Movie Final - My Favorite Movies of 2023

2023 will always be remembered as the year of "Barbenheimer". But there were plenty of other gems that granted our screens too.

Quick Note: Due to my location and/or financial situation/life responsibilities, I haven't been able to watch every movie released this year that I wanted to, so there will be gaps in this list. Some of those films were not available to me, and some were just too expensive to justify the cost, and others were around at a bad time for me to see them. I'm sure at least a few of those would have made the list, but they were not one of the 55 films released in 2023 that I have seen (which also includes short films and documentaries). There will be five honorable mentions, and 10 of my favorite films of the year. After that, I will list every film that was released this year that I have seen, that way you can see what I had to choose from!

Honorable Mention 1 - Splinter (Short)

This isn't on here because I helped fund it and my name is in the credits, but because it is a legit good short film that offers a wonderful premise. For Marc Bernadin's first go as director, he nails the narrative he set out to tell. It is a suspenseful, mysterious, and intriguing story about a boy on a plane that never lands. Hopefully this can be adapted into a full length feature, because if it does it will surely make the list that year.

Honorable Mention 2 - The Marvels

There are few movies that are are as fun and well paced as The Marvels. The 3 leads are electrifying, and the supporting cast can steal the show at any moment. The writers and actors strikes preventing promotion for this definitely hurt the film, which is a shame because it is a fun movie, that has one of my favorite gags of any MCU movie to date.

Honorable Mention 3 - BS High

I was absolutely SEETHING after finishing this documentary. BS High focuses on the fake high school Bishop Sycamore, and its con man creator who made it to exploit kids who wanted to play football. I couldn't believe how crass the man responsible was. He is interviewed many times, and if he doesn't fit the definition of "sociopath", I don't know what does. This is a must watch, if anything to just bring more light to the absolute injustice done to these kids who just wanted a second chance. But you will be angry when you finish the documentary, so if you don't have the emotional bandwidth for that at the moment, wait on this one until you do.

Honorable Mention 4 - Blue Beetle

The best thing DC released by a mile is quite the standard superhero fare. The family aspect of Jaime Reyes is where the movie really shines, and its because of that this stands above the rest of DC slate. I am glad this character will have a future in the soon-to-be new DC Cinematic Universe, because it nailed the family aspects and humanity and deserves to continue. As for the rest, the action is solid, and the superhero stuff is fun, albeit familiar. This is one the whole family can enjoy, as there is a little something for everyone.

Honorable Mention 5 - Elemental

It was nice to see Pixar have enough faith in this movie to give it a theatrical run and not just unceremoniously dump it on Disney+. The story of a fire being falling in love with an ice being has many of the tropes and metaphors Pixar loves to play with. Of course, the trademark Pixar existentialism is still there, and done extremely well. This is one of the stronger entries in Pixar's recent slate. If you haven't seen this, seek it out. Kids will enjoy it, and so will Pixar fans from the 90s.

10. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I do not play D&D. This film wasn't really on my radar, until I saw a sneak peek of it at San Diego Comic Con. It captured me immediately. When I saw the film, it didn't disappoint. It is a fun adventure movie, that is also a heist film. I am sucker for "gather a group of misfits to steal some stuff" movies, and this is exactly what this movie delivered. Chris Pine and the rest of the cast are charismatic and fun to watch, but the real MVP is Regé-Jean Page, who absolutely steals the show. It's enjoyable from top to bottom, and I had way more fun with it than I ever thought I would.

9. John Wick: Chapter 4

The market is so saturated right now, it takes a lot for a movie to stand out. The action scenes in the John Wick franchise have always done this. The ones in the latest installment are no exception. There is an absolutely brutal action scene on an outdoor flight of stairs that is relentless and unforgiving. Just when you think its over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief, it ramps back up. The nearly 3 hour run time flies by, and its so action packed you are as tired as the characters are. Whether this is the final chapter in the saga or not remains to be seen. But if it is, one of the greatest action franchises of all time goes out on a high note.

8. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

The animation medium has taken a massive leap forward in the last few years. Technology allows the medium to grow and be more experimental, and audiences are also more open to something off the beaten path. The animation in this movie is gorgeous, second only to something that will come later on this list. The story itself is wonderful, there is a ton of worldbuilding, but it also serves as a wonderful introduction to the Ninja Turtles for the unfamiliar. For the first time in a long time, the Turtles actually feel like teenagers. Not just the references, but the voice cast are young actors who, if not still teens, are close enough to remember those years vividly. I hope all that is teased in the movie comes to fruition, because a sequel is well deserved. This is a treat for the eyes, even for people who do not care about the story. I am a casual Ninja Turtles fan at best, and I left the theater knowing I had just seen something special.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

