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32 excellent movies to watch in February: Ant Man, The Son and more

Check out our top movie recommendations for February 2023

jk film feb
James King
Film Columnist
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Whether you’re after modern romance, political thrills, hip-swivelling rock ‘n’ roll or one very annoyed bear, these February movies have it all. Enjoy!

Elvis (Sky Cinema)

Category: Musical

Last year’s smash hit is the story of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll told in a way that only Baz ‘Moulin Rouge’ Luhrmann could get away with - theatrical, frenzied and incandescent. It’s also a big awards winner, thanks to the much-lauded lead performance from Austin Butler. Purists might shudder a little bit at the electrifying soundtrack where Elvis oldies are blended with hip-hop and EDM, but it’s all part of showing how Elvis was a musical magpie, drawing from countless styles and mixing it with his own. Tom Hanks co-stars - under layers of prosthetics - as The King’s controversial manager Colonel Tom Parker.

WATCH: Have you checked out the musical biopic yet? 

What’s Love Got To Do With It? (cinemas)

Category: Rom-Com

Lilly James stars in this patchy-but-sweet romantic comedy about a filmmaker who documents her neighbour's arranged marriage to a bride from Pakistan. Since that neighbour is also her childhood friend, what do you think the chances are she’ll realise she’s in love with him just before the wedding? Hmmm, I wonder. But clichés aside, What’s Love Got To Do With It? - which strangely doesn’t feature the Tina Turner song of the same name - has some smart things to say about cultural differences, thanks to a script by someone who’s been there herself: journalist and activist Jemima Khan. Emma Thompson and Shazad Latif co-star.

whats love got do it

Cocaine Bear (cinemas)

Category: Comedy

Just like Snakes on a Plane and Hot Tub Time Machine before it, here’s another film that’s neatly summed up by the title alone. Also, like both of those movies, it’s another ridiculous - and highly entertaining - ride. Based - albeit loosely - on a true story, get ready for this crazy tale of a black bear out in Georgia’s Chatahoochee National Park in the mid-80s who ingests a load of cocaine that has been dropped out of a plane by a drug-runner. The result? Teddy goes on a rampage. Pitch Perfect star Elizabeth Banks directs and keeps things suitably silly, with Keri Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr in the lead roles.

cocaine bear

Empire of Light (Disney+)

Category: Drama

Olivia Colman stars in this gently powerful drama set on the south coast of England in the early 80s, playing Hilary - one of the employees at independent cinema The Empire. When the much younger Stephen (Micheal Ward) joins the staff, the fragile Hilary finds her life changed forever. Beautifully made, emotional stuff and proof - if any more were needed - that Olivia is simply one of the best in he business. Colin Firth and Toby Jones co-star.

empire of light

Sharper (Apple TV+)

Category: Thriller

Jurassic World star Justice Smith plays Tom, a bookstore manager who falls for Sandra (Brian Middleton), a young woman who visits his shop to ask for advice. So far, so good. But when the question of a financial loan rears its ugly head, it’s then that Sharper’s twisty tale of deception really begins. Style over content maybe, but with Julianne Moore, Sebastian Stan and John Lithgow also on board, it’s still a whole lot of slick fun with multiple storylines to keep you hooked.


Bullet Train (Sky Cinema)

Category: Thriller

Last summer’s hit Bullet Train comes to Sky with some serious action pedigree. Its director also made John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 whilst its star - a certain Brad Pitt - is certainly no stranger to fight scenes (or fight clubs). A shame then that the film itself - about a group of assassins battling for their lives on a train from Tokyo to Kyoto - is fun but over-familiar, too many scenes feeling just too silly to be really jaw-dropping. Luckily Brad remains effortlessly cool and his co-star Joey King - so great in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth series - proves herself to be one of the most exciting young actresses around.

bullet train 9

The Independent (Sky Cinema)

Category: Drama

The seriously impressive Jodie Turner-Smith stars in this gripping drama that exposes the all-too-often underhanded nature of politics. She plays Eli, a journalist covering an American presidential election that will produce either the country’s first female president (played by Ann Dowd) or the first independent one (John Cena). But when Eli stumbles across a conspiracy that threatens the election’s results, she teams up with heavyweight journo Nick Booker (played by heavyweight actor Brian Cox) to make sure the nation knows the truth.

