George Kapaklis

Critic & Sound Designer. Melbourne, Australia.

Ten favourite discoveries, in audio-viewing order:

  1. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1943)
  2. Ofrenda (Offering, Claudio Caldini, 1978)
  3. The Dover Boys at Pimento University; or, The Rivals of Roquefort Hall (Chuck Jones, 1942)
  4. Le Trou (Jacques Becker, 1960)
  5. Gol Maal  (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1979)
  6. Changement d’adresse (Change of Address, Emmanuel Mouret, 2006) 
  7. 山中傳奇 (Legend of the Mountain, King Hu, 1979)
  8. Bells Are Ringing (Vincente Minnelli, 1960)
  9. The Bridges of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, 1995)
  10. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

Ten favourite first-time 2023 releases:

  1. Rocky aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani (Karan Johar, 2023)
  2. Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé (Beyoncé, 2023) 
  3. Jigarthanda DoubleX (Karthik Subbaraj, 2023)
  4. Asteroid City (Wes Anderson, 2023)
  5. Ponniyin Selvan: Part II (Mani Ratnam, 2023)
  6. Jawan (Atlee, 2023)
  7. Laberint Sequences (Blake Williams, 2023)
  8. Boston Johnny (Charles Roxburgh, 2023)
  9. Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka (The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)
  10. シン・仮面ライダー (Shin Kamen Rider, Hideaki Anno, 2023)

Daniel Kasman

VP of Editorial Content, MUBI and Editor-in-Chief of Notebook and Notebook magazine.


  • Aggro Dr1ft (Harmony Korine, 2023)
  • All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson, 2023)
  • As Filhas do Fogo (The Daughters of Fire, Pedro Costa, 2023)
  • A Thousand and One (A.V. Rockwell, 2023)
  • Cerrar los ojos (Close Your Eyes, Víctor Erice, 2023)
  • Crowrã (The Buriti Flower, Renée Nader Messora, João Salaviza, 2023)
  • Daaaaaalì! (Quentin Dupieux, 2023)
  • Das Lehrerzimmer (The Teachers’ Lounge, 2023)
  • The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed (Joanna Arnow, 2023)
  • If You Don’t Watch the Way You Move (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2023)
  • Im toten Winkel (Ayşe Polat, In the Blind Spot, 2023)
  • Jeder schreibt für sich allein (Melting Ink, Dominik Graf, 2023)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
  • Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka (The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)
  • Knock at the Cabin (M. Night Shyamalan, 2023)
  • Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki, 2023)
  • Laberint Sequences (Blake Williams, 2023)
  • Last Things (Deborah Stratman, 2023)
  • La passion de Dodin Bouffant (The Taste of Things, Trần Anh Hùng, 2023)
  • L’été dernier (Last Summer, Catherine Breillat, 2023)
  • Man in Black (Wang Bing, 2023)
  • May December (Todd Haynes)
  • Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros (Frederick Wiseman, 2023)
  • Ming on (Mad Fate, Cheang Soi, 2023)
  • Notre corps (Our Body, Claire Simon, 2023)
  • Nu astepta prea mult de la sfârsitul lumii (Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, Radu Jude, 2023)
  • NYC RGB (Viktoria Schmid, 2023)
  • Polite Society (Nilda Manzoor, 2023)
  • Rapito (Kidnapped, Marco Bellocchio, 2023)
  • Shin Ultraman (Shinji Higuchi, 2022)
  • Spark from a Falling Star (Ross Meckfessel, 2023)
  • The Sparrow Dream (Robert Beavers, 2022)
  • Still Film (James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2023)
  • Un prince (A Prince, Pierre Creton, 2023)
  • Writhing City (Ken Jacobs, 2023)


  • La montagne infidele (Jean Epstein, 1923)
  • La souriante Madame Beudet (Germaine Dulac, 1923)
  • Stella Dallas (Henry King, 1925)
  • A Crofter’s Life in Shetland (Jenny Gilbertson, 1931)
  • Kongo (William J, Cowen, 1932)
  • Merrily We Go to Hell (Dorothy Azner, 1932)
  • Red Ensign (Michael Powell, 1932)
  • Wife vs. Secretary (Clarence Brown, 1936)
  • One Mile from Heaven (Allan Dwan, 1937)
  • Kawanakajima kassen (The Battle of Kawanakajima, Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1941)
  • The Fallen Sparrow (Richard Wallace, 1943)
  • Opfergang (The Great Sacrifice, Viet Harlan, 1944)
  • Murder, He Says (George Marshall, 1945)
  • Wake of the Red Witch (Edward Ludwig, 1948)
  • El esqueleto de la señora Morales (The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales, Rogelio A. González, 1960)
  • Onna no kunshô (A Design for Dying, Kōzaburō Yoshimura, 1961)
  • Subete ga kurutteru (Everything Goes Wrong, Seijun Suzuki, 1960)
  • Time of the Heathen (Peter Kass, 1961)
  • Dáblova past (The Devil’s Trap, Frantisek Vlácil, 1962)
  • Démanty noci (Diamonds of the Night, Jan Němec, 1964)
  • Sandra (Luchino Visconti, 1965)
  • Hyuil (A Day Off, Lee Man-hee, 1968)
  • Eldridge Cleaver (William Klein, 1969)
  • L’étrangleur (The Strangler, Paul Vecchiali, 1970)
  • Vrazda ing. Certa (The Murder of Mr. Devil, Ester Krumbachová, 1970)
  • Bushman (David Schickele, 1971)
  • Slike iz zivota udarnika (Life of a Shock Force Worker, Bato Čengić, 1972)
  • Mike Leigh at the BBC (1973–1980)* Series streaming on the Criterion Channel
  • Qaribé va Meh (The Stranger and the Fog, Bahram Bayzai, 1974)
  • Not a Pretty Picture (Martha Coolidge, 1976)
  • Ich denke oft an Hawaii (I Often Think of Hawaii, Elfi Mikesch, 1978)
  • Ordnung (Order, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1980)
  • I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Dick Fontaine, 1982)
  • El Sur (Víctor Erice, 1983)
  • Talking to Strangers (Rob Tregenza, 1988)
  • The Plot Against Harry (Michael Roemer, 1989)
  • Shao nian ye, an la! (Dust of Angels, Hsu Hsioa-ming, 1992)
  • El sol del membrillo (Dream of Light, Víctor Erice, 1992)
  • The Doom Generation (Gregg Araki, 1995)
  • La blessure (The Wound, Nicolas Klotz, 2004)

Christopher Kearney

Independent screenwriter, teaches TV Production and English at George M. Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida.


