Table of Contents
The fall movie season officially begins with the Labor Day holiday weekend, but it’s one of summer’s biggest blockbusters that’s set to dominate streaming this September. That would be Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid,” starring Halle Bailey as Ariel. The film earned a mighty $297 million at the domestic box office over the summer, while its worldwide gross tapped out at the $569 million mark. Bailey earned unanimous raves for her luminous star turn as Ariel, which marked her first leading role in a feature film.
Oscar season is also getting started on the streamers, with Netflix debuting international film contender “El Conde” from Pablo Larrain (best known stateside for directing Natalie Portman in “Jackie” and Kristen Stewart in “Spencer”) and potential short film contender “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” from Wes Anderson (his second 2023 release after summer’s “Asteroid City”). Sundance favorites “Flora and Son” and “Cassandro” are also making their streaming world premieres this month.
Check out a rundown below of the best movies new to streaming platforms in September 2023.
The Little Mermaid (Sept. 6 on Disney+)
Disney’s live-action “The Little Mermaid” makes its Disney+ streaming debut this month after earning $568 million at the worldwide box office over the summer. Halle Bailey takes on the iconic role of Ariel opposite Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric. From Variety’s review: “Bailey is all the reason that any audience should need to justify Disney revisiting this classic. Just wait till you hear her sing ‘Part of Your World,’ delivered with all the conviction of Jennifer Hudson’s career-making rendition of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.’ A star is born.”
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Sept. 27 on Netflix)
“Asteroid City” isn’t the only new Wes Anderson movie arriving in 2023. Up next for the beloved auteur is “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” adapted from the short story collection by Roald Dahl. This is Anderson’s second Dahl adaptation, the first being his beloved stop-motion take on “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel and Ben Kingsley lead the film, which follows its source material in being a collection of short films. “Henry Sugar” is world premiering at the 2023 Venice Film Festival and is notable for being Anderson’s first Netflix original.
Flora and Son (Sept. 29 on Apple TV+)
“Once” and “Sing Street” director John Carney had one of the biggest breakout hits of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival thanks to “Flora and Son,” starring Eve Hewson as a struggling single mother who takes up the guitar as a way to bond with her rowdy teenage son. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a washed-up L.A. musician who helps Hewson’s mother learn the power of music. Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman called the film “irresistible” in his Sundance review, adding: “It’s small of scale, unabashed in its pop sincerity, and has a quality that has always brought life to musicals, but that has now gone out of style. You might call it innocence.”
Cassandro (Sept. 22 on Prime Video)
Gael Garcia Bernal earned rave reviews out of the Sundance Film Festival for his performance in “Cassandro,” which tells the true story of the openly gay Mexican wrestler who found fame and glory in a notoriously homophobic sport. From Variety’s review: “Thanks to the dream casting of Mexican star Bernal as ‘the Liberace of Lucha Libre,’ ‘Cassandro’ arrives with a kind of instant credibility, which director Roger Ross Williams protects by eschewing any sign of camp, opting instead for stately, respectful cinematography and a wistful horn score from composer Marcelo Zarvos.”
Arrival (Sept. 1 on Netflix)
“Amy Adams stars in an alien-visitation drama that has an eerie poetic grandeur,” Variety’s review of Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” reads. The film stars Adams as a linguistic expert who is hired by the military to decipher an alien language after spaceships arrive hovering over earth. The review adds: “True to its title, ‘Arrival’ makes an absorbing spectacle of the initial alien set-up, alternately stoking and sating our curiosity. The aliens don’t quite have personalities, but there’s still something tender and touching about them.”
Love Again (Sept. 2 on Netflix)
Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Sam Heughan headline “Love Again” as depressed singles who hit it off after exchanging a series of embarrassing text messages. The film is liberally adapted from the 2016 German film “Texts for You” (“SMS für Dich”). From Variety’s review: “An old-school, straight-faced studio romance featuring five new songs from Celine Dion, writer-director Jim Strouse’s “Love Again” is all about healing — to the extent that if it were a book instead of a movie, it would be filed in the self-help section.”
