Top 10 Films of 2023 (So-Far)
July 1, 2023
Half of 2023 has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it, I had seen 67 new releases in six months. I can’t say that there’s been a bountiful amount of great work to bask in, but there’s always a small amount of stuff that deserves to be cherished. So, to give credit where it’s due, here’s my list of the ten best films I’ve seen in 2023 (so far).
*Because some of the films I’ve seen so far were at film festivals, I will only be ranking the films that have received a general release in theaters or on streaming*
Featuring five different spoken languages (Romanian, Hungarian, German, French, and English) and characters from all different walks of life, Cristian Mungiu’s newest visual essay tells a universal story within one specific Transylvanian village. As is tradition for Mungiu, each scene is realized in unbroken takes, with the climactic town-hall meeting unfolding across 17 minutes and featuring dozens of characters. The naturalism is abruptly broken by the ambiguous final shot, leaving you with a disquieting outlook on this specific village, as well as the entire world.
9. Tori and Lokita
The newest film from the Belgian brotherly duo of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne finds them once again examining the miscarriages of social justice within their native country. Their handheld long takes and lack of score capture the harsh reality of society. There’s also a propulsive energy to the film, with the semi-criminal elements keeping the 85-minute feature (a staple length for the brothers) moving at a brisk pace.
Air is the cinematic equivalent of the final moments of an NBA game. Not every play goes as perfectly as it was drawn up, and there are a lot of mistakes that could have been ironed out in practice. But the sheer athleticism of the players/actors is something to marvel at. And when they take their shots, they make them count. Because both they and we know that when the ball goes through the hoop, and those feelings of victory come striding to the surface, everything that came before that ceases to matter. Full Review
Time has not been an ally for the BlackBerry phone, but I believe it will be for this movie. While the other movies in this growing subgenre built themselves largely around the iconography of the brand, Johnson always has his sights set on the people behind the machine, which is what makes this specific story that much more compelling and rewatchable. Full Review
6. Cairo Conspiracy
Corruption runs rampant in the holiest of places within Cairo Conspiracy, as faith is used to broker further advances of power. Writer/director Tarik Saleh tells an overlapping story of politics and religion, molding his message within the old-fashioned espionage thriller genre to fantastic results. It’s both entertaining and enlightening, leaving you with something to ponder long after the credits roll.
5. John Wick: Chapter 4
Although I said the character of John Wick has drastically changed over time, the John Wick series has maintained that underdog energy since its initial entry, even though the budgets have increased nearly sixfold. Each sequel tries its hardest to outdo the previous one, offering an improvement on what’s already been done and creating something entirely new. I know it will be done, but I don't know how they’re going to top this in John Wick: Chapter 5. Full Review
4. Enys Men
Mark Jenkin’s Enys Men is the kind of film you stumble upon late at night as a kid where you have no idea what you’re watching and if it was any good, but you couldn’t help but be endlessly transfixed by it. Just as Ari Aster and Robert Eggers have amassed cult followings for their new-wave style of horror, Jenkin deserves the same for his now-signature trips down the psychological rabbit hole. The beckoning of Hollywood doesn’t seem to be having much effect on him, promising more distinctly singular work from this up-and-coming artist. Full Review
Stuffy, overly serious, slow, and pretentious are all words most often used to describe period pieces. And yet, none of those words can be applied to Stephen Williams' Chevalier, which would have been one of the best movies of 2022 had Searchlight chosen to release it within the bloodbath that is Oscar season. Thankfully, they're smarter than me and waited until 2023, where it now sits firmly on this list among the greats. Full Review
2. Past Lives
Perspective and perception are the keys to writer/director Celine Song’s screenplay, which uses a vast amount of space and time to tell an epically intimate story. Nora (Greta Lee) explains in-yun to Arthur (John Magaro) midway through the film. It’s the Korean concept of fate, suggesting that people are destined to meet if their past lives overlapped. Nora shrugs off the idea by saying it’s just “something Korean people say to seduce someone.” While Nora may not take that concept to heart, Song’s use of it within her film had me seduced in the moment, and will likely have me for the rest of time. Full Review
1. Asteroid City
At this point in his filmography, you’ve probably made up your mind about Wes Anderson. I’m somewhat of an apologist, with those instantly recognizable production qualities and whimsical tones being music to my ears (and eyes). Asteroid City is another healthy dose of what I’m come to love, with the bonus of seeing an auteur continue to find new ways to channel what they do best. Full Review