As we do every January, it’s time to look back at the previous year and check out its Top 20 films, as decided by the rankings of our users.
These are not editorial picks, but rather, the aggregate of all our users’ rankings as they watch films and pit them against each other head to head. As such, the list is ever evolving, and perhaps best thought of as a snapshot, the capturing of a moment in time. A new year has been born, which will bring with it new movies, but as time goes on the slate of 2023 films will continue to evolve and grow along with every user’s Flickchart.
For now, at this moment, here’s the best of what 2023 had to offer. As always, this list is only “accurate” up to the time it was published.
20. Creed III
Directed by Michael B. Jordan
Global Rank: #7,041
It’s a real shame that the legal woes of Jonathan Majors will severely limit his presence on our movie screens… because what a presence. As the forgotten “big brother” (in a sense) of Michael B. Jordan’s title character, Majors not only commands the screen, he pushes Jordan to bring his acting A-game, too. Meanwhile, Jordan also proves he learned a thing or two from Ryan Coogler, as he seems very assured behind the camera as well. The fights hit hard, and the emotional beats strike the right chord.
Shame #2? Rocky Balboa is nowhere to be seen here. But Jordan has now proven that his Creed franchise can fly, even out from under Rocky’s wing. – Nigel Druitt
Directed by Nick Bruno & Troy Quane
Global Rank: #6,947
Nimona is adapted from the Eisner-winning comic of the same name, created by ND Stevenson off of a sketch and an idea: what if the villain’s sidekick was the one that wanted the chaos? Fleshing out this idea and the found family themes led to an amazing comic book, and now an even better movie. Created by Fox’s subsidiary Blue Sky Studios, its creation had a tumultuous time as Disney’s acquisition of Fox caused the studio to give the heavy LGBTQ+ themes a pass. But when Disney canceled the film, Netflix snapped it up. None of this production chaos is reflected in the movie itself, which is a slick and vibrant bit of animation, with the fluidity of the animation playing with the fluidity of Nimona’s form. Nimona’s shapeshifting is played for laughs, for action, for pathos, and for surrealism, and is a delight the entire time. There are multiple stories interwoven at the heart of Nimona: Nimona’s search for acceptance, Ballister’s hunt for his betrayer, family trauma, the star-crossed love story between Ballister and Ambrosius. Each of these alone would normally be the heart of an LGBTQ+-positive movie, but this one wraps them all together in a very solid package. It has picked up several Best Animated Film nominations, and is worth checking out. – Brian Roney
18. Scream VI
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett
Global Rank: #6,474
Goodbye Woodsboro and hello New York, New York. After twenty-seven years, we are six movies in on the Scream franchise, and if you have made it this far, I think you will believe this is six movies strong! Scream is my favorite horror series, and I’m biased, but I think the directors Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett respect and love the franchise too. To paraphrase Randy, there are certain rules that one must abide by in making a Scream film, and these directors know and understand this important element, and it shows in the product they put on the screen.
Sydney Prescott isn’t here this time, but Gale Weathers fills her nostalgia place nicely. Horror fans may be divided over the new cast with leads Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega headlining, but I think they fit in perfectly. Scream VI will still keep you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out who the suspect is. It still has some brutal kills that will make you wince, squirm, and grit your teeth. It also adds some new elements to the series while still honoring its five predecessors in this neo-nostalgia cinematic world of today. One thing, though, is that you just can’t see this without seeing the five movies before this. Those five films are must-sees to grasp and understand the weight of this one. The twists won’t hit right otherwise. Scream VI may absolutely require some homework, but I promise it will pay off. It appears the franchise may now be going into hibernation, but we will always have these six. – Aaron Empsall
Directed by James Mangold
Global Rank: #6,243
Raiders of the Lost Ark is that rarest of creatures: a perfect movie. The idea that any sequel could touch its greatness isn’t any more true now than it was in 1984 or 2008. In fact, Dial of Destiny makes many of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’s mistakes; chief among them is an over-dependence on CGI that lends an unnatural sheen to the proceedings, in direct conflict with the hard-hitting, tactile reality of Steven Spielberg’s original Indiana Jones trilogy.
It gets most of those mistakes out of the way at the beginning, in a prologue that is actually more ludicrous than what follows (and if you know the nature of the film’s MacGuffin, that’s saying something). And ingredients of a proper Indy film are present in Dial: punchable Nazis (Mads Mikkelsen is a perfectly-cast Indy villain); plucky sidekicks (Phoebe Waller-Bridge does an admirable job with what many might view as a thankless character, at times outshining and undermining the hero with the whip); that trademark wry Indy humor.