the independent jodie

Ant Man & the Wasp: Quantumania (cinemas)

Category: Action

Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return as the miniature superheroes, this time spending most of their time in the mythical quantum realm - a microscopic other universe where the Wasp’s mum (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) once found herself trapped for thirty years. The result is a film more reliant on computer effects than ever before, trying to create a Star Wars-style vibe for this alternate world although ultimately just making you miss the real one all the more. Nevertheless, Pfeiffer and co-star Michael Douglas bring some gravitas to the proceedings, whilst a cameo from Bill Murray sees the legendary comic at his sarcastic best. It’s new boy Jonathan Majors as maniacal baddie Kang who steals the show though, boasting plenty of quiet menace. Handily he’s set to star in at least two more Marvel movies in the next few years. 

Ant Man and Wasp

The Son (cinemas)

Category: Drama

From the makers of the Oscar-winning weepie The Father comes this new - and frequently harrowing - look at family dynamics. Hugh Jackman stars as Peter, a businessman trying to cope with his packed life with new partner Beth and their baby, whose world is thrown into disarray when ex Kate (Laura Dern) arrives at his apartment with their troubled and distant teenage son in tow. Dangerous revelations soon follow. Jackman is superb as the seemingly polished dad whose personal life is anything but, whilst Vanessa Kirby and Anthony Hopkins provide typically formidable support. Powerful and gripping - prepare to weep. 

Hugh Jackman and cast in The Son

Peter Rabbit 2 (Netflix)

Category: Family

Beatrix Potter’s iconic bunny returns, voiced again by James Corden, now with some emotional baggage to deal with as his friends Thomas (Domnhall Gleason) and Bea (Rose Byrne) get married and announce their plans to write children’s storybooks based on Peter and his friends - with the cheeky rabbit not exactly portrayed in the best light. It’s no Paddington 2 in the sequel stakes but this is still superior to the first Peter Rabbit outing, thanks to witty in-jokes. The all-star voice cast (Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, Tim Minchin) helps too.

Rose Byrne in Peter Rabbit 2

The Railway Children Return (Sky Cinema)

Category: Family

It might be nearly 52 years since the original Railway Children movie was released but this sequel is just as charming, just as moving and just as magical as the first film. Taking place during the Second World War, Jenny Agutter returns to her iconic role as Bobbie Waterbury, now teaming up with her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith) to host three young and adventurous evacuees from Manchester. You get beautiful scenery, you get a wonderful score, you get some undeniably powerful moments. Mainly though this is feelgood fun - one of those rare films to be enjoyed by grandparents, parents and children alike.

The cast of Railway Children Return© Photo: Sky

M3gan (rent on Apple TV+)

Category: Horror

Scary dolls have long been a feature of horror films and now the makers of one of the best - Annabelle - are back and have taken things to the next level. Designed by a brilliant roboticist, M3gan is a marvel of artificial intelligence, a lifelike doll that's programmed to be a child's greatest companion and a parent's greatest ally. What could possible go wrong?! Well, when 8-year old Cady gets a M3gan to help her cope, the doll gets a little too attached. Creepy - and surprisingly funny - thriller that inspired a raft of memes and spoofs earlier this year. No wonder a sequel is already in the works.

M3gan movie

Alice, Darling (Prime Video)

Category: Drama

The ever-reliable Anna Kendrick shows her more dramatic side in this subtle and sophisticated story of a young woman being psychologically abused by her boyfriend. Her friends have a hunch something is up but don’t know for sure until a secret girls’ week away sees Alice’s issues coming to the surface. And whilst it’s not action-packed, favouring mood over edge-of-your-seat tension, it’s the quality of the acting and Alice’s gradual journey to a place of empowerment that keep this impressively gripping.

