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30 Best Movies Of 2023

2023 was a surprising year for cinema. It was the year that presumably "safe" franchise installments began to sour with audiences, as brands like Marvel, DC, and "Fast & Furious" disappointed at the box office, while "Oppenheimer" — a three-hour IMAX epic about scientists and politicians arguing in conference rooms — became a colossal hit. Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" was not only a billion-dollar blockbuster but a critical darling, and Taylor Swift's self-released concert film outgrossed "Indiana Jones." It's too early to say whether 2023 will be a year that critics and historians remember as a turning point for American film culture, but it certainly felt different.

Of course, it's not only the content of cinema that's shifting, but also how it's made. The business of making movies was shaken to its core in 2023 by two overlapping labor actions, as both the Writer's Guild of America and the actor's guild SAG-AFTRA fought for their fair share of streaming profits, bringing film and television production to a halt for months. Meanwhile, studios scrambled to make the short-sighted streaming business model sustainable, going so far as to lock away entire finished or near-finished films in order to claim tax write-offs.

Viewers at large have never been more conscious of what a precarious mess the entertainment business is in. Amidst the chaos, however, much of the world's cinematic output has been exquisite. Here are 30 films from 2023 that we think will be worth revisiting for years to come.

Updated on December 28, 2023: From indie dramas to to big blockbusters, these are the 30 best movies of 2023.


2023 kicked off with the emergence of an instant horror icon in "M3GAN." M3GAN took the internet by storm before her film even hit theaters, thanks to a highly memetic marketing campaign. Her movie is even better. A highly advanced android with a charming smile, M3GAN is paired with Cady, a young girl reeling from the loss of her parents. At first, M3GAN provides her with comfort and care — but things get ugly when M3GAN gets possessive. Thrilling, clever, and wickedly funny, "M3GAN" is one of the best new horror comedies in years.

  • Starring: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Ronny Chieng
  • Director: Gerard Johnstone
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Creed III

2015's "Creed" remains the finest example of Hollywood's current "requel" trend, continuing the legacy of boxer Rocky Balboa with a new protagonist who is essentially his opposite. The latest chapter in the saga of Adonis Creed is the first to exclude Rocky completely, and it proves that the new champ is totally capable of standing in his own.

Following in the tradition of his predecessor, leading man Michael B. Jordan has taken the directing reins and put his own visual stamp on the boxing movie, in this case incorporating influences from anime such as "Naruto" and "Dragon Ball." Though co-star Jonathan Majors' tremendous performance as the film's antagonist may be tarnished somewhat by his arrest for alleged domestic violence, "Creed III" is an exciting and emotional blockbuster that holds up alongside the best installments of this storied franchise.

  • Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors
  • Director: Michael B. Jordan
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

John Wick: Chapter 4

Keanu Reeves and his former stunt double Chad Stahelski have done it again in "John Wick: Chapter 4," the spectacular new entry in their gun-fu epic. This time, the unstoppable assassin is surrounded by an exciting ensemble of global action stars, like Hiroyuki Sanada, Scott Adkins, and the incomparable Donnie Yen, bringing the martial arts mayhem up to a new level. More than ever, "John Wick's" fight sequences demonstrate level of craft and imagination that has no equal, at least on the Western Hemisphere.

Though the longest entry in the series to date at a whopping 169 minutes, "John Wick: Chapter 4" dispenses with most of its lore and world-building at the very top, allowing the rest of the runtime to be an almost continuous marathon of gunplay, sword fights, and vehicular warfare. Simultaneously gorgeous, revolting, and hilarious, "John Wick" remains an absolute gem of modern action cinema.

