Even with several titles getting pushed to a 2024 release due to various industry strikes I firmly believe 2023 was one of the best and deepest years in film since I began making this list 15 years ago.  I consider the movies presented here exceptional from top to bottom. Whittling it to ten entries was as tough as it has been in years and slotting them into their proper places was a headache inducing labor of love. From showstopping spectacles, to heart wrenching dramas, and to a vivacious glittering savior of the cinemas, 2023 boasted outstanding work every week of the year. These 10 I believe best represent this phenomenal year of film. A gentle reminder that my list only includes feature films, does not consider documentaries (of which there were a few terrific entries this year), and is limited to only movies I was able to see before the release of this article. There are always a couple of movies I would have love to see but was unable to for various reasons. With that said, let's get to it. Here are my 10 Best Movies of 2023.


Wes Anderson has recently become the subject of endless parody and occasional mockery via AI recreations, blog treatments, and the like. The focus of all of these critiques is his slavish dedication to his unique style. The center-frame, verbosely written, quirky, doll house theatre his movies play like. But what all of the recreations and exhaustive blog articles too often misrepresent is that Anderson’s films are not just a collection of frivolous pastel pastiche. For a director who is so frequently immitated, I find it strange he is still so misunderstood. Asteroid City, Anderson’s newest film, is all of those things, but is also soaked through with melancholy and existentialism. Yes, it is still some of the absolute best production design of the year. Yes, his characters are, as always, playfully off-kilter. But Asteroid City finds Anderson at his most contemplative. The themes of grief, self-worth, and purpose hotly simmer underneath the cool, jovial surface of the screenplay. Quarantine had a deep impact on many of us, and it stands to reason that many of our artists are going to tackle the topic in the coming years. Asteroid City feels like Anderson attempting to make sense of a world that has revealed itself, more than ever lately, to be completely beyond our control. A director known for his intense attention to detail, and domineering stylistic presence over ever frame of every film, reconciling within himself how little power we actually have over our real life circumstances. It's a deeply nuanced and thoughtful work of art. It might be his single most sophisticated film to date. Making the film a TV production of a famous play adds a meta level to the proceedings that makes everything feel more confessional. The exploits of the film are not meant to be interpreted as having occurred, but instead a literal fabrication, with an intentional message meant to be extrapolated. By adding this layer, one would think we are removed, somewhat, from any real insight, but instead I believe we are drawn closer to Anderson’s pathos. What is actually meaningful? Why do we make art? What is truth? In the end, I feel Anderson found his answers. We make art to help us explore truth, not to define it. Good luck parodying that. 

(Streaming for free on Prime Video)


Greta Gerwig’s Barbie was not just the highest grossing film and buzziest film of the year, it completely dominated the pop culture landscape of 2023. Barbie was the most significant contributor to the resurgence of film and cineplexes we have enjoyed this year. And while that is certainly noteworthy, it is not why Barbie makes this list. To reduce the film to its cultural and economic impact is to do disservice to the legitimacy and excellence of the film itself. Barbie is singular feat in that it is an IP movie that underwent immense studio and commercial oversight and still came out on the other side as a fierce and poignant work of art. Greta Gerwig and company give us the very best iteration of a Barbie movie we ever could have dreamed of getting. And this fact will become even more into focus over the next decade as every major corporation scrambles to get their iconic IP film treatments. By the time the inevitable Furby movie hits theatres we will look back at Barbie in same way we look back at the first Iron Man in that it kickstarted and entire arm of the industry. But none will hold a candle to the care and craft exemplified in Barbie. The screenplay is one of the more interesting aspects of the film. It has less subtlety than a catcall, and yet it is still so abundantly clever. There is a voice to the dialogue that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. It is shamelessly expository, but still dripping with irony. Also, while the film sets it sights on certain messages and does nothing to hide those pursuits, it seems to focus its attention on the humor and allows the allegory to take care of itself naturally. It feels like a comedy first and commentary second, yet when you walk away, it is the commentary that sticks. And it is hilarious. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling shine like pressed plastic in their roles and are deliriously funny throughout. The costumes are undoubtedly the best of the year and production design might be even better. While it can get heavy handed at times, taking patriarchal structures to task and lamenting the excess burden placed upon modern women, these moments are made palatable because these stories have not been told with enough frequency or enough fervor in film history. I would not have guessed it, but not only is Barbie one of 2023 most important films, but one of its best.

