Monday, January 29, 2024

Top 10 Films of 2023

In my 2022 round-up, I tentatively asked if movies were back. In 2023, movies were back in a way I never saw coming. Last year, my favorite movie of the year was a film I think only 16 people have seen. This year, for the first time in my life, my favorite film is the frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar. How in the world did we get here?

10. The Zone of Interest
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
I’ve been following the Oscars for the better part of three decades, and The Zone of Interest is the most experimental/arthouse/avant garde movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture. When I saw this film in a packed theater the weekend it opened in New York City, I never expected it to be embraced by an institution as mainstream as the Oscars. In fact, I didn’t even like the movie when I left that theater. But more so than any film this year, The Zone of Interest had a haunting staying power that forced me to change my opinion on it. I’m seeing it again this week; cautiously, though I’ll certainly be paying attention.

9. Master Gardener
Directed by Paul Schrader
If you liked First Reformed and The Card Counter, you must finish Paul Schrader’s modern Lonely Man Trilogy. The pacing, tone, sound design, and camera work of all three movies help create a consistently bleak vision of world. But the smart casting choices allow the audience to latch on to some semblance of hope, however clouded it may be.

8. May December
Directed by Todd Haynes
A fun movie to watch, but an absolute ball of a movie to rewatch. Once I knew where the film was going, it allowed me to relax a bit and really enjoy the hospitably macabre sentiments of damn near every character in this film. Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore gave two of the best performances of their respective careers here. I truly think only Todd Hanyes could’ve pulled this off.

7. Godzilla Minus One
Directed by (Takashi Yamazaki)
Fantastically enjoyable, arguably the biggest movie surprise of the year. How in the world does a movie that cost $15 million have better computer graphics than movies with $200+ million budgets? If nothing else, Godzilla Minus One has completely ruined the notion of me accepting horrible CGI in modern films, simply because, “Well, it just all looks bad.” It doesn’t have to. And that’s just one thing I loved about this movie. So excited to see it in black and white in a few days.

6. Fair Play
Directed by Chloe Domont
My favorite feature film debut of the year. Chloe Domont’s Fair Play is the kind of movie I complain that they don’t make anymore. But here it is, an unflinching look at a modern-day romance, and all the love, sex, fighting, backstabbing, and vicious behavior that can come with it. Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich do an incredibly rare thing in this movie, they convince us that these two people absolutely adore each other, and utterly detest one another. Occasionally at the same time.

5. Poor Things
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
For the past 15 years, Lanthimos has quietly emerged as one of our best living filmmakers. All of his movies feel like they were made by the same person, but I still have never seen anything like them. The man is a genre in and of himself. Poor Things makes for a fantastic double feature with Lanthimos’ breakout film (and still my favorite of his work), Dogtooth. Both movies are about growing up, discovering independence, rejecting the system, and exploring sexuality. But while Dogtooth was confined by a small budget, and therefore limited in its scope, Poor Things soars as high as his imagination will allow. Emma Stone may have given the best performance of 2023 in this film. 

4. Anatomy of a Fall
Directed by Justine Triet
While I was watching Anatomy of a Fall, I couldn’t wait to get home and research the case the movie was based on. Surely there were documentaries, TV shows, podcasts and books detailing this bizarre trial that happened France. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the entire film is a work of fiction, drafted from the minds of life partners Justine Triet and Arthur Harari. Everything matters in this film. Songs playing in the background, words being said, languages being spoken – it all must be accounted for. The attention to detail that went into crafting this original script, and executing it so brilliantly on screen, are just a few reasons why Anatomy of a Fall is deserving of every single Academy Award nomination it received. Period.

3. Killers of the Flower Moon
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Another Marty masterpiece. I loved the film. I loved what it taught me, because I simply had never heard anything about this story. I loved that it reintroduced me to Lily Gladstone, who should certainly be a major force in cinema now. I loved that it gave Robert De Niro a chance to dig into a character to play a complete and utter monster. I loved the mother’s death scene in the film. I think it’s one of the most quietly profound things Scorsese has ever put on film. And, of course, I loved that in a year full of great movie endings, the gently simplicity of Killers of the Flower Moon won the day.

2. The Killer
Directed by David Fincher
One of the coolest films David Fincher has ever made, and currently my fourth favorite Fincher film. I saw this movie three weeks in a row in the theater, and then two weeks in a row on Netflix. Se7en will always be the Fincher film I’ve seen the most, but The Killer is definitely going to creep up. Michael Fassbender, welcome back, I’ve missed you greatly.

