The 2023 Year In Review


2023 has come to close and it is time to once again look back at what movies and shows stood above the rest in the past year. As with previous years, to be eligible a movie must have had its wide release between January 1st and December 31st of 2023 so movies like Fancy Dance and Sometimes I Think About Dying did not make the cutoff since they were on the festival circuit in 2023.

10: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

One of the biggest issues with the book that this film is based on is that the reader is greeted by a lot of the internal monologue that Snow presents. This is not out of the ordinary for The Hunger Games as a franchise considering the original three books all feature Katniss’ internal monologue, however in the case of Snow, the choice was questionable since it really just muddied the waters about how naturally evil he was. The book places emphasis on the relationship between Lucy Gray and Snow, which makes his turn feel a little sudden. The movie corrects this by obscuring Snow’s thoughts so the viewer can only extrapolate his motivations leading to one of the best explorations of both the origins of evil and the ways in which someone can be misguided into fascism. Beyond that for fans of the franchise, the third act echoes one of the best moments from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and ends on such a powerful note for both Lucy Gray and Snow that it immediately leaves the audience wanting more. Hopefully the story continues because the fallout that happens between Snow and Tigris could be great to watch.

9: The Holdovers

A relative latecomer to the party, The Holdovers has a lot of the makings to become a modern Christmas classic. It follows a teacher at a high-end prep school who is left with the task to watch over the students who are left behind for the holidays. Eventually he is left with just one student and the campus cook and the three get to know each other better. The performances from all three of the principal actors (Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph) each make strong cases for acting Academy Awards and the story has moments that are simultaneously heartfelt and heartbreaking as the narrative unfolds, making it a must-watch film for 2023.

8: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

When 2023 started, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was the clear frontrunner to make this top 10 list because of how strong the original movie was compounded with the premise of Miles himself going into the multiverse which would lead to some great artistic moments. That said, it’s fairly clear that this film does not live up to the first and does have some issues sticking to the landing. There are some cool moments and it is clear that this and the sequel will be about breaking cycles of abuse (namely the idea that if something bad happens to one generations, later generations also have to go through that same thing and there should be no strives for improvement) but the ending goes on a bit too long and parts can feel a bit like exposition dumps. Still, each universe having its own unique art style and each Spider-person feeling different and having wildly different motivations is a massive achievement for this movie.

7: The Color Purple

The idea to readapt The Color Purple theatrically by adapting the Broadway musical worked very well as it allowed for a fresh take on the classic novel while not feeling like just remaking the same movie that already did well for Warner Brothers back in 1985. The ensemble cast is fantastic with strong performances from Colman Domingo, Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, and Corey Hawkins. The production design is also great as is the choreography for the dance sequences.

6: The Iron Claw

If someone is going to see The Iron Claw, skip this section before seeing it because this movie is an emotional gut punch that, if one is unfamiliar with the Von Erich family, hits so well so one should try to go in without knowing the story of this family. That said, this film has the strongest ensemble cast of any movie to come out in 2023 and, in a just world Zac Efron, gets nominated for Best Actor. From about the halfway point on, the film is just heartbreak after heartbreak which may be a lot for some viewers, but the end of this film is beautifully executed and among some of the best moments in a movie this year.

5: John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick: Chapter 4 is the first of three movies in a row on this list that clock in at or above the three hour mark and the thing all three of these movies have in common is they never overstay their welcome. This film made the list with its stunning third act action sequence that’s shot like a top-down isometric shooter followed by the fight sequence on the stairs. Donnie Yen is a fantastic addition to this franchise and the confrontation in the nightclub where John Wick has to fight a giant casino owner is the best Daredevil/Kingpin fight ever put to film and sets a high bar for Daredevil: Born Again. Chad Stahelski is a master when it comes to shooting action and hopefully there isn’t too long a wait until he’s behind the camera again.

4: Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon does a great job of displaying the heinous crimes committed while creating a sense of complicity from the audience for having witnessed them. While the film is massive at almost three and a half hours, it never feels overly long because of the expert direction and pacing. Lily Gladstone is a clear frontrunner for Best Actress and Leonardo DiCaprio puts in another great performance. When it comes to best direction, the Oscar race will come down to Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan and Killers of the Flower Moon makes an excellent case for why Scorsese should win that award.

3: Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer is a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb that, because it is told in Nolan’s trademark non sequential storytelling style, still manages to be engaging for its entire three hour run. Robert Downey Jr. is definitely getting an Oscar nomination (if not win) for his role in this film. The score is haunting and unrelenting and the fact that they managed to physically recreate the image of an atomic bomb explosion without CGI is a technical feat that should be applauded. Oppenheimer builds suspense in a way that very few other movies do, especially when the viewer knows what’s going to happen because the key points of the film are widely studied in high school history classes, however it plays with that knowledge to deliver an experience that will keep the viewer engaged for the entire runtime.

2: Nimona

The best animated movie of the year is hands down Nimona. It stars Chloe Grace Moretz as the titular Nimona who brings a fun and chaotic energy to the film while still being able to deliver on the emotional moments that bring the film home in the third act as it grapples with issues like prejudice when it comes to how people perceive Nimona as a person. The aesthetic is unique as well as it blends modern technology with high fantasy in an interesting way that leaves viewers wanting to revisit the world as soon as possible.

1: Past Lives

Past Lives at number one was not as clear cut as Everything Everywhere All At Once last year, but exists in a place closer to Nightmare Alley the year before. This film is best described as a platonic romance movie about two childhood friends who float into and out of each other’s lives over the course of decades. As the two grapple with the nature of their relationship and the two contemplate what could have been, the entire narrative takes on this melancholy tone that is totally unique across the films that have come out this year and in recent years. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo are fantastic in the leads and John Magaro is also underrated in the role of the supporting husband.

Series of the Year: The Last of Us

Hands down The Last of Us is the best video game adaptation to date. Whether or not that comes from the fact that The Last of Us has the best narrative of any video game released to date is irrelevant because there was always the opportunity to mess up the production. The reason why this show beats out the likes of Loki and The Bear is that this show has at least three episodes that are among the best episodes of television of the year (Long, Long Time, Left Behind, and Look for the Light). It also elevates the source material so for those who may not have loved the gameplay mechanics of the video game (maybe stealth games aren’t one’s jam), it allows them to live the story in a meaningful way.

Game of the Year: Hi-Fi Rush

This was probably the hardest choice on this list considering how strong 2023 was from a release perspective. One cannot say 2023 was a great year for the games industry as a whole considering the large amounts of layoffs and industry consolidation that affected all aspects of the industry. This choice came down to Spider-Man 2 or Hi-Fi Rush because, while Spider-Man 2 set out to show the real power behind the PlayStation 5, Hi-Fi Rush exists just to be a fun game. The rhythm mechanics and Devil May Cry style combat play incredibly smoothly and make for a fun gameplay experience that is utterly replayable, even if some of the platforming is a little iffy at times. If one has not checked out Hi-Fi Rush, it is definitely worth getting Game Pass to play.

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