The best thing here is the man himself, and how the ever-iconic Harrison Ford chooses to play him. Crystal Skull treated its adventure as just another day at the office, but Dial knows that Indy is approaching the end of a long road, and Ford’s weariness in a few key emotional scenes, when the film takes a break from the zany action, is the true high point. As archaeologist and treasure hunter, Indiana Jones has devoted his life to the pursuit of lost time, never so literally as in this film. Yet here, time is allowed to catch up to him, and one of cinema’s most enduring heroes becomes a little richer for it. – Nigel
Directed by Aaron Horvath & Michael Jelenic
Co-directed by Pierre Leduc & Fabien Polack
Global Rank: #6,064
The Super Mario Bros. returned to the big screen for the first time since a 1993 live-action flop, this time with much better results. Chris Pratt voiced the iconic Italian plumber — a move that caused great trepidation from Mario fans across the globe. In the end, Pratt’s portrayal won over the hearts of kids and kids at heart.
Mario and his brother Luigi (Charlie Day) are plumbers who find their way to the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario is shown around by Toad (Keegan Michael Key), while Luigi ends up in the hands of the evil King Koopa, Bowser (Jack Black).
If you’ve played the games, it comes as no surprise that Bowser fancies himself the perfect romantic match for Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), and will stop at nothing to make sure she becomes his bride. This time, Peach is more than just a damsel in distress. She’s a strong woman who won’t take any guff. She assembles a crew to help Mario rescue his brother, and help save the Mushroom Kingdom from Bowser.
Along the way there’s a heavy dose of nostalgia, from iconic characters like Donkey Kong (Seth Rogen) to the obscure foreman Spike (Sebastian Maniscalco).
The fun never stops. From start to end, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is packed with vibrant colors, humorous action, and a bevy of Easter eggs for fans to spot over and over with each subsequent watch. It’s a triumphant return to the box office for Nintendo, with fans and newcomers alike, to the tune of over $1 billion.
Not bad for a little plumber from Brooklyn. – Reyn Tesla
Directed by Jeff Rowe
Co-directed by Kyler Spears
Global Rank: #4,917
When a franchise attempts to revitalize itself using the exact same means another franchise used a few years earlier, there’s usually some fundamental failure in the execution that draws extra attention to the theft. Tell that to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, which captures anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the effectiveness of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – and may even be a more successful entertainment product than that film’s unwieldy sequel, also released in 2023. The jagged, expressionistic animation that snaked its way through the first Spider-Verse movie finds a happy home with our quartet of teenage terrapins, all voiced by essentially age-appropriate actors, unleashing dialogue with that delightful combination of irreverence and silliness we know well from scribes Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Director Jeff Rowe and two others also contribute to a script that functions as an origin story for our turtles and their surrogate rat father, voiced wonderfully by Jackie Chan. Great additional vocal work from Ayo Edibiri as April and Ice Cube as the villain Superfly shouldn’t distract a person from the main point here: This animation style pulses with electricity, and the film has been crafted by people who love these characters and this world. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem may not be as ambitious as either Spider-Verse movie, but its pleasures may be easier to reproduce in a potential sequel. Applying the label “simple” to a film this visually accomplished and this well written, even by comparison to something else, fails to capture the exquisite joys of watching it. – Derek Armstrong
14. The Killer
Directed by David Fincher
Global Rank: #4,799
The Killer is an anti-John Wick action film; a man discovering his unimportance in the criminal underworld. As our pretentious opener gives us a meditative, Smiths-listening, lone-wolf sniper with a self-serving code of conduct, I felt ready to scoff and reach for the remote: “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” Yet suddenly this self-indulgence is flipped on its head through the slightest bit of human error, and we are drawn in close. “This Charming Man” has no legends told about him, in fact people don’t even care about him enough to think that he may be plotting something, but he’s forced to gracefully bumble towards survival, facing a constant battle between his life-long code and cold-blooded revenge.
