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Top 23 Movies of 2023

·      Films That Got Away

I usually include a worst-of list before getting to my favorites, but this year I figured it’d be a better use of space to list movies I simply couldn’t find before it was time to drop this list. Regardless of if I missed the festival dates or never got a screener, these movies will stay on my watchlist until I can find them. Most will be streaming or available on Blu-ray sometime next year, so keep an eye out!


10. Menus Plaisirs - Les Troisgros

-       A lot’s been made of 81-year old Martin Scorsese making the masterfully epic Killers of the Flower Moon this year, but hardly anyone’s said a word about 93-year old Frederick Wiseman delivering a four hour documentary centered around a family-owned three Michelin star restaurant. It looks like an amazing watch! Trailer


                        9. Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell

-       Thien An Pham’s directorial debut seems like a beautifully shot exploration of faith, family and memory. Following a man who returns to his hometown following his mother’s death, I can’t wait to watch this movie! Trailer


                        8. Do Not Expect Much from the End of the World

-       Even the trailer for this comedy about capitalism and exploitation borders on vulgar; it carries shades of 2021’s Bad Luck Banging. Hopefully this story about corporate coverups can connect the dots better than that film! Trailer


                        7. Walk Up/In Water

-       If you know me, you know I absolutely love the films of Hong Sang-soo. Playfully experimental in both form and narrative, his movies always use quiet stillness as a way of transcending the medium, reaching something profound. Watch both of these movies!


                        6. The Mother of All Lies

-       A Moroccan woman’s search for truth tangles with all the lies in her family history, leading her to explore personal and national history in this visual delight by Asmae ElMoudir. You’ll be hearing about this film more, since it was shortlisted for an Oscar, so be sure to watch it! Trailer


                        5. Erase Una Vez En El Caribe

-       Ray Figueroa’s film seems to live up to the epic Leone westerns he draws the title from. Set in Puerto Rico, following a sugar plantation peasant seeking revenge against those who killed his wife, this gem of Puerto Rican cinema is sure to offer thrills and great cinematography. Trailer


4. Eureka

-       Interweaving three different storylines and visual styles, Argentine auteur Lisandro Alonso’s newest film looks like an absolutely fascinating watch. I’ve been waiting for this film to release since 2021, and am so excited to eventually see it now that it’s out! Trailer


                        3. Samsara

-       A spirit leaves a body, travels through the bardo and reincarnates in another body in Lois Patiño’s gorgeous looking film. Based on the trailer, we’re in for eye-popping cinematography and thoughtful ruminations on spirituality and infinity. Surely a must-watch!


                        2. Cerrar Los Ojos

-       Back for the first time in over a decade, Víctor Erice delivers a story about a dead actor and the mystery around his final moments. Spirit of the Beehive (1973) continues to be one of my favorite films of all time, and I’m sure this Spanish filmmaker hasn’t lost a step. Trailer


1.     La Pecera

-       When terminally ill Noelia returns to Puerto Rico, she decides to help local activists document effects of the US Navy’s pollution. It seems to have been a great year for Puerto Rican cinema, no doubt thanks to films like this one by Glorimar Marrero. I love a movie that isn’t afraid to wear its politics on its sleeve, and am so excited to see this. Trailer


·      23 Best Films of 2023

Making this list is always hard—partially because, of course, this is all subjective, but also because no list is comprehensive. Try as I might, I simply can’t watch everything that comes out (heartbreaking). That being said, it was a great year for cinema both on and offscreen, with the entire industry mobilizing against exploitive practices via a months-long strike and many notable filmmakers recently calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Art is a way of interacting with the world, and it’s awesome to see so much activity in this regard. Superhero schlock is tanking and people are instead flocking to three-hour biopics. I think that signals a larger shift in the way society relates to and thinks about itself. It’s enough to not just make me hopeful for the future of movies, but for the future of humanity; and isn’t that what art’s all about? Here are 23 films that I absolutely loved watching in 2023:


·      Honorable Mentions

1.     Priscilla

2.     Infinity Pool

3.     Polite Society

4.     A Thousand and One

5.     Showing Up

6.     All of Us Strangers

7.     Robot Dreams

8.     About Dry Grasses

9.     Godland

10.  Perfect Days


·      Best-of list:

23. The Zone of Interest

-       Jonathan Glazer’s film about a family living next to Auschwitz is a breathtaking look at complicity and genocide. From the sound design to the heart-stopping final scene, this movie packs a punch you’re not likely to forget. Read my full review here.


22.  Nimona

-       Adaptations are always a tricky thing to pull off, but Nick Bruno and Troy Quane do a wonderful job of capturing all the heart and tenderness of ND Stevenson’s sci-fi adventure-comedy graphic novel. Now on Netflix! Full review here!

