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Looper Staff Predicts: The Best Movie Of 2023 Will Be...

Does it seem a little arrogant to try and predict what the very best movie — the top of the pack, the créme de la créme, the movie that will win every Oscar it's nominated for and some it's not — of 2023 will be? Yeah, probably. But here we are doing it anyway! The Looper staff has been tasked with asking a very important question: What movie will blow audiences' minds in 2023, make all the money, and top next year's "best-of" lists across the board?

As you'll discover, our answers vary wildly, whether we're declaring a movie based on a toy to be the next "Citizen Kane" or staring wistfully at our DVD shelf after we've had a few drinks. (You'll see.) In any case, we, the Looper staffers, being of sound body and mind, are ready to call it: These are our picks for the best movies of 2023.

Caitlin Albers - Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1

Forget whatever else you read from my co-workers on this list. While I love them all dearly, they are wrong. "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1" will hands down be the best movie of 2023. "Top Gun: Maverick" was the best film of 2022, and Tommy C is going for back-to-back championships. The "Mission: Impossible" reboot in 2011 has proven to be one of the best decisions in the movie industry, and not one of them has missed. To be fair, only one "Mission: Impossible" movie can be considered "meh" — you know the one — and "Dead Reckoning Part 1" is on course to be the best yet.

"Mission: Impossible – Fallout" is a perfect movie, from start to finish. There isn't one thing I'd change about that film, and it's all thanks to Cruise's dedication to his craft. He is truly the last action movie star, and I'm terrified of what's to come when he's no longer able to put out these kinds of movies. His passion for the product, the audience, the theater experience, and the authenticity of his work have resulted in perfection more often than not. Sure, his duds tend to dud pretty hard, but Cruise's batting average is one of the best in the business. 

"Dead Reckoning Part 1" is going to have stunts that somehow top all the ones we've seen before and should feature one of the scariest villains to date in the franchise. I don't doubt that there will be a major gut punch (I think we're gonna lose someone), but it's going to set us up for a monumental "Part 2" finale. 

Nina Starner - Barbie

As far as I am concerned, only one movie is coming out in 2023. Nobody else is allowed to release a movie in 2023, in fact. Every single filmmaker whose name does not start with "Greta" and end with "Gerwig" needs to take a seat, pour a drink, and hang onto their project until 2024, because 2023? 2023 is the Year of "Barbie."

I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that "Barbie" is not only my favorite movie of 2023, it's probably already my new favorite movie of all time. I'll admit that, while I know that for some (wildly incorrect) people, their mileage may vary where Gerwig is concerned, I think her two previous movies are pretty much perfect. "Lady Bird" was a pretty perfect directorial debut, and if you've ever interacted with me for more than 15 minutes, you've definitely listened to me wax poetic about how her 2019 adaptation of "Little Women" is the version Louisa May Alcott would have loved the most. (You see, it's because it ends with Jo writing her book rather than actually marrying the— sorry, I was getting started again.) All of this is to say that I would not trust a movie about "Barbie" directed by anyone else, and Gerwig's partner and collaborator Noah Baumbach writing the script alongside her is just a fun bonus.

The first teaser, invoking "2001: A Space Odyssey" with a colossal Margot Robbie (who is obviously starring in the titular role, because who else could?!) set my hopes even higher and, I mean, just look at that cast! Ryan Gosling as Ken! Simu Liu as someone! Issa Rae as someone else! Michael Cera as a person or a toy, probably! Will Ferrell potentially reprising his role from "The Lego Movie?!" Kate McKinnon and America Ferrera will also be there, and I love them both! God, I can't wait for this movie. "Barbie" is my whole personality now, it is all I will talk about until further notice, and I will be more insufferable than usual until it hits theaters in July.

Aahil Dayani - Pathaan

Move over Ethan Hunt, you've got some competition from Pathaan.

Set to debut in late January, "Pathaan" is the first major 2023 Pan-Indian blockbuster offering. Directed by revered action filmmaker Siddharth Anand, his latest spy epic is one of India's most expensive films and perhaps one of its most ambitious.

The action-thriller follows a spy, codenamed Pathaan, who has been held captive for three years. A world-ending threat throws Pathaan back into the world of espionage for a globe-trotting adventure that sees him falling in love with a mysterious femme fatale, having a motorcycle chase on thin ice, and flying a jetpack — typical spy stuff.

The latest entry in Yash Raj Films ever-expanding Spy Universe, "Pathaan" is one of the most anticipated films of the new year as it features the return of global superstar Shah Rukh Khan (Ms. Marvel's favorite actor) after a three year long hiatus. Joining the icon is an all-star cast which includes Deepika Padukone, who was featured in "XXX: Return of Xander Cage," and "Tenet" star Dimple Kapadia. YRF' Spy Universe leads and Bollywood superstars Hritik Roshan and Salman Khan will also cameo, making this a true cinematic crossover that holds the same cultural weight as "Avengers: Endgame."