As a big fan of Fincher’s work, with Fight Club, Se7en, and The Game being the first to pique a lifelong interest, I adored the way this film returned him to his original style with the strength of years of industry wisdom. He surrounds powerful bits of action with layers of contemplation and character observation, along with the faintest bit of mystery. As a giant Smiths fan, there’s something especially eerie watching this hitman listening to anywhere from the most jangly, happy song to the most depressing in their discography with the same shuffling indifference. As the echoes of gunshots fade, we are left with a lingering reminder that even the most calculated success can be undone by the unpredictable dance of circumstance, and those who can slip into the background may be the most dangerous of all. – Bronson Empsall
Directed by Ben Affleck
Global Rank: #4,437
The Ben Affleck-directed Air sets out to show how Nike won Michael Jordan’s endorsement and created the still-popular Air Jordan shoe. On first glance, that story sounds as exciting as reading the ingredients on a box of Jordan-endorsed Wheaties. But what the movie does is go beyond the headlines and show what was really at stake: a struggling company whose basketball shoe division was floundering, a potential NBA star wanting to establish himself in the league and in the public eye, and a mother who wanted only what was best for her son. The film not only shows all that, but it makes the audience care about these people and their story. While the movie may seem to focus on Matt Damon’s Nike scout Sonny Vaccaro, the real center of attention is Michael Jordan’s mother, played by Viola Davis in one of the best performances of the year. This is a behind-the-sports film which even those who don’t like basketball may truly enjoy. – Charles Franklyn Beach
12. Past Lives
Directed by Celine Song
Global Rank: #4,330
Like last year’s excellent Return to Seoul, Celine Song’s masterful debut, Past Lives, shows how many lives we live within just one, how we shift and change, becoming entirely different over the years, while some details remain the same. Song does this through the friendship between Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Yoo Teo), who were friends in South Korea, then reconnect years later after Nora emigrated out of the country. While they might have been perfect for each other at one point, life has changed them, and while Song might make us want to root for a happy ending for this pair, it’s the way that she plays with these expectations that makes Past Lives such a masterpiece. We’re introduced to Nora’s husband Arthur (John Magaro), who also agrees that if this was a film, he would be the villain in it. Past Lives becomes one of the best romantic films — and one of the best films in general — of the 2020s by showing us that it’s not just important to find “the one,” but for all the other elements and details in life to sync up at just the right time. Some things in life that seem meant to be never happen, but what comes from that can be just as beautiful, if not even more powerful than what we could’ve hoped for. Song presents this difficult idea in a delicate and intricate narrative that is a beautiful look at life, love, and the endless possibilities that makes us who we will eventually become. – Ross Bonaime
11. The Holdovers
Directed by Alexander Payne
Global Rank: #3,773
The Holdovers marked two notable returns for director Alexander Payne: a reunion with Paul Giamatti for the first time since 2004’s noteworthy Sideways, and more importantly, a restoration of form after the disappointing turn in 2017’s Downsizing. It seems Payne and Giamatti are a perfect fit, as this Christmas’s touching story may be the pinnacle achievement in both of their careers thus far. At a prep school in wintry New England, a classics professor has been charged with taking care of the young boys who must unfortunately remain behind over the Christmas break. Hijinks and spats ensue, leading to a surprisingly wonderful dynamic between Giamatti’s ingenious scrooginess and newcomer Dominic Sessa’s precocious teenage antics. As a bit of a twist, an unlikely trio is formed with the addition of the school’s head chef; Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s Mary is depressed yet determined, and she offers a brilliant counter to the ceaseless conflicts between the “boys” she’s found herself marooned with.
A popular complaint steadily gaining traction across the land of cinema is the dearth of new Christmas classics over the past decade. Something full of zip and holiday spirit you can’t wait to add to your pantheon of yearly rewatches. Klaus (2019) seemed to be the only movie to break that curse for a while, but The Holdovers has undoubtedly come in hot and firmly cemented itself among the greats. Though there are heavy moments with harsh words and hardship, Payne provides expert balance throughout with his sharp script. There are plenty of laughs and tears amid some of the most well-crafted and unexpected relationships depicted in some time. Payne’s latest is sure to gain plenty of Oscar buzz for its original script and its career-defining performances from Giamatti and Randolph, but the more interesting question may be, can we hope for another installment from the Payne-Giamatti combo? That’s certainly going straight to the top of my Christmas wish list. – Kyle Larkin
Directed by Takashi Yamazaki
Global Rank: #3,731
He had been honing his visual effects craft in the Japanese film industry for nearly 40 years and directing for more than two decades, but in December 2023 Takashi Yamazaki emerged onto the world stage like a kaiju breaching the ocean depths. As writer, director, and visual effects supervisor for the latest film in the longest-running franchise in the history of cinema, Yamazaki took a 70-year-old monster movie icon, whose persona has been altered time and again and somewhat diluted over the course of 36 films, and refashioned him once more as a terrifying force of nature.