  1. Air (Ben Affleck, 2023) 
  2. Past Lives (Celine Song, 2023) 
  3. Holy Spider (Ali Abbasi, 2022) 
  4. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023) 
  5. The Holdovers (Alexander Payne, 2023)  
  6. Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet, 2023) 
  7. Maestro (Bradley Cooper, 2023) 
  8. Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023)
  9. Kaibutsu (Monster, Kore-eda Hirokazu, 2023)
  10. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023) 

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Davis Guggenheim, 2023) 

Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka (The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki, 2023) 

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Wes Anderson, 2023)

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar


  • The Artifice Girl (Franklin Ritch, 2023) 
  • Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023) 
  • Beau is Afraid (Ari Aster, 2023) 
  • Birth/Rebirth (Laura Moss, 2023) 
  • Blackberry (Matt Johnson, 2023) 
  • Bottoms (Emma Seligman, 2023) 
  • The Caine Mutiny Court-Marshal (Willliam Friedkin, 2023) 
  • Cobweb (Samuel Bodin, 2023) 
  • Dreamin’ Wild (Bill Pohlad, 2022) 
  • Dream Scenario (Kristoffer Borgli, 2023) 
  • Gojira -1.0 (Godzilla Minus One, Takashi, Yamazaki, 2023) 
  • Golda (Guy Nattiv, 2023) 
  • The Killer (David Fincher, 2023) 
  • Lady Ballers (Jeremy Boreing, 2023) 
  • The Lesson (Alice Troughton, 2023) 
  • May December (Todd Haynes, 2023) 
  • Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023) 
  • Moon Garden (Ryan Stevens Harris, 2022) 
  • No Hard Feelings (Gene Stupnitsky, 2023) 
  • Reality (Tina Satter, 2023) 
  • Retour à Séoul (Return to Seoul, 2022) 
  • Saltburn (Emerald Fennell, 2023) 
  • Sisu (Jamlari Helander, 2022) 
  • Sound of Freedom (Alejandro Monteverde, 2023) 
  • You Hurt My Feelings (Nicole Holofcener, 2023)

Aryan Tauqeer Khawaja

London-based film critic and programmer. Workshop Producer at UCL Film & TV Society. Contributor to Senses of Cinema and Little White Lies, amongst others.

Favourite films premiering in the UK in 2023:

  1. Ferrari (Michael Mann, 2023)
  2. La Bête (The Beast, Bertrand Bonello, 2023)
  3. The Killer (David Fincher, 2023)
  4. The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023)
  5. Aku wa sonzai shinai (Evil Does Not Exist, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2023)
  6. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023)
  7. Jawan (Atlee, 2023)
  8. Knock at the Cabin (M. Night Shyamalan, 2023)
  9. Cerrar los ojos (Close Your Eyes, Victor Erice, 2023)
  10. Roter Himmel (Afire, Christian Petzold, 2023)

Favourite older films seen for the first time in 2023:

  1. Dans le noir du temps (In the Darkness of Time, Jean-Luc Godard, 2002)
  2. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)
  3. Les salauds (Bastards, Claire Denis, 2013)
  4. Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984)
  5. The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
  6. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)
  7. Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glazer, 2000)
  8. Deep End (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1970)
  9. Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995)
  10. Sud pralad (Tropical Malady, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)

Stop Making Sense

Notable theatrical experiences:

  • Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006): seen at the Prince Charles Cinema, London
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001): seen on 35mm at the Prince Charles Cinema, London
  • TRON: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski, 2010): seen in IMAX 3D at the BFI IMAX, London
  • All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955): seen at the BFI Southbank, London
  • Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, 2004): seen on 35mm at Picturehouse Central as part of Sundance London, followed by a Q/A with Gregg Araki
  • Malcolm X (Spike Lee, 1992): seen on 35mm at the BFI Southbank, London
  • Blood and Sand (Rouben Mamoulian, 1941): seen on a nitrate print at the BFI Southbank, London
  • The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969): seen on 35mm at the Prince Charles Cinema, London
  • Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020): seen on IMAX 70mm at the Science Museum, London
  • Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975): seen at the BFI Southbank, London

In many ways the past year represented a regression- if not an entirely unwelcome one- in my tastes, as my own personal purview of discovery was shaped by the delayed pressures of university, the distortion of expectations and initial receptions by the atmospheres of myriad film festivals and the newfound ability to reflect on my position as a critic through curating (along with two colleagues) my first ever film programme at the Barbican Centre in London. 

Much of what has displaced that foundation of confidence in the stability of taste is being taken aback by the oeuvre of filmmakers I have been either dismissive or incurious towards at the same time as being thrown off balance by thorny, transgressive works from filmmakers I admire which, nonetheless, were of greater fascination than they were of value to me- Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023) and The Killer (David Fincher, 2023) in the former category, and Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023) and Master Gardener (Paul Schrader, 2022) in the latter. Long-awaited returns of truly singular artists- some after a decade (Glazer), some after 30 years (Erice)- were another rare pattern in a year characterized by constant flux, particularly the WGA/SAG strikes and the insistency with which circumstances technological and political demanded responses from an industry that frankly refused to respond effectively to either. 

As such, the confluence of auteurist patterns and the industry’s attempts to reorganise itself around streaming (as opposed to theatrical distribution, which has thus far proven itself to be the arbiter of far greater cultural longevity than Netflix and its counterparts) have resulted in Late Style becoming almost irrevocably interlinked with VOD and streaming, with Hit Man (Richard Linklater, 2023), for instance, being picked up by Netflix before talks around a theatrical release even began. One of the more egregious instances of that pattern, of course, manifested in the form of William Friedkin’s final film, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (William Friedkin, 2023), being unceremoniously dumped onto Showtime on the same day that David Gordon Green’s legacy sequel to The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) released in theatres. 

The one notable exception to that pattern, of course, is Michael Mann’s often beguiling, funereal late-period opus Ferrari (Michael Mann, 2023) – by far the film released this year that I have the most admiration for, and one that has prompted a reflection upon how inextricable the filmmaker’s work has been to my own cinephilia. Thus far, Mann’s career has been defined by the irreconcilability of dueling identities, ideologies and modes of being- a dialectical cinema that furthers its thesis not through facile, dialogic intellectualization but through a poetics of movement whose syntax is that of sensorial immersion, like the heft of a revolver or the relentless thrust of a go-fast boat. In the culmination of a project nearly 30 years in the making, that irreconcilability is one between metaphysics and the physics of the automobile, which are constantly engaged in a battle for supremacy. Two objects cannot exist at the same point in space at the same moment in time.