(Streaming on MAX)


That’s enough bright pink and levity, let’s get back to that sweet, sweet melancholy. Andrew Haigh proves again with All of Us Strangers that fantasy doesn’t always have to be fantastical. All of Us Strangers can be loosely defined as a queer ghost story of sorts, but that does nothing to prepare you for how gripping and affecting the movie is. Andrew Scott gives what might be the best performance of the year as Adam, a screenwriter who ventures back to his childhood home searching for inspiration, only to find that his parents who died when he was twelve are there still, preserved as they were the day they died. The film is so uniquely immersive and sublime that the audience never questions this plot device and never seeks greater understanding. I flatly accepted the confines of the story and was enraptured by the scenarios it bred. Adam, in his forties or there about, gets to participate in the conversations that were tragically stolen from him by his parents’ death. He gets to learn his parents in a way that children don’t, and gets to defend his existence to them, even when they may find difficulty in understanding. Claire Foy and Jamie Bell as his parents are equally impeccable in their performances, feeling so authentic and so plausible. The film also serves as a time capsule of the 1980’s in that Adam’s parents are perpetually stuck in that time, and mired by the values and prevailing sentiments of the era. This is both blessing and curse, but especially the latter as it pertains to Adam’s sexuality. His mom, gripped by the AIDS scare in addition to the general discomfort toward homosexuality common of the time, has difficulty squaring Adam’s truth with her own in regards to her son. In my theatre, I sat a couple of seats down the isle from an older gay couple and one was bravely but unsuccessfully fighting against audibly weeping. I can’t imagine the catharsis some older queer people felt watching these scenes, absolutely some of the best of the year. The movie clips by at a comparably lean 105 minute run time, and for all the amazing films that dropped this year, this is the one I wanted more of as the credits rolled. I could have stayed with these characters as they unearthed so much repressed and unrequited emotion for hours. As is, All of Us Strangers is probably the smallest film on this list, but also one of the most vigorous. There is a bath-like placid warmth that blankets the entire movie and in the end it just feels generous. I left feeling thankful, like the gratitude you feel being entrusted with a great personal secret of a close friend.

(Streaming on HULU)


Beau is Afraid has been somewhat panned by critics as being too self-indulgent or even pretentious. It's being said that it is a bombastic misstep that has befallen several other great auteurs early in their careers, drawing comparisons to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia and last year’s Babylon from Damien Chazelle. Here’s a secret though… I also absolutely love those movies too. This reviewer will not be the one to penalize a great filmmaker for taking a big swing. Movies like Beau is Afraid catapult the industry forward, even if they show some occasional warts. I’ll take that every time over the same tired safe bets. Movies like this are the antidote to the lukewarm MCU malaise and I am unabashedly here for it. Aster, who is the premier horror director of his generation, decided to break form and go with an Odyssey-like, surrealist, comedic drama. At least that is the best genre box I can attempt to place this movie in. It is certainly more Kaufman than Craven, but what I found interesting was how closely the humor in the film walks to horror. It seemed that a subtle change in tone or a different music cue could have me change from slapping my knee to gripping my chair. The story follows Beau (an utterly underappreciated performance from Joaquin Phoenix) as he travels back home to attend the funeral of his imperious mother. He suffers from extreme social anxiety bordering on paranoid schizophrenia. This is played for laughs. We are fully immersed in his view of the world. A world where everyone will kill you if given the chance, where danger is celebrated openly. We get no respite from this viewpoint. We don’t get to pull back and see what real life situation is triggering such emotions. We are inexorably tied to Beau and his psychosis. This setting proves to be fertile soil for Aster to imbue with the hysterically terrifying characters that pervade the film. Beau is Afraid feels fable-like in its surrealism. It has a good handful of the most expertly crafted scenes of the year. Whole sequences of the film are gorgeous, stand-alone, short stories, but Aster brings the humor cascading back down time and again to undercut any inkling that the movie should be taken as aureate. The movie does a lot. Some would say too much. But it’s always fascinating, rife with intrigue, and bustling with energy. The exuberance is infectious. It is a marvelous descent into insanity leaving me with a delirious smile as the credits rolled. The kind of movie we don’t often see because so few could or would dare to make it.

