Following The Film Stage’s collective top 50 films of 2023, as part of our year-end coverage, our contributors are sharing their personal top 10 lists.

In 2023, I wanted to laugh. Perhaps more than I realized, because when I finally calculated my top-rated films that came out this year, a great portion of my selections turned out to be either straight-up comedies or gripping comedy-dramas. (This also rang true of my equivalent TV list, which is filled with warm-hearted fare like Somebody Somewhere, Reservation Dogs, and Jury Duty or dark-night-of-the-soul laughers like Succession, The Other Two, This Fool, and Beef.) 2023 was the year I embraced funny and moving movie coming-of-age stories probably more than any other, but to me, that genre isn’t only limited to what happens when 11-year-old girls experience their period for the first time or when Elvis Presley decides to take a child bride. For example, Paul Giamatti’s acidic classics teacher experiences something like a middle-aged puberty when he’s forced to care for an abandoned prep school kid during Christmas break in The Holdovers. In Beau is Afraid, we watch a stunted 40-something-year-old man finally lose his virginity. Heck, even a walking, talking Barbie doll discovers existential dread in Barbie

Without further ado, the best movies I watched in 2023: 

Honorable Mentions: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, May December, Priscilla, You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, The Zone of Interest

Best older films I watched in 2023: Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Farewell My Concubine (1993), Paris is Burning (1990), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Fatal Attraction (1987), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Bad Education (2004), An Angel at My Table (1990), Personal Services (1987), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) 

10. Beau Is Afraid (Ari Aster)

Ari Aster is the modern king of horror, and for his third feature film, he veers away from the sinister occultism of his previous films Hereditary and Midsommar and instead leans into comical absurdity to set shivers down our spines. Beau Is Afraid is a grotesque and dream-like three-hour epic that exists somewhere between the literary genres of “picaresque” and “bildungsroman”—it is the surreal story of an anxious 40-something virgin man-child (Joaquin Phoenix) who receives life-changing news and must venture from the crime-ridden dystopian city where he lives back to his overbearing mother’s stifling mansion. Aster skillfully captures the frustrations of a classic nightmare in which you’re constantly thwarted from achieving your aims, leaving audiences with one of the tensest, most jolting films of 2023. I recommend pairing it with another movie about a vaguely Jewish fledging navigating their way through maturation: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

9. Barbie (Greta Gerwig)

It took me at least two viewings to really understand Greta Gerwig’s vision for Barbie. The first time I saw it, I felt tangled up in its weak story logic and feminism 101 pedagogy. The second time, I could easily ignore the plot mechanics and focus on the artistic elements that make the film feel like childhood itself bursting to life: the lush plastic-and-pink production design and costuming, the wink-wink jokes, the vivacious soundtrack—including an entire dream ballet and musical sequence, and, best of all, Ryan Gosling’s gut-busting performance as a Ken doll who can’t get no respect. Instead of worrying too much about the Barbies’ hegemony over the Kens or how exactly Barbie world infiltrates “our” world and vice versa, just appreciate Kate McKinnon’s whole Weird Barbie aesthetic, all the specific and hilarious callbacks to 64 years of Barbie lore, and everything about Gosling’s rousing and soulful rendition of “I’m Just Ken.” 

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Jeff Rowe)

Quick, name 2023’s best flick about reluctant city-dwelling superheroes who must simultaneously navigate teenagerhood, disappointing their parents, and the burdens of humanity-saving powers (that also features gorgeous, mind-bending animation)! Well, I can tell you it wasn’t about a spider boy. As someone who tacitly avoided the TMNT phenom while growing up in the 1990s, I can safely say that my love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has nothing to do with nostalgia. The film’s animation is just stunningly innovative, like an ever-morphing combination of stop-motion and comic book illustrations. Beyond the visual triumphs, it’s also super funny thanks to a Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg-infused script, has a great voice cast that includes Jackie Chan and Ayo Edibiri, and features a bounding hip-hop-focused soundtrack. And I cried? A lot? Dude. 

7. Fair Play (Chloe Domont)

An engaged couple works at the same cutthroat Manhattan hedge fund and keeps their relationship a secret to protect their careers. When Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) is promoted over Luke (Alden Ehrenreich), we watch as their union slowly unravels due to Luke’s jealousy, paranoia and good ol’-fashioned misogyny. At first, Emily tries to ignore or appease her future husband’s ego, but as we’re propelled toward the final confrontations—oh yes, there’s a few—my heart was completely racing. Domont, in her feature film debut, is clearly inspired by the erotic thrillers of the 1980s and 90s, but the film never sinks due to outsized plot or campiness. If anything, it feels paired down to the mere bloody shreds two formerly in-love people can make of each other. Although it won’t get much awards love, Fair Play features one of the strongest original scripts and two of the most compelling lead performances of the year. 

