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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

My 50 Favourite Films of 2023 (25-1)

Updated: Mar 8

Before we get back into it, here's a reminder of the criteria with which how films qualified etc.

I watched 277 films that fall under the 2023 release calendar. Films that only made their theatrical debuts via the exclusive bubbles of film festivals don't count, so films need to have had their wider release through theatres or streaming in the USA, UK or South Africa to qualify for my list. Some of these I only saw in 2024 theatrically in SA, but they made their wider debuts in th UK or USA hence why they're here. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see Miyakzaki's The Boy and the Heron as there is no possible way for me to see (for some strange reason, it's not coming to South Africa), and will only get its streaming debut in June, so it'll qualify for the 2024 list. Only if I love it, of course.

On with the rest of them then...

25. Fair Play

Director: Chloe Domont

Genre/s: Thriller/Drama Length: 1 Hour 53 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Phoebe Dynevor, Alden Ehrenreich, Eddie Marsan, Rich Sommer, Sebastian De Souza, Sia Alipour, Brandon Bassir, Patrick Fischler

Synopsis: Newly engaged couple (Phoebe Dynevor & Alden Ehrenreich)’s relationship starts to fall apart when a position opens up at their ruthless hedge fund workplace.

My Take: As mentioned before, my potential red flag is the love of a good couples fighting movie. Fair Play is yet another entry here (Sanctuary is #28 on this list) – a thriller about the dissolution of a couple amidst the unforgiving cut-throat male dominated corporate world. Like Sanctuary, it lures us in with the sexiness of its leads, of their fire-catching sexual chemistry, but before long, unravels with the same fiery intensity as boundaries are crossed, intentions revealed and feelings hurt that will reveal the true nature of each person - driving them towards conclusions that’ll either destroy or strengthen them. Fair Play is an admittedly exhausting work, but that’s by design. It wears you down as much as it wears down its couple (played with an unrelenting ferocity by both Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich), lulling you into its initial sex appeal before crushing your bones under the tightening tension of its uglier, unforgiving true self.

Where can you watch it: Netflix (Worldwide).

24. R.M.N.

Director: Christian Mungiu

Genre: Drama Length: 2 Hours 5 Minutes Languages: Romanian/Hungarian/English/French/German/Sinhala Countries: Romania/France/Belgium

Cast: Marin Grigore, Judith State, Macrina Bârlădeanu, Orsolya Moldován, Andrei Finți, Mark Blenyesi, Ovidiu Crișan 

Synopsis: The multi-ethnic population of a Transylvanian village (particularly the ethnic Hungarian community) begins to show their true colours following the arrival of Sri Lankan workers at a local bread factory.

My Take: Based on the 2020 Ditrău xenophobic incident involving Sri Lankan bread factory workers and the ethnic minority of Hungarians in a Romanian village, Romanian auteur Christian Mungiu creates his most symbolically dense film to date; tackling EU economics, racism, xenophobia as well as Romania’s complex history with immigrants. Never one to shoot with coverage, Miungu’s film always feels dangerous because of this, something that is on the verge of catching alight as personal, political and racial tensions between each character escalate to unbearable heights. Guided by the reality of neorealism, Miungu’s approach to R.M.N. is no different from his other films at the outset, but underneath its surface, lies a beast waiting to expose itself for what it really is. It consistently feels like a thriller because of this, with mounting tension escalating in the form of a 17-minute unbroken shot of a town hall meeting - one that would effectively seal the fates of our characters dealing with their own cultural, national  and moral identities. It also features one of the most perplexing and jarring final moments of any film from the year, marrying the mystique with reality that somehow feels both surreal and vivid in the reality it exposes.

Where you can watch it: Hulu, AMC+ (USA), Stan (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK).

23. Passages

Director: Ira Sachs

Genre/s: Drama/Romance/LGBTQIA+ Length: 1 Hour 31 Minutes Languages: English/French Countries: France/Germany

Cast: Franz Rogwski, Ben Wishaw, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Erwan Kepoa Falé

Synopsis: A gay couple’s marriage is threatened when Tomas (Franz Rogowski) begins an impulsive affair with a heterosexual woman named Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos).

My Take: Spurred on by the impulsive desires of its destructive protagonist Tomas (played by the incomparable Franz Rogowski), Passages is quite possibly Ira Sach’s greatest film to date – an uncomfortable confrontation of flawed characters who exhibit all the qualities we either possess or are in close proximity to. It’s both sexy and incredibly ugly, both familiar and completely fresh in its observations of love, jealousy and the complete inability to see the flaws in one another and most importantly, ourselves. Franz Rogowski proves once again why he is one of my favourite actors working today, a force of nature whose complexities are hidden carefully between the lines, before fully revealing themselves in the dying embers of the film’s conclusion. It’s addictive, it’s dangerous. And you cannot help but watch the wreckage pile up.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (USA, UK), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK).

22. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson

Genre/s: Animation/Action/Adventure /Sci-Fi Length: 2 Hours 20 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Oscar Isaac, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Greta Lee, Shea Wigham, Mahershala Ali, Amandla Stenberg, J.K. Simmons, Andy Samberg, Jharrel Jerome, Jack Quaid, Rachel Dratch

Synopsis: Sequel to the highly creative and subversive Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) once again finds himself encountering Spider-people from the multiverse. But once they disagree on how to deal with a new threat, Miles’ and all the other Spideys, begin to question their moral responsibilities as their entire existence could be at threat.

My Take: Bigger and even more ambitious than the first film, Across the Spider-Verse is a legitimate work of art. You can pause anywhere and it’ll land up on an image that you could frame and put up on your wall. Although repeating and rehashing familiar character and thematic beats of the first film, it never stops being entertaining as hell, pushing the boundaries even further for the medium that is incredibly creative and highly distinctive as its very own thing. Across the Spider-verse also makes use of cool villain(s) that push its heroes into challenging new territories that ask the question: are we really the heroes? And although it irks me that the film has no conclusion, ending on a cliffhanger that sets up the next chapter, Across the Spider-Verse is too much of a blast not to feature on this list. An animated epic unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Where you can watch it: Netflix (SA, UK, USA), Showmax (SA), Binge, Prime Video (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

21. Return to Seoul

Director: Davy Chou

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 59 Minutes Languages: French/Korean/English

Countries: France/Cambodia/Germany/Belgium/Qatar

Cast: Ji-Min Park, Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han, Kim Sun-young, Yoann Zimmer, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Hur Ouk-Sook

Synopsis: After an impulsive decision to go to South Korea to find her biological parents, 25-year-old Frédérique finds her journey taking unexpected turns as she looks to find herself in a world she has never really known.