Alice, Darling film poster

Spiderman: No Way Home - EXTENDED VERSION (Sky Cinema)

Category: Action

The best Spiderman film ever now has even more, thanks to this extended version that was briefly released into cinemas last autumn. Picking up the storyline from Tom Holland’s previous two outings as Peter Parker, No Way Home’s genius is its use of a ‘multiverse’, allowing for previous Spidey actors Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire to make scene-stealing appearances. After all, with infinite parallel universes to play with, anything is possible. Add in some retro villains too and this really is a clever and thrilling combination of the new and old. If you’ve never watched a Spiderman film before, this might be too confusing a place to start. For everyone else though, enjoy this triumphant celebration of perhaps Marvel’s best-loved superhero - in all its guises. 

Zendaya and Tom Holland jump off bridge in Spider Man

Knock at the Cabin (cinemas)

Category: Thriller

The master of suspense M Night Shyamalan - the brains behind such creepy classics as The Sixth Sense, Signs and Split - is back with another eerie thriller, this time asking the impossible question: if you had to sacrifice a loved one to save the world, would you? That’s precisely the dilemma faced by a young family when they find their holiday in the woods interrupted by four strangers claiming to have the fate of the planet in their hands. Brilliantly dark and disturbing stuff, expertly played by stars Dave Bautista, Ben Aldridge, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Rupert Grint.

cabin pic window

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (cinemas)

Category: Family

It’s been a long time coming but finally, and for the first time in more than a decade, comes a new adventure in the Shrek universe. Even better, it’s starring everyone’s favourite feline, the daring outlaw Puss in Boots. The plot? Puss discovers that his taste for adventure and danger have taken their toll, using up eight of his nine lives. Can he get them back? Finding out sends him on his biggest quest yet, in a movie that boasts fabulous action and eye-popping colour. Plus, of course, the peerless Antonio Banderas as the cool kitty himself. Excelente!

puss in boots

The Whale (cinemas)

Category: Drama

Brendan Fraser stakes a claim for ‘Comeback of the Year’ in his role as Charlie - a morbidly obese literature professor who teaches online college courses with his webcam off so that no one can see him. Sure, there are questions as to whether actors should still be using padding and visual effects to play overweight characters. Plus some are saying that The Whale just reinforces old stereotypes about people dealing with size issues. Whatever your thoughts, this is certainly the most high-profile role that Brendan Fraser has had for a long time - and it’s a performance that has already won him multiple awards. The story of Charlie reconnecting with daughter might feel a little stagey (it’s based on a play) but it’s the acting that makes this a talking point.

MORE: 9 co-stars who famously hated each other on-set

the whale 6

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Disney+)

Category: Action

If you’re in the mood for huge set pieces, a huge budget and a huge running time (161 minutes!), look no further than this long-awaited sequel to one of the biggest films of 2018. Unlike the original Black Panther movie though, Wakanda Forever no longer features Chadwick Boseman in the title role, after the much-loved star died aged just 43 in 2020. So how does this new film cope? Well, after a powerfully emotional opening, the action kicks in as the magical country of Wakanda finds itself under attack for its legendary resource: the super metal vibranium. Without King T’Challa, his family and friends - including Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) - have to fight for themselves, resulting in a moody and globe-trotting adventure that delivers plenty of thrills, soul-searching and style. As good as the first? Maybe not. But this is still dynamic storytelling.

wakanda forever 7

Top Gun: Maverick (Sky Cinema)

Category: Action

Naval aviator Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is now seeing out his twilight years as a military test pilot but after unsurprisingly annoying the top brass, he’s told he has to train a bunch of new ‘Top Gun’ academy graduates for a dangerous mission. And among them is a face Maverick knows all too well. Combining romance (Jennifer Connolly plays Penny, one of Maverick’s flames), eye-watering aerial action and plenty of alpha-male friction, Top Gun: Maverick is a masterful balancing act. Not many stars could so seamlessly produce a follow-up to a classic after thirty-five years, resulting in something that’s arguably even better than the original, but then Tom Cruise is no ordinary star. No wonder it was one of the biggest films of 2022.

tiop maveirck

Father Stu (Sky Cinema)