  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Bill Skarsgård
  • Director: Chad Stahelski
  • Runtime: 169 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Over 20 years after the disastrous first attempt at a "Dungeons & Dragons" film franchise, writer-directors Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley have struck gold with an uproarious fantasy adventure that's pleasing critics and tabletop gaming enthusiasts alike. Immersed in the mythology of the decades-old RPG setting while remaining totally accessible to the uninitiated, "Honor Among Thieves" centers around a charming group of characters brought to life by stars who are obviously having a total blast. Their quest captures the feeling of a great "D&D" campaign with your friends. Characters with tragic backstories band together and heal each others' emotional wounds. Complex challenges are solved by bizarre, imaginative, or downright unpredictable means. Plans go awry, monsters are unleashed, and a grand time is had by all.

Rye Lane

In a landscape dominated by huge, effects-driven franchises with international appeal, the once-mighty romantic comedy has, strangely, become a niche genre. In order to catch the public's attention, modern rom-coms typically need to be mash-ups with flashier genres, as in "Palm Springs" or "Shotgun Wedding." Not to knock those efforts, but sometimes we crave a simple story of two charming, memorable characters meeting each other, falling in love, getting into trouble, and making it work.

That's exactly what makes "Rye Lane" so refreshing. It's essentially all "meet cute," a full day spent with a likable would-be couple getting to know one another in the lively and specific atmosphere of South London. Clever, colorful, and shamelessly uncomplicated, "Rye Lane" is a the perfect date movie for the next time you're down to Netflix Hulu and chill.

  • Starring: David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah, Simon Manyonda
  • Director: Raine Allen-Miller
  • Runtime: 82 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%


In 2022, longtime creative collaborators Ben Affleck and Matt Damon launched their new production company, Artists Equity, "a creator-focused studio" that aims to give everyone involved in making their films a piece of the profits. So, it's appropriate that the first release from Artists Equity should be about the intersection between business, art, and celebrity. "Air" stars Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, head of the struggling basketball division at Nike in 1984, who bets his career on a rookie he believes will change the game: Michael Jordan.

The (mostly) true story of the bidding war over Jordan's endorsement makes for surprisingly fun, light drama, but it also speaks to the studio's mission to reconsider the relationship between the people who invest in talent and the talent who gives that investment value. That may sound like dry stuff, but crucially, "Air" never becomes more about business than it is about people, which is exactly how it should always be.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Do you ever lie awake at night thinking about the coming climate apocalypse and the powerful institutions that would rather profit from it than prevent it? Do you ask yourself, "When is someone going to do something?" and then continue going about your day as if everything is fine? Then you'll probably enjoy "How to Blow Up a Pipeline," one of the year's best films that also happens to be a rallying cry to stop waiting for someone to do something and to get up and do it. It's a taut thriller that borrows the structure and pace of a heist movie to explore the many avenues by which today's terrifying political and environmental realities are radicalizing a young generation to save the world while they still can. How compelling of an argument does it make? Let's put it this way: The FBI doesn't want you to see it.

  • Starring: Ariela Barer, Kristine Froseth, Lukas Gage
  • Director: Daniel Goldhaber
  • Runtime: 99 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Beau Is Afraid

After delivering two acclaimed horror films for A24 ("Hereditary" and "Midsommar"), writer/director Ari Aster has chosen to leverage that credibility to create "Beau Is Afraid," a sprawling work that is personal, bizarre, and borderline unmarketable. Put as simply as possible, "Beau Is Afraid" is the story of a clinically anxious man struggling to find his way from his decrepit urban home to that of his overbearing mother. This, of course, barely covers it. The film is a three-hour surrealist comedy about childhood trauma and sexual repression, set in the hyperbolically doomed version of America that exists only in the imaginations of paranoid cable news viewers.

Self-indulgent? Absolutely. Unsettling? You bet. But if you've got the patience and the stomach for it, "Beau Is Afraid" is one heck of a trip.


At the turn of the 21st century, one company revolutionized the cellular phone market and brought mobile computing into the mainstream. So, why are none of you reading this article on one of their devices right now? "BlackBerry" is a nuts-and-bolts business biopic that's both a comedy and a tragedy, the story of how a pair of idealistic engineers and one cutthroat businessman changed the world so much that it left them behind. Though laced with obscenity and absurdity, "BlackBerry" is relatively dry compared to crowd-pleasing business story "Air," which was released around the same time. The personal lives of the Blackberry team are invisible and, ultimately, irrelevant. "BlackBerry" is about the tempestuous relationship between commerce and creativity, which fuels progress, moves nations, and occasionally, crushes dreams.