My Take: Featuring one of my favourite dance scenes of the year, Davy Chou’s intimate mini-epic follows Frédérique’s long journey of finding her place in the world. Never quite French, and never quite Korean, Frédérique’s search for her cultural and national identity places her at the chaotic, uncertain intersection of the two. Debutant Ji-Min Park is so charming as the wandering heroine whose impulsivity and desire for closure are both admirable and potentially detrimental to her own journey. Early in the film, Frédérique talks about sight reading to her friends which is the act of reading and performing a piece of music its performer has not practiced or read before. It’s the music equivalent of diving in the deep end. It’s with this ethos we experience Frédérique’s journey, one that is unpredictable, and potentially chaotic but Davy Chou and Ji-min Park eventually lead us to a quietly poignant finale that has its final note ringing long after the credits roll.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (UK), Prime Video (USA), Binge (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

20. American Fiction

Director: Cord Jefferson

Genre/s: Comedy/Drama Length: 1 Hour 57 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sterling K. Brown, Issa Rae, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, Keith David, Okieriete Onaodowan

Synopsis: Literature professor and struggling author Thelonious ‘Monk’ Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) is sick of the constant stereotypes about the black experience in entertainment. But to pay for the surging expenses attached to his mother’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he decides to write a novel under a fake name that encompasses all of the stereotypes he hates, unintentionally creating a potential mega-hit.

My Take: After tearing it up as a writer on notable TV projects like Master of None, Station Eleven, The Good Place and Watchmen, Cord Jefferson makes his directorial film debut with meta-comedy American Fiction. Smart and incredibly funny in its observations of America’s obsession with black suffering, American Fiction isn’t just a great piece of satire, but also a warm-hearted film about family and the joys and trauma associated with it. Jefferson’s writing is extremely sharp, allowing for the versatility of its talented cast and the sheer gravitas of his leading man in Jeffrey Wright to have genuine fun with the text. Jefferson also has fun crisscrossing parallels, intentions and meaning behind everything within American Fiction; making fun of the stereotypes and people Monk despises that skewers Monk’s own hypocrisies and even questioning American Fiction’s own place within all this. Is it calling out the problem or is it unintentionally being a part of the problem? Cord Jefferson and his team have given us a future classic that truly enjoys unwinding and reflecting upon what it rightfully has an issue with, before reflecting those criticisms back on itself.

Where you can watch it: Prime Video (SA), Most VOD Platforms (USA).

19. Lakota Nation vs. United States

Directors: Jesse Short Bull & Laura Tomaselli

Genre: Documentary Length: 2 Hours Language: English Country: USA

Synopsis: A maddening chronicle of white America’s relationship with Native Americans and how they continue to fight systemic racism and the right to reclaim The Black Hills from the United States government, a place that remains a sacred place to the Lakota and many other Native American tribes.

My Take: If you were to only watch one film from 2023, Lakota Nation vs. United States would be a strong contender for that one film. It’s an intense, brutally frank inspection of White America’s relationship with Native Americans - eventually centering around the Lakota Nation’s fight to reclaim The Black Hills, the most sacred place on Earth for the Lakota people with which their identity, their very existence, is intrinsically tied to. It’s a film that wastes no time showing the blood that is stained on America’s hands, the constant work to silence its indigenous people, to effectively wipe their identity, their existence from America’s history. And that’s the sad thing, we often think of American history only beginning when it was discovered by the white man, but these people have been there thousands of years prior. As upsetting as it all is, Lakota Nation is also an inspiring work about perseverance and survival. Despite the genocides and the persistent injustices, they still remain. Their pride, their resilience, and their desire to thrive are stronger than ever.

Where you can watch it: AMC+ (USA), Most VOD Platforms (USA).

18. Joyland

Director: Saim Sadiq

Genre/s: Drama/LGBTQIA+ Length: 2 Hours 6 Minutes Languages: Punjabi/Urdu Country: Pakistan

Cast: Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Salmaan Peer, Sohali Sameer, Sania Saeed

Synopsis: Haider (Ali Junejo), the youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family, is under constant pressure to step up as a provider for his wife and future family. But once he takes up a job as a backup dancer at a Bollywood-style burlesque theatre, he becomes infatuated with the Trans woman who headlines the show he is now dancing for.

My Take: One of the most effective and interesting observations I have seen on sexuality, gender identity and gender roles, Joyland is not nearly talked about as much as it should be. It breaks boundaries in not just the country it’s from, but for queer cinema as well. Haider (Ali Junejo) is not living by the expectations patriarchal society expects of him. His wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) is the breadwinner. And although neither of them initially cares about upsetting the norms relating to the roles they’ve taken on, everyone else does. Even when he does finally find a job, it’s something his brother and father don’t take seriously. On top of all this, his new job as a dancer has left him falling for a strong, Trans woman -  further exploring the complex relationship attraction has with sexuality and gender roles. Writer/Director Saim Sadiq’s screenplay is not only complex in what it wants to discuss, but also very realistic in approaching the relationships and personalities of his characters. Rasti Farooq as Haider’s wife is secretly the life force of Joyland, adding extra depth to its discussions of societal expectations placed upon women. One of my favourite things that Saim Sadiq does here as well is that he eliminates the usual cliché of rival women in the family. Instead of a jealous or downright nasty sister-in-law, a sisterhood is formed, one that pushes and pulls plot beats toward a gut-punch finale that is among the greatest of the year for me. It’s exquisitely shot, each frame feeling like a painting in motion as Sadiq slowly pushes in (and pulls away) on each moment - with each character slowly revealing their true selves in a society that chooses to ignore them. Gorgeous, lush and absolutely heartbreaking, Joyland is one of the most important queer films of the decade so far.