Simon Killen

Managing Director, Hi Gloss Entertainment

The lack of consensus in the ‘great films of 2023’ lists is a very good sign, at least from a creative perspective, if not for the business. From a cinema industry perspective, phenomena like ‘Barbenheimer’ prove how critical tentpole cinema events can be for the cinema business, which in turn is crucial for keeping the industry alive. But there is no shortage of inspiring content.

I saw so many good films this year, so I have created two lists! Apologies if this cricket reference does not quite work for you. If only every year could be this good. Asterisked titles will be released locally in 2024; and two of the titles – released through my company Hi Gloss Entertainment – are marked with ‘+’. 

My all-rounder of the year award goes to: Scrapper (Molly Manning Walker, 2023) and How to Have Sex (Molly Manning Walker, 2023).

The most happiness experienced in a cinema this year: A draw between Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023) at Cannes with tears of joy streaming from my eyes, and back home at a Glenroy Hall watching Il Mafiosi (Mafioso, Alberto Lattuada, 1962) with an audience comprised almost totally of Italians hooting and hollering. Vive le cinema experience!

First Eleven cinema Highlights for 2023:

The Beasts (As Bestas, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2022)
Robot Dreams (Pablo Berger, 2023)*
How To Have Sex (Mollie Manning Walker, 2023)*
About Dry Grasses (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2023)
Perfect Days (Wim Wenders, 2023) *
Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet, 2023)*
Trenque Lauquen (Laura Citarella, 2023)
Talk to Me (Michael and Danny Philippou, 2022)
Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt, 2022)
Evil Does Not Exist (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 2023) * +
Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023)

Second Eleven cinema Highlights for 2023

Housekeeping For Beginners (Goran Stolewski, 2023) *
Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka (The Boy and the Heron, Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)
Scrapper (Charlotte Regan, 2023)
Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023)
Afire (Christian Petzold, 2023)
Saint Omer (Alice Diop, 2022)
One Fine Day (Mia Hansen-Love, 2023)
Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
Totem (Lila Aviles, 2023) * +
The Settlers (Felipe Galvez Haberle, 2023)
The Delinquents (Los Delincuentes, Rodrigo Moreno, 2023)
Upon Entry (Alejandro Rojas and Juan Sebastian Vasquez, 2023)

Twelve Repertory Highlights for 2023

Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur, 1946)
At BBBC Film Group, Melbourne.

Un Depart (The Departure, Jerzy Skolimowski, 1967)
At Melb Uni French Film Club.

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

Patu! (Merata Mita, 1983)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

Munekata kyōdai (The Munekata Sisters (Yasujiro Ozu, 1950)
At Melbourne Film Festival

Classe tous Risque (Claude Sautet, 1960)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

Le Trou (The Hole, Jacques Becker, 1960)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

The Hunter’s Diary (Ko Nakahira, 1964)
Japan Society festival retrospective, Melbourne.

Forever a Woman (Kinuyo Tanaka, 1955)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

Ikaru (To Live, Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
ACMI matinees, Melbourne

Aferim! (Bravo! Radu Jude, 2015)
At Melbourne Cinematheque

Mafiosi (Il Mafioso, Alberto Lattuada, 1962)
At Glenroy Film Festival, Glenroy Public Hall

Documentaries that made 2023:

Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Anna Hints, 2023)
Flyways (Randall Wood, 2023)
In the Rear View (Maciek Hamela, 2023)
Elis & Tom (Roberto d’Oliviera, 2023)
The Last Daughter (Brenda Matthews, 2023)
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, 2022)

Rainer Knepperges

Filmmaker, Cologne

My 43 discoveries in 2023:

  • Mr. Fix-It (Allan Dwan, 1918) 
  • The Cook (Roscoe Arbuckle, 1918) 
  • Other Men’s Women (William Wellman, 1931) 
  • Das häßliche Mädchen (The Private Secretary Gets Married, Hermann Kosterlitz, 1933) 
  • De kribbebijter (The Cross-Patch, Hermann Kosterlitz, 1935) 
  • King Solomon’s Mines (Robert Stevenson, 1937)
  • Daughter of Shanghai (Robert Florey, 1937) 
  • Island of Lost Men (Kurt Neuman, 1939) 
  • The Mad Doctor (Tim Whelan, 1940)
  • Maddalena… zero in condotta (Maddalena, Zero for Conduct, Vittorio De Sica, 1940) 
  • Jane Eyre (Robert Stevenson, 1943) 
  • None Shall Escape (Andre de Toth, 1944)
  • Voice of the Whistler (William Castle, 1945)
  • Cluny Brown (Ernst Lubitsch, 1946) 
  • Night Editor (Henry Levin, 1946) 
  • Johnny Stool Pigeon (William Castle, 1949) 
  • No Way Out (Joseph L Mankiewicz, 1950)
  • Stars And Stripes Forever (Henry Koster, 1952) 
  • Toxi (R.A. Stemmle, 1952) 
  • One Girl’s Confession (Hugo Haas, 1953) 
  • Manon des Sources (Manon of the Spring, Marcel Pagnol, 1953) 
  • Ugolin (Marcel Pagnol, 1953) 
  • Wo der Wildbach rauscht (Heinz Paul 1956) 
  • Il ferroviere (The Railroad Man, Pietro Germi, 1956) 
  • Backlash (John Sturges, 1956) 
  • Fräulein (Henry Koster, 1958)
  • Tunes Of Glory (Ronald Neame, 1960) 
  • All Fall Down (John Frankenheimer, 1962) 
  • The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (Vincente Minnelli, 1963) 
  • The Great Escape (John Sturges, 1963) 
  • Je vous salue, mafia! (Raoul Lévy, 1965) 
  • Tell Me in the Sunlight (Steve Cochran, 1967) 
  • Infanzia, vocazione e prime esperienze di Giacomo Casanova veneziano (Giacomo Casanova: Childhood and Adolescence, Luigi Comencini, 1969) 
  • Universal Soldier (Cy Endfield, 1971) 
  • Dillinger (John Milius, 1973) 
  • Idole (Idols, Klaus Lemke, 1975) 
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars And Motor Kings (John Badham, 1976)
  • Coz takhle dat si spenat (A Nice Plate of Spinach, Václav Vorlícek, 1977) 
  • Pizza Connection (Damiano Damiani, 1985) 
  • Noir comme le souvenir (Black for Remembrance, Jean-Pierre Mocky, 1995)  
  • The Day Reagan Was Shot (Cyrus Nowrasteh, 2001) 
  • Coraline (Henry Selick, 2009)
  • Country Music (Ken Burns, 2019) 

