Friday, March 8, 2024

The Top Ten Films of 2023.

Most people only saw two movies this year, and I don't blame them. As always, there were good movies, but (with a few exceptions) it took some work to find the ones worth remembering. Of course, the Internet wants you to think that 2023 was the greatest year for film since 2019, but the Internet is 90% bots and probably still believes in trickle-down economics. 2023 was maybe a better year for film than 2021. My hottest takes of the year are that no one would care about Killers of the Flower Moon if it were directed by a normal person, and Oppenheimer might be better than Tenet. It's close. Keep in mind that I didn't watch any animated films or documentaries, and I once made the ridiculous claim that 2010 was a bad movie year, so my opinions are questionable.

Movies for Normal People

Most years there is a really good film I can default recommend to just about everyone who asks. The go-tos for the last few years were Everything Everywhere All At Once, Pig, Palm Springs, and pretty much everything from 2019. You'd think that Barbie would be that movie this year, but I think there are still rallies and protests denouncing it in Florida, so I hesitated. Don't take "normal people" as an insult. I think it's cool that you guys have obligations and loved ones and don't have time to watch 100+ movies every year. 2023 was, of course, the year that the masses went to see a three hour biopic about a scientist trying to keep his security clearance, so maybe you guys just need some direction.  My top ten is filled with intimate dramas, foreign films, violence, and vulgarity; but if you just want to be entertained and not at risk of contemplating your existence, the banality of evil, or how anyone could possibly like Maestro, this section is for you.

Action movies were hot this year, but everyone skipped Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One even though it was exactly what everyone wants from the series. Sisu is a classic dad movie where one guy kills a bunch of Nazis. John Wick 4 has so many hot action scenes that it might be too long. Kill Boksoon is the Korean John Wick and The Childe is a solid Korean thriller. The Holdovers is for you if you miss amusing dramedies and American Fiction is a solid pick in a similar vein. Godzilla Minus One is a better post-WW2 movie than Oppenheimer, and if you want more scifi/adventure, The Creator is basically Star Wars in the age of AI, Guardians of the Galaxy 3 is probably the last Marvel movie that won't be terrible, and Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was criminally underseen. Missing is the most riveting advertisement for Apple products that you'll ever watch, and They Cloned Tyrone has Sorry to Bother You vibes without the horror/shock ending.

See? I watch fun stuff too. Anyways. On to the top ten.

10. Saltburn

Okay. Let's just call it a multi-way tie for tenth. I wrote the entire entry for "10. The Holdovers" but it bored me, so it's been deleted like an old-money European family. If you want to watch a light-hearted drama/comedy about an abandoned boarding school kid swapping witty barbs with Paul Giamatti, watch The Holdovers. If you want to see Barry Keoghan drink dirty bathwater and hang dong, Saltburn is the one you want. Barry Keoghan arrives at Oxford with no friends and has to hang out with a math nerd until he does a favor for the hot guy from Euphoria (Jacob Elordi, if you need me to narrow it down) and gets invited to hang out with the rich kids. Most of the rich kids don't like Barry, but Jacob Elordi doesn't mind that he's a weirdo, and invites him to his family's home for the summer. It is here where we meet the best ensemble cast of 2023. All the best lines are saved for Rosamund Pike, but Richard E. Grant has plenty too. Saltburn is at its absolute best when the cast is gossiping, trading quips, or mumbling amusing nonsense. Narratively, it's a mixed bag. Saltburn is about class, but it doesn't have much to say. The character motivations are questionable, and mostly just an excuse for Keoghan to do weird stuff. The final act drags and comes complete with narrative reveals that anyone who was paying attention already knew about. But there's enough weird fun and rich people shenanigans that I was thoroughly amused. If this movie was just Rosamund Pike spitting insults and gossip for two hours. it might have been #1. Saltburn is on Prime, which has ads now. I think it's time to bring back physical media.

9. Talk To Me

As long as you like horror movies, I can also recommend Talk To Me. Is it vastly better than last year's Smile? Probably not, but if you saw Smile, I assume you were pleasantly surprised. Talk To Me is the timeless tale of kids getting together in basements to experiment with drugs—except in this case, they're summoning spirits into their bodies and posting the videos on TikTok. Talk To Me is a classic ninety-minute horror movie that quickly explains it's logic, has a character break the rules, and chaos ensues. Here, the teens have discovered an embalmed hand that allows them to contact deceased spirits to take over their bodies for up to ninety seconds. If the ninety seconds is exceeded, the spirit wants to stay. Spoiler alert. The ninety seconds is exceeded. It's probably a better idea to do drugs, kids. If horror is your thing and you're okay with children being slaughtered, When Evil Lurks is also very good. I must also point out that Thanksgiving fucking slaps and it almost got crammed into the #10 slot. The Internet will charge you like $5 to watch Talk to Me, so skip a Starbucks trip and watch it instead.

