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Top Ten Films of 2023

“2023 was a great year for film!” was not a statement I would have made in October.

I’ve been writing top ten lists for nearly two decades and as a habit, I keep a note of my favourite films of the year in a word doc.  In some of the best years I have had to cull a list of 20-30 great films down to ten.  This year I got to October and my entire list was five films.

The crazy thing of course is that there are plenty of fantastic films that were released in 2023.  But they are often hard to track down and/or released in this insane five week window between late November and mid December when everyone has hardly any free time to go to the movies.

Not to sound like an old man shouting at clouds but it’s crazy to me that the blockbuster movie season is effectively eleven months long and then “everything else” (not just award season fare but the likes of Godzilla Minus One, Saltburn, The Boy and the Heron and The Killer) all get crammed into this tiny release window on a strictly limited run at the end of the year.

Fortunately, there seems to be a real turning of the tide at long last.  I’ve personally been burnt out on super hero films and the relentless grind of big budget sequels for years but the public appetite for a new Ghostbuster or Thor movie felt endless.  Until now.  Aquaman 2, The Marvels, Blue Beetle, Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania all underperformed at the box office in spectacular fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we shouldn’t have super hero movies at all.  I just think 2 or 3 per year is fine.  Not 20.  And maybe we’re finally reaching a stage where that is the prevailing sentiment amongst the broader theatre-going crowds too.

We’re also hitting a tipping point with streaming and video on demand services.  There’s too many, the quality of each service’s catalogue sucks because every market is fragmented, the original movie content is sub par and we’re also getting a delightful reminder that you don’t really own anything digitally as some content providers are revoking access to films and tv shows people paid for.

What do we do about it?  I don’t really know.  Personally I bought over 200 DVDs this year and hardly any of them cost more than a dollar.  But I realise I’m a niche case.  I guess lots of people will revert to piracy and we’ll enter into a new age of torrenting, Limewire and whatnot.  Lastly, I think its possible we lose a generation of young people who won’t even be all that interested in movies period because its too expensive to go to the cinema, too much of the content is peddling nostalgia at forty year olds and the streaming stuff sucks for all the aforementioned reasons.

All of this sounds rather grim but I know there will always be passionate custodians of cinema – both film makers and enthusiasts – who will find ways to provide access to classic movies of yesteryear and champion bold and creative new films at the box office.  My top ten list for 2023 looked pretty dire in October but as I write this in the final days of December, I’ve actually ended up with a really solid list.

Anyway, that’s enough waffling.  Here it is, my ten favourite films of 2023.


Director: Greta Gerwig
Writers: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Cast: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Will Ferrell

“To be honest, when I found out the patriarchy wasn’t just about horses, I lost interest.”

One of my favourite organically driven movie events of the year was the ‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon which saw audiences flock to the big screens to see two totally disparate yet equally wonderful films in Barbie and Oppenheimer which released on the same day in July.

I know Greta Gerwig is a talented filmmaker who has already amassed an impressive filmography at the age of just 40 but I think even the most optimistic fan couldn’t have imagined what she would accomplish with Barbie.

On face value I’ve seen firsthand with my daughter that it’s a well crafted comedy caper that can enthral and hold the attention of its natural target audience – young girls who like Barbie dolls – but it wouldn’t have become the cultural phenomenon that it did without its social commentary on feminism and masculinity which made this movie “Black Panther for white women” and also a source of much anguish for right wing culture warriors and their followers.

I rewatched the film again this month and it was just as much fun the second time around.  It’s funny, perfectly paced and has a terrific soundtrack.

Evil Dead Rise

Director: Lee Cronin
Writer: Lee Cronin
Cast: Mirabai Pease, Richard Crouchley, Anna-Maree Thomas

“Mommy’s with the maggots now.”

I still remember that for the longest time after the original Raimi directed Evil Dead trilogy, it felt like we would never see a new project get off the ground.  Now here we are in 2023 and the Evil Dead brand feels like its in a very good place indeed.

