43 Movies Like Meg 2: The Trench (2023)

Staff & contributors

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: An Min-yeong, An Min-young, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders, Choi Won-young, Emily Cass McDonnell, Federico Rodriguez, Greta Lee, Hwang Seung-eon, Isaac Powell, Jack Alberts, Jane Yubin Kim, Jay Karales, John Magaro, Jojo T. Gibbs, Kristen Sieh, Moon Seung-a, Moon Seung-ah, Park Jun-hyuk, Seo Yeon-woo, Shin Hee-cheol, Teo Yoo, Yim Seung-min, Yoon Ji-hye

Director: Celine Song

Rating: PG-13

Challenging, strange, and utterly captivating from start to finish, Sanctuary takes the relationship between a pathetic, wealthy man and a desperate, plucky young woman—a relationship built on consensual acts of sexual humiliation—and makes it so much more dynamic and entertaining than it has any right to be. The film takes place entirely in one hotel suite over the course of one night, becoming a series of increasingly absurd psychological scenarios, as the characters wrestle over ideas of power, shame, and identity by concealing and roleplaying various parts of themselves. It's a wild take on several different genres that director Zachary Wigon is able to effortlessly weave together with excellent pacing, stunning visuals, and two truly committed performances from Christopher Abbott and a wonderfully unhinged Margaret Qualley.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Christopher Abbott, Margaret Qualley

Director: Zachary Wigon

The late, great William Friedkin’s final film is staged with all the military precision of its naval court setting. We never leave the courtroom from the moment we’re plunged into it — the first minute — meaning the contentious action around which the film revolves happens only in our imagination, spurred on by the competing accounts of Lieutenant Maryk (Jake Lacy) and Commander Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland). Maryk is accused of mutiny, but, as he tells it, he only seized command from Queeg during a typhoon because he feared that the Commander was experiencing an episode of mental instability that would endanger the lives of everyone onboard. 

The lack of flashbacks to this crucial moment places the burden of bearing out the truth on the cast, which includes Jason Clarke as Maryk’s lawyer, Monica Raymund as Queeg’s counsel, and Lance Reddick — the naturally authoritative late actor to whom the film is dedicated — as the judge. The film's lack of visual pizzazz is to its advantage, then, because it allows this excellent cast (and Friedkin’s searing script) to flex under the full, burning gaze of the spotlight. Clarke, in particular, emerges as the standout as the reluctant navy lawyer — a man caught between the impulse to expose one truth and conceal another.

Genre: Drama, TV Movie, War

Actor: Dale Dye, Denzel Johnson, Elizabeth Anweis, Francois Battiste, Gabe Kessler, Gina Garcia, Jake Lacy, Jason Clarke, Jay Duplass, Kiefer Sutherland, Lance Reddick, Lewis Pullman, Monica Raymund, Stephanie Erb, Tom Riley

Director: William Friedkin

Rating: PG-13

While not its only cause, the increase of conflict and civil wars has spurred a global refugee crisis. Millions of refugees have been displaced from their homes, taking dangerous journeys to a hopefully safer place. Nowhere, now on Netflix, showcases one possible journey. Escaping a future totalitarian Spain, the film is centered on leading lady Anna Castillo, whose excellent performance pulls most of the tears here. With her character Mia’s ingenuity, she maximizes her shipping container’s resources and takes steps to ensure her survival. While some of the backstory can feel thin, after all, for most of the runtime Mia has only herself to talk to, this new one-location survival film is a thrilling addition to the genre. It’s a chilling reminder of what could be happening to the millions of refugees seeking safe haven around the globe.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Anna Castillo, Antonio Buíl, Emma Sánchez, Irina Bravo, Kaabil Sekali, Lucia Soria, Mariam Torres, Said El Mouden, Tamar Novas, Tony Corvillo, Victoria Teijeiro

Director: Albert Pintó

Rating: R

Stoic, unflinching, and almost near silent, Ballerina takes a fitting approach to enact its protagonist’s revenge. Within its lean 90 minute runtime, ex-bodyguard Ok-ju single-mindedly searches for answers, through following the lead from her friend’s suicide note. The film shares nothing personal, no doubts, worries, or fears from Ok-ju – except for her affection for best friend Min-hee. Instead of capitalizing on Ok-ju’s tears, or on the violence inflicted on Min-hee, writer-director Lee Chung-hyun relies on action, on stunning cinematography, and on Jeon Jong-seo’s performance to create a spectacle that doesn’t hold back from the gruesomeness, but somehow still incredibly restrained. Jeon Jong-seo delivers Ok-ju’s bloody revenge, a fitting retribution to all perpetrators of sexual violence.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Thriller

