Top Ten Favorite Films of 2023

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Top Ten Favorite Films of 2023

I said it best last year: This will change— in a year, in a month, in a few minutes.

I usually publish my top ten closer to March, right around the Academy Awards, when people start to think about the end of the previous year. This also gives me enough time to catch up on international releases. This year, as you can see, I'm publishing my list on the last day of the year. There isn't much I haven't seen that I think will genuinely break my top ten, but as always, I leave things open and I will update this list (if necessary).

2023 was, in my opinion, a very strong year for movies, and one of my favorites in recent years. I will say I really admire every film on this list, which means there are films that didn't break my top ten that I really care for (which isn't always the case every year).

1. The Iron Claw

I knew Sean Durkin was a master filmmaker back in 2011 with his directorial debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene, so I was very much interested in seeing this; nothing, however, could have prepared me for the film he actually delivered on. This all-American epic story about fathers, sons, and brothers would have translated into a great film for me if it was released 12 years ago, but so much has changed in my personal life that the result was the most significant movie-watching experience I've ever had in my life.

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Martin Scorsese delivering a masterwork at the age of 81 shouldn't come as a surprise; yet what is a surprise is how much he is evolving as a filmmaker at this stage in his career and that every film now genuinely feels like one of his best ever.

3. The Killer

You may know that I hold the world recording for number of times someone has seen this movie in a theater (eight), so you may be surprised at this ranking. I've been stopped in different cities and countries with people asking me about the movie and why I watched it so many times, and for that, I quote the filmmaker himself: "You gotta pray at the altar." The Killer is a perfectly packaged movie that is both exhilarating and exciting that I was never once bored by, even during an eight viewing.

4. About Dry Grasses

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is (and has been) operating in a league of his own. About Dry Grasses, which centers on an accusation made against a schoolteacher, sees him pushing his filmmaking into new arenas. I was at the edge of my seat all the way through, and curious about the ideas he was exploring up until its final shots.

5. The Plains

The biggest surprise of the year, I feel like no one saw this documentary except for the friend who put the film on my radar. I was fully expecting this would be another 2023 film that I simply checked off my list, yet it's one that has remained with me for months. Director David Easteal (in his first-ever film) puts us in the backseat (literally), as we watch the back of people's heads for three hours as they are stuck in traffic, make personal calls, and complain about work. This is without a doubt the one film on this list that isn't for everyone, but for me, this observational film is about what it means to be human.

6. Oppenheimer

Christophter Nolan's magnum opus in which he improves upon all of his weaknesses as a storyteller, delivering the most complete film of his career. The most surprising aspect of Oppenheimer, for me, personally, is how experimental it is— something I didn't think he had in him (or would care to tap into at this stage in his career).

7. BlackBerry

I'll admit that I wasn't rushing to see this, but I should have been. BlackBerry is thrilling, hilarious, and inventive, makes for a great companion film to The Social Network— which I don't say lightly, given the latter is in my top five of all time. Director Matt Johnson delivers the goods, but this is Glenn Howerton's movie. It's the one movie I've been recommending the most this year, given how accessible it is and that I feel like it's one that many people also missed.

8. Menus Plaisirs — Les Troisgros

Frederick Wiseman is a 93-year-old director whose 4-hour documentary is so engrossing, I'd gladly watch another hour. I'm a big fan of his work overall, but it helps that his latest is about a subject matter I'm generally interested in: a family in France who operates a restaurant that holds three Michelin stars. It's a great study into their business and personal lives, and it's an absolute banger.

9. May December

I nearly jumped out of my seat when its main theme came on (which I'd heard and loved in the trailer) because I didn't realize that it'd be used as a motif throughout the film. I later did jump out of my seat when I discovered who composed the piece during the end credits. The best thing I can say about May December, which is rich and sublime, is that it's my jam.

10. Rotting in the Sun

This was yet another surprise (see a theme emerging?) and one that wasn't on my radar. I was reluctant to watch this and only came back the following day when MUBI suggested it to me yet again. I nearly turned this off after 10 minutes because of its gratuitous depiction of sex— something I'm not generally bothered by— but because it's so graphic and unsimulated, I have to admit I was very uncomfortable. I wonder if that's by design, to weed out the weak, before delivering one of the year's funniest and shocking movies.

Special Recognition: Amerikatsi

I first saw Amerikatsi back in July 2022, and fully realized then that this was the type of film I'd always been waiting for in Armenian cinema.

There has been so much that has happened since then— we hosted the premiere of the film for the launch of our inaugural film festival, the film was shortlisted by the Academy Awards— and because of all of this and my inherent bias having been involved with the film, I can't objectively rank Amerikatsi. It's a film that means more to me than any other film this year, and holds a special place in my heart.