Where you can watch it: The Criterion Channel (USA), BFI Player (UK), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

17. May December

Director: Todd Haynes

Genre: Drama Length: 1 Hour 57 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Charles Melton, Cory Michael Smith, Elizabeth Yu, Gabriel Chung, Piper Curda, D.W. Moffett, Lawrence Arancio

Synopsis: Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe’s (Charles Melton) marriage is under threat when Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an actor, arrives to do research for her role as Gracie in an upcoming movie chronicling the couple’s scandalous beginning when Gracie (36) slept with Joe (13) in 1992.

My Take: Always one to subvert expectations, Todd Haynes’ latest has a fine mist of dread constantly hanging over it. It’s tonally jarring from the beginning; a melodramatic Almodóvar-esque soap-opera score, the dramatic cut and delivery of the soon-to-be iconic “We’re out of hotdogs” line. It’s all there to create a jarring initial first impression before it slumps back into the dark psyche of the dueling ladies dictating the life and decisions of the actual victim in all of this: Joe. Julianne Moore leans into the delusional viewpoint of Gracie, sporting a lisp that creates a false impression of child-like innocence, while Portman slowly starts copying her every gesture, eventually leading the “meant to be truthful” interpretation of her into a campy, trashy exploitation of the truth and tragedy at the center of it. But it’s with Charles Melton as Joe that is the true heart of May Decemeber, the tragic epicenter that everything orbits around. It’s a heartbreaking performance that needed to be the most grounded and real performance of May December. If we're talking about Oscar 2024 snubs, that 's one of the biggest for me. 

Where can you watch it: Netflix (USA, UK), Most VOD Platforms (SA).

16. Barbie

Director: Greta Gerwig

Genre/s: Comedy/Adventure/Fantasy Length: 1 Hour 54 Minutes Language: English

Country: USA

Cast: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Kate McKinnon, Rhea Perlman, Helen Mirren, Will Ferrell, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Nana Cruz Kayne, Dua Lipa, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie Demetriou, Emerald Fennell, John Cena

Synopsis: Barbie (Margot Robbie) is living her best life in Barbie Land, but when things start to not seem so perfect anymore, she leaves with Ken (Ryan Gosling) for the real world to fix what could be threatening Barbie Land, as well as her own, perfect existence.

My Take: One half to the biggest cinematic event in recent memory, Barbenheimer’s Barbie is a coming-of-age story not just for its protagonist, but for every Barbie and Ken out there (maybe Allen too). A film that touches on what is expected of us and how we need to outgrow and overcome those expectations that may be unrealistic or just unfair. It’s a film that is so easily relatable to all ages, genders, shapes, colours and sizes - a film that reminds us that it is ok to be imperfect as we are always told you need to be perfect to be an accepted member of society. Margot Robbie quite possibly delivers her best role yet (one that will probably be her most iconic); a tricky interpretation of a Barbie doll that has no real backstory and no real personality. She had to create this one from the ground up in real time, turning her into a nuanced, multi-layered character trying to figure out not just what it means to be Barbie, but to be a woman in a man's world. Then there’s Ryan Gosling as Ken. He’s allowed to go full silly here, even in his moments of truthful self-reflection, Gosling doesn’t hold up on the silliness of his character. And somehow, it works - helping Barbie retain a perfect balance of silly fun as well as heartfelt poignancy. It’s a self-aware, fun, wholesome, hilarious and deeply touching candy-coloured existential crisis that only Greta Gerwig (and co-writer Noah Baumbach) could've done – bringing both arthouse and commercial crowds together so seamlessly with themes that are so universally relatable. It lifts the veil of perfectionism that plagues our everyday lives. Anyone and everyone can be Barbie. We can’t all be perfect, and that’s ok, just remember that you’re simply Kenough. You can read my extended thoughts on Barbie in my review here.

Where you can watch it: MAX (USA), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

15.  Saint Omer

Director: Alice Diop

Genre: Drama Length: 2 Hours 2 Minutes Languages: French/Wolof Country: France

Cast: Kayije Kagame, Guslagie Malanda, Valérie Dréville, Aurélia Petit, Xavier Maly

Synopsis: Lecturer and novelist Rama (Kayije Kagame) travels to Saint-Omer to attend the trial of a Senegalese woman on trial for the murder of her daughter.

My Take: A courtroom drama unlike anything you’ve ever seen, documentarian Alice Diop’s first narrative feature film is her best work yet. A study of the immigrant experience, family trauma and the inexplicable bond between mother and daughter, Saint Omer is about two woman linked in more ways than one. And although the horrific crimes of the Senegalese Woman (Guslagie Malanda) on trial are undeniable even by herself, Alice Diop uses her sensibilities as a documentary filmmaker to observe and listen, to uncover the causes that would drive someone to do what they did. The cast of lawyers, judges, witnesses and mothers are all top-notch, but it’s Guslagie Malanda as Laurence Coly, the woman on trial, who is astonishing. Diop likes to hold the camera on her subjects for what feels like an eternity. Malanda is subjected to our gaze in her greatest moments of vulnerability: quiet, wordless moments of rage, remorse, fear and the nagging realization of the unknown ahead for her. It's easily comparable to Renée Jeanne Falconetti’s performance in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s own trial drama The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) (which is my personal pick for the greatest screen performance by any actor ever). Both performances hold the audience with the gaze in their eyes, the palm of their hands, and finally, the weight of the world’s expectations on their backs before it finally grinds them down to dust.

Where you can watch it: Hulu (USA), MUBI (UK), Stan (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

14. 20,000 Species of Bees

Director: Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren

Genre/s: Drama/LGBTQIA+ Length: 2 Hours 8 Minutes Languages: Spanish/Basque/French Country: Spain

Cast: Sofía Otero, Patricia López Arnaiz, Ana Gabarain, Itziar Lazkano, Unax Hayden, Martxelo Rubio, Sara Cozar

Synopsis: During a summer holiday in a village, 8-year-old transgender girl Coco (Sofía Otero) and her artist mother, Ane's (Patricia López Arnaiz) relationship is changed forever when revelations are discovered and cemented, changing their lives for the future.

