90 Movies Like John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023)

Staff & contributors

The Iranian director Jafar Panahi has faced constant persecution from his country's government for over a decade, for his career of sharply political films speaking truth to power. In fact, No Bears—which was shot in secret, in defiance of the government banning him from filmmaking for 20 years—had its initial festival run in 2022 while Panahi was in prison. Evidence of Panahi's drive to keep making his movies, no matter what, are clear in this film's limited resources and occasionally inconsistent video quality. But even those obstacles can't get in the way of his vaulting ambition.

No Bears operates on several different layers that all express Panahi's growing frustration with—but also his commitment to—making art that only ever seems to put himself and other people in harm's way. At its base level, this is a suspenseful small-town thriller, as an exiled Jafar Panahi (playing himself) tries to evade suspicion from the villagers around him. At the same time, Jafar is struggling to direct a film remotely, which creates a strain on his production crew. On top of that, the characters in his film undergo their own drama, seeking asylum out of Turkey. All of this is edited together under a stirring screenplay written with heart, humor, and the hope that the institutions that try to scare us will never keep us in the dark forever.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Jafar Panahi, Mina Kavani, Narges Delaram, Naser Hashemi

Director: Jafar Panahi

In Aftersun, Sophie recalls a holiday she took as an eleven-year-old in the ‘90s with her father. Video recordings help jog her memory, but she’s looking for more than just a blast from the past. Rather, she seems to be seeking answers to fill in the gaps between who she knew as her father and who he really was: an immensely nice but deeply troubled man.

At first, Aftersun looks like a simple but beautiful story about father and daughter bonding over the course of a summer trip. But within minutes, it’s clear that there are layers to Aftersun, emotionally and editorially, that aren’t always explained but nonetheless enrich the movie with profound meaning. Stirring, complex, and surprisingly inventive, it’s not surprising that Aftersun is one of the most beloved films of the past year. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Celia Rowlson-Hall, Frankie Corio, Harry Perdios, Kieran Burton, Paul Mescal, Sally Messham, Sarah Makharine, Sophia Lamanova, Spike Fearn

Director: Charlotte Wells

Rating: R

, 2023

Made on a clearly lower budget but with enthusiasm and love for the craft overflowing from every frame, Junta Yamaguchi's River gets clean and wholesome comedy—that's still plenty memorable—out of a terrific ensemble of actors, all of whom get to display a full range of expression for their increasingly exasperated characters. It's smart, economical filmmaking that's still dazzlingly put together, as each two-minute loop is done in a single unbroken shot that feels different with every reset. Yamaguchi is highly aware of how quickly this gimmick might overstay its welcome, so he allows the film's emotional landscape to open up considerably with every cycle. As the hell of this situation starts to chip away at the characters, the film also becomes more urgent and more soulful, leading the story down unexpected paths and inviting us to think beyond the pattern it sets up for itself.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Science Fiction

Actor: Gota Ishida, Haruki Nakagawa, Kazunari Tosa, Manami Honjo, Masashi Suwa, Munenori Nagano, Riko Fujitani, Saori, Shiori Kubo, Takashi Sumita, Yoshifumi Sakai, Yoshimasa Kondô, Yuki Torigoe

Director: Junta Yamaguchi

Joyland is groundbreaking on nearly all accounts. It’s the first Pakistani film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and to be shortlisted for an Oscar. Its forthright depiction of trans life and gender identity provoked the ire of local authorities, but it also inspired a nationwide movement (#ReleaseJoyland) that fought against censorship. It’s understandable, then, if the film is remembered for these disruptive achievements alone, but it should be noted that Joyland, as it is, is simply a stunning piece of cinema. 

