My Favourite Films of 2023

Another year has ended, and 2023's output of films was packed with fantastic gems worth recommending. As I extended my list to include even more fantastic films and honourable mentions, it still hurts that I could not include such stand-out works as Creed III and Evil Dead Rise. For anyone who may expect a "Least Favourite Films of 2023" list to follow, I will not be making such a list for this year.

It should be mentioned that this list will not include 2022 films which got a UK release in 2023, otherwise The Fabelmans and Puss In Boots: The Last Wish would be included in my rankings. So, let's see what films I considered my favourites from 2023.

Honourable Mentions

They Cloned Tyrone, a fiercely original and biting look at America's relationship with Black citizens. Available on Netflix

When Evil Lurks, a dread-inducing demon possession flick which conjures unforgettable sights across the grim journey. Available on Shudder and to rent

Blackberry, an electrically told brand biopic that showcases stunning performances from an impressive Jay Baruchel and an incendiary Glenn Howerton. Available to rent

Trader, a gripping chamber-piece about a singular desire to rise above one's rock-bottom situation.

How To Blow Up A Pipeline, a cleverly structured and tense environmental thriller born of fury and timeliness. Available on Netflix

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, James Gunn's emotional farewell to these A-holes brought alive with harrowing flashbacks, an impressive hallway fight sequence, and another killer soundtrack. Available on Disney+ and to rent

Reality, a tense feature adapted from a real-life interrogation transcript led by an exceptional Sydney Sweeney. Available to rent

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, a timely tale which delivers an exhilarating ride right up to a peak train-set sequence. Available to rent

The Ones You Didn't Burn, a blistering debut where past sins are never truly forgotten in this slow-burn mood piece. Available on Prime Video, Shudder, and to rent

Dream Scenario, a compelling tale of overnight fame as Nicolas Cage exceptionally plays an unassuming man who appears in people's dreams.

25. All Of Us Strangers

Adapting Taichi Yamada's 1987 novel Strangers, writer/director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years) follows the life of lonely screenwriter Adam (Andrew Scott) living within a near-empty tower block. As his isolated life is punctuated by his mysterious neighbour, Harry (Paul Mescal), Adam is left to contemplate on his grief-stricken life as his misses his long-dead parents (Jamie Bell and Clare Foy) and lingers on the conversations that he never got to have with them. Scott's exceptional portrayal is key to this subtly told tale of grief and tragedy, managing to be heartfelt and heartbreaking while fantastically utilizing Frankie Goes To Hollywood for an unforgettable experience.

24. Raging Grace

Intent on securing a better life for her and her daughter, undocumented Filipina immigrant Joy (Max Eigenmann) believes that her luck is changing when she secures a job caring for a terminally ill old man. The job seems perfect as it pays well while offering a roof over their heads, although something dark lurks beneath to threaten the parent and child. Paris Zarcilla crafts an impressive feature debut which makes the large estate feel unsettling, as mother and daughter find themselves looked upon as playthings to be readily discarded by those whose kindness quickly transforms into cruelty.

Available to rent on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema

23. Typist Artist Pirate King

Believing that she missed the chance for her art to be recognized, Audrey (Monica Dolan) sees an open call for exhibitions as her last opportunity and asks to be driven by Sunderland by her mental health carer. Carol Morley takes inspiration from the life of late artist Audrey Amiss, whose works were discovered after her passing, to deliver a heartbreaking and heartwarming road-trip driven by a lovely friendship. As Dolan's exemplary performance conveys passion and pain, Morley's directorial flourishes get into Audrey's headspace by blurring reality and imagination while confronting past memories. What remains honours Amiss while delivering a lovely sentiment about how art makes life worth living.

Available to rent

22. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

When her interfaith family moves from the city to the suburbs, eleven-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) navigates new friendships and burgeoning feelings while learning about changes that are happening to her body. Adapting Judy Blume's classic novel of the same name, writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) crafts a charming tale of adolescence through Margaret's questioning of religion. Told with such heart and humour, the story also brings a refreshing frankness about a young girl's changing body, while aided by tremendous performances including a fantastic Rachel McAdams.

Available on Prime Video and to rent

21. Rye Lane

After meeting at an art exhibition, 20-somethings Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) connect over their bad breakups during a day in South London. Raine Allen-Miller makes an excellent first impression with this vibrantly shot feature debut, as a heartwarming and hilarious tale comes out of these strangers bonding. Credit is deserved to the central pair, effectively capturing these heartbroken souls who restore each others faith in romance and discover what is important in life, including the proper etiquette for waving at boats.

