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The 10 Best Movies Of 2023

In hindsight, 2023 will be a crucial learning curve for Hollywood. Not since the 1960s has the industry had its glossy gears jammed with the disruption of a dual writer and actor strike. Last time, the new idea of television re-runs sparked this labor movement. Writers and actors fought to ensure residual pay for creatives in perpetuity. In 2023, a similar situation arose: New streaming technology brought a shift in entertainment consumption. The Writer's Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA wanted the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to recalibrate fair pay. (Despite a show like "Supernatural" being a mainstay of Netflix's library, creator Eric Kripke has never seen a penny in residuals.)

While the strikes have ended, it remains to be seen whether movie executives have learned the right lesson from this ... as the studios still opted to pay $600,000 weekly amidst the SAG-AFTRA strike when actors were struggling to live rather than reach an agreement sooner. Why bring this up? Well, I don't think it's a coincidence that the heavy hitters at the box office this year — and most of the ones that our Looper writers have deemed the best of 2023 — tackle facing the reckoning of big-thinking ideas with devastating consequences for the little guy.

Miles Morales in "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" realizes helping others without the right context is ... a destabilizing idea for the multiverse. Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" discovers that the best way to escape a boxed-in world is to have collective support. Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" and Takashi Yamazaki's "Godzilla: Minus One" pointedly illustrate the harm that smashing through the world with self-interest will do. Throughout them all, I see something remarkable in the rubble. Despite the genre or scope, there's the same strand of hope stitched in them: There's someone left standing who endures and believes there's more work to do. Here's to this year's movies that have given us that Kenough energy to imagine something better.

Godzilla: Minus One

As Hollywood's franchise blockbuster fixation continued its nosedive in 2023, Japanese writer-director Takashi Yamazaki delivered an antidote with "Godzilla Minus One." Made for less than $15 million, the film has been heralded as one of the best in the series' 70-year history. As of December 2023, it's become the highest-grossing live-action Japanese movie in the United States.

"Godzilla: Minus One" is a story about hope exploring how a community rebuilds itself after facing unimaginable violence. In the film, Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) returns home from World War II disgraced — having deserted his duty as a kamikaze pilot. As he creates a new life for himself in the ruins of a bombed-out Tokyo, Godzilla arrives to torment Japan like a specter from his past. Under Yamazaki's direction, "Minus One" reminds us what the term "blockbuster" used to mean. "Godzilla: Minus One" has a triumphant and Spielberg-like quality to it. Kōzō Shibasaki anchors the film with striking cinematography, which is brought aloft by Naoki Satō's soaring score. Along with Kiyoko Shibuya, Yamazaki also led the visual effects for the film, yielding (arguably) the most terrifying version of Godzilla we've ever seen on screen.

Still, it's difficult to quantify what makes "Minus One" so exceptional, somehow the film evokes aspects of "Jaws," "Jurassic Park," and "Saving Private Ryan." But the film transcends those comparisons with its spiritual core — seeing creation as the only balm for destruction and living each day as a courageous act. - Rick Stevenson


As one half of the "Barbieheimer" phenomenon, Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" unleased a cinematic event that defined 2023's summer moviegoing season. In a year where superhero fatigue set in and tentpole franchises underperformed, "Oppenheimer" reminded people that nothing beats seeing a movie on the big screen.

Nolan's dramatization of the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and the creation of the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima isn't for the faint-hearted. This mainstream release explores challenging and harrowing subject matter, centering around a flawed protagonist who isn't always likable. The film questions destructive scientific advancements, presenting the characters with a moral dilemma and leaving the audience with more questions than answers. Nolan's films have always presented viewers with weighty ideas and themes on a blockbuster scale; however, "Oppenheimer" is arguably his most complex work due to the horrific real-world history that informs the story.