My Take: There have been so many important movies over the past year, and few are as important as 20,000 Species of Bees- a deeply emphatic story of identity and self-worth. 20,000 Species of Bees is an important discussion surrounding gender dysphoria and how important support and acceptance are for a child experiencing it. And just to save you potential heartache, etc. It is an emotionally taxing viewing experience, but it doesn't end in tragedy, which is a rarity in LGBTQIA+-related films. It’s a very real journey of misunderstandings and compassion, the denial of truth and the eventual acceptance of it. Coco isn’t denying who she is, she so badly desires to be able to be who she knows herself to be and it’s with the journey of her family that we get to see how she eventually can be safe in her environment, finally being able to live as who she always knew herself to be. Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren does such a great job in creating an environment and story that feels true to the everyday battles of all the little boys and girls out there who are experiencing the pains of desperately trying to be who they really are. It will break your heart to see the internal and external battles Coco undergoes, but ultimately, it’ll lift your spirit as 20,000 Species of Bees goes from potential tragedy to a touching story of love and acceptance from herself, friends and finally family. Bring tissues. Be sure to check out Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy (2011) and Sébastien Lifshitz’s documentary Little Girl (2020) as well – the perfect companion films that tell the stories we don’t often see, but happen far more than you expect. Essential viewing.

Where can you watch it: Most VOD Platforms (UK).

13. All of Us Strangers

Director: Andrew Haigh

Genre/s: Drama/Romance/Fantasy/LGBTQIA+ Length: 1 Hour 45 Minutes Language: English Country: UK

Cast: Andrew Scott, Paul Mescal, Jamie Bell, Claire Foy

Synopsis: A lonely, struggling screenwriter (Andrew Scott) starts to inspect and heal from the wounds of his past when he reconnects with his parents (Claire Foy & Jamie Bell), who have been deceased for 30 years, as well as beginning a relationship with his also lonely downstairs neighbour (Paul Mescal).

My Take: Andrew Haigh’s latest is his dreamiest, most surreal and easily his most heartwrenching film to date. It’s both a romance and a ghost story. A story of a man needing to reconnect and stay with the present, but so desperate to hold onto the past, never quite being able to grieve and let go as it means he will lose this otherworldly connection he has with his deceased parents. Andrew Scott as the protagonist Adam is stunning, a man who both misses and resents aspects of his parents. It’s littered with heartbreaking moments of wish fulfillment as Adam confronts his parents about both the unhappy core memories of his brief childhood with them, as well as celebrating the joyous ones he will always cherish with them. And finally, being able to be the man he is now around them, an openly gay individual that he couldn’t be when he was a child in fear of judgment and alienation from them. It’s a stirring piece of work that has Andrew Scott delivering what feels to be his most personal work to date, culminating into a gorgeous finale that demands discussion amongst its viewers. The man should’ve been nominated for a damn Oscar.

Where you can watch it: In select theatres (SA, UK, Australia), Hulu (USA), Most VOD Platforms (USA).

12. Killers of the Flower Moon

Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre/s: Drama/Western/Crime Length: 3 Hours 26 Minutes Languages: English/Osage Country: USA

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lilly Gladstone, Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, Cara Jade Myers, Tantoo Cardinal, JaNae Collins, Jillian Dion, John Lithgow, Brendan Fraser

Synopsis: Based on David Grann’s non-fiction book of the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon tells the story of a baffling unknown point in America’s bloody past known as The Reign of Terror, a period in time where wealthy Osage Indians were murdered by white men in order to steal the mineral rights to the oil that belonged to the Osage.

My Take: At 3 ½ hours, Killers of the Flower Moon is difficult to endure. But despite its lengthy running time, it succeeds as a slow-burning anti-western that removes the deceptive gloss of history being written by the winner. These white men aren’t fighting in self-defence against the Native American like we have seen in so many classic Westerns, but are in fact, the invader. It has Scorsese at the height of his power, exercising his instincts in both restrain and necessary excess in order to show not how the West was won, but how it was stolen. It’s brutal in its violence but completely essential in what it needs to say, reckoning with white America’s relentlessly violent past it refuses to accept and remember. Much like how Watchmen reminded the world of one of its worst terrorist attacks with The Tulsa Massacre, Killers of the Flower Moon will do the same for The Reign of Terror. It’s an absorbing, maddening tale of blatant social and racial injustices that will have your blood boiling. It’s also Scorsese at both his angriest and most somber – containing one of the most poignant scenes of his career, a final scene that has him accepting that he may not be the definitive, final voice to deliver this or any Indigenous American story, but he will make damn sure to use the medium, and his special place in it, to tell you about it - making him not only our greatest living filmmaker (at least in my opinion), but also one of the most important. Completely vital and necessary filmmaking. For my extended thoughts, read my review for it here.

Where you can watch it: Apple TV+ (Worldwide).

11. The Teachers’ Lounge

Director: Ilker Çatak

Genre/s: Thriller/Drama Length: 1 Hour 38 Minutes 

Language/s: German/Polish/English/Turkish Country: Germany

Cast: Leonie Benesch, Leonard Stettnisch, Eva Löbau, Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Sarah Bauerett, Michael Klammer, Kathrin Wehlisch, Rafael Stachowiak

Synopsis: After a series of thefts at her school, teacher Carla (Leonie Benesch) takes it upon herself to investigate. But once she is caught up between her ideals and the school system, the consequences of her suspicions and actions push her and a student to breaking point.

My Take: A highly realistic thriller taking place entirely within the confines of a school (except for one extended scene), The Teacher’s Lounge is one of the best thrillers I have seen in years. Leonie Benesch is magnetic as a teacher whose good intentions are interrupted by an impulsive decision that spirals out of control. It’s a war of words and petty actions, one whose battle of morals and ethics with the faculty eventually spills out into all-out war with a student as his peers. It’s a cycle of misunderstandings and good intentions gone awry. And although its set within the very specific German schooling system, it’s something that could so very easily happen anywhere as a child is willing to do anything to protect his guilty-or-not mother, and a teacher doing her best to repair the trust of her pupils, all while trying to hold onto her principles in a faculty of warring opinions. Watch as a double feature to Laura Wandel’s school drama thriller Playground (number 5 on my best of 2022 list) that follows a 7-year-old girl’s first week at school.