1. Oppenheimer
Directed by Christopher Nolan
For the first time in my adult life, my favorite film of the year is the current front runner to win the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. This has never happened to me. I’ve been in love with movies for my whole life. Because of this, the Oscars are a constant let down that I cannot turn my back on. They are ridiculous, but I am undeniably drawn to them. In my eye, the Oscars almost always get it wrong, so believe me when I say we are in the middle of the strangest Oscar season of my life.

I’m sure people disagree with me, I’m sure plenty of people do not consider Christopher Nolan’s film to be the century-defining cinematic masterpiece that I do. That’s fine. I’m always you. I’m always the person who loves the movie that never has a chance at winning any awards. I still cannot believe that Oppenheimer’s Oscar chances are as locked as many pundits seem to believe, but regardless of the Academy Awards, I have spent two entire days of my life watching this film in the theater. And I regret nothing.

Honorable Mentions
The Artifice Girl (Franklin Ritch)
Beau is Afraid (Ari Aster)
Eileen (William Oldroyd)
Full Time (Eric Gravel, US release)
John Wick 4 (Chad Stahelski)
Magic Mike’s Last Dance (Steven Soderbergh)
Napoleon (Ridley Scott)
Passages (Ira Sachs)
Scream VI (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett)
To Catch a Killer (Damián Szifron)


  1. So far, I've only seen 2 films from your list as my list so far is underwhelming as I missed out on a lot of films while I'm having issues with Netflix over its password sharing as I'm now considering getting my own account from now on just for myself and my mother.

    1. Great list! Priscilla... I wanted to like it. I wanted to love it. But I could not connect with it. I'll give it another go in a few months though, because I will never turn my back on a Sofia film.

  2. Alex, thrilled to see you writing again man! Keep it going, miss ya.

    Great list, I haven’t seen KotFM yet, and probably would have ranked Poor Things higher (maybe my movie-of-the-year honestly).

    Let me know if you’re in San Diego anytime soon!

    1. Hey dude! Yeah I don't get to posting on this site much anymore, but I do release podcast episodes about every week if you're interested! Hope you're doing well my friend!

      What Are You Watching. Podcast

  3. Great list and a great year for movies. Glad to see you post, too bad blogger isn't what it used to be.

    1. Thank you so much! I really do wish I had the time to post more, but this blogger platform is absolute garbage. But I do appreciate you giving this a read!

  4. Happy to see Oppenheimer as your film of the year!

    1. Oppenheimer
    2. Killers of the Flower Moon
    3. Poor Things
    4. May December
    5. The Holdovers
    6. Past Lives
    7. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
    8. The Zone of Interst
    9. Godzilla Minus One
    10. Knock At the Cabin

    1. Another Oppenhomie - love it! I love that goddamn movie, seen it so many times. My evil brain will not allow me to accept that it could win Best Picture and Best Director, but my god I hope it happens.

      Also, The Zone of Interest... whew, fuck. I know I put that at 10 here, but in a few years, I bet it's closer to my 3rd or 4th favorite film of 2023.

  5. Solid year for the cinema. Here's my top 10
    1. Poor Things: Barbie for Probably the funniest film I saw this year. Stone, Ruffalo and Dafoe give their greatest performances.
    2. Past Lives: Quietly devastating. Daniel Rossens music is great. Probably my favorite ending of the year.
    3. Killers of the Flower Moon: Another powerful crime drama from the GOAT. Don't care that it's 3.5 day I won't be able to watch a new Scorsese film so I'll cherish every second.
    4. Oppenheimer: "THE WORLD WILL REMEMBER THIS DAY"...scene of the year
    5. Anatomy of A Fall: Very compelling courtroom drama. I found out today that the house this takes place in is available on AirBnB lol.
    6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Pop art masterpiece. The second best spiderman film (Hard to top Raimi)
    7. The Taste of Things: Two hours of people cooking. I'm hungry just thinking about this one...
    8. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt: In a stellar year for debuts from black filmmakers (see also A Thousand and One, Rye Lane and They Cloned Tyrone), this one stood out. A very Malick-esque look at black southern life.
    9. The Boy and the Heron: Lol this dude is never retiring. Rare case where the english dub (featuring Robert Pattinson's voice acting) is superior. Beautiful score as well.
    10. Fallen Leaves: Saw this Aki Kaurismaki film on MUBI. Short and sweet movie about lonely lovers.