Category: Drama

Mark Wahlberg shines in this true story that was unfairly overlooked when it hit cinemas last year. From an early age, Stuart Long (Wahlberg) tried hard to impress his hard-drinking father, especially in the world of amateur boxing. But when Stu decides to try his luck as an actor in Hollywood, only to end up working in a grocery store, his rough-around-the-edges life changes thanks to a chance meeting with devout Catholic Sunday School teacher Carmen (Teresa Ruiz). Yes it occasionally preaches a little too hard but you can’t fault Wahlberg’s impressive commitment to the role of a brawler-turned-priest, not just gaining weight for the role but also partly funding the entire production.

father stu 9

The Woman King (available to buy on all major platforms)

Category: Action

A big hitter at this year’s BAFTA awards, The Woman King is a big, rousing epic set in the West African nation of Dahomey in 1823. Leading the country’s all-female group of warriors is Nanisca - played by the great Viola Davis - and she and her army must battle double-crossing neighbours and foreign slave traders to stay alive. Davis is commanding in everything she does but she’s especially steely and muscular here, expertly backed up by the powerhouse trio of Lashana Lynch, John Boyega and Sheila Atim. Director Gina Prince Blythewood has cited Braveheart and Gladiator as inspirations and it’s not hard to see the similarities (along with some reported inaccuracies that always seem to come when Hollywood does history!) But The Woman King is as much about emotions as facts and with that superb cast firing on all cylinders, you’ll leave the cinema uplifted and empowered.

woman king

Women Talking (cinemas)

Category: Drama

Set on a remote, religious community in the States in 2010 (where the lifestyle is more like something from the 19th century), Women Talking is set over a crucial couple of days for the community. After years of abuse, the women from the group have had enough, secretly meeting in a barn to discuss their next move. Should they leave the men? Maybe they should stay and fight? Perhaps they should even do nothing? So yes, the title is very apt - there’s a lot of discussion and debate going on. So much so that Women Talking takes a while to get used to. But once you get to know the characters and the conundrum that these mothers and daughters find themselves in, you’ll be well and truly under this Oscar nominee’s unique spell. Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Ben Whishaw, Frances McDormand and Jessie Buckley star.

women talking

Magic Mike: The Last Dance (cinemas)

Category: Drama

This third outing for Michael ‘Magic Mike’ Lane starts off in sensational style, with our hero going from bartending at swanky party in Florida to seducing the super-rich Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek Pinault) in a matter of minutes. The result is a seriously steamy dance routine in her Miami mansion. It’s when Maxandra whisks Mike back to her other home in London, mainly to make her ex-husband jealous, that the plot really wobbles. Corny English stereotypes mix with a jumbled story about Mike directing a naughty dance show at a posh old West End theatre - none of which has any of the sleazy, sexy fun of the previous two films. In other words, despite some decent moments, this is really just for the Magic Mike completists.

mike last dance

Blue Jean (cinemas)

Category: Drama

Do yourself a favour and track down this brilliant British drama, released to coincide with LGBTQ+ History Month. Set in the North East of England in 1988, this is the story of schoolteacher Jean (a star-making performance from Rosy McEwen), seemingly happy in a relationship with her girlfriend Viv (Kerrie Hayes). But the increasingly judgemental moral climate of the time - when the government was trying to dictate what values should be taught in schools - makes Jean uncertain about how open and honest she can be when it comes to her private life. The result is a cool, smart and engaging look at a young woman struggling, where a pitch-perfect recreation of the late 80s still feels relevant thanks to the pertinent questions about identity and politics that it raises.

blue jean 9

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody (rent or buy on all major platforms)

Category: Biopic

British actor Naomi Ackie stars as the American legend in this sparkling biopic that’s been a huge hit at the cinema. It’s no wonder since she’s superb at showing Whitney behind the famous smile and outfits, a worshipped singer whose issues were very much at odds with the image she portrayed. Co-star Stanley Tucci plays Whitney’s record label mentor Clive Davis and since the real Clive is also a producer this does occasionally feel a film about how wonderful a person he is. It’s also one of the most conventional biopics of recent years (unlike, say, Rocketman). But with those songs, that story, and Naomi Ackie tearing up the screen, there’s still a lot to enjoy.

whitney houston 7

Emily (rent or buy on all major platforms)