Where you can watch it: Most VOD platforms (USA).

10. The Eight Mountains

Directors: Felix van Groeningen & Charlotte Vandermeersch

Genre/s: Drama/Adventure Length: 2 Hours 27 Minutes Languages: Italian/English/Nepali Countries: Italy/Belgium/France

Cast: Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi, Filippo Timi, Elena Lietti, Elisabeth Mazzullo, Surakshya Panta

Synopsis: Spanning over a few decades, The Eight Mountains follows the friendship between Pietro (Luca Marinelli) and Bruno (Alessandro Borghi) as they drift apart, reunite and finally find their purposes in life.

My Take: The Eight Mountains is a resoundingly beautiful film. Its spectacular landscape cinematography may initially hog the attention, but it’s van Goreningen and Vandermeersch’s layered, deeply personal screenplay and the nuanced performances of its leading men in Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi that lets The Eight Mountains be more than just its location. It’s an epic tale of family, friendship, fate and most importantly, self-discovery and self-REdiscovery. It reminds us of all the nooks and crannies that makes us who we are, demanding that we revisit ourselves and the relationships around us in order to reignite the passions that once kept our flames burning so bright. It could’ve been a cheesy, faith-based hallmark movie about rediscovering life (I use that as a reference but it really isn't a faith-based Christian movie if that kind of thing throws you off), but thankfully it’s anything but, making The Eight Mountains a potentially life-changing viewing experience that is tuned to the very maximum of what great cinema can do. It’s simply one of the year’s best. You can find my extended thoughts on The Eight Mountains over here.

Where you can watch it: The Criterion Channel (USA), BFI Player (UK), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK).

9. Close

Director: Lukas Dhont

Genre/s: Drama/LGBTQIA+ Length: 1 Hour 44 Minutes Language/s: French/Dutch/Flemish Countries: Belgium/Netherlands/France

Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Émilie Dequenne, Kevin Janssens, Léa Drucker, Igor van Dessel, Léon Bataille

Synopsis: Close follows the intense friendship between two 13-year-old boys (Eden Dambrine & Gustav De Waele). But when the new school year starts, they begin to drift apart as the pressures of adolescence threaten to end their once unbreakable bond.

My Take: If you feel like watching one of the saddest movies in recent memory, then Close is the one for you. Gorgeously shot and performed with the utmost honesty and authenticity, Close is about the unforgiving pressures of peer pressure and perception in our adolescent years. How our peers effectively determine the way we perceive ourselves to the world. How it creates self-hatred, self doubt and a need to hide our true selves so that we may protect ourselves from being targeted. This battle with identity and self-worth is the very thing that begins to tear Léo and Rémi’s (Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele delivering some of the best child performances I’ve ever seen) once unbreakable friendship apart. It’s a queer film that deals with the theme of otherness so very well as one character is very much sure of who they are and what their bond means to them, while the other chooses to shun it so he may fit in more comfortably with what the world expects of a young boy to be. It’s a film that aches, that devastates, and I found myself sobbing for large portions of the film as I hope and pray for their relationship to survive, their connection to be repaired as they look to an uncertain future that could either embrace them or reject them entirely.

Where you can watch it: MUBI (UK), Showtime, Paramont+ (USA), Stan (Australia), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

8. Monster

Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu

Genre/s: Drama/Mystery/LGBTQIA+ Length: 2 Hours 7 Minutes Language: Japanese

Country: Japan

Cast: Sakura Ando, Soya Kurokawa, Eita Nagayama, Hinata Hiiragi, Mitsuki Takahata, Akhiro Tsunoda, Shido Nakamura, Yuko Tanaka

Synopsis: Following multiple perspectives, a mother (Sakura Andō) demands answers from her son’s teacher (Eita Nagayama) when her son (Sōya Kurokawa) starts behaving strangely.

My Take: Few filmmakers are more empathetic to the struggles and triumphs of his characters, particularly in children, than Kore-eda Hirokazu. Monster is only the second of his films he hasn’t written, instead, he adapts the words of Yuji Sakamoto’s screenplay (which won best original screenplay at Cannes). Although it’s not written by Kore-eda, it’s very much within his wheelhouse as a storyteller in terms of themes, character and meaning. Unfolding through three different perspectives a la Rashomon-style, Monster gathers these vital viewpoints of mother, son and teacher, creating an objective viewpoint of key events from different voices whose experiences differ from one another. It’s an ingeniously structured and edited film (Kore-eda is once again the sole editor, just like all of his films) that bamboozles us at every turn, taking us in directions we do not expect and once we think we have a firm idea of where things are heading, it takes a sharp turn once more. But thankfully it never feels gimmicky with its non-linear style, but strengthens its intentions even further once all the pieces are in place to reveal the full picture. Its themes of queer identity, acceptance, bullying and homophobia all correlate into a work that challenges our own perspective on what the full picture is in and around our lives – the misunderstandings and assumptions we make of one another, trapped within the limited perspective of our own viewpoint. As mentioned before, Kore-eda’s empathy for his characters is unmatched, its presence is felt so strongly in every film he makes. His films genuinely make me want to be a better person, and with Monster, it forces us to take a deeper look into the details we can't quite see or even understand. It's a masterful work that already ranks among Kore-eda's greatest works to date.

Where can you watch it:Most VOD Platforms (USA), In theatres 15 March (UK).

7. Past Lives

Director: Celine Song

Genre/s: Drama/Romance Length: 1 Hour 45 Minutes Languages: Korean/English

Countries: USA/South Korea

Cast: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro, Moon Seung-ah, Leem Seung-min, Ji Hye Yoon, Choi Won-young, Ahn Min-Young, Seo Yeon-Woo, Kiha Chang, Shin Hee-Chul, Jun Hyde Park

Synopsis: Spanning over two decades, Past Lives follows the deep connection between Na Young (Or Nora as her Western name, played by Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) as they finally reunite after 20 years apart.

