10 Movies Like Polite Society (2023)

Staff & contributors

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

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.

You don’t have to be a theater kid to enjoy this feel-good mockumentary set in a summer camp for junior thespians. While there are plenty of in-jokes here for those who might have spent a summer or two somewhere like AdirondACTS, Theater Camp also good-naturedly lampoons every instantly recognizable stereotype of theater kids and the classic failed-performer-turned-teacher. 

Amongst the note-perfect ensemble, particularly hilarious standouts include co-writer Ben Platt and co-director Molly Gordon as camp instructors and best friends Amos and Rebecca-Diane. Both are Juilliard rejects with codependency issues and a classic case of actorly self-indulgence — as encapsulated in the moment they accuse a young attendee of “doping” for using artificial tears during a performance (“Do you want to be the Lance Armstrong of theater?”). But even seasoned performers like Platt and Gordon can’t pull the spotlight away from the film’s absurdly talented young ensemble, who are just as game for poking fun at their passion: standouts include Luke Islam, Alexander Bello, and Minari’s Alan Kim as a pint-sized “aspiring agent” who skips dance class to make business calls. All this self-satirising never obscures the movie’s heart, though; what begins as a self-deprecating ribbing of theater-heads ultimately becomes a rousing love letter to those very same misfits.

Genre: Comedy, Music

Actor: Alan Kim, Alexander Bello, Amy Sedaris, Ayo Edebiri, Ben Platt, Caroline Aaron, David Rasche, Dean Scott Vazquez, Donovan Colan, Jimmy Tatro, Kyndra Sanchez, Luke Islam, Max Sheldon, Molly Gordon, Nathan Lee Graham, Noah Galvin, Olivia Puckett, Owen Thiele, Patti Harrison, Priscilla Lopez, Tyrone Mitchell Henderson

Director: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Rating: PG-13

The title of this small-scale comedy drama alludes to an aspect of creativity that isn’t inherently cinematic but which is necessary if you’re going to make anything: just showing up and doing the work. Kelly Reichardt’s filmmaking is in keeping with that focus: this is a gentle movie, full of the patience the art-making process requires and which has always characterized her contributions to “slow cinema.” 

The film is set in a small creative community where the prickly Lizzy (Michelle Williams) works in administration at an arts center and perfects her sculptures for her upcoming solo show. Her efforts are hampered by small daily dramas, though, like the pigeon whose wing her naughty kitty has broken or the friends of her father who lightly exploit his hospitality. And then there’s her neighbor and landlord Jo (Hong Chau), a rising star of an artist who inspires thorny feelings of inadequacy in the only moderately successful Lizzy. Reichardt and Williams deftly explore these insecurities, subtly suggesting that one-sided resentments like Lizzy’s are easily dissolved with a bit of human connection. These gentle moments of insight are rewarding, but it should be noted that your mileage may vary with Showing Up’s insular art world focus and Reichardt’s more unhurried-than-ever pace.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Amanda Plummer, André 3000, Bahni Turpin, Cody Burns, Denzel Rodriguez, Eudora Peterson, Heather Lawless, Hong Chau, Izabel Mar, James Le Gros, Jean-Luc Boucherot, John Magaro, Judd Hirsch, Kevin-Michael Moore, Kristina Haddad, Lauren Lakis, Maryann Plunkett, Matt Malloy, Michelle Williams, Orianna Milne, Sam Kamerman, Teal Sherer, Ted Rooney, Theo Taplitz

Director: Kelly Reichardt

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

, 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

This taut chamber piece about NSA whistleblower Reality Winner (yes, that’s her real name) is based on the FBI’s account of her interrogation one June day in 2017. “Based on” doesn’t quite capture Reality’s exhaustive commitment to the facts, though, because this movie is essentially a dramatic reading of a verbatim transcript of the FBI agents’ recording that day. The only time it breaks with reality is when it reaches a redacted portion of the transcript, at which point characters glitch out of view, leaving us staring into the blank set around them. Otherwise, every cough, false start, and even every off-topic remark is recreated with exacting precision here, lending the film a paradoxically stilted, slightly stagy air. But rather than pull you out of the proceedings, Reality’s palpable artificiality only immerses us into the uneasy tension and surreality that its anxious protagonist must have been feeling that day.

That anxiety is contagious, thanks to the movie’s clinical style and central performance. The camerawork is largely unblinking, moving in uncomfortably close on Reality (Sydney Sweeney) as two FBI agents (Josh Hamilton and Marchánt Davis) subject her to their bizarre hot-cold interrogation, which ranges from seemingly friendly inquiries about her dog to jugular-aimed questions about the allegations against her. Sweeney shoulders all this pressure remarkably well, deftly keeping us as much in the dark as Winner tried to keep the FBI in — which makes not knowing the real story a benefit, rather than a barrier, to watching Reality.

