12 Movies Like Freelance (2023)

Staff & contributors

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you'd be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne's other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne's gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren't forced to "solve" their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film's 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It's understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other's pain. It's the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner, Carrie Preston, Carter Shimp, Cole Tristan Murphy, Colleen Clinton, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Dakota Lustick, Dan Aid, Darby Lee-Stack, David J. Curtis, Dominic Sessa, Dustin Tucker, Gillian Vigman, Ian Dolley, Ian Lyons, Jim Kaplan, Joe Howell, Jonathan von Mering, Kelly AuCoin, Kevin Daigneault, Kevin Fennessy, Melissa McMeekin, Michael Malvesti, Michael Provost, Naheem Garcia, Oscar Wahlberg, Osmani Rodriguez, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Paul Giamatti, Rena Maliszewski, Stephen Thorne, Tate Donovan

Director: Alexander Payne

Rating: R

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Erica Cho, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie, Josh Drennen, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Mahershala Ali, Myha'la, Myha'la Herrold, Orli Gottesman, Sam Esmail, Vanessa Aspillaga

Director: Sam Esmail

Rating: R

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon isn’t a whodunnit; in fact, it’s closer to a who-didn’t-do-it. We know from the very beginning who is responsible for committing the brutal serial murders of wealthy Osage Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma that the film chronicles: pretty much every single one of their white neighbors, spearheaded by William Hale (a skin-crawling Robert De Niro). Scorsese, most often associated with mafia stories, stealthily suggests here that the most dangerous gang of all is the one into which all these perpetrators have been born. That’s an idea he investigates through the confused loyalties of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart, the Judas-like husband of Mollie (movie-stealer Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman who owns lucrative oil headrights that William wants to fatten his own pockets with. This searing epic — based on a harrowing chapter of real American history — is an unsparing and self-implicating look at complicity and greed in the eye, a monumental movie that cements its maker as one of the greatest to ever do it.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Adam Washington, Addie Roanhorse, Alexandria Toineeta, Alexis Ann, Alexis Waller, Barry Corbin, Beau Smith, Ben Hall, Bravery Nowlin, Brendan Fraser, Brent Langdon, Brian Shoop, Bronson Redeagle, Candice Costello, Cara Jade Myers, Carl Palmer, Chance Rush, Charisse Satepauhoodle, Charlie Musselwhite, Chase Parker, Christopher Cote, Clint Rohr, Dana Daylight, Danny Frost, David Born, David Fields, Delani Chambers, DJ Whited, Dolan Wilson, Ed Yellowfish, Elden Henson, Elisha Pratt, Elizabeth Waller, Eric Parkinson, Everett Waller, Gabriel Casdorph, Garrison Panzer, Gary Basaraba, Gene Jones, Gregory Fallis, Harrison Shackelford, J. C. MacKenzie, Jack White, Jackie Wyatt, Jacob Johnson, Jacob Lux, James Carroll, James Healy Jr., JaNae Collins, Jarad Looper, Jason Isbell, Jay Paulson, Jeffrey Stevenson, Jennifer Moses, Jennifer Rader, Jeremy Goodvoice, Jerry Logsdon, Jerry Wolf, Jesse Plemons, Jessica Harjo, Jezy Gray, Jillian Dion, Jo Harvey Allen, Joe Chrest, Joey Oglesby, John Gibbs, John Lithgow, Johnny Baier, Joseph Spinelli, Joshua Close, Julia Lookout, Justin France, Karen Garlitz, Katherine Willis, Kristin Keith, Kyle Dillingham, Larry Fessenden, Larry Jack Dotson, Larry Sellers, Lee Eddy, Leland Prater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Louis Cancelmi, Lucas Ross, Lynette Satepauhoodle, Mahada Sanders, Mamie Cozad, Marc Phaneuf, Margaret Gray, Mark Landon Smith, Mark Lopeman, Marko Costanzo, Martin Scorsese, Mary Buss, Mason Bighorse, Mason Cunningham, Matt Tolentino, Melissa Tiger, Michael Abbott Jr., Mike Cook, Moe Headrick, Moira Redcorn, Nathalie Standingcloud, Nathaniel Arcand, Nicholas White, Nick W. Nicholson, Nokosee Fields, Norma Jean, Norris Bighorse, Pat Healy, Patrick Bubert, Paul Woodiel, Penny Potts, Pete Yorn, Peter Yarin, Randy Houser, Rayna Gellert, Reignen Yellowfish, River Rhoades, Robert De Niro, Ron McMahan, Sam Bardfeld, Samuel French, Samuel Gray, Sarah Spurger, Scott George, Scott Shepherd, Seth Buckminster, Shonagh Smith, Silas Satepauhoodle, Stephen Berkman, Steve Eastin, Steve Routman, Steve Witting, Sturgill Simpson, Tahlee Redcorn, Tanner Brantley, Tantoo Cardinal, Tatanka Means, Ted Welch, Terry Allen, Tom Ashmore, Tommy Schultz, Ty Mitchell, Vann Bighorse, Victor McCay, Vince Giordano, Vinny Raniolo, Wally Welch, Welker White, William Belleau, Xavier Toehay, Zachary Hokeah