6. BlackBerry (Matt Johnson)

BlackBerry is an incisive dramedy chronicling the unlikely rise and crushing fall of a tech phenomenon—in this case, the first major smartphone of the title, which dominated the early 2000s until the advent of the iPhone. Under BlackBerry’s product biography surface, however, lingers a story about how friendship is torn apart when one person decides to grow, and the other doesn’t. Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson) are two Canadian computer dorks who have the engineering skills but lack the maturity and professionalism to get their company off the ground—until they fall in with Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), a corporate shark who steers them into their billion-dollar future. Mike is constantly caught between Doug and Jim, slowly shedding the slacker values he shares with his old friend to embrace the ambition Jim inspires in him. But shady-as-hell Jim isn’t exactly what a CEO should aspire to be. Tonally, BlackBerry marries the jaw-dropping antics of the Hulu miniseries The Dropout with the hilarious social satire of HBO’s long-running sitcom Silicon Valley. But in only two hours! 

5. The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin)

Imagine a modern Little Women… but everyone is Beth. In The Iron Claw, a heartbreaking mid-century biopic about the tragic real-life pro-wrestling Von Erich dynasty, Zac Efron plays Kevin Von Erich, a goal-driven Texan wrestler who, not unlike Jo March, wants to both become the best in his field and also be with his siblings always. (Replace novel writing with televised wrestling and three sisters with four brothers.) In fact, all the young Von Erich boys want to honor their domineering dad (Holt McCallany, a force) by going into the family business, but maxing out their bodies for whooping audiences night after night leads to devastating consequences. The Iron Claw is an old-fashioned drama that doesn’t need flashy editing gimmicks to tell its story. But that doesn’t mean it’s led by its story or ensemble cast alone. Cinematographer Mátyás Erdély draws us in equally with beautifully composed silhouettes and propulsive motion inside the ring. 

4. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)

Perhaps the genius of Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker is that these two artists have the ability to make a nearly four-hour movie theater experience feel like half that time. Watching true-life crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon while crammed into a non-reclining seat and taking no breaks for sustenance or relief, I didn’t have a single temporal care in the world. All I could concentrate on was the screen and the story of a generation of Osage people callously murdered for their oil rights in 1920s Oklahoma. I have my nitpicks—there’s probably a few too many cavalier images of indigenous actors dead and bloody and Robert De Niro lays on the unctuous rancher villainy a bit too thick. Despite its flaws, Killers still boasts the most impressive ensemble of any film I saw in 2023 and the lead performance by Lily Gladstone as a woman being slowly poisoned by her seemingly loving husband (Leonardo DiCaprio) will continuously show up on historical best-of lists for decades to come. 

3. The Taste of Things (Trần Anh Hùng)

At the start of Trần Anh Hùng’s French-language romance The Taste of Things, a pirouetting camera whirls through a state-of-the-art 1890s French countryside kitchen as Eugénie (Juliette Binoche), Dodin (Benoît Magimel), and two young female laborers work in rapid, precise movements to produce a decadent feast. For minutes on end, the artists and their helpers utilize complex, well-worn techniques to scoop perfectly oval seafood quenelles, roast a rack of veal dripping succulent fat, and whip shiny meringue for baked Alaska. (Or, as the film describes the dessert, “a Norwegian omelet.”) Dodin is a famous chef and restauranteur, Eugénie his personal cook and the love of his life. Through decades of working together and finding equilibrium as creative partners, they have fallen in ever-lustful love, but Eugénie has no interest in giving up her freedom to marry him. That Binoche and Magimel share powerful but comfortable chemistry should be no surprise: the actors have an adult daughter from a relationship that ended 20 years ago. Jonathan Ricquebourg’s dynamic cinematography, however, is just as formidable as their onscreen passion.

2. The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)

In my experience, director Alexander Payne has two modes: simply perfect, no notes (Election, Sideways, Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt) or pretty terrible, damn (Nebraska, The Descendants, Downsizing). There’s no in between. Thankfully, The Holdovers falls into the former camp. Payne pays homage to New Hollywood-style camerawork and editing for his story about what happens when a mouthy student (Dominic Sessa), a curmudgeonly teacher (Paul Giamatti), and a heartbroken cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) are left behind during Christmas 1970 at a New England boys’ prep school when everyone else goes home to their families. A holiday film that somehow manages to keep the schmaltz to a minimum, The Holdovers makes you cry from laughter as well as grief: every main cast member deserves the highest honors awards season has to offer. 

1. After Love (Aleem Khan)

After Love is a story of the past returning to haunt. First, because the heart-crushing 2020 feature netted several nominations and a deserved best actress win for Joanna Scanlan at the 75th BAFTA awards but only made its way to a U.S. release at the start of 2023. Second, and most importantly, because it’s about a widow who discovers her husband has a secret family in another country and must now excavate the happy lie of her long marriage. I promise you, though, it’s not nearly that simple. Mary Hussain (Scanlan), an aging white English woman, sacrificed all that she knew to convert to Islam in her early 20s so she could marry a Pakistani-born Dover ferry captain. Upon his death, she finds out he never expected the same of his brittle French mistress, Genevieve (Nathalie Richard), with whom he shared an entire world in Calais. Mary ventures to France to confront the woman, is mistaken for a housecleaner by her, and then uses this cover to investigate the home her beloved husband shared with a woman who couldn’t be more physically or emotionally different from his wife. All the while, Genevieve is waiting for her son’s father to come home. Khan’s images are quiet and raw, every shot a novel unto itself. I sobbed all the way through.

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