Indiewire's The 25 Best Movies of 2023

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BY DAVID EHRLICH, KATE ERBLAND.

In hindsight, it shouldn’t be surprising that the cinema of 2023 was so preoccupied with the unknown, as the first proper year after the start of the pandemic was always going to find the movie industry plunging into a brave new world.

Some of the most pressing questions we had at the start of January were answered with resounding force. Would the studios — some of which had fatally diluted their brands with streaming options in a desperate bid to appease the stock market — find that once-reliable franchises had lust their luster? Yes. Would audiences — so eager for a different breed of “event film” that they had already started to redefine the term themselves — actually follow through on the “Barbenheimer” meme that first spread across social media in late 2022? Yes. Would titans like Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, and Wes Anderson make good on the breathless chatter that surrounded their latest projects and predictably inspire some of the most illuminating and demented takes in the history of human opinion along the way? Absolutely.

On the other hand, some of the year’s most pressing questions were harder to see coming in advance, although several of those have also been resolved as well to one degree or another. Would the strikes ever end? Good news! Would documentaries start to feel depressingly irrelevant in the face of a streaming ecosystem that’s made it all but impossible to market anything besides celebrity profiles and concert films? Kind of! (Festival highlights like “Milisuthando” are still awaiting distribution, while other major efforts like “Kokomo City,” “Four Daughters,” and the fittingly titled “A Still Small Voice” have struggled to be heard amid the ever-loudening din of movie discourse). Did David Zaslav learn a valuable lesson from the whole “Batgirl” disaster last summer? Not so much!

And yet it was how the films themselves confronted the unknown that proved most notable about the year in cinema, as several of 2023’s defining movies found their characters and creators looking beyond the limits of their lived experience — or, in the case of “The Zone of Interest” and its timeless moral compartmentalizations, resisting the urge to do so at any cost. This, more than the happy coincidences of their shared release date, is what bonded “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” together; where one film saw heartfelt wonder, the other discovered unholy dread.

That fascination with the unknown is the connective tissue between the mysteries of “Asteroid City” and “The Boy and the Heron,” between the real or imagined multi-verses of “Spider-Man” and “Past Lives,” and between Scorsese’s defeated humility at the end of “The Killers of the Flower Moon” and the barrister’s grinning arrogance throughout the courtroom scenes in “Anatomy of a Fall.” This was a year in which many of the most resonant movies tried to capture the past in hopelessly cracked vessels and/or embraced total disorder in a bid to reconcile the tensions of the present. Sure, there was comfort food par excellance courtesy of Frederick Wiseman and Tran Anh Hung, but even their films served as tasty reminders that great cinema always takes us just a little further into the future — or into ourselves — than we can dare to imagine without it.

Here are IndieWire’s picks for the 25 best movies of 2023. This article includes contributions from Carlos Aguilar, Christian Blauvelt, Jude Dry, Sophie Monks Kaufman, and Ryan Lattanzio.

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  1. 1 new

    Past Lives

    2023, in 5 top lists
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  2. 2 new

    La passion de Dodin Bouffant

    2023 — a.k.a. The Taste of Things, in 0 top lists
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  3. 3 new

    Asteroid City

    2023, in 1 top list
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  4. 4 new

    Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka

    2023 — a.k.a. The Boy and the Heron, in 3 top lists
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  5. 5 new

    May December

    2023, in 1 top list
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  6. 6 new

    Poor Things

    2023, in 7 top lists
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  7. 7 new

    Passages

    2023, in 1 top list
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  8. 8 new

    Anatomie d'une chute

    2023 — a.k.a. Anatomy of a Fall, in 9 top lists
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  9. 9 new

    All of Us Strangers

    2023, in 3 top lists
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  10. 10 new

    The Zone of Interest

    2023, in 8 top lists
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  11. 11 new

    A Thousand and One

    2023, in 1 top list
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  12. 12 new

    Barbie

    2023, in 3 top lists
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  13. 13 new

    Los delincuentes

    2023 — a.k.a. The Delinquents, in 1 top list
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  14. 14 new

    Oppenheimer

    2023, in 12 top lists
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  15. 15 new

    Killers of the Flower Moon

    2023, in 6 top lists
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  16. 16 new

    R.M.N.

    2022, in 0 top lists
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  17. 17 new

    Love Life

    2022, in 0 top lists
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  18. 18 new

    Pacifiction

    2022, in 2 top lists
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  19. 19 new

    Kokomo City

    2023, in 0 top lists
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  20. 20 new

    La chimera

    2023 — a.k.a. La Chimera, in 1 top list
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  21. 21 new

    Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

    2023, in 9 top lists
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  22. 22 new

    Earth Mama

    2023, in 0 top lists
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  23. 23 new

    Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

    2023, in 0 top lists
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  24. 24 new

    Vanskabte land

    2022 — a.k.a. Godland, in 0 top lists
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  25. 25 new

    Beau Is Afraid

    2023, in 0 top lists
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Last updated on Dec 4, 2023; source