The 10 best movies of 2023

From sinister dismembered hands to teenage summer benders to psychotic killer robots, it’s been quite the year on the big screen. Here, we look at the 10 best flicks of 2023.

The 10 best movies of 2023
Craig McLean

This was the year cinema-going finally, fully, roared back to life after the you-know-what years. Barbie and Oppenheimer went head-to-head in the summer, sending box office takings sky-high. But those blockbusters have had enough coverage, so they’re getting no more here. Same goes for The Whale, for all the heart-breaking brilliance of Brendan Fraser’s Oscar-winning performance. We could, too, have included Tàr (Cate Blanchett at her best as an imperious orchestra conductor) and Meet Me In The Bathroom (the film of the book of the New York scene of The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs). But we preferred to give our music-based nods to a couple of more interesting features. Pass the popcorn, and the beer (if you’re in one of those swanky cinemas).


Say hello to your little friend: four feet of high-tech circuitry, silicone, pussy-bow chic, killer dance moves and a protective instinct that’s less cuddly than it is, well, sociopathic. This year M3GAN – aka Model 3 Generative Android – karate-kickstarted her own horror franchise in this camp-fabulous story of a doll who goes on a murderous rampage to protect her eight-year-old bestie, Cady. A toy story with bite (and stabs).


Love it or hate it (we're firmly in the former camp), there’s no denying that Emerald Fennell’s second feature is, after Barbenheimer, the most discussed film of the year. Saltburn is a whipsmart satire on class aspiration, the smug obliviousness of the posh and our own obsession with the gilded lives of others. Stuffed with iconic scenes aplenty (anyone for a slurp from a smeggy bath?) and popping with zinger dialogue (mostly from the mouth of a never-better Rosamund Pike), Saltburn is the feel bad hit of the winter.

The Zone Of Interest

Okay, sure, it's not in cinemas until February 2 next year, but snuck in here because it played at the London Film Festival in October and is already out in the U.S. And also because it’s a horrifying, vital film that deserves as much noise as possible. Jonathan Glazer tells the searing true tale of the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, and the domestic bliss lived by he and his family in their home abutting the wall of the concentration camp. We never go beyond the barbed wire, but we hear terrifying noises – evidence of unfathomable horrors ignored by his wife and children. The banality of evil in a domestic setting.

Society Of The Snow

The second telling, after 1993 Hollywood adaptation Alive, of the fate of the survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes. The young Uruguayan rugby team made it through 72 days in the snowy peaks by, ultimately, eating the flesh of their dead friends. Directed by Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona (The Impossible), this version of the story has the blessing and cooperation of the survivors, and of the bereaved families, and is a powerfully essayed saga of friendship and brotherly solidarity. And all without recourse to gruesome cannibal porn.

How To Have Sex

A star is born: Mia McKenna-Bruce, ageing down a decade, is astonishing as the teenager on a London girls holiday to Malia after their GCSEs. The mission: making every hour cocktail hour and losing her virginity. The reality: decidedly sticky, icky and, ultimately, repulsive. Molly Manning-Walker’s debut feature is a punchy, provocative conversation-starter, and McKenna-Bruce a worthy winner of Best Lead Performance – ahead of Tilda Swinton, Jodie Comer and Andrew Scott – at this month’s British Independent Film Awards.

Squaring The Circle

You’ll likely have the art of Higpnosis in your record collection, image-makers for whom no idea was too outlandish. The front covers of Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon and Wings’ Band On The Run, to name but three, are all the work of the pioneering graphic design studio that bestrode ’70s rock like a pig over Battersea Power Station (another Hipgnosis landmark work, for the Floyd’s Animals). This doc, directed by photographer-turned-filmmaker Anton Corbijn (himself no slouch at sleeve design) features contributions from rock elder statesmen (Plant, McCartney, Gallagher (Noel), Gilmour) and, best of all, yarns aplenty from Hipgnosis co-founder Aubrey “Po” Powell.

One Brit Wonder

In which James Blunt- No, wait, come back! The simpering balladeer is, in 2023, living his best life. Mainly that’s by trashing his own music (“What the world needs right now is not another James Blunt album!” he cheerfully told this writer this year, while promoting said album); writing a salacious, mickey-taking memoir, Loosely Based On A Made-Up Story; and making this hilarious tour documentary. Think Spinal Tap meets Alan Partridge, with added tour bus hijinks, rants about Robbie Williams nicking his drummer and a star turn from his mum. “When you’re talking about buggery at Harrow,” says Mrs Blunt of her son’s way with a tweet, “that’s overdoing it a bit.”

Talk To Me

Or, talk to the hand… A bunch of thrill-seeking Australian teenagers come into possession of an embalmed hand (as you do). Going palm-to-palm with the dismembered appendage at a party, the kids are sucked into a vortex of seeing-dead-people, self-harming and spiralling mental health. A low-budget, high-concept horror hit.

Past Lives

A bittersweet tale of lifelong longing, Past Lives revolves around yet another stunning star turn from Greta Lee (TV’s Russian Doll and The Morning Show). She plays the adult version of a South Korean girl who immigrated to Canada aged 12, leaving behind the classmate (Teo Yoo) with whom she shared a mutual crush. Twelve years later, they reconnect over video calls. And 12 years after that, they finally meet again, in New York. A love story that manages to be both chaste and crushing.


Adam Deacon (Kidulthood, Adulthood) battled his demons, the law and a 10-year development saga to triumph with a passion project he directed, co-wrote, co-produced and starred in. Come for the hilarious send-up of wannabe roadmen, stay for the honestly brilliant cameo from Ed Sheeran, playing a homeless addict called (oh yes) Crack Ed. In a year when he also put out two albums, the zillionaire troubadour crapping in a bush next to a school might actually be his best, er, release. Merry Christmas!

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