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Best Films of 2023


How will we look back and remember 2023 in film? I predict it will be a positive reflection, thought of as one of the recent “great” movie years full of quality pictures and many markers in film history. My opinions on the year could easily be considered recency bias, but when presented with the slew of material produced in this tumultuous year it’s hard to come to any other conclusion but one — the films were great.

The year started quite slow with a couple of strong theatrical releases that pumped blood into the domestic box office: Steven Soderbergh’s return to Magic Mike’s Last Dance could easily be laughed at, but there were true creative strokes painted in this threequel, not to mention powerhouse performances from Salma Hayek and Channing Tatum. Plus, it was beyond sexy! Scream VI was a revitalization of a franchise constantly needing to run away from the trappings of its own tropes. Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega were the only things that could keep these films afloat after Spyglass Media Group parted ways with the face of the franchise Nev Campbell. What they do now after firing Barrera and Ortega’s leaving remains to be unseen, but it may just be that 2023 will go down as the year that the Scream films were finally killed off. On a different side of genre film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was among the best popcorn flicks of the spring season, bringing a healthy combination of laughs, action, and Bradley Cooper cameos.

The summer ushered in great promise with the anticipation of the cinema event Barbenheimmer, which took over culture while bringing people to theaters in swarms like hadn’t been seen since before the pandemic. It was truly a thing of beauty: packed theaters full of audience excited to see not one, but two behemoth films. Simultaneously both actors and writers picketed in opposition to AMPTP for the promise of basic rights and protections against evolving technology like artificial intelligence. This year, we finally began to see the implications of the “Age of Streaming” in full force, such as the companies’ lack of willingness to pay residuals amongst other points of concern.

The fall ushered in the beginning of what looked like hope of resolutions and a path forward as AMPTM reached an agreement with WGA and did the same with SAG shortly after. What followed was one of the best fall release schedules in recent memories and a true representation of what this year could be remembered back as: The Year of the Autuer. Back to back, it seemed we were hit with projects from returning auteurs, from Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon to Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, Todd Hayne’s May December to Micheal Mann’s Ferrari, Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City to David Fincher’s The Killer — these bold directors with their singular visions came back with a vengeance and showed true summations of their genius. 2023 was a year of variety. Brilliant strides in animation (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem were favorites), franchise filmmaking, independent cinema, and even big studio pictures: there was a film for everyone.

What follows is my Ten Best of 2023, in no particular order. But first, two honorable mentions:

Kokomo City

“Everyone is so worried about who is fucking who when at the end of the day they all want to fuck each other. That’s the whole tea.”

A wonderful gem hidden amongst the excellence of the year, Kokomo City fully realizes lives unseen in the medium of film with honesty and care. Beautiful black and white cinematography and sequences shot casually from low angles give the feeling of being in the room with the subjects, four Black trans sex workers in New York and Georgia — which is all directional intentionality from D. Smith, a burgeoning voice who deserves more work after this striking story. She matches arresting images with the poetic language of her subjects, creating excellence. It’s a shame that Kokomo City didn’t make the Oscar Documentary shortlist, but I hope its inclusion inspires you to watch it.

Infinity Pool

“James, you made it. You're completely transformed. You look so beautiful now. I can see the beauty just pouring right out of you.”

It’s a shame that Infinity Pool came out as early in the year as it did because it has unfortunately been swept under the rug and missed a lot of year-end lists — but there’s no denying that this was one of my most enjoyable theatrical experiences of the year. Brandon Cronenberg has a firm grasp on his corner of genre filmmaking, and Infinity Pool is a non-stop sci-fi thrill ride and hedonistic nightmare. The film follows a couple that vacations on an isolated island resort and get swept up in a horrific culture outside the resort grounds. I will always give extra points for sheer creativity, especially when it’s done as well as this, but Cronenberg also explores a different side to the “eat-the-rich” commentary which comes out as original despite being a quite muddled sub-genre. I can’t forget to mention the performances which are absolutely off the wall, with a Mia Goth turn that’s worth the watch all in itself.

Now, on to the list:

American Fiction

“If they want stereotypes, I’ll give them one.”

Go for the promise of a sharp satire on race and art, and stay for a surprisingly emotional family drama underneath the surface. American Fiction scratched that specific itch for me in that it explores the intricacies of art and identity, and how the two co-exist, but Cord Jefferson manages to do it in a fresh way that never feels too critical of anyone's thought. Jeffery Wright as Thelonius “Monk” Ellison is one of my favorite characters of the year — all different shades of what a Black artist can be, played by one of our most masterful performers.

May December

“Insecure people are very dangerous, aren't they? I'm secure.”

Todd Haynes returns with his high-brow take on a soap opera. Haynes impressively assembles the perfect cast matched with the perfect script, then sits back and subtly works his magic as he crafts this decadent tale. There are so many ways this source material could be explored, Haynes and writer Samy Burch rightfully choose to tell the story of exploitation in all forms. Julianne Moore as Gracie manipulated a child when she was thirty-six, Natalie Portman as Elizabeth comes in like a vampire in the night ready to bring this traumatic story to life on screen, and stuck in the middle is Charles Melton as Joe — a boy trapped in the body of a man, a star-making performance for Melton. A simple, captivating story that tackles many big ideas with care.

