Top Ten Movies of 2023

David Dylan Thomas
8 min readMay 6, 2024

A wide variety of genres and directors this year…

10. Anatomy of a Fall

Sandra Huller looks away with a mountain behind her in this image from Anatomy of a Fall

Justine Triet’s elegant, absorbing tale of a woman accused of murdering her husband tackles our obsession with tidy, neat narratives based on little or no evidence or nuance and the harsh consequences of that approach. With compelling performances by Sandra Hüller and one of the best child performances ever by Milo Machado-Graner, it makes its 2.5 hour runtime absolutely fly by.

9. John Wick 4

Keanu Reeves as John Wick stands against a red and black background in a shot from John Wick 4

Defying all laws of sequels, the John Wick movies just keep getting better and better, to the point where this one, I believe, is one of the best action films of all time. Refining the particular brutal yet efficient action style of its predecessors (and a whole wave of action films now), this installment gives us some of the best set pieces of the series, with Donnie Yen to boot.

8. Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla stands in the ruins of Tokyo with his tail lit up blue in this shot from Godzilla Minus One

I’m going to let this video essay sum up what makes this particular Godzilla entry so special, but this is the one Godzilla movie where I actually cared about the human protagonists. Often, I feel like the mistake Godzilla films—and kaiju films in general—make is focusing too much on the human characters when all we wanna see is monsters fighting. But I think that’s because I’d never seen a kaiju film where the human characters were actually compelling.

That having been said, this film does not skimp on the monster attacks. They’re actually some of the best in the series. All told, this is the first Godzilla movie, other than the original, I consider a great movie overall.

7. They Cloned Tyrone

Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx, and John Boyega stand side by side in what looks kind of like a subway station (it’s got that same kind of tile on the walls) in this shot from They Cloned Tyrone

Given my own filmmaking ambitions, I’m pleased as punch that the Black Horror is becoming its own subgenre, with fantastic entries like this one, which covers strange goings on in a fictional southern Black neighborhood. The cast is great: John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and a yet-another-career-best Jamie Foxx.

It’s a film that works harder than it has to (the premise alone is great) to really deliver solid, nuanced visual storytelling which, not for nothing, emulates a lot of the 70’s Blaxploitation aesthetic I’m looking to evoke in my own work so, for perhaps selfish reasons, this ranks as one of my favorite films of the year.

6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse

Spider-man Miles Morales stands in a black spider suit with a red spider logo on the front with the mouth part of his mask pulled up holding what appears to be a burrito maybe? Background is a bodega, which he is inside.

I consider the first Spider-verse film to simply be one of the best films of all time, so my expectations for the sequel were high. This is not quite that good, but goddam is it good. Fantastic, truly epic action sequences; wonderful new characters; a meaningful escalation of the original’s conflict; and on and on and on. Can’t wait for the sequel which, if it delivers, could make the overall trilogy one of the best trilogies all time.

5. Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) stands in the foreground wearing a fedora and brown suit with the Nevada desert dotted by telephone poles in the background

Much has been said about this film which ended up winning Best Pitcture at the Academy Awards which I’m not mad about. It’s a very best picture-y kind of picture. Although clearly I loved the next four films on this list more. But what I will say is that (a) I think this may be one of Christopher Nolan’s best screenplays yet and (b) I’m definitely not mad he won Best Director (although, again, there are clearly four other directors I’d be happy to see with that trophy) because his body of work really is, in my opinion, amazing.

I think what is most remarkable to me about this film is that he took a movie that is basically people talking in rooms for three hours with, like, one explosion, and made it one of the most successful movies of the year. It should not have worked. But it did. And that is kind of the magic of Nolan. He is able to do very original storytelling (only one franchise to his credit so far) and very creative storytelling and still take the audience along with him, even when he’s confusing them (I maintain that Tenet is the most fun I’ve ever had not knowing what the hell is going on).

Not gonna lie, there are glaring omissions here about the impact of the bomb on hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (most of which is actually covered in, believe it or not, Godzilla Minus One), the actual cost to Native Americans of the taking of and irradiating of Los Alamos, and, as usual, Nolan is not, you know, great with his women characters.

Those caveats acknowledged, however, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still find this to be a fascinating and powerful film.