This new chapter doesn’t feature Bruce Campbell and is more of a spiritual successor to the original films.  Directed by Lee Cronin, Rise is a fantastic edge of your seat horror-comedy that captures the essence of the first two Evil Dead movies in supremely confident fashion.

A family in Los Angeles become trapped in their apartment complex after an earthquake blocks off the exits and things quickly escalated into a desperate struggle for survival when single mother Ellie becomes possessed by a demon.

Evil Dead Rise is a film made by people who clearly understand the fundamentals of good storytelling and specifically how to navigate the tricky horror-comedy sub genre.  It’s a simple story but the delivery is exceptional and I totally bought into this film from the opening minutes.

Talk to Me

Directors: Danny and Michael Philippou
Writers: Danny Philippou, Bill Hinzman, Daley Pearson
Cast: Ari McCarthy, Hamish Phillips, Kit Erhart-Bruce

“I let you in.”

Talk to Me is an Australian-made horror film made by two people (Danny and Michael Philippou) who made their name running a Youtube channel called RackaRacka.  It is crafted so wonderfully by these young talents that shouldn’t possibly be this good this early in their careers.  I’ve been a vocal supporter and advocate for this film ever since I saw it, constatly badgering everyone I know to go see it.

The premise of the film is that a group of ne’er-do-well teenagers have found a demonic hand that, when grasped and the phrase ‘I let you in’ is uttered, it allows the person to become possessed by a spirit.  But a rule is established that the possession should only last for 90 seconds or they run the risk of being psychically damaged.

The way these bored teenagers treat this hand not as a relic to be feared but as a fun novelty at parties felt so authentic to me and was part of what hooked me into the story so firmly in its riveting opening twenty minutes.

What elevates Talk to Me to greatness though is the surprising themes that surface later in the film as the characters deal with grief, guilt and anxiety over connecting with their parents.  Although the film has an outlandish central conceit, I thought the filmmakers allowed the characters to show an emotional depth and sense of introspection that is rare for this genre.

An absolutely sensational debut feature.

Past Lives

Director: Celine Song
Writer: Celine Song
Cast: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Margaro

“You dream in a language I can’t understand. It’s like there’s this whole place inside you I can’t go.”

Past Lives is a debut film from writer-director Celine Song and tells the story of two young Korean teenagers – Nora and Hae Sung – who form a strong bond that feels as though it could develop into something romantic but is abruptly upended when Nora and her family emigrate to New York.

The two resume communication online and quickly become emotionally intertwined once more but their lives seem constantly askew.  There is a longing to meet from both sides but university studies, military conscription and their professional careers, all conspire to keep them apart.

As they grow older, enter into relationships of their own, they drift in and out of communication until finally a moment presents them with an opportunity to meet face to face.

Past Lives is a tender, heartfelt film with captivating leads that have the perfect chemistry for the tale that Song is weaving.  The film is a brisk 90 minutes, handled with a deft touch and never feels overwrought.

A sweetly constructed modern romance that I encourage anyone to seek out.

The Killer

Director: David Fincher
Writers: Alexis Nolent, Luc Jacamon, Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Tilda Swinton, Charles Parnell

“Stick to your plan. Anticipate, don’t improvise. Trust no one. Never yield an advantage. Fight only the battle you’re paid to fight.”

One of my favourite scenes of any movie in 2023 is The Killer which opens with a gag that has a ten minute long run up.  Nothing about the film’s promotional material, the trailers or the initial reviews prepared me for the fact that this is one of the funniest dark comedies in recent memory.  It’s not really the type of film I can ever recall David Fincher dabbling in and yet here we are.

Structurally, the film is astonishingly simple.  So simple that when it lays out its cards in the opening act, you might be tempted to think there’s a twist coming or that there might be more to it.  But the pleasures of The Killer come from the journey with the unnamed hitman played by Michael Fassbender, and not the final destination.  Fassbender really shines with his understated performance that dwells heavily on the weird idiosyncrasies of being a professional killer.  There’s a real back-to-basics feel about both his performance and Fincher’s direction which is decidedly muted by his standards.

This film was not on my radar at all coming in to 2023 and it ended up being one of my favourites.  I had a great time with it.


Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan, Kai Bird, Martin Sherwin
Cast: Cilian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Florence Pugh

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Oppenheimer is a superb biographical thriller about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb.

Cillian Murphy delivers a convincing and brilliant performance as Oppenheimer – an exceptional theoretical physicist but also a flawed and conflicted human who wrestles with the human cost of his participation in the Manhattan Project.

Not being a history buff I was only ever familiar with the certain aspects of Oppenheimer that had seeped into popular culture – his famous quote and his involvement in the Manhattan Project – but I was completely unaware of his political leanings, his interactions with Einstein, his extramarital affair with Jean Tatlock or the political persecution he faced from Atomic Energy Commission leader Lewis Strauss.

Oppenheimer the film is a dense, detailed and impressive work.  It’s an ambitious film that chronicles many warts-and-all details of his life but despite being heavy with exposition, it still feels like it has plenty to offer artistically thanks to Nolan’s impressive production that mostly uses practical effects and Jennifer Lame’s wonderful editing that skilfully weaves together multiple time periods and dozens of characters into a coherent narrative.

The supporting cast is also a highlight of Oppenheimer with an impressive ensemble including the likes of Matt Damon, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh.  For my money, Florence Pugh as Jean Tatlock and Robert Downey Jr as the vindictive Lewis Strauss are amongst the highlights here.

Oppenheimer is a wonderful film on its own merits but in the current climate of heightened global tensions, it also feels prescient and a timely cautionary tale.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Director: Martin Scorcese
Writers: Eric Roth, Martin Scorcese, David Grann
Cast: Lily Gladstone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro

“Can you find the wolves in this picture?”

Even in his autumn years, its wonderful to see a filmmaker as accomplished and storied as Martin Scorcese continue to evolve his craft.

Killers of the Flower Moon is a lengthy crime drama about a series of murders of wealthy Osage Nation members – a community of oil-rich Indigenous Americans.  This formidable narrative, which clocks in at over 200 minutes, has a very deliberate and methodical pace but remains engaging thanks to the superb performances of the central cast (Lily Gladstone in particular) and the beautiful cinematography.

What interests me in particular about Killers of the Flower Moon is that on paper, it looks like a familiar Scorcese production with the presence of De Niro, DiCaprio and Robbie Roberston (a composer he has collaborated with eleven times) but in actuality, the film is quite a thematic departure from his best known work.  Killers of the Flower Moon explores America’s history of colonization and is largely focused on the Indigenous experience, a perspective almost entirely absent from his other works.  Whats even more impressive is that Scorcese nails it.

Killers is brutal, and at times a very tough watch, but it also feels utterly authentic.

The Holdovers

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: David Hemingson
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa

“Life is like a henhouse ladder. Shitty and short.”

I’ve followed and admired the films of Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways, Nebraska) for many years and after a rare misfire a couple of years back with Downsizing, I’m glad he’s back to his very best with The Holdovers, a heartwarming and beautiful holiday season film about a bad tempered professor played by Paul Giamatti who gets saddled with the job of minding students who don’t have any family to return to over Christmas break.

Payne’s films are almost all comedy-dramas and character studies of men undergoing some kind of midlife crisis.  The best ones tend to have an earthy, realistic quality about them and so it is with The Holdovers, which at times feels like a kindred spirit to Dead Poets Society, only with the saccharine levels dialled down about four or five notches.

Although there are many familiar element in The Holdovers with Payne’s previous films, I think this is by far his most crowd pleasing film to date.  Most of his earlier films tend to leave the protagonist downtrodden or defeated by the time credits rolled, with experiences that could charitably be called ‘character building’ at best.  I feel like Payne may finally be softening in his later years as this is one of the first times I can recall where he allows the leads a (mostly) triumphant send-off.

I’d love to see The Holdovers gain a cult following as a holiday season film.  It’s very funny, full of great characters and leaves you with your spirits high.


Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: David Scarpa
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim

“You think you are so great because you have boats.”

