The 11 Best Filipino Movies of 2023

Discover the top Filipino movies of 2023 across genres like comedy, horror, romance, action, LGBTQ—with actors like Kathryn Bernardo, Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Dolly de Leon, and beyond.

By , 27 Dec 23 09:43 GMT

In 2023, Filipino cinema experienced a vibrant resurgence, with festivals and theatrical releases dotting the calendar.

So, which were the Best Filipino Movies of 2023?

Cinema Escapist has curated this selection of 11 noteworthy Pinoy films from 2023 to simplify your viewing choices.

We’ve handpicked a mix of both indie and mainstream movies spanning various genres such as horror, romance, historical, comedy, and more. Our selection prioritizes films that are not only entertaining but also artistically unique or address significant socio-political themes.

Keep reading to uncover the top Filipino films of 2023! Wherever feasible, we’ve included streaming links for services like Amazon Prime or Netflix.

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11. The Gospel of the Beast

Director: Sheron R. Dayoc | Starring: Ronnie Lazaro, Jansen Magpusao | Genre(s): Drama, Crime

Coming-of-age movie The Gospel of the Beast centers on a young man named Mateo who accidentally kills a rival and has to seek protection from a local gang leader. As a result, Mateo becomes more enmeshed in gang life, finding both brotherhood and despair as he navigates his journey into adulthood.

While movies about gang life in the Philippines aren’t novel, The Gospel of the Beast is relatively well executed. The film displays admirable technique, choosing locations (ex. opening scenes in a slaughterhouse) that accentuate its grittiness, while using cinematography to soften the tone and remind viewers of Mateo’s humanity.

The Gospel of the Beast screened at 2023’s Tokyo International Film Festival, and international sales agents from countries like Thailand quickly picked the film up upon its premiere. It’s also worth noting that The Gospel of the Beast is set in Western Visayas, and uses local languages thanks to most of its cast and crew being from the region.

[Read more: 2022’s Best Filipino Movies]

10. Huling Palabas

Director: Ryan Machado | Starring: Mark Shun, Andrew Lentejas, Cedrick Juan | Genre(s): LGBTQ, Drama

Huling Palabas centers on a 16 year-old boy named Andoy who is trying to find his father, and explore his own place in the world as well. The film is set during the early 2000s around Romblon province, amidst the rise of VCDs and the waning days of VHS tapes; Andoy happens to love watching movies on VHS and browsing VHS rental stores. As Andoy prepares to graduate from high school, two figures emerge that spur his self-exploration: a transgender beautician named Ariel, and a mysterious VCD-player owning man named Isidro.

Laid-back with much of its pacing, Huling Palabas leans into its rural setting in multiple senses. The film features the Onhan language and, alongside The Gospel of the Beast, shows increasing representation from Western Visayas to balance out the usual Manila and Tagalog-dominated Filipino cinema scene. Those who enjoy LGBTQ-themed coming-of-age stories, especially those that go beyond simple BL tropes, should check out Huling Palabas.

[Read more: 2023’s Best Korean Dramas]

9. When This Is All Over

Director: Kevin Mayuga | Starring: Juan Karlos Labajo, Jorrybell Agoto, Ana Abad Santos | Genre(s): Drama

When This Is All Over offers a noteworthy and artistic perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. The movie focuses on a man simply known as “The Guy” who’s trapped in his condo amidst COVID quarantine protocols. Desperate to escape the Philippines and reunite with his mother in the US, The Guy ends up trying to push drugs for his wealthy neighbors. Meanwhile, The Guy also develops an unlikely friendship with one of the condo complex’s staff members, and reflects upon his relationship with his mother.

The film won multiple awards at 2023’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, with plaudits for cinematography, production design, and score. With its meditation on the psychology of abandoned children, and depiction of class conflicts, When This Is All Over blends social consciousness with indie sensibilities.

