2023 for me was the year of great scripts. My top 6 all have Oscar-worthy screenplays and it made for a truly wonderful year in film.
It’s also the year that Marvel might have downgraded to being on life-support (I can’t believe that no MCU film made the list here). But let’s get to it!
A tragically mis-marketed film, Wonka is the latest from Chris King (who will forever go down in history as the director of the first two Paddington films) and it is quite fun. I thought this movie was going to be the worst film of the year, but Timothy Chalamet’s charisma combined with delightful musical numbers won me over.
9. Polite Society
This film went under the radar of most people and it’s sad that more people didn’t see it. It is a great story about sisterhood and living outside the box. The fight scenes are just so much fun, and the bonkers concept pushes the story forward to a satisfying conclusion.
8. A Haunting in Venice
I deeply disliked both of Kenneth Branagh’s previous Agatha Christie adaptations, but this one doesn’t try to be too flashy and ends up as a more conventional British murder mystery, to its benefit. Unlike many, I thought Tina Fey’s performance was great and the rest of the cast was wonderful as well.
7. Indiana Jones and the Dial Destiny
I don’t understand the hate for this film. Although it was more deliberately paced than the other Indy films, it was also more grounded and less outlandish than its immediate predecessor. This is the only film in the franchise where I teared up. The third act was so incredible and unpredictable, I just left the theater feeling great.
6. Godzilla Minus One
It’s been a weird year for the Godzilla franchise where we got two genuinely great pieces of media (the other being Monarch: Legacy of Monsters on Apple TV+). Godzilla Minus One is the best foreign film I’ve seen in years and has one of the best scripts of the year. It is parts Jaws and Independence Day all wrapped up in a beautiful Japanese bow. It’s just great storytelling.
I originally wasn’t a huge fan of Barbie but was encouraged to see it a second time and it was then that I was able to see how brilliant it is. Although it could be considered a feminist film, it does a very good job of showing that gender imbalance in either direction is toxic.
4. Dungeons and Dragons
I have never played Dungeons and Dragons the game, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this brilliantly written, acted, and directed film. I haven’t laughed that hard in the theater since The Lego Batman movie, and yet it was still a very deeply moving ending.
3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
A Ninja Turtles film actually being amazing was not on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful. Although it goes in directions that I didn’t expect, it still breathes fresh air into a franchise that has been stale for a generation. (My full review is here)
Tetris went under the radar for most people, however I still it has the best trailer I’ve seen in years and somehow the final product lived up to it. It’s part The Social Network and part 80’s espionage/spy thriller. (My review of this movie is here)
1. Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse
Although its predecessor is slightly better, that doesn’t mean that the sequel isn’t a masterpiece. It pushes the boundaries of animated and superhero storytelling once again and the final product that is truly the Empire Strikes Back of what is shaping up to be the best animated trilogy ever.
This movie couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, with the possible exception of cliche. It tried to have the emotional depth of Gravity or Interstellar but couldn’t stick to one theme.