100 Best Movies of 2023 So Far (Regularly Updated)

100 Best Movies of 2023 So Far (Regularly Updated)

June 7, 2024

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Even if we put aside comic books and Barbie dolls, 2023 is shaping up to be a surprisingly fun year for movies. Who would have thought, for instance, that telling stories about once-novel now-defunct items like BlackBerry phones and pinball machines would make for a genuinely enjoyable watch? There are plenty of films like these, seemingly silly but unexpectedly good, that we’ve come to like this year, but along with these discoveries, we’re also excited to share our usual favorites: solid indies like Somewhere in Queens, game-changing dramas like A Thousand and One, genre revelations like Rye Lane. Whatever your inclination, we’re sure you’ll find much to like in our list of the best movies 2023 has to offer. 

If you’re looking for fresher fare, you can also take a look at our regularly updated list of favorites this 2024

1. Monster (2023)

best

9.4

Country

Japan

Director

Hirokazu Kore-eda

Actors

Akihiro Kakuta, Ayu Kitaura, Daisuke Kuroda, Eita Nagayama

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

Monster is a deceptively simple story about growing up and the many misunderstandings that come with it. It’s told through different points of view, a technique that could easily feel gimmicky in the hands of a lesser director. But with director Hirokazu Kore-eda at the helm, it feels natural and inevitable, as if there was no other way to tell this specific story. It’s a masterful mystery, but Monster is less about suspense and answering the whodunnit question than it is about navigating the murky waters of truth and real life. As corny as it sounds, watching Monster is an experience unto itself: you’ll find yourself believing something one moment and dismantling it the next, learning and unlearning in a span of two hours. But as with past Kore-eda films, it’s the story’s heartwarming sensitivity that trumps everything. You’ll likely come for the mystery but stay for its heart.

2. No Dogs or Italians Allowed (2023)

best

9.2

Country

Belgium, France, Italy

Director

Alain Ughetto

Actors

Alain Ughetto, Ariane Ascaride, Bruno Fontaine, Christophe Gatto

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Emotional

With cardboard houses, sugar winters, and broccoli trees, No Dogs or Italians Allowed at first seems lighthearted, playful, and not too serious. Alain Ughetto casts himself asking his grandmother Cesira about his family, but we only see his hands moving and interacting with the characters as if he was crafting clay model miniatures. However, the whimsical approach sugarcoats the very tragedies that struck his family– from the multiple wars to the discrimination they’ve faced as immigrants– with excellent animation and puppetry that feels much more lifelike than 3D CGI. In telling his family’s story, Ughetto also retells 20th century European history, reframing the worldwide events and movements through a personal perspective.

3. The Teachers’ Lounge (2023)

best

8.8

Country

Germany

Director

İlker Çatak

Actors

Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Antonia Luise Krämer, Eva Löbau, Katharina M. Schubert

Moods

Gripping, Suspenseful, Well-acted

The Teacher’s Lounge is one of those movies where a simple misunderstanding is blown out of proportion, so much so that it causes the fabric of a community to unravel into chaos. Aided by a precise score, it ticks like a timebomb, with every second filled with so much dread and anxiety you have to remind yourself to breathe. It’s an impeccable and taut thriller, but it also works as an allegory about modern-day surveillance and authority. Director İlker Çatak gives the Gen-Z students and their much older teachers a level field where they struggle for control, and the result is both bleak and funny. It’s often said that schools are a microcosm of the real world, but nowhere is that more apparent than here. 

4. All of Us Strangers (2023)

best

8.8

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Andrew Haigh

Actors

Ami Tredrea, Andrew Scott, Carter John Grout, Claire Foy

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Lovely

As in his previous films, Director Andrew Haigh explores the delicate nature of loneliness, grief, and love in All of Us Strangers, except this time he does so through a supernatural lens. The result is mesmerizing: amid the tenderness the film draws from its characters, there’s a swirl of mystery too: how is it possible that Adam is conversing with his dead parents? Who, exactly, is Harry? The intrigue is there, and Haigh builds to a satisfying climax that answers all these questions. The mystery also lends the film an ethereal style that makes it visually resemble a horror or thriller more than it does a romance or drama. But as superb as it looks and as compelling as the ambiguity is, they never distract from the film’s central goal, which is to bring us into the complex emotional journey Adam goes through as he simultaneously develops a relationship with Harry and parses his childhood trauma with his parents. It’s a hefty film, filled with big emotional moments that will have you crying, smiling, longing, and healing all at the same time. And like any good film, it will haunt you for days on end.

5. River (2023)

best

8.8

Country

Japan

Director

Junta Yamaguchi

Actors

Gota Ishida, Haruki Nakagawa, Kazunari Tosa, Manami Honjo

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Gripping

Made on a clearly lower budget but with enthusiasm and love for the craft overflowing from every frame, Junta Yamaguchi’s River gets clean and wholesome comedy—that’s still plenty memorable—out of a terrific ensemble of actors, all of whom get to display a full range of expression for their increasingly exasperated characters. It’s smart, economical filmmaking that’s still dazzlingly put together, as each two-minute loop is done in a single unbroken shot that feels different with every reset. Yamaguchi is highly aware of how quickly this gimmick might overstay its welcome, so he allows the film’s emotional landscape to open up considerably with every cycle. As the hell of this situation starts to chip away at the characters, the film also becomes more urgent and more soulful, leading the story down unexpected paths and inviting us to think beyond the pattern it sets up for itself.