Outside of Sweeney’s commanding performance, Reality feels somewhat limited by its absolute loyalty to the FBI’s transcript, though. Much of the film’s 83-minute runtime is dedicated to recreating the text, which leaves only a few minutes at the end for it to express its own point of view on Winner’s actions. Though these scant moments make for a compelling reframing of the charges against Winner, they feel overshadowed by and separate from the movie’s rigorous devotion to the transcript, which ultimately means Reality can’t quite transcend its status as merely an interesting filmmaking curio.

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Actor: Allan Anthony Smith, Benny Elledge, Bill Maher, John Way, Josh Hamilton, Marchánt Davis, Sydney Sweeney, Tucker Carlson

Director: Tina Satter

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

Big George Foreman ticks all the boxes of what a biopic should be. It shows us his troubled childhood, his bumpy rise to the top, and his eventual reconciliation with fame and boxing. It’s also nicely shot and polished, an accurately dressed period piece that looks and feels the part. But nothing about the film hits you as particularly new or exciting. Prickly topics like faith and infidelity aren’t so much explored as they are simply covered, and the dialogue sounds like something you’ve heard a thousand times. There’s also a sense that the filmmakers noticed this problem because halfway through, the movie switches into a more lighthearted tone, as if it were suddenly bored of itself. Sure, Big George Foreman is easy to follow and nice to look at, but its formulaic structure fails to distinguish itself from a long and ever-growing line of sports biopics.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Al Bernstein, Al Sapienza, Anthony Marble, Austin David Jones, Azaria Carter, Barry Hanley, Bill Martin Williams, Billy Slaughter, Brian Ibsen, Deion Smith, Deneen Tyler, Dwayne L. Barnes, Eric Hanson, Erica Tazel, Forest Whitaker, Greg Wattkis, Jasmine Mathews, John Magaro, Jonathan Mercedes, Joshua Wade, Judd Lormand, Julia Lashae, K. Steele, Kei, Khris Davis, Lara Grice, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Madison Dirks, Martin Bats Bradford, Matthew Glave, Matthew Rimmer, Michael Harrity, Michael Papajohn, Philip Fornah, Raion Hill, Robert Cicchini, Robert Larriviere, Sam Trammell, Samantha Beaulieu, Shein Mompremier, Sonja Sohn, Sullivan Jones, T.C. Matherne, Tom Virtue

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Rating: PG-13

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

Although the sequencing of the four segments makes sense, the overall result does not land in this new installment of the Lust Stories franchise. It shines with Konkona Sensharma's 'Mirror,' an unexpected take on voyeurism and camaraderie between women. It loses touch with Sujoy Ghosh's 'Sex with Ex,' which sticks out with a weak storyline and questionable use of a green screen. The bracketing stories are engaging if only for the stark difference in tone and conclusion. They round out the film well enough, allowing for an entertaining experience but a lukewarm memory after the credits roll. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Amruta Subhash, Angad Bedi, Anushka Kaushik, Hemant Kher, Jugal Hansraj, Kajol, Kanupriya Pandit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Mrunal Thakur, Mukti Mohan, Neena Gupta, Tamannaah Bhatia, Tarun Khanna, Tillotama Shome, Vibha Chibber, Vijay Varma

Director: Amit Sharma, Konkona Sen Sharma, R. Balki, Sujoy Ghosh

Rating: R

This B-movie sci-fi-action-thriller from co-writer-director Robert Rodriguez starts out like a hammy pastiche of (the already overdone) Taken, but its interminable succession of galaxy-brain twists reveals other obvious influences — among them Inception, Memento, and Shutter Island. Fine ingredients, but the recipe is all wrong, as a gravelly-voiced, seemingly barely awake Ben Affleck sleepwalks his way through the cringy dialogue. Alongside William Fichtner in shady supervillain mode, Affleck is joined in that endeavor by Alice Braga as the psychic who is (seemingly) helping his Detective Rourke track down his (again, seemingly!) kidnapped daughter, though what Braga mostly does is hold the audience’s hand and explain the plot’s increasingly convoluted sci-fi elements to us. At one point, she tells Rourke that “pain keeps the mind awake” — and, while the excruciating script doesn’t seem to have that effect on Affleck (judging from his lethargic performance), it’s hard not to find yourself a little enlivened by Hypnotic’s sheer absurdity.

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alice Braga, Ben Affleck, Bobby Hernandez, Bonnie Discepolo, Carrick O'Quinn, Corina Calderon, Dayo Okeniyi, Derek Russo, Gabriel 'G-Rod' Rodriguez, Hala Finley, J. D. Pardo, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeff Fahey, Kelly Frye, Kelly Phelan, Lawrence Varnado, Nikki Dixon, Ryan Ryusaki, Sonia Izzolena, William Fichtner, Zane Holtz

Director: Robert Rodriguez