James Gunn is about to be in charge of the DC Universe, building a shared story through many mediums with timeless heroes people love. But before he was able to completely immerse himself in that, he had some unfinished business with Marvel Studios first - finishing his Guardians trilogy. He gave these wacky characters we've loved for a decade a wonderful ending. The story was great. The allegory for animal rights worked well within the context of the universe. The makeup, visuals, and soundtrack were on point. The only reason this isn't higher is because of the many fake outs the movie offers. Some of it felt cheap. While Gunn maintains Marvel gave him no restrictions on the fate of the characters, it felt like future plans hindered the stories full potential. But if this is what Gunn wanted, I'm happy he was able to have his vision realized. The narrative paths are satisfactory at their endgame, they just had a couple of speed bumps getting there.

6. Air

A movie about Nike recruiting Michael Jordan to wear their shoes? Directed by Ben Affleck? Sign me up. While this could easily be lost in all the commercial consumerism that begets a premise like this, the heart of it lies with Matt Damon's character, and Michael Jordan's mother, played by Viola Davis. Davis is the soul of the film. The movie doesn't work without her. The way they make the movie about Michael, without anyone actually playing Michael Jordan (other than a body double seen at odd angles) is innovative, and actually makes the film better. Matt Damon's monologue at the climax is one of the best movie monologues put on film. If you know the story of Michael Jordan, or have ever seen him play, Damon's monologue will send chills down your spine. There is one needle drop in particular that also just elevates the scene it takes place in. All of this under Affleck's eye makes it for a must see movie.

5. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

While not as strong as it's two latest predecessors, the latest outing in the Mission Impossible franchise is still a strong entry into the ever expanding antics of Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt. You will see things in this you've never seen before, and they seem to always raise the stakes, which is part of the magic of these movies. Hayley Atwell is a strong new addition to the cast, though it seems like she is a replacement for Rebecca Ferguson, which is a shame because Ferguson made the franchise better. The movie can get lost in its own macguffin journey sometimes, which is what happens when you craft a narrative around the big stunt centerpiece, instead of creating the stunt out organically out of the story you want to tell. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter will recontextualize this one, but for now, on its own, it's a solid entry in a franchise that so far, only has one bad movie.

4. They Cloned Tyrone

This movie dropped on Netflix the same weekend that the Barbenheimer phenomenon happened. So it flew under the radar of many people. Let's remedy that. John Boyega, Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris star in a hidden sci-fi movie with a simple premise. But the execution of the script is flawless. The more the characters discover, and the more the narrative unravels, the better the movie becomes. When the climax crescendos, it goes all out. All three leads do a lot of heavy lifting, and it makes for one of the most memorable movies of the year.

3. Barbie

This movie knows exactly what it is. It knows the preconceived notions. It knows the perceptions by certain groups of people, and leans into all of them. But none of that ever gets in the way of the story it wants to tell. There are some legit funny jokes in this, and Margot Robbie does a wonderful job as an existential Barbie forced into the real world, which then seeps the toxic masculinity of the real world into the world of Barbie through the Kens. Ryan Gosling should get an Oscar nomination for his turn as Ken. He plays it to absolute perfection. This was the perfect after-dinner mint for Oppenheimer. But even if you don't watch that, this still stands up. It is now available to stream, so you don't even have to leave your mojo dojo casa house to experience this wonderfully empowering story.

2. Oppenheimer

The way you see a movie is an important factor in your consumption of it. I saw it in the biggest screen my state had to offer. In full 70mm IMAX. It was a glorious and exhausting (in a good way) experience. Most of the film is people talking to each other. But Christopher Nolan is a masterful filmmaker, and the way he shoots it, and lays out the narrative, jumping from before, during, and after the bomb throughout makes it hard to even blink. The movie ends in a way that only Nolan could do, revisiting a scene in a different way, that offers new context to the entire movie. The cast is top notch, with Robert Downey Jr in particular turning in a career defining performance. If he doesn't get an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, I know nothing about anything.

1. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse

The word "masterpiece" is thrown around entirely too often. But it is a word that describes the first Spider-Verse movie to a tee. The sequel had a high bar to clear, and it did as well as it possibly could to not only be a worthy follow up, but expand the narrative, and guarantee more to come. The animation is even better than the first one, if that's possible, and it stretched the already expanded boundaries that the first one created it. While this suffers somewhat from having a cliffhanger ending, it offers a lot of development, and has a satisfying journey. Miles Morales is one of the best heroes created in the 21st Century. To see him get treated with such care in a beautiful medium is heartwarming. If the next entry nails it like the first 2 have, this has the potential to be the greatest superhero trilogy of all time.


2023 Films I have seen:


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