Blog | Top Ten Films of 2023
Top Ten Films of 2023
December 25, 2023
By: Movie Critic Dave
Blog Categories
With the pandemic officially behind us, Hollywood rebounding in 2023 with a full slate of impression films from top-flight filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Chistopher Nolan, Yorgos Lanthimos and Divid Fincher. Not only was the film selection a strong return to form, box-office numbers rebounded especially thanks to the summertime's "Barbenheimer" phenomenon that helped inject $2 billion into a desperate movie theater industry. Now, before I recount my favorite movies of the past year, it's important to highlight notable films that I still haven't seen. Highly regarded works such as The Zone of Interest, All of Us Strangers, FerrariNYAD and Origin somehow managed to slip through the cracks. With that being said, here are my favorite offerings from 2023's impressive slate of films:

Honorable Mention (In Ranked Order): 

#20. The Starling Girl

#19. Past Lives

#18. NYAD

#17. Anatomy of a Fall

#16. Eileen

#15. American Fiction

#14. The Killer

#13. The Holdovers

#12. Poor Things

#11. Priscilla

And now, my Top Ten Films of 2023:

#10. Barbie

The bottom spot on my Top Ten list could have just as easily gone to either Priscilla or American Fiction, but I sided with the year's most-seen movie. For me, Greta Gerwig's Barbie was a film I had zero interest in seeing. Yet, it's those low expectations that made me appreciate the film so much. Gerwig and hubby co-writer, Noah Baumbach, craft an original tale of toxic masculinity and female strength through the beloved Barbie doll universe as a backdrop. There's no shortage of laugh-out-loud humor, poignant monologues, and outrageously committed performances. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are perfectly cast, offering up Oscar-worthy roles as Barbie and Ken. Grossing over $1 billion at the box-office, odds are you've seen the film. But if you haven't. rest assured that you'll be pleasantly surprised by Greta Gerwig's creative new film.

#9. The Iron Claw

Sometimes we go to the movies to experience uplifting stories that raise our spirits, and other times we go to experience true tales of heartbreak and tragedy. Sean Durkin's The Iron Claw is unmistakably the latter. This A24 film follows the real-life story of the Von Erich wrestling family that built a small scale dynasty in Texas. Pushed hard by their wrestling-alum father Fritz (played by Holt McCallany), a quartet of brothers make it their life mission to bring a World Wrestling Championship back to their family. But as they pursue their dream with relentless passion, tragedy continues to strike and destroy this family piece by piece. Zac Efron stars as Kevin Von Erich, the eldest brother, and his physical transformation is a site to behold unto itself. Yet, the entire ensemble is fantastic and they help capture the dark and grief-stricken realities of this small-town family. 

#8. Dream Scenario

Another spectacular indie film from the A24 catalog comes from rising Norgwegian filmmaker, Kristoffer Borgli. His new wild and surreal entry, Dream Scenario, centers around Paul Matthews (played by Nicolas Cage), an "average joe" who's longing for much more than his boring and mundane life. Well Paul's wish shockingly comes true when he begins appearing in people's dreams all across the globe for no apparent reason, immediately skyrocketing him into "The Most Interesting Person in the World". Borgli's cleverly crafted story is done so in the mold of a typical Shakespearean tragedy, and Nicolas Cage delivers one of the finest performances of his career. Without giving too much away, Dream Scenario navigates through a varied collection of genres becoming its own unique entity with a strong overall message.

#7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

I'm admittedly a big fan of the MCU and, like most viewers, haven't been overly impressed with many of their recent entries. However, James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 proved to be more than just a return to form for the MCU, it's one of Marvel's finest films to date. Gunn takes his long-invested audience on an emotion-filled journey back to Rocket's origin story. It's a sad and tragic underbelly that's complemented to perfection by the rest of the team's devotion to saving their best friend. Guardians 3 offers thrilling action sequences, heartfelt drama, and an onslaught of laughter, Marvel's signature trifecta. While this will be our last adventure with the Guardians, James Gunn concludes their saga with an absolute bang.

#6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

No one knew what to expect from Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman's 2018 animated Marvel movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. After all, the film was transitioning from the familiar Peter Parker hero to the new Miles Morales. It was a bold move and one that paid off handsomely. The film went on to gross nearly $385 million at the global box-office and win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Needless to say, a sequel was coming, but would a five year wait prove troublesome for the franchise? Thanks to another unbelievably thrilling screenplay from Phil Lord and dynamite animation, 2023's Across the Spider-Verse nearly doubled its box-office numbers ($690 million globally) and feels like a sure-thing once again for a Best Animated Feature Oscar win. This time, Miles shares the spotlight with newcomer Gwen Stacy (Ghost Spider) who explains her origins story and how she's grouped together with an expansive team of Spider-People to help save the existence of the multiverse. To say anymore, is to say too much. It's a fantastic sequel that outshines its predecessor and has everyone clamoring for next year's third installment. 

