Curated Life: Top 20 Movies I Saw in 2023

After a banner year in 2022 (207 films!), I’ve paced myself a bit more this year, at time of writing I have logged 113 films – I think that’s pretty good!

There are good movies coming out – brilliant, funny, sad, unique stories told by artists who want to give something to the world. It’s admittedly much harder to get to them – like, why are movie runs only in theatres for like 4 days now? Why can’t you rent a movie that’s made for a streamer? Why is it so hard to find a blu ray copy of Delicatessen? Yeah, I know the last one doesn’t relate to what we’re talking about but I still want to complain about it!

But here are the top 20 movies I saw this year – let me know what you think! PS – I love to know what you’re watching, too! We can be friends on Letterboxd here.

20 – Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

No notes. Just so fun and such well paced, with awesome performances by the cast to boot.

Truly though, this is a well timed, funny, and good feel-y movie that I would not be opposed to seeing more in the franchise.

19 – Lunana, Yak in the Classroom (2019)

The pacing of this movie, the beautiful shots – absolute perfection. This movie is exactly as uplifting and sweet-without-being-saccharine as you could hope. Throw in a touch of romance and a bunch of belly laughs, I honestly think this movie could charm anyone.

I believe this is pretty readily accessible across several streamers in Canada – I highly recommend you check it out on a rainy, gloomy day.

18 – The Mission (2023)

Documentaries are hit and miss for me – I love the opportunity to learn but hate when they because meaningless tittle-tattle tell alls of the worst moments of someone’s life.

The Mission, in the best way possible, tells the story of a misguided missionary, and through their own words and actions lays bare who the bad guys were. And there are so many bad guys in this story.

Despite the tragedy, John Allen Chau’s story and spirit is shared with love and compassion, but overall, with unflagging honesty. This modern fable is underscored by a moving letter from a grieving father, the contemporary archives of facebook posts, and, touchingly, rounded out through stories from friends and even a hopeful crush.

At it’s core it is a human story, moving like a slow motion train wreck but told with unwavering conviction in the belief of what is right - it’s utterly compelling.

17 – Oppenheimer (2023)

If I’m honest, I had hoped for something a bit different from Nolan’s biopic of the titular Oppenheimer, but this was a compelling and well told story nonetheless. This movie was dark in both theme and content but allowed audiences to peek behind the curtain at who these people really were.

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in this one is standout, but the whole cast is exceptional!

16 – Suffragette (2015)

This one was pretty well panned when it came out – I, certainly, never saw it in theatres. And credit where credit is due, as my pal pointed out, you can’t market a movie on Meryl Streep giving a performance of a lifetime and in reality she appears for only about three on-screen minutes.

Other than than, I think this was a taut, inspiring little piece. I acknowledge that there is real criticisms to be laid at the feet of early suffragettes, but this wasn’t the forum to appropriately address them, nor was it the intention of the movie.

Sometimes, there is value in showing the struggles of the people who came before us, who sacrificed and stood strong in the face of real danger, in order to do the right thing. I think there’s value in looking to the past and seeing how people stood up when there was so much less acceptance to do so.

15 – April and the Extraordinary World (2015)

This was fabulous little movie – and on a personal note, it also breaks my heart because I only ever found it because the movie I was looking for was not available at my local video rental store (which has since closed) and this was nearby where I was looking on the shelf.

April’s world is the best kind of steampunk – grimy, dirty, but so cool looking. The details in this film are AMAZING. The story focuses around a world where scientists are going missing, young April’s parents among them… and I don’t want to spoil more!

14 – The Lunchbox (2013)

This movie was surprising and touching – a charming love story that unfolds through the gamut of human emotions. Beyond standout performances from Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur!

For me, this ranks so highly because it isn’t just a typical romance – it’s a story of devotion and quiet inner strength, it’s a little more joyful, and a little more heartbroken than you might expect.

13 – The Birdcage (1996)

This movie made the rounds this year again as the story of the late (great) Robin Williams protecting Nathan Lane from being outed was shared widely in the press and online.

I’m glad it was being talked about again because it gave me a chance to discover this funny and remarkably forward thinking movie. The cast are hilarious and play perfectly off one another!

If you can find it, watch it. I loved it!

12 – Stop Making Sense (1984, 2023 rerelease)

Utterly electric. I can’t imagine how exciting it would have been to be in the audience for the show.

Greatest concert movie of all time? Without a doubt. This blows everything else away by a mile wide margin.

Even in our mostly empty theatre, it was a toe tapping, amazing performance. And, if I’m honest, I’ve never liked a concert film before. This is just that good.

11 – Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

Never again shall I be such a jerk about bad marketing – and honestly, the marketing for this movie turned me off completely – I never in a million years thought this touching, self-affirming story would be hidden in the third installment of a spin off of the Shrek series.

But touching and totally badass it was.

10 – Saltburn (2023)

Crackling in at #10, this fabulous, unnerving movie made me miss a time and place I had never been, but made me feel such strong connections – and such strong revulsion to the characters on screen. Brilliant in it’s unwinding – and just knockout performances by the whole cast.

And, it has to be said – weird, off putting, but in all the right ways.

Also, can we just give Barry Keoghan all the oscars and awards? He is mind blowing in everything he’s in.

9 – Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

The art styles (and I do mean styleS) are enough to get this movie on the list alone, but this story has so much going for it. It’s one of the few movies that I begged people to see in theatres because it was just so visually stunning. In anyone else’s hands, the flow and styles of this movie would look choppy and incoherent, but directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson so beautifully weaved the visuals and script together to create a holistic, beautiful piece of cinematography.

It’s not “just” a superhero movie - it’s a story about family, about being true to yourself, predetermination, universe hopping, and just… so much.