8. May December

If you saw May December and didn't understand why it got nominated for best comedy or musical at the Golden Globes, you and I are watching movies through a vastly different lens. Sure, 50% of the movie is devastatingly sad. But, the other half is a goddamn comedic treasure. "I don't think we have enough hot dogs" is probably the most memorable line of 2023. Throw in a handful of other brilliant—albeit awkward—quips, Natalie Portman complaining that the thirteen-year-old actors aren't hot enough, as well as the cinematic result of Natalie Portman's careful character building; and you have a comedic masterpiece on your hands. You also have a tender portrait of an adult realizing that he was taken advantage of as a child. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, May December is the story of an actress (Natalie Portman) visiting a heavily publicized couple which formed when the wife (Julianne Moore) was in her thirties and the husband (Charles Melton) was in seventh grade. It's campy as hell, sad as hell, and maybe life is just hell. Charles Melton is brilliant, Julianne Moore has an insane lisp, and Natalie Portman is probably a bad person. All that being said, this is likely a movie for people who watch too many movies, and if you don't like it I won't judge you. It also looks like absolute trash because Netflix's bitrate is awful.

7. Barbie

Pre-Internet, Barbie would have been the easiest general-recommend of the the year. But apparently, in 2023, it's such a controversial film that Ben Shapiro started doing movie reviews. I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed everyone and their mom weighing in on Barbie, but everyone seemed to be so adamantly confident in supporting or disparaging the film's message that it made me laugh. Because... What is the film's message? I don't think it's clear. Barbie is, without a doubt, a funny movie; but it is all over the place thematically. And that's okay! Funny is allowed to be funny without a reason. Do I have criticisms? Sure. Will Ferrell's character makes no sense. Do any of the named characters actually represent men (aside from the Spanish-learning husband)? I'm not sure. Certainly, the Kens in the movie are male, but they have spent most of their existence in a matriarchy. Is their rebellion indicative of the patriarchy, or is it feminism? Why does America Ferrera's speech about the difficulty of being a woman resonate with the Barbies who have never experienced being a real-world woman? I honestly can't tell you. Do people know that Push by Matchbox Twenty is about emotional abuse? Do the Kens? I don't know. I assume that you either saw Barbie or Oppenheimer this year, and don't need me to explain the plot to you. The only obvious trope in Barbie seems to be that being a woman sucks. I agree that I do not wish to be a woman. But Barbie randomly decides she wants to be one at the end of the film, so it must not be that bad. I have a thousand criticisms of this movie but also don't know how I would fix any of them and enjoyed thinking about it; so Ryan Gosling being amusing is enough to put this in the recommend column. You can stream it on Max.

6. Past Lives

Have you ever had a crush on a girl that you met once twenty years ago and have talked to twice since? Of course you have. Here's one for you. Past Lives is a mostly-Korean-language drama about a ten year old Korean girl who immigrates to America, leaving behind the boy she went on a date with once. The Korean boy, starved of human affection, pines over her for a decade before finding her on Facebook and calling her on Skype—which was a really cool thing we used to do in 2010. They make kissy faces at each other from thousands of miles away, get sexually frustrated and then block each other on Facebook. Another ten years later, homeboy still can't get over his elementary school crush, so he flies to America to chat with her in Korean while her husband watches. All of this could be embarrassing and sentimental—okay, it's a little embarrassing and sentimental, but in the most delicate, impactful way. What's great about Past Lives is how all the characters react to their love triangle more responsibly than actual adults probably would. No one makes a Dawson Leery cry-face, I promise. It's about the sadness of missed opportunity, recognizing a potential soulmate in someone you're not partnered with, and acting like a goddamn adult about it. Watch it on Paramount+, or Showtime, or Fubo, or Hoopla, or throw your hands in the air and wonder why there are so many streaming services.

