, Oli Green, Ryann Redmond, Sydney Morton, Toby Onwumere, Victor Cruz, Zoe Lister-Jones

Director: Zach Braff

About My Father is clearly intended to be a cringe comedy a la Meet the Parents (it even features Robert De Niro as another grumpy dad), but it stretches the concept of “funny” so thin that the memory of that scene in which a cat pees on the contents of a smashed urn will feel like dizzying comic heights in comparison. The premise — an Italian-American man struggles to win the acceptance of his WASPish in-laws — might have made sense 100 years ago, but today, it strikes as farfetched. Even without that weak foundation, much of About My Father has a shaky grasp on what makes a movie work. The screenplay feels like the product of crudely stitching together several over-manufactured set-pieces, with the result being an almost total lack of fluidity and characters who often contradict themselves.

The film starts out on its worst foot: star–co-writer Sebastian Maniscalco lays the voiceover on thick, while Sebastian’s brash Sicilian father Salvo (De Niro) is so unceasingly negative that it turns a presence that should be great into one that’s only grating. Though it does find something of a footing as a saccharine family drama in its back half, it’s much too little, too late.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adan James Carrillo, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche, Kim Cattrall, Leslie Bibb, Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco

Director: Laura Terruso

What a waste of a premise, and what a waste of Woodley’s talents. Based on the short story “The Robot Who Looked Like Me” by Robert Sheckley, Robots has some clever things to say about the state of advanced tech and its role in society, but its clumsy, heavyhanded approach fumbles the execution. There’s an awkward and unfinished feel to Robots that doesn’t make anything about it believable—not the technology, not the convoluted story, and certainly not the romance. And except for Woodley, none of the characters seem likable. The male-dominated cast makes constant jokes about fatness and femininity, presumably for the sake of satire, but they end up participating in the very things they’re supposedly calling out. It’s not nearly as smart nor as charming as it thinks it is, and if you’re looking for an alternative, I would recommend the far superior German film I’m Your Man, which accomplishes everything Robots tries to be and more. 

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Barney Burman, Case Matthews, Casey Messer, Charles Grisham, Chelsea Edmundson, David Grant Wright, Emanuela Postacchini, Hank Rogerson, Jack Whitehall, Jackamoe Buzzell, Keith Campbell, Kevin Foster, Leslie Fleming-Mitchell, Nick Rutherford, Paul Jurewicz, Paul Rust, Richard Lippert, Samantha Ashley, Samantha Gonzalez, Shailene Woodley, Tiffany Adams

Director: Anthony Hines, Casper Christensen

Rating: R