4 Intricate, must-see movies of the past year

by Claire Zhu

For moviegoers who have been underwhelmed by recent films that have been polarizing like “Mean Girls” or just plain bad like “Madame Web,” there’s a whole source of entertainment untapped in indie cinema. From thoughtful and introspective to artistic and experimental, here are some indie movie recommendations from the past year!

May December

In a word, I would describe “May December” as insidious. The pacing is sedated and slow, with leisurely scenes and unhurried dialogue that lull viewers into complacency with the soft, blurred shots. However, it is anything but a comfortable watch. The actions and speech of the characters create an unsettling, anxious atmosphere that leaves you tense and in suspense the whole time. The satirical treatment of a very serious topic was, in my opinion, well done and appropriately unnerving: I was always on edge, doubting the movie, the characters and even myself at varying points, trying to find clear black-and-white answers in the gray area that was presented.

Anatomy of a Fall

Set in the snowy mountains of France, “Anatomy of a Fall” is a murder mystery, court procedural and dissection of human life all rolled into one. We not only get a peek into the French legal system but also a breakdown of the central family and protagonist, Sandra. The main question in the movie seems not to be if she is guilty or not, but who can more effectively convince and use cherrypicked or twisted details to create the most persuasive retelling of her husband’s death. The audience is also left to come to a decision of our judgment of Sandra based on the fraught, somewhat unreliable knowledge that we are given. We pick our side like a member of a jury, hoping that the conviction follows our choice. The use of language and dialogue in this movie is stunning (with one of the best reasons for English in an international setting that I’ve seen), illustrating the destructive and incredible power of speech. The acting is nothing short of spectacular, from Sandra to her young son to her lawyer to even the dog.


Sofia Coppola is the queen of movies for girls and women, and “Priscilla” is no exception. The narrative focuses on a figure who is most commonly known as Elvis Presley’s wife, showing us her point of view as a teenager who craves love and romance being taken from her normal childhood into an environment far more restrictive and lonely. The set of Graceland, Priscilla’s evolving costumes and makeup, and the changing fashions of the decades are all a treat to the eye and are entrancing to watch. The movie maintains touches of beauty with a clear emphasis on aesthetics while not romanticizing the relationship between Priscilla and Elvis. We empathize with Priscilla, her awe at the new life Elvis presents to her, while distinctly feeling the danger of it and hoping that she will one day take her own life back.

Poor Things

Although it isn’t for everybody, this is a fun, wild ride (as long as you don’t watch it with your parents). Released in late 2023, “Poor Things” is visually stunning and extremely stimulating to the senses, reminiscent of uncanny AI-generated images and classic works of art at the same time. The movie takes you into the absurdity of its world through random bits of magic, gruesome scientific feats and ridiculous, almost cartoonish characters. Underneath the beautiful, candy-coated layer of the film’s cinematography boils more thought-provoking questions about morality, choice and the meaning of life. It all depends on your interpretation and gives each person something to take away from the story. Even if you’re just there for the enjoyment, “Poor Things” is hilarious and guarantees at least one mouth-dropping moment.

Featured Image via Adobe Stock

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