Moreover, "Oppenheimer" is also a love letter to old-school filmmaking. Nolan and his team used practical effects for the most part, causing people to believe that they donated an actual atomic bomb for the Trinity test sequence. They didn't, but the fact some folks thought they did is a testament to the film's impressive technical feats. - Kieran Fisher

The Boy and the Heron

"Animation is cinema," Guillermo del Toro once said when accepting the Oscar for best-animated feature for "Pinocchio." Despite what some think, he wasn't applying this phrase to a commercial film like "The Super Mario Bros. Movie." His statement was reserved for the kind of sprawling yet personal epic that only animation can create. "The Boy and the Heron" fits perfectly into del Toro's view of the genre as being one that's imaginative, sweeping, and reflective.

Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, "The Boy and the Heron" follows Mahito (Soma Santoki/Luca Padovan), whose mother died when he was young. Years later, he encounters The Grey Heron (Masaki Suda/Robert Pattinson), who takes him to a fantastical world to move on from grief and create a conflict-free world. The "Alice in Wonderland"-esque adventure is a treasure trove of metaphors and ruminations on life and death. Plus, the film is breathtaking: Its opening shot of a raging fire is starkly nightmarish, and other frames look like gorgeous paintings. 

Miyazaki is one of our greatest filmmakers. In 2013, he announced his retirement but — thankfully — returned for "The Boy and the Heron." The word from Liberation is he's already obsessed with another movie idea. Any more Miyazaki is a good thing! For now, "The Boy and the Heron" is a triumphant reflection on his career and ability to push animation's boundaries. Appropriately, the movie heavily features birds — just in case it becomes the director's swan song. - Mike Bedard


Like 2014's "The Lego Movie" — which funnily enough also features Will Ferrell as a slightly manic CEO of a toy company — "Barbie" had a lot to prove when it hit theaters. Directed by Greta Gerwig and written by the Oscar nominee alongside her partner Noah Baumbach, a "Barbie" movie could have gone terribly wrong. 

Thanks to Gerwig, Baumbach, and leads Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, "Barbie" was a sensation. With her sharp sense of humor and unique yet universal perspective on coming-of-age as a woman, Gerwig crafted a movie that balanced its bubblegum pink aesthetics with jokes about fascism. Robbie's Barbie explores the complexities of being a woman, ultimately realizing that living a contradictory life is better than being as inauthentic as an idealized doll — a fairly deep statement about feminity. Plus, all this happens while Ken is performing a dream ballet focused on self-actualization! "Barbie" is a lovingly rendered film with incredible practical set designs and a catchy soundtrack of original songs like "I'm Just Ken" and "What Was I Made For?" Above all, it's earnest at its core, which helps its emotional moments hit that much harder after a funny zinger like: "I would never wear heels if my feet were shaped like this."

That's saying nothing of "Barbie's" timing. Alongside Taylor Swift's Eras Tour and Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour, "Barbie" told women globally it was time to feel every sensation of joy and fury they have. Summer 2023 became a pink, sequined, friendship-bracelet-wearing celebration of feminine glee. Anyone who enjoyed "Barbie" discovered, no matter what, they are "Kenough." - Nina Starner

Talk to Me

Daniel and Michael Phillippou stretched out a hand to shock horror fans to their core with their big-screen debut, "Talk to Me." Following in the haunting footsteps of "The Ring" and "It Follows," this Australian horror movie added to that viral horror legacy by crafting a nightmare of events full of teenagers, dark acts, and regret. After participating in a ceremony that allows Mia (Sophie Wilde) to speak with the afterlife, she struggles to let go of its hold on her ... Making events even worse for those who consider her a friend.

Yes, "Talk to Me" has some gnarly scenes but its most overlooked element is how real these characters feel in comparison to their skin-crawling competition. Danny Phillipou and Bill Hinzman's script has a surprising sense of humor — thin as it is — which makes the friends and family members caught up in this ordeal feel genuine. Whether it's Miranda Otto as the mother oblivious to her kid's afterschool activities, or seance hosts Hayley (Zoe Terakes) and Joss (Chris Alosio) giving crude but honest commentary ("eh, this spirit's a c**t"), these moments function sublimely to put audiences at ease just to jolt them back into horror. No wonder a sequel is already in the cards! Just don't be surprised if you find yourself reluctant to let it into your living room. - Nicholas Staniforth

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Superhero fatigue is real — or, at least, 2023 made it seem so. Amid a flood of subpar comic book films and shows, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is one of the few standouts. But while it's a great movie, it's also a swan song to a particular era — a chance to get off the ride. Instead, it fell to "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" to prove superhero cinema has an inventive future.

