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

51. Frybread Face and Me (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Billy Luther

Actors

Charley Hogan, Jeremiah Bitsui, Kahara Hodges, Keir Tallman

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Funny

Frybread Face and Me is a little indie gem: though rough around the edges, it’s full of charm and heart. Drawn from its director’s own childhood experiences, the movie charts a formative moment in the life of Benny, a city boy of Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo heritage who’s carted off to his grandmother’s ranch on a Navajo reservation for a summer. It’s suffused with all the specificity of real memories in a way that never distances us from it, only enfolding us closer into its nostalgic embrace. That effect largely comes from the tender bonds between Benny and his cousin Dawn (unsympathetically nicknamed Frybread Face and played by newcomer Charley Hogan), who acts as translator between him and their non-English-speaking grandmother (Sarah H. Natani, also a non-professional actor). Though he’s constantly berated by male family members for not being “masculine” enough, Benny finds unconditional acceptance from his grandmother and misfit camaraderie with Frybread, who also gives the film a dry comedic edge — a welcome touch in a usually saccharine genre. Ultimately, though, it’s the movie’s soft sweetness and intimate depths that are most distinctive: it’s so gently told, and with such genuine feeling behind it, that it’s impossible not to be swept away by its charms.

52. Great Photo, Lovely Life (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Amanda Mustard, Rachel Beth Anderson

Actors

Amanda Mustard

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Emotional, Intense

Biographical documentaries tend to depict exceptional people– people who are so great that everyone wants to know about them, and people who are so terrible that they serve as a warning. Great Photo, Lovely Life depicts a serial sexual abuser in photojournalist Amanda Mustard’s family, able to get away with nearly all his crimes each time he skips over state lines. It’s not an easy film. It’s deeply uncomfortable. There are certain interviews that will trigger anger, despair, and bewilderment over how someone so evil can remain out of bars all his life. Great Photo, Lovely Life doesn’t provide any easy, comforting sequence as a balm to sexual abuse survivors around the world, but it’s an urgent reminder of the consequences of maintaining silence.

53. American Fiction (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Cord Jefferson

Actors

Adam Brody, Alexander Pobutsky, Bates Wilder, Celeste Oliva

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Easy, Lighthearted

On the one hand, American Fiction is a razor-sharp satire that pokes fun at the hypocrisy of the literary and entertainment industry. It’s only when Monk (Wright), a genius but esoteric writer, decides to pander and give in to what publishers have come to expect from Black authors (that is: trauma porn) that he is finally celebrated for his work. But on the other hand, the film is also a tender family drama. Monk sells out, as it were, partly because he’s fascinated by the stupidity of decision-makers and supposed intellectuals, but mostly because he needs to pay for his ailing mother’s care. His relationship with his siblings and deceased father likewise informs much of his character, and they complicate what could’ve been just an intellectual approach to a social issue. This is an educational and entertaining film, yes, one that looks at the complex intersection between identity, craft, and profit. But it’s also an empathetic film, told with a big heart and a surprisingly light touch.

54. The Disappearance of Shere Hite (2023)

best

8.0

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Nicole Newnham

Actors

Dakota Johnson, Shere Hite

Moods

Challenging, Discussion-sparking, Emotional

Feminism has made plenty of strides in multiple areas, but even in the era of free love, talking about sex was difficult, and certain figures were dismissed just because of it. The Disappearance of Shere Hite reexamines the titular forgotten feminist figure that simply focused on the female orgasm, giving a second look at her immediate rise and fall in the American media, and the reasons for her leaving the country. With Dakota Johnson’s soft voice, an excellent selection of archival footage, and Hite’s deeply personal words, the film paints a portrait of a mild-mannered, self-possessed woman, but it also reveals the heartbreakingly repetitive vitriol that affects these open discussions today.

55. La Chimera (2023)

best

8.0

Country

France, Italy, Switzerland

Director

Alice Rohrwacher, Female director

Actors

Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Alessandro Genovesi, Carol Duarte

Moods

Lovely, Slow, Well-acted

La Chimera is often meandering. Scenes flitter about and move at different paces, resembling dreams more than they do reality, but they’re hardly trivial. Just the opposite, they enchant you with their beauty and confront you with deep, existential questions that haunt you long after the film’s run. You won’t find obvious answers here though, and you might even leave more perplexed than when you began. But that is the beauty of a film like La Chimera, it cracks you open to different realms and possibilities.

