We have reached the halfway mark of 2023, and, purely in terms of entertainment, it has been a good year so far. We have some movies that are already being hailed as masterpieces. Some of them were expected to wow us, and they exceeded our expectations. Some of them didn’t have an inkling of expectations attached to them, and yet they managed to sweep us off our feet. Of course, I haven’t seen every single film that has been released this year because I don’t have that kind of time or access. This list is based on the movies that I have watched. And even though it doesn’t need to be said every time, I will say that this list is incredibly subjective and, hence, can differ widely from your “best movies of the year” list. So, don’t treat it like the gospel or anything. Also, this list contains feature films that got a wide release in 2023.
Disclaimer: This list isn’t a ranking. I love them all.
30. Anger Tales
Anthology films were, are, and always will be a very dicey thing to pull off because the various stories never come together as a complete package. This is a rare example, and hence, it should be applauded. The way all the stories tap into the various trials and tribulations that Indians face in their daily lives and how that can lead to violence is frighteningly relevant. Given how I am all about films, my favorite one is Benefit Show.
29. Tin & Tina
The creepy titular twins behave like the spawns of Satan. They hack a dog into pieces. And they almost drown an infant. There is your recommendation. Walk into it at your own risk.
28. Knock At The Cabin
Movies coming from the powerhouse M. Night Shyamalan can be very hit-or-miss. But regardless of the quality of his films, I always appreciate his passion. And when that passion mixes with good storytelling, it’s magic.
This was the first film of the year that made me sob. I am a sucker for mother-daughter stories. But the way it unpacked the familial dynamic through the lens of sci-fi and robotics really hit me in the feels.
The film’s overexposure in pop culture can make it seem like it doesn’t deserve this spot. But the kind of fear that it instills regarding parenting is second to none. Any newly married couple looking to have or adopt a baby should genuinely watch this and then think. Just think.
25. A Man Called Otto
Tom Hanks delivering a box-office hit while playing a cranky, suicidal old man was certainly unexpected and massively surprising. And it’s not just a bundle of emotional manipulation. The craft on display is amazing, and the performances by the cast are spectacular.
24. Magic Mike’s Last Dance
The movie gets all the stars in the world for that first dance featuring the eccentric Salma Hayek and handsome Channing Tatum. Then it keeps getting better by diving deeper and deeper into the characters. It also manages to be hilarious despite the desperation and melancholy. And the performances are all amazing, especially the one that takes place in black-and-white.
There have been a lot of movies about the mental toll that pregnancy takes on a woman’s mind and body. But this is the only one that involves goblins! The third act is an all-timer, with a brilliant final girl performance from Hannah John-Kamen.
22. Chang Can Dunk
This is hands-down one of the most underappreciated films of the year, as it delves into influencer culture while dealing with racism and what it means to adopt certain traditions despite being systematically oppressed. It’s a pretty inspirational movie, and it should be mandatory viewing for everyone.
21. John Wick: Chapter 4
Every single hyperbolic superlative that has been thrown in this film’s general direction is true. It is one of the best action films by a long shot. To be precise, it’s an action masterclass. And it’s high time that award shows start to recognize the teams of stunt people who risk their lives on projects like these.
We are living in a time when capitalism is defining every facet of our lives. So, naturally, there are a lot of pro-capitalism films out there. But a pro-capitalism movie that doubles as a heist movie featuring the uber-talented Taron Egerton? Now, that’s something! It’ll definitely convince you to play some arcade or console games.
19. The Super Mario Bros. Movie
There’s a line in the film where Luigi says that they’re making a commercial and not a film, and that’s what this is. But it has Jack Black as Bowser singing a love ballad for Princess Peach as he wants to abduct her and marry her, which is both disturbing and hilarious. The animation is great. It is constantly funny. And it looks amazing. It’s a people-pleaser, and I was pleased.
18. Evil Dead Rise
Every year, we lament the fact that horror movies don’t receive any love from prestigious award shows. To that, I say, “Hell with them.” This movie looks, sounds, and feels amazing. It is a major box-office hit. Evil Dead Rise was even loved by the critics throughout the globe. The people who have worked on the film are aware of the love that’s coming their way. What else do we need?
17. Scream 6
I’m constantly surprised that a new Scream manages to be self-aware about the current trends, as well as what is happening in the horror genre, while also commenting on the fictional world it exists in. At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised though because the people who have taken the reins after Wes Craven’s passing are massively talented. But it does feel good to be shocked and awed by the latest Ghostfaces’ (there’s always more than one) antics.
Alban Lenoir has become somewhat of a household name (at least in the houses of action movie fans) after the Lost Bullet films. So, it was interesting to see him expand his skillset and instill so much melancholy into his character while partaking in some scalding hot commentary on the politics of France. I don’t know if it’s for everybody, but it was certainly tailor-made to my taste.
15. Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3
This is a perfect case of expectations being met. Despite the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s awful run on the big screen as well as the small screen, this is the one project that I was looking forward to because I am sure that James Gunn can do no wrong. And he proved that that’s the truth. I cried so much that it was embarrassing.
14. Project Wolf Hunting
A boat full of evil mercenaries and “honest” cops is one thing. And then you throw in an undead, unhinged, and mostly invincible monster into the mix? That is insane. But then you add a couple of superpowered human beings who are the result of some gross experiments? Even more insane. It’s a shame that this didn’t do well box-office-wise because there’s a lot of ground that can be covered through sequels.
I have an aversion to copagandas (propaganda films for cops), especially when they try to make them look cute and harmless. But, surprisingly enough, this film made a lionhearted effort to introspect about the profession while throwing a sledgehammer at the caste system that plagues our society. It’s really funny as well.
12. Huesera: The Bone Woman
Valeria, the protagonist, has this habit of cracking her bones, which is a personification of her inner anxieties and the discomfort she feels due to her duality. I do the same thing, probably not for the same reasons, and every time I even mildly twist my limbs, I am reminded of this film. If that’s not a good recommendation, I don’t know what is.
11. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse
I won’t hold back on this one but I truly believe it is the best thing that came out in 2023. I wish I could’ve watched this film all the time by screening it on the walls of my house. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, heartwarming, melancholic, uplifting, and entertaining. That scene between Miles and Rio (apologies for referring to her by her first name) is etched into my soul. I start crying if I even think about it.
Given how Disney decided to shelve this movie, I totally expected it to be bad. It turns out that Disney’s taste in movies is bad (largely because the production house is homophobic). The movie is awesome. It is very queer. It has very apparent trans allegories. It calls out government propaganda. It is hilarious. It is a must-watch.
I didn’t watch this when it was released, but after watching the second season of The Bear, I picked it up, and I was thoroughly enthralled. It talks about ambition and tries to find a wholesome solution to being successful without completely eroding one’s soul. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying’s performance is mind-blowing.
8. Satyaprem Ki Katha
This is the most unexpected entry on this list. It definitely has something to do with the state of Bollywood currently, as it is descending into propaganda and traditionalism. So, it genuinely felt great to see a Hindi film talk about regression, sexual assault, abuse, and dissociating romance from physical intimacy.
This Pakistani film had a turbulent journey to the big screen. But the effort was worth it because it can be considered as one of the hidden gems that came out in 2023. The way it tackles topics like conservatism, being a transgender person in the entertainment industry, understanding one’s sexuality, and fighting patriarchy is impressive. Also, it looks brilliant.
6. Somebody I Used To Know
I was expecting this to be a “modern” take on My Best Friend’s Wedding, but its very relevant commentary on what men want from the women they marry, especially when it comes to choosing between ambition and “family life,” totally bowled me over. It should be screened before every wedding in the world.
5. Kill Boksoon
This South Korean actioner got buried due to the John Wick comparisons, but it’s nothing like it. What about a mother who wants to maintain a steady relationship with her daughter while being an amazing assassin sounds like John Wick to you? Please give it a watch for the immensely talented Jeon Do-yeon.
If you are hearing about this movie for the first time, it’s because of Netflix’s amazing promotional tactics. It’s a great horror flick that dissects Islam, the men who use religion to oppress women, and how women have to stand beside each other to gain liberation.
It’s pretty evident that 2023 has been a great year for women in the horror genre, and here’s more proof of that fact. What’s special about this Spanish film is that, instead of casting youngsters as scream queens, it focuses on a trio of middle-aged queens who fight all kinds of ghosts and demons, which are the personification of misogyny and violence against women.
2. Fast X
Jason Momoa. That’s it. That’s why this movie is on this list. The sheer joy that I experienced while witnessing Momoa’s unhinged, over-the-top performance as Dante Reyes is unparalleled. I can start an Oscar campaign for this man, to be honest.
1. Extraction 2
Chris Hemsworth is trying to usher in a new age of action stars, and he is succeeding with these Extraction films. It’s a shame that these are Netflix releases and not worldwide theatrical releases because Sam Hargrave’s set pieces are meant to be experienced on the big screen. Well, hopefully, we’ll get there one day.
The movies that didn’t make the cut but should be watched are Pathaan, Baby Ruby, Sharper, The Strays, Selfiee, Plane, Thunivu, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Furies, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, Chupa, Love Marriage, The Eken: Ruddhaswas Rajasthan, Clock, Mother’s Day, Reality, and Flamin’ Hot. Who knows? Maybe they can end up being one of your favorite films of all time.