End-of-year lists are a rite of passage, a time to select the best of the best from all we’ve seen. Like its small-screen counterparts, 2023 proved to be an unusual year in film.. Countless delays due to widespread industry strikes shifted many potential blockbusters to 2024 and beyond, while numerous big-budget films flopped. In many ways, 2023 was a sea change year, signaling that past successes may not guarantee future wins. Disney, for instance, experienced more flops than hits, and only two movies ended up scraping past the billion-dollar mark at the box office.

Narrowing down a top ten from the over 100 movies I watched this year proved incredibly challenging. My top five or six choices solidified early on, but beyond that, around a dozen films competed for the remaining spots. Ultimately, I selected movies that offered the most impactful experiences at the theater – those that sparked fear, humor, or a sense of purpose. Each film on this list made me think, “This is one of the best things I’ve seen this year.”

Just missing the cut, or ‘Runner Ups,’ were spellbinding animated superhero sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Andrew Haigh’s quietly devastating All of Us Strangers, Paul King’s unexpectedly dazzling Wonka, Zachary Wigon’s seductively-performed cat-and-mouse sexual thriller Sanctuary, horror auteur Ari Aster’s ambitious and utterly insane “comedy” Beau is Afraid, Cord Jefferson’s sharply satirical American Fiction, Justine Triet’s sharply-written domestic procedural Anatomy of a Fall, Gareth Edwards’ exceptionally-constructed sci-fi actioner The Creator, and Ava DuVernay’s riveting and impactful Origin. I could make a rational argument to include any of them in this year’s top ten list, and may well change my view in the future, but the competition was fierce and I have no more time to hem and haw. So, let’s move on to the winners’ circle before I change my mind again.

10. Bottoms

Bottoms is the story of two high school lesbians who hatch a plot to lose their virginity by starting a fight club supervised by Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch. Emma Seligman’s satirical comedy blends surrealism with cringe humor, creating a laugh-a-minute journey that vibrantly celebrates empowerment — well, at least for the hot ones. The film totally vibes to the max, dodging the ‘woke comedy’ label to focus more on belly laughs than grand thematic statements. Rachel Sennett and Ayo Edebiri are effortlessly hilarious, anchoring the film with their dynamically deadpan performances.

9. Talk to Me

Michael and Danny Philippou’s Talk to Me stands as a dark, gripping tormentor in the realm of supernatural horror. This A24 horror film transcends mere frights, evolving into a profound meditation on teenage experimentation and addiction. As the thrill of contact with the other side escalates for a group of teenage friends, so does the horror, ensnaring them in a world from which there seems no return. Talk to Me masterfully showcases the seductive pull of the unknown and the harrowing consequences of venturing too far. More than just a scarefest, it’s a chilling reflection on the allure of the forbidden and the perilous journey from innocent curiosity to overwhelming obsession. The Philippou brothers have crafted a narrative that not only terrifies but also haunts with its all-too-real portrayal of youthful indiscretion turning nightmarishly real.

8. How to Blow Up a Pipeline   

A radical ensemble piece about extremist activism, Daniel Goldhaber’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline takes a unique approach to adapting Andreas Malm’s nonfiction climate activism manifesto. By putting human faces to the climate crisis and building a pulse-pounding eco-thriller around it, Goldhaber manages to make both an urgent plea and a purely thrilling and powerful piece of cinema. This NEON release barely made an impact in the theater but has gained some word of mouth traction throughout the year. Discover how to blow up a pipeline yourself!

7. Theater Camp

Theater Camp rolled into Sundance with all the dramatic flair you’d expect from, well, a film about a theater camp. It’s since charmed its way into the hearts of a devoted cult following, proving that the real drama isn’t just under the spotlight. It’s a heartfelt, side-splitting ode to the theatrically inclined, where every joke lands with the precision of a well-timed stage cue. Ben Platt and Molly Gordon, who co-wrote, co-star, and (in Gordon’s case) co-directed, announce themselves as unique voices in the comedy landscape. The world should be on the edge of its collective seat for their next act.

