Best Films of 2023
This best of 2023 list mixes genre films and high concept motion pictures that I would gladly watch multiple times without effort. The titles are for the most part director driven films. Some played for months while others played for a week at select venues. With over three hundred films released in 2023, a top ten list barely skews one-third of ten percent of accountable movies.
These are the films I would want on a deserted island, which is just ridiculous because have you ever heard of electricity on a deserted island?
When I make an annual best films list be assured that there are those who think my best picks are among the worst of the year. That’s because one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor.
That previous line was freely adapted from a Paul Simon song title. A little known factoid about Simon: He married Carrie Fisher on August 16, 1983. The following night, August 17, Simon & Garfunkel were set to play a concert at the Astrodome. A friend who worked on the stage crew told me that S&G did a sound check but then left as the concert was cancelled due to Hurricane Alicia. Paul took Carrie to a hurricane party for their honeymoon.
I’ve divided the list into Top Films, Best Documentaries and Best Foreign Films, along with Honorable Mentions, as well as a brief look at superlative television shows.
Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount)
La La Land (Lionsgate)
Jackie (Fox Searchlight)
Hell or High Water (CBS Films)
Love and Friendship (Roadside Attractions)
American Honey (A24)
The Nice Guys (Warner Brothers)
Blood Father (Lionsgate Premiere)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Midnight)
A list of honorable mentions would include solid productions like Manchester by the Sea, Fences, Pete’s Dragon, Christine, Moonlight, Deadpool, Hail, Caesar!, The Edge of Seventeen, Too Late, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Miss Sloane, Eye in the Sky, A Bigger Splash, Nocturnal Animals, Sing Street, Captain Fantastic, and High-Rise.
Tower – Fascinating look at the prototype modern day mass shooting from the point-of-view of the victims.
O.J.: Made in America – At nearly eight hours this doc got to the heart of celebrity, society and crime in one fell swoop.
De Palma – Every great director should recount his career at the behest of their protégés.
Into the Inferno – Werner Herzog takes viewers into the heart of volcanoes.
Fire At Sea – Italian doc that quietly observes life on a refugee island. Fire at Sea also plays on January 13 and 15 at the MFAH.
Zero Days – Alex Gibney explores the latest in cyber-warfare.
Voyage of Time (IMAX) – Terrence Malick creates a meditation on space and time.
The Lovers and the Despot – South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her husband director Shin Sang-ok are kidnapped by Kim Jong-il and forced to make films.
13th – Tough look at the United States prison system through the eyes of racial imbalance. Helmed by Ava DuVernay.
I Am Not Your Negro – Eloquently told story of race relations in America as told in the words of James Baldwin, and narrated by Samuel Jackson.
Weiner – Too much info is revealed in this behind-the-scenes look at fallen Congressman Anthony Weiner’s New York City mayoral campaign.
The Bandit – Amazing look at the relationship between Burt Reynolds and stuntman turned director Hal Needham.
The Handmaiden (South Korea)
Age of Shadows (South Korea)
The Wave (Norway)
Ramen Raghav 2.0 (India)
Tunnel (South Korea)
Mia Madre (Italy)
Embrace of the Serpent (Columbia)
In Order of Disappearance (Norway/Sweden)
The Salesman (Iran)
Les Cowboys (France)
The Idol (Palestine)
Animated films run the gamut from adult fare with my first two selections, to some amazing stop motion filmmaking, and bottoms out with above average Disney fare.
April and the Extraordinary World
Kubo and the Two Strings
Between cable, broadcast and streaming services there are so many shows and limited series designed for television viewing that you could conceivably never have heard of many of the titles. Black Mirror was my personal biggest treat, a Netflix series picked up from BBC for a third season. Black Mirror offers stand-alone episodes that straddle one foot in social media and the other in the Twilight Zone.
The Night Manager (A&E) provided John Le Carre spy intrigue with a great cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie, Elizabeth Debicki, Olivia Colman, and Tom Hollander.
Crisis in Six Episodes (Amazon) provided Woody Allen with his funniest platform since Midnight in Paris. Set in the late 1960s, Allen and Elaine May play the bickering Munsingers who harbor a radical felon (Miley Cyrus).
Stranger Things, another winner from Netflix, proved that the past can be new and that old clichés can be polished.