Godzilla Minus One is not just the rare awe-inspiring monster film, but is, more surprisingly, a heartrending tale of post-war trauma, both personal and collective; of profound loss in the wake of the apocalyptic end to World War II; and of found family. It works equally as well on this intimate human level as it does on the epic, world-destroying scale. More radically still, Yamazaki and his crew made the film for under $15 million dollars at a time when the average Hollywood blockbuster costs upwards of $100 million — and they delivered visuals and action more wondrous and visceral than most of those big-budget films. American studios, take note. – Tom Kapr
09. Asteroid City
Directed by Wes Anderson
Global Rank: #3,418
Between his four Roald Dahl shorts for Netflix and his eleventh film, Asteroid City, 2023 was a hell of a year for Wes Anderson. For some, Asteroid City might seem like Anderson doing more of the same, creating another wacky comedy with a massive cast, this time choosing a Junior Stargazer convention in the desert for his setting. But Anderson’s latest is a beautiful refinement of everything we’ve come to love about the writer-director. Despite having an overwhelmingly large cast on his hands, every character feels cared for, whether it’s Jason Schwartzman’s Augie, who has to tell his kids that their mom died, to Margot Robbie and Jeff Goldblum, who make the most of the one scene they’re in. Anderson has played with stories within stories before, including in The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch, yet he’s perfected it here, as the many layers of this narrative inform the others in an Inception of impeccable storytelling. But Asteroid City also beautifully hits the notes we’ve always expected from Anderson: it’s deeply hilarious, delightfully idiosyncratic, and full of single lines that can perfectly destroy you emotionally. Oh, and there’s aliens and cowboy sing-a-longs. Anderson released five wonderful films in 2023, but if it feels like we’ve started to take him for granted, make no mistake — Asteroid City isn’t a case of Anderson going back to the well, it’s a master auteur perfecting that well. – Ross
Directed by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein
Global Rank: #2,729
How do you make a successful Dungeons & Dragons adaptation when the last one failed miserably and no one really believes you can turn a “niche” fantasy game into a movie without it angering hardcore fans and alienating the general public? It’s simple, really. You embrace the source material wholly, grab your lucky d20, and roll that critical hit. Which, after all, is exactly what it turned out to be. Paramount took the gamble and scored a hit among fans and critics alike, earning a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and defying expectations at the box office. Fantasy is and likely always will be a fickle venture, but when it’s done well, man, is it ever satisfying. John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have a solid track record working together on movies like Game Night and Spider-Man: Homecoming, making their hires as a Dungeon Master tandem (AKA directors/writers) a shrewd move from the start. Then you build your primary character — I mean, cast Chris Pine — and everyone’s attention will be captured.
The beauty of Honor Among Thieves isn’t just that, in depicting an unlikely company embarking on a perilous adventure, the spirit of the classic tabletop game was competently captured, but that it was done in an accessible way so joy could be had by all. The expansive saga is replete with references and subtle nods for passionate fans, as well as jokes that consistently landed well with audiences. Pine’s gravitas is undeniable, made better by the fact he’s clearly having fun with the role – an aspect shared by Hugh Grant and his hysterical heel-turn. Even Michelle Rodriguez puts forth her most nuanced big-movie showing in quite a while. The grand adventure has exciting music, a rollicking story, and stunning CGI. Ever since the movie’s release, the big question on many minds has been, despite not making as much as Hobbit or MCU movies, could this be the beginning of a franchise? And based on recent news, it seems the lack of mainstream commercial success may be coming to a close with a sequel on the horizon. The dragon, it seems, has been slayed. – Kyle
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie
Global Rank: #2,244
Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the guy knows how to wow. I wrote an article on Mission: Impossible III when it first came out in 2006, to lukewarm critical and commercial response, and at the height of Cruise’s self-sabotaging media antics, postulating that he might have nailed the coffin shut on his career and on this promising film series’ future. I’m grateful to have been proven wrong. Every subsequent Mission: Impossible film has raised the bar for both stunt work and storytelling, culminating in “Part One” of what is purportedly super-agent Ethan Hunt’s swan song.
Opening on a submarine fitted with experimental AI tech being mysteriously sunk under Antarctica, Dead Reckoning embarks on a globe-hopping adventure, moving deftly from set piece to stunning set piece, from a shoot-out in a sandstorm, to a tense face-off with an unseen enemy in a crowded airport, to a car chase through Rome employing a level of precision slapstick rarely seen since the early days of cinema, to a truly epic finale on a train dangling over a canyon. The film barely gives itself or its audience time to catch its breath before it’s time to grip the armrests again. Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson are all back in top form, joined by an expanded cast of colorful characters old and new, who will hopefully be more fully explored in the eighth (and final?) installment. Most exciting is the addition of Hayley Atwell, whose screen presence positively crackles in every scene. – Tom
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Global Rank: #2,106
Martin Scorsese has been making films for over 50 years, and yet he continues to surprise as one of the greatest directors of all time. Killers of the Flower Moon tells the true story of the Osage Nation and the white men who killed off untold Osage people in the name of greed in the 1920s. While David Grann’s original book captured a broader look at the murder investigation that ensued, Scorsese’s adaptation shows us this cruelty through the eyes of Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio), the nephew of the city’s wolf in sheep’s clothing, Willam Hale (Robert De Niro). By following Ernest, Killers of the Flower Moon follows this tale in a way that we’ve come to expect from Scorsese’s crime films, but with a sense of tragedy that is often missing in those other films. This is also a doomed love story, as Ernest marries Mollie Burkhart (a fantastic Lily Gladstone), whose family has been killed off one by one for their wealth. This puts Ernest between the woman he loves and the wealth he and his family so desperately desire. The push-and-pull between these two sides is devastating and unrelenting bleak, containing shattering moments that are almost too shocking to be real. This captivating story is all wrapped up with a brilliant conclusion that might be one of Scorsese’s best: an acknowledgment that this is a story told by white men, even though this is clearly the Osage’s story to tell. It’s a perfect ending to a difficult story, and while Scorsese knows he’s maybe not the right person to tell it, it’s hard to imagine anyone making Killers of the Flower Moon quite as perfectly as Scorsese does. – Ross
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Global Rank: #2,043
By the time this unexpectedly enduring franchise reached its third installment – ostentatiously subtitled Parabellum – I was still enjoying the insane action, but the story was beginning to feel a bit worn. The saga of John vs. the High Table became more and more convoluted, yet the third film contained very few lines or action sequences that were as memorable as anything out of the first two chapters.