5. Fallen Leaves

Fallen Leaves is about a lonely Finnish alcoholic who meets a lonely Finnish grocery worker. They stare at each other while a stranger sings karaoke. Later, they meet again, fall in love, and pine over each other a bit. We only know this because the background music tells us. Can you nominate music for best supporting actor? The characters don't express their emotions much in this film, and the dialogue is deliciously deadpan; but two girls in pajamas sing us the best scene of 2023. If it's unclear, this is not a musical, there's just a lot of diegetic background music while the characters drink beers, stare at each other, or stare into space. I'm sorry. These are the movies I like. The dialogue that is in this movie is routinely delightful, often hilarious, and the film is filled with supporting characters that bring me joy: an overbearing security guard, a drug-dealing bar owner, and most importantly, the Karaoke King (whose age is unfortunately misjudged). If you can appreciate 80-minutes of awkward romance, dry humor, and a reminder that the world is shitty but you should probably quit drinking and talk to girls, Fallen Leaves is free on Mubi, whatever that is.

4. Bottoms

This better be the year that the Internet stops claiming there aren't any good comedies anymore. I agree that there are less, but there's less of everything that isn't a major IP or a low-budget drama about a poverty-stricken single mother. Bottoms is the best pure comedy of the year; but you shouldn't sit on Joy Ride or Theater Camp—and don't forget that Barbie was a comedy, not a political thriller. Just don't go crazy and pretend that No Hard Feelings was good simply because you saw Jennifer Lawrence's boobs (allegedly). Bottoms is about two high school lesbian losers who start a female fight club in order to impress chicks and get laid. No one hates them for being gay. People hate them because they're gay, untalented and ugly. It has Superbad levels of rambling-but-clever dialogue and Not Another Teen Movie levels of witty silliness. Yes, comparisons to Not Another Teen Movie are a good thing, don't pretend they aren't. The fight club may be a ruse, but the threat isn't. The big football game against the rival high school is coming up, and the other high school has a tradition of killing a student. Will the students avoid certain death? Will they finally get to put their fingers inside of each other? Can you care about feminism if your favorite TV show is Entourage? Watch Bottoms on Prime Video to find out. 

3. Monster

Hirokazu Koreeda (Broker, Shoplifters, Nobody Knows) is the master of telling beautiful, bittersweet stories that I have an impossible time convincing anyone to watch. The same is true of Monster, which is told in three parts, each revealing an additional layer of understanding to the situation at hand. The film begins with a mother concerned with her son's behavior, seeking help from his school and being absolutely railroaded by administrative nonsense. This is predictably infuriating, but the film thankfully begins to fill in the gaps with the school's perspective, and everything becomes clear in the final act. The ultimate result is a beautiful coming-of-age story wrought with misunderstandings and seemingly small moments with large impacts. Do you know where your children are? Because these people do not. I could tell you more about this film, but it wouldn't convince you anyway. Maybe consider the considerable lack of sarcasm in this review as a glowing recommendation. You can watch Monster on the Internet, but it costs like $15, which might be a better value than Netflix at this point.

2. Poor Things

I'm as shocked as you are that this is not number one. People who don't like Yorgos Lanthimos films (except Alps) are usually just boring, moralistic nerds who think Yorgos actually gives a shit about how you interpret his movie. This may only be Yorgos' fourth best film, but he still made the best Barbie movie of the year. Emma Stone plays Bella Baxter, an adult woman resurrected from death by Willem Dafoe, who puts her unborn child's brain inside her adult body. Bella quickly grows up inside the Barbie dreamhouse of Willem Dafoe's mansion, discovers her clitoris before she figures out social norms, and is released into the world when Mark Ruffalo absconds with her. Bella likes to have sex, dance, have snacks, and punch babies. Mark Ruffalo is enchanted by her sexuality, but as Bella experiences more of the world and starts learning fancy words, she outgrows Mark Ruffalo and destroys his spirit—which is a beautiful thing to watch. Poor Things may be feminist or propagate the male gaze; I don't know and I don't care. It's ridiculous and funny, and I enjoy being entertained. Poor Things is on Hulu.