(Streaming on Paramount +)


Todd Haynes’ new film charters uncomfortable territory to be sure. A quasi-tabloid tale of an adult woman having sex with a thirteen year old boy, only to marry and start a family with him once out of jail, is a reasonable nonstarter for some audiences. I believe this is precisely why the film is so important. These type of unfortunate stories too often never get any analysis past the "ick" factor, but digging deeper into this uncomfortable subject matter proves worthy. We get uncommon honesty and depth and insight into to the perpetrator, but more importantly we examine the lasting effects of the damage on the victim and also reveal the expansive web of secondhand victims that too often go unnoticed, on the periphery. We can access and better understand the first husband who was humiliated by the event. The children born of the inappropriate relationship as they reach their own adulthood. The friends and acquaintances about town who must cohabitate and reconcile with these people. To sweep this all aside because the material makes one justifiably queasy does a disservice the dozens effected. May December examines these discoveries head on. And that, still, is only half of the story. Enter Natalie Portman’s character, an actress who is researching the couple in order to play the woman/mom (a fantastic Julianne Moore) character in an upcoming film about the event. This predictably forces certain latent feelings to the surface. Portman proves to be nearly as predatory as Moore as she pursues some evasive truth, unfazed by the destruction she may leave in her wake. It calls to question how much of these type of performance are about true understanding or just sensationalized parroting of real lives that suffered real consequences. As interesting as that all is, it is Charles Melton as the victimized boy, now grown, that gives the most memorable performance. Through him we see the scars left behind by abuse. That those subjected to sexual assault at young ages tend to grow up faster than the rest and simultaneous somewhat not at all. To explain further would be to spoil and also risk making the film seem tedious, which it emphatically is not. Yes, the themes are heavy, but the screenplay itself is very playful and there’s a great deal of conviviality throughout. Its sardonic tone makes for an amusing watch, but it is deeply impactful with further examination. May December is one of the most unique films of the year, in addition to being one of the best.

(Streaming on Netflix)


The horrors of the Holocaust have provided the backdrop to some of the greatest films ever made, but never have the actual atrocities been pushed so far to the boundary of the picture as they are in Jonathan Glazer’s profound exploration The Zone of Interest. It is impossible to make a dispassionate Holocaust movie, and this certainly is not that, but the Zone of Interest concerns itself with more unconventional characters than these stories typically focus on. The film follows Rudolph Hoss, the commandant of Auschwitz, and his family as they make their dream home in the shadow of the imposing prison. The film spends almost its entirety within the confines of the home and surrounding grounds, never giving us a visual glimpse inside the neighboring house of horrors. We see lush gardens, and charming home décor, all the while another, entirely different, film is playing for our ears. The sounds of the murder and degradation permeate the film, while juxtaposed with pleasant visual aesthetics. This may be the single most impressive sound design in the history of film. Certainly, one of the most critical to the success and impact of its film. The Hosses are building their Third Reich Dream while one of the darkest chapters of world history is being written a mere feet away. The Zone of Interest accentuates the mundanity of evil. How we can find ourselves so entrenched in the mechanisms of death that we hardly notice it. How malice can seep into our hearts, unnoticed, through our senses.  Glazer does this without remotely exonerating a single nazi. It is presented matter-of-factly, and without a moment of melodrama, but that serves to make it feel all the more abhorrent. The intentional indifference toward indefensibly heinous acts proved to feel more sickening than deliberate violence fueled by hate. Sandra Huller as the wife, in her second award worthy performance of the year, tries on jewelry and lavish clothing clearly ripped from Jewish prisoners’ bodies and laments when they don’t fit properly, giving not a notion to what was lost in them being obtained for her. The exhilarating final moments give us the only glimpse we have into any humanity a single member of the family might possess. And even then, it is only presented through the self-serving lens of perceived legacy. For just a moment we see Hoss pause and contemplate his role and how he may find himself viewed in the annals of history. He then regathers himself and continues on his way. Reassured and renewed in his duties, again unmoved by what those duties entail. 

(Still in theatres)


The most tender film of the year is the secretly shattering yet somehow affirming Past Lives. In a year with a number of remarkable directorial debuts, it is Celine Song’s quietly devastating ode that shines brightest among them. The film follows our protagonist, a sterling Greta Lee, as her long lost first love visits from across the world after years without communication between the two. He finds her, now married, and is well mannered enough to never express any intentions. It’s not necessarily a love triangle, which is fortunate for the audience, because rooting interests would be more divided than warring Twilight fanbases, but the tension is still palpable. Lee shoulders the conflict with unfathomable grace. She is wry and sarcastic, yet laid plain in the most important moments. John Magaro and Teo Yoo are outstanding in support, especially Magaro as the beleaguered husband who essentially expresses a great synopsis of the film when he laments that "if this were a movie I would be villain”. It is these type of astute observations on the splintering nature of the heart that dot the film. Past Lives plays like a slow dance. It feels perfunctory and somewhat performative at first but eventually we sink into it, revealing the timeless truths that make these moments eternally compelling. We have to shed our initial cynicisms before we can begin to authentically feel. And this is a movie that is deeply felt. We become enraptured in the central conflict between the sufficiently happy married couple and the wedge driven between them in the form of a past love. Each moment of domestic complacency rings true. Each quip underlines a shard of insecurity simmering just under the amiable façade. The final moments of the film snuck up on me and bludgeoned me with a club. Past Lives patiently plots its final takeaway before unleashing it onto its unsuspecting audience. We, like Lee’s character, realize that when we come face to face with our past, we are not just confronted by the weight of romances left unloved, but of entire lives left unlived.

