The buzziest movies from the 2023 Venice Film Festival

Which would-be Oscar contenders got a boost?

Sofia Coppola and Priscilla Presley
Sofia Coppola's latest film brings Priscilla Presley's memoir to life.
(Image credit: Marilla Sicilia / Archivio Marilla Sicilia / Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Get ready for an Oscar season filled with hit men, composers, and a very raunchy "Frankenstein." The fall festival season is underway, and several of the year's most anticipated awards contenders have debuted in Venice. "Oppenheimer" could have some serious Best Picture competition, and there might even be a new Best Actress frontrunner. Here are the movies critics are buzzing about at the 2023 Venice Film Festival:


Bradley Cooper's latest is music to critics' ears. The actor transforms into Leonard Bernstein in this biopic he directed, which focuses on the composer's relationship with his wife, Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). The "transfixing" film is a "considerable leap in terms of accomplishment" from Cooper's "A Star is Born," and his performance is "terrific," wrote The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney. Mulligan has also "never been better," Rooney added. Cooper faced criticism for wearing a prosthetic nose to play a Jewish man, but Variety's Owen Gleiberman argued this backlash was "misplaced," as the nose "works terrifically well." The "Tár" Cinematic Universe will never be the same.

'Poor Things'

Yorgos Lanthimos follows up "The Favourite" with an explicit take on "Frankenstein" you probably shouldn't watch with your parents. Emma Stone stars as a woman who is brought back to life with the brain of her unborn child by a mad scientist — and proceeds to have lots of graphic sex. "Poor Things" is Lanthimos' "most daring, inventive film to date" and features the "performance of Stone's career," wrote Maureen Lee Lenker at Entertainment Weekly. Also starring Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe, the "bawdy, foul-mouthed sex romp" is a "masterpiece" and "hands down the funniest film of the year so far," Time Out's Phil de Semlyen raved. Might Stone be coming for her second Oscar?

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Elvis hasn't left the awards season building just yet. Sofia Coppola's "Priscilla" promises a wildly different take on the Elvis Presley story than Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis," focusing on his wife Priscilla Presley (Cailee Spaeny). "Few films have so vividly captured the exhilaration, ennui, and dread of falling for a star," said Rolling Stone's Marlow Stern, who deemed this Coppola's "finest film since 'Lost in Translation'" and said Spaeny is an "absolute marvel." But the Independent's Geoffrey Macnab noted the "downbeat and dour affair" depicts Elvis (Jacob Elordi) in a "far from flattering light" as an "insecure narcissist." Priscilla Presley has endorsed the movie, saying that Coppola "did her homework."


Who better to portray Enzo Ferrari than a guy with the last name Driver? Adam Driver plays the Ferrari founder in this sports drama from Michael Mann. While not the director's best work, "Ferrari," which is "equal parts self-reflective and self-assured," is "occasionally enrapturing," said Mashable's Siddhant Adlakha. Vulture's Bilge Ebiri noted "you can't take your eyes off" Driver in the "rip-roaring" film, while Time's Stephanie Zacharek described it as "supple" and "elegant" with "thrilling" racing scenes.


Ava DuVernay made history as the first Black woman with a movie in competition at this year's festival: "Origin." The film stars Aunjanue Ellis as author Isabel Wilkerson and depicts her process of writing the 2020 non-fiction book "Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents," which argues the United States operates under a caste system. The "ambitious, intellectual and deeply humanistic" movie is "rich, expansive and wildly varied," said The Wrap's Tomris Laffly, while BBC's Steph Green wrote that this "celebration of academia" is "full of heart."

'The Killer'

David Fincher returns with a new film he hopes will make viewers "very nervous about the person behind them in line at Home Depot." Michael Fassbender stars as an assassin who ends up involved in an international manhunt, and Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote Fincher's "Seven," penned the screenplay. The movie is a "horribly addictive" procedural, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw raved. But other critics were more mixed, with Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson arguing it's "terse to a fault."

'Hit Man'

David Fincher isn't the only director rolling out a hit man movie. There's also Richard Linklater's "Hit Man," an action-comedy starring Glen Powell as a college professor who begins going undercover as a hit man for the police, only to become romantically involved with a woman who tries to hire him. The film is a "hilarious winner," said Deadline's Pete Hammond. It provides Powell, who co-wrote the screenplay, the "perfect likeable part to catapult him into more substantial leading roles," and it's one of 2023's best movies, wrote Luke Hearfield at Awards Watch. Welcome to the Powellaissance.

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Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.