  • Starring: Jay Baruchel, Glen Howerton, Matt Johnson
  • Director: Matt Johnson
  • Runtime: 119 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

After six years and no shortage of controversy, writer/director James Gunn returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe one last time to complete his Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy in spectacular fashion. "Guardians Vol. 3" is like a shockingly violent Pixar movie, tugging on heartstrings and spilling the blood of a surprising number of talking animals while drawing the saga of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and the gang to a satisfying conclusion. While not as punchy and concise as the first installment or as emotionally complicated as the second, "Vol. 3" has no shortage of the wit and imaginative action that made this series one of the most beloved in the Marvel franchise.

Polite Society

In a musical, characters break into song to express their feelings or advance their agendas, and nobody thinks that's weird. That's just how musicals work. In Nida Manzoor's "Polite Society," teenage aspiring stuntwoman Ria is on a quest to keep her older sister from marrying a suspicious rich guy, a quest that involves an uncommon number of elaborate fight sequences, and that's played as totally natural. We know what you're thinking — why isn't every movie like this?

A light and vibrant comedy that evokes classic Sammo Hung martial arts comedies, the Edgar Wright oeuvre, and an array of other global influences, "Polite Society" is a sweet treat of a coming-of-age movie that chips away at reality so gradually that its zany excess feels perfectly natural.

  • Starring: Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Shobu Kapoor
  • Director: Nida Manzoor
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

2018's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" shocked the cinematic world. Instead of simply being Sony's latest attempt to squeeze as much money out of the Spider-Man movie license as possible, "Spider-Verse" proved to be a legitimate masterpiece — one of the most dazzling animated features of the century and arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. Creating a sequel to "Into the Spider-Verse" was a challenge akin to creating a sequel to "The Matrix," and we all remember how that was received at the time. How does one follow up a film that shook an entire medium without being a disappointment?

Ironically, the triumphant sequel "Across the Spider-Verse" bears some strong structural similarities to "The Matrix Reloaded." It advances the characters in unexpected ways, deliberately subverts or undermines expectations set up by the first film, shakes the foundation of its universe multiverse, and leaves the audience on a cliffhanger. The fact that it makes the revolutionary "Into the Spider-Verse" look like a tech demo for the sequel is just the icing on the cake.

Asteroid City

Forget the AI parodies and TikTok trends — nobody can do Wes Anderson except Wes Anderson. And, arguably, the quirky and distinctive director is only becoming more himself over time, as "Asteroid City" features all of his familiar hallmarks in abundance. It's a story within a story about another story, set in a stylized midcentury America, starring a vast company of friends and A-listers spouting improbably clever dialogue. Every shot is precisely composed, every prop and location is totally bespoke, and those angles? You better believe they're perpendicular. Anderson commands his frame with the care of a cartoonist, and his live-action work has never resembled classic cel animation more closely.

Beyond the patented visual and thematic tropes, "Asteroid City" offers both zany comedy, stirring emotional punches to the gut, and for the first time, a pinch of science fiction. The plot finds a group of parents and young astronomy enthusiasts gathered to show off their space-age inventions, only to have a chance encounter with extraterrestrial life. The characters' existential shock is reflected in the nature of the film itself. The astronomers are left wondering "what does it all mean?" and so is the audience, but it's better that way. Its lack of a clear, specific message allows it to sort of be about everything, which is a quality that often separates art from mere entertainment.

Past Lives

2023's most stirring romance is "Past Lives," a tender story of two childhood sweethearts after decades on separate continents. Greta Lee plays Nora, a playwright who immigrated from South Korea to Canada as a child, leaving behind smitten classmate Hae Sung. Years later, they reconnect via social media and attempt to rekindle their romance, but they only finally reunite after Nora has moved to New York and married an American writer. Now in the bizarre position of spending a weekend together, Nora and Hae Sung unpack their feelings and converse about the courses their lives have taken and how different things might have been had they never been pulled apart.