The script is so clever and so perfectly paced – absolutely worth a watch, and then a rewatch!

8 – Tár (2022)

I was actually supposed to see this in 2022, but ask me sometime and I’ll tell you the funny story of how that didn’t happen.

This movie surprised me – the buzz was different than I expected. The pacing was intense and I was so uncomfortable throughout, in the best way. This story feels so relevant, but not in a way that isn’t overplayed at all. Cate Blanchett walked the line of monstrous genius with what looked like ease, she was spectacular in this role. I’m not sure I’ve ever appreciated a performance by her more (this is saying something as I’m still obsessed with the LOTR trilogy).

7 – Babylon (2022)

This was the first movie I saw in theatres in 2023, and I recently re-watched it. My friend and I agreed that we’re not sure why this movie was so poorly reviewed.

As someone who dislikes gratuitous sex and violence, it’s a little unexpected to have this movie so highly rated, because it’s all gratuitous – but it’s also not. It’s a raw blister of a film, begging you to look away but the point of it all is that we shouldn’t look away. This movie was billed on Margot Robbie (and Brad Pitt), and while I think they both gave excellent performances, the whole cast was amazing together. There’s not one actor who provides a lesser performance in the bunch. They honestly all have such standout moments and scenes.

6 – Barbie (2023)

Hi Barbie! Hi Barbie! Hi Barbie!

With nothing but an empire of pink and a few made for home movie DVDs, Gerwig and Baumbach gave us a compelling and funny (so, so funny) movie that in anyone else’s hands would have played like a love letter to pink coated capitalism. Sure that’s still in there, but casting the C-suite as the bad guys kind of makes it all more palatable. Margot Robbie gives an A+ performance, and Ryan Gosling gives his very best, and if you think that’s an insult to his work, you’ve not seen this movie. His comedic timing is absolute perfection.

This movie brought people back to theatres, the amount of times I heard people say “I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie in theatres”, and yeah there’s probably other factors at play but can we give some credit to Gerwig for selling out movie houses in 2023? And it was fun – people were dressing up, you could spot little clusters of pink wearing pals all around town for weeks.

Sometimes the movie stands on it’s own, and I think Barbie does stand on it’s own (even if ironically, the dolls cannot), but the atmosphere around this movie, and it’s and commitment to playful and delightful storytelling goes hand in hand for a really exceptional moviegoing experience.

5 – The Boy and the Heron (2023)

I adored every moment of this beautiful film – what allegedly was going to be his last movie (but lucky for us, he surprised us at TIFF saying it was not!), Miyazaki gives us another beautiful look at grief and loss, to finding meaning, all wrapped up in a stunning visual package.

It’s very clearly a Miyazaki film, but uniquely it’s own story. Without giving it away, at one point, I could not help thinking of Prospero’s farewell in The Tempest.

I saw it both in English dub, and Japanese subtitled – and definitely recommend the latter. But I hope you do both! Robert Pattinson’s rendition of his character is absolute perfection, I couldn’t even pick him out until I looked it up later – he disappears into this role completely.

The pacing of this one is very unexpected, but I felt wholly engrossed from start to finish. The scoring in Ghibli films is so beautiful, but this one may be a standout – it almost feels like another character unto itself.

The level of precision in this film on every level is just incredible.

4 – Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (2023)

This is the funniest dark comedy I have seen in years. Where I expected it to lean back from the intensity, the movie ramped it up, when I expected it to be intense, it was sweet and funny and touching. There’s layers to this movie and so many readings of the script, I just loved it.

Also, the comedy in this movie is unbelievable – some incredibly hilarious moments and just a wholehearted story start to end. You can read so many allegories into this script, it’s what makes it so good – but also, you can watch for the excellent black comedy that it is.

And the premise? Just perfect.

3 – Strangers on a Train (1951)

I tend not to fall at the altar of the classics – that’s a bias of my own that I’m aware of and I’m actively challenging it. I mostly feel this way because I think that by saying a classic is their favourite movie of all time, it lets people off the hook and doesn’t encourage them to experience and enjoy newer movies.

However, I’ve got to say, Hitchcock’s movies have me enthralled. They are classics for a reason, but Strangers on a Train is absolutely the most incredible of all his movies that I have seen. Gripping from the get go, funny in it’s own offbeat way, this is compelling storytelling that stands up comfortably with whatever movies have come since.

2 – RRR (2022)

This fast paced, absolutely thrilling movie was unflinching and incredibly impactful. There’s just so much to love about this movie – and totally captivating from moment one. This historical fiction packs a wallop, but is rooted in real dramatic tension shared by two standout performances.

And the musical numbers are certified bops after bops – don’t believe me? Check out this Oscar award winning number – Naatu Naatu!

1 – Past Lives (2023)

If you heard any buzz about this movie, you’ll probably hear how it is honest, raw, and real. It’s an unbelievable and unexpected love story. It’s an exploration of paths not taken and the face first smash into a brick wall of reality. You’ll probably have heard about the jaw dropping cinematography, and absolutely perfect performances that crackle with anticipation.

You’ll probably have heard some combination of that.

And no matter what praise you’ve heard, this movie is still not being talked about enough. It’s spectacular filmmaking, and there is nothing I can say that will do this movie justice. It is as close to a perfect film as I have ever seen, I utterly adored every second. In it every quiet moment is an exploration of how the most compelling stories can be just real, honest emotions. Absolutely beautiful, with stunning and understated performances.

2 thoughts on “Curated Life: Top 20 Movies I Saw in 2023

  1. Christina…so many movies!
    Many I haven’t even heard of…I’ll get crackin’ on this list!

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