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

41. Alcarràs (2023)

best

8.0

Country

Spain

Director

Carla Simón, Female director

Actors

Ainet Jounou, Berta Pipó, Jordi Pujol Dolcet, Josep Abad

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Easy

On one level, Alcarràs is a story about land, about how inextricable it is to livelihood, about how ownership of it has bred conflict since time immemorial. Director Carla Simón emphasizes this even more by hiring actual Catalan farmers as the leads. We’re not just watching the Solés sing and fight for their land, but Alcarràs natives who are also very much at risk of losing what’s theirs in real life. The acting comes off as natural because it is. 

But on another level, Alcarràs is also a story about family, in particular about how family ties run so deep, they’re bound to coil around each other under the ground they’re rooted in. Like a family portrait come to life, Alcarràs shows us the beauty and the peril of loving your family and the legacy they leave behind as much as the Solés do. 

42. Of an Age (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Australia

Director

Goran Stolevski

Actors

Elias Anton, Grace Graznak, Hattie Hook, Jack Kenny

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

It’s difficult not to compare Of an Age to other beautifully shot and tenderly told queer love stories like Call Me By Your Name and Weekend. Like them, Of an Age gives its young lovers ample time and space for their relationship to blossom over a short while. And like them still, it’s made of intimate moments that will haunt the lovers long after their first meet, crystallized as they are with affection, longing, and the knowledge that they might not feel as deeply about anyone ever again.

But if Call Me By Your Name is awash with Italy’s grandeur and Weekend is snugged in Britain’s cold embrace, then Of an Age is distinctly Australian, all humid suburbia and sunbaked roads. The film hones in on emotional and cultural specifics alike, and by doing so, it successfully captures the immaculate and unforgettable heartache of first love.

 

43. A Thousand and One (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

A.V. Rockwell, Female director

Actors

Adriane Lenox, Amelia Workman, Aven Courtney, Bianca LaVerne Jones

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

At once intimate and sweeping, A Thousand and One seamlessly weaves Inez’s personal turmoil and familial troubles with the systemic inequality that was rampant in ’90s New York. The hideous faces of gentrification, poverty, and police brutality are constantly appearing in the film, not merely because they lend weight to the story, but because they are inevitable for people like Inez. People who, despite their best efforts at achieving upward mobility are continually pushed down by self-serving institutions. 

It’s easy for social issue dramas like this to buckle under the weight of their lofty goals, but nothing about A Thousand and One feels forced. Just the opposite, the film has an authentic quality to it—almost documentary-like in its precise depiction of Harlem throughout the years. It’s deeply personal and achingly tender, and everything else—the social commentary and the political beats—stems from that specificity. 

44. How to Blow Up a Pipeline (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Daniel Goldhaber

Actors

Ariela Barer, Brian Landis Folkins, Calhoun Koenig, Christopher Hagen

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Gripping, Intense

On the one hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense thriller—an excellently set-up heist that makes you wonder, until the end, whether the low-budget operation succeeds or not. On the other hand, it’s a thoughtful rumination on the evil and influence of Big Oil, which despite its relentless destruction of environments and communities, continues to run scot-free. 

Together, these parts make for a powerful, nerve-racking film about both the danger and necessity of eco-terrorism—a radical act that is impressively humanized and spared from caricature here. How to Blow Up a Pipeline’s themes may be big and its means explosive, but its rich characterizations of the young activists ground it into a relatable reality. One is dying due to toxins released by the nearby plant, another is forced to give up his property to make way for the construction of a pipeline. All are tired of the fruitlessness of government promises and peaceful protests. Rousing and relevant, there’s never been a more timelier film than this. 

45. The Blue Caftan (2022)

best

8.0

Country

Belgium, Denmark, France

Director

Female director, Maryam Touzani

Actors

Lubna Azabal, Saleh Bakri, Zakaria Atifi

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Touching

Set in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas, Blue Caftan is a tender portrayal of pure love and the different forms it takes. It follows traditional tailor Halim (Saleh Bakri) and his wife Mina (Lubna Azabal) who, despite their imperfect marriage, prove their affection in small but moving ways. He peels tangerines for her and washes her hair, she preps his meals and defends his craft from demanding customers. When a third person, Youssef (Ayoub Missioui), enters the picture, even more manifestations of passion (and the lack and longing and excess of it) emerge. 

It’s a dramatic film, but never overly so. Like the silky fabric Halim handles with expert care, it’s rich but soft, detailed but delicate. In the face of poverty, sickness, and discrimination, the film mines moments of joy, friendship, and pleasure, subverting the expectation that tragic circumstances must mean tragic outcomes. 

Blue Caftan, even in its saddest moments—and there are plenty—is a film full of love, made even more memorable by the deft performances and palpable chemistry of its three leads.