Well, Chapter 4 is the longest film in the franchise, but it absolutely flies. Don’t worry about clunky lines uttered woodenly by Keanu Reeves: he’s too busy dispatching the bad guys to say much more than 300 words over the course of two and a half hours. Every action scene in this movie, expertly directed by Stahelski, tops the last and makes the first three films look like splashing around in a kiddie pool. Let’s not forget the fantastic addition of Donnie Yen, who plays the most badass blind character since, well, Donnie Yen in Rogue One. And Bill Skarsgård is easily one of the franchise’s most memorable villains.
Even as Lionsgate tries desperately to keep this franchise going with The Continental prequel miniseries on Amazon and a forthcoming spinoff film, Ballerina, set between the events of the third and fourth Wick films, Chapter 4 brings with it an air of finality for the title character. Time will tell if Reeves is fully ready to let John Wick rest, but if he does, he went out not with a bang, but a missile barrage. – Nigel
Directed by Greta Gerwig
I didn’t get a Barbie as a child. I had the dollar store knock-offs, but the real thing was too expensive. And as I got older, Barbie got looked down on as something “girly girls” liked or something that promoted a negative body image, and I shifted my interests. When the movie was announced, I rolled my eyes at it as a soulless cash grab. But in those first few moments of seeing all the different dolls and their dreamhouses come to life in the Barbie movie, it absolutely awakened 6-year-old Hannah, who instantly remembered how much she wanted all those accessories. The set and costume design is perfection, but there’s some depth here as well. The film takes that childhood nostalgia and sharpens it to make some funny, smart commentary on the conflicting roles of womanhood in modern society, where literally nothing we do seems to be good enough. The commentary is made both through Barbie’s earnest discovery of her own identity and Ken’s hilariously villainous power grab, and both come together in the end with all the hot pink musical numbers you could ask for. Every so often a nostalgia grab gets it right, and this is one of those instances. – Hannah Keefer
Directed by James Gunn
Global Rank: #1,218
“The story has been yours all along.” Back in 2014, I was dubious about the idea of Guardians of the Galaxy joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A talking raccoon and a sentient tree are going to exist on the same plane of reality as our earthbound Avengers? The MCU had largely skirted the inherent silliness of the genre’s past, and I was worried that a Guardians movie would push it too far. But Peter Quill and friends did bring the silliness — and a healthy dose of fun, especially following a lackluster 2013 and the more dour events of The Winter Soldier. James Gunn’s bizarre band of misfits were winsome underdogs you could root for and feel for. I was especially taken by the acerbic Rocket, but back in those early days I had no idea this ill-tempered creature would someday prove to be the best character in the franchise. His arc across five films rivals the emotional intensity of even Tony Stark, with hands-down the most tragic backstory of any character across the franchise’s storied spread. Yet he is, at his core, and despite his perceived misanthropy, also one of its most heroic figures.