Filmed in Afghanistan, Russia, France, and featuring stunt/action coordination from Casey O'Neill ("Top Gun: Maverick"), Yash Raj Films has gone all out for "Pathaan," setting it up to be one of the biggest international successes of 2023. The first Bollywood film to be filmed in IMAX, Khan's latest broke records with its bombastic debut teaser, and served even more views with the release of its viral first track "Besharam Rang."

If the global success of "RRR" is anything to go by, "Pathaan" will be another South Asian import that blows viewers away.

Kieran Fisher - Havoc

Director Gareth Evans has spent the past few years working in television, co-creating the almighty "Gangs of London" for Sky Atlantic and AMC. His last feature, "Apostle," was released in 2018 and saw the director explore the horror-thriller genre, marking a departure from the hard-hitting action that he's synonymous with thanks to "The Raid" movies. That said, "Havoc" will see Evans return to his comfort zone, and that means it's time for the rest of us to buckle up and prepare to have our minds blown.

"Havoc" stars Tom Hardy as a detective who must fight his way through the criminal underworld to rescue a politician's son, all the while uncovering the web of corruption that led to the chaos unfolding in the first place. While the plot seems fairly conventional for a movie of this ilk, viewers can expect "Havoc" to stand out from other action movies in 2023. Anyone who's familiar with Evans' work knows that he's all about visceral fight sequences that allow performers to show off their skills. His work is also very R rated, and he doesn't hold back when it comes to blood and brutality.

Evans' filmmaking has largely been informed by Asian action movies in the past, and it seems that "Havoc" will continue that trend. While he's keeping most of the information about the film close to the vest, for now, he has teased that the film inspired by Heroic Bloodsheed films. This term was coined to describe Hong Kong action movies that feature stylized action and dramatic themes, emphasizing gunplay and gangsters over martial arts. In short, it seems that Evans will be channelling old-school John Woo and Ringo Lam flicks here — and that's a mouth-watering prospect.

Pauli Poisuo - M3GAN

Sometimes it feels like I haven't been able to have a normal movie conversation online since this damn robot started dancing. Regardless of the topic, someone might mention "M3GAN" at any given moment, and the whole discussion will immediately devolve into increasingly far-fetched commentary about the upcoming sci-fi horror movie's numerous pros and nonexistent cons. At one point, a work chat organically drafted an entire movie franchise around the film within minutes. (My personal contribution was a dance-off between two "The Meg"-sized robots. Don't look at me like that, it made sense in context.)

Yes, some of this is almost certainly because of those amazing, out-of-the-blue moments in the trailer where the robotic Megan doll dances like a boneless ballerina. However, there's more than meme value, here. The titular character of "M3GAN" ticks so many creepiness boxes that I have a sneaking suspicion we might be witnessing a true horror icon in the making. Megan is uncanny valley personified. The unblinking eyes and borderline immobile face. The pleasant but eerily monotone voice, and the not-quite-human movements that are always either too jerky or way too fluid. Oh, and just when the viewer thinks that the robot is just a glorified toy, and that those ominous musical cues whenever she starts being a little too autonomous are overdoing it a bit, Megan reminds us of how dangerous she is with a sudden drop into a fast, animalistic four-legged chase — or, yes, that eerie dancing.

With her deceptively innocent look, alien A.I. vibe, and implied physical and intellectual superiority, Megan can potentially star in any kind of horror movie — from doll horror of the "Annabelle" and "Child's Play" variety to "Alien"-like closed space stalking, and even "Saw"-style trapcrafting. It remains to be seen precisely how "M3GAN" approaches the subject, but with James Wan and Blumhouse involved in the project, it's hard to see "M3GAN" failing. For my money, I'd say we're in for cool, genre-defining madness that will spawn numerous, increasingly weird sequels, just like any horror icon worth its salt should. Oscar bait films can bite it; 2023 is the year of the creepy dance murderdoll.

Tom Meisfjord – My DVD copy of 2006's Smokin' Aces after I've had two glasses of wine

I'll give you this: There are some terrific looking movies coming out in 2023. "Barbie" seems like fun. "The Flash" is on its twelfth or thirteenth round of reshoots, so that's probably going to be fine.

"Fun." "Fine." But not the best.

Because do you know what "the best" is? It's realizing that you still have a saggy IV bag's worth of red wine in a box on top of the fridge. It's cracking into that puppy and plugging in 2006's "Smokin' Aces" on DVD. It's the tenderness hidden just behind the brash comradery between Ray Liotta and Ryan Reynolds, and the way Nestor Carbonell's El Estrago cradles the casino's head of security as his lungs fill with blood, and Andy Garcia drooling out the most syrupy Southern accent this side of Foghorn Leghorn. It's Chris Pine powering an elevator with a chainsaw so that he can try to assassinate a disgraced Vegas stage magician. You pour another glass of wine. "Chris Pine," you think to yourself. "They made a joke about him in that new 'Pinocchio.' That was dumb. Movies these days are dumb."