"Past Lives" is a delicate, sensitive film about the ways in our lives are guided by circumstance. Is there such a thing as fate? Does fulfillment in one version of our lives invalidate the potential joys along the road not taken? What does it mean to be the love of someone's life, and is anyone entitled to more than one? Once the credits have rolled and you've flicked the tears from corners of your eyes, expect to spend the rest of your day debating these questions with whoever was sitting next to you.


Movie studios may have an embarrassing habit of cowering behind recognizable brands rather than betting on new ideas, but there's no rule that says a film based on a famous toy line has to be creatively bankrupt. A storyteller with an interesting vision and something meaningful to say can breathe life into even the most plastic premise, and that's exactly what director and co-writer Greta Gerwig does with "Barbie." What could have been a lazy crowd-pleaser that simply parades recognizable images and inside jokes in front of a pre-sold audience, "Barbie" uses what we know, love, and hate about the world's most famous dress-up doll to tell a wacky, imaginative, and genuinely emotional story about the prison that is gender.

"Barbie" may be more ambitious and political than most viewers would expect, but this never comes at the expense of being entertaining. There's a joyful goofball energy to the entire affair, a sense of play and disregard for rules or grown-up logic that cuts through the pretense and reminds you to have fun. There will be plenty of time to reflect about the patriarchy and the search for self-worth after the credits have rolled.

  • Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera
  • Director: Greta Gerwig
  • Runtime: 114 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%


Ever since the Dark Knight trilogy made Christopher Nolan one of Hollywood's most popular directors, he's used that caché to make ambitious, high-concept blockbusters no one else could get a studio to pay for. After parting ways with Warner Bros., Nolan leveraged his status as Hollywood's hottest free agent to charm Universal into spending millions on a biopic about theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Not only did this gamble pay off with Nolan's biggest opening weekend for a non-Batman film, it also resulted in what might be his greatest work.

More than simply a historical biopic, "Oppenheimer" combines all of Nolan's signatures as a filmmaker. It's a thriller that moves at a breakneck pace, employing a non-linear narrative to play with objectivity vs. subjectivity and create a sense of inevitability around its visual centerpiece, the testing of the first atomic bomb. "Oppenheimer" is a devastating story about one of the most terrible and consequential moments in history that both humanizes and condemns the people behind it, all in awe-inspiring 70 mm IMAX.

  • Starring: Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon
  • Director: Christopher Nolan
  • Runtime: 180 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

They Cloned Tyrone

The phrase "A Netflix Original Film" does not often inspire confidence, but "They Cloned Tyrone" is exactly the kind of quirky, mid-budget feature we wish they'd invest in more often. Juel Taylor describes his directorial debut as a combination of "They Live," "The Truman Show," and "The Matrix," blended together and poured into the shape of a comedy thriller. John Boyega stars as Fontaine, a small-time drug dealer who stumbles across a government conspiracy to control every aspect of life in his impoverished Black neighborhood. Jamie Foxx is an old hand at playing fast-talking, self-important hustlers, and is in fine form here, but it's Teyonah Paris who runs away with the movie as the brilliant but stifled Yo-Yo, a "retired" sex worker who seizes on the mystery as an opportunity to finally put her Nancy Drew sleuthing skills to use. Shout-out also to Kiefer Sutherland, who should have a whole new chapter of his career playing the comically evil white man in modern Blaxploitation riffs.

  • Starring: John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, Teyonah Paris
  • Director: Juel Taylor
  • Runtime: 122 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

It's probably reductive to refer to "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" as Nickelodeon's answer to "Spider-Verse," but also, dang, if that was what they were going for, they actually pulled it off. A stylish computer-animated feature that relishes the quirks and expressionistic imperfections of comics and hand-drawn animation, "Mutant Mayhem" fits perfectly into the new era ushered in by Miles Morales. 