Over the course of eleven years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe revolutionized just how epic cinematic storytelling could be, bringing 21 movies’ worth of characters and storylines together into an epic, era-defining climax in 2019’s Endgame. But the MCU has struggled with its identity since then, showing many of the signs of weak world-building and the lack of clear direction that had plagued the DCEU — not to mention some behind-the-scenes drama. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is Gunn’s final film for the MCU, and is the only Marvel film since 2019 that has managed to wholly maintain its own identity and deliver a narrative resolution as compelling and satisfying as Endgame. If the Guardians saga and his Suicide Squad film are any indication, Gunn leaving the MCU behind to oversee the DCEU could mean that the tables in the comic book movie war are about to drastically turn. – Tom
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Global Rank: #551
For a director as prolific as Christopher Nolan, to call any movie the pinnacle of his career is no light praise. Yet Oppenheimer is that. Leave it to Nolan to direct the ultimate rumination on humanity’s self-destructive nature and the dichotomy that is man. The film explores this nature through one of history’s more complicated figures: the brilliant, arrogant, and even egotistical scientist that was J. Robert Oppenheimer. Treating his life as an interrogation of history, Nolan builds on the techniques he’s utilized throughout his career such as non-linear storytelling, a mixture of color and black-and-white photography, and big bombastic scores to help his editing deliver the ultimate biopic. We follow a black-and-white future which enjoys the privilege of interrogating past actions with hindsight, even though said past is lived in color, with all of its shades of gray.
Cillian Murphy’s performance is nothing short of brilliant. So much nuance is conveyed in the subtlest of facial expressions. The range of guilt, pride, pain, and joy he feels throughout the film is immersive, especially when viewed on Nolan’s desired 70mm IMAX film format. Ludwig Göransson’s score is a force itself, with thrumming strings, operatic piano, and a thoroughly modern use of synthesizers. It all leads up towards the Trinity Test sequence, a filmmaking moment that already feels cemented in history. The film ends on a moment that leaves you pondering man’s unique ability to doom itself, and the scary thought that man destroys itself even when fully aware of the consequences of its actions. Simply put, this is the best film of the century so far. – Connor Adamson
Directed by Joaquin Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson
Global Rank: #546
Across the Spider-Verse brings back everything we loved when we first stepped Into the Spider-Verse, and, in many case, a lot more of it. Big, bold visuals? Check. Colorful bad guys? Double check (with The Spot, amazingly, the filmmakers take a silly character who could have just been a throwaway joke and turn him into a genuine menace). All the pathos and heart that made Miles Morales such a great character to root for in the first place? Triple check. This time, we even get a double dose, as Gwen’s story gets further fleshed out. Add a bevy of multiverse-hopping spider-people for the film to play with, and it would seem that Across the Spider-Verse really does have everything.
Except a satisfying ending. Which might be a problem if the trap weren’t so thoroughly baited for Beyond the Spider-Verse. Too bad the third film has been indefinitely delayed from its original March release date… – Nigel
The Best of the Rest
Here are the rest of the current Top 40 films of the year, as ranked by Flickchart’s users.
21. Evil Dead Rise (directed by Lee Cronin)
22. Elemental (directed by Peter Sohn)
23. The Boy and the Heron (directed by Hayao Miyazaki)
24. The Flash (directed by Andy Muschietti)
25. Poor Things (directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)
26. May December (directed by Todd Haynes)
27. Beau is Afraid (directed by Ari Aster)
28. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (directed by Peyton Reed)
29. The Covenant (directed by Guy Ritchie)
30. Bottoms (directed by Emma Seligman)
31. Renfield (directed by Chris McKay)
32. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (directed by Kelly Fremon Craig)
33. BlackBerry (directed by Matt Johnson)
34. A Haunting in Venice (directed by Kenneth Branagh)
35. The Creator (directed by Gareth Edwards)
36. Knock at the Cabin (directed by M. Night Shyamalan)
37. No Hard Feelings (directed by Gene Stupnitsky)
38. Saltburn (directed by Emerald Fennell)
39. The Marvels (directed by Nia DaCosta)
40. Tetris (directed by Jon S. Baird)
Here are some films that didn’t make the Top 20 (at least, not yet), but that our bloggers feel are worth your time.
Jeffrey Wright plays a Black author. His books are Black, he says, because he writes them. They are not, apparently, Black enough, though, so he begins writing the most stereotypical Black story he can concoct in order to troll the publishing industry — and it becomes a major hit. This sounds like the set-up to a very broad comedy, and American Fiction is indeed one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year. It’s also a heartfelt family drama that can turn deadly serious on a dime, just like life, yet never fails to inject some humor at even the most seemingly inappropriate times. Just like life. I’ve been a fan of Wright for decades, particularly his roles in Ang Lee’s Ride with the Devil and his appearances in the films of Wes Anderson. I’ve enjoyed him in the James Bond, Batman, and Hunger Games series. But I’ve long wondered why he didn’t get much meatier roles. I didn’t know it, but American Fiction is the movie I’ve been waiting for. (#762, or 87% on my Flickchart) – Tom
We use phrases like “world building” and “playing in a sandbox” to describe achievements in vast fantasy spaces — the kinds of achievements and spaces that long ago made Hayao Miyazaki the most acclaimed anime director of all time. But the most obvious fact about building in sandboxes too often escapes our observation: even the greatest worlds fall apart.