Actor: Jang Yoon-ju, Joo Hyun, Jun Jong-seo, Kim Ji-hun, Kim Moo-yul, Kim Yeong-ok, Kim Young-ok, Kwak Jae-min, Lee Jae-joon, Park Hyeong-su, Park Hyoung-soo, Park Yu-rim, Shin Se-hwi

Director: Lee Chung-hyun

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

With Marvel and DC monopolizing the superhero landscape with high budgets, big-name actors, and CGI graphics, Shin Kamen Rider feels like a breath of fresh air. Also known as Shin Masked Rider in other territories, the adaptation recalls the campy costumes and over-the-top action of the original 70s tokusatsu series. It’s fun, if a little bit silly, and slightly unhinged, albeit with a more modern polish. The bizarre action sequences tend to be paired with old 70s rock, blood oversplashing, motorcycle stunts, and exaggerated expressions, especially from the villains. It’s a fitting love letter for the series’ 50th anniversary.

Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction

Actor: Kanata Hongo, Ken Yasuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mikako Ichikawa, Minami Hamabe, Mirai Moriyama, Moriyama Mirai, Nanase Nishino, Nao Ōmori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Shuhei Uesugi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Suzuki Matsuo, Takumi Saitoh, Tasuku Emoto, Tori Matsuzaka, Toru Nakamura, Toru Tezuka, Yutaka Takenouchi

Director: Hideaki Anno

Rating: NR

Making a good erotic thriller out on Wall Street is no easy feat, but Fair Play has just the right ratio of wit, sex, and sleaze to spice up a Friday night viewing. There's also undeniable pleasure in watching a fairytale love story corrode, especially under the influence of money and power—here's one for the romantic capitalists! And even if the script feels a bit uneven and Emily's character a bit too silent until the film's third act, it's a heightened yet realistic depiction of exactly how solidified heteronormative standards still are: in bed, at home, at the workplace. Who would have guessed that's where the true horror lies? 

Genre: Drama, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Alden Ehrenreich, Brandon Bassir, Buck Braithwaite, Eddie Marsan, Filip Todorovic, Geraldine Somerville, Greg De Cuir, Ivona Kustudić, Jamie Wilkes, Jelena Stupljanin, Jim Sturgeon, Katarina Gojković, Laurel Lefkow, Leopold Hughes, Linda Ljoka, Patrick Fischler, Phoebe Dynevor, Rich Sommer, Sebastian de Souza, Sia Alipour, Yacine Ramoul

Director: Chloe Domont

The particulars of the scandal are enough to shock, enrage, and move anyone, but the directors of BS High also put Johnson in the hot seat and skewer the guy until they wring all ego and delusion out of him. The result is a compelling and terrifying look into a con man’s mind. Johnson alternates between justifying and denying his fraudulent ways and even tries to draw empathy from the audience by explaining his upbringing. But cleverly, the directors intercut his wild speeches with heartfelt testimonies from the real victims of this scam: the young recruits who were promised a better life if they played in Johnson’s team, only to be abused and marked for life. It’s impossible not to feel for the young men, who even up until the documentary’s end, wonder out loud how they could possibly move on from such a traumatic experience. 

Genre: Documentary

Director: Martin Desmond Roe, Travon Free

The directorial debut of Australian twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou—more popularly known together as the YouTube creators RackaRacka—Talk to Me finds a surprisingly unique way of exploring themes that contemporary horror films have made commonplace. At its heart this is still a movie about one's inability to come to terms with loss, but the emotions that come with this experience are filtered through suburban ennui and the numbing effect that social media has on depictions of tragedy. It's in this specific milieu where Mia (a terrific Sophie Wilde) feels compelled to act irresponsibly and continue inviting a malevolent presence into her life. Her feelings are real, but because her peers and the adults around her aren't the best at being vulnerable, Mia begins to underestimate how destructive her grief really is.

