We’re thrilled to launch a new feature on The Film Stage highlighting our top recommendations for films currently in theaters, from new releases to restorations receiving a proper theatrical run. While we already provide extensive monthly new-release recommendations and weekly streaming recommendations, as distributors’ roll-outs can vary, we thought it would be helpful to provide a one-stop list to share the essential films that may be on a screen near you. We’ll be updating this page weekly, so be sure to bookmark.

Babes (Pamela Adlon)

Transitioning the naturalistic comic sensibilities that made Better Things a success, Pamela Adlon’s feature debut Babes manages to co-opt the rhythms of a romantic comedy to explore the relationship between two best friends at opposite points of their lives. – Christian G. (full review)

The Beast (Bertrand Bonello)

Where to begin with Bertrand Bonello’s wonderful The Beast? It’s been so gratifying to see the initial reaction to the French filmmaker’s tenth feature, after several decades of increasingly remarkable work––the majority of it dark, beautiful, and sleazy. In fact, for what a discomforting and despairing experience much of The Beast is, when I’ve thought back its moments of real, uncomplicated cinematic pleasure, its verve and sense of joyousness, are what mark my memories. It’s romantic, without a capital-R. – David K. (full review)

Challengers (Luca Guadagnino)

Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers opens in an intentionally disorienting manner: We are in New Rochelle, New York for a tennis challenger. Wearing cheap shorts that resemble boxers, Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor) battles Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), clad in head-to-toe Uniqlo, while the glamorous Tashi Donaldson (Zendaya) watches tensely from the stands. Flashbacks, first from a few days prior, and then way back to 13 years ago, slowly fill in the gaps on how these two former best friends ended up in such a position: playing against one another in a mid-tier tennis challenger comically sponsored by a tire brand.  – Caleb H. (full review)

La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher)

While Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny perhaps garnered more press out of Cannes, another selection involving archaeologists and tomb raiders will have a longer shelf life. Alice Rohrwacher’s latest feature La Chimera (starring Josh O’Connor, Isabella Rossellini, and Alba Rohrwacher) ranked quite highly on our top 50 films of 2023 list for good reason. It’s a dreamy, magical odyssey in which the Italian director whisks viewers away with the kind of transportive vision she’s exuded in all her features thus far.

Civil War (Alex Garland)

While bound to spark hundreds of think pieces, Alex Garland’s stirring Civil War will undoubtedly go down, too, as one of the most provocative films of the year. It’s also an early contender for one of the best, offering a stunning warning: no matter what the cause, war is hell. Civil War is less interested in the causes of conflict and more about front lines as the Western Forces march towards the White House through the East Coast, turning small towns into battlefields. – John F. (full review)

Coma (Bertrand Bonello)

A contemporary cliché that weakly attempts to diagnose what ails us in modern life is the idea of being addled by technology––of our minds and attention spans swamped by screens, content, scrolling. But as the pandemic hit this notion gained a new relevance: it’s not that the virtual realm of content and media was luring us away from our reality––faced with an indefinite lockdown, it had finally become our sole one. Even though this can be poorly rendered by some, it’s the more sensitive and aware artists, such as Bertrand Bonello with his new feature Coma, that remind of the urgency to confront it.  – David K. (full review)

Evil Does Not Exist (Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

Amongst a typically raucous lineup at this year’s Venice Film Festival comes Evil Does Not Exist, a work in which tensions rise over little more than the placement of a septic tank. It’s the latest from director Ryusuke Hamaguchi and his first since 2021’s miraculous double-punch of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and Drive My CarEvil concerns a clash of urban and rural sensibilities: a story about a small but hardy group of people who wish to stop the development of a glamping site. Devotees of Kelly Reichardt’s sylvan melancholies will feel perfectly at home. – Rory O. (full review)

Flipside (Chris Wilcha)

There is no surprise twist in Chris Wilcha’s Flipside, a documentary making its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival. This is not a true-crime doc or a story of unearthed family secrets. (Although there is lots of ephemera excavated after years of quasi-hoarding.) Instead of a twist, though, there is an audience awakening, one that takes a rather standard there-are-places-I-remember doc into surprisingly resonant territory. Ultimately, Flipside is a moving, funny, inventive film that may cause viewers to follow Wilcha’s lead and ask tough questions about their own lives. That is no small feat for a documentarian. – Chris S. (full review)

Furiosa (George Miller)

Almost nine years to the day since Mad Max: Fury Road premiered in Cannes, George Miller returns to the Croisette with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. It’s a deafening roar of a film, full of the same improbable vehicles and breathless pursuits through the director’s signature dystopian outback, though now told through a lens that can feel a bit slick at times. It tells the story of how Imperator Furiosa (immortalized by Charlize Theron in 2015 and gamely reinterpreted here by Alyla Browne and Anya Taylor-Joy) came to be, tracking her journey from childhood and the Place of Abundance––an Edenic oasis of renewable energy and worrying red apples––to hardened warrior in the wastelands of Bullet Farm, Gastown, and The Citadel of Immortan Joe. The concerns that met the trailer––suggesting Miller had traded in his predecessor’s practical effects for CGI––are, I’m sorry to say, not entirely unfounded. But Furiosa can still boast moments to take the breath away. Did we need it? Probably not. Are the chase scenes still phenomenal? Absolutely. – Rory O. (full review)