Available on Disney+

20. Scrapper

Living alone ever since her mother's death, twelve-year-old Georgie (Lola Campbell) makes money selling stolen bikes and keeps social services away by claiming that her uncle Winston Churchill is looking after her. Her avoidance of reality is rocked by the return of her absentee father, Jason (Harris Dickinson). For her debut feature, Charlotte Regan breathes life into this kitchen sink drama by taking a unique approach to a familiar tale which gets into Georgie's vibrant imagination. Central to it is the standoffish relationship between the abandoned daughter and the man she struggles to accept, as they try moving forward while dealing with grief in their own ways. A fantastic debut that mixes heart and humour so deftly.

Available on BFI Player and to rent

19. Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles

Described as The Beatles for toddles, The Wiggles are an Australian musical group who were once the country's top entertainment earners - making more money than stars like Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. Sally Aitken's documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the most widely known iteration of the group, who combined their love of music with what they learned during an Early Childhood course to monumental success. This chronicles a band intent on bringing joy and positivity to even the darkest of times, whether it is as new iterations of the band become a part of children's lives, or the original line-up reuniting for a concert aimed at nostalgic adults. Whether you have fond memories of Dorothy the Dinosaur or are agnostic to Hot Potato, this will leave you rooting for the group.

Available on Prime Video

18. RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop

Released in 1987, Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop was a critical and financial success which combined extreme violence with thought-provoking messages behind a B-movie title. Split across four parts, directors Christopher Griffiths and Eastwood Allen have meticulously crafted a five-hour documentary which breaks down each aspect of the '80s masterpiece while offering thoughtful analysis alongside laugh-out-loud anecdotes. A definitive and exhaustive documentary which never feels exhausting to watch, this is a must-see for any RoboCop fan.

Available to Buy on Digital Download

17. Suzume

After meeting a mysterious man, 17-year-old Suzume (Nanoka Hara) joins forces with him to prevent apocalyptic earthquakes by locking fantastical doors. The latest work from Makoto Shinkai (Your Name, Weathering With You) effortlessly pairs this humorous and heartfelt tale with sorrow, as the story takes inspiration from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami for a profound story of honouring the dead to let the past rest. To magnificently deliver such material in the same film occupied with a scene-stealing chair (yes, you read that correctly) is another magnificent feat from this phenomenal storyteller.

Available on Crunchyroll

16. Joy Ride

After co-writing 2018's immensely charming Crazy Rich Asians, Adele Lim makes her directorial debut for this story of four Asian-American friends travelling through Asia to find one of their birth mothers. What unfolds is an infectiously fun and hilarious tale which is never afraid to get absolutely filthy, while also being emotional as it speaks from a touching place about identity and reconnecting with one's heritage. This is a film which lives up to its name, as it is one of 2023's funniest films which also delivers one of the best tattoos to ever appear in cinema.

Available to rent

15. Talk To Me

On the anniversary of her mothers death, Mia (a tremendous Sophie Wilde) tries taking her mind off the grief by joining friends at a party. The main event is an unusual party game where spirits are conjured by gripping an embalmed hand, leaving the friends to have a laugh as they become hooked on the intoxicating thrill. When the experience goes wrong, the friends are left horrified by the supernatural forces at play. Previously known through their YouTube channel RackaRacka, Michael and Danny Philippou make a killer directorial debut as they take viewers on a haunting tale of teenage troubles and grief delivered in soul-destroying ways. As the feature eases viewers in with terrific laughs, the false sense of security paves the way for unfolding horrors and brutal violence which gets under viewers' skin in ways which hit hard.

Available on Netflix and to rent

14. John Wick: Chapter 4

Much like George Miller with the Mad Max films, Chad Stahelski follows-up the previous three features he directed with a fourth entry that towers above an already impressive series. After what seems like non-stop battling, the titular assassin (an ever-reliable Keanu Reeves) is trying to find a way out so that he can finally rest. His path to freedom involves crossing paths with an absolute bastard of a villain, deliciously played by Bill Skarsgård, who turns Wicks' old friends into foes. What unfolds is propulsive action cinema that makes the 170-minute runtime feel a fraction of its length, where any of the impressive set-pieces are a strong contender for 2023's best fight sequence, while containing a killer use of stairs. With this phenomenally crafted spectacle, Stahelski has enforced himself as an action artist and shown Hollywood how it is done.