1. All of Us Strangers

Say what you will about 2023, but the gays dominated this year. Obviously, out of the top ten, Bottoms killed it and everyone in Saltburn was maliciously bisexual, but I promise there is another. #NoSpoilers #SecretGay #GayBoyJoy. I'm still not sure how hashtags work, but 2023 was also a great year for talking to dead people and ruminating on how things could have been. All of Us Strangers delivers on all counts. Andrew Scott plays a lonely gay man who discovers his long-dead parents are occupying his childhood home. As he rebuilds (or reimagines) his relationship with his parents, he also becomes close with his equally lonely and gay neighbor, Paul Mescal. Andrew Scott comes out to his long-dead parents, who understandably are not up to date on the societal norms regarding homosexuality post their death in the 1980's. It's a touching film that would be great to watch with your mildly-homophobic boomer parents except for that one scene where Paul Mescal snowballs bodily fluids. Somehow not nominated for any acting awards at the Oscars, All of Us Strangers is devastating, raw, and heartbreakingly relevant—even for the lonely straights. The director of All of Us Strangers also directed Weekend (2011), another film in the essential gay cinema collection I keep pitching to Criterion. Did I mention that I am the cishet expert on LGBT2QIA+ cinema? It's not my fault. Blame the patriarchy. Or Barbie. All of Us Strangers is available on Hulu, which means Hulu wins this year because it has the top two.

Everything Else:


The Holdovers - Paul Giamatti is a cranky old professor who bonds with a student.
Joy Ride - The Asian female Hangover-style comedy that Bridesmaids wishes it was.
When Evil Lurks - An evil spirit is on the lose and it slaughters people and enlists creepy children.
Kill Boksoon - The Asian female John Wick with a mother/daughter dynamic instead of a dog.
Thanksgiving - Fun kills and silly puns. It reminded me that the Scream movies used to be good.
American Fiction - More drama than I expected, but plenty of bewildering societal humor.
They Cloned Tyrone - The government is cloning drug dealers and experimenting on black people.


Falcon Lake - The classic tale of getting your first girlfriend and ruining your life.
The Teacher’s Lounge - A thriller about trying to get your least favorite coworker fired.
Society of the Snow - A plane crashes and the passengers eat each other.
Missing - A girl uses her iMac, her iPhone, and an iColumbian to search for her mom.
No One Will Save You - A loner fights off an alien invasion.
Mission Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One - Tom Cruise rides a motorcycle off a cliff.
Godzilla Minus One - A Godzilla movie made me cry.
M3gan - Don't give the artificial intelligence a body, people!
Theater Camp - Theater nerds put on plays while their bumbling leader tries to save the camp.
Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 - Raccoon Lives Matter.
The Creator - The USA is trying to slaughter the AI people who just want to live their lives.
Anatomy of a Fall - Why isn't this dog nominated for best supporting actor?
Killers of the Flower Moon - Leo was miscast and Lily Gladstone somehow wins an Oscar from bed. 
Air - The riveting tale of product endorsement.
Dream Scenario - Nic Cage gets cancelled for perving on people in their dreams.
The Iron Claw - The wildest thing about this movie is that so many members of this family died in real life, that they couldn't all fit in this movie.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves - Bradley Cooper should have been nominated for being tiny in this.
Sisu - A grizzled man single handedly defeats the Nazis.
The Five Devils - A little girl smells things and sabotages her Aunt.
Amanda - An anxious rich girl looks for a boyfriend and deadpan comedy ensues.
The Childe - A poor kid travels to meet his foreign father and everyone tries to kill him or capture him.
Wonka - Better than the Johnny Depp one, but of course nowhere near Gene Wilder.
Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret. - An eleven-year-old girl has an existential crisis.
Next Goal Wins - Not his best, but there's enough Waititi-humor to make it worth while.
How to Blow Up a Pipeline - Vegans commit terrorism.
Aloners - Gen Z really doesn't like talking to each other.
Renfield - Dressing Nicholas Hoult in silly makeup and letting him loose is my favorite genre.
Concrete Utopia - An earthquake destroys Seoul and the survivors fight over the last apartment building.
Dicks: The Musical - Two homosexual men bravely play heterosexuals and somehow convinced Nathan Lane to be in this.
Dumb Money - This is just as adequate as Air or Blackberry but maybe confusing if you didn't already know that stocks only go up.
Io Capitano - Africans try to sneak into Europe and have a rough time.
Flora and Son - A single mother learns guitar in a day and starts a band with her son.
Anyone But You - Good might be a stretch, but if you want to watch an R-rated romantic comedy this is what you get.
Sick - Teenagers get slaughtered because they didn't wear a mask during COVID.
John Wick: Chapter 4 - Keanu Reeves saunters up a staircase.
Sanctuary - Jon Snow knows nothing and gets consensually dominated by a tiny woman.
Discontinued - A suicidal girl finds out she's living in a simulation and that makes her life better.
Polite Society - An aspiring stuntwoman sabotages her sister's wedding with kung-fu.
Nowhere - A migrant floats in a shipping container in the middle of the ocean.
Evil Dead Rise - Demons slaughter people, if you like that sort of thing.
The Covenant - Jake Gyllenhaal fights the Taliban to save his Afghan translator.
The Artifice Girl - In case you haven't pondered the ethics of artificial intelligence yet.
Quiz Lady - It was a great year for Asian female comedies.
Fingernails - A tiny drama about taking a test to confirm your soulmate.
Blackberry - Some dudes build a phone and Glenn Howerton acts.