Ghostlight (Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson)

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A masterfully crafted work with nearly no false notes, Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson’s Ghostlight is a tender drama bearing profound moments of humor and small triumphs. The smartly constructed script by O’Sullivan buries the lede, revealing new narrative information with each layer as we watch a nuclear family slowly come apart and, later, find solace in the wake of their son’s suicide. Anchored by a real-life family, the film feels as if it’s been meticulously workshopped with the same intimate collaboration that gave O’Sullivan and Thompson’s last feature, Saint Frances, its authentic nuances. – John F. (full review)

Hit Man (Richard Linklater)

While much of the world will have to wait until next month to see one of the year’s best audience-friendly crowdpleasers isolated on the small screen in their home, those who have the chance to catch Richard Linklater’s Hit Man in theaters should jump at the opportunity. Luke Hicks said in his review, “Walking into the screening, I confidently told my friends I didn’t think Powell had what it took to be a leading man, the hot take machine that I am. Walking out, I was washing my mouth out with soap. Powell’s performance is one thing––an absolute blast––but the fact that he hands-on-produced and co-wrote the film is something else entirely. It’s a burgeoning phase that proves there’s much more to the actor than handsome acting chops and a traditionally masculine glow (though both are certainly, thankfully on full display). One small step for Richard Linklater, one giant leap for Glen Powell.”

In a Violent Nature (Chris Nash)

What new perspective can one bring to the horror genre? With his directorial debut, Chris Nash gives this question its resoundingly brutal, formally fascinating answer. Primarily following a murderer’s steps and slashes through his travels terrorizing those near a remote cabin, the wonderfully Béla Tarr-esque In a Violent Nature sticks to its meticulous conceit and delivers one of the most chilling horror movies I’ve seen in years. – Jordan R.

In Our Day (Hong Sangsoo)

Like other Hong Sang-soo films, In Our Day passes, on the surface, for simple fare. The prolific South Korean director layers weighty themes amidst naturalistic filmmaking, almost documentary-style in his willingness to let the camera sit without needing any extra flourishes. Cutting between two scenes––both playing out over a single afternoon––Hong focuses his energy on the dialogue between his characters, on the rapid intergenerational misconceptions. In doing so he muses on the pessimism of art, the somewhat meaningless nature of life, and how we interpret the actions and words of our fictional heroes. – Michael F. (full review)

I Saw the TV Glow (Jane Schoenbrun)

Tender yet rageful, quiet yet deafening, intimate yet expansive, Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow is a towering achievement of total artistic freedom, the kind of work where certain images will be eternally burned into your mind and the feelings it exudes will linger far after the credits roll. Expanding the aura of loneliness from We’re All Going to the World’s Fair into a vastly more ambitious, layered canvas, Schoenbrun’s third feature tells the story of Owen, played early on by Ian Foreman and later by Justice Smith in a revelatory performance. Following the isolated journey of questioning his identity through childhood and adulthood, we witness his special infatuation with a late-night TV show and the ineradicable bond it creates with another lonely soul, Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine). The deeply expressive, imaginative ways in which Schoenbrun is able to articulate one’s struggle with identity is nothing short of staggering. This may not be a horror film in the conventional sense––in fact, every directorial decision assertively refutes convention––but I Saw the TV Glow emphatically argues nothing is more terrifying than being trapped in a body you don’t desire and having no words to properly express the feeling. – Jordan R. (full review)

The People’s Joker (Vera Drew)

It’s a genuine miracle that The People’s Joker has managed to make it to screens unscathed, especially considering the legal battles which dogged the 2023 TIFF premiere could easily have left it trapped in the vault forever. Many of the rave reactions from that festival were written solely within the context of such lingering threat, with many critics doubling-up as armchair legal experts, not analyzing the qualities of Vera Drew’s film so much as they were assessing the likelihood of whether anybody else would ever see it. Now that this unauthorized take on the DC mythos is defiantly arriving on screens––albeit with a lengthy legal scrawl preceding the action itself––it’s immediately obvious that writing about it solely within the context of whether it constitutes a serious copyright violation is something of an insult. – Alistair R. (full review)

Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger)

By far one of the most delightful films of the year––even when it breaks your heart––Pablo Berger’s Robot Dreams is a deceptively simple take on companionship that uses robots and animals to tell a very human story about friendship and life. Adapted from Sara Varon’s 2007 graphic novel of the same name, Berger’s lively film respects the form, telling its story without dialogue and instead relying on music and sound effects to drive the story of Dog and Robot forth. Dog spends his life in a sterile East Village apartment, circa the 1980s––eating microwaved meals, playing pong, drinking Tab, and yearning for companionship in the shadow of his YOLO poster. Flipping around the channels, Dog stumbles across an ad for a companion robot and spends the next few days assembling his new friend. – John F. (full review)

More Recommended Films Now Playing in Theaters

The Best New Restorations Now Playing in Theaters

The below list features newly restored films receiving a theatrical release run. For NYC-specific repertory round-ups, bookmark NYC Weekend Watch.

Read all reviews here.

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