You might spend years making art that lasts for generations, like a Totoro or a Spirited Away, but when it’s done the drafts you hunched over go into a box and the tools you used get repurposed for the next project. For you, that world moves into memory, and you should never build one too much like it again. Or maybe you’re not an artist. Maybe you’re a statesman, and you spend years directing the energies of the bureaucracy and spend billions in treasure and send millions to kill and die in wars order to make a new world. What then happens to that world? If you lose the war, forget it, the winners come in and change as much of your vision as they can. If you win, don’t get attached, your world will have surprises in store; it ages and decays, its environmental balance gets out of whack, your people decide they just don’t like it. Worlds are constructs, imaginary ones and real ones, and they’re always changing, falling apart, suggesting new arrangements.
In The Boy and the Heron this hard but freeing fact of worlds is depicted as literally as possible. It’s framed in familiar WWII history, there’s a non-fantastical plotline in which a widower industrialist tries to build a new life without leaving the war behind, and the emotional stakes of the titular boy’s escapist journey are palpable. And yet this is also an unrelentingly weird movie, full of grotesque creatures and dream-like (often nightmare-like) situations that build on the best of Miyazaki’s previous work and push beyond it. By comparison, Miyazaki’s previous film The Wind Rises (2013) and the work of his late colleague Isao Takahata (The Tale of Princess Kaguya, also 2013) are practically minimalist. With retirements and downsizing at Studio Ghibli and its shift from content creation to a theme park, the “retired” Miyazaki might have been expected to produce something much quieter and smaller than this. Instead, he seems determined to make the sandcastle as towering and grand as he can be before the waves come crashing in.
A fantasy land can be better than the real one, or more nightmarish, or it can just be a funhouse mirror image. And when you leave it, how do you live with the knowledge of what can be, and of what can’t be changed? In his ninth decade, Miyazaki is asking the big questions in a big way. – David Conrad
Move over, Pixar: Aardman Animation has completely busted your record for time lapsed between an animated film and its sequel. Thing is, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is just as delightful as its predecessor.
There’s a reversal here: where the original film was something of a parody of The Great Escape, Dawn plays like a heist film as the chickens rally to break INTO a food-processing factory to rescue one of their own. That one is Molly (voiced by Bella Ramsey of The Last of Us), the plucky daughter of the original film’s Rocky and Ginger, and she’s a great addition to the crew. Aardman even bring back members of the original cast where they can, though leads Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson are replaced by Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi.
If you’ve never seen the original Chicken Run, watch them both. Remarkably, although it’s been 23 years, it’s almost like no time has passed at all. Aardman continues to impress with the signature stop-motion, and for this animation fan Dawn of the Nugget was a truly delightful year-end treat. – Nigel
Here’s a film I expect to make it into the Top 20 within the next few weeks. Structurally, it feels like watching a stage production, but it always feels rooted in the real world. People don’t just break into song here; the songs come pouring out of their souls. I know Fantasia Barrino played Celie in the Broadway musical on which this is based, but cinematically speaking, this is a hell of an introduction. This is an Oscar-caliber lead. No less impressive are Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, and Colman Domingo in their supporting roles. The Color Purple is a film that extols the power of forgiveness and redemption, and reminds me of how powerful filmmaking can be. – Tom
India has a vibrant cinematic culture with a prolific output, yet even after the wild success of RRR last year, their films seem to be seen and enjoyed only by a niche audience in the United States. I’ve had the opportunity to see a few Indian films this past year, I suspect due to the growing South Asian population in the area where I live. I am routinely the only non-South Asian in the audience. Dunki is the best of the Bollywood and Tollywood films I’ve seen thus far. I went in expecting a lighthearted comedic film, and that is what I got for the first hour or so. Then things got very heavy. The filmmakers have some thoughts about the global immigration crisis and the violence it perpetuates on each side of every border, and they do not shy away from showing it or preaching on behalf of the poor and displaced who suffer the most. Shah Rukh Khan, perhaps the nation’s biggest movie star, is absolutely phenomenal in this film. The story is by turns frustrating and infuriating and jubilant and inspiring. I hope more audiences worldwide get to see it. – Tom
Rarely does a January film stick in your head all year, but Infinity Pool was one such movie. Continuing the body horror legacy of his father, Brandon Cronenberg delivers a darkly humorous film headlined by two excellent yet very different performances from Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth. Goth plays an unhinged yet compelling portrait of a rich woman, who adopts Skarsgård, a failed author, as her plaything. The film explores through satire the recklessness that those with privilege have. It’s a purely bizarre premise: in a fictional nation, clones are created to be put to death for the crimes you commit. Naturally, the film also includes ruminations on personhood. All of these ideas are compellingly explored, even as the film sickens and delights in equal measure. It is one of the best horror films of the year. – Connor