My 2023 Top 10: 

  • The Fablemans (Steven Spielberg, 2022) 
  • Master Gardener (Paul Schrader, 2022)
  • The Adults (Dustin Guy Defa, 2022) 
  • The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin, 2023) 
  • Autos, die dann nachher auch explodieren (Cars That Explode Later On, Stefan Lampadius, 2023)
  • Mein Falke (My Falcon, Dominik Graf, 2023)
  • Wo keine Götter sind walten Gespenster (Phantoms & Ghosts, Bastian Gascho, 2023) 
  • Roter Himmel (Afire, Christian Petzold, 2023)
  • Die ängstliche Verkehrsteilnehmerin (Losing Faith, Martha Mechow, 2022)
  • La Empresa (André Siegers, 2023)

Dream Scenario

Gary M. Kramer

Contributor to Senses of Cinema, Salon, Cineaste, and other publications. Co-editor of two volumes of Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.

The most memorable films I saw in 2023 soothed, provoked, and/or disturbed me. Each of these features made me feel something. That is why they—plus an honorable mention—are my top five films for 2023.

1. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus (Neo Sora, 2023)
This melancholic concert film, shot in black and white, features the last recorded performance by the late composer/musician. It is an elegy full of poignant, haunting, solo piano compositions. Sakamoto plays with such feeling, and the camera moves in on him or frames his hands as they produce notes on the keyboard in ways that are moving. Even when Sakamoto’s face is shown, he exhibits such concentration, such intensity, that one feels his music as deeply as he does. Watching Sakamoto bow his head, as if he is listening closely to every note, is beautiful. He raises his hands as silence lingers as if he is conducting himself. He is often seen in silhouette, reflected on the glossy piano, or seen as a shadow on the floor. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus ends with the title track being performed without its composer at the keyboard. It magnifies the heartbreaking loss of this magnificent artist.

2. El Conde (Pablo Larraín, 2023)
Pablo Larraín’s allegory was both hilarious and horrifying. Filmed in luminous black-and-white, this gorgeous and gory political satire reimagined Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Jaime Vadell) as a 250-year-old vampire (An apt metaphor). Narrated by Margaret Thatcher (Stella Gonet), this film is as bonkers as it is brilliant. Larraín and his co writer Guillermo Calderón stun viewers with graphic violence (Pinochet drinks smoothies made from human hearts) and magical realist touches – such as a nun named Carmencita (Paula Luchsinger) – soaring in ecstasy. Other comic scenes include when the accountant Carmencita is asked to investigate the family and interviews Pinochet’s five children about their own corruption; as well as Pinochet faking his own death and tapping on the lid of his coffin when he is ready to escape. El Conde is a serious indictment of Pinochet’s fascism, and why it gets under one’s skin.

3. Les Indociles (Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold, 2023)
Sleek, seductive, and subversive, Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold’s intimate film is set during the early months of the pandemic and invites viewers to hang out in a boutique hotel. Described as “a place of privilege where you can forget everything,” the hotel is operating illegally as a brothel. Viewers observe scenes of the staff, the sex workers, and their clients interacting. The episodes unfold casually, as if viewers are eavesdropping on the nearly twenty characters as they form connections—sometimes temporarily—or break apart. There are only a few discrete episodes of sex, but the characters are more emotionally naked, revealing themselves sometimes in a single line of dialogue. An example of this is when an essential worker named Clara (Lizzie Brocheré) declares, “I feel like we are losing our humanity.” Likewise, a scene of Felix (Pierre Perrier) the hotel manager, having a cry in the supply closet is emotional. What is unspoken is often as important as what is said as discussions about the power dynamics of race, class, and the #MeToo movement Illustrate.

4. À plein temps (Full Time, Eric Gravel, 2021)
This gripping thriller, by writer/director Eric Gravel, has Julie (Laure Calamy), a single mother striving for a better life—but can’t seem to get a break. Calamy’s superb performance makes viewers root for her as she despairs; her every emotion is palpable. Full Time is, at times, manipulative, but that is forgivable, and part of what makes this roller-coaster of emotion so gratifying.  

5. Un silence (A Silence, Joachim Lafosse, 2023)
Directed by Joachim Lafosse, A Silence is a highly provocative film about the sins of the father.  It is best not to reveal the family secrets—e.g., the silence of the title—at the heart of this very intelligent and sensitively made film, but the acting, by Daniel Auteuil as the father, and Emmanuelle Devos, as his wife, is excellent. Their performances capture the weight of guilt, shame, and repression with haunting expressions and coiled body-language. Lafosse tackles a difficult, uncomfortable subject and family trauma in a quietly powerful film.

Honorable Mention: L’Été dernier (Last Summer, Catherine Breillat, 2023)
Catherine Breillat’s first film in a decade is a terrific remake of the 2019 Danish film Queen of Hearts. Last Summer is a knotty drama all about trust and power, who has it, and how they give or withhold it. As lies snowball and characters might self-destruct, Drucker’s stunning performance is gripping and Breillat never flinches in telling her story.

Jan Křipač

Editor in Chief, Film A Doba Magazine, Czech Republic.
  1. Bên trong vo kén vàng (Inside the Yellow Cocoon, Pham Thien An, 2023)
  2. Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki, 2023)
  3. Los delincuentes (The Delinquents, Rodrigo Moreno, 2023)
  4. mul-an-e-seo (In Water, Hong Sang-soo, 2023)
  5. Here (Bas Devos, 2023)
  6. Trenque Lauquen (Laura Citarella, 2022)
  7. Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet, 2023)
  8. Le mur des morts (The Wall of the Dead, Eugène Green, 2022)
  9. Nic víc (Nothing More, Vít Pancíř, 2022)
  10. Kuru Otlar Üstüne (About Dry Grasses, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2023)

