2023 has been another busy year for Netflix’s film division, with the streamer’s release slate including everything from buzzworthy documentaries like Pamela, A Love Story to comedies along the lines of Murder Mystery 2 as well as action thrillers like Kill Boksoon. The releases have come at a breakneck pace, and they’ve included hits like Extraction 2 plus plenty of misfires like the just-released Best Christmas Ever — while some of the newest Netflix movies like David Fincher’s The Killer and Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon are so big, Netflix arranged for splashy premieres in cinemas that the company owns.
We’re close enough to the end of the year, meanwhile, that critics as well as viewers will soon begin compiling the inevitable rankings of their favorite Netflix movies of 2023 if they haven’t already. The Facebook group Netflix Bangers, for example, recently decided to tackle this very challenge, with some of the group’s 2.1 million members responding to a post this week that called for everyone to list the best movies they watched on the streamer this year.
In no particular order, here are five of the favorites:
Netflix wasted no time after the release of this first movie, the highly anticipated sequel to 2020’s Extraction, in announcing that a third installment in the Chris Hemsworth-led franchise would be coming soon.
There’s not much of a plot here; Hemsworth’s black ops mercenary Tyler Rake essentially rescues the family of a ruthless Georgian gangster from prison. That’s pretty much the whole story. Don’t get me wrong, though; that’s not meant as a dig at the movie. For those of you who haven’t seen it, what Extraction 2 has in store for you is two hours of bone-crushing, pulse-pounding, bullet-riddled, action-packed, brash, bombastic, and deliriously fun movie entertainment. The prison break is an especially standout sequence, during which Hemsworth fights off bad guys while at one point his right arm is literally on fire.
This next film, meanwhile, uses a cast stacked with heavy hitters like Emily Blunt, Chris Evans, Andy Garcia, and Catherine O’Hara to skewer Big Pharma in a kind of Adam McKay-style takedown.
From the official Netflix synopsis of Pain Hustlers: “Upon losing her job, a blue-collar woman struggling to raise her daughter takes a job at a failing pharmaceutical start-up, only to get involved in a dangerous racketeering scheme.” To be sure, this Netflix movie is but the latest entry in a long line of TV shows and movies that take aim at the drug industry and lay bare its many sins. Among others that come to mind, and which also deserve a watch, are Hulu’s Dopesick, Netflix’s Painkiller, and HBO’s The Crime of the Century.
As I noted in a post just a few days ago, this next still somewhat new-ish title has quickly become one of the most-watched non-English Netflix movies of all time.
Nowhere is a survival drama that takes place mostly at sea, with a pregnant mother hiding herself in a cargo container while fleeing a totalitarian country. It’s a story about the primal instincts that kick in and the lengths to which a mother will go in order to protect her child, resulting in an absolutely spellbinding first feature film from the Madrid-based production company behind the project.
Documentaries like The Deepest Breath tend to be some of my favorite Netflix movies, and this doc from filmmaker Laura McGann is all about the dangerous sport of free-diving.
From the streamer: “The sport looks a lot like scuba diving, but without the scuba tank that allows divers to breathe underwater. Instead, athletes take on rigorous training to learn how to hold their breath for long periods of time. (Professionals are underwater for more than three minutes.) Sometimes this results in gruesome injuries, including ‘lung squeezes,’ when the lungs suffer from a quick change in pressure that can cause them to rupture or collapse.
“Needless to say, training to be the best in the world at this sport requires physical strength, mental determination, and an unwavering trust both in the people around you and in the water itself.”
Last but not least, The Mother (starring Jennifer Lopez as a military-trained assassin who comes out of hiding) debuted at #1 when Netflix released it earlier this year. Years ago, Lopez’s character abandoned her child to protect her, but now she’s protecting her once again — during a pulse-pounding escape from a team of elite killers.