7 Movies Like The Strays (2023)

Staff & contributors

A dark and existential comedy, Wristcutters: A Love Story follows Zia (Patrick Fugit), a young man who commits suicide, only to find himself in a bleak afterlife filled with other suicide victims. He discovers that his former partner has just joined him in this dreary realm and sets out to find her. From there, the film transitions into a macabre road-trip film as Zia and several acquaintances strike out in a beat-up old car in the name of love and redemption. Based on a short story by award-winning Israeli writer Etgar Karet, Wristcutters is a stunningly original film that will haunt viewers forever.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Abraham Benrubi, Adam Gifford, Amy Seimetz, Anthony Azizi, Azazel Jacobs, Azura Skye, Bonnie Aarons, Bridget Powers, Cameron Bowen, Chase Ellison, Clayne Crawford, Eddie Steeples, Goran Dukić, Irwin Keyes, Jake Busey, Jazzmun, John Hawkes, Julia Sanford, Leslie Bibb, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Fredrichs, Mary Pat Gleason, Mikal P. Lazarev, Nick Offerman, Nils Allen Stewart, Patrick Fugit, Reedy Gibbs, Sarah Roemer, Shannyn Sossamon, Sharone Meir, Shea Whigham, Tom Waits, Will Arnett, Zia Harris

Director: Goran Dukić

Rating: R

In his last film, American Serb film historian Peter Bogdanovich celebrates silver screen legend Buster Keaton. The subject alone is compelling to watch. It would be easy to pull clips from Keaton’s works, dig through the headlines, pull in some celebrity interviews, and call it a day. However, in Bogdanovich’s hands, this documentary handles Keaton with respect. Instead of focusing on the scandals, Bogdanovich focuses on Keaton’s brilliant work. Instead of reciting facts, Bogdanovich highlights how his bits influenced film today. Excellent editing - cuts, structure, and scoring - helps us glide through Keaton’s work. The film truly understands Keaton’s life and exactly why he’s brilliant. Comprehensive yet very focused, this documentary honestly feels better than film school.

Genre: Comedy, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Ben Mankiewicz, Bill Hader, Bill Irwin, Buster Keaton, Carl Reiner, Cybill Shepherd, Dick Van Dyke, Eleanor Keaton, French Stewart, James Karen, Johnny Knoxville, Jon Watts, Leonard Maltin, Mel Brooks, Nick Kroll, Norman Lloyd, Orson Welles, Paul Dooley, Peter Bogdanovich, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Lewis, Tom Holland, Werner Herzog

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

Rating: Not Rated

The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jeong-bin, Geum Hae-na, Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Ju Seok-tae, Kim Hae-na, Kwak Min-kyu, Park Jeong-hak, Seo Hyun-woo

Director: Hong Sung-eun

When Big Tech and trolls have all but villainized the internet, it's hard to forget that good can come out of it sometimes. But Missing makes a case for its usefulness by making it the sole means by which an 18-year-old tries to find her missing mother. Played by Storm Reid, June Allen is endlessly creative in the digital sphere, which makes sense given she's from a generation that grew up with cutting-edge technology. She makes use of geotrackers, earth cams, and even digital watches to get ahead of the authorities, who for their part, are tied down by legalities and red tape. Missing shows us the potential of the internet, what it can do if used resourcefully and for good, and it's a refreshing take given the (understandably) many films that are fearful of tech. 

Missing embraces all this newness and builds a solid thriller out of it, making it a worthy and possibly seminal entry in the screenlife genre. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Amy Landecker, Briana McLean, Dalila Ali Rajah, Daniel Henney, Danielle Nottingham, Esteban Dager, Jalil Jay Lynch, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Javier Grajeda, Jill Remez, Jill Smith, Joaquim de Almeida, Karina Noelle Castillo, Kelly Stables, Ken Leung, Kimberly Cheng, Lisa Yamada, Mauricio Mendoza, Megan Suri, Michael Segovia, Monica Bhatnagar, Nia Long, Oscar Camacho, Rick Chambers, Roy Abramsohn, Scott Menville, Sean O'Bryan, Storm Reid, Thomas Barbusca, Tim Griffin, Tracy Vilar, Wolfie Trausch, Zeke Alton

Director: Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick

Rating: PG-13

Though it doesn't proceed like most animal/nature-centered documentaries that you've seen, the Oscar-nominated All That Breathes is instantly memorable in the way it de-centers the human perspective from its all-encompassing study of New Delhi, India. The wildlife rescue team that features prominently in this film still only becomes a vessel through which director Shaunak Sen explores the environmental and political hazards being faced by the nation today. It's a movie that definitely challenges you to think for yourself, as any talking heads or on-screen explanations are traded for truly stunning shots of New Delhi as a biome teeming with life among the dirt. For those who want their documentaries unconventional, this is excellent stuff.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Shaunak Sen

, 2023

Like the action thriller Cellular (2004), Unseen plays with the idea of saving someone only through a phone. This time, however, Yoko Okumura’s directorial debut has video call instead of just audio, with video used to help nearly blind Emily run away from her kidnapper ex. Through split screen shots, occasional open hazy irises, and tiny phone screens, Unseen takes us on a desperate escape, an escape made possible by Emily’s connection with random stranger Sam. While some parts feel absolutely ridiculous, the thriller still feels like a wild ride, especially when focused on its two leads. It’s still enjoyable, if you can accept its silliness and the shallow way it approaches certain themes.

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brett Baker, Jolene Purdy, Michael Patrick Lane, Midori Francis, Missi Pyle, Nicholas X. Parsons, Ren Hanami

Director: Yoko Okumura

Rating: NR

Known best for his horror films, writer-director Christopher Smith’s latest stint in the genre has dropped on Hulu. Consecration is one of many supernatural horror films set in convents and churches, as the Catholic Church’s notorious silence is easy fodder for potential fears. There’s some of that here, as Grace, portrayed by the excellent Jena Malone, tries to uncover the truth, not just for her brother’s murder but for her own past. However, there’s no secrecy in this murder mystery with the dialogue holding no subtlety at all. Even as the cast makes the most of it, Consecration drags down any possible tension or intrigue with its painfully straightforward dialogue and incoherent timeline shifts.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Lewis, Angela White, Charlotte Palmer, Danny Huston, David Boyle, Eilidh Fisher, Emma Hixson, Ian Pirie, Janet Suzman, Jena Malone, Jolade Obasola, Kit Rakusen, Marilyn O'Brien, Steffan Cennydd, Thoren Ferguson, Will Keen

Director: Christopher Smith

Rating: R