23 Movies Like Retribution (2023)

Staff & contributors

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Guka Han, Heo Jin, Hur Jin, Kim Dong-seok, Kim Sun-young, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Oh Gwang-rok, Oh Kwang-rok, Yoann Zimmer

Director: Davy Chou

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, 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

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

It may seem like it’s targeted at a specific demographic, but Spoiler Alert is actually a universal tale about love, grief, and moving on. Jim Parsons affectingly plays Michael, a romantic and TV aficionado who has trouble separating fact from fiction. He views life as one big sitcom, but his cheery outlook is increasingly challenged by the tragedies he encounters, not least of which is the surprise diagnosis of his boyfriend Kit (Ben Aldridge). 

Spoiler Alert is very sweet, perhaps too sweet for some viewers, but if you enjoy the unabashed schmaltz of romantic dramas, then this comes highly recommended. Of course, for that extra fluff, Spoiler Alert is mostly set during the holidays, so it’s best to watch while cozying up with a loved one—just make sure you have spare tissues on-hand for those tearjerking moments.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Allegra Heart, Antoni Porowski, Ben Aldridge, Bill Irwin, Christine Renee Miller, Eleni Yiovas, Erica Cho, Jeffery Self, Jim Parsons, Josh Pais, Kate Pittard, Nikki M. James, Paco Lozano, Sally Field, Scott Burik, Shunori Ramanathan, Supriya Ganesh, Tara Summers, Winslow Bright

Director: Michael Showalter

After two adaptations, with the 1982 version considered a Christmastime classic for Polish families, Forgotten Love can seem like a redundant take on the iconic Polish novel. With twenty more minutes, it seems like the new Netflix adaptation could only improve its take through better production design, and sure, it certainly delivers that pre-war aesthetic through period-accurate costumes, props, and sets. However, Forgotten Love takes a more streamlined approach to the novel’s plot, through changing certain character choices. Without spoiling too much, some choices paint certain characters in a better light, while other changes prove to add an entertaining twist, such as the humorous way the villagers defend Kosiba. Znachor takes the 1937 story into the present, bringing a new generation through the emotional journey of the cherished Polish tale.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Nawojczyk, Agata Łabno, Alicja Jachiewicz, Anna Szymańczyk, Artur Barciś, Dawid Ściupidro, Ewa Kolasińska-Szramel, Ewa Szykulska, Henryk Niebudek, Ignacy Liss, Izabela Kuna, Jarosław Gruda, Joachim Lamża, Kamil Pardo, Karolina Piechota, Krzysztof Dracz, Leszek Lichota, Maciej Damięcki, Małgorzata Mikołajczak, Maria Kowalska, Mikołaj Grabowski, Mirosław Haniszewski, Patryk Szwichtenberg, Paweł Janyst, Paweł Tomaszewski, Piotr Rogucki, Robert Gonera, Sławomir Holland, Stanisław Brudny, Waleria Gorobets

Director: Michał Gazda

Rating: PG-13

After Jackie and Spencer, the dark satire El Conde is a surprise new entry in Pablo Larraín’s stacked filmography. Already, the film has prominent differences– it’s shot in black and white, starting with narration from an unseen and posh Englishwoman that makes the film’s events feel like entries in Bridgerton’s scandalous newsletter. The subject is far from the beloved wives of presidents and princes– it’s centered around a notorious Chilean dictator who remains unpunished for his crimes. However, as his fictional vampire version deals with his rightfully ruined legacy, El Conde proves to be a witty satiric twist to Larraín’s usual themes. Through familial squabbles over ill-gotten wealth, confessions and exorcism conducted by a nun, and certain foreign interventions, El Conde paints an everlasting greed that continues to haunt Larraín’s homeland.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Aldo Parodi, Alessandra Guerzoni, Alfredo Castro, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Catalina Guerra, Diego Muñoz, Dindi Jane, Eyal Meyer, Francisca Walker, Gloria Münchmeyer, Jaime McManus, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso, Marcial Tagle, Mateo Iribarren, Patricia Rivadeneira, Paula Luchsinger, Stella Gonet

