Rudie’s Top Ten Films of 2023
Looking back at 2023 in movies, there’s been a lot of ups and downs like any year. I’m just happy I watched more movies in theaters than at home — which is a return to my cinema lifestyle before the pandemic. However, while I didn’t go to the variety of theaters I’m used to (I mostly spent it at AMC Theatres and Alamo Drafthouse — thanks to AMC A-List and Alamo Season Pass, respectively), I’m just happiest in a movie theater.
Meanwhile, most of the movies on my top 10 movies of 2022 list were spectacle films with big action set pieces with huge stars. This year, I found myself laughing a lot at the movies. Although there are some dramas on my list (honorable mention to movies not on my list, but still excellent: Killers of the Flower Moon, The Killer, Joyland, The Boy and the Heron, The Zone of Interest, Raging Grace, and Priscilla), I remember the deep belly laughs and chuckles the most (additional honorable mentions: The Blackening, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and M3GAN).
Here’s to 2023 and looking forward to what’s to come in 2024:
10. American Fiction
The most impressive thing about American Fiction is Cord Jefferson’s command of tone throughout. Like a mix between James L. Brooks and Robert Townsend, the film goes from family drama to literary satire to social commentary to comedy with such ease that it’s surprising that this is Jefferson’s directorial debut.
Bottoms is one of the funniest movies of the year. Emma Seligman’s direction of absurdist humor and teen drama is bright and balanced, while Rachel Sennott and Ayo Edebiri chemistry is palpable and hilarious. Also, Marshawn Lynch’s performance as sadsack teacher Mr. G is unexpected and a breath of fresh air.
8. How To Blow Up A Pipeline
Told in separate character point-of-view pieces, How To Blow Up A Pipeline is very smart. It’s a very clever way to adapt a nonfiction book about extreme political activism into a major motion picture without watering down the premise or messaging for a mainstream audiences. Could the film be considered as “environmental propaganda?” Sure, but the filmmaking is extraordinary and well-considered, as it demands your attention in a digestible thriller.
7. Infinity Pool
Infinity Pool is Brandon Cronenberg’s film about the “immortality” of the super wealthy is shocking, grotesque, and tragic. Alexander Skarsgård plays a privileged, mediocre author coming to terms that he has to live his life in a loop of regret and torment.
6. The Holdovers
Alexander Payne’s ‘70s throwback coming-of-age film, The Holdovers, is touching, sincere, and warm with a bit of cynicism, despite its cold and chilly New England backdrop. It’s also a return to form for the director, after the misfire of Downsizing, while Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and newcomer Dominic Sessa deliver performances that are full of heart and pathos.
Hi Barbie! When I first heard Greta Gerwig was going to adapt the Barbie toy line into a movie, I was excited because she’s a really sharp director. The film would be in good hands and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was surprised how a corporately-mandated movie could be so subversive and deep, especially aimed for a general audience. And boy, what an audience! Barbie is the highest grossing movie of the year and it’s because it’s smart, funny, and bright pink.
From start to finish, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer is a white-knuckle and thriller throughout its three-hour runtime. And when you consider that most of the movie is men in meeting rooms, court rooms, and labs having intense conversations, it’s a wonder that it’s so forceful and explosive as an atomic bomb.
Who would’ve thought the invention of the Blackberry smartphone would be so funny? Casting Glenn Howerton as the Co-CEO of Research In Motion is a stroke of genius. He turns blind rage into effective and hilarious comedy, while the film showcases the ego and hubris in tech that lingers today.
2. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse
It’s hard to top 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, but filmmakers Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, and Kemp Powers manganged to string together a bigger vision of the Spider-Verse universe with various styles of animation and storytelling in Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. Although the sequel is a part one of two movies, it feels just as satisfying and complete, as if it were a standalone film (go figure).
1. Past Lives
Celine Song’s directorial debut Past Lives is soft, touching, and bittersweet. It follows childhood friends growing apart over the years when one moves to Canada and the other stays in South Korea. Now adults, the pair come back together in New York City, only to find their connection is as strong as ever, but their lives are more different than they could ever imagine. A heartbreaking romance — centered on excellent performances from Greta Lee and Teo Yoo — in the same vein as Brief Encounter, Before Sunrise, and Call Me By Your Name.