Jay Kuehner

Freelance film critic (Cinema Scope, MUBI, Film Comment) and independent curator (On Site, Veracity, Rayos) based in the Pacific Northwest U.S.
  • De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Véréna Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, 2022)
  • Youth (Spring) (Wang Bing, 2023)
  • Retratos Fantasmas (Pictures of Ghosts, Kleber Mendonça Filho, 2023)
  • Mambar Pierrette (Rosine Mbakam, 2023)
  • Notre Corps (Our Body, Claire Simon, 2023)
  • The Human Surge 3 (Eduardo Williams, 2023)
  • Allensworth (James Benning, 2023)
  • La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher, 2023)
  • Eureka (Lisandro Alonso, 2023)
  • Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki, 2023)
  • A Common Sequence (Mary Helena Clark, Mike Gibisser, 2023)
  • Tótem (Lila Avilés, 2023)
  • Nu aștepta prea mult de la sfârșitul lumii (Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, Radu Jude, 2023)
  • Los delincuentes (The Delinquents, Rodrigo Moreno, 2023)
  • All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson, 2023)
  • Here (Bas Devos, 2023)
  • In Water (Mul-an-e-seo, Hong Sangsoo, 2023)
  • Trenque Lauquen (Laura Citarella, 2023)
  • Antier Noche (Nights Gone By, Alberto Martin Menach, 2023)
  • May December (Todd Haynes, 2023)
  • Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt, 2023)
  • Zinzindurrunkarratz (Oskar Alegria, 2023)
  • Aku wa Sonzai Shinai (Evil Does Not Exist, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan, 2023)
  • Roter Himmel (Afire, Christian Petzold, 2023)
  • Nuit obscure – Au revoir ici, n’importe où (Obscure Night: Goodbye Here, Anywhere, Sylvain George, 2023)
  • Samsara (Lois Patiño, 2023)
  • If You Don’t Watch the Way You Move (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2023)

Mark Lager

Film Writer (Cineaste, Senses of Cinema, Rue Morgue, Film International, CineAction, Cinema Retro)

Festival Lumière in Lyon, France (October 2023) awarded Wim Wenders and shared both a retrospective of his films as well as a master class with Wenders. The director discussed his film Paris, Texas (winner of the Palme d’Or and in my top 10 in the Sight & Sound greatest films of all time poll!). Actress Irène Jacob (president of the Institut Lumière) presented Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, among other highlighted selections. What I consider the greatest American western (alongside Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand) was also shown at the festival, Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, featuring the songs of Leonard Cohen. What distinguishes Festival Lumière from other film festivals and makes it so unique is that it is not a competitive festival and is not focused on glamor and glitz. Younger and older cinephiles casually shared spaces with acclaimed actors and directors, it was one audience with a love for cinema history.

Favorite Film of 2023: The Holdovers (Alexander Payne, 2023)

Both heartfelt and hilarious, The Holdovers is, by far, the best film of Alexander Payne’s career. Paul Giamatti gives his greatest performance as a misanthropic teacher alone at a boarding school with Dominic Sessa as a struggling student and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as a bereaved cook and mother mourning the death of her son in the Vietnam War. Set during December 17, 1970 to New Year’s 1971, with particularly poignant turning points on Christmas and December 27.

Eugenia Lai

Cinephile. New York.

New Releases (festivals, cinemas, streaming services): 

  • Piligrimai (Pilgrims, Laurynas Bareisa, 2021)
  • Allensworth (James Benning, 2022)
  • Passer Montanus (Julien Bismuth, 2023)
  • Kuru Otlar Üstüne (About Dry Grasses, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2023) 
  • Trenque Lauquen (Laura Citarella, 2022)
    Goutte d’or (Clément Cogitore, 2023)
  • Nação Valente (Tommy Guns, Carlos Conceição, 2022)
  • Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait (Luke Fowler, 2022)
  • Matter out of Place (Nikolaus Geyrhalter, 2022)
  • El Rostro de la Medusa (The Face of the Jellyfish, Melisa Liebenthal, 2022)
  • Autobiography (Makbul Mubarak, 2022)
  • El Juicio (The Trial, Ulises de la Orden, 2023)
  • All the Beauty and Bloodshed (Laura Poitras, 2022)
  • Vanskabte Land (Godland, Hlynur Pálmason, 2022)
  • Arnon pen nakrian tuayang (Arnold is a Model Student, Sorayos Prapapan, 2022) 
  • Nowhere here (Miko Revereza, 2023)
  • Sparta (Ulrich Seidl, 2022)
  • Last Things (Deborah Stratman, 2023)
  • Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of a Fall, Justine Triet, 2023) 
  • Youth (Spring) (Wang Bing, 2023)
  • Still Film (James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2023)
  • El Auge Del Humano 3 (The Human Surge 3, Eduardo Williams, 2023)
  • Maputo Nakuzandza (Ariadine Zampaulo, 2022)
  • Total Trust (Jialing Zhang, 2023)
  • Wu Kou Zhi Jia (A Long Journey Home, Wenqian Zhang 2022)
  • Da li ste videli ovu zenu?(Have You Seen This Woman?, Dušan Zorić/Matija Gluščević, 2022)

Repertoire (encountered the first time in 2023)