Category:  Drama

Emma Mackey - so great in Netflix’s Sex Education and soon to feature alongside Margot Robbie in the Barbie movie - stars as Emily Brontë, author of Wuthering Heights and one of the legendary  Brontë sisters from Victorian West Yorkshire. Famously, Emily only write one novel before dying at the tender age of thirty, but what this film does brilliantly is explain what inspired her: the wildness of her surroundings up on the moors, an ever-present threat of illness and a steamy affair with local clergyman. Admittedly that last bit is made-up for the film, upsetting a few Brontë fans along the way, but this passionate movie still wows, expertly capturing the never-ending allure of this family of writers from two centuries ago.

emily dress

The Fabelmans (cinemas)

Category: Drama

This award-winning coming-of-age drama from writer/director Steven Spielberg is essentially about his own teenage years with his rather eccentric family, albeit with the names changed.

It’s a brilliant young actor called Gabriel LaBelle who gets to plays young Steven (renamed Sam Fabelman) - a likeable sixties teen getting into making home movies at the same time as learning about what being an adult really means. With Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as his parents and Seth Rogen as family friend Uncle Bennie, it’s no wonder this is an Oscar favourite. It’s heartwarming, personal film-making at its finest.

Pamela, a love story (Netflix)

Category: Documentary

Pamela Anderson tells her side of the story in this eye-opening, and occasionally heartbreaking, documentary she’s made partly in response to last year’s TV series Pam & Tommy (with which she had no involvement.) Using some remarkable archive footage as well as interviews with Pam’s sons Dylan and Brandon, the film shows two sides to this iconic pin-up: on the one hand she’s the ultimate 90s rock babe, on the other a sweet and sensitive romantic. But by taking ownership of her life, her past and her image, perhaps she’s finally in a place where she can happily look forward to the future.

MORE: 2023 Oscars nominations: The complete list of nominees

pamela love story

Shotgun Wedding (Amazon Prime)

Category: Rom-Com

Jennifer Lopez, Josh Duhamel and everyone’s favourite Jennifer Coolidge star in this action-packed romp, where Darcy (Lopez) and Tom (Duhamel) gather their lovable-but-very-opinionated families for the ultimate destination wedding. The problem? The happy couple are starting to get cold feet. Oh, and then they’re taken hostage. It is a Jennifer Lopez rom-com, after all. What did you expect? Realism? It’s nonsense, of course, but the occasional one-liner, some decent action scenes and actual Lenny Kravitz (!) make this fluffy, forgettable fun.

j lo yellow

You People (Netflix)

Category: Comedy

A new couple (Jonah Hill and Lauren London) fall in love and find themselves confronting cultural expectations and generational differences courtesy of their overbearing families (Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny). It might not have the bite (or the decent ending) to be a classic but with a host of experienced comedy actors at the helm, this is always a bubbly and fun watch. Jonah Hill co-write the script too.

you people

Smile (rent/buy on all major platforms)

Category: Horror

Halloween might be long gone but Smile is packed with chills that work anytime of the year, telling the story of therapist Rose (played by Sosie Bacon, Kevin’s daughter) and a curse that reaches her via the emergency psychiatric unit where she works. What follows is an enjoyably cold and eerie horror movie, with Rose desperately trying to break the jinx that’s following her around (and which results in victims pulling a horrible grin just before they die). Predictable? Maybe. But if you’re looking for a few jumps and the odd sleepless night, Smile will make you happy.

smile poster

Don’t Worry Darling (rent/buy on all major platforms)

Category: Thriller

Proving that its behind-the-scenes drama didn’t put off audiences, Don’t Worry Darling was a big hit at cinemas last year. Now it’s your chance to see Harry Styles’ leading man debut - directed by his former partner Olivia Wilde - at home too. The verdict? The ‘As It Was’ singer is certainly no slouch as an actor, although it’s co-stars Florence Pugh and Chris Pine who really impress. The story follows 1950s housewife Alice (Pugh), happily married to Jack (Styles) and living in newly built community that seems almost good to be true. So when Alice starts to notice strange things happening in the town, she begins to question everything - including the charismatic local business leader Frank (Pine). It’s not entirely believable, that’s for sure, but this is still an atmospheric thriller with a pitch-perfect feminist slant.

dont worry darling

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