Not like in 2006.

Not like when Chris Pine powered an elevator with a chainsaw.

Kim Bell - Beau is Afraid

I grew up in a pretty pro-macabre household. We weren't exactly "The Munsters," but between my Grandmother's creepy, Swedish folklore stories and Depression-era farm tales (read: "we woke up ... and allllll the cows ... were dead! Dead and upright. Eyes open. They never saw it comin"), my hippie mother's belief in an early exposure to society's ills, and my father's affinity for dark sci-fi and dystopian fantasy, the vibe in my house skewed toward the more subtly unnerving and insidious. Which is how I know the idea that we're somehow "over" the whole elevated horror trend is simply ridiculous.

Elevated horror isn't a trend. In fact, it's barely a genre, since some of the first stories ever told were made of the exact same stuff we now refer to as "elevated." Sure, A24 and a number of other small studios have dragged it into the mainstream and given it some slick cinematography, but it's been here before — many, many times — and will be here again. All horror is the product of, and a reflection and commentary on, the fears and anxieties of society. And it's safe to say we're all a lot more openly and specifically anxious and fearful than we were in, say, the late '80s (and for good reason — we're all a lot more aware of what lurks just below the lid of polite society).

Ari Aster's "Beau is Afraid" isn't another installment in an already overplayed genre. It's the film we've been leading up to for years. From its very title and premise to Aster's short, paranoia-driven film from which it takes its inspiration (2011's "Beau"), a film that directly tackles the mechanics of anxiety can't possibly be anything but relevant, useful, and — in its all-too-real-ness — utterly terrifying. Documentaries about our current, collective state of mind may be informative and necessary, but they can't offer the cathartic release of an Aster film. 

"Beau is Afraid" will be one long, shaky exhale, and a gift for which — after holding our breath for so long — we'll all be undoubtedly gratefully.

Russell Murray - Oppenheimer

Three kinds of people dine at the proverbial table of director Christopher Nolan. There are the "Batman" fans, surprisingly and vocally satisfied with their fill; the science fiction snobs, gluttonous as they are, feasting without end and even occasionally stealing a morsel from the Gotham platters; and then there are those of us still attempting to savor the last, succulent bite of "Dunkirk" — the historical epic that proved Nolan is at his best when forced to bend his vision through the focus of history.

"Oppenheimer" offers such a focus, distilled from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography "American Prometheus." The eponymous historical and scientific figure J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by longtime Nolan collaborator Cillian Murphy) is largely credited with the invention of the atomic bomb, a weapon of mass destruction which took the lives of some 200,000 people during World War II and changed the scale of global conflict forever.

Bound somewhat by conventional logic and historical fact — as he was in "Dunkirk" — Nolan's singular vision will surely produce a drama heightened by unique spectacle, tight scripting, creative framing, and impeccable performances on behalf of his talented cast. Even more exciting than all of this, however, is the chance to see one of cinema's greatest contemporary minds diving into subjects he often splashes about in but never fully submerges into completely. Nolan's fascination with both history and science shines through each entry in his impressive filmography. Finally, he will engage with both subjects directly. "Oppenheimer" might be the most Christopher Nolan movie ever made.

Nick Staniforth - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

In certain hands, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) taking on the mantle of Spider-Man could've gone terrible wrong. Thankfully, the creative forces behind his big-screen animated outing — which include Phil Lord and Chris Miller, among others — was anything but. This Spider-Man wasn't falling into the same old superhero schtick, but rising in what ended up becoming one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. For me, there's nothing that compares — Miles' leap of faith is something that'll be scorched in my brain forever thanks to the four times I saw it. It was a game changer, bringing something new to the enormous screen legacy of the web-slinger, while introducing us to a handful of others instead. Now, as confirmed by the recent preview of "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," it turns out they were just getting started.

The first part of "Across the Spider-Verse" will see Miles hopping out of his dimension and wandering into others crammed with wall-crawling menaces of all shapes, sizes, and species (hey, Spider-Monkey), some of which don't look to be on Miles' side initially. The most alarming conflict looks to be coming from Spider-Man 2099, also known as Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac), who looks to be butting heads with our young hero. Comic book hero rivalries are cliched, sure, but in this world, it's going to be something special. Whatever happens, it won't take a leap of faith to bet that the follow-up to the surprise smash hit of 2018 comes with as much energy and originality as its predecessor. Our Spidey senses are tingling already.