6. Past Lives (2023)

best

8.7

Country

South Korea, United States of America

Director

Celine Song, Female director

Actors

An Min-yeong, An Min-young, Chang Ki-ha, Chase Sui Wonders

Moods

Character-driven, Discussion-sparking, Emotional

The concepts of roads not taken and domino effects have received plenty of cinematic attention in their showier forms by way of multiverse comic book movies and dimension-hopping films like Everything Everywhere All At Once. But, though there’s no hint of sci-fi in Past Lives, Celine Song’s gentle film can count itself as one of the best treatments of that universe-spawning question: “what if?”

When her family moves from Seoul to Canada, teenage Na Young bids a loaded farewell to classmate Hae Sung and changes her name to Nora. Years later, they reconnect online and discover the spark still burns between them. This is no idealistic romance, though: Past Lives is told with sober candor. Song acknowledges real obstacles standing in the way of a relationship between the two — those pragmatic (distance) and, more painfully, personal (evolving personalities, American husbands).

Those two threads — unrealized romance and the transmutation of identity that so often takes place after migrating — are expertly entwined in Past Lives to produce a sublime, aching meditation on memory and time, practical love and idealistic romance, and all the complex contradictions that exist in between. That Song communicates so much and so delicately in only her first film makes Past Lives all the more stunning.

7. Riceboy Sleeps (2022)

best

8.6

Country

Canada

Director

Anthony Shim

Actors

Aiden Finn, Anthony Shim, Bryce Hodgson, Choi Jong-ryul

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Emotional

Riceboy Sleeps looks like a fairy tale. Taken in 16mm and colored to pastel-grain perfection, it’s a captivating picture that moves like a happy memory. And occasionally, the action matches the air. Mother So-young (Choi Seung-yoon) and son Dong-hyun (Ethan Hwang) share a fierce, us-against-the-world bond as they strive to make it in a Canadian suburb without a lick of help. 

The film is beautiful that way, but it also importantly doesn’t spare us from the harsh-edged realities of immigrant life. There are assimilation attempts, cultural divides, and on Dong-hyun’s part, a perpetual longing to know about an unknowable past. It’s a lovely picture, to be sure, but it’s also a tear-jerker, as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming. 

Coupled with writing and performances that are resonant but restrained (they never verge on melodrama), Riceboy Sleeps makes for a powerful debut and a truly unforgettable watch.

8. The Holdovers (2023)

best

8.6

Country

United States of America

Director

Alexander Payne

Actors

Alexander Cook, Andrew Garman, Bill Mootos, Brady Hepner

Moods

Character-driven, Funny, Heart-warming

Of all the Christmas-set films to have come out over the last couple of months that were, inexplicably, about grief and regret (you’d be surprised by how many there are), The Holdovers easily outdoes its contemporaries by being confident enough to just sit with its characters. Like the best of director Alexander Payne’s other films, there are no melodramatic crescendos or overcomplicated metaphors; there are only flawed individuals going about their lives, occasionally noticing the things that bind them together. Payne’s gentle touch means the characters (and the audience) aren’t forced to “solve” their grief, but allowed to come to terms with it in their own way, with each other.

Payne evokes the film’s 1970s setting through a muted color palette and analog—almost tactile—sound design, giving warmth to this New England despite all its snow and chilly interiors. It’s understandable that these characters are similarly cold to each other on the surface at first, but they manage to thaw the ice simply by taking the chance to listen to each other’s pain. It’s the kind of film in which relationships develop so gradually, that you hardly notice until the end how much mutual respect has formed between them when they return from their dark nights of the soul back to their status quo.

9. The Stroll (2023)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Kristen Parker Lovell

Actors

Laverne Cox, Michael Bloomberg, Rudolph Giuliani, RuPaul

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Inspiring, Thought-provoking

At one point in the documentary, director Kristen Lovell says, “I wanted to archive the movement that was building between transwomen and sex workers,” and that’s exactly what she achieves with The Stroll, a well-researched, creatively edited, and deeply moving account of the trans-sex-work experience that defined New York for a good chunk of the 20th century. It’s both historical and personal, touching and rousing, as it recounts a history that’s often been forgotten even among the LGBTQ+ community. To do this, Lovell digs up archival footage, brings to life long-buried data, and strikes up heartfelt conversations with survivors of The Stroll, that street in New York where Lovell and her fellow homeless escorts used to pick customers up. Thanks to Lovell’s hard work in telling this extraordinary story of struggle and success, there isn’t a moment in this film where you’re not shocked, frustrated, or exhilarated along with them.

10. Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music (2023)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Jeffrey Friedman, Rob Epstein

Actors

Anastasia Durasova, Heather Christian, Machine Dazzle Flower, Matt Ray

Moods

Instructive, Mind-blowing, Smart

A 100-minute highlight reel of the audacious 24-hour performance staged by artist Taylor Mac in 2016, this concert film succeeds not only in capturing the show’s eclectic mix of songs, drag costumes, and interactive audience segments, but in capturing the emotional atmosphere conjured up in that Brooklyn warehouse. The very premise of the performance is ripe for analysis: a history of America starting from 1776, progressing one decade every hour, represented by selections of popular music of the time—which Mac questions at every turn, reinterpreting and reclaiming them for a contemporary queer audience. It begins as a creatively educational exercise, but gradually becomes more and more personal, until the audience is fully involved in the performances themselves.

Even the 24-hour format transcends its gimmick. That the show becomes an endurance test is deliberate, with bonds forming in real time and the exhaustion of this ever-changing drag performance conveying the weight of all this history on the most vulnerable and misrepresented sectors—who’ve already endured continuous losses decade after decade. And still there is cause for celebration, and genuine warmth among the people slowly becoming more vulnerable with each other over 24 hours. It’s a beautiful, intelligent, frequently funny, and ultimately moving experience in a class all its own.

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