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​​A&E’s best movies of 2023

Ndidi Nwosu / Thresher

By Jay Collura , Arman Saxena , Jacob Pellegrino and Hadley Medlock     1/9/24 11:29pm

Full stop, 2023 was the best year for film since the pandemic. From “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” breaking box office records, to the deluge of awards contenders that came out in the last months of the year, there was seemingly always something playing in theaters worth watching. The Thresher’s A&E writers recap ten of this year’s best film releases.

10. “John Wick: Chapter 4”

Over the last year, franchise films have begun to slow down in terms of both box office performance and general necessity — moviegoers are (to a certain extent) tired of having to do the homework before going to the theaters. This trap, however, is expertly avoided in “John Wick: Chapter 4,” a series high point that prioritizes strong filmmaking and innovative stuntwork, and delivers a high-stakes, explosive conclusion to the franchise. It is a breath of fresh air to see so much passion for the action genre ooze off the screen in every moment, and the physical achievement that the film represents cannot go unrecognized. “Chapter 4” is an adrenaline shot of a movie that will likely become a staple of action cinema in the 2020s. — Jay Collura

9. “Asteroid City”

“Asteroid City” is classic Wes Anderson, taking all his stylistic trademarks and distilling them into one delightful film with a charming deconstructionist flair. As is typical of Anderson’s work, the pastel color palette, miniatures and cast are equally effective in creating a unique world with a fun story. The film is set as a faux documentary, narrated by Bryan Cranston, about the production of the fictional titular play. The concept of the movie leads to a lot of interesting moments, dividing fiction and non-fiction with pastels and black-and-white filming along with different film ratios. With inspiration from the COVID-19 pandemic, “Asteroid City” is a must-see for Wes Anderson fans. — Jacob Pellegrino

8. “Anatomy of a Fall”

On Sunday, the French “Anatomy of a Fall” became the first film primarily in a non-English language to win Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes, which epitomizes how well-penned a film it is. Written by director Justine Triet and her partner Arthur Harari, the film manages to successfully be a thrilling courtroom chamber piece, a piercing examination of modern family structures and a deeply character-driven drama. The quality of Triet’s film, which won the top prize (Palme d’Or) at the most recent Cannes Film Festival, is amplified by a knockout performance from lead actress Sandra Huller. — Arman Saxena

7. “Poor Things”

Effervescent and life-affirming are not two adjectives I ever expected I would use to describe a Yorgos Lanthimos film, but “Poor Things” is surprising in all the best ways. Featuring a career-best performance from Emma Stone, hilarious work from Mark Ruffalo and a delightfully strange turn from Willem Dafoe, Lanthimos’ newest is a future classic. An exhilarating and life-affirming steampunk adventure about a woman coming into her own, you won’t want the journey of Bella Baxter to end. — Arman Saxena

6. “Godzilla Minus One”

The Godzilla franchise is a seven-decade spanning saga featuring 33 Japanese and five American films. It’s a character with a long history and dozens of iterations, and many consider this newest iteration the best installment in the franchise since the 1954 original. With spectacular direction from Takashi Yamazaki, “Godzilla Minus One” is simultaneously able to deliver glorious monster mayhem and draw affecting characters that we can really root for. It’s a film about choosing life and a Godzilla film that would be compelling even if Godzilla wasn’t in it at all. — Arman Saxena

5. “The Boy and the Heron”

“The Boy and the Heron” is a film that only Hayao Miyazaki could make. The film is an intensely personal exploration of the master filmmaker’s own story as he grapples with the decisions that he has made, the events that have shaped him and the grander structures that comprise his life. By rendering these concepts in terms so abstractly and so beautifully, it becomes impossible to not be a part of this emotional recollection and find pieces of yourself on screen. Creating such a statement on life itself is not an easy task, but Miyazaki’s control over his personal, sublime cinematic language makes the film feel effortlessly profound. — Jay Collura

4. “Past Lives”

“Past Lives” is a stunning directorial debut from Celine Song. Filled with emotional and career-defining performances from the three actors that make up the majority of the movie, lingering location shots and a poetic style, “Past Lives” is a movie that stays with you long after watching it. The movie tells a complex story of love and cultural identity following Nora (Greta Lee), who moved to the United States from South Korea, as she meets her childhood friend Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) after years of separation. There are so many scenes throughout the film that are made exceptional by the emotions displayed on the actors’ faces. — Jacob Pellegrino

3. “Across the Spider-Verse”

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” doubles down on everything that made the original movie a joy to watch, adding even more animation styles and characters into the fold. The animation and attention to detail throughout the movie is simply incredible. For a part one, the movie has a satisfying arc and goes by fast for one of the longest animated films ever. “Across the Spider-Verse” is one of those movies with so much detail and easter eggs that you’ll notice things on each subsequent watch. The directors and animation team clearly have so much love for the source material and it gives the movie a lot of heart. — Jacob Pellegrino

2. “Oppenheimer”

Even with all the advance excitement for “Oppenheimer,” no one thought that it would earn almost $1 billion in the box office. A three hour long, R-rated, historical biopic is not something that would normally be in line for that sort of blockbuster profit. That only speaks to the power of Nolan’s directing. Meticulously researched and incredibly filmed, “Oppenheimer” justifies its runtime with perfect pacing and build up throughout. Cillian Murphy was an ideal choice to play the titular scientist and Robert Downey Jr., cast as Lewis Strauss, gives a career-best performance in an atypical role for him. 

— Jacob Pellegrino

1. “Killers of the Flower Moon”

In my eyes, 2023 in film was defined by two thematic throughlines. Many films saw filmmakers grappling with their work and purpose (“The Killer” and “Asteroid City”), and many films confronted the banality of evil (“May December” and “Oppenheimer”). “Killers of the Flower Moon” manages to simultaneously tackle both of these themes, creating a complex statement about America’s history with Indigenous people and the complicity of many in their genocide. The overwhelming grief portrayed in the film is something I have been unable to shake away since watching, which is exactly what Martin Scorsese intended and exactly what makes the film essential. Even beyond this, the film also functions as a self-reappraisal by one of the greatest minds in American cinema. The violence that is often stylized in his work is presented here without any flourish, and the film’s lack of a solid conclusion only exacerbates the feeling that this violence has had unexpected repercussions. If 2023 is the year that film returned in full force following the pandemic, it is fitting that the year’s best film feels like a product of the intense reflection that the lockdown created. — Jay Collura

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