It’s time to take stock of the year so far in terms of new movies on Netflix and pick out the must-watch titles released so far in 2023. Welcome to our roun
While Netflix got accolades for their 2022 films at the Oscars in March, their 2023 film slate thus far has not been so well received. Despite the star power behind many of the projects, most of this year’s crop have middling grades at best thus far. Of the 11 films I’ve reviewed for this site, the average IMDB rating is 6.1, with none of them reaching above 7.
However, I do believe the 5 ranked films below have something to offer, even if it is simply the leading men & ladies that we just love to see on screen.
Would you rather see our top picks of the best new series added to Netflix in 2023? Check out our list of those here.
So, without further ado, let’s check out my current Top 5 Netflix Original Movies of 2023.
5. Murder Mystery 2
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Melanie Laurent
I know. I’m shocked it’s here too.
Following up one of the most watched Netflix Original films ever was always going to be a tricky thing to pull off, but, of all people, Adam Sandler, one of the creative & comedic minds behind the Grown Ups & Hotel Transylvania franchises, would be up for the task.
In yet another “Adam Sandler Takes His Friends on Vacation Movie”, this much-anticipated sequel takes us to exotic locales such as the U.S. island state of Hawaii & Paris, France for a new adventure with investigative married couple Nick & Audrey Spitz, played once again by returning stars Sandler & Jennifer Aniston. Capitalizing on their successful case in the first film, the Spitz’s quit their jobs and start their own private investigation company. Having difficulties getting their new business off the ground, they jump at the opportunity to go to a private island destination wedding for the Maharaja Vikram (Adeel Akhtar), whom they met in the first film.
Placing them once again in a fish-out-of-water scenario with a wealthy, dysfunctional family, the Spitz’s are witnesses to the kidnapping of their friend after his bodyguard is found stabbed. Just like the first film, Nick & Audrey attempt to help with the investigation until the blame shifts back on them. They must find the true culprits in order to clear their names and save their friend.
While it may bear certain similarities to the plot of the original on paper, Murder Mystery 2 feels like a much different movie from the first. Switching to more of a buddy cop movie structure than a Whodunnit, the sequel amps up the action set pieces and lands way more jokes for a little more entertaining & fun movie than its predecessor.
While it may lack character depth and waste the talents of new faces to the series like Melanie Laurent, the chemistry & banter between Sandler & Aniston still works exceptionally well and the film plays to the strengths of the stars we want to see to create an effective enough sequel that should please the fans of the original.
Director: Veronica Ngo
Cast: Dong Anh Quynh, Toc Tien, Veronica Ngo, Rima Thanh Vy, Thuan Nguyen
A loose prequel to 2019’s Furie, the Vietnamese female-led revenge film brings the original’s star Veronica Ngo back in the fold with the expanded role as director, co-writer, producer, & one of the movie’s leading ladies.
Set in the brutal, neon-laced streets of 1990’s Saigon, Furies tells the story of three young women who have been saved from cruel & abusive backgrounds by their leader “Aunt Lin” and trained to be fierce and furious vigilantes on a bend to make the brutally sadistic crimelords pay for their tyrannical grip on their world.
While the story may be set in the 90s, the action choreography influences are definitely the 2010s. Inspired by films like the kick-ass 2011 Indonesian crime thriller The Raid or its many disciples such as John Wick, Netflix’s The Night Comes For Us, & Atomic Blonde, Furies takes up the phrenetic action pacing & close quarters fight scenes and executes them quite well. Fight choreographer Kefi Abrikh took his experience from working on the original Furie and his larger budget American films The 355 and The Princess to create quality practical martial arts compositions & believable gunplay.
Though the thinness of the script, some poor visual EFX, & a bloated runtime will hold this film back from rising to the level of the elite action it films it so desperately wants to be like, Furies still has enough to offer fans of the genre, like myself, to overlook its flaws and enjoy the ride.
3. Luther: The Fallen Sun
Director: Jamie Payne
Cast: Idris Alba, Andy Serkis, Cynthia Erivo, Dermot Crowley
Four years after the final episode of the Luther TV series, Idris Elba and company are back for another high-profile case.
Written & produced by Luther showrunner Neil Cross and directed by Season 5’s Jamie Payne, The Fallen Sun sees an emotionally damaged John Luther working the case of a young man’s mysterious disappearance after calling the police. The man behind the disappearance grows concerned with Luther’s involvement and digs up enough dirt on his past exploits to get him fired, prosecuted, and sent to prison. After receiving a transmission from this new serial killer while in captivity, Luther must break out of prison to go on the hunt for this new terror roving the streets of London.