    1. Love this list!
      1. "Barbie for intellectuals" killed me. So true.
      2. The white husband in this is the screenwriter for "Challengers"!
      3. Saw it three times. Loved it. But... it's had little staying power for me post-Oscars. No where near as important to me as The Irishman, but oh well.
      4. YES.
      5. Part of me would book this AirBnb if it were easier to get to haha. Cna't wait to watch this again honestly. Only saw it once and there's A LOT to it.
      6. Excited for the third one?
      7. Still haven't seen it! Good?
      8. Need to watch it ASAP, thanks for the push.
      9. I heard Pattinson's VO was great in this.
      10. Another one I still need to see. GREAT list.

    2. "Excited for the third one?"
      Of course. Hopefully they pull this off and aren't treating the animators like shit anymore.

      "Still haven't seen it! Good?"
      It's awesome. Getting hungry again...

  6. The Killer was a real case of material vs execution for me, because while Fincher and Fassbender brought their A game, the script just felt like a compilation of hitman movie tropes. Liked it enough but I'm more likely to look up individual scenes on youtube than rewatch the whole thing and hear Fassbenders work mantra over and over again.

    The Zone of Interest if nothing else was proof that the holocaust card still works with the Academy especially in the Foreign Film category, might even nab Best Picture. One basic scene formula (aesthetic boredom + background atrocity occasionally followed by artsy insert) stretched out to a whole movie. Only point where that worked for me was when the kids were in the water and that ash cloud slowly crept up. Those background screams and gunshots got old so fast. When the couple held hands after having their marital squabble out on the pier, I waited for the obvious gunshot, it happened and I felt nothing, because that's just what it is. A predictable, calculated fucking sound effect. What reaction does Glazer want there? Sadness, shame, rage or does he cynically thinks he's putting the audience in the family's mindset by making them ignorant to the shots aswell? Two people were holding back their laughter behind me in the cinema at some point and I don't blame them.
    At least someone like Haneke usually builds up to something even if it's not a traditional ending. Glazer just makes an art installation out of the holocaust and then has the balls to cut to the Auschwitz museum as if to say "Don't forget the victims, a real tragedy that was." 

    Alright enough negativity, I hadn't heard of Eileen before reading this so thank you for that. Loved Shea Whigham in it. 

    my list:
    15. Jawan - not quite as fun as last years RRR but still a ludicrous action excess in the best ways.
    14. Anatomy of a Fall - bet the french are kicking themselves for not sending it in for International Film, could've had a real race for once in a category that's usally a foregone conclusion.
    13. The Teacher's Lounge 
    12. The Sweet East - I had no idea where this was going at any point and I loved that.
    11. Inside - got flack for running too long, but if Willem Dafoe losing his mind doesn't make for compelling cinema I don't know what does. 
    10. Blackberry - informative, fun but without that forced cool attitude of Dumb Money or The Big Short. Glenn Howerton deserved more award attention.
    9. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves - Did it shamelessly copy the Guardians of the Galaxy formula? Yes. Still whole lotta fun? Yes.
    8. LOLA -  found footage format took a toll on my senses, but still an intriguing experiment.
    7. Fallen Leaves - Sweet, but not saccharine
    6. Broker - need to see more Bae Doona films, love her.
    5. Past Lives - Greta Lee being the biggest snub of this years oscars
    4. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
    3. The Holdovers
    2. Oppenheimer -  never been a Nolan devotee, but this was easily the best theatrical experience of the year and could have been topspot if it weren't for its 3 lone flaws in the otherwise amazing cast (Blunt, Pugh and Safdie)
    1. Poor Things -  a most fucked up delight. I laughed, I squirmed in my seat and at the end I got emotional. Loved its mix of boldness and silliness in story, humor, visuals not to mention the pitch perfect perfomances. If only this and Oppenheimer could win an equal share at the Oscars.

    Honorable Mentions: Still: a Michael J. Fox Movie, Mission Impossible - Dead Reckoning, Kidnapped, Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, Sun and Concrete, The Iron Claw, They cloned Tyrone, Bottoms (far from great, but I miss absurd humor in movies)

    1. Fantastic list and analysis. I haven't heard of some of the movies on your list, but I'll try to check them all out.

      As for Zone of Interest. This is so strange, because everything you wrote is EXACTLY how I felt about the movie the first time I saw it. Sold out screening the week it opened in NYC, and there were absolutely some scoffs and chuckles in my crowd. I left the theater shaking my head in annoyance, and could have written a mini review similar to the one you wrote here.

      Then, I dunno, the fucker just stayed. It wouldn't leave my head. The sound, the droning, it ran through my mind on a loop. When I saw it again, I appreciated it more. I get your criticism (I really do), but a switch flipped in my brain and now I respect the film. Tricky subject material for a movie, obviously. Life is Beautiful is still one of the most acclaimed films to use that historical backdrop, and it remains one of my least favorites.