TL;DR: 2023 was a great year for movies. I watched 150 films, and I want to tell you about the best ones.
What a great year for movies. I had trouble whittling this list down to the best. I watched 150 movies this year and I’d say more than usual were fantastic. Here are some of the best.
Chisato and Mahilo are two high school girls who are about to graduate. They also happen to both be highly skilled assassins.
For reasons, the organization these girls work for forces them to become roommates and get jobs. While struggling to adapt to the real world, they piss off the Yakuza and are drawn into a whirlwind of violence. It’s a great female friendship movie, with a bit of an odd couple vibe, and a surprising amount of humor, especially when they both try to get jobs at a maid cafe. Ollie and I watched this together and had a great time.
Two lifelong friends find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them.
It’s a great absurd premise: A man attempts to cut off all contact with his dull lifelong friend so he can focus on music, to the great confusion of his friend and the surrounding village. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are always a joy to watch, and Farrell’s constant frustration and confusion in the face of Gleeson’s steadfast rejection is perfect. Early on. Gleeson attempts to communicate how serious he is by threatening to cut off one of his own fingers every time Farrell talks to him. Mild spoiler warning: He is forced to follow through on this grim threat repeatedly. All told, it was an expertly crafted dark comedy, and I do recommend it, but be aware it gets a bit heavier than the trailer implies.
After living 250 years in this world, Augusto Pinochet, who is not dead but an aged vampire, decides to die once and for all.
Sometimes a movie comes with an elevator pitch that so perfectly absurd that you know you’re going to watch it. In this case, the dictator Augusto Pinochet is a 250-year old vampire, and is ready to die. I mean… come on. The film is at turns great and clumsy. It’s not perfect, but I have so much respect for a movie that swings for the fences like this. I greatly enjoyed it. There’s a bit of overlap with Succession, in the sense that a powerful man is stepping down, and his family and entourage are circling, trying to figure out how to work the situation to their advantage. Anyways, it’s strange and unique, and worth your time.
A high-octane action thriller which outlines the emotional journey of a man who is set to rectify the wrongs in the society.
Oliver and I have started watching big-budget Bollywood movies together. I love the fight scenes and dance scenes and the moments of absurdity that come from cross-cultural entertainment. Ollie loves the constant gay subtext. Male characters (and especially Shak Rukh Khan) are extremely proper around female characters, even the supposed love interest, while being overtly intimate with male companions. No doubt this is just a culture clash thing, but every time SRK kisses a male friend, Ollie can’t contain themselves.
This particular SRK movie is basically the plot of Money Heist, but Bollywood. SRK is the leader of a gang of women who commit over-the-top heists aimed at exposing government corruption to the masses. This Robin Hood story has some rough moments that felt a bit forced, but overall landed well, and the mid-movie reveal that SRK is playing two characters was great, and let him get some moments of absurd comedy during the climactic confrontation.
Also, there is a mafia boss who wears a Bane-style mask for no reason and is never explained or heard from again, and I love it.
A family's getaway to a luxurious rental home takes an ominous turn when a cyberattack knocks out their devices—and two strangers appear at their door.
A late entry delivered by Netflix, this is the best end of the world movie I’ve ever seen reflecting the character’s confusion in the absence of clear information. It’s arguably a horror film, but there are no jump scares here, only constantly ratcheting tension as a group of people stranded in a remote house try to figure out what the hell is going on. Julia Roberts has great fun playing against type as a fairly awful and moderately racist mother. Ethan Hawke plays a perfect confused and overwhelmed dad. Mahershala Ali’s restrained efforts to keep the white people from freaking out is balanced by his daughter Myha’la Herrold’s bluntness. I was surprised by how much I liked it, and I ended up watching it again a few nights later with my brother-in-law, and appreciated it even more the second time.
Naru, a skilled warrior of the Comanche Nation, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.
Now, if I told you that they made a prequel to Predator involving an alien hunting native Americans you might be rightly suspicious that the film would be crap. But it’s not. It’s incredible, with great acting, phenomenal visuals, and a solid plot. They cast native actors, they don’t talk down to the audience, and deliver a great coming-of-age story that happens to involve hunting (and being hunted by) a terrifying monster from the sky. Ignore whatever you think about the Predator franchise and just make time to watch this as soon as possible.
When an ex-soldier who discovers gold in the Lapland wilderness tries to take the loot into the city, Nazi soldiers led by a brutal SS officer battle him.
A simple John-Wick style “they crossed the wrong dude” movie, but done to absolute perfection. A group of Nazis are retreating through Lapland, and run across an old miner taking his gold into town. They attack him to steal the gold, and it goes extremely badly for them. The trailer features a scene where the Nazis have driven the old man into the fog in a minefield. The Nazi commander orders one of his soldiers forward when a landmine comes flying through the air, hitting the soldier’s helmet and exploding him. At one point, the old man lights himself on fire for seemingly no reason other than to terrify the Nazis. Highly recommended.
A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy lurking directly beneath their neighborhood.
John Boyega is a drug dealer in a poor neighborhood called the Glen. Jamie Foxx sees him shot to death one night, and is shocked when he shows up alive the next day. Together with Teyonah Parris, they uncover a bizarre government conspiracy. I don’t want to say much else for fear of spoiling it, but just trust me, it’s a barrel ride of a film, and you should watch it.