Available on Prime Video and to rent

13. Barbie

Was there any better marketing in 2023 than the cinematic juggernaut that was Barbenheimer? It is no wonder that this feature based on the Mattel figure became the year's highest grossing film, yet it also helped how damn great the film was. When stereotypical Barbie (a phenomenal Margot Robbie) finds her seemingly-perfect life upended by thoughts of death, she must travel to the real world to get her life back on track. After two masterpieces as a solo-director, Greta Gerwig delivers a pastel-coloured existential crisis which offers thought-provoking social commentary, exceptional jokes, and a killer comedic performance from Ryan Gosling. An effectively subversive use of well-established IP which makes for an imaginative work.

Available to rent

12. The First Slam Dunk

Based on '90s manga series Slam Dunk, creator Takehiko Inoue makes his directorial debut with a new take on his much-praised work. The story may seem simplistic, as the Shohoku High School basketball team compete in the Inter-High School National Championship against the current champions, yet what appears on-screen is one of 2023's most exciting spectacles. The electrifying game keeps viewers on their toes as the teams keep changing tactics to try and gain the upper hand, intercut with flashbacks to understand each each member of this tenacious team. With the help of the stunning visual style which combines 3D-CG and 2D-animation, this emotional tale is brought alive in pulse-pounding ways to be enjoyed by all.

11. Killers of the Flower Moon

At the turn of the 20th century, the discovery of oil on an Oklahoma reservation brings a fortune to the Osage nation, while also attracting white interlopers that plan to steal the money through marriage and murder. Martin Scorsese paints a grim picture of America's relationship with Indigenous people, as the latter are drained of their wealth and resources by vampires disguising their underhanded backstabbing with niceties. Exceptional portrayals breathe life into the film, from Leonardo DiCaprio as the spineless bumpkin, to Robert De Niro's best work in years, while Lily Gladstone stands tall as the weary wife feeling the coyote's circling as the community around her dies in great numbers. A true horror story told with each minute of its lengthy runtime feeling integral, while being one of Scorsese's best films in years.

Available on AppleTV+ and to rent

10. Femme

After performing on-stage, drag artist Jules (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) is the victim of a brutal homophobic attack. Left feeling withdrawn and powerless, months pass until he spots an opportunity for revenge upon visiting a gay sauna and finding his deeply closeted attacker, Preston (George MacKay). What unfolds is an engrossing thriller about identity, looking at how the dual leads present themselves through performances while grappling with their true selves, within a tense tale where the pair grapple for control until it all explodes into the heart-pounding finale.

Available to rent

9. Where the Devil Roams

In Depression-era America, a murderous family of sideshow performers travel on the dying carnival circuit in a bloody search for eternal life. The latest creation from the talented Adams Family is a compelling work about the lengths taken for loved ones, exceptionally realized through a framework of casual brutality, dark humour, and lyrical dialogue. Across the methodical pacing is a stylishly crafted work inspired by German expressionism, hypnotically drawing you in right up to the show-stopping final shot.

8. Nimona

On the eve of making history as the first commoner to become a knight, Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed) is suddenly hunted when he is framed for killing the queen. Intent on proving his innocence, Ballister is helped a teenage shapeshifter called Nimona (Chloe Grace Moretz). From the medieval-futuristic setting to the score, co-directors Nick Bruno and Troy Quane bring alive a fantastically vibrant world bursting with personality that is animated in eye-popping ways. Central to it are a charming and hilarious duo who navigate this compelling tale of misguided fears running rampant due to those in power. Thank goodness Annapurna Pictures saved this feature after Disney cancelled it, as it puts the latter's recent work and lacking attempts at queer representation to shame.

Available on Netflix

7. Poor Things

After committing suicide, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) is resurrected by a scarred and unorthodox scientist who wishes to keep her safe. This clashes with the naïve Bella's eagerness at seeing the wider world, leading her to take a continent-spanning journey where she grows to understands humanity, liberation, and sexual freedom. Yorgos Lanthimos splices together the likes of My Fair Lady and Frankenstein for a gorgeously realized exploration of love, science, class, and sexuality in ways that are utterly hilarious, with Stone and Mark Ruffalo standing tall amidst a powerhouse cast. Within an already strong body of work, this is one of Lanthimos' best outings.

