Favorite Films of 2023

As with last year’s list, I decided to skip the usual pressure to make a top 10 by the end of the year without having seen a bunch of the eligible movies. Instead I took my time, waiting to watch titles as they hit streaming or Blu-ray so I’d have a better shot at a list that more accurately reflected my favorites from 2023.

There are still several I haven’t gotten to yet unfortunately (RIP my moviegoing after child #2). But with the Oscars upon us, I figured now would be the best time to close out another year in movies.

On to my top 10…

10. Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain

Odds are your enjoyment of this will be directly proportional to your enjoyment of the video shorts of Please Don’t Destroy, who wrote and starred in this rather ridiculous romp. I’m a huge fan, therefore I had a great time with this. Does it suffer from the SNL Movie Syndrome of feeling stretched out beyond its sketch-based form? A little bit. Is it also consistently hilarious? You bet.

9. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

If you make a documentary related to Back to the Future, I’m gonna watch it. This one also happens to be really well done, making creative use of reenactments alongside Fox’s talking heads, memoirs, and TV/movie appearances to tell his life story. And he’s still funny as hell despite the effects of Parkinson’s. (I had a blast interviewing the movie’s editor and geeking out about all things BTTF.)

8. Poor Things

There’s just nothing like a Yorgos Lanthimos movie. And there’s no one acting quite like Emma Stone these days. Their creative alchemy yielded this deeply weird, dark, funny, and feminist picaresque that had me alternating between “ha” and “huh?” quite frequently.

7. Theater Camp

I never cease to marvel at the magic of musical theater, whatever the context. To go from absolutely nothing to a collection of songs, complex choreography, manufactured sets and costumes, all combined into an entertaining story? Sign me up every time. Cheers to this ensemble cast of young performers who managed to do that in this mockumentary while selling both the over-the-top satire of showbiz life and the earnest appreciation of doing what they love.

6. Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan, call your agent: I’ve got a long list of supposedly “uncinematic” history books filled with people talking in rooms that Oppenheimer proves should in fact be turned into IMAX-worthy epics.

5. The Killer

Weird how David Fincher can drop a sleek “The Bourne Identity meets Adaptation” gem like this starring A-lister Michael Fassbender and have it feel completely forgotten by year’s end. (That’s the Netflix Effect for you, I guess…) This story of an assassin cleaning up a botched job really opens up when you realize it’s actually a comedy, with said assassin the butt of the joke just as often as he is a savvy operator. More Fassbender/Fincher collabs, please.

4. Reality

Much like Oppenheimer, this is an excellent 2023 movie featuring a government contractor being interrogated for their motivations and questionable conduct related to sensitive national security intelligence. Unlike Oppenheimer, it’s only 82 minutes—yet remains a riveting, slow-burn docudrama with an impressive performance by Sydney Sweeney as Reality Winner.

3. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

A great coming of age story, family dramedy, exploration of religion, female-centric story, and year-in-the-life movie all in one. Kudos to writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig for sticking the landing in adapting a legendary story while also launching a career in Abby Ryder Fortson and surrounding her with A+ supporting talent.

2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Reports about the death of multiverse storytelling have been greatly exaggerated. As a middle sequel continuing the story of its predecessor and setting up the third installment, it has structural limitations that prevent it from hitting the same level as Into the Spider-Verse. But, much like its titular hero Miles Morales, damned if it doesn’t overcome the odds to spin an extraordinary web nevertheless.

1. Four Daughters

This documentary follows a Tunisian family whose two eldest daughters succumbed to fundamentalism and joined ISIS, with the spin that the director (Kaouther Ben Hania) has hired actors to play the disappeared daughters and recreate scenes from the family’s history along with the remaining sisters and mother. This unique approach leads to some stunning emotional moments, not to mention a complicated and cathartic journey for the real family as they try to make sense of the ineffable with humanity, gravity, and even comedy. (Another riveting documentary—and favorite of 2021—I had top of mind while watching this was Netflix’s Procession, which also featured real survivors of a different sort reckoning with their trauma through artifice.)

Still haven’t seen: American Fiction, The Zone of Interest, Anatomy of a Fall, The Taste of Things, Perfect Days

Other movies I enjoyed:

  • The Iron Claw
  • The Saint of Second Chances
  • Society of the Snow
  • You Hurt My Feelings
  • Scream 6
  • Maestro
  • Leave the World Behind
  • Kelce
  • The Pigeon Tunnel
  • Flora and Son
  • Barbie
  • You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah

Non-2023 movies I watched and enjoyed:

  • Happiest Season
  • The Cranes are Flying
  • White Christmas
  • It Follows
  • The Shining
  • Eight Men Out
  • The Witch
  • Shattered Glass

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