I saw 191 cinema releases during the 2023 calendar year and, as I’ve done every year since 1996 (time flies), I like to put together a list which outlines my favourites. My prior year top 10 lists can be found here.
We’ve all got different tastes but hopefully the list inspires others to hunt down these movies and watch something great they may otherwise have missed. I went this through this list on ABC Brisbane breakfast radio a couple of weeks ago.
Honourable mentions this year which I couldn’t quite squeeze into my top 10 were – Till, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, Talk to Me, Shayda, Women Talking, Driving Madeleine, Godzilla Minus One, Oink, Saim Omer, EO, Maestro, and Barbie.
The above films are all worth a look but to narrow it down to my top 10 of the year…
10. Of an Age (out Mar 23) feels like an Australian version of Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning Moonlight. Mostly set in 1999, it's centred on a 17-year-old who meets his friend's gay brother and opens up about his own sexuality. Offering humour, romance and sorrow, it's my pick as the best Aussie film of 2023 (narrowly ahead of Talk to Me).
9. Living (out Mar 16) is an English remake of a 1952 Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa (Ikiru). It's the tale of a dull, humourless, London Council bureaucrat who, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, takes time away from work and embraces new activities. It would be easy to overplay the role but Bill Nighy, in his Oscar nominated role, is near-perfect as he extracts just the right dose of sympathy from audiences.
8. Godland (out Aug 17) is an Icelandic 19th Century drama about a Danish priest tasked with building a new church in Iceland. Director Hlynur Pálmason does a terrific job capturing the bleak, isolated setting (you really feel it) and creating interesting characters.
7. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (out Mar 9) is an Oscar nominated documentary about the life of artist Nan Goldin and her efforts to draw attention to opioid addiction. Relying as much on photography as it does video, Goldin is a fascinating individual for whom no subject is off limits.
6. Past Lives (out Aug 31) is a sensational romantic drama which highlights both the simplicity and complexity of the human condition. First-time writer-director Celine Song enhances the already great material with a brilliant cast, a beautiful film score, and the use of long, unedited takes during key conversations.
5. Tár (out Jan 26) is an engrossing drama about a renowned, EGOT-winning musician/conductor. She's relied on hard work and talent to earn her success but her arrogance and other behind-the-scenes weaknesses threaten to upend her career. Cate Blanchett turns in one of the most memorable performances of the past year. The ending is pitch perfect.
4. Saltburn (out Nov 16) rattles and entertains. The story revolves around a socially inept, first-year student at Oxford (Barry Keoghan) who weaves his way into the home of a very wealthy family. It’s power games aplenty as characters use their smarts and sexual appetites to try to get the upper hand over others. Great performances plus outlandish moments equals a terrific film.
3. Oppenheimer (out Jul 20) will be spoken about for a long time. Representing a slight pivot for Christopher Nolan (better known for action-thrillers), it’s a brilliant biopic about the American scientist credited with inventing the atom bomb in the 1940s. The editing sets a frenetic pace, the music is intense, and Cillian Murphy’s lead performance is extraordinary. It’s rare for a biopic to capture so many competing angles of a single individual.
2. Aftersun (out Feb 23) is both uplifting and soul destroying. A simple, subtle, powerful drama about a 30-year-old woman who, through a mix of memory and old home movies, deeply reflects on a Turkish holiday she shared with her father 20 years earlier. Paul Mescal earned an Oscar nomination for his lead role and this isn’t a film you’ll easily forget.
1. Close (out Feb 16) is a Belgian drama about two 13-year-old boys who, despite being long-time friends, start drifting apart after starting high school. This is an incredible film! The documentary-like feel adds authenticity, the cinematography is stunning, and the music is haunting. Above all else though, Close achieves its emotional power because of two of the finest performances I've ever seen from child actors.