Available in cinemas now

6. Oppenheimer

The arrival of a new Christopher Nolan film is an event in itself, yet that was heightened even more courtesy of the double-bill event known as Barbenheimer. The latest work from Nolan brought to screen the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), eschewing the "lone genius" idea which biopics can focus on to instead show his part within creating the atomic bomb. Across a three-hour runtime which flies by, this compelling chronicle captures the theoretical physicist who is left to reckon with the consequences of his invention, with a standout scene involving him delivering a speech after the massive set-piece of the bomb's test. Key to this is Murphy's haunted performance which is impactful right up to the haunting ending, which makes up one of Nolan's very best films.

Available to rent

5. Monster

After noticing the strange behaviour of her young son Minato (Soya Kurokawa), Saori (Sakura Ando) feels that something is wrong. The inciting incident is Minato's accusations that his teacher is an abusive bully, which leads Saori in an effort to seek justice. As the film unveils more perspectives to this tale, further truths are added which reveals a heartfelt story of characters wrongly believing they must lie, only to be burdened by the mistruths they misguidedly shared. This is the second film that I have seen from director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), and this humanist masterwork solidified that I need to seek out more works from this exceptional filmmaker.

4. Past Lives

After moving away from Seoul with her family when she was twelve, Nora (Greta Lee) reconnects with her childhood friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo). Reuniting as adults, the pair look back upon how close they used to be while grappling with how their lives have changed since their paths diverged. What has been crafted is a gentle story brought alive by exceptional performances, as the central pair hold onto nostalgia through idealised versions of their first loves, while understanding that those memories may be all they can hold onto for those who were once important in their lives. In a year full of exceptional feature debuts, Celine Song delivered the most phenomenal one with this impeccably crafted tale.

Available to rent

3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Released five-years after the landmark Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, this sequel follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as his worries about potentially revealing his superhero identity to his parents are interrupted by a multiversal adventure involving the brooding Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac). This gorgeous work clarifies why this series and Everything Everywhere All At Once are the best depictions of the multiverse, as the fantastical concept is grounded with character work and utilized to firstly highlight character truths in engrossing ways. Each scene in this visually stunning work could hang in an art gallery, with the differing styles all being part of a tapestry which allows the various worlds to coexist on-screen. It makes up a phenomenal work that captures the very essence of Spider-Man while also questioning it.

Available on Now

2. Godzilla Minus One

Ever since first appearing in 1954, Godzilla has headlined over 40 feature-films and a few TV shows. While Warner Bros focus on having the King of the Monsters engage in kaiju battles across the MonsterVerse, writer/director Takashi Yamazaki takes the icon back to its post-war roots for one of the franchise's best entries. After surviving World War II, kamikaze pilot Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is plagued with survivors guilt. A makeshift family forms as he takes in a homeless woman and an orphaned baby, with life beginning to look up for them. What Yamazaki effectively does is build audience investment with exceptional characterization before throwing them into a destructive nightmare, as the tension builds in ways resembling Jaws before offering the exceptional sight of Godzilla wreaking havoc on humanity with a deafening impact. As the ending left me teary eyed, what remained was truly impressive piece of cinema.

1. Anatomy of a Fall

After her husband is found dead in the snow outside their home, novelist Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is placed on trial suspected of murder. Despite maintaining that she did not push her husband off the third floor of their home, her lawyer says how that is not the point. This effectively sets up the courtroom thriller that subsequently unfolds, where the widower is put through the wringer to prove her innocence while her real life is torn apart by a prosecutor intent on painting her as monstrous (the prosecutor is also my choice for the villain of 2023). Director Justine Triet masterfully crafts an engrossing story capturing how real-life cases are firstly treated as entertainment with little regard for the actual people affected by the tragedies, as their testimonies are dissected and the outcome theorized as though they're watching a season of scripted television. Key to it all are the phenomenal performances, including Milo Machado-Graner's conflicted portrayal as the visually impaired son who is the sole witness, and even an exceptional dog performance. There may be times when the future of cinema becomes worrisome, yet films like this leave me hopeful for the medium's phenomenal power, and no work left me more stunned in all of 2023.

Available to Buy on Digital Download

Agree/Disagree with my choices? I'd love to hear from you below.