Best Movies of 2023

The story of the year is Barbenheimer. On July 21, Warner Bros. released Greta Gerwig's Barbie (2023). It was on the same day that Universal released Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer (2023). It was meant to be the most extreme form of counter-programming. In terms of themes, styles, genres and target demographics, the two films could not be more opposite. Yet, an online phenomenon sprung up that combined the two films and even compelled audiences to see both either on the same day or same weekend. The marketing push was intense and the results were incredible. Instead of hurting each other, the two films ended up helping each other. Barbie opened with $162 million, which was the biggest start to a film directed by a woman. It's totaled $636 million, which is the highest domestic take of the year. It since went to gross over $1.44 billion worldwide, making it the biggest box office for a film directed solely by a woman and putting it in the Top 15 of all-time.

Oppenheimer opened with $82 million, which is the biggest start for Nolan for a non-Batman film. Domestically, it grossed $326 million. It's the fifth-highest in the United States in 2023. Worldwide, it grossed $955 million, the third-highest globally for the year. It's also the most money Nolan has earned for a non-Batman property. It's one of the few films to chart so high, being a non-franchise or non-animated film. In fact, it's a rather bleak drama that has a 3-hour running time. No matter what, it was an impressive feat that it made nearly a billion.

Notable in Hollywood this year beyond the receipts at movie theaters is the money that was likely lost due to labor union disputes with the major studios. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) represents the majority of the Hollywood script-makers, about 11,500. From May 2 to September 27 or a total of 148 days, the WGA went on strike. It was the second-largest work stoppage for the union. The WGA wanted to negotiate more money from online content, as well as encroachment from artificial intelligence (A.I.). The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) represents the majority of performers in front of cameras or microphones, about 160,000 members. From July 14 to November 9 or a total of 118 days, that union also went on strike, making it the longest work stoppage in that union's history. That group was negotiating for similar things as the WGA.

For the average person, there were some notable absences in the television landscape for the late summer and early fall season. In the cinema landscape, a few films were shifted into 2024. Those shifts probably won't matter in the long run. The bigger shift as a result of issues at the Walt Disney Company will probably have the biggest impact on the movie-going experience of people, particularly next spring and summer. Because of some commercial failures and the legal troubles of Jonathan Majors who was meant to be a big figure in Disney's Marvel Studios films, now the company has pushed back its major releases to 2025. Yet, the only true loss in movies in 2023 was Dune: Part II.

As a result, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (2023) had a surprise production and release. Apparently, the film was filmed in August, about two months prior to its October 13th release date. It was a recording of Taylor Swift's performance in Los Angeles. Her parents negotiated the deal with AMC Theatres, making the exhibitor the same as the distributor, which is something that rarely happens. Swift and her team also came up with a unique pricing plan that was also rare to how theaters usually operate. Her concert film broke a lot of rules and her giant fan-base turned out in droves. Swift's production is now the highest-grossing concert film ever at $250 million worldwide.

Instead of top ten, I actually had twenty films that I wanted to spotlight. Obviously, having seen hundreds of films, there's more than twenty that are notable or recommendable. I do have some honorable mentions. I have to point out that in addition to titles, there were people in particular who deserve a shout-out. First is Archie Madekwe, an English actor who certainly had a breakout year. He appeared in four films, Beau Is Afraid (2023), Heart of Stone (2023), Gran Turismo (2023) in which he was the star and finally Saltburn (2023), which is probably his most outstanding role. My second shout-out goes to Xolo MaridueƱa, the star of Blue Beetle (2023). The film wasn't well received, but it certainly showed how much of a movie star he can be if given the chance. Hopefully, he will be.

Other honorable mentions include big-name titles and lesser-known ones. Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) was a film that almost made my list. Guy Ritchie's The Convenant (2023) was one that was probably my second favorite action flick. Alejandra Marquez Abella's A Million Miles Away (2023) was a biopic that worked as an amazing inspirational tale. Roger Ross William's Cassandro (2023) and David Wagner's Eismayer (2023) are two queer films that also caught my attention this year. Yet, here is the official list.

Best Theatrically Released Films of 2023

20.    BARBIE by Greta Gerwig

19.    ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET. by Kelly Fremon Craig

18.    OUTLAW JOHNNY BLACK by Michael Jai White

17.    SHORTCOMINGS by Randall Park


15.    MARS ONE by Gabriel Martins

14.    RUSTIN by George C. Wolfe

13.    MUTT by Vuk Lungulov-Klot

12.    BROTHER by Clement Virgo

11.    JOYLAND by Saim Sadiq

10.    EXTRACTION II by Sam Hargrave

9.    POLITE SOCIETY by Nida Manzoor

8.    LONESOME by Craig Boreham

7.    MAY DECEMBER by Todd Haynes

6.    FAIR PLAY by Chloe Domont

5.    THE HOLDOVERS by Alexander Payne

4.    AMERICAN FICTION by Cord Jefferson

3.    OF AN AGE by Goran Stolevski

2.    A THOUSAND AND ONE by A.V. Rockwell

1.    THE COLOR PURPLE by Blitz Bazawule


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