46. The Starling Girl (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Female director, Laurel Parmet

Actors

Austin Abrams, Claire Elizabeth Green, Eliza Scanlen, Jessamine Burgum

Moods

Character-driven, Well-acted

The agonizing tug of war between dogma and desire is sharply illustrated in writer-director Laurel Parmet’s feature debut, set inside the claustrophobic confines of a conservative Christian community in Kentucky. Seventeen-year-old Jem (Eliza Scanlen) is at the age her elders believe is the right time to start thinking about a lifelong partner — a choice they’ve pretty much already made for her by setting her up with the pastor’s youngest son. But it’s his brooding older brother, married youth leader Owen (Lewis Pullman), who catches Jem’s eye.

The attraction is returned — but, while The Starling Girl does subtly indicate the toxicity of their relationship, it never lets this point eclipse either the more interesting coming-of-age story at its heart or its keen exploration of the wholesale damage that the cult-like church has done to all of its congregants (including Owen). While some of those threads threaten to distract the film’s focus away from its greatest strengths at times, the anguish of that central tussle between Jem’s burgeoning sexuality and her otherwise rigidly controlled existence is brought to aching life by sensitive writing and direction and a brilliantly complex lead performance — qualities that ultimately win out to let The Starling Girl fly.

47. Against the Tide (2023)

best

8.0

Country

France, India

Director

Sarvnik Kaur

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Slice-of-Life

Shot and edited in an immersive, unembellished style that makes it seem more like a work of narrative fiction than a documentary, Against the Tide begins from a personal place—the friendship between two Indigenous fishermen—before branching off into an exploration of a myriad of issues that these men and their families are involved with. Major credit goes to director Sarvnik Kaur not only for capturing life in Mumbai with loving (but never whitewashed) detail, but also for being a truly silent, invisible observer who never uses her camera to frame any of her characters as right or wrong. There’s a dizzying amount of material that Kaur manages to tackle even in the simplest, candid conversations: class, caste, gender, the environment, technology outpacing the communities most affected. And to see the film’s central relationships slowly be chipped away by all this change is as heartbreaking as any fictional tragedy.

48. The Saint of Second Chances (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Jeff Malmberg, Morgan Neville

Actors

Agnes Albright, Bill Veeck, Charley Rossman, Charlie Day

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

You don’t need to know a lot about baseball to appreciate The Saint of Second Chances. It has enough going on to keep you hooked from start to end, beginning with Jeff Daniels’ inimitable voice as the narrator and Charlie Day’s inspired casting as the younger Veeck, all the way down to the Veecks’ fascinating ties with American sports history and Mike’s inspiring and heartwarming second-chance philosophy. It all gets a bit too much at times, as if the filmmakers themselves were overwhelmed with their abundant material and creative decisions, but it’s executed with so much care and love that it seems as if this is the only way it could’ve come out: a wonderful mess. 

49. Fremont (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Babak Jalali

Actors

Anaita Wali Zada, Boots Riley, Eddie Tang, Gregg Turkington

Moods

Character-driven, Funny, Heart-warming

Aptly for a film partly set in a fortune cookie factory, Fremont deals with luck — specifically, the other side of good luck: survivor’s guilt. Donya (played by real-life Afghan refugee Anaita Wali Zada) is a former translator for the US Army who fled her home city of Kabul on an emergency evacuation flight when the Taliban took over in 2021. Now living a safe, if drab, existence in the titular Californian town, insomniac Donya struggles to embrace her freedom, tormented by the knowledge that she lost some of her old colleagues to reprisal attacks and that her loved ones are still living under repressive rule in Afghanistan.

As Donya shuttles between her little apartment in Fremont, her job writing cryptic one-liners for a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, and appointments with her eccentric psychiatrist (Gregg Turkington), Fremont balances a moving study of her melancholy with deadpan humor. Despite its black-and-white cinematography and tight Academy ratio, this is no austere drama, but an endlessly warm and understated portrait of someone rediscovering themselves and all of life’s unexpected moments of connection, like chance romantic encounters and sudden tears at karaoke.

50. Stamped from the Beginning (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Roger Ross Williams

Actors

Alexa Rachelle Jennings, Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Ibram X. Kendi

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Instructive

There’s no easy way to talk about racism – it’s a nebulous set of ideas that shift and change and manifests in numerous ways that many people can’t even identify as racism because of how prevalent it is. But Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has been able to write down a fairly comprehensive narrative that outlines key historical moments that shaped the world’s concept of race and Blackness, and this narrative is brought to the screen through vivid animations and strategic sequencing by director Roger Ross Williams in new Netflix release Stamped from the Beginning. It’s a provocative, passionate investigation, and it’s one that should be required viewing.

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