The Wolf of Wall Street (Sept. 12 on Netflix)
Before Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest collaboration “Killers of the Flower Moon” opens in theaters Oct. 20, check out their previous masterpiece “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The biographical black comedy is home to DiCaprio’s most energized performance. He plays Jordan Belfort, a New York City stockbroker who gained wealth from committing corruption and fraud on Wall Street. From Variety’s review: “Belfort’s riches-to-slightly-less-riches tale has been brought to the screen by no less a connoisseur of charismatic sociopaths than Martin Scorsese, and the result is a big, unruly bacchanal of a movie that huffs and puffs and nearly blows its own house down, but holds together by sheer virtue of its furious filmmaking energy and a DiCaprio star turn so electric it could wake the dead.”
El Conde (Sept. 15 on Netflix)
“Jackie” and “Spencer” director Pablo Larraín returns to satire in “El Conde,” which is having its world premiere in competition at the 2023 Venice Film Festival before streaming on Netflix. The black-and-white film reimagines the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a 250-year-old vampire who, tired of being remembered as a thief, decides to die. The cast includes Jaime Vadell, Gloria Münchmeyer, Alfredo Castro and Paula Luchsinger. Larraín has often tackled Pinochet’s dictatorship in his work (his 2012 Oscar nominee “No” centered on the successful campaign to remove him from office), but “El Conde” promises to be one of his most ambitious and unusual efforts yet.
Spy Kids: Armageddon (Sept. 22 on Netflix)
Robert Rodriguez is reviving the “Spy Kids” franchise with the Netflix original “Spy Kids: Armageddon.” This time around, Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez are the world’s greatest secret agents who unwittingly help an evil game developer release a world-threatening computer virus. It falls on their kids (Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson) to become spies themselves in order to save the world. Billy Magnussen and D.J. Cotrona fill out the cast. Rodriguez previously told Netflix about reviving the franchise: “I’ve just heard from so many families how much they’ve enjoyed these films over the course of their lives. And now a lot of kids who enjoyed the first films as children are parents themselves and enjoy sharing them with their kids.”
The Menu (Sept. 3 on Hulu)
“The Menu” has been streaming on Max since the start of the year, but now the delicious Ralph Fiennes-led horror comedy arrives on Hulu just ahead of the Halloween movie season. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as a young woman who attends a lavish meal with her rich boyfriend, but the chefs, led by Fiennes, have a nefarious plan up their sleeves. Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman named “The Menu” a critic’s pick, calling it “a Michelin Star version of ‘Saw’ and a tasty satire of what high-end dining has become.”
The Banshees of Inisherin (Sept. 4 on Hulu)
Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-nominated “The Banshees of Inisherin” traces the tortured breakup between two best pals (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) in remote rural Ireland with all the anguish and gravity of the most charged romantic melodrama. When its characters speak, they do so in the gruffly poetic and violently hilarious vernacular of McDonagh’s best writing. Farrell won the best actor prize at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, where McDonagh also took home the best screenplay prize. The film landed 9 Oscar nominations, including best picture.
Corsage (Sept. 10 on Hulu)
Marie Kreutzer’s bold costume drama “Corsage” depicts a restless Empress Elisabeth of Austria (“Phantom Thread” breakout Vicky Krieps) touring Europe, trying to break free of her literally and figuratively constricted life at court. From Variety’s review: “‘Corsage’ is a witty subversion of biopic and costume-drama clichés. Full of odd glitches and deliberate flubs in period detail, the film feels like an invitation into a secret conspiracy to reach back through time and, with deft, irreverent 21st-century fingers, loosen the stays on Empress Elisabeth’s corsetry just a little.”
Bad Axe (Sept. 18 on Hulu)
The deeply personal documentary “Bad Axe” follows director David Siev as he returns home to rural Michigan. There, he captures his Asian-American family’s quest to keep their local restaurant alive, amidst the backdrop of pandemic and Trump-era political and racial tensions. It’s Siev’s feature debut. “Bad Axe” had its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and received Special Jury Recognition for Exceptional Intimacy in Storytelling in the Documentary Feature Competition.