Every scene is beautifully blocked and vibrantly lit, like a painting come to life, and every one of them is rich with meaning; there’s not a second we’re not diving deeper into the wonderfully complex lives of these people, all of whom are exploring sexuality and independence as best they can in a restricted environment. And sure, Biba and Haider’s relationship takes center stage as it reveals the nuances of queer love, but Joyland just as deftly tackles toxic masculinity (and how it’s a specter that haunts Haider’s household), domestic labor (and how it largely goes unnoticed), and female solidarity (and how it can literally save a girl’s life). Heartbreaking and lovely, this a family saga in that it’s as much about Haider’s family as it is about him, and it’s a shame if it weren’t remembered as such. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alina Khan, Ramiz Law, Rasti Farooq, Salmaan Peerzada, Sania Saeed, Sarwat Gilani, Sohail Sameer

Director: Saim Sadiq

Nat Geo is still the champion of pristine nature documentaries: the skies, the seas, the snow, and the coloring everywhere is divine. But the serene seaside in Scotland, combined with the reflective, poetic musings about love from Billy and Susan isn’t just cutesy light viewing. I’m confident it can heal an exhausted person. This documentary is a mesmerizing meditation on love and connection, on the things that unite people and other creatures. It might feel like a chunky 77 minutes, especially in the latter half given the pace it goes by, but it’s a warm experience that you instantly know you’ll want to revisit.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Billy Mail, Susan Mail

Director: Charlie Hamilton James

Rating: G

The Kings of the World is a surreal coming-of-age movie that follows Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny, and Nano, street kids who are on their way to claim land that’s rightfully theirs. Their one goal is to finally make a home after living without one for so long, but they’re hindered by the inevitable tragedies that befall kids of their kind: impoverished, alone, and abandoned.

The title is ironic, but it also hints at their state of mind: these boys are unstoppable, rabble-rousers who live like there’s no tomorrow. They tear down private property and invade inns not out of spite, necessarily, but out of a knowledge that whatever they do they’re gonna be put down anyway, so they might as well live without rules.

Tackling powerful themes like land restitution and youth neglect, The Kings of the World is one of the most agonizing movies you'll ever see. It’s also Colombia’s official Best Foreign Language Film entry in the 2022 Academy Awards.

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Actor: Brahian Acevedo, Carlos Andrés Castañeda, Cristian Campaña, Cristian David Duque, Davison Florez

Director: Laura Mora

Rating: TV-MA

Slow cinema might be an acquired taste for many viewers, but Tsai Ming-liang's gorgeous feature debut about Taiwan's aimless youth should have enough mystery and suspense to draw anybody in. They key, as with many of these films, isn't to demand that things happen or actions get explained, but to surrender to every possibility and suggestion of what might be motivating these characters beneath the surface. And through patient, perceptive observation, Tsai gives us so much to chew on: the sleeplessness of urban life, the unpredictability of relationships, and most importantly the morality that forms when a disillusioned young man fully embraces his being an outcast.

And if nothing else, Tsai provides us with some of the most beautiful and honest images of city life around. It's hard to describe, but just the neon-lit arcade halls and dingy hotel rooms are enough to let you into who these characters are. It's an experience not to be missed.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

Actor: Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Lu Yi-Ching, Miao Tian, Miao Tien, Wang Yu-wen, Yu-Wen Wang

Director: Tsai Ming-liang

A road trip movie with an unknown destination, Hit the Road plays with our expectations by avoiding any obvious questions we might have, and making us focus on the real important things. Informed by the censorship and persecution faced by critics of Iran's government—including director Panah Panahi's own filmmaker father, Jafar—the film places more focus on the very act of escape and what that can take from a family. And most importantly, through Panahi's skillful direction of rural Iran's varied, beautiful landscapes, he creates a conflicted relationship between character and setting, with entire emotional crescendos playing out just through a single shot of the environment. It's one of the most underappreciated movies of the year.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amin Simiar, Hasan Ma'juni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak

Director: Panah Panahi

The gorgeous grain of Falcon Lake’s lush 16mm cinematography instantly gives it an air of nostalgia, as if the movie is an intimate reflection on a precious formative summer. That effect is confirmed over the film’s runtime: it takes place from the perspective of Bastien (Joseph Engel), a 13-year-old French boy whose family is being hosted at a Quebec lake cabin by their friend and her 16-year-old daughter Chloe (Sara Montpetit). The woodland setting could be idyllic or eerie, a duality brought explicitly to the fore by Chloe, whose interests lean towards the macabre.