My Take: Past Lives is a film about identity, love, and most importantly inyeon, a Korean philosophy meaning providence, destiny and fate. If strangers brush their clothes with one another on the street, it must mean they knew each other in a past life. If two people marry, it is said that it’s a culmination of at least 8000 layers of inyeon, sharing 8000 different lives that have finally brought them together in this point in time. It’s a romantic epic on a small, appropriately intimate scale that omits typical grand gestures of romance - cleverly utilizing tension through a “will they, won’t they” dynamic that never feels like an insufferable cheat code often used to ramp up drama in lesser romances. It’s a delicate, multi-layered character study that showcases the immense talent of its author in Celine Song and her ability to write such complex characters with an undeniable sense of compassion and understanding of what makes them tick. It’s not only one of the best films of the year, but one of the best romance films of the 21st century. Celine Song is a talent to behold. You can find my extended thoughts on Past Lives over here.

Where you can watch it: Showtime, Paramount+ (USA), Netflix (UK), Most VOD Platforms (SA, UK, USA, Australia).

6. Godland

Director: Hlynur Pálmason

Genre/s: Drama/Adventure Length: 2 Hours 23 Minutes Languages: Danish/Icelandic

Countries: Iceland/Denmark/France/Sweden

Cast: Elliot Crosset Hove, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Victoria Carmen Sonne, Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Jakob Ulrik Lohmann, Wa Waage Sandø, Hilmar Gudjonsson

Synopsis: Set towards the end of the 19th Century, Godland follows a young Danish priest (Elliot Crosset Hove) sent to Iceland to build a church. But the long, grueling journey, as well as his rivalry with a local guide (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson), will have him battling with his faith and duty to both God and country.

My Take: A worthy companion piece to Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God, Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland follows a battle between two men, one that encompasses man’s relationship with faith, God and finally, nature. These conflicts also perfectly align with another of the film’s big background theme of colonialism, particularly that of Denmark's colonization of Iceland. Tasked with building a church in an unforgiving land, Lucas (Elliot Crosset Hove) is led by Icelandic guide Ragnar (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson), one who has a strong hatred for the Danes, referring to them as devils and a language that tastes ugly in his mouth. This war between man, God, faith, nature and country always circles back to the personal battle taking place between Lucas and Ragnar. Lucas’ relationship God is fascinating as well, claiming that believing in God is more about a feeling rather than what we can directly see, yet he refuses to commit certain ordinances because physically tangible representations of his religion are incomplete in this untamed land. Pálmason is so smart with how writes the characters of Lucas and Ragnar and how their conflict with one another is a clear representation of the film’s dueling themes. Lucas IS Denmark while Ragnar IS Iceland. One is restricted by the rules of his faith and homeland, helpless in an untamed, seemingly Godless land, one with which Ragnar is spiritually and physically attuned to. Words are spat amongst each other, a literal wrestling match as well as an incredible confessional scene that has these themes and ideas blasting at its loudest upon impact. Godland is an eerily quiet, thematically dense epic,  a masterclass on how to utilize location in order to amplify themes, story and character to its full potential. Godland shows nature at its most ruthless and God at his most unforgiving.

Where you can watch it: The Criterion Channel (USA), BFI Player (UK), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK, Australia).

5. The Holdovers

Director: Alexander Payne

Genre/s: Comedy/Drama Length: 2 Hours 13 Minutes Language: English Country: USA

Cast: Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, Carrie Preston, Brady Hepner, Michael Provost, Ian Dolley, Jim Kaplan,  Naheem Garcia, Andrew Garman, Stephen Thorne, Gillian Vigman, Tate Donovan, Darby Lee-Stack

Synopsis: A grumpy history teacher (Paul Giamatti) at a fancy prep school is forced to stay on campus over Christmas where he forms an unlikely bond with a troubled student (Dominic Sessa) and a grieving head cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

My Take: Akexander Payne reunites with Paul Giamatti for the first time since Sideways, and like Sideways, Payne enlists Giamatti as the film’s resident grump once again. Smelling of fish (not by choice), eyes askew (also not by choice and which one is the bad eye?), and obsessed with ancient Greek history, Giamatti is your latest Christmas Grinch. But it isn’t just a grumpy man ruining the holidays for everyone. Underneath the icy cold setting of The Holdovers is a very warm centre, one that slowly melts away its thick outer shell as it reveals each character’s differing circumstances, stories that never would’ve crossed each other's paths if it weren’t for the rotten luck of being stuck at school over Christmas. Paul Giamatti’s range goes past being grumpy, and Alexander Payne knows that, trusting him with a character so guarded of his ambitions and emotions. It’s with the phenomenal Dominic Sessa (in his acting debut) and a revelatory Da’Vine Joy Randolph that let The Holdovers go well past being just another odd-couple comedy. Incrediblfunny, introspective and serious when it needs to be, The Holdovers' final form is a joyous story of unlikely friendships coming together to heal, learn and grow. It's through those unlikely friendships we find ourselves being blindsided, forcing us to be both emphatic and sympathetic to the circumstances of those we may not realize we are looking down on. Hilarious and deeply touching, The Holdovers is a future Christmas classic.

Where you can watch it: In select theatres (SA, UK), Peacock (USA), Most VOD Platforms (USA, Australia).

4. The Zone of Interest

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Genre/s: Drama/War/Horror Length: 1 Hour 45 Minutes Language/s: German/Polish/Yiddish Countries: UK/Poland

Cast: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller, Johan Kathaus, Luis Noah Witte, Nele Ahrensmeier, Lilli Falk, Anastazja Drobnia, Medusa Knopf, Maximilian Beck, Andrey Isaev, Julia Babiarz, Stephanie Petrowitz, Martyna Poznanski

Synopsis: Made up of stories from witnesses and survivors as well as being very loosely based on Martin Amis’ novel of the same name, Zone of Interest follows the domestic lives of Auschwitz commandant Rudolph Höss (Christian Friedal) and his family as they look to build the ideal family life on the very doorstep of Auschwitz.