Following 2018's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," this animated film from directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson reunites fans with Shameik Moore's Miles Morales as he embarks on a multiversal adventure alongside Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Elephant in the room: neither Spider-Man nor the Multiverse are remotely novel concepts nowadays. But the script for "Across the Spider-Verse" — penned by dream team Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Dave Callaham — revives the familiar and makes Miles' journey unexpectedly engaging.

"Across the Spider-Verse" balances upon a webline tightrope — subverting the Spider-Man mythos, while also celebrating its storied legacy. Yes, it's jam-packed with deep-cut references, but it never lets those callbacks get in the way of its emotionally resonant narrative. A sensory triumph with a gorgeous visual style and an earworm of a score from Daniel Pemberton, the film gives a constant sense of kinetic energy that makes its runtime fly by quickly. To its credit, this film proves superhero movies can have substance while embracing the heights of spectacle.

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is a hero bent on saving its genre from the brink — and it does so with all the grace and irreverence of its titular webslinger. - Ethan Zack


At first glance, Ridley Scott's "Napoleon" gives off vibes of a clean, traditional geo-political historical narrative. But as the two-and-a-half-hour theatrical version kicks off, it quickly becomes clear that David Scarpa's script is all too ready to poke fun at its subject matter. This semi-comedic treatment drew plenty of criticism out of the gate as bewildered critics and viewers alike tried to keep up with the fast-paced and dissonant narrative.

All of this seems to point in the wrong direction for a best movies list. But the truth is, often brilliant movies aren't appreciated in their time. "Napoleon" is a misunderstood (and subtly well-executed) take on its disturbing titular character. It is "Gladiator" without the heroic Maximus, showcasing Scott's trademark brand of direction: He's respectful of the facts until they don't help the story or larger historical point. Guided by a talented pair of lead actors with impressive visuals, "Napoleon" has impressive visuals, discordant humor, and a bizarre storytelling style that matches the subject.

If you're looking for a sweeping epic that leaves you ready to fix bayonets and charge off into the metaphorical sunset, well, you'll have to look elsewhere. However, if you're going to boil Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's entire life down into 2.5 hours, this lighthearted, half-joking treatment is one of the only good ways to tell the tale of the Little Corporal from Corsica. - Jaron Pak

Extraction 2

Many will disagree with me on this. Looper's review of "Extraction 2" definitely does. Still, I consider choosing the best movie of the year a context game. 2023 hasn't been the kind of light-hearted year that requires the gravitas of True Cinema™ to anchor it. It's been a harsh one, and for the best movie of a year like this, we need a palate cleanser instead of an elaborate feast. We need an old-school, hard-hitting action film. We need ... "Sisu," really. But since it premiered in 2022 and "John Wick: Chapter 4" creaks under the weight of its goofy mythology, the honor goes to director Sam Hargrave's "Extraction 2."

When it comes to explosive escapism, no other 2023 film does the job as well as the Joe Russo-penned gritty action flick. "Extraction 2" is a movie where Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) doesn't stop hitting bad guys, even when his best punching hand is on fire! A movie with a 21-minute prison escape oner is enough to secure the film's place in the annals of high-octane adventure — hats off to cinematographer Greg Baldi! Also, it doesn't hurt that its shorter action scenes are great fun, or that the vengeance-driven ruthlessness of main antagonist Zurab (Tornike Gogrichiani) meshes nicely with Rake's invincible one-man army antics. Even the movie's cameo game is on point and includes a fun surprise for fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No, "Extraction 2" will not sweep the awards season. But when you need to watch an unstoppable force of retribution beat evil ... Choose the film with a fist on fire. - Pauli Poisuo


In "Jawan," writer-director Atlee taps Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to play a Robin Hood-like figure who leads a team of female prisoners on a mission to free India from corruption and deceit. Or, that's what the Hindi-language film's vague marketing would have you believe! From tackling topics like female empowerment, farmer suicides in India, and inadequate healthcare, "Jawan" is chock-full of politically charged messages that feel perfectly at home in an indie social drama. But this is Atlee we're talking about, a filmmaker who is notorious for repackaging the familiar through an expressionistic, chaotic lens.

