Jacob Elordi in "Saltburn"

2023 Roundup: Ten Films that Fell Under the Critical Radar

Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 12 MIN.

As is usually the case, many of the year's best films are also the most-talked about (and let's not forget the so-subjective notion of "best"). These are the same titles that pop up on most 10 best lists with one or two odd choices sprinkled in so critics can feel less like lemmings. They vie for attention in the various awards that are precursors to the Oscars, with the attention usually falling on one title. By the time the Oscars do come, the both winner and nominations are mind-numbingly dull. "Everything Everywhere All At Once," indeed.

So, yes, on my list of favorite films this year I would include "Oppenheimer," "Poor Things," "Killers of the Flower Moon," "Anatomy of a Fall," "May December," "American Fiction," and "All of Us Strangers." But there are a host of amazing and just as worthy feature films that are not being mentioned by most critics and bloggers. And should be.

Here at EDGE, we have selected 10 of the best Unsung Films of 2023.


Emerald Fennell's follow up to "Promising Young Woman" is a brilliant piece of disturbing and delicious queer cinema. That it is largely being dismissed by many critics as a "Talented Mr. Ripley" knockoff is likely because it makes most straight men (still the critic majority) uncomfortable, something they can't admit.

Barry Keoghan, in one of the most fearless performances of the year (right up there with Emma Stone in "Poor Things!"), plays Oliver Quick, an enigmatic figure at Oxford who becomes obsessed with the gorgeous and filthy rich Felix (Jacob Elordi, filthy-handsome and terrific) and is invited to his estate, Saltburn.

The only actor being mentioned at all in the awards race is the genius that is Rosamund Pike, who delivers my favorite movie line of the year: "She'll do anything for attention." You'll have to see the film for context.

The film boasts an ending that will make an indelible impression: Sophie Ellis Bextor's "Murder on the Dancefloor" plays as we are transfixed by a tracking shot of the film's anti-hero dancing through the halls of the grand mansion for which the film is named.

"Saltburn" is currently playing in theaters.

'Society of the Snow'

How dare I put a prominent Netflix film that is Spain's Oscar submission on my list? I dare, since "Society of the Snow" has hardly gotten any attention and is one of the two best International Feature submissions of the year (take it from someone who saw all 88 of them), sharing a top spot with Italy's "Io capitano." Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Impossible") has created a true cinematic masterpiece, taking the real survival story about the 1972 Uruguayan crash into the Andes and giving it an authentic, respectful, riveting treatment.

"Society of the Snow" will be released in theaters on December 22, 2023, and then stream on Netflix.


Ava DuVernay's original, ballsy new film, "Origin" combines historical debate about race with a semi-biographical narrative that follows one writer's personal journey of discovery. In a magnificent turn, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor plays real-life best-selling author Isabel Wilkerson (author of the 2020 book "Caste") who tries to understand the country's chronic divisiveness by arguing that it is caste, not race, that is the true problem. It's a fascinating theory (basically about assumed supremacy), and her odyssey is grounded in a real world filled with personal tragedy and growth.

"Origin" opens in theaters on January 19th.


Michel Franco's quietly explosive film "Memory" deals with abuse and how easy it is, even today, for people to believe what they want to believe.

Jessica Chastain, in an incredible slow-burn turn, plays Sylvia, a social worker and mother to a teenage daughter, who leads a very organized life that doesn't allow for much trust of others. In a bizarre scene she encounters Saul (a superb Peter Sarsgaard), a seemingly creepy guy, who turns out to have a kind of dementia where he can't always recall what happened a few moments ago. These two unlikely misfits somehow fall for one another.

Sylvia has a younger sister (Merritt Wever, always amazing) and an estranged mother (Jessica Harper, so good she makes your skin crawl) who never believed Sylvia's horror stories of continued (outside and familial) abuse. In one of the most stirring scenes in any film this year, Sylvia confronts both her sister and mother. It's a true triumph for Chastain, who just keeps adding to her canon of beguiling, strong women, who are also quite vulnerable if you peer close enough.

"Memory" is in theaters (limited) on December 22nd and released wide on January 5, 2024.


Hirokazu Kore-eda's sublime film, "Monster" won both the Queer Palm and Best Screenplay Award at this year's Cannes Film Festival, but Japan failed to submit it for Oscars. The narrative explores ideas about truth and perception and how dangerous it can be to condemn without knowing all the facts.

"Monster's" queer portion is explored with great authenticity and care and involves two adolescent boys (Soya Kurokawa and Hinata Hiragi, both exceptional) who may be crushing on one another. It's a transfixing work.

"Monster" is currently playing in theaters.

by Frank J. Avella

Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com). Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute

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