6. Barbie

If there was one person on the planet who could transform a Barbie movie into a staunchly feminist, and dare I say, revolutionary piece, it’s Greta Gerwig. Despite the potentially troubling precedent set by the mind-boggling success of Barbie (cue the “people love movies about Mattel toys!” sentiment), Gerwig has crafted a film that’s not only deeply funny and broadly appealing but also thoughtfully non-materialistic. This brilliance shines through in the pitch-perfect performances, sumptuous production design, clever writing, and hysterical musical numbers. The Mattel Extended Universe expansion can’t come soon enough!

5. The Holdovers

No film transports viewers back in time like Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. Set in 1970, the film emanates the essence of 1970s cinema. It unfolds in a snowy and stuffy New England prep school, where Paul Giamatti plays a curmudgeonly professor with a bum eye and a “fishy scent.” He finds himself responsible for chaperoning a handful of students, including the headstrong Angus Tully, during the Christmas break. The Holdovers masterfully intertwines wickedly acerbic humor with heartwarming holiday elements, standing out as an adult crowdpleaser that resonates on just about every level. If there’s one film I’d confidently recommend to almost anyone this holiday season, or at any other time, it’s The Holdovers.

4. Past Lives

Celine Song’s sweeping romance Past Lives is an elegy to near-misses. The film focuses on Nora and Hae Sung, Korean-born childhood friends and intermittent lovers, who find themselves repeatedly drawn into each other’s orbits, always at just the wrong time. Despite their affections, the harsh realities of life wedge them apart and bind them to other people. It’s a hauntingly romantic film that challenges the notion of ‘soul mates’ – here, true love and destiny are not prescriptive. In Song’s world, life and love present many fine options, with time and circumstance serving as a potent force in determining the chosen path.

3. Saltburn

Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi strike up a friendship at Oxford University that soon begins to transform into new shapes and sizes. Emerald Fennell’s sophomore feature is bold – hauntingly sex-charged, viciously bloodthirsty, and full of some of the year’s most striking images and performances. Saltburn calls to mind classical monster movies, think Dracula or The Wolf Man, who focus as much on the romantic impulse to win affections as on the twisted nature of its protagonist. As Oliver Quick, Keoghan puts in one of the great performances of the year, punctuated perfectly by the film’s electrifying and hysterical final dance number. 

2. The Zone of Interest

The most harrowing watch of 2023 is also one of it most urgent and certainly its most formally brilliant. Returning to cinema after a decade away, Jonathan Glazer pulls audience into the seemingly idyllic world of the Höss family, who live just outside the walls of Auschwitz and aid in its genocidal administration. Glazer’s film doesn’t rely on horrific, salacious imagery to evoke an emotional response but rather leans into the beauty of the Höss’ gardens or their little sojourns to the river banks, only to haunt the soundscape of the film with a cacophony of hellish noises. I’ve never seen something quite like The Zone of Interest and it makes for one of the most challenging and essential films of the year.

1. Poor Things

Yorgos Lanthimos has been my favorite working director for a while now. No other auteur working today can slink so effortlessly in and out of genres while remaining entirely singular, and Poor Things is a perfect example of that. The fantastical odyssey starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Ruffalo, each of whom puts in pitch-perfect performances, centers around Bella, a flesh and bone science experiment who discovers the wonders of the world and her place within it. Poor Things manages to be belly-laugh funny, magically whimsical, and thematically potent, offering a refreshingly original and uninhibitedly bold work of cinematic bliss that’s one of Lanthimos’ finest creations and the best movie of 2023.


For other reviews, interviews, and featured articles, be sure to:

Follow Silver Screen Riot on Facebook 
Follow Silver Screen Riot on Twitter
Follow Silver Screen Riot on Instagram

The post The Ten Best Movies of 2023 appeared first on Silver Screen Riot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.