It’s not long before Bastien becomes smitten with the assured older girl, and it's their dynamic that gives Falcon Lake its profoundly captivating effect. Though the movie’s gothic undertones do give it a troubling air of tension, the way they come to the surface in its ending feels a little inharmonious to the delicate human drama that the teens have built up until then. Both actors turn in performances so extraordinarily nuanced and naturalistic that Falcon Lake doesn’t need that twist — it already stands as a deeply affecting coming-of-age portrait, one in which tenderness and betrayal are raw new pleasures and pains to be discovered.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Romance

Actor: Anthony Therrien, Arthur Igual, Éléonore Loiselle, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie, Jeff Roop, Joseph Engel, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman, Lévi Doré, Monia Chokri, Pierre-Luc Lafontaine, Sara Montpetit

Director: Charlotte Le Bon

The debut feature by Palestine’s most well-known director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is an unusual movie about the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict in that it's closer to absurdist comedy than anything else. The only physical violence we see here are men cat-fighting in the street or arm-wrestling each other in cafes, and Israeli presence is limited to a couple of bumbling police officers. Chronicle is full of slapstick cinema touches — right down to the Buster Keaton-esque eyes of director Elia Suleiman, who appears here as a silent wanderer — and yet we feel the bitter reality of the occupation framing every deadpan gag. 

Structured as a series of vignettes, Chronicle’s loose form is both a way to depict the stagnation and dry repetition in which Palestinians are stuck and a wry metaphor for all this listlessness. Suleiman speaks plainly in some chapters — such as the one following a woman who is repeatedly turned down from renting an apartment in Jerusalem because she’s Arab — and more obliquely in others, forcing you to recall the movie’s setting to understand his often-understated commentary. A singular film from an utterly unique director, Chronicle of a Disappearance is both a portrait of a country’s erosion and a quietly defiant act of resistance.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ali Suliman, Elia Suleiman, Fawaz Eilemi, Fuad Suleiman, Iaha Mouhamad, Jamel Daher, Juliet Mazzawi, Leonid Alexeenko, Nazira Suleiman, Ola Tabari, Ula Tabari

Director: Elia Suleiman

Mars One is a tender, wholesome drama that centers on The Martins, a family of four living on the fringes of a major Brazilian city. Their lower-middle-class status puts them in an odd position—they’re settled enough to have big dreams and occasionally lead lavish lives (the mother and the daughter like to party) but they barely have the means to pursue that kind of lifestyle. As a result, they’re always searching and wanting, aiming high but almost always falling flat on the ground.

There is no actual plot in Mars One. Instead, it studies its characters in a leisurely and almost offhand manner. The approach is so naturalistic, you’ll almost forget you’re watching a movie. But it’s still gorgeously shot and staged, Brazil being an inevitably striking background. At once gentle and vibrant, this big-hearted film is a must for those who are suckers for well-made family dramas.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Camilla Damião, Carlos Francisco, Cícero Lucas, Dircinha Macêdo, Hélio Ricardo, Kelly Crifer, Rejane Faria, Renato Novaes, Russo Apr