This fast-paced, joke-dense action-comedy has a youthful energy that no previous "Turtles" feature has captured, casting real teens to voice the leads and distinguishing each of them as individuals while also emphasizing the adorable fraternal bond between them. It's a treat for zoomers and nostalgic millennials alike while also being a fresh take on the classic source material that's totally accessible to viewers of any age, even without prior interest in the sweet sewer-dwelling heroes.

  • Starring: Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr., Nicolas Cantu
  • Director: Jeff Rowe
  • Runtime: 99 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Theater Camp

All great parodies are born from a place of love, and "Theater Camp" is no exception. It's a mockumentary set at a summer retreat for young singers, actors, and dancers, but rather than centering on the students, "Theater Camp" follows the misadventures of the grown-up amateur thespians who run the place. The stakes don't get much lower than a theater production starring a bunch of teens and tweens, but campers and counselors alike are deadly serious about their art. For them, Camp AdirondACTS is a haven, the place where they get to find their true calling and become their true selves. So, when the camp is plunged into financial ruin, its very survival may rest on their putting on the show of their lives. At once absurd, sincere, and naturalistic, "Theater Camp" is a worthy modern successor to the Christopher Guest mockumentary oeuvre, sure to become a staple of high school musical afterparties for years to come.

  • Starring: Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Ben Platt
  • Directors: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%


Stop us if you've heard this one before. A pair of high school seniors are desperate to lose their virginities before graduation, but they're complete social disasters who few people notice and almost nobody likes, so they try to reinvent themselves to get the attention of their crushes. It works, but now they're stuck living a lie, and if the school finds out the truth, they'll be even worse off than they were before. 

It's a tried-and-true teen comedy format, and in the year 2023, the idea of applying it to the story of a pair of "ugly, untalented gays" isn't too far out there. Fortunately, "Bottoms" isn't just "lesbian 'Superbad'" — it's much, much crazier than that. To begin with, the horny teens' plan to pick up cheerleaders is to get a bunch of girls to punch them — and each other — in the face. The result is a wild, bloody instant classic. 

"Bottoms" reunites writer-director Emma Seligman with "Shiva Baby" star Rachel Sennott (who also co-writes), who's a scream as the amoral and hyperverbal PJ. The entire cast shines, even the surprisingly funny Super Bowl champion Marshawn Lynch as the club's faculty advisor, but we want to take this moment to single out Ayo Edebiri, who's having an unbelievable 2023. In addition the hit FX series "The Bear," Edebiri appears in four of the films on this list ("Bottoms," "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," and "Theater Camp"). Her performance in "Bottoms" demonstrates her skill at balancing relatable pathos and truly weird sketch-style comedy, and it's no wonder why she's everywhere right now.

  • Starring: Rachel Sennott, Ayo Edebiri, Havana Rose Liu
  • Director: Emma Seligman
  • Runtime: 88 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

Killers of the Flower Moon

Our present era of American storytelling has aimed a long-overdue spotlight on the bloody and brutal legacy of white supremacy, both in the present day and in the country's supposedly "greater" 20th century. Martin Scorsese, one of that century's most celebrated filmmakers, now adds a massive contribution to this conversation in "Killers of the Flower Moon," a three-hour and 20-minute adaptation of the non-fiction book by David Grann. Like many of Scorsese's most famous films, it's a true-crime story, but the scope of the crime is almost beyond measure.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Ernest Burkhart, an unscrupulous man who participates in a conspiracy to rob the Osage Nation of their oil-rich land through a series of murders and marriages. This long con is a genocide dressed in "civilized" clothes and backed with the letter of the law, leaving Osage like Ernest's wife Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone) with little agency and no recourse. It is a deeply unpleasant tale of unforgivable evil, but due to the alchemy of its lived-in performances (both leads are surely Oscar-bound), steady pace, and expert photography, "Killers of the Flower Moon" is the kind of tragedy from which it's impossible to look away.