Sanctuary (Sept. 21 on Hulu)
The ferocious psychosexual thriller “Sanctuary” stars Christopher Abbott as the wealthy heir to a luxury hotel chain and Margaret Qualley as his scheming dominatrix. From Variety’s review: “This is a terrifically nasty thriller about seizing control, over others and over oneself. In look and style, sound and execution, director Zachary Wigon’s hand is felt on every frame — a steadiness that’s essential when each scene is constructed on a sand dune of constantly shifting emotional dynamics. One moment, the characters are using a formal corporate dialect over a sophisticated piano score that could have played for Ilsa and Rick in ‘Casablanca’; the next moment, they’re smashing lamps.”
Sitting in Bars With Cake (Sept. 8 on Prime Video)
Yara Shahidi and Odessa A’zion are front and center in Prime Video’s “Sitting in Bars With Cake,” adapted from the book by Audrey Shulman. Inspired by true events, the drama follows best friends Jane (Shahidi) and Corinne (A’zion) navigating life in Los Angeles in their twenties. Corinne convinces the shy Jane to commit to a year of baking cakes and bringing them to bars, with the goal of meeting people. During their year of “cakebarring,” Corinne receives a life-altering diagnosis, and the pair face a challenge unlike anything they’ve experienced before.
Inside (Sept. 12 on Prime Video)
After making its streaming debut on Peacock in May, the Willem Dafoe-starring thriller “Insider” arrives on Prime Video this month at no extra cost to subscribers. Dafoe is the only actor on screen for the majority of “Inside,” in which he plays an art thief who loses his sanity after getting trapped inside a penthouse apartment. Variety praised Dafoe’s “riveting” performance in its review, writing: “Whether he’s playing Christ, Antichrist or somewhere in between, there’s always something slightly off that makes him watchable. In ‘Inside,’ director Vasilis Katsoupis provides him with a showcase part in what is essentially a one-man show that Dafoe carries with aplomb.”
A Thousand and One (Sept. 19 on Prime Video)
A.V. Rockwell’s feature debut “A Thousand and One” won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival at the start of the year. Teyana Taylor gives an electrifying performance as a young mother reconnecting with her son. The film was named a Variety critic’s pick out of Sundance. The review reads: “Rockwell uses the full range of cinematic expressivity to turn a small, often tragic story of raw deals and rash decisions into an admiring portrait of survivorship, determination and resourcefulness.”
Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (Sept. 22 on Prime Video)
Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman named “The Covenant” one of the best films of the year so far, writing, “Jake Gyllenhaal, in his finest performance in years, plays a U.S. platoon leader who is wounded in an ambush, and Dar Salim is the wily, tough-as-nails Afghan translator who rescues him, in a journey of harrowing suspense, only to have Gyllenhaal return the favor by plunging back into the war. It’s an anguished, moving tale that redefines Ritchie as a deadly serious Hollywood artist.”
Hypnotic (Sept. 1 on Peacock)
After screening at SXSW and Cannes, Robert Rodriguez’s twisty mystery “Hypnotic” arrives on streaming via Peacock. Ben Affleck stars as a detective investigating the mystery involving his missing daughter and a secret government program. Variety film critic Peter Debruge gave the film a positive review, writing, “Boasting imagination and pure filmmaking ingenuity, the ‘El Mariachi’ director’s new mind-bender what fun it is to watch the ‘Argo’ star in action…Taking a page from ‘The Matrix,’ ‘Limitless’ and ‘Memento’ — and whole chapters from sci-fi trickster Philip K. Dick — this slick mix of special effects and practical ingenuity puts Affleck in a fun position, and the slightly grizzled star’s still got the clench-jawed charisma to pull it off.”
Mafia Mamma (Sept. 4 on Paramount+)
Toni Collette delights in “Mafia Mamma” playing a disrespected Italian-American mom who unexpectedly becomes the manager of a criminal operation after her estranged grandfather dies. Variety’s review reads: “A fun fish-out-of-water farce with ‘Godfather’ DNA and a clever female-empowerment kick, ‘Mafia Mamma’ makes inspired use of Collette, who’s never better than when playing women we oughtn’t to have underestimated.”