2023 has been one wild ride of diverse movie experiences. I have seen countless movies, attended festivals, and expanded my horizons. While the biggest movie weekend of the summer was titled “Barbenheimer” (because of Barbie and Oppenheimer openings), 2023 was filled with many films that gave viewers moments to remember. The wide array of interesting movies required me to think quite hard before compiling my annual list. By analyzing the options from my role as a critic, those that made my list combined realism and unforgettable messages.
- Film number one is Oppenheimer. Directed by Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer is one of the most influential and stunning experiences of 2023. Nolan’s technological and cinematic abilities are on full display in Oppenheimer. The performance of Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer is superb. Nolan’s use of 70 MM projection in Oppenheimer is invigorating and astonishing. The audience is made to feel like they are in Oppenheimer’s mind facing the many frustrations in his world. Oppenheimer is invigorating and it goes deep. The film’s pace is in tune with its cinematography which leads to a dramatic and spellbinding effect. The creation of the atomic bomb and the other struggles of Oppenheimer left me breathless.
- Film number two is Past Lives. Directed by Celine Song, Past Lives is a humanistic experience of disconnection and finding connection again. Past Lives is one of the best films on friendship I have seen. It shows how keeping the friends we have known for a long time reminds us of what to be grateful for in life. It is a monumental achievement. The film is strong in portraying connections and memories, but also demonstrates how the past can play a positive part in the present. The story is riveting, the goal is moving, and the film itself is a revelation.
- Film number three is BlackBerry. Directed by Matt Johnson, the evolution of phone technology is the focus of this true story about business and success. The development of the BlackBerry provides a riveting and stressful rollercoaster ride. The turmoil caused by marketing and sales is where the film has anxiety-provoking moments. Since the leaders cared most about profit and margins, they didn’t think enough about the risks. The revelations in this in-depth story are intriguing.
- Film number four is Anatomy of a Fall. Directed by Justine Triet, this film’s many moving parts requires audiences to think. Anatomy of a Fall is an emotionally realistic experience with an enticing vibe of disconnect. The story includes family dynamics and conflicts. These two elements create an experience of sadness, empathy, and hope while investigating a death case. The film paints a portrait of how far people go to help the ones who are most important to them.
- Film number five is Maestro. Bradley Cooper is the star and the director of the film, and his performance shines with brilliance. The film will take viewers deep into thought as the film captures many captivating moments in the life of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein (played by Bradley Cooper) and his relationship with his wife Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (played by Carey Mulligan). Bernstein had a lot to live for, but his life came with many struggles. Maestro is simply majestic in its stellar experience of grandeur and music galore.
- Film number six is Saltburn. Directed by Emerald Fennell, Saltburn is one of the most unexpected visual experiences I have had in ages. The performance by Barry Keoghan is haunting and exhilarating. The story goes down a dark rabbit hole in a sinister direction which leads to many surprises. The director of Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell, strikes again with a thriller filled with shocks and awes. Saltburn is one of the most thought-provoking and daring films of the year.
- Film number seven is Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie. Directed by Davis Guggenheim, this is one of the most touching and inspiring documentaries I have ever seen. The story of Michael J. Fox and his challenges with Parkinson’s disease come to life in a touching narrative. An unforgettable journey that dives into the joys of Michael’s life before and during the many years of struggling with Parkinson’s. The message in the film reminds viewers to never give up. As an advocate for those with disabilities, I found the film mesmerizing thanks to the beautiful direction of this well-known actor. It is a riveting real-life story that speaks to many and will stand the test of time.
- Film number eight is Killers of the Flower Moon. Directed by Martin Scorsese, he is back with a masterpiece starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. The film is unique and authentic after many years in the making. The murder-thriller brought mixed feelings and a load of suspense. The chemistry that DiCaprio has with De Niro is almost like the chemistry DiCaprio had with Jack Nicholson in Scorsese’s The Departed. This movie has a similar vibe, but the intensity is more mentally invigorating than the extreme violence in The Departed. Killers of the Flower Moon is relentless, thought-provoking, and truly dazzling on a psychological level.
- Film number nine is The Holdovers. Directed by Alexander Payne, it is a comedy where a teacher must deal with helping students cope with turmoil at a boarding school. Paul Giamatti is the lead, and he delivers an impressive performance as the instructor. The movie is funny, touching and clever. It is true to Payne’s style with meaning and empathy coming from some of the best narrative and most hysterical writing this year. The Holdovers has many scenes which will make audiences laugh, but the meaning of unexpected connections will leave a lasting impression.
- Film number ten is Priscilla. Directed by Sofia Coppola, Priscilla is a true story based on the 1985 novel Elvis and Me written by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley. The film takes its audience through a vast landscape of happiness, sadness, and confusion through the eyes of Priscilla as she endures her relationship with Elvis Presley. Cailee Spaeny plays Priscilla, Jacob Elordi plays Elvis, and both of their performances are superb portrayals of the heights of young love and the lows of dealing with the insanity that becomes their life. The movie is a dramatic ride at the finest level.
2023 was a strong year for movies with meaning. There were many unforgettable moments and extremely emotional experiences based on a inspiring line-up of films.
Finally, the quality and quantity of movies jumped up many levels after the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 2023 was definitely a year that made it worth going back to see movies in the cinema. I look forward to seeing what 2024 has to offer!