The Killer

David Fincher is a director known for his meticulous exactitude and what you might call an impersonal approach to filmmaking, demanding dozens of takes from his actors until he achieves exactly the performance he imagines in his head. So, what better subject could there be for a David Fincher movie than a cold, methodical assassin who plans everything to the slightest detail? "The Killer" stars Michael Fassbender as an elite hitman who's made every effort to keep his work impersonal and machinelike ... until one missed shot puts his entire life on tilt.

"The Killer" is Fincher's coolest and most approachable work in a decade, but true to form, there's more going on than what's on the surface. The protagonist's globe-trotting killing spree is also a study of the increasingly mechanized gig economy, which keeps labor constantly hustling and yet totally invisible and disposable to the ruling class. Is there an inverse relationship between prosperity and humanity? How can any transaction be considered impersonal, so long as there are people involved? But if that all sounds too heady for you, this guy's also really good at killing people, and that's fun to watch.

  • Starring: Michael Fassbender, Charles Parnell, Tilda Swinton
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Runtime: 118 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%

No Hard Feelings

The raunchy studio comedy is back, baby! Academy Award-winning actress and billion-dollar action heroine Jennifer Lawrence stars as Maddie in "No Hard Feelings," a crude and charming romp about a crass, cash-strapped Uber driver who accepts an indecent proposal from a rich couple: Get their shy teenage son Percy out of his shell before he leaves for college, and they'll replace her impounded automobile. Maddie throws everything she has into wooing the awkward introvert, but she gets more than she bargained for when real feelings start developing between the mismatched pair.

"No Hard Feelings" recaptures the rhythms of hit '90s/early 2000s romcoms, striking a balance between a novel concept and a familiar structure and between gross-out gags and heartfelt moments. At the same time, it also feels quite contemporary, reflecting more modern attitudes towards sex and gender and the growing gap between haves and have-nots. Most importantly, while the scenario is cartoonish, the characters have texture, and it's hard not to want good things for both of them.

  • Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Andrew Barth Friedman, Matthew Broderick
  • Director: Gene Stupnitsky
  • Runtime: 103 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Anatomy of a Fall

The winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival is "Anatomy of a Fall," a gripping drama that will keep you guessing even after the credits roll. When an author and professor falls to his death outside his home in the French Alps, his wife, celebrated author Sandra Voyter, is charged with his murder. With the material evidence inconclusive and the only witness her blind son, Daniel, Sandra finds that her marriage and personal life are what's really on trial.

Sandra Hüller is mesmerizing as the flawed and complicated murder suspect, but it's Justine Triet's rich script and tight direction that make "Anatomy of a Fall" so irresistible. Here, we have a courtroom drama that is more concerned with process and perception than with the truth, which reminds us that real-life public trials function essentially the same way. The audience is invited to hear the testimony, to understand how both prosecution and defense finesse the narrative in their own favor, and to try to make a judgement — even though we might never know what really happened.

  • Starring: Sandra Hüller, Swann Arlaud, Milo Machado-Graner
  • Director: Justine Triet
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%


In 2022, maximalist auteur Baz Luhrmann released "Elvis," a relentlessly paced love letter to the so-called King of Rock n' Roll. This year, Sofia Coppola fires back with "Priscilla," a quiet, understated, and deeply uncomfortable portrait of the relationship between Elvis and his wife, Priscilla, who was only 14 when she was first courted by the 24-year-old superstar.

"Priscilla" is a tight rope walk. On a literal level, it's depicting the events as the woman herself recalls them (the screenplay is based on her memoir, and she is a producer on the film), which could be characterized as a romance gone sour. Subtextually, it's highlighting how deeply inappropriate and dehumanizing the entire affair was when viewed from the outside. Cailee Spaeny portrays the young Mrs. Presley as a woman walking through a dreamlike haze, prized by one of the world's most famous men but treated more like a pet or doll than a person. The script leaves a degree of plausible deniability — no one ever points out or condemns this imbalanced relationship — but the framing and performances speak volumes.

  • Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi, Dagmara Domińczyk
  • Director: Sofia Coppola
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

American Fiction

Jeffrey Wright stars as Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, an author of sophisticated, unpopular literature, who is flabbergasted when a novel he writes as a joke — a ridiculous satire of stereotypical Black fiction for white readers — becomes a massive success. "American Fiction" is not only a biting rebuke of the cringey, polite racism of wealthy white liberals, but also a warm, heartfelt character study of an introverted Black intellectual, his tangled family life, and his complicated relationship with his own identity. Joining Wright is the year's best ensemble cast, featuring the incredibly endearing Tracee Ellis Ross and Sterling K. Brown.

  • Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz
  • Director: Cord Jefferson
  • Runtime: 117 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Godzilla Minus One

Ishirō Honda's 1954 film "Gojira" — later anglicized as "Godzilla" — was not merely a spectacular monster movie, but a somber reflection of Japan's trauma and ongoing anxiety after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These dramatic and political themes are either more subdued or outright absent in most of the sequels and spin-offs (both Japanese and American), but recently, studio Toho has leaned into Godzilla's heritage as a representation of Japan's national psyche.

In this year's "Godzilla Minus One," writer-director Takashi Yamazaki reimagines the story of a giant lizard attacking Tokyo, setting it in the immediate aftermath of World War II, when Japan was literally picking up the pieces of their smoldering cities. Here, Godzilla is the embodiment of a society's collective shame, grief, and survivor's guilt, a beast that can only be slain if disheartened veterans band together and rediscover their self-worth. It's the most human, thrilling, and life-affirming movie you'll ever see about a giant monster, and one of the year's finest films.

  • Starring: Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Munetaka Aoki
  • Director: Takashi Yamazaki
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

May December

The true crime genre's success has raised some questions about the ethics of turning real-life tragedies into popular entertainment. Todd Haynes' "May December" is a work of fiction that challenges the viewer to consider their relationship with stories about actual misdeeds. Natalie Portman portrays an actor paying a visit to convicted sex offender Gracie (Julianne Moore), whom she'll be playing in her next film. "May December" is a showcase for both actresses, as they embody complicated, unsettling characters, but it's also a stunning turn from Charles Melton as Gracie's much younger husband, who became involved with her when he was only 13. None of these characters are exactly who they appear to be, but can we ever really know them? And are we doing more damage just by looking?

  • Starring: Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Cory Michael Smith
  • Director: Todd Haynes
  • Runtime: 113 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

Poor Things

"Poor Things" is destined to ignite intense online discourse about sex scenes, age gaps, and gender representation, but part of what's so charming about Yorgos Lanthimos' comic fantasy is that he and producer-star Emma Stone don't seem remotely concerned with how their story will be received. It's a supremely confident, shamelessly weird coming-of-age story about Bella Baxter, a grown woman implanted with an infant's brain that rapidly develops into a self-possessed adult. Brilliant, beautiful, and completely unconcerned with societal expectations, Bella embarks on a sex-fueled adventure of self-discovery through a lavishly-designed world populated by eccentric, memorable characters. It's certainly one of the weirdest films in this year's Oscar race, and also one of the worthiest.

  • Starring: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Mark Ruffalo
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Runtime: 141 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%


"Wonka," a musical prequel to 1971's "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," could have easily been a tacky, nostalgia-stuffed trifle of a film. Instead, it's a sugary-sweet delight that, like so many of the eccentric chocolatier's edible inventions, feels like a full meal. The film finds the bright-eyed inventor arriving in the big city, where he joins a team of impoverished outcasts to take on the sinister "chocolate cartel" and make their most delicious dreams a reality. Packed with toe-tapping original songs, wonderfully whimsical visuals, and a silly yet sincere performance from star Timothée Chalamet, "Wonka" is the real deal: A rare prequel that could very well stand as a classic in its own right.

  • Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Hugh Grant, Calah Lane
  • Director: Paul King
  • Runtime: 116 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%