Almost scientifically engineered to be as mass-appealing and emotional as possible, "Jawan" is an updated take on the Indian masala film, which blends several genres to create a complicated odyssey about a nation trying to take back their power. Intimate as it is unrelenting, "Jawan" operates at a mile-a-minute pace with its twists, giving viewers action setpieces ripped straight out of pulpy comic books. Far from subtle with its Marxist messaging, "Jawan" is action cinema that consistently venerates its lead star, deifying Khan as a God-like entity ready to save the oppressed. Truly, it's quintessential Indian storytelling, turning the hero into a messiah — one of many classic Indian cinema tropes that "Jawan" plays with and elevates.

From Anirudh's grooving, chart-bursting soundtrack, which turned theaters into concert stadiums, to Deepika Padukone's career-defining cameo as a woman falsely imprisoned for a crime, "Jawan" is a genre-defining vigilante epic that sets a new standard for large-scale Indian blockbuster storytelling. One can only hope that Hollywood takes some notes. – Aahil Dayani

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Online discourse frames everything in extremes, so, unsurprisingly, the internet's current consensus is that superhero films are super dead. Mostly, it feels like a hyperbole that stems from the disappointment of underwhelming films like "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" and "The Flash." But this stance ignores how much Marvel Studios stepped up its game with James Gunn's culmination of work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." While it's nearly impossible to top the chaotic thrill of "Vol. 1," the third installment comes very close by introducing something superhero films rarely possess — stakes!

Leading up to the film's release, Gunn made it clear that "Vol. 3" would be his final "GOTG" project, and you can feel the sense of impending closure in every line. Bound by trauma, friendship, and forgotten romance, the Guardians realize it's time to say goodbye. During an era when most comic book movies feel like a commercial for the next spin-off, Gunn gave his characters closure that's as vital to the MCU as "Avengers: Endgame."

"Vol. 3" also boasted a stellar soundtrack — With original compositions by John Murhpy and nostalgic rock anthems selected by Gunn himself, incredible practical effects that made the special features worth watching, and a promising contender for Marvel's best villain. Turns out, the director who could make you sob over a CGI raccoon knew what he was doing. - Cameron Roy Hall 

How did Looper make this list?

So, how did Looper compile this list? Our team has written about movies for decades, which means we have no shortage of professional (or personal) opinions on what qualifies as a "good" movie and what "good" means. To make matters simpler, we focused our picks on films that fit into one of these categories: a pivotal box-office success, a genre-changing entry, a critically beloved film that general audiences might have overlooked, a vital entry in a filmmaker's catalog, and a film with unsung creatives whose skilled work we believe deserves more recognition. We scoured Rotten Tomatoes, online forums, the trades, and the context of the films themselves to arrive at the list we feel best represents the underdog ethos of movies in 2023. However, we also took note of films that emotionally moved and entertained us as not just entertainment journalists or critics but as people in need of some joy and catharsis.

"Across the Spider-Verse" broke into the mainstream conversation while repping animation, superhero media, and family-friendly content — all categories that typically aren't taken as seriously in the greater 'best movies' discourse. The over $1 billion grossing film "Barbie" proved that a movie about an IP (really, a toy doll) can reach deeper than its plastic surface — a vital precedent for studios to remember, especially now that Mattel plans to flood the market with toy-centered films. Shortly after Nolan's technically masterful and cautionary tale "Oppenheimer" hit streaming, "Godzilla: Minus One" countered with its harrowing (yet hopeful) nuclear war story and became the biggest live-action Japanese film release to date in America.

For us, our list best distills how the industry thrived — against all odds — to deliver fun and remarkable stories that we'll remember for years to come. Your move, 2024.