(Streaming on Paramount +)


Everything you’ve heard is true. Oppenheimer is marvelous in just about every discernable way. Christopher Nolan has crafted a monumental accomplishment full of sound and fury. The visuals are top drawer, the sound design is impeccable, likely the year’s best score bellows throughout the entire runtime, and the action culminates in several goosebump inducing crescendos. These traits can be ascribed to all of Nolan’s best films, but here they are paired with outstanding central performances and a screenplay that the subject material deserved. J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the most significant figures in American history, as well as one of its most enigmatic. Cillian Murphy's sharp icy face is handsome but belies unknown motivations beneath. He is perfectly cast and he delivers the best performance of his career. He leads an astoundingly deep bench of supporting characters that all serve to increase the feeling of heft and grandeur of the film. It’s a stupefying feat that every moment of the three-hour run-time drips with import. The screenplay has some fun and it is very quippy, but it never loses sight of the purpose of this harrowing story. This is the story of the man who succeeded in saving the world by way of bringing about the tools of its inevitable destruction. It is about the guilt born from gifting that awesome power away. But the film also wants to examine what its like to be a man alone on a mountain. To dedicate your life to something so significant and to have no authority over how it is implemented. To be given sweeping unquestioned authority while it is useful only to be dissected and discarded after. The title of the book in which the film is adapted from perfectly encapsulates the moral. Oppenheimer was indeed the American Prometheus. The one who gave us fire and then was vilified for it. Yet the film makes him no martyr. He is mercurial, and self-aggrandizing, and not the least bit humble. He is so determined to cement this as part of his legacy that even he knows it feels disingenuous as he tries to distance himself from the unprecedented mayhem of his creation. This is a special and unique tale that we should be eternally grateful landed in the hands of the man best equipped to tell the it. If Oppenheimer goes on to sweep the Oscars, like it looks poised to do, it would be appropriate. This is filmmaking of the higher order, and possibly more human than anything Nolan has done in his impressive career so far. It is certainly his most important film. The trinity test and rally sequences are two of the best bits of filmstock I have ever seen in theatres, but it is the end that stayed with me the most. The conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein. Who better to discuss the true tipping point in mankind’s ability to obliterate itself than the man who taught us that time is relative? One day, in the far distant future, when looking back on humanity’s relative short run, it will be nearly impossible to distinguish between that fateful day in Los Alamos and the day we inevitably annihilate ourselves. The chain reaction that leads to man’s demise has already been set in place. Eventually the “when” will be little more than a matter of perspective.

(Streaming on Peacock)


Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things is a Frankenstein story of sorts that follows the life of Bella, a dead woman reanimated with the brain of a child, as she sets out to explore the world and herself. It sets its sights on sexual liberation and takes to task the long-known bet seldom discussed infatuation of men with infantile women. It explores how virginal virtue is an entrenched, inherently patriarchal device and the dexterous footing it requires of women to navigate their sexual independence without being considered morally repugnant… Did I mention it is unquestionably the funniest film of the year? It takes these and several other heavy concepts and makes something that never considers itself precious. In Poor Things, a valid and prescient argument is never a good enough reason to pass up a good dick joke. Yorgos Lanthimos is one of my favorite filmmakers for this reason. His last film, The Favourite, topped my list in 2018. Both films tackle high concept with gamut-running humor, from the transcendent to the toilet and back again. Emma Stone is superb in giving us her best performance yet, and maybe the best of the entire year.  We see Bella remain, largely, physically unchanged (outside of her literally toddling in the first part of the film), but grow exponentially cognitively and emotionally. Mark Ruffalo gives my favorite supporting turn of the year as the scoundrel bent on corrupting Bella, only to find himself unequal to the task. I am not exaggerating when I say I can’t remember a single line he delivered that didn’t at least draw a chuckle from me. He’s one of the most hilariously deplorable characters in recent memory. The production design, sets, costumes and visual effects create one of the most sumptuous visual experiences of the year. They are all superlative and could each win awards this season. The score is superb, and every frame of the movie is elegantly and exhaustingly detailed. Its prestige filmmaking for the dreggs, and it is perfect because of it. This is the first book adaptation Lanthimos has ever made into film, which only surprised me because it feels like such a Lanthimos film. Like the Frankenstein concept the film borrows from, sometimes unfamiliar and unrelated material must come together to create something truly miraculous. Even with the difficult and potentially controversial subject matter, Poor Things is absolutely Lanthimos’ most accessible film to date, and possibly his best. This was the most fun I had all year with a movie and simply needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

