There’s a term in the film industry used to describe movies that come out in the beginning months of the year. It’s called “dumpuary.” Studios will dump films that might flop in January and February while saving their blockbusters for the summer and prestige dramas for the fall. With the emergence of streaming and a recent track record of early month hits (Bad Boys for Life, Uncharted, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania), “dumpuary” may be a thing of the past.
In just over two months, 2023 has provided a string of critical and box-office hits in many genres. So far, audiences have championed a creepy doll with a violent side (M3GAN), a throwback to ’90s action movies (Plane), a powerful courtroom drama (Saint Omer), and a bear high on cocaine (Cocaine Bear). The following list is the best movies of 2023 up to this point.
10. Cocaine Bear
It doesn’t take much thinking to understand the plot of Cocaine Bear. A bear eats cocaine and goes wild in this ridiculous, high-concept movie. But guess what? It’s funny and a lot of fun! Based on true events, a drug shipment is botched, causing a bag of cocaine to fall out of a plane and land in a Georgia forest. A 500-pound black bear ingests the cocaine, resulting in an uncontrollable beast.
A group of teens, townspeople, criminals, and tourists converge on the forest. These people learn the hard way what happens to a bear when it’s high on cocaine. As you can probably guess, the bear goes on a killing spree. Cocaine Bear is not perfect, but it’s a fun adventure that should be watched alongside a big group of people.
Cocaine Bear is now in theaters.
Gerard Butler (300) is singlehandedly keeping the spirit of ’90s action films alive. Greenland, Den of Thieves, Hunter Killer, Last Seen Alive, and the Has Fallen series are all movies that came out within the last 10 years that could have been released in the 1990s. His latest action film on his resume is Plane.
Butler stars as Brodie Torrance, a commercial pilot forced to make an emergency landing in the Philippines after the plane is severely damaged in a storm. However, the area where Brodie lands are run by hostiles who take most of the passengers hostage. Brodie’s only hope is to team with Louis Gaspare (Luke Cage’s Mike Colter), a homicide suspect being accompanied on the flight by the FBI. If you Butler’s previous action movies, then Plane will be right in your wheelhouse.
Plane is now available digitally and on demand.
Telling a story through screens is no easy task. Screenlife movies, as they’re called, have been around for the better part of two decades. As technology advances, so too does the quality of screenlife films. 2018’s Searching, a screenlife thriller about a father’s attempt to find his missing daughter, mastered the visual storytelling formula on its way to becoming a box office hit, grossing $75 million on less than a $1 million budget.
2023 saw the release of Missing, the standalone sequel to Searching. Storm Reid (The Last of Us) stars as June Allen, a teenager who tries to locate her mother after she goes missing in Colombia while on vacation with her new boyfriend. At first, June believes that the boyfriend (Indsutry’s Ken Leung) kidnapped her mother. As the story unfolds, June discovers that her mother has been withholding secrets from her. Missing is a fast thriller that keeps the audience guessing until the very end of the film.
Missing will be available digitally and on demand starting March 7.
7. Knock at the Cabin
Whether you like M. Night Shyamalan (Old) or not, he’s one of the few filmmakers who can eventize a movie. When Shyamalan releases a film, it always feels like a big deal. His latest film, Knock at the Cabin, follows the Shyamalan formula for success: supernatural plots and twist endings. Based on a 2018 novel by Paul G. Tremblay, Knock at the Cabin depicts a home invasion with apocalyptic stakes.
Four strangers – Leonard (Dune’s Dave Bautista), Sabrina (Little Women’s Abby Quinn), Redmond (Servant’s Rupert Grint), and Adriene (Old’s Nikki Amuka-Bird) – hold parents Eric (Mindhunter’s Jonathan Groff) and Andrew (Pennyworth’s Ben Aldridge) hostage at their cabin along with their 7-year-old daughter, Wen (Kristen Cui). The home invaders demand the family sacrifices one of their own to avoid the apocalypse. It’s not top-tier Shyamalan, but it’s still worthy of a spot on the early “best of” list for 2023.
Knock at the Cabin is now available digitally and on demand.
If there is one sure bet in movies, it’s to never take home a creepy doll because it will ruin your life. After the death of her parents, Cady (The Haunting of Hill House’s Violet McGraw) is left in the custody of her aunt and robotic developer Gemma (Girls’ Allison Williams). With no idea how to raise a child, Gemma enlists the help of her latest creation, M3GAN, a lifelike android in the form of a young girl. M3GAN was created to serve as a child’s best friend and protector.