My Take: Just what else can still be said about one of the darkest periods in human history that hasn’t already been said so effectively before?  Considering what is happening in the world today, its release couldn’t be timelier. The Zone of Interest is an urgent reprisal of its unfortunately all too familiar subject matter that allows Jonathan Glazer and his team to create a truly subversive work of art that serves as a remembrance of the past, an observation of the current, and finally, a deafening warning of what could potentially come, serving as a somewhat definitive portrait of man’s casual relationship with evil and how that cycle continues to rear its hideous head. It’s not as much about the acts of evil that these people commit, but the sheer normalization and acceptance of it, to the point of it being dull to them - never bothering them in the slightest as they go about their domestic lives as the atrocities that they embrace sit right on their doorstep for all to see. There’s a constant, looming presence of the Holocaust in these people’s lives as we see smoke bellowing over the walls, the barbed wire and roofs of the camp peaking over their walls. It's sheer madness that this is the life they so willingly accept and embrace as their suburban dream. There are no direct acts of violence portrayed on screen, only implied by the incredibly densely layered sound design by Johnnie Burn occasionally paired with a nightmarish score by the always marvelous Mica Levi. And despite it being specific in its historical subject, it’s more relevant than ever, forcing us to stare deep into the inky black depths of evil that still stir in men. It’s now up to us to make sure that we stand by the phrase “Never again”, using films like this as a stern reminder that we should never allow such atrocities to be embraced and normalized. The Zone of Interest is as quiet as it is loud, an essential, timely piece of art that might just be Jonathan Glazer’s defining masterpiece. For my extended thoughts, you can read my review for The Zone of Interest over here.

Where you can watch it: In select theatres (Worldwide), Most VOD Platforms (USA).

3. Poor Things

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Genre/s: Comedy/Drama/Sci-Fi Length: 2 Hours 21 Minutes Languages: English/Portuguese/ French Countries: Ireland/UK/USA

Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef, Jerrod Carmichael, Kathryn Hunter, Christopher Abbot, Keeley Forsyth, Margaret Qualley, Vicki Pepperdine, Suzy Bemba

Synopsis: Brought back to life by a mad scientist (Willem Dafoe), Bella (Emma Stone) runs away on an adventure that will teach her what it is to be a woman in an insane world, the power they have, the power they don’t and ultimately, the woman she wants to become.

My Take: The weirder, raunchier sister to Barbie, Poor Things’ take on the Frankenstein story has (like Barbie) venturing out into a big, wide world that is both beautiful and ugly. Emma Stone is at her very best as Bella Baxter, our protagonist who, possessing the brain of an infant child, sees the world in strange, exciting and also disturbing ways. Yorgos Lanthimos and his DOP Robbie Ryan’s experiment with colours and lenses let Poor Things to be one of the most visually complex and gorgeous films of the year. Changes in colour as well as extensive use of fish-eye lenses and long zooms amplify Bella's internal and external states, ranging from being trapped, to explorative, to feeling lost, etc. After leaving a mostly black and white opening chapter, a literal prison that limits her view and experience of the world, we burst into full colour – colours that are so overwhelmingly bright and distorted. It genuinely does feel as though we are seeing the world through a baby’s eyes: unusual shapes accented by deep, rich fascinating colours we are aching to touch.

But it’s not simply just about a set of fresh eyes encountering the beauties, pleasures and wonders of the world. It’s primarily about Bella finding her place in the world, encountering the societal expectations of being a woman and finally shattering those norms so that she may play the game on her own terms. That’s why it’s so important for her to go on the journeys she goes on, most particularly that of her encounters with men, who all at some point, wish nothing more than to possess Bella as a daughter, wife, and mistress, and in one instance, showing her the cruel, ugly truth in it just so they may hurt and ruin her childlike sense of wonder. It’s these demands of polite society placed upon her that push her to rebel, forcing her to experience the world on her own terms as she learns about the power women have, what they don’t have and what she can do to break the mold in order for her to be what she wants and needs to be. The writing is thoughtful, the direction both ultra-specific and playful in its creative fluidity, a cast clearly having the most fun they have ever had in a film, but ultimately, it’s Emma Stone’s world and we’re just living it. It’s an extremely brave performance, one that leans into the hilarity and absurdity of it its plot, but Stone also knows when to ground it through nuanced introspection. The subtle growth and changes in behaviour, speech patterns and even the way she stares are consistently impressive, mindblowing even. Because it feels like the weirder sister of Barbie, it’s so easy to compare her take on Bella Baxter to Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie: they’re both naïve creatures having to quickly learn what it means to be a woman in a big, strange world and what they can do to take control of their fate and become the women they deserve to be.

Where you can watch it: In select theatres (SA, UK), Hulu (USA), Disney+ (UK, Australia), Most VOD Platforms (SA, USA, UK, Australia).

2. Anatomy of a Fall

Director: Justine Triet

Genre/s: Drama/Thriller/Mystery Length: 2 Hours 31 Minutes

Languages: English/French/German Country: France

Cast: Sandra Hüller, Milo Machado-Graner, Swann Arlaud, Antoine Reinartz, Samuel Theis, Jehnny Beth, Camille Rutherford, Anne Rotger, Messi (the dog)

Synopsis: After her husband (Samuel Theis) falls from the window of their mountain home, Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is suspected of murder, leaving their half-blind son (Milo Machado-Graner) stuck with a moral dilemma at the center of a failing marriage.

My Take: Anatomy of a Fall is a clever title that encompasses both the factual investigation of a death resulting from a fall, as well as the intricacies that led to the fall of a marriage. If the scene is about what it's about then it’s often boring - a fruitless endeavor that reveals nothing of its characters, the themes, and the actual progression of plot. And although Anatomy’s initial plot-driven accident/murder procedural courtroom drama appears to be what it’s about on the surface, writer/director Justine Triet merely uses that as the film’s mask, a disguise for what the film is really about. Triet’s screenplay is among the best of the year, blending the hard-nosed fact vs fiction aspect of a courtroom, investigative drama with that of a domestic drama – a thriller that pits partners against one another as their half-blind son Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner) undergoes serious, life-altering dilemmas about what he wants to do vs. what he needs to do. Although death has effectively ended the marriage, it feels like a divorce drama as one of its survivors in Sandra (Sandra Hüller) is not only pleeing for her innocence and life, but also to Daniel, whose testimony could either save or condemn her, an extreme case of picking which parent you want to live with as the divorce finalises. Then there are the recordings and memories involving the deceased father (Samuel Theis) that Triet allows for both Daniel and Sandra replay in their heads. These could be subjective interpretations, objective certainties or complete lies invented to either avoid punishment or live in denial in order to protect one's own interest or those dearest to you. Justine Triet is clever in not providing definitive answers here, and although there is a result at the trial, she leaves enough breadcrumbs to either cause doubt in the viewer, or cement their convictions. 

