What to Watch

Best of the Fest: 12 Essential Films From Berlin 2023

We've gathered up our most glowing reviews from this year's festival, from dynamic documentaries to dizzying debuts

The 73rd Berlin Film Festival has officially come to an end – and what a treasure trove this year's offering turned out to be. While the films were notably less “flashy” than we're used to at neighbouring Cannes or Venice, the quality didn't suffer in the slightest. In fact, in many ways, the festival – which saw Steven Spielberg picking up a lifetime achievement award and Kristen Stewart leading the jury – surpassed all expectations, hailing big surprises and revelatory viewing in some of the most unlikely places, auteurs and unknowns alike. Below we've rounded up the most positive reviews (four stars and above) from our extensive coverage of the Berlinale. These are the films you'll definitely need to make time for later in the year…



What is it? Four people are confined to a seaside house in Christian Petzold's quietly apocalyptic mystery about artistic anxiety

What we said: Afire is a gorgeous, swooning drama with a clear sense of purpose when it comes to exploring artistic creation in the face of climate breakdown. Chalk up another victory for one of Germany’s finest directors (read Fedor Tot's full review).”

When's it out? 20 April, 2023



What is it? The rise and fall of the BlackBerry makes for surprisingly gripping viewing in Matt Johnson's distinctly Canadian tragicomedy

What we said: “Made in Canada with a mostly Canadian team, BlackBerry is a refreshingly modest production, watched with new-found hope for the mid-budget movie; slick without being smarmy, it commands your attention like… well, a smartphone… and succeeds on a script level in a way that, these days, feels as hard to come by as the titular brand (read Tom Barnard's full review).”

When's it out? 28 April, 2023 (Canada)


Disco Boy

What is it? Franz Rogowski plays a Legionnaire whose path crosses with a Nigerian guerrilla fighter in a film of pure vigour and vibes

What we said: Disco Boy pulls off a not-easy feat: it refuses to explain itself or give in to easy exposition, while never feeling like a baffling affair of arthouse pretension. Over a tight 90 minutes, Giacomo Abbruzzese’s startling debut takes us on a geographical and emotional journey into the heart of a soul-searching Legionnaire: a Conradian odyssey in painterly miniature (read Steph Green's full review).

When's it out? 5 April, 2023 (France)


Eastern Front

What is it? Vitaly Manskiy and Yevhen Titarenko's ground level documentary about the ongoing Ukrainian war is harrowing, though not without hope

What we said: Eastern Front is not intended to be an all-encompassing overview of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is very much a ground level view, and it is a powerful and highly impactful one. The film is incredible reportage, ensuring that there is a first-hand account created and dictated by Ukrainians. It is the first draft of history (read Fedor Tot's full review).”

When's it out? N/A



What is it? Willem Dafoe plays both protagonist and antagonist in Vasilis Katsoupis's existential mystery about a thief trapped in a penthouse

What we said: “Together with screenwriter Ben Hopkins, Katsoupis conjures a terrifying world of isolation where the true horrors are to be found inside. Their film riffs on thriller, mystery, existential horror, and drama, but ultimately remains a distinctive creature that transforms and endures (read Savina Petkova's full review).”

When's it out? 17 March, 2023 (USA)



What is it? Simon Baker is excellent – and unrecognisable – as a cop assigned to a cold case in director Ivan Sen's stark study of racial trauma

What we said: “There is something quietly revelatory in the stillness of the filmmaking, the careful compositions, the refreshingly minimalist, blinding white aesthetic witnessed without even a note of music to guide the tone (read Tom Barnard's full review).

When's it out? N/A


What is it? German filmmaker Angela Schanelec's slow-going but richly rewarding tableaux tells a story of togetherness at all costs

What we said: “While it at times seems more dream than film, it gets deep under your skin by virtue of the feelings it locates in the images and sound. Music is slow and silent, but its depths welcome everyone who has longed for togetherness at all costs (read Savina Petkova's full review).

When's it out? 4 May, 2023 (Germany)


Orlando, My Political Biography

What is it? Paul B. Preciado's metatextual grappling with Virginia Woolf's novel is a playful and moving exploration of gender identity

What we said: “As Preciado unfolds Woolf’s narrative via striking, metatextual tableaux, he explores both the joy and the isolation of the trans experience, and of what it means to uphold the restrictive binaries of masculinity and femininity. It’s rightfully destined to become an enduring piece of trans filmmaking (read Laura Venning's full review).”

When's it out? N/A



What is it? The 2017 interrogation of US whistleblower Reality Winner is rendered as a taut thriller with a revelatory performance at its core

What we said: “Sydney Sweeney has already shown she's capable of varied, dynamic work, but this role proves she has the talent to make even the smallest performance into something genuinely worthy of awards buzz. It's an immensely exciting debut for Satter, almost like witnessing the birth of a new sub-genre (read Tom Barnard's full review).”

When's it out? N/A


The Adults

What is it? Dustin Guy Defa's initially off-putting film eventually blossoms into a genuinely moving study of family in all its weirdness

What we said: “As an unpacking of what it means to have grown up with siblings by your side – the in-jokes, the silly voices, the nonsensical songs and choreographed dances – it is brilliantly observational and maybe even quietly miraculous (read Tom Barnard's full review).”

When's it out? N/A


The Trial

What is it? Ulises de la Orden's three-hour film about the 1985 trial of the Argentinian military junta is an incredible feat of documentary filmmaking

What we said: “In sticking only to footage of the trial itself, the film frees itself from having to delve into the politics and context of wider Argentinian history. For anyone with an interest in world history, this is incredible filmmaking (read Fedor Tot's full review).”

When's it out? N/A



What is it? Mexican director Lila Avilés' second feature finds generous shades of grey in its exploration of the ways we process death

What we said: “This is a firmly-told and confident work, the result of a director, cast and crew with a clear vision that speaks to their reality. It results in a final scene that is unexpectedly devastating, held close on Sol’s young face, buried in thought and melancholy (read Fedor Tot's full review).”

When's it out? N/A

Read all our coverage from this year's Berlin Film Festival here.

Other Features

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Little Women to Sergio Leone

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Coppola to Cross of Iron

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital

20 Best Films of 2023 (So Far)

With the year at the halfway point, our writers choose their favourite films, from daring documentaries to box office bombs

Repertory Rundown: What to Watch in London This Week, From Mistress America to The Man Who Wasn’t There

From classics to cult favourites, our team highlight some of the best one-off screenings and re-releases showing this week in the capital


The Innocent review – 60s-inspired heist movie with an existential twist

In his fourth feature film, writer-director Louis Garrel explores with wit and tenderness the risk and worth of second chances

Baato review – Nepal’s past and future collide in an immersive, fraught documentary

A mountain trek intertwines with a road-building project, granting incisive, if underpowered, insight into a much underseen world

The Beanie Bubble review – a grim new low for the “corporate biopic” genre

With none of the saving graces of Tetris, Air, or Barbie, this ambition-free look at the Beanie Baby craze is pure mediocrity

Everybody Loves Jeanne review – thoroughly modern fable of grief, romantic confusion, and climate anxiety

Celine Deveaux's French-Portuguese debut can be too quirky for its own good, but a fantastically written lead character keeps it afloat