56. Godzilla Minus One (2023)

best

8.0

Country

Japan

Director

Takashi Yamazaki

Actors

Akio Nakadai, Eisuke Sasai, Etsuji Harada, Gohshuu

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

The film starts with an atmosphere of almost peaceful defeat. We see a rather stealthy Godzilla, but it doesn’t last long until we’re back to regular programming with the metal-chewing monster. Time spent without Godzilla is spent on people trying to be heroes, armed with admirable optimism. The many scenes of wreckage turn this into a very human story about shared trauma. Godzilla vs other kaiju is usually an easy sell, but Godzilla vs people is a hard story to root for, just because of how unbalanced it gets. But the film finds a way to make it work—the final battle is epic, packed with a lot of heart and preparation.

57. Pamela: A Love Story (2023)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Ryan White

Actors

Barry Anderson, Brandon Thomas Lee, David Hasselhoff, David Hogan

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Inspiring, Touching

I love when a misunderstood woman reclaims her narrative with her own words, and that’s exactly what Pamela: A Love Story is too, a tell-all documentary told by Pamela Anderson herself.

The documentary bares it all—the scandalous sex tape, Anderson’s troubled past, the disgusting misogyny that continues to tarnish her career. She even touches on the Hulu miniseries made about her demise (which Netflix must feel so smug about). But this isn’t a pity party. Just the opposite, the documentary is a testament to resilience. “My life is not a woe-is-me story,” Anderson says at one point, and truly, this is an inspiring and humanizing story about a woman taking charge of her own life. An absolute must-see.

58. John Early: Now More Than Ever (2023)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Emily Allan, Leah Hennessey

Actors

Dominique Toney, John Early

Moods

Funny, Original, Quirky

Comedy special John Early: Now More Than Ever is shot like a monumental concert documentary: it’s all nostalgic ‘70s cinematography, with intercutting backstage scenes that detail pretentious pre-show prayers and spikes of tension melodramatically flaring up between the performers. All this self-aggrandizement is the special’s overarching joke, though — it literalizes what Early does with his ultra-narcissist onscreen persona, last explored in sketch special Would It Kill You To Laugh? with Kate Berlant.

Early’s decision to blend comedy and musical performance here means you can count the actual stand-up bits on one hand. It’s also true that his observations on subjects like the Access Hollywood tape and app permissions would struggle to carry a conventional special (sharp and heightened by physical comedy though they may be). But the interplay between music, outright jokes, and the tongue-in-cheek framing of the special is what makes Now More Than Ever such a rich and layered show. Early is a master at character-building, and the way he manages to unearth sincerity even amidst all this self-satirization speaks to both his comedic and dramatic genius, making this hourlong show a testament to just how deserving he is of the spotlight.

59. You Hurt My Feelings (2023)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Nicole Holofcener

Actors

Amber Tamblyn, Arian Moayed, Clara Wong, Claudia Robinson

Moods

Character-driven, Easy, Emotional

Who among us hasn’t committed a white lie to save a relationship? And who among us hasn’t yearned for the full and brutal truth? In You Hurt My Feelings, Nicole Holofcener digs into that paradox and delivers a film that is honest and funny in equal measure. Here, the writer-director doesn’t just use a hilarious situation to make relatable observations and clever witticisms; she also extracts the nuances of it. She is aware, for instance, that her well-to-do characters exist in a world where it’s possible to only care about this, and not much else. And she likewise knows that Beth’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Don’s (Tobias Menzies) trust issues are complicated by their age and respective mid-life career troubles. But rather than stay stuck in the specificity of those details, Holofcener uses her perceptive script to highlight the relatable and the universal. These characters hurt just the same—they’re plagued with the same insecurities and seek the same validation—and they express that hurt in the petty and unvarnished language everyone else does. Watching all this come to play is a comforting delight.

60. Film, The Living Record of Our Memory (2023)

7.9

Country

Canada, Spain

Director

Inés Toharia Terán

Actors

Ben Mankiewicz, Costa-Gavras, Fernando Trueba, Jonas Mekas

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive

It’s impossible not to be moved by this passionate love letter to the medium of film and its singular abilities to witness, commemorate, connect, educate, and, yes, entertain. The Living Record is more than that, though: it’s also an urgent clarion call for better support of the infrastructure and people who preserve and restore the celluloid reels that contain so much of our history.

In two hours, it packs in a lot — perhaps even too much, because there is so much fascinating material here that it’s almost overwhelming to take it in all at once. The doc draws on a sweeping line-up of contributors who collectively illuminate every facet of the need for preservation and restoration, from archivists to filmmakers like Jonas Mekas, Ken Loach, and Costa-Gavras. Its scope is just as commendably exhaustive, featuring nuanced discussions of the dangers politics poses to preservation efforts, as well as the particular need for archives in formerly colonized countries to prevent “cultural amnesia.” Despite all the challenges it highlights, its tone isn’t hopeless, as the film draws strength from the tireless efforts of archivists and cinematic saviors like Martin Scorsese. It’s impossible to watch this and not come away affirmed or converted into similarly passionate champions of preservation.

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