  • Martin Wong Portrait (Charlie Ahearn, 1998)
  • Grad (The City, Marko Babac/Živojin Pavlović/Vojislav ‘Kokan’ Rakonjac, 1963) 
  • Gharibeh Va Meh (The Stranger and the Fog, Bahram Beyzaie 1974)
  • Regrouping (Lizzie Borden, 1976)
  • Marie Chantal contre Dr. Kha (Blue Panther, Claude Chabrol, 1965)
  • Ostende (Laura Citarella, 2011)
  • Podne (Noon, Mladomir Puriša Đorđević,1968)
  • Bad Company (Les Mauvaises fréquentations, Jean Eustache, 1963)
  • La rosière de Pessac (Jean Eustache,1968)
  • La rosière de Pessac (Jean Eustache,1979)
  • Satansbraten (Satan’s Brew, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1976)
  • Szürkület (Twilight, György Fehér, 1990)
  • Boon Bin Yen (Ah Ying, Allen Fong, 1983)
  • Un Maledetto Imbroglio (The Facts of Murder, Pietro Germi, 1959)
  • Khesht o Ayeneh (Brick and Mirror, Ebrahim Golestan,1964)
  • Ganjine-haye Gohar (Crown Jewels of Iran, Ebrahim Golestan,1965)
    Yek Atash (A Fire, Ebrahim Golestan 1961)
  • Khestergarsi (Courtship, Ebrahim Golestan,1961)
  • El primer año (The First Year, Patricio Guzmán, 1972)
  • Ples v dežju (Dancing in the Rain, Boštjan Hladnik,1961) 
  • Bei qing cheng shi (A City of Sadness, Hou Hsiao Hsien, 1989)
  • Les Favoris de la Lune (Favorites of the Moon, Otar Iosseliani, 1986)
  • Maenbaleui cheongchun (The Barefooted Young, Kim Kee-duk , 1964)
  • The Meaning of 1/24 Second (Kim Kulim, 1969)
    Gavaznha (The Deer, Masoud Kimiai, 1974)
  • Reza Motori (Masoud Kimiai, 1970)
  • Gheysar (Masoud Kimiai, 1969)
  • Vrazda ing. Certa (The Murder of Mr. Devil, Ester Krumbachová, 1970)
  • Abigail’s Party (Mike Leigh 1977)
  • Das Kaninchen bin ich (Rabbit is me, Kurt Maetzig, 1965)
  • All’armi siam fascisti! (To Arms, We’re Fascists! Cecilia Mangini, 1962)
  • Dayereh-ye Mina (The Cycle, Dariush Mehrjui, 1974)
  • Ponedjeljak ili utorak (Monday or Tuesday, Vatroslav Mimica, 1966)
  • Letter to the Young Intellectuals of Hong Kong, Mok Chiu-Yi/Li Ching, 1978)
  • Dolgie Provody (The Long Farewell, Kira Muratova, 1971)
  • Korotkie vstrechi (Brief Encounters, Kira Muratova, 1967)
  • Vale Abraão (Abraham’s Valley, Manoel de Oliveira, 1993) 
  • Body Double (Brian de Palma, 1984)
  • For Some Reasons (Ellen Pao, 2003)
  • Kad budem mrtav i beo (When I Am Dead and Pale, Živojin Pavlović,1967)
  • George (Jeff Perkins, 2018)
  • Skupljači perja (I Even Met Happy Gypsies, Aleksandar Petrović,1967)
  • Tri (Three, Aleksandar Petrović,1965)
  • Shadows in the City (Ari Roussimoff, 1991)
  • Un rêve plus long que la nuit (Niki de Saint Phalle,1976)           
  • Dar Ghorbat (Far from Home, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1975)
  • The Dupes al-makhdūʿūn’ (The Dupes, Tewfik Saleh, 1972)
  • Yek Ettefagh-e Sadeh (A Simple Event, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1973)
  • Tabi’at-e Bijan (Still Life, Sohrab Shahid Saless,1974) 
  • Bonbast (Dead End, Parviz Sayyad, 1977)
  • Ghal’e (Women’s Quarter, Kamran Shirdel, 1966)
  • Zendan-e Zanan (Women’s Prison, Kamran Shirdel,1965)
  • Tehran Paitakht-e Iran Ast (Tehran Is the Capital of Iran, Kamran Shirdel, 1966)
  • Onn Shab ke Baroon Omad (The Night It Rained, Kamran Shirdel,1967)
  • Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai (Minamata: The Victims and Their World, Noriaki Tsuchimoto, 1971)
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967 (Agnès Varda, 2022)
  • L’étrangleur (The Strangler, Paul Vecchiali, 1970)
  • Encore (Paul Vecchiali, 1988)
  • Corps à cœur (Drugstore Romance, Paul Vecchiali, 1979)
  • Gam Dou (My Prince Edwards, Norris Wong, 2019)
  • The Hot Rocks, Peter Yates, 1972
  • Chi wa kawaiteru (Blood is Dry, Kijū Yoshida 1960)
  • Rokudenashi (Good-for-Nothing, Kijū Yoshida 1960)
  • Obaltan (Aimless Bullet, Yu Hyun-mok 1961)
  • Čudna devojka (Strange Girl, Jovan Živanović, 1962)

Moving Image Exhibitions:

  • Flat Bells : Alexander Estrela, MOMA, New York
  • Ken Jacobs: Up the Illusion, Broadway Windows Gallery, New York
  • Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretations, Julia Stoschek Foundation, Berlin
  • Let’s Talk : Simon Liu, KAJE, New York
  • Fragments of a Faith Forgotten: The Art of Harry Smith, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • Signals, MOMA, New York


Reynaldo Lastre

Cuban film critic based in the United States. Currently writing a PhD in Hispanic American Culture at the University of Connecticut.

The cinematic landscape of 2023 has been graced with a remarkable range of narratives, stylistic ventures, and directorial visions. The films are arranged hierarchically.

1-Anatomie d’une chute (Anatomy of the Fall, Justine Triet, 2023)
Triet critically explores the fractures of contemporary being, delivering a film that is both introspective and revealing. In her dissection of a marriage, the filmmaker shatters the divide between reality and plausibility, delving into a downfall that is simultaneously literal and allegorical.

2-Roter Himmel (Afire, Christian Petzold, 2023)
Petzold delivers yet another captivating narrative, melding particular attention to detail with emotional depth that captures the complexity of human experience. The meticulous portrayal of the characters—their fears, desires, and inner turmoil—is intricately woven into the settings: the forest, the beach, the summer home. Amidst it all stands the fire, an all-consuming force.

3-Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023)
Lanthimos continues to challenge narrative conventions, delivering a film that blends dark humor with sharp social critique, all wrapped in his signature cinematic style. In this distinctive adaptation of Frankenstein, the filmmaker weaves a coming-of-age narrative that reaches its zenith on a journey of growth far from home, all the while painting a rich tableau of female subjectivity through a Foucauldian lens.

3-Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
Master filmmaker Scorsese immerses us in a dark chapter of American history, showcasing his skill in telling powerful stories that are both intimate and grand. In this iteration, the director reimagines the Western—a genre quintessentially tied to American nationalism—to critically reexamine the romanticized narratives of white settlers’ expansion and the exploitation of indigenous lands.

5-Passages (Ira Sachs, 2023)
Passages intricately explores the labyrinth of human desire and the complexities of romantic entanglements. At its heart is the story of a filmmaker whose passionate liaison with a schoolteacher catalyzes the dissolution of his marriage with other men. The film charts a course through an emotional battleground, laden with turmoil and doubt, a testament to the director’s signature approach to capturing the nuances of emotional realism.

6-May December (Todd Haynes, 2023)
Known for his emotional delicacy and depth, Haynes brings us a story that challenges our perceptions of love, age, and memory. May December not only reconstructs a factual narrative but also disassembles it by employing a mirror—or perhaps more aptly, a mirage. Symbolically, cinema itself serves as this reflective medium, yet within the narrative, the mirroring is more tangibly portrayed through the transformative art of performance.

7-Suzume (Makoto Shinkai, 2022)
Shinkai deviates from the romantic and sometimes clichéd tone of films like Your Name to explore a more complex plot that weaves together humans, animals, supernatural beings, and even a ‘chair.’ In doing so, he engages with a Japanese narrative tradition where historical reexamination intertwines with critical discussions on environmental issues, all narrated through the enduring and ever-effective structure of the “hero’s journey.”