Dreamin’ Wild - Casey Affleck gets popular for songs he wrote when he was a teenager.
Napoleon - I need the four hour cut of this movie to tell whether it's good or not.
Priscilla - At least Tom Hanks isn't in it.
Lady Ballers - There are some laughs, but they're trying too hard.
The Blackening - If every character is black, who dies first?
Afire - Some asshole gives Paula Beer dirty looks for dating a lifeguard.
Knock at the Cabin - It's not as bad as you think it is, which is a twist when it comes to Shyamalan lately.
Soulmate - Two Koreans are friends and draw pictures.
Perfect Days - Tokyo public restrooms are the best.
No Hard Feelings - I can't remember a single joke from this movie.
Magic Mike’s Last Dance - C Tates grinds on Salma Hayek.
Scream VI - These movies have become the trope instead of dissecting the tropes.
The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Rachel Zegler hides while a rich dude wins the Hunger Games for her.
The Royal Hotel - Two bartenders get sexually harassed so they burn down the bar.
Shortcomings - Asian-American comedy is Netflix's default genre.
Reality - This is why you should never print anything at work.
The Origin of Evil - This basically the French Saltburn, but boring.
Totally Killer - Totally adequate.
Down Low - A borderline malicious gay comedy that made me want to rewatch The D Train.
El Conde - Cinematography and vampires everywhere.
Dark Harvest - It's like the hunger games but they're just fighting a scarecrow so they can eat him.
Oppenheimer - "I am become death—destroyer of dat ass."
The Killer - It's good for a Netflix movie, but it's bad for a Fincher movie.
Smoking Causes Coughing - A superhero troupe defeat an evil turtle and then go on a team-building retreat.
Old Dads - Bill Burr complains about Gen Z.
Leave the World Behind - A girl goes on an epic quest to watch the final episode of Friends.
Rye Lane - The most overrated romantic comedy of the year.
Sound of Freedom - The final third of the movie reads like a hero fantasy of what the author wished actually happened.
Nyad - Jodie Foster yells out an Oscar campaign while Annette Bening swims.
Ferrari - Watch it hoping for a car crash, just like you do with Nascar.
The Beasts - French hillbillies fight off gentrification.
You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah - I so invite you to not watch this movie.
Ballerina - Asian action is Netflix's secondary default genre.
Cat Person - Being a woman is terrifying and dating isn't worth it.
Beau Is Afraid - Beau is a fun time for about an hour.
Linoleum - Jim Gaffigan builds a rocket and bores the viewer.
Jules - Old people befriend an alien.
The Flash - This is a relatively good DC movie which is hilarious, because it's bad.
Asteroid City - Wes Anderson made the worst version of the movie he makes every year.
Master Gardener - Gardeners with tattoos are obviously badass.
A Thousand and One - I broke my rule and watched a movie about a struggling single mother to remind myself why I have a rule not to.
The Marvels - How many TV Shows do I have to watch to catch up on the Marvel universe?
The Zone of Interest - A lady obsesses over her house while genocide is committed in her backyard.
Infinity Pool - Mia Goth is clearly a bad influence.


Passages - An obnoxious dude ruins relationships with men and women.
Suitable Flesh - People have sex and get murdered.
Maestro - Did we ever find out who abandoned Snoopy in the vestibule?
Fair Play - It was a renaissance year for menstrual blood.
Perpetrator - Once you turn forty in Hollywood, your only option as an actress is apparently trash horror movies.
Jethica - A girl's ex boyfriend won't stop stalking her even after she kills him.
Love at First Sight - The greatest missed opportunity of the year is not naming this Love at First Flight.


The Color Purple - Women get abused and then they sing songs.
Will-o’-the-Wisp - It's as if an undesirable student filmmaker wrote a film just so he could make out with a hot black fireman.

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