21.  Kokomo City

-       This genre-bending docufiction from D. Smith passes the mic to various black trans sex workers living across the country, and in the process of doing so captures the nuanced tapestry of life itself. It’s an intimate, transcendent watch with an urgency you can feel. Trailer

20.  Afire

-       I first thought I’d hate Christian Petzold’s film about a writer trying to find inspiration (even typing that makes it sound cliché), but the elements are tied together wonderfully here. Part intimate drama, part climate disaster film, it’s a stunning movie. Trailer

19. The Iron Claw

-       This film may have come out a little late, which is why I’m not seeing it on a lot of lists. Either way, Sean Durkin turns a movie about a professional wrestling dynasty into an engrossing exploration of masculinity, brotherhood and familial obligation. Trailer

18.  Asteroid City

-       If you couldn’t tell by my review, I loved this movie. It’s incredible that, with a schedule as packed as his, Wes Anderson managed to release one of his best films to date about alien invasions, human connection and the meaning of life. Full review here!

17. Past Lives

-       It’s pretty astounding that this is Celine Song’s debut feature, because it is so well done! Following two friends reconnecting, it’s a tender film about what could have been, what is and what will be. Heartache never looked so good! Trailer

16.  Evil Does Not Exist

-       This movie about land developers trying to gain local support for their dubious plan finds the Oscar-winning Ryusuke Hamaguchi operating in multiple genres at once and clearly having a blast. Insightful, hilarious and well-shot, it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for! Full NYFF review here.

15. They Cloned Tyrone 

-       This film was not only released during Barbenheimer mania, but was lost in the Netflix algorithm; which is a real shame, since it’s so smartly funny. Centered around a drug dealer, a pimp and a sex worker uncovering a government conspiracy, fans of Boots Riley will love this refreshing gem. Now on Netflix; full review here!

14. American Fiction

- Cord Jefferson’s biting satire of the publishing industry is as heartfelt as it is hilarious. When a writer creates a stereotypical novel out of frustration, and it does extremely well, his entire life is upended during an already chaotic time. Full review and red carpet interview with the writer-director here!

13. Ferrari

-       In a year where biopics were too prevalent, Michael Mann delivers one of his best offerings yet. Diving into issues of class, gender and power as he explores how Enzo Ferrari saved his business from ruin, it’s perhaps Mann’s most cohesive look at patriarchal self-delusion. Read my full review here!

12. Passages

- I find it unconscionable that Ira Sach’s love-triangle drama was given an NC-17 rating, making it impossible for most people to see it in theaters. It’s long been time we stop holding movies with LGBT romances to a different standard. Yes, it’s unashamedly sexy, but Poor Things was far more vulgar (and much less well done). This is an incredible film that's now on Mubi! Trailer

11. Dream Scenario

-       A relatively boring professor is launched into superstardom when people around the world start inexplicably dreaming of him. Though it seems like what he’s always wanted, Paul’s ill-equipped to handle all that comes with his newfound fame. This wonderfully absurd and quirky dramedy reminds me of early Kaufman scripts in the best of ways! Trailer

10. Suzume

-       When legendary Your Name (2016) director Makoto Shinkai releases a new movie, there’s no other option but to rush to the nearest theater. This is perhaps his most free-wheeling film yet, featuring talking chairs, doorways into another dimension and, of course, coming to terms with the past via time travel. Full review here!

9.  Outono (Autumn)

-       Few feature debuts can match Antonio Sequeira’s. Told in episodes as a young man visits his family during school holidays, this heartfelt dive into family dynamics, gender roles, intergenerational politics and more is a masterclass in filmmaking. Read my interview with the director and co-stars here, and my full review here!

8. Fallen Leaves

- Having just made the Oscar shortlist for Best International Feature Film, Aki Kaurismäki’s movie about love and loneliness in modern society is one that almost invokes early Jarmusch in the best of ways. Trailer

7. How Do You Live?

-       Miyazaki continues to be unable to retire, already working on his next movie, but I’m glad he was able to make this one. Centered around a boy coming to terms with his mother’s death in WW2 Japan, it’s a beautifully-crafted exploration of what we all must leave behind and gain to move forward. We're lucky to live in a world where Mozart is still writing symphonies. Full review here!

6. May December

-       This masterclass in subtlety by Todd Haynes is a character-centered story about an actress studying the life of the controversial woman she’s set to play in an upcoming film. Now available on Netflix, it’s a breathtaking movie with some powerhouse performances. Read my review!

5. Killers of the Flower Moon

-       When Martin Scorsese makes a movie, it feels as if the world stops turning—especially when it has this much at stake. Following the systemic genocide of the Osage by those who coveted their oil wealth, this is cinema at its most vital. Jaw-dropping scope and incredible craft throughout, a real masterpiece. Here’s a full review.

4. Tōtem

-       Now a potential Oscar winner, writer-driector Lila Avilés’ story about a young girl attending what is likely her terminally ill father’s final birthday party is somehow the most life-affirming film to come out this year. Shot beautifully, never sentimental, I loved this movie. Trailer 

3.     The Eight Mountains

-       Felix van Groeningen’s film about two friends’ lifelong connection to a small mountain town gave me everything I needed to know it’s an instant classic. A gentle look at masculinity, friendship, and how place/space informs our sense of self. Trailer

2. Of an Age

-       This romance-drama by Goran Stolevski centers around two friends and unrequited love. A tender delve into what could have been, and somehow also a deep appreciation of what is. This is cinema at its most human. Full review here!

1. The Taste of Things

-       Tran Anh Hung’s historical romance drama uses long takes and gorgeously blocked compositions to tell the story of two cooks falling in love. It’s a story about love, loss, art and community, and I loved every second of it. Trailer


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