[Read more: 2021’s Best Filipino Movies]

8. Asog

Director: Seán Devlin | Starring: Jaya, Arnel Pablo, Ricky Gacho Jr. | Genre(s): Docufiction, LGBTQ, Environmental, Comedy

Asog is a rather unique film that blends documentary and fiction (i.e. docufiction) in a story that centers around a transgender comedian and activist named Rey “Jaya” Aclao and their former student Arnel Pablo.

In Asog, Jaya and Arnel take a roadtrip to a drag competition, and interact with various Filipinos whose lives have been affected by climate change. Along the way, the film manages to touch on issues including not just climate change, but also LGBTQ perceptions in the Philippines, Filipino history/mythology, colonialism, and beyond.

Asog screened at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York, alongside numerous other festivals in countries like Canada, the UK, Brazil, and beyond. The movie has won international plaudits for its novel style, and is a good film to watch for those who enjoy innovative genre-bending.

7. Rookie

Director: Samantha Lee | Starring: Pat Tingjuy, Aya Fernandez, Agot Isidro | Genre(s): Comedy, Drama, Sports, LGBTQ

This year’s indie Filipino scene seemed to have many noteworthy LGBTQ narratives, and Rookie is a sapphic addition to this trend. The movie revolves around a girl named Ace, who transfers to an all-girls Catholic school. A gifted athlete, Ace gets tapped for the school’s volleyball team, and ends up developing feelings for the team captain Jana.

Rookie was another highly anticipated entry at the 2023 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The movie ended up winning the festival’s Audience Choice award, as well as Best Actress for Pat Tingjuy’s performance as Ace.

Stream this Filipino movie on Amazon Prime.

[Read more: 2023’s Best Korean Movies]

6. Third World Romance

Director: Dwein Baltazar | Starring: Carlo Aquino, Charlie Dizon, Ana Abad Santos | Genre(s): Romance

Featuring the real-life couple Charlie Dizon and Carlo Aquino as a cashier named Britney and a grocery bagger named Alvin, Third World Romance explores the realities of romance and family in the modern age.

Set amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the film explores how Britney and Alvin must navigate financial insecurity and job instability in order to maintain their love and livelihoods. Furthermore, the movie also showcases a “modern family” in a way that doesn’t sensationalize, as Alvin’s biological father is a transwoman.

Beyond an entertaining love story, then, Third World Romance tells a compelling story that humanizes its characters, and leans into social commentary without being overly didactic or boring.

Stream this Filipino movie on Netflix.

5. Anak ka ng Ina Mo (Your Mother’s Son)

Director: Jun Robles Lana | Starring: Sue Prado, Kokoy de Santos | Genre(s): Drama

Your Mother’s Son is a 2023 Filipino movie that’s gotten some buzz on the international film festival circuit, most notably by getting selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.

The movie focuses on a middle-aged woman named Sarah, who teaches online courses to help make ends meet. Meanwhile, Sarah’s son Emman is a delinquent who sleeps around and can’t hold gainful employment. One day, Sarah allows one of her students to stay at her house to escape an abusive father—and this throws a figurative Oedipally-tinged grenade into Sarah and Emmam’s already-fraught relationship.

With its exploration of odd family relationships, Your Mother’s Son helps explore the fuzziness of love—whether romantic or familial—as well as what is moral versus amoral. Some critics have also noted how the film offers veiled yet highly charged commentary about nepotism in Filipino politics.

4. In My Mother’s Skin

Director: Kenneth Dagatan | Starring: Beauty Gonzalez, Felicity Kyle Napuli, James Mavie Estrella | Genre(s): Horror, History

If you enjoyed the Spanish film Pan’s Labyrinth, then you should check out In My Mother’s Skin. With a folk-horror plot that centers around a young girl named Tala who trusts a forest fairy to cure her ailing mother of a mysterious sickness whilst WWII rages in the Philippines, In My Mothers’ Skin certainly has many similarities in plot and theme.

However, In My Mother’s Skin is arguably more grim than Pan’s Labyrinth, with flesh-eating gore and frightening jungle setpieces galore. The film also blends unique characteristics of Filipino culture and history, from religious imagery and fantastical yet tonally authentic depictions of the suffering that Filipinos underwent during Japan’s WWII occupation.