#5. Saltburn

Writer and director Emerald Fennell dazzled audiences with her 2020 filmmaking debut, Promising Young Woman, that earned her a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Needless to say, this left movie-lovers eager for her follow-up feature and Fennell's Saltburn does not disappoint. The movie centers around Oliver (played by Barry Keoghan), a student attending Oxford on scholarship. While Oliver doesn't come from a family of wealth and priviledge, his desire to infiltrate the upperclass crowd at his school comes to fruition when he befriends Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Oliver's obsession for Felix continues to grow as the wealthy young man invites his friend to spend the summer break at is family's lavish estate. Although Saltburn is a little less on substance than Fennell's debut effort, it entertains in droves with a handful of hyper-sexualized and shocking, never-before-seen moments (to put it lightly) that will undoubtedly alienate certain audiences, but captivate others. Saltburn may not be for everyone, but it worked extremely well for me. 

#4. Oppenheimer

Christpher Nolan has cemented himself as a premiere, modern-day filmmaker. Always ambitious and never dull, Nolan's signature mark of creativity has gotten to the point where it overshadows his character development. Prior to 2023, his two most recent works, Tenet and Dunkirk, both struggled to deliver depth to his characters and the films both suffered as a result. Yet, Nolan's latest, Oppenheimer, was created to right these wrongs and offer an examination of the conflicted scientist, Robert Oppenheimer, who helped develop the Atomic Bomb that put a stamp on the end of World War II. Thankfully, Nolan does pen himself an immersive character, one who is both morally flawed and intellectually fascinating. On top of this layered true story, Nolan cashes in with his unqiue directing perspective that makes it no surprise at all Oppenheimer nearly grossed $1 billion globally. Outside of Nolan's typical struggles at crafting female characters and his unnecessary use of gratuitous nudity that felt unfitting to me, Oppenheimer stands as a phenomenal addition to Nolan's highly impressive catalog.

#3. Talk to Me

I look forward to the film selection at SXSW every year. It's always loaded with quality selections that often find their way into my annual Top Ten lists. Look no further than last year's SXSW Opening Night film, Everything Everywhere All At Once, which topped my list of 2022's best movies and secured a Best Picture win at the Oscars. This year, nothing had me more excited than directing siblings Danny and Michael Philippou's debut work, Talk to Me. This entry takes the possession horror genre, turns it on its side, and cranks the intensity up to 11. Sophie Wilde delivers an unforgettable turn as Mia, a teen still grieving her mom's death and eager to try a new, local party trick popping up all over TikTok. It involves a firm hold with a mysterious embalmed hand and saying two important phrases, "Talk to Me" and "I Let You in". From there, what begins as cautious teenage fun morphs into 95 minutes of visceral insanity. Talk to Me needs to be seen to be believed, and any horror fan should have this wickedly wild entry at the top of their viewing list. 

#2. Wonka

I could go on and on forever about my adoration for Paul King's Wonka. The filmmaker's examination of a young and aspiring Willy Wonka (played by Timothée Chalamet) as he sets out on his dream of being the world's most famous chocalatier is nothing short of magical. Wonka is a superb musical loaded with catchy tunes, a heartfelt story, and a wide collection of quirky characters that all come together seemlessly in the year's most enjoyable watch. King's latest is a crowd-pleasing and whimsical delight that's suitable for the whole family. Wonka separates itself from the 1971 original by staying grounded into positivity and wholesome fun, yet also honors its source material with countless subtle throwbacks that will assuredly satisfy fans of Gene Wilder's iconic portrayal and film. Wonka is an absolute must-see movie and there's no better place to catch it than on the big screen, so don't wait and be sure to enjoy it in theaters this holiday season.

#1. Killers of the Flower Moon

There was such a narrow margin between all of my Top Five films, but I'm giving the nod to Martin Scorsese's long, but always engrosing, true-crime drama, Killers of the Flower Moon. After being pushed off their land and settling in Oklahoma in the 1920s, the Osage people strike enough oil to make them the wealthiest people in the world per capita. As their inheritances begin to trickle down their family bloodlines, the rate of white men marrying Osage women begins to skyrocket as well. Look no further than Ernest and Mollie Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone), a war veteran and Osage woman who wed during this time. Yet, when a rising number of mysterious deaths begin to occur, these Native Americans begin to wonder if something more sinister is brewing. Killers of the Flower Moon delivers a gripping story, knockout performances, and typical superb direction from Scorsese. Lily Gladstone has evolved into a bonafide star and Robert De Niro delivers his finest work since the 90s. While the movie admittedly never provides big-booming fireworks or those all-time great scenes, its unbelievable true story will leave you undeniably entranced.