Sensational must-see films for the new year

January 13, 2023

Collage created with images from Pexels

Shivam Chowdhary shares a stellar selection of films to spice up the start of 2023

After a fabulously festive season, I’m sure many of you are feeling stuffed, exhausted and perhaps a little unhealthy. The Christmas season can be an enjoyable time, albeit an exhausting one.

As we are at the start of 2023, solid entertainment is mandatory to ease ourselves into the new year that hopefully promises to be an enjoyable one!

So, here are some perfect films to watch this year and I have included their Rotten Tomatoes scores (critics and audience). Some are rather unconventional, and are not usually considered to be feel-good but who needs to watch ‘Love, Actually’ for the trillionth time anyway?

STRANGE DAYS – 1995

Scores

CRITICS – 66%

AUDIENCE – 73%

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A vastly underrated cyberpunk thriller, from the helm of iconic feminist director Kathryn Bigelow, ‘Strange Days’ is a deliciously satisfying murder mystery set in the last few days of 1999.

Anchored by powerhouse performances from Angela Bassett and Ralph Fiennes, this futuristic story is a whirlwind of twists and turns as the audience is plunged into pitch-black phantasmagorical darkness.

Dealing with themes such as race and the ethics of voyeurism, ‘Strange Days’ is perfect for anybody looking for a tense psychological mystery with a cyberpunk edge. With eye-watering cinematography, employing multiple POV shots, this multi-sensory film is a treat for the eyes and a puzzle for the mind.

ANGEL HEART – 1987

Scores

CRITICS – 82%

AUDIENCE – 81%

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With a fresh-faced Mickey Rourke, British bombshell Charlotte Rampling, Robert De Niro and Lisa Bonet, this shocker of a horror film graced our screens in 1987.

A film stylistically ahead of its time thanks to Alan Parker’s hypnotic direction, the film is set just after New Years. It follows Mickey Rourke as a private detective who is hired by an elusive man to solve the disappearance of Johnny Favourite, only to find himself embroiled in a conspiratorial spiral with supernatural consequences.

‘Angel Heart’ is a cult classic, relying on genuine psychological terror rather than cheap jump scares and is perfect for anybody who likes a tinge of the paranormal in their films. A must-see for any Robert De Niro fan; he gives a unique and rather strange performance in this icy chiller of a thriller. There’s all the more reason to see it with a new 4k restoration!

THE STORY OF QIU JU – 1992

Scores

CRITICS – 87%

AUDIENCE – 85%

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Onto a slightly lighter note, The Story of Qiu Ju is a meditative, heart-warming and amusing film starring the majestic Gong Li as a desperate, heavily pregnant bride. She sets out on a painstakingly long journey through mainland China, during the New Years period, to seek vengeance for her husband after, embarrassingly, he gets kicked in the groin by the head of their village.

Certainly, this is the most stylistically beautiful film ever made about testicles – although I’m sure the list isn’t vast! The film is not only a poignant social commentary on contemporary Chinese cosmopolitics, it’s also bewilderingly funny.

On one hand it’s a deeply silly film, but, on the other, it is a stark anthropological glimpse into the harshness of bureaucratic, communist China and the struggles ordinary Chinese civilians face when pitted against a tyrannical system.

Delivering stunning landscape shots of rural China, political commentary, as well as ample humour, the film is a supremely silly scrotal sensation. Despite the slightly questionable theme, it should be stated that this film is very much suitable for most families and carries a 12A age rating certificate – in case there was any doubt!

SUNSET BOULEVARD – 1950

Scores

CRITICS – 98%

AUDIENCE – 95%

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A true masterpiece, ‘Sunset Boulevard’ is in every way a horror film; not in a supernatural or paranormal sense but in a psychological sense. The film depicts the wrath of Hollywood on the human spirit and psyche. Often dubbed one of the best performances ever to grace our screens, Gloria Swanson plays Norma Desmond, a struggling silent film actress who attempts to rejuvenate her acting career only to find her mental state deteriorating.

The film has inspired countless contemporary films, such as ‘Mulholland Drive’ and ‘Black Swan’. Iconic surrealist director David Lynch stated this about the film:

“Sunset Boulevard just has the greatest mood; you’re immersed in it like a dream. It catches a Hollywood story that connects the golden age of Hollywood with the present day. But it’s a truthful movie, and so it carries through to today. It has a lot of sadness in it, and beauty. And mystery. And dreams. Beauty, beauty, beauty and more dreams.”

To speak more on the plot would be remiss of me but I truly would recommend it to anyone interested in seeing an utterly hypnotic film that’s self-reflective on the filmmaking industry.

That about wraps it up! Here’s to hoping 2023 goes well for us all! I’d love to know your thoughts on any of my recommendations.

🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 🍿 🎥 

Shiv is from north-west London, currently studying Film Studies at University of St Andrews. His hobbies include writing and watching lots of films! His favourite director is Darren Aronofsky and his favourite films of all time include ‘Mulholland Drive’, ‘Festen’ and ‘Mother!’ Shiv is an avid admirer of Björk's experimental alt-rock music.

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