Director: Gabriel Martins

A fast-paced thriller, and "actually dangerous" movie as envisioned by its directors, Good Time is about a bank robbery gone wrong and one brother trying to get his other brother out of jail in its aftermath. It's a deep and fast dive into New York's criminal underworld that will not give you the time to catch a single full breath. The rhythm here is, without exaggeration, unlike anything I've seen before. It's anxiety-inducing and very... primal. Incredible work featuring a career-pivoting performance from Robert Pattinson as the loose criminal that will do literally anything in the pursuit of seeing his brother free.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Barkhad Abdi, Ben Safdie, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress, Cliff Moylan, Craig muMs Grant, Dorothi Fox, Edgar Morais, Eloisa Santos, George Lee Miles, Gladys Mathon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laurence Blum, Lucas Elliot Eberl, Mahadeo Shivraj, Megan Dodd, Michael McClard, Michael Shershenovich, Necro, Peter Linari, Peter Verby, Rachel Black, Ratnesh Dubey, Robert Clohessy, Robert Pattinson, Rose Gregorio, Roy James Wilson, Saida Mansoor, Sebastian Bear-McClard, Shaun Rey, Souleymane Sy Savane, Taliah Webster

Director: Ben Safdie, Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Joshua Safdie

Rating: R

You don’t need to know a lot about baseball to appreciate The Saint of Second Chances. It has enough going on to keep you hooked from start to end, beginning with Jeff Daniels’ inimitable voice as the narrator and Charlie Day’s inspired casting as the younger Veeck, all the way down to the Veecks’ fascinating ties with American sports history and Mike’s inspiring and heartwarming second-chance philosophy. It all gets a bit too much at times, as if the filmmakers themselves were overwhelmed with their abundant material and creative decisions, but it’s executed with so much care and love that it seems as if this is the only way it could’ve come out: a wonderful mess. 

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Agnes Albright, Bill Veeck, Charley Rossman, Charlie Day, Dan Barreiro, Darryl Strawberry, Don Wardlow, Eliza Hayes Maher, Gary Private, Howard M. Lockie, Ila Borders, Jeff Daniels, Joel Spence, Kalup Allen, Lamar Johnson, Lee Adams, Max Kassidy, Oscar Jordan, Stewart Skelton, Tom Billett, Tony LaRussa

Director: Jeff Malmberg, Morgan Neville

Rating: PG-13

Director Zhang Yimou, who already has remarkable wuxia films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers under his belt, delivers another exceptional epic. Set during China's Three Kingdoms era (220–280 AD), Shadow revolves around a great king and his people, who are expelled from their homeland but will aspire to reclaim it. The story requires a fair amount of patience at first, as it slowly builds a world consisting of various characters with different motives, before the real action begins. The journey through Shadow is visually pleasing thanks to its stunning cinematography, impressively choreographed combat, and overall brilliant production design. Packed with sequences that will take your breath away, it is an inventive martial arts epic with one amazing scene after another.

Genre: Action, Drama

Actor: Chao Deng, Deng Chao, Feng Bai, Guan Xiaotong, Hu Jun, Leo Wu, Li Sun, Qianyuan Wang, Ryan Cheng, Ryan Zheng, Ryan Zheng Kai, Sun Li, Wang Jingchun, Wang Qian-Yuan, Wang Qianyuan, Zhang Yimou

Director: Yimou Zhang, Zhang Yimou

Rating: Not Rated

It's difficult not to compare Of an Age to other beautifully shot and tenderly told queer love stories like Call Me By Your Name and Weekend. Like them, Of an Age gives its young lovers ample time and space for their relationship to blossom over a short while. And like them still, it's made of intimate moments that will haunt the lovers long after their first meet, crystallized as they are with affection, longing, and the knowledge that they might not feel as deeply about anyone ever again.

But if Call Me By Your Name is awash with Italy's grandeur and Weekend is snugged in Britain's cold embrace, then Of an Age is distinctly Australian, all humid suburbia and sunbaked roads. The film hones in on emotional and cultural specifics alike, and by doing so, it successfully captures the immaculate and unforgettable heartache of first love.

 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Elias Anton, Grace Graznak, Hattie Hook, Jack Kenny, Jessica Lu, Julia Harari, Thom Green, Toby Derrick, Verity Higgins

Director: Goran Stolevski

Rating: R