8-Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt, 2023)
Reichardt continues to shine with her distinctive style, offering a piece that is as much a meticulous character study as it is a contemplation of artistic life. However, here the director avoids those clichés that define an artist, such as eccentricity, madness, or misunderstanding. The lack of personality in the protagonist is precisely what gives Reichardt’s film its distinction.

9-Asteroid City (Wes Anderson, 2023)
Anderson once again invites us into his unique world, filled with symmetry and color, with a film that is both a visual adventure and a witty fable. Asteroid City is arguably the most ambitious, abstract, and mannered of Anderson’s filmography. While these characteristics are strengths, they also become a straitjacket that confines the film within an overpowering authorship.

10-Los delincuentes (The Delinquents, Rodrigo Moreno, 2023)
The young Argentinian filmmaker offers an unflinching look at life on the fringes of society, forging a piece of cinema that is as provocative as it is emotionally resonant. The film cleverly subverts the viewer’s expectations, dismantling the generic conventions it initially establishes. A robbery, a self-incrimination, a conviction, and an unwitting accomplice serve as the backdrop for a scathing critique of contemporary capitalism.

Honorable mentions:

Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023)

Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023)

Rotter in the Sun (Sebastián Silva, 2023)

Llamadas desde Moscú (Calls from Moscow, Luis Alejandro Yero, 2023)

Master Gardener (Paul Schrader, 2022)

Tótem (Totem, Lila Avilés, 2023)

Marc Lauria

Cinephile. Brisbane, Australia.
  1. The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer, 2023)
  2. Youth (Spring) (Wang Bing, 2023)
  3. Nu astepta prea mult de la sfarsitul lumii (Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World, Radu Jude, 2023)
  4. La practica (The Practice, Martin Rejtman, 2023)
  5. Los delincuentes (The Delinquents, Rodrigo Moreno, 2023)
  6. Retratos Fantasmas (Pictures of Ghosts, Kleber Mendonca Filho, 2023)
  7. El juicio (The Trial, Ulises de la Orden, 2023)
  8. Occupied City (Steve McQueen, 2023)
  9. Ben trong vo ken vang (Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, Pham Thien An, 2023)
  10. Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki, 2023)

Elaine Lennon

Film historian, author of ChinaTowne: The Screenplays of Robert Towne 1960-2000 and other books about cinema. She contributes to a variety of film journals.
  1. Past Lives (Celine Song, 2023) – The unspoken option
  2. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023) – The nuclear option
  3. Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2023) – The Frankenstein option
  4. How to Have Sex (Molly Manning Walker, 2023) – The unconscious coupling
  5. Lakelands (Robert Higgins, Patrick McGivney, 2022) – The conscious footballer
  6. Pearl (Ti West, 2022) – Comedy of horrors
  7. Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023) – Think pink!
  8. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2023) – Geek unique
  9. She Said (Maria Schrader, 2022)Women’s writing power
  10. The Janes (Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes, 2022) – Women’s collective power

Honourable mention: Bret Easton Ellis’ novel The Shards, a nerve-shredding cinematic trawl through Los Angeles circa 1981.

Past Lives

Valtteri Lepistö

Film critic (Vita nuova/Filmihullu), Finland

Best of 2023 (Generally based on Finnish releases):

  • Kimitachi wa dô ikiru ka (The Boy and the Heron, Miyazaki Hayao, 2023)
  • Coconut Head Generation (Alain Kassanda, 2023)
  • Chronique d’une liaison passagère (Diary of a Fleeting Love Affair, Emmanuel Mouret, 2022)
  • Esterno notte (Exterior Night, Marco Bellocchio, 2022)
  • Kuolleet lehdet (Fallen Leaves, Aki Kaurismäki, 2023)
  • Jigarthanda DoubleX (Karthik Subbaraj, 2023)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
  • Kokomo City (D. Smith, 2023)
  • Khers nist (No Bears, Jafar Panahi, 2022)
  • Qingchun (Youth (Spring), Wang Bing, 2023)

Best discoveries (older releases):

  • 80cm 5t (Michael Pilz, 1989)
  • Alma Corsária (Buccaneer soul, Carlos Reichenbach, 1993)
  • Fad’jal (Safi Faye, 1979)
  • Is dar nebaigtu Jeruzales pasaku (From Unfinished Tales of Jerusalem, Arūnas Matelis, 1996)
  • Minä olen, osat I–II (I Am, parts I–II, Markku Lehmuskallio, 1992)
  • Dupe od mramora (Marble Ass, Želimir Žilnik, 1995)
  • Un spécialiste, portrait d’un criminel moderne (The Specialist, Eyal Sivan, 1998)
  • Quei loro incontri (These Encounters of Theirs, Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, 2006)
  • Il taglio del bosco (Timber Cutting, Vittorio Cottafavi, 1963)
  • Unter den Brücken (Under the Bridges, Helmut Käutner, 1946)

Highlights of the movie-going year include the Sodankylä Film Festival where I fell in love with the films of Emmanuel Mouret, my first visit to the delightfully intimate Kokkola Film Festival helmed by Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, and a two-part screening of Markku Lehmuskallio’s massive work about Northern indigenous art I Am at Kino Regina in Helsinki. This unique ode to art is a forgotten masterpiece of Finnish cinema and it was recommended to me by the great programmer/critic Boris Nelepo who also organized an important (first-ever complete) Lehmuskallio & Lapsui retrospective at Doclisboa. 

A special shoutout to an essential streaming service Dafilms.com which introduced me to great, obscure documentary cinema throughout the year – three films on this list I saw there: 80cm 5t about sculptor Karl Prentl as part of Michael Pilz retrospective, From Unfinished Tales of Jerusalem, a mysterious Lithuanian short film trapped between times, and The Specialist, overwhelming portrait of banality of evil, comprised of the footage from the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.

Tara Lomax

Discipline Lead of Screen Studies, Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS)

This contribution continues my World Poll theme, whereby I survey the year’s franchise installments to review how the mode of production develops over time (for better or worse). Overall, 2023 wasn’t a strong year for Hollywood franchising: after some years of faltering under the weight of industrial shifts, global crises and general creative misdirection, this year has highlighted a need to course correct if the mode is to maintain strength and hold its audience. 

Below is an alphabetical list of noteworthy franchise installments released in 2023.

Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023)
One half of the ‘Barbenhiemer’ cultural phenomenon – together with Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan, 2023) – the blockbuster success of Barbie seemed to signal to some critics an audience appetite for less franchise tent poles and more ‘standalone’ blockbusters. This is a strange message since the ‘Barbie’ has existed for over six decades. Barbie is the first live-action feature film installment in this long-running franchise and its success reflects a demand for self-deprecating IP that is prepared to satirize its own moral contradictions. 

‘DC Extended Universe’ (DCEU): Shazam! Fury of the Gods (David F. Sandberg, 2023); The Flash (Andy Muschietti, 2023); Blue Beetle (Angel Manuel Solo, 2023); Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (James Wan, 2023)
This is the year that four ineffectual ‘DCEU’ installments were released after the announcement that the franchise would be rebooted under the new leadership and creative direction of James Gunn and Peter Safran. The ‘DCEU’ installments released this year reflect the ‘mess’ typical of this franchise, but now without any intrigue of where it might all be heading. Before release, Gunn suggested these films were to set up his new vision; since they all flopped, it is simply goodbye and RIP (Rest in IP) to the ‘DCEU’.

Fast X (Louis Leterrier, 2023)
Don’t be deceived by the ‘X’ in the title because this is actually the eleventh feature installment in the ‘Fast & the Furious’ franchise – and ‘part one,’ no less! Increasingly getting sillier (although there is no space travel in this one), this franchise might be losing touch with why this franchise has engaged an audience for so long. As part one of two, it ends abruptly; some might say that franchising lacks conclusions, but that’s simply untrue. However, if you brand an installment as part one then you don’t need to bother writing an ending – just pay Gal Gadot to smile. 

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (Francis Lawrence, 2023)
This is a prequel set over six decades before The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012) and focuses on Coriolanus Snow, before he becomes an antagonist. While this is intended to reveal something deep and complex about Snow, its most notable contribution is what it reveals about the nature and development of the Hunger Games as an event. The biggest shortfall of this installment was its running time and narrative structure.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (James Mangold, 2023)
This is the fifth installment in the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise and it was great to see this in a full State Theatre at the closing night of the Sydney Film Festival. Its thematic focus on time, history and legacy was fitting for an installment centered on an aging Indy (and Harrison Ford) and, despite a great opening sequence with a convincingly de-aged Ford, this addition to the ‘Indiana Jones’ franchise felt a bit out of time. This is overall a fine addition to this franchise but unfortunately not worth its production budget.

John Wick: Chapter 4 (Chad Stahelski, 2023)
This installment continues to exemplify the art of fight choreography but after almost three hours my appreciation for this ballet-like fighting style wears thin – there are only so many times Keanu Reeves can gracefully fall down the Sacré-Cœur stairs before a full cinema audience vocally grumbles in frustration. So far this is the weakest installment in this franchise in terms of world-building and story, despite being critically well-received. 

Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU): Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Peyton Reed, 2023); Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (James Gunn, 2023); The Marvels (Nia DaCosta, 2023)
This was the year the ‘MCU’ fell from the heavens. What was the exemplar of the franchise mode, I have long sung the praises of the ‘MCU’s’ complex storytelling and production model that has been misunderstood by cinephiles and screen critics. However, its increasing obsession with illogical multiversal world-building and a disconnection from its source material and audience has had an impact on the quality of its output. 

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (Christopher McQuarrie, 2023)
The seventh installment in the ‘Tom Cruise’ franchise (i.e., ‘Mission: Impossible’), this tries to give the impression of a storyworld bigger than what has been seen before, with an antagonist that that has history with Tom – sorry, Ethan; instead, it just leaves you thinking you’ve missed something. The focus on AI might be a metaphor that reflects Cruise’s anxieties that streaming will ruin cinema, and while this is another ‘part one’ this year it at least provides a conclusion to its thematic premise.

Scream VI (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, 2023)
The sixth film installment in the ‘Scream’ franchise opens with the fatal slashing of an Australian-sounding film studies academic who specializes in the horror genre – this was the first time I considered myself to be in a high-risk profession. 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, 2023)
The long-awaited sequel to the critically acclaimed and commercially successful Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), this installment continues the impressive and diverse art style of its animation and does multiversal storytelling slightly better than the ‘MCU’. However, this misdirected ‘part one’ chooses the wrong narrative beat to ‘end’: just because the storyworld extends beyond the scope of one installment doesn’t preclude the need for a conclusion. 

Other noteworthy franchise releases this year:
Creed III (Michael B. Jordan, 2023)
Saw X (Kevin Greutert, 2023)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears, 2023)
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Steven Caple Jr., 2023)

Andrew Lynch

Andrew Lynch is a lecturer of Cinema and Screen Studies at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.

Top 5 films released in Australia in 2023

1. Talk to Me (Danny Phillipou, Michael Phillipou, 2022)
The most vibrant, slick, lean and nasty, horror movie in years! YouTubers-turned directors Danny and Michael Phillipou (aka RackaRacka) bring their love of wild stunts and a distinctly youthful and Aussie energy to the possession genre. Their film has heart and depth but never forgets to feel dangerous, something few horror movies truly manage.

2. Barbie (Greta Gerwig, 2023)
More than enough has already been said about Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie’s incredible and near-impossible filmic achievement: combining Mattel’s branding and cynical commercialism with indie-film messiness and personality into a culture- conquering hit that made people want to see it multiple times at theatres!

3. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese, 2023)
The old guy’s still got it! I really didn’t feel the over-3-hour runtime of Scorsese’s adaptation of David Grann’s non-fiction account of the Osage Murders and the formation of the FBI. The film keeps focus on Deniro and DiCaprio and sometimes relegates absolute star Lily Gladstone to the story’s margins, but this is still a worthy addition to Scorsese’s powerful series of films that interrogate American history and mythology.

4. Biosphere (Mel Eslyn, 2022)
Mumblecore icon and indie-film impresario Mark Duplass is paired with acting powerhouse Sterling K Brown, as the last two men alive on earth, in a genuinely weird, surprising sci-fi interrogation of the buddy comedy. This goofily sincere film has a lot on its mind…if not a lot of satisfying answers, but is definitely worth a watch, just avoid spoilers.

5. The Outwaters (Robbie Banfitch, 2022)
The found-footage horror film genre is full of a lot of junk, which can make finding the gems difficult. Robbie Banfitch’s directorial debut sometimes shows its budgetary constraints but presents a plausibly real story about friends filming a hipster music video in the Mojave Desert that takes a sharp turn into cosmic horror. It is a real achievement that The Outwaters manages to feel like a coherent whole!

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