Director: Martin Scorsese

Rating: R

South African director John Trengove follows-up his debut The Wound with another take on masculinity, this time set in the States. Manodrome stars Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody as a newbie and a veteran in a support group for men who have been emasculated by women and feminism. That's right, this is a film about incel culture, but one you haven't seen before. In tandem with Taxi Driver, Fight Club, or Joker, Manodrome represents a new era for the incel movie, as it confronts all the terror and aggression feeding into the community head on. Ralphie (Eisenberg) insists that his girlfriend Sal (Odessa Young) keeps their unplanned baby and deep down the rabbit hole he goes. Mental health struggles that have no outlet, worries, disappointment, alienation: all these facets of Ralphie's character come to the fore and bring him to the Manodrome clan, where Dad Dan (Brody) promises two miracles—absolution and acceptance—in exchange for celibacy. Trengove's sophomore feature is a blood-curdling psychological thriller that is not afraid to go to extremes (content warning!) to show that incels are not, in fact, a dorky online minority of youngsters, but a real wound in the body of our patriarchal world.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Wade McLaughlin, Adrien Brody, Brian Anthony Wilson, Caleb Eberhardt, Ethan Suplee, Evan Jonigkeit, Garrett Richmond, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonah Wharton, Lamar Johnson, Matthew Lamb, Odessa Young, Philip Ettinger, Riley Keough, Sallieu Sesay, Zia Anger

Director: John Trengove

Rating: R

There’s not much to analyze in The Wrath of Becky, which might sound like a jab, but for grindhouse thrillers such as this, it comes as a compliment. The story is lean, the action is on point, and the dialogue is whipsmart. There is little to distract from the main attraction, which is the creatively gruesome ways in which everyone tries to kill each other. 

It’s so simple, in fact, that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a standalone film, instead of a sequel to an earlier movie, simply titled Becky. Efficiently, parts of the first installment appear as flashbacks here, but they’re hardly needed to convince us of Becky’s ferocious might. Wilson already does an excellent job with minimal but evocative gestures. Seann William Scott, too, is surprisingly terrifying as the head of the Neo-Nazi group out to get Becky. It’s easy enough to paint the incel as a villain, but to portray him with such palpable terror is a challenge that Scott steps up to.

Genre: Action, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Aaron Dalla Villa, Alison Cimmet, Courtney Gains, Denise Burse, Derek Gaines, Jill Larson, John D. Hickman, Kate Siegel, Lulu Wilson, Matt Angel, Michael Sirow, Seann William Scott, Zoie Morris

Director: Matt Angel, Suzanne Coote

Rating: R

Appropriately for its literary focus, The Lesson feels, in places, like the gripping adaptation of a bestselling psychological thriller. Unfortunately, though, its initial cleverness peters out in a contrived ending that ironically feels like it belongs to the pulpy airport fiction that one character accuses another of writing.

The Lesson’s early chapters (another way the movie’s form mirrors its content) crackle with tension, as Oxford grad and aspiring writer Liam observes the icy dynamics of the Sinclair family, whose son he’s been hired to provide university admission tuition to. The Sinclairs are still grieving the loss of another child, a process made more painful by the brittle ego of their patriarch — JM (Richard E. Grant), a celebrated author who happens to be Liam’s literary hero. Liam’s career ambitions complicate his position: he’s as much an enthusiastic student as he is a teacher here, and among the screenplay’s many suggestions is also Tom Ripley-style envy. The Lesson ultimately scuppers this complexity, though, as the writing eventually abandons its psychological study aspirations and swerves into melodrama, leaving the cast struggling to make it all believable. Still, while the ending may disappoint, there are juicy, intelligent ideas to be pondered over — not quite a bestseller, then, but definitely not airport fiction either.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Crispin Letts, Daryl McCormack, Julie Delpy, Richard E. Grant, Stephen McMillan, Tomas Spencer

Director: Alice Troughton

Rating: R

You could take away a lot of parts in Reptile, and it would still make sense. It’s the kind of film that leans on sound and style to justify overlong takes and teeth-grittingly predictable scenes. But all is forgiven when del Toro, who also co-writes and co-produces the film, appears on screen. He has a simmering, captivating presence that demands you keep your eyes on him even when little, if anything at all, happens. Silverstone, Eric Bogosian, and Ato Essandoh are likewise enthralling, but Justin Timberlake unfortunately does not hold the same staying power. The film is at its weakest when it tries to convince us that he plays a complex, layered man when, in fact, Timberlake relays nothing but surface-level thrills. But Reptile is at its strongest when it gives us del Toro in all his forceful glory. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Africa Miranda, Alicia Silverstone, Allison Smith, Amy Parrish, Ato Essandoh, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Dyer, Dani Deetté, Deena Beasley, Domenick Lombardozzi, Elena Varela, Eric Bogosian, Frances Fisher, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Gregory Albrecht, James Devoti, Jesse C. Boyd, Jp Lambert, Justin Timberlake, Karl Glusman, Kurt Yue, Lee Perkins, Matilda Lutz, Matt Medrano, Matthew Cornwell, Michael Beasley, Michael Pitt, Michael Rene Walton, Mike Pniewski, Monique Yvette Grant, Owen Teague, Sky Ferreira, Thad Luckinbill, Tiffany Fallon, Victor Rasuk