Beau is Afraid

“You will walk many miles. Dozens will become hundreds. Hundreds will become thousands. Your adventures will continue for years and years.”

From the twisted mind of Ari Aster comes his most ingenious project yet, only three features in and Aster is cashing in on a blank check with the $35 million psychological epic, making history as A24’s most expensive production to date. Making back only $11.5 million that check certainly did bounce, but it makes up in creative prowess and bold storytelling. Aster proves that he is one of the most promising developing auteurs of his generation, unafraid to provoke but always with a foundation founded in character and emotion. Beau is Afraid is his most personal story yet, and flashes of vulnerability are hidden amongst surreal camera work and shots overflowing with detail. While rightly divisive, Beau is Afraid is certainly among the bravest films of 2023, with the presence of a directorial voice sure of all the right moves to make.

Killers of the Flower Moon

“Can you find the wolves in this picture?”

Killers of the Flower Moon is Martin Scorsese’s take on the evil that lies at the root of America. This grand, sweeping epic is an untold part of our history brought to light and uncovers the atrocities against the Osage nation. While Scorsese chooses to tell the story from the point of view of the persecutors to explore what I can only assume is his fascination with the white violence that was swept under the rug for so long, it still feels in large part to be the Osage’s story. In the end, it proves to be a powerful film about what is remembered in our history.


“I had sex with a woman. Can I tell you about it, please?”

Passages is a portrait of modern love at its most toxic. Ira Sachs returns with the disgustingly sexy tale of Tomas, who steps out of his marriage to his husband to have an affair with a young woman. This is a stunning portrayal of sexuality and relationships, and at the center is Franz Rogowski’s Tomas — full of charm and sex appeal, he destroys everything he touches but we can’t bring ourselves to look away. We all know a Tomas, and Sachs translates this fluid, narcissistic situationship to screen flawlessly.

Anatomy of a Fall

“Sometimes a couple is kind of a chaos and everybody is lost. Sometimes we fight together and sometimes we fight alone, and sometimes we fight against each other, that happens.”

Sandra Huller is a revelation. The greatness of her performance holds Anatomy of a Fall together, but this is not to downplay all of its other parts — she is the foundation but is only surrounded by greatness in Justine Triet’s direction and writing, and Milo Machado Graner’s supporting performance. This is a courtroom film, but the story is much more interested in the marriage than the murder. Everything is on trial, even the failing relationship relationship — a dissection that leads to the title’s double entendre.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

“If the American empire is calling us terrorists then we're doing something right.”

How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a practically perfect movie. It is a sharp thriller that perfectly represents Gen-Z disillusionment and anger, and impressively directed by Daniel Goldhaber. What’s most impressive is how it was adapted, making a poignant, tense, and emotional drama based around eight fleshed-out, disenfranchised young adults from a climate change manifesto. This film is a perfect meeting of performance, script, and direction, and is an inspiring addition from a new crop of filmmakers.

Past Lives

“What if this is a past life as well, and we are already something else to each other in our next life? Who do you think we are then?”

Celine Song hits it out of the park with a debut film that makes you find importance in every relationship you’ve ever made and every person you’ve ever come across, no matter how long. Greta Lee as Nora is the necessary anchor amongst an emotional tornado, navigating all the love she holds in her heart for Hae Sung, her childhood best friend and possible first love, and Arthur, her husband. Song weaves a delicate web and takes no sides in this heartbreaking original drama. Tears were shed many times, as her words managed to strike my core, matched by excellent performances from Lee, Teo Yoo, and John Magaro.


“They won't fear it until they understand it, and they won't understand it until they've used it."

It’s hard to not include a film that is so clearly a filmmaker’s masterwork. Christopher Nolan’s authorial voice is omnipresent in this intelligent and aching character study. Seeing this film opening weekend on 70mm with a packed audience is a theatrical experience that will be unparalleled for years to come. A three-hour runtime passes by with ease due to a razor-sharp edit and Nolan’s typical non-linear structure, which works particularly great here. Cillian Murphy delivers one of the best acting performances of the year — while at times understated, it is unbelievably tactile and fully lived through. A rollercoaster of difficult emotions bubbles underneath the surface of a thousand-yard stare with piercing, blue eyes — while the world vibrates around him, threatening to explode. Oppenheimer explores the complexity of a great man who made irreversible scientific strides and does so excellently.

Poor Things

“I have adventured it and found nothing but sugar and violence.”

My last watch of the year quickly, and easily, moved up to my top 5 — Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is an overwhelming theatrical experience, attacking you visually and emotionally, never giving you time to escape from its imaginative world. Based on the novel by Alastair Gray, it has the depth of character and world-building of any great novel-to-screen adaptation, but Lanthimos adds his singular style to great effect. It’s hard not to enjoy a film when every single frame is a painting. The costumes are magnificent, the production design is rich and detailed (the windows are penises!), and the score by Jerskin Fendrix is an eclectic mixture of pings and tings that somehow squeezes out every last drop of emotional poignancy. Then there’s the cast, who gel together like the finest troupe of actors who have performed together for years. Both Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo deliver career-best performances and deserve all the praise in the world. Poor Things brings us a multi-faceted story of humanity full of laughter, sex, horror, and love.


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