(In theatres)


For my money, this late stage of Martin Scorsese’s career has cemented him as the greatest American film director of all time. We saw a glimmer of self-actualization and contemplation in 2013 in his electric Wolf of Wall Street, but since then, his last three films have been overwhelmed by a more meditative tone. Silence explored his long-embattled relationship with god and purpose. The Irishman  inspected the unintended consequences of his sensational depiction of violent men and the questioning of his own legacy. And with Killers of the Flower Moon Scorsese turns his reflective focus away from himself and toward the industry that he has passionately championed for decades. No filmmaker has done more for film preservation or helped to thrust filmmaking toward the forefront of the arts more than Scorsese. But in this most recent film he explores the natural shortcomings of trying to tell truth in an industry predicated on entertainment and considers whose stories we are permitted to tell. Killers of the Flower Moon unfolds the true story of the murder of numerous Osage natives at the hands of white men in pursuit of their oil money. The book of the same name tells the story from the perspective of the Osage and of the FBI agent who finally manages to pursue the crimes. In adapting the story, Scorsese and writer Eric Roth decide to tell the story from the perspective of one of the perpetrators instead. This choice is why the movie is so affecting. If told from the Osage victims’ perspective Scorsese would only be co-opting the pain and frustration from the Osage without possibly being able to fully understand it. If told from the FBI agent’s perspective we risk it delving into a white savior tale. Instead, telling it from the perspective of one of the conspirators and murderers, we get the story that Scorsese can tell most truthfully. A perspective of shame and complicity. The story is no longer a “whodunnit” but instead more of a “howcouldyou?” Leonardo DiCaprio's Ernest is the lens in which we view the tragedy. A useful idiot whose cognitive dissonance astounds and sickens. A man who we believe loves his wife as much as a man who conspires to murder her family and slowly poison her possibly can. This is sneakily one of DiCaprio's best performances. Gone are his signature charm and intensity, replaced with pathetic flaccidness and simplemindedness. He is, in many ways, a tragically lost soul, who unfortunately finds himself at the whim of the great leader of the depravity, Robert Deniro’s King Hale. Hale manipulates Ernest as he orchestrates his plot a handshake’s distance from his victims. Lily Gladstone, however, steals the show and gives possibly the best performance of the year as Molly, Ernest’s wife. I’m not sure I have ever seen quiet confidence portrayed so strongly on screen and I am quite certain I have never seen it like this from a female character. She is likely Scorsese’s best written woman of his career. She’s simply magnetic and would be a worthy first time Native Oscar winner. All the techs are glowing, the cinematography is impeccable, the score is the film’s vibrant heartbeat. No facet of the film is not superlative. I could pick apart and dissect individual scenes or even granular line deliveries (never has the word "insulin" felt so loaded), but what makes it the best film of the year is what culminated from it all. The slow, suffocating inevitability of the proceedings. The worst kept secret being hidden in plain sight, but one that the Osage were powerless to divert. The cruel, unfeeling despicability of the enterprise and all involved. The ignominy of a nation that did too little and cared not enough for its citizens. And the best ending of the year that reminds us that while telling other people’s stories is inherent to the artform, doing it with dignity and honor is paramount. Killers of the Flower Moon is another great lesson from the greatest to ever do it, and it is the best movie of the year.

(Streaming on Apple TV +)

So there you have it. My humble ranking of the best movies this year had to offer. I was grateful for the indelible imprint these films made on me and the world this year. The industry, for its problems, seems to be in such sure hands moving forward. Thank you for reading and absolutely let me know your opinions in the comment section. Debate is the best part of doing this. As always, below are my honorable mentions because the greatness this year was overflowing. See you all in 2024!







Ryan Garasich 1/29/24


  1. Just wanted to make a quick mention about Across the Spiderverse. It just missed my list, so I didn't go into detail, but I sincerely believe it was the greatest achievement in animation that I have ever seen. It was number 11 for sure.


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