It’s not quite on the same tier as Oppenheimer or Killers of the Flower Moon but Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is nonetheless a hearty, enjoyable historical epic.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Napoleon Bonaparte in a film that charts his ascendancy into supreme  military power, his most famous victories on land and sea, and inevitably his downfall.  Much of the inner thoughts of Napoleon are narrated via his letters to his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais.  As you’d expect from most historical interpretations of the man – he is played by Phoenix as a brilliant strategist who is supremely driven but single-minded in his ambitions to a fault.

The highlights of Napoleon are its lavish production values as Ridley Scott (now in his eighties) shows he still has a real flair for capturing large scale combat onscreen.  As you can imagine, the costumes and scenery are also top drawer.

My only qualm really is that film is very literal in its portrayal and doesn’t offer much room for interpretation or subtext.  But for a $200 million dollar ‘style over substance’ film, it’s a handsomely constructed epic in a genre and of a style that few studios are producing anymore.

Godzilla Minus One


Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Writer: Takashi Yamazaki
Cast: Minami Hanabe, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Sakura Ando

It’s a good time to be a Godzilla fan.  The King of Monsters turns seventy years old next year and currently is appearing in no less than three different film and television productions in the span of four months – Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, MONARCH: Legacy of Monsters and Toho Studio’s Godzilla Minus One.

Time will tell how the other projects work out but Godzilla Minus One is sensational.  Made on a modest budget of $15 million, Toho have produced a film that has greater energy and spectacle of Hollywood productions with ten times that budget.  This is a film that you need to see in the cinema.  There are sequences in this film – the chase in the ocean and his initial arrival into Tokyo Bay – which are jaw-dropping and gave me goosebumps.

This film has incredible word of mouth and favourable comparisons are being drawn with the 1954 original.  I can’t recall the last time a creature feature such as this had such well written human characters who you grow attached to and care for their fate.  They’re characterized in pretty broad brush strokes – a scruffy tugboat captain with a heart of gold, a brilliant scientist with crazy hair, a hot headed youngster who is keen to see battle – but the performances are universally excellent and the screenplay absolutely pops.

This is one of the very, very rare instances where I suspect the majority of the audience will be cheering for the humans and not the monster in the final showdown.

What gives Godzilla Minus One a fresh perspective from the 38 other movie adaptations he’s featured in is the decision to set this film directly after Japan’s surrender in World War 2.  When Godzilla arrives in Japan, it is already devastated by the final days of the war and crucially, the feelings of guilt and shame shape the psyche of the humans as they try to muster the courage and nous to defeat the King of Monsters.  I loved that in Godzilla Minus One, when the humans rally to defeat him, it is a collective union of Japanese civilians and not the government that lead the charge.

In case you couldn’t tell, I adored this film.  It’s an instant classic for me.  It’s one of those films I won’t shut up about for months to come.  In Australia it had a dismally short theatrical run.  But if I spot a boutique independent cinema screening a 9.20pm session on a Sunday, you can bet I’ll be dragging along the first person who answers my messages to that theatre.  You need to see this film.


Top Ten Films of 2022  |  Film of the Year – RRR

Top Ten Films of 2021  |  Film of the Year – The Father

Top Ten Films of 2020 | Film of the Year – The Invisible Man

Top Ten Films of 2019 | Film of the Year – Parasite

Top Ten Films of 2018  |  Film of the Year – BlackKklansman

Top Ten Films of 2017  |  Film of the Year – Get Out

Top Ten Films of 2016  | Film of the Year – Hunt For The Wilder People

Top Ten Films of 2015 |  Film of the Year – Mad Max Fury Road

Top Fifty Films of 2014 |  Film of the Year – Grand Budapest Hotel

Top Ten Films of 2013 |  Film of the Year – Gravity

Top Ten Films of 2012  |  Film of the Year – The Descendants

Top Ten Films of 2011 |  Film of the Year – True Grit

Top Ten Films of 2010 | Film of the Year – The Social Network

Top Ten Films of 2009 | Film of the Year – In The Loop

About Edo

Edo currently lives in Australia where he spends his time playing video games and enjoying his wife's cooking.

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