Director: Grant Singer

Rating: R

At first, the Last Call for Istanbul feels like one of those serendipitous travel romances reminiscent of Before Sunrise. As Serin and Mehmet enjoy New York at night, it’s absolutely enchanting, especially with the unique, striking mirrored transitions that shift between the two as they get ready, but this nighttime stroll has already been walked on before, complete with droll dialogue and impulsive choices. However, the film makes a shift to its second half, and it suddenly reconfigures what we know about the two and their romance. While it does employ other familiar romance tropes, it’s still an intriguing shift that explores the concept of possibilities, and the cost in choosing one over the others.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Beren Saat, Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ, Michael Loayza, Senan Kara, Susan Slatin, Zihan Zhao

Director: Gönenç Uyanık

Rating: R

Love Again is cute. It’s cheesy and predictable, but it’s cute. Chopra makes for a fine leading lady who is able to switch between sorrow and sappy in a heartbeat. Heughan, though painfully generic, isn’t all that bad either; his hopelessly awkward attempts at getting Mira’s attention provides much of the film’s needed laughs. But outside of the bare minimum, Love Again doesn’t give us anything of value. The jokes are few and far between and the chemistry, if you can believe it, is even thinner. And for two people who are supposedly writers (Mira is children book’s author and Rob is a music journalist), none of their writings, much less their texts to one another, are particularly good. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Amanda Blake, Arinzé Kene, Celia Imrie, Céline Dion, Harry Attwell, Lydia West, Nick Jonas, Omid Djalili, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Russell Tovey, Sam Heughan, Sofia Barclay, Steve Oram

Director: Jim Strouse

Rating: PG-13

At least you can't accuse this holiday film of being generic. Combining the incredibly incompatible elements of drug busts and figure skating (and still failing to justify this crazy idea, though not for a lack of trying), Dealing with Christmas eventually begins to feel more like a series of comedy sketches making up the rules as it goes along. This definitely leads to moments of both excitement and effective humor, but its lack of consistency ultimately makes the awkward outweigh the good. Still, the audacity on display is something to be admired, and the film is just well-made enough to keep its constant experiments worth the curiosity.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy

Actor: Alex Lutz, Alice Moitié, Bruno Sanches, Catherine Hosmalin, Élise Hobbé, Eric Judor, Etienne Guillou-Kervern, François Vincentelli, Guy Lecluyse, Jean-Yves Tual, Jonas Dinal, Kim Higelin, Laura Felpin, Lison Daniel, Monsieur Poulpe, Nicky Marbot, Paul Deby, Philippe Lacheau, Ragnar Le Breton, Tom Dingler

Director: Arthur Sanigou

For almost the entirety of its runtime, Old Dads feels like it has something it's desperately trying to prove. But while the millennial generation and a newfound popular interest in political correctness are ripe for satire, this film chooses the lowest hanging fruit possible to make jokes about—inventing one senseless situation after another in order to laugh at people's "sensitivity" with little energy or wit. The main cast has tried and tested talent, but the material they're working with feels more artificial and whiny than truly perceptive of today's generational clashes. The movie tries to manufacture some sort of dramatic realization by the end, but it hardly changes the protagonists anyway. A film need not be PC to be good, of course, but it should at least stand for something instead of simply standing against so much.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abbie Cobb, Angela Gulner, Bill Burr, Bobby Cannavale, Bokeem Woodbine, Bruce Dern, C. Thomas Howell, Cameron Kelly, Carl Tart, Chelsea Marie Davis, Cody Renee Cameron, Dash McCloud, Erin Wu, Jackie Tohn, Josh Brener, Justene Alpert, Justin Miles, Katie Aselton, Katrina Bowden, Leland Heflin, Miles Robbins, Natasha Leggero, Paul Walter Hauser, Rachael Harris, Reign Edwards, Rick Glassman, Rory Scovel, Steph Tolev, Tom Allen

Director: Bill Burr

Rating: R

Filmmaking is a difficult thing. And there are countless filmmakers—the directors of this film included—who have strong ideas and just need the right time and support to have their vision realized. But there's no other way around it: Colonials was not ready to leave the pre-production phase, much less ready to be released on streaming. Non-existent production values, embarrassing visuals, unfinished sound design that leaves most of the actors muffled and unintelligible, incoherent world building, dumb action, and terrible performances—there really isn't anything worth checking out here. That the film has the gall to tease a potential sequel feels cruel.

Genre: Action, Science Fiction

Actor: Daniel Roebuck, Greg Kriek, Jamie Bernadette, Jennifer Willis, Jeremy John Wells, Jon Provost, Louise Barnes, Mike Ferguson, Sean Kanan

Director: Andrew Balek, Joe Bland