Director: Pablo Larraín

Rating: R

It’s always tricky translating literature to screen. In Shortcomings’ case, it struggles to make its Berkeley and New York settings appear more lived-in than just a few postcard-like frames. You could also tell that the conversations it stirs up about things like representation and mixed-race relationships began in the early aughts, when the novel it was adapted from was first released. But those lapses are small and forgivable in the face of a lovely ensemble cast and a whipsmart script. It also takes a special kind of skill to make a character as fiercely unlikeable as Ben (Min) watchable, to hold up a mirror to the audience and make them stay. Thankfully, it's a skill that Tomine and first-time director Randall Park display with such grace. Ben, Alice (Sherry Cola), and Miko (Ally Maki) are flawed and often pathetic, but they’re also honest reflections of who we become when the demands of self-preservation and romantic openness clash. It’s a little unnerving to hear them verbalize what we've always feared about ourselves, but it’s also exhilarating, not to mention comforting, knowing that we're not alone in feeling this way. Shortcomings works because it doesn't confine itself to genre: it's a character study first, and a romantic comedy second.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adam Enright, Adrian Tomine, Ally Maki, Boran Anh, Debby Ryan, George Deihl Jr., Jacob Batalon, Jess Nahikian, Justin H. Min, Melanie J. Newby, Mike Cabellon, Nikhaar Kishnani, Randall Park, Ronny Chieng, Scott Seiss, Sheldon Best, Sherry Cola, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephanie Hsu, Tavi Gevinson, Theo Iyer, Timothy Simons

Director: Randall Park

Rating: R

Jaane Jaan is one of those thrillers where you hope that the main characters would get away with murder. Based on the 2005 Japanese novel, the Hindi adaptation still has the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the relentless detective and math genius protecting the suspect, along with their elaborate chess-like mind games. However, the film changes a major plot point from the novel, and without spoiling too much, it turns the math teacher, now named Naren, into a less sympathetic character. Given today’s sensibilities, it’s easy to understand why the change was made. After all, just because someone’s a genius, it doesn’t mean that they’re someone to be admired. Jaane Jaan still keeps up the exciting thrills and suspense of the original novel, but in making its changes, it becomes unclear who the film is rooting for.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Jaideep Ahlawat, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karma Takapa, Lin Laishram, Naisha Khanna, Saurabh Sachdeva, Suhita Thatte, Ujjwal Chopra, Vijay Varma

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Rating: R

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

Written and directed by the film’s star, Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life imagines an afterlife in which purgatory is a courtroom, and whether you’ll be saved or damned is judged based on the life you led on Earth.

Did you live courageously, or did you live fearfully? Were you ashamed, meek, afraid of being vulnerable? Or did you risk some tender part of yourself in order to connect with others, to meaningfully impact another life?

Daniel Miller (Brooks) discovers he may not have lived as boldly as he assumed. In the afterlife and awaiting his day in afterlife court, he meets Julia (Meryl Streep, in what is possibly one of her most captivating roles), who is kind and thoughtful and a capital-G Good person. Of course, it’s only after dying that Daniel tunes in to the great possibility of a life not lived on autopilot. But is he too late to atone for his unexamined life—or is there time yet for a second chance?

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Albert Brooks, Alex Sheafe, Arell Blanton, Art Frankel, Bob Braun, Buck Henry, Cathleen Chin, Clarke Coleman, Clayton Norcross, Clifford Einstein, David Purdham, Ernie Brown, Ethan Embry, Gary Ballard, Gary Beach, George D. Wallace, George Wallace, Glen Chin, Greg Finley, Hal Landon Jr., Ida Lee, James Eckhouse, James Paradise, Jennifer Barlow, Jennifer Barlow Grodsky, Jerry Prell, Jim McKrell, Joey Miyashima, Julie Cobb, Ken Thorley, Kristopher Kent Hill, Lee Grant, Leonard O. Turner, Lillian Lehman, Marilyn Rockafellow, Mary Pat Gleason, Maxine Elliott Hicks, Meryl Streep, Michael Durrell, Newell Alexander, Noley Thornton, Nurit Koppel, Peter Schuck, Rachel Bard, Raffi Di Blasio, Rip Torn, Roger Behr, Ronald L. Colby, S. Scott Bullock, Sage Allen, Shirley MacLaine, Sidney Chankin, Susan Walters, Time Winters, Wil Albert