Triet really wants the audience to work at it, to form an opinion of its deceptive, or honest, subjects, to find the parallels in our own lives that reflect the flaws of its characters. This is what great cinema does: get us talking. In a year of truly phenomenal performances, Sandra Hüller is quite possibly my favourite alongside Emma Stone and Cillian Murphy. Justine Triet’s direction for Hüller was to play it as if she were innocent, and that’s exactly what she does, further mystifying her character and the truth that will remain hidden inside her as we debate whether she did it or not. Milo Machado-Graner as her half-blind son is the true heart of the film though – a child at the center of the ugliest end to a marriage imaginable, coming to an impossible dilemma that has him battling with what the truth is vs. what he wishes it was. It’s an absolutely immense work of suspense, mystery and moral discourse that gets better with each viewing. Real talk though, Messi the Dog is the goodest boy. #whereshisoscar. Oh, and the reggae instrumental of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P. SLAAAAPPPPS.

Where you can watch it: In select theatres (USA), Most VOD Platforms (USA, UK).

1. Oppenheimer

Director: Christopher Nolan

Genre/s: Drama/Thriller Length: 3 Hours Language: English Countries: USA/UK

Cast: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Benny Safdie, Florence Pugh, David Krumholtz, Alden Ehrenreich, Macon Blair, Casey Affleck, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Jason Clarke, Dylan Arnold, Tom Conti, James D’Arcy, David Dastmalchian, Dane DeHaan, Tony Goldwyn, Matthew Modine, Ale Wolff, Scott Grimes, Kurt Koehler, Jack Quaid, Josh Peck, Gary Oldman

Synopsis: The story of the polarizing figure of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy), the man behind the atomic bomb.

My Take: “Did you think that if you let them tar and feather you, the world will forgive you? They won’t”. Nolan doesn’t look to justify, excuse or even forgive Oppenheimer for what he did to the world - playing his part in the destructive power that would forever change humanity’s trajectory, one that marches firmly towards certain death. By writing the film's screenplay from Oppenhimer's first-person perspective (the colour sections of the film at least), something that is unheard of in screenplays, Nolan looks to peer into the mind of the man and wrestle with the clashing emotions and moral dilemmas he encountered every day before and after the results of The Manhattan Project. It makes for his inability to fully confront the results of his actions, to refusing to look directly at the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that allows this unique perspective-driven screenplay to work so well. It’s an effective, towering achievement of a biopic because it genuinely tries to fathom the actions of all those involved. The moral dilemmas with which Oppenheimer faced allow for the film’s remarkable structure to drive these conflicting dips and curves in his eventual real-life character arc to be that much more fascinating. It’s not just a drama, but one that twists and turns into a thriller, one set against the clock of his own morality, with Strauss (Robert Downey Jr.) proving to be a unique combination of historical objective accounts of the man, as well as his own subjective spin steeped in grudges and resentment. He’s the Salieri to Murphy's Mozart (check out the wonderful Milos Forman film Amadeus, one with which Nolan required Murphy and RDJ to revisit).

The cast has routinely said that Murphy had the toughest job here, and it's easy to see why. Murphy is completely and utterly spellbinding as the controversial figure of Oppenheimer, and with a script written from his perspective, it makes the task even more daunting as he is forced to sacrifice himself entirely to the character. From naïve to curious, to arrogant, to certain, to fearful, to remorseful. The gamut is ever-widening, going as far as evolving with the character's body language in different phases in his life that are so subtle but so important in immersing himself so deeply within Oppenheimer's skin.

Oppenheimer is the feel-bad blockbuster of the year. It’s a harrowing account of events that continues to have its results reverberate into our present and future. With Nolan’s unique screenplay cantered around dueling, subjective first-person perspectives, we are offered a chance to understand and skewer both the innovations and sins of such a mythical figure. It’s a highly intimate, moving, and challenging piece of work that has Nolan delivering his masterpiece. It may not be the definitive movie biopic, but you can safely place it up there with the likes of Lawrence of Arabia, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Malcolm X, etc. as some of the greatest and most radically inventive biopics we have seen to date. For my extended thoughts, you can read my full review for Oppenheimer here.

Where can you watch it: Peacock (USA), Most VOD Platforms (Worldwide).

And there you have it, my 50 favourite films of 2023. I must admit, I went through a bit of an internal battle picking my top 10, spots kept swapping hands (they'll continue to do so after this is posted, living with regret), but the film that very rarely moved from the number 1 spot was Oppenheimer. A part of me kept trying to justify keeping it away from the number 1 because, and I'm possibly overthinking this, it feels like a bit of a basic bitch thing to place a Christopher Nolan film at the very top (I personally love Nolan but I know it’s weirdly popular for film snobs to dunk on his work for various reasons both understandable and plain silly). But at the end of the day, I had to live my truth. Good cinema is good cinema and even then, it's entirely subjective. So there. It was simply a film that thrilled me the most. I mean I saw it four times at IMAX and have seen it twice since (Yikes I know but I had to be damn sure that this was indeed my favourite). This is not to say I didn’t revisit other films on this list as frequently (I watched Past Lives 5 times and yes, it broke my heart every time) but this was just the one my ape brain kept on gravitating towards as I ordered the list accordingly. So anyways, enough weird over-justifying my taste to myself and to you, if you disagree wholeheartedly with every placement on this list as well as my silly hot takes then remember...

K. Bye.

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