While it is a movie based on a television series, the film does just enough to stand on its own. Featuring striking, macabre visuals & more cinematic compositions, The Fallen Sun steps up from its small screen roots and earns the limited theatrical release it was granted from Netflix. Also, the story does not rely on watching every season of the show and features a more straightforward cat & mouse game between Luther and omnipresent mastermind David Robey played by Lord of the Rings & Black Panther star Andy Serkis.
While the chemistry between Luther & Robey may not always work, The Fallen Sun has enough visual flair and persistent threats from its villain to make for a satisfying enough film to satiate the desire of fans to see Elba adopt the Luther character once more.
2. The Pale Blue Eye
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Christian Bale, Harry Melling, Toby Jones, Gillian Anderson, Lucy Boynton, Robert Duvall
After many years and many drafts of the screenplay, accomplished writer/director Scott Cooper (Hostiles, Out of the Furnace, Crazy Heart) brings his “Edgar Allen Poe Origin Story” adapted from Louis Bayard’s historical fiction novel of the same name to Netflix.
Starring Academy Award Winner Christian Bale & Netflix stalwart Harry Melling (The Old Guard, The Queen’s Gambit, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) as Edgar Allen Poe, the film centers around local detective Augustus Landor (Bale), who is brought in to investigate the mysterious death of West Point Military Academy’s cadets. When it becomes clear that Landor won’t be able to crack the case alone, he enlists the help of an eager yet eccentric cadet named Edgar Allan Poe.
While the story does get fed to us by Bale’s Landor, the film itself belongs to Melling and his performance as Poe. His look, his demeanor, & his accent draw you in at every turn. The more he is in the center of the film, the more the film benefits from his presence. Melling continues his impressive accent as a strong character actor building on his previous roles and delivers my favorite performance in a Netflix film at this point in the year.
The cinematography by Cooper’s long-time Director of Photography, Masanobu Takayanagi, is right beside Melling as the backbone of the movie. The cold, gray tones & dense fog offsetting the more vibrant blue uniforms strikes the proper tone for such an unsettling tale. The look and feel remind me of comparable works such as Gareth Evans’s Netflix Original Apostle & Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.
While it may not live up to the hype of its Awards Season tipping release date or its star & director combo, The Pale Blue Eye will get a lot of mileage from fans of Poe & the film’s creator Scott Cooper while creating new fans for the impressive Harry Melling.
1. The Magician’s Elephant
Director: Wendy Rogers
Voice Cast: Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin, Brian Tyree Henry, Benedict Wong, Aasif Mandvi, Natasia Demetriou
After a series of murder plots & gun-fu action, isn’t it nice to know I still love a solid animated family movie?
Based on the children’s novel of the same name by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo (“Because of Winn-Dixie”), The Magician’s Elephant is the entertaining & heartwarming story of young orphan boy Peter who lost his mother and sister during the Great Foreign War. Raised by Vilna, the aging soldier who saved him many years ago, Peter always thought his sister might still be out there despite the insistence of his guardian that she has passed on. After a chance encounter with a fortune teller, he is told he can find his sister by simply “follow(ing) the elephant”. What follows is a layered “wish-fulfillment” tale with heart, humor, and a series of impossible tasks that keeps its audience engaged with this game element throughout.
Featuring quality animation from newly acquired studio Animal Logic (Lego Batman Movie, Peter Rabbit) & steady direction from longtime Visual EFX Supervisor Wendy Rogers (Shrek, Puss In Boots), the film’s most impressive aspect may be in its all-star lineup of voices.
The film is narrated by the previously mentioned Fortune Teller, voiced by the perfectly snarky Natasia Demetriou (Nadja in What We Do In The Shadows). Noah Jupe (A Quiet Place films) provides relentless hope & youthful exuberance with his performance of Peter. Legend of stage & screen Mandy Patinkin (The Princess Bride, Homeland) graces us with the range of emotions required to bring life to Sgt. Lutz. Oscar nominee Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway, Bullet Train) stirs up the whimsical nature of this film with the unreasonably hopeful Officer Leo. MCU star Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) brings his mystical art prowess to his role as The Magician. And last but certainly not least, former “Daily Show” correspondent Aasif Mandvi breathes life at the perfect time with his fun-loving, eccentric characterization of The King who makes Peter fulfill the impossible tasks that keep the audience engaged throughout the story.
The Magician’s Elephant gives us an original fairy tale that brings out the child in all of us. The central themes of Hope and the Belief in the Impossible mixed with indelible characters make this film a cut above for Netflix Original Animation.
What’s been your favorite new Netflix Original movie release so far in 2023? Let us know in the comments down below.