In My Mother’s Skin also saw success on the international stage. The film got picked up for streaming on Amazon Prime in the US, and also debuted as the only non-English movie at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival’s “Midnight” section.

Stream this Filipino movie on Amazon Prime.

[Read more: 2022’s Best Korean Dramas]

3. A Very Good Girl

Director: Petersen Vargas | Starring: Kathryn Bernardo, Dolly de Leon | Genre(s): Dark Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

A Very Good Girl is an entertaining revenge story that sees a working-class woman named Mercy (Kathryn Bernardo) who assumes the persona of a high-flying socialite to enact vengeance upon her former boss, a retail CEO named Mother Molly (Dolly de Leon). Full of flamboyance and biting satire, A Very Good Girl is supremely entertaining whilst being thoughtful. The film ponders the lengths to which women have to go in order to survive in contemporary Filipino society, and explores class relations as well as social hierarchies.

Fans of Kathryn Bernardo will also perhaps appreciate the acting range she shows in A Very Good Girl, which is a vast departure from her usual romantic roles. Non-Filipino viewers may also find Dolly de Leon, best known for her role as a ship’s maid in Triangle of Sadness, to be a highly competent actress through her depiction of the crazy rich Mother Molly. It’s no surprise that A Very Good Girl has gotten distribution on Netflix, and secured a US theatrical release.

Stream this Filipino movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime

2. Gitling (Hyphen)

Director: Jopy Arnaldo | Starring: Gabby Padilla, Ken Yamamura | Genre(s): Comedy, Drama

Gitling is a thematically rich and layered film that explores the understanding and misunderstanding that language creates. The movie centers around a Japanese director named Makoto and a Filipina translator named Jamie, who are working together to create subtitles for one of Makoto’s films. Along the way, the two end up striking up a close bond, amidst differences in culture and language.

There’s a whiff of the Oscar-winning Japanese film Drive My Car in Gitling, with both movies leaning heavily into the themes of language and human understanding. In fact, Gitling contains five languages: English, Tagalog, Japanese, Ilonggo, and even a language that Jamie makes up. The film also color-codes its subtitles and deploys them intentionally to accentuate its themes. There’s much food for thought in Gitling, not to mention beautiful cinematography that deploys handheld camera movements and careful color grading to make an all-around Pinoy cinema masterpiece.

[Read More: 2020’s Best Pinoy Movies]

1. Iti Mapukpukaw (The Missing)

Director: Carl Joseph Papa | Starring: Carlo Aquino, Gio Gahol, Dolly de Leon | Genre(s): Animated, Sci-Fi

Iti Mapukpukaw is a refreshing, groundbreaking entrant to the Filipino cinema pantheon. The movie is the Philippines’ entry for the Best International Feature at Hollywood’s 96th Academy Awards, and the first ever animated film to be granted that honor. Furthermore, the film utilizes distinctive animation techniques, and conveys a trippy yet thoughtful sci-fi narrative that has little precedent in Filipino cinema.

In Iti Mapukpukaw, Carlo Aquino stars (via rotoscoping animation where animators trace over film footage) as an animator named Eric who literally has no mouth. When his uncle dies and an alien who wants to steal his body parts re-enters his life, Eric gets thrown into a journey down memory lane that forces him to confront traumatic memories from his past.

While that premise might seem odd and small in scope, Iti Mapukpukaw defies expectations by launching into an immeasurably rich—in terms of visuals, emotions, and philosophical musings—dive into Eric’s vast inner world. Iti Mapukpukaw’s visual styles shift from scene to scene across scribbles, 2D animation, and beyond, mirroring how Eric’s mental demons shift their shapes and emerge from the shadows in explosions that break through repression and taboo.

With all this innovation and artistry, Iti Mapukpukaw actually did quite well at the Filipino box office, giving hope that low-budget indie productions aren’t just the exclusive preserve of film festival audiences.

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Want more Filipino movies? Check out our lists for the best Pinoy movies of 2021 and 2022!

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