At first, M3GAN is a hit with Cady as the two form an immediate friendship. As you could’ve already guessed, M3GAN becomes overprotective of Cady, which leads to a streak of violence and terror toward whoever crosses her path. M3GAN’s strength is that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows exactly the type of film it wants to be, a scary, funny, and campy sci-fi horror.
M3GAN is available to stream on Peacock.
5. Creed III
For the first time in his career, Michael B. Jordan (A Journal for Jordan) steps behind the camera to direct Creed III, the latest entry in the franchise. Donnie (Jordan) is retired from fighting, working as a promoter instead of taking punches to the head. He’s still happily with Bianca Taylor (Thor: Love and Thunder’s Tessa Thompson) and their young daughter. Donnie’s seemingly perfect life is turned upside when childhood friend Damian Anderson (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s Jonathan Majors) re-enters Donnie’s life after a lengthy prison sentence.
Damian took the fall for Donnie and went to prison when they were kids, and now, he wants everything Donnie has earned. It’s all building toward the exhilarating showdown between the former friends. Jordan is still great as Donnie, but Majors is the perfect stick of dynamite to shake the franchise up. If Michael B. Jordan wants to continue making Creed movies, he should have every right to do so because these films rule.
Creed III is now in theaters.
In 1996, a little-known screenwriter named Kevin Williamson penned the slasher Scream. The witty dialogue and clever premise were a rare thing to witness in a horror script. It paved the way for all the meta, tongue-in-cheek horrors that would soon follow and still get made 27 years later. In 2023, Williamson returned to the genre he helped champion with Sick, a spiritual sequel to Scream set during the start of the COVID pandemic.
Two college students (Blockers’ Gideon Adlon and Flatbush Misdemeanors’ Bethlehem Million) head to a lakeside cabin to quarantine as the world slowly shuts down. Armed with their masks, gloves, and disinfectant, the girls head to the secluded area to ride out the pandemic. Their cabin getaway becomes a hellish nightmare when a masked lunatic stalks and attacks the girls at the cabin. Sick is a quick, witty slasher that will go down as one of the better pandemic-themed movies of its time.
Sick is available to stream on Peacock.
3. Infinity Pool
At times, Infinity Pool is gross, disturbing, and visceral. However, Alexander Skarsgård (Succession) and Mia Goth (Pearl) are as committed as ever, making Infinity Pool a worthy addition to this list. Directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor), son of the legendary David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future), Infinity Pool follows James Foster (Skarsgård), a novelist on vacation with his wealthy wife Em (Rebel Moon’s Cleopatra Coleman) in a seaside town.
James meets Gabi (Goth), who along with her husband Alban (Iris’ Jalil Lespert), invites the couple out for a night of drinking and partying. When James accidentally kills a local man, he experiences the country’s unique legal system where the wealthy can clone themselves and watch their duplicates be killed in their place. I’m going to stop now because this is truly a “you need to see it to believe it” type of movie. This movie will not be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for something wild and unpredictable, give Infinity Pool a shot.
Infinity Pool is now available digitally and on demand.
In his feature directorial debut, Kyle Edward Ball’s experimental horror film is about a nightmare scenario involving two children. Set in the mid-’90s, six-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and her four-year-old brother Kevin (Lucas Paul) wake up in the middle of the night to find out their father is missing.
To make matters worse, the windows and doors in the house have mysteriously vanished. As they search for their father in the dark, mysterious voices call the children in all directions. Skinamarink will scare even the most diehard horror fans. It’s a childhood nightmare played out in real life, which is something that all viewers can relate to.
Skinamarink is now on Shudder.
1. Saint Omer
In 2016, documentarian Alice Diop (Nous), who was pregnant, attended the trial of Fabienne Kabou, a Senegalese-French woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter. Kabou left her daughter to drown on the shores of Berck-sur-Mer, where the child was found dead the next day. Psychiatrists determined that Kabou was paranoid as she stated that evil forces wanted to kill the child. However, Kabou was still deemed fit to stand trial.
Inspired by these events, Diop wrote and directed her feature debut, Saint Omer. In the film, novelist Rama (Les Nègres’s Kayije Kagame) attends the trial of Laurence Coly (The Romanoffs’ Guslagie Malanda), a Senegalese immigrant accused of killing her infant child on the beach Berck. Rama, who is fourth-months pregnant, attends the trial to gain inspiration for her modern retelling of Medea that she plans to write. As the case progresses, Rama starts to reflect on her own life after hearing about Coly’s difficult upbringing. Saint Omer is a riveting courtroom drama that forces viewers to confront these difficult questions, resulting in a powerful film about sympathy and humanity.
Saint Omer is now available digitally and on demand.