4. Barbie

Margot Robbie as Barbie sitting in a pink convertible smiling at the camera in this shot from the movie Barbie

The other end of the Barbenheimer spectrum was another unexpected hit. Or, at least, unexpected as to the scale of the hit. While Barbie certainly wasn’t expected to flop, I don’t think anyone predicted it would become the number one movie of the year and the 11th highest grossing movie of all time. You know, better than The Avengers.

This reminds me of the success of Black Panther which, again, was not expected to flop exactly but was also not expected to make it to, at the time, the number three spot on the all time chart (it now sits comfortably at number six).

All of which to say this is yet another example of how Hollywood gets it wrong when it expects only male driven, male oriented films that are all about male perspectives to be agreeable to the mass market. That a film like this, with its —by Hollywood standards—very feminist perspective to do this well in this divided a time is saying something.

Putting all of that aside, I find this to be a refreshing, fun, extremely well directed (the Gerwig snub fucking hurts) film with one of the best monologues in film history.

3. Past Lives

Teo Yoo on the left and Greta Lee on the left look at each other with a carousel in the background in this shot from Past Lives

This is one of those films I should not like or, at least, should not be interested in. And I wasn’t until everyone and their sibling told me I had to go see it. And I did. And I was blown away. Two people talking to each other about their feelings for two hours is not necessarily my cup of tea. But sometimes. Sometimes. You get a Before Sunrise or a Lost in Translation or a Once and you’re like, “goddam that’s good filmmaking”.

Celine Song’s gorgeous tale of people separated and reunited with…tristesse is the only word that comes to mind…consequences is gripping from start to finish with cinematography that goes so much harder than it needs to and performances that, again, should have been the talk of the Oscars but weren’t. It’s one of those “believe the hype” films.

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Leo DiCaprio on the left in old timey garb helps Lily Gladstone on the right in traditional Osage garb out of an old timey car in this shot from Killers of the Flower Moon

On the other end of expectations this was a film I was VERY much looking forward to. Scorcese? Check. Tackling an undertold tale of Native American persecution? Check. Working with both muses DiCaprio and DeNiro together for the first time!? Shut up and take my money. And the trailer was fucking gold.

But then what I got was so much richer than Indigenous Goodfellas. This was a tale of greedy, weak people deluded about their own role in society and offended and bewildered by a world in which the Osage were the richest people in the country—which is something I’m glad actually gets shown (the moments in history where the oppressed actually had wealth is a harmfully underseen perspective in American cinema and American life in general, but that’s another essay).

Of course it would be better, or more to the point we are missing, stories like this told from the perspective of Native Americans. And while I think there is value in the perspective Scorsese is able to bring and in the tremendous performance of Lily Gladstone, not to mention the other Native actors involved, I really wanna see this and other stories told by and for Indigenous Peoples all over the world.

  1. Origin
Aunjanue Ellis Taylor as author Isabella Wilkerson walks along a street in India surrounded by residents including one with white hair right behind her.

This is the movie we all slept on. It’s not Ava’s fault. Her film won the Golden Lion at Venice and still somehow most of us never even knew this film came out. And the real tragedy is this is the ONLY film we should have been talking about.

It’s got Oscar written all over it. A personal tale with epic scope. Horrific injustices like literally the Holocaust. But it just didn’t get known.

I’m not gonna waste time here trying to speculate why (I am giving some side-eye to distributor Neon, tho) but I will say that now that I know about Origin, Imma make sure YOU know about Origin.

The tale of the writing of the book Caste (which I have since read and also insist you read), as well as the depiction of events within it, Ava Duvernay’s Origin takes Isabel Wilkerson’s fantastic work and unpacks it visually, interweaving the different caste systems it depicts (Naziism, Jim Crow racism, and theIndian caste system) in a way that reveals their commonality and, as a result, our common humanity.

It’s a Herculean feat, and DuVernay deserves way more credit than she’s getting. Not to mention the incredible performances by Aunjanue Ellis Taylor as Wilkerson and Jon Bernthal (that guy has range!) as her husband.

I’ll let this reaction from Baratunde Thurston speak for itself

Honorable Mentions: The Zone of Interest, Talk to Me, M3gan, Sisu, Infinity Pool



David Dylan Thomas

Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Founder, CEO, David Dylan Thomas, LLC. Speaker, Lots of Places.