Director: Albert Brooks

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

, 2023

Golda Meir was Israel's only female Prime Minister and that's already reason enough a biopic celebrating her historical importance would be made. Oscar-winning Israeli director Guy Nattiv rose to the task and Meir's own grandson requested British actress Helen Mirren to play the role of his grandmother (a decision that was not left undisputed). However, Miren is a virtuoso of stoic, physically confined acting and delivers a strong performance as the elderly Golda in the wake of a militarized attack on Israel coming from Egypt and Syria. Instead of being caught in the web of global politics between the Arab world, Russia, and the United States, she navigates the terrain with sustained empathy, although not without failings. The film itself describes Golda as a hero outside of Israel and controversial in her own land, and it does well enough in embodying that very same controversy.

 

 

Genre: Drama, History, Thriller, War

Actor: Ben Caplan, Camille Cottin, Daniel Ben Zenou, Dominic Mafham, Dvir Benedek, Ed Stoppard, Ellie Piercy, Emma Davies, Helen Mirren, Henry Goodman, Jaime Ray Newman, Jonathan Tafler, Kit Rakusen, Liev Schreiber, Lior Ashkenazi, Mark Fleischmann, Muneesh Sharma, Ohad Knoller, Olivia Brody, Rami Heuberger, Rotem Keinan, Sam Shoubber, Sumit Chakravarti, Zed Josef

Director: Guy Nattiv

Rating: PG-13

Part sci-fi and part psychological horror, No One Will Save You is an impressive outing that serves as a vehicle for Dever’s one-woman show. She is a powerhouse, a nonstop show of talent that doesn’t seem to run out of fuel. The scenes are grueling and excruciating, they involve a lot of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, but somehow, Dever rises to the challenge with unbelievable ease. Sure, sci-fi lovers will find much to discuss in these unearthly creatures, and cinephiles will appreciate how the film relies almost solely on sound design and a single line of dialogue. But it’s Dever who does the heavy lifting here, and it’s especially apparent when the film tries, weakly, to delve into Brynn’s psyche and the town’s sociological workings. It’s not as impressive in those regards, but Dever is strong enough an actress to make you forgive the movie’s frailer parts. 

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Bridget Malbrough, Dane Rhodes, Dari Lynn Griffin, Elizabeth Kaluev, Emani White, Evangeline Rose, Geraldine Singer, Kaitlyn Dever, Lauren L. Murray, Zack Duhame

Director: Brian Duffield

Rating: PG-13

What seems like The Good Mother's biggest asset is actually its downfall. Yes, the three main actors (Swank, Cooke, and Jack Reynor as the civil servant son, Toby) are all good at what they do, but they're incapable of resuscitating a script that's never truly come to life. These casting choices, obviously made to give some clout to a very mediocre project, feel even more disappointing because the disconnect between actor and character is way too big. For example, Swank is not the alcoholic, fed-up mother we need her to be in this case, and its hard to see this as something else than a derogatory take on her previous more tender and glam roles. Director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte's Sundance-winning As You Are carried a whiff of fresh air, The Good Mother is drained out of all its energy, avoiding reflective depth at all costs, not to mention skirting around the ambivalences of motherhood. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Dilone, Hilary Swank, Hopper Penn, Jack Reynor, Karen Aldridge, Larry Fessenden, Laurent Rejto, Norm Lewis, Olivia Cooke

Director: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte

Rating: R