Talk to Me only grows more despairing the longer it goes. But impressively, the film doesn't rely on the usual jump scares and excesses that would normally make a YouTube horror short go viral. The situations escalate organically (if you can suspend a little disbelief for the moments when the characters simply watch terrible things happen) and as the supernatural forces haunting these teenagers get stronger, so do Mia's isolation and her desperation to make up for her mistakes. It's bleak stuff, but sharp direction and great performances (especially from Wilde and young Joe Bird) make this a particularly exciting vision of horror.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Jensen, Alexandria Steffensen, Ari McCarthy, Chris Alosio, Ethan Payne, Harli Ames, Harry Lewis, Jacek Koman, Jodie Dry, Joe Bird, Josh Bradley, Kelly Butler, KSI, Leeanna Walsman, Marcus Johnson, Mark Duncan, Miranda Otto, Otis Dhanji, Robin Northover, Simon Minter, Sophie Wilde, Tobi Brown, Vik Barn, Zoe Terakes

Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou

Rating: R

As biopics go, Cassandro skews towards the conventional. It follows a template familiar to anyone who has seen a life-story movie about the underdog climbing up the ranks thanks to their unmatchable heart and talent. But it’s also a template that’s elevated by Bernal’s wonderful performance and Roger Ross Williams’ careful and naturalistic direction. Save for a few melodramatic moments, many parts of Cassandro feel fresh and authentic, not least of which is Saúl's heartwarming relationship with his mother Yocasta (Perla De La Rosa). It’s unapologetic joy is another element that sets it apart: instead of being punished for his flamboyance and cheer, Saúl is rewarded for it. This seems like a rare triumph in LGBTQ+ stories, and on that merit alone Cassandro deserves to be seen. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bad Bunny, El Hijo del Santo, Gael García Bernal, Joaquín Cosío, Julieta Ortiz, Leonardo Alonso, Mark Vasconcellos, Perla de la Rosa, Raúl Castillo, Roberta Colindrez

Director: Roger Ross Williams

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

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Swedish Netflix’s new horror-comedy takes this idea to the extreme. Based on the novel by Mats Strandberg, who’s known as the Swedish Stephen King, The Conference is centered around a group of employees on their company retreat. With its ensemble, the film crafts a relatable dynamic, with the exact petty back-and-forth and the same exact corporate politics many adults have to deal with. It’s no wonder one of them snaps, and takes them out one by one. The film isn’t exactly new, with the decades’ collection of slashers all over the world, but this Swedish thriller is a fun take on it, with match cut transitions, quick paced sequences, and the gruesome murders of the group most adults spend time with - their colleagues. It’s an interesting watch as the world gets back to the office.

Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adam Lundgren, Amed Bozan, Bahar Pars, Cecilia Nilsson, Christoffer Nordenrot, Claes Hartelius, Eva Melander, Jimmy Lindström, Katia Winter, Lola Zackow, Maria Sid, Marie Agerhäll, Martin Lagos, Robert Follin

Director: Patrik Eklund

If you've never encountered Beth Stelling before, it might take some getting used to before her brand of comedy really hits. Her routine in this special isn't necessarily built around huge punchlines, animated delivery, or edgy subject matter. But there's plenty of oddly specific detail to her many, many anecdotes that gradually begins to feel warm and easy to connect with, whether or not you've ever been to Ohio. Stelling usually comments on the absurdity of many of these details herself—which, surprisingly, never ruins the joke but helps invite the audience in closer. Her storytelling is consistently engaging all throughout, painting this easygoing outlook on life, which just happens to be punctuated by the most bizarre memories that still remind us of the people we're fondest of.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Beth Stelling

Director: Mo Welch

Rating: R

, 2023

Teen thrillers are fun, but there’s only so many times you can enjoy the warnings to not sneak out at night, to not give into peer pressure, and to not trust random strangers. NAGA is another teen night gone wrong, but unlike the regular suburban dangers, Sarah deals with, of all things, a vindictive camel out for blood, on top of teenage hijinks and other dangers women face in the conservative country of Saudi Arabia. While there are a tad too many events and some visuals might prove too dizzying for some viewers, NAGA is such a wild ride that’s so fun to follow.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Adwa Bader, Amal Alharbi, Jubran Al Jubran, Khalid Bin Shaddad, Yazeed Almajyul

Director: Meshal Aljaser

Rating: R