I’m a fan of survival stories where it’s man against their surroundings, and simply living becomes an act of sheer will. As such, just the premise of Nowhere was like catnip to me: a very pregnant woman is trapped, adrift in an abandoned cargo container in the middle of the ocean. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything else. As with many movies in this vein, Nowhere suffers a couple of contrivances, such as a cellphone battery lasting far longer than it should. But the premise is strong, Anna Castillo delivers an excellent performance, carrying the film almost entirely solo, and director Albert Pintó keeps things wonderfully tense. Nowhere is a fantastic watch, especially if you’re a fan of this particular subgenre. – Nigel
Yorgos Lanthimos is a true weirdo, giving us such bonkers concepts as Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and more. But it seems like Lanthimos has truly found his muse with Emma Stone, as proven by Poor Things. Even wilder is that Poor Things didn’t come directly from his head, but rather is based on the much more open-ended and strange book of the same name by Alasdair Gray. While on paper Poor Things sounds like a Frankenstein story about a woman who is brought back to life after committing suicide and having the brain of her unborn child replace her own by a pieced-together doctor (Willem Dafoe), it’s more of a story about seeing the world for the first time through entirely fresh and unprejudiced ideas. Stone’s performance as Bella Baxter must be seen to be believed, as we watch her grow from having the mind of a child to becoming a fully-formed adult who is smarter than the men who surround her with love and attention. Lanthimos creates a lush, odd world that we see for the first time like Bella does, creating an almost steampunk, dreamland alternate reality. Poor Things is a vision, giving us one of Emma Stone’s best performances as well as excellent roles for Mark Ruffalo, Ramy Youssef, Christopher Abbott, and many more. It’s Lanthimos’ best and wildest film yet, and that’s saying something. – Ross
A film that would never make the Flickchart Top 20 has a lot of good excuses for why that’s the case. It takes place entirely inside a single house, entirely at night. Never once in the film do you clearly see the actors’ faces. And their English language dialogue is difficult enough to make out that it must be accompanied by subtitles. But I defy you to find a greater state of sustained eeriness and fear than in Kyle Edward Ball’s Skinamarink, an experimental horror movie that gained word-of-mouth momentum in niche festivals and has scared the socks off those willing to go along with its minimalist style and determined rhythms. Most of the shots in this film are canted angles of an ordinary suburban home from 1995, capturing that unmoored time of night when someone’s fallen asleep on the couch and the TV is no longer playing what they were watching. Steadily, gradually, not a moment before it’s perfectly time to do so, Ball starts revealing evidence of things that are happening that shouldn’t be happening, of a presence that’s there that shouldn’t be there, as observed by two indistinct children whispering to each other in the half light. Ball suspends you in this ever more maddening atmosphere for 90 minutes, never releasing his grip, never providing exposition, just leaving you to twist in a nightmare that’s as much provided by your own imagination as by him. Skinamarink is a revolution in fear. – Derek
Editor’s Note: Skinamarink is actually listed as a 2022 film on Flickchart, as it is on IMDb, due to its appearing in several film festivals in that year before its limited theatrical run in January and streaming release in February.
Two years ago, when Tick, Tick… Boom! was released, every theater kid I know watched it and thought, “This movie is for me!” And two years later, we get Theater Camp, which is hitting all the same buttons but with a much sillier tone. It’s a mockumentary set at a failing theater summer camp, currently being run by someone who has next to no idea what’s even going on on his stages, and full of children and instructors with Big Personalities, all clamoring to be in the spotlight. There are a lot of genuinely great theater in-jokes, but just as much of the movie relies on the absurdity of characters and situations that work equally well for those not immersed in this world. (But speaking as someone who DOES work in educational theater… uh, yeah, this mostly all seems about right.) Even with all its self-aware commentary, the movie isn’t afraid to lean into the more heartwarming aspects of theater when everyone finally comes together to make something work. The movie made a little splash and then disappeared, but it’s worth checking out on streaming to see what you missed. – Hannah
Nicole Holofcener films consistently fly under the radar. Her films are small and intimate and insightful and very, very funny. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a performance worthy of every accolade as a memoirist struggling to publish her second book, only to learn that her loving and supportive husband hates it. One of my favorite scenes in the film occurs shortly after this revelation, when she inadvertently lobs a grenade into the relationship between a married lesbian couple sitting near her at the bar. She deserves an Oscar nomination just for her reaction to their ensuing argument. Tobias Menzies and Michaela Watkins are also both excellent as her husband and sister, respectively. (#473, or 92% on my Flickchart) – Tom