100 Best Movies of 2023 So Far (Regularly Updated)

Updated September 20, 2023 • Staff

Even if we put aside comic books and Barbie dolls, 2023 is shaping up to be a surprisingly fun year for movies. Who would have thought, for instance, that telling stories about once-novel now-defunct items like BlackBerry phones and pinball machines would make for a genuinely enjoyable watch? There are plenty of films like these, seemingly silly but unexpectedly good, that we've come to like this year, but along with these discoveries, we're also excited to share our usual favorites: solid indies like Somewhere in Queens, game-changing dramas like A Thousand and One, genre revelations like Rye Lane

Whatever your inclination, we're sure you'll find much to like in our list of the best movies 2023 has to offer.

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100.

Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation (2023)

Ashkal takes an audaciously hybrid approach to genre: it’s part-noir, part-supernatural thriller, and full political allegory. The investigation at the center of this slow-burn Tunisian police procedural is a gripping one, as burnt naked bodies keep turning up in abandoned construction sites in Tunis with no trace of a struggle or even a combustible on them. In post-revolution Tunisia, the deaths are an uncomfortable reminder of recent history: it was a young Tunisian man’s self-immolation that sparked the Arab Spring, after all.

The revolution’s complicated legacy looms over the film, as we watch the country’s Truth and Dignity Commission begin its work of uncovering the former government’s corruption and abuses. Ashkal’s two protagonists — the young Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) and her more seasoned police partner Batal (Mohamed Grayaa) — find themselves on opposite sides of that political divide, he having been implicated in the abuses of power that are now being investigated by Fatma’s father. There are fascinating elements at play here, and the results of Ashkal’s ambitious genre experiment are mostly inspired. Much of the film’s energies are spent on building a paranoid atmosphere — efforts that can, at times, frustratingly slacken the tension — but its fantastical touches tauten things up enough to make it a haunting political commentary in the end.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Youssef Chebbi
99.

Carmen (2023)

Renowned choreographer Benjamin Millepied brings an 1875 opera leaping into the 21st century with this modern retelling — through dance and drama — of Carmen. The plot is reimagined along the US border and recenters the titular character (Melissa Barrera), a newly orphaned refugee from Mexico making her way to her godmother (a fabulous Rossy de Palma) in LA. In places, Carmen recalls Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet: aided by Nicholas Britell’s operatic score, it embraces its grand origins to evoke a star-crossed sense of looming tragedy over the romance that blossoms when reluctant border patrol guard Aidan (Paul Mescal) saves Carmen’s life and flees with her to California. 

Where Carmen really soars is in its translation of drama into dance. It’s an inspired move, pairing this almost mythical story with such a primal medium — but, while the movie achieves visceral emotion that words would struggle to produce in its choreographed scenes, there’s something lacking in the moments where dialogue is crucial. The conversations never move as fluidly as the dancing bodies do, and the passion and the fury falter as a result. That being said, this is largely still a boldly inventive filmmaking experiment, one that spotlights the thrilling potency of pure movement as a storytelling medium.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Music
Actor: Benedict Hardie, Elsa Pataky, Kaan Guldur, Melissa Barrera, Nico Cortez, Nicole da Silva, Paul Mescal, Richard Brancatisano, Rossy de Palma, Tara Morice
Director: Benjamin Millepied
98.

BS High (2023)

The particulars of the scandal are enough to shock, enrage, and move anyone, but the directors of BS High also put Johnson in the hot seat and skewer the guy until they wring all ego and delusion out of him. The result is a compelling and terrifying look into a con man’s mind. Johnson alternates between justifying and denying his fraudulent ways and even tries to draw empathy from the audience by explaining his upbringing. But cleverly, the directors intercut his wild speeches with heartfelt testimonies from the real victims of this scam: the young recruits who were promised a better life if they played in Johnson’s team, only to be abused and marked for life. It’s impossible not to feel for the young men, who even up until the documentary’s end, wonder out loud how they could possibly move on from such a traumatic experience. 

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Documentary
Director: Martin Desmond Roe, Travon Free
97.

Mixed by Erry (2023)

Fast and funny with surprisingly tender moments in between, Mixed by Erry doubles as a fascinating period piece and a heartfelt family comedy. On a larger scale, it tracks the rise of musical piracy, which Erry and his brothers accidentally stumble onto with their cassette-copying business, Mixed by Erry. But what starts out as an innovative trade fueled by Erry’s love for music—Erry himself is like a Spotify algorithm come to life, instantly creating mix tapes for people based on what they like—soon transforms into a legal threat that catches the ire of record labels and finance regulators alike. It sounds thrilling and complicated, but the film’s lofty premise is grounded by the relatable dreams Erry and his brothers share. They genuinely believe they’re doing nothing wrong by distributing music and boosting the local economy, and as naive and misguided as that may be, there’s something heartwarming about their intentions. The film itself doesn’t take sides. Instead, it acknowledges the situation for what it is—a landmark case in musical history ripe with educational and entertaining moments.  

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Comedy, History, Music
Actor: Cristiana Dell'Anna, Emanuele Palumbo, Francesco Di Leva, Giuseppe Arena, Luigi D'Oriano
Director: Sydney Sibilia
Rating: R
96.

Love at First Sight (2023)

Watching Love at First Sight, there are times you catch it almost falling into eye-rolling clichés, like when Hadley loses Oliver’s number or when their first kiss is interrupted by someone suddenly opening the door. But the film’s self-assured and self-aware charm subverts conventions and saves it from being just another cheesy rom-com you’d sooner skip on Netflix. The statistic-heavy narration by Jameela Jamil manages to be both amusing and romantic, and casting Jamil as an omnipresent chameleon who is fate-personified is an inspired move that helps the film move along smoothly. Though they lack sensual chemistry, Richardson and Hardy are individually, abundantly charming. It’s hard not to be moved by their stories, as common as they may be in movies like this. Love at First Sight is fluffy and familiar, but it is also the sort of heartwarming fare you’ll want to watch again and again, especially at Christmastime, when the movie is set.  

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Andromeda Godfrey, Anthony Warren, Ben Hardy, Dexter Fletcher, Doña Croll, Haley Lu Richardson, Ibinabo Jack, Jameela Jamil, Jessica Ransom, Katrina Nare, Kerry Howard, Philip Bird, Rob Delaney, Sally Phillips, Sam Booth, Tom Taylor, Tracy Wiles
Director: Vanessa Caswill
Rating: PG-13
95.

Close to Vermeer (2023)

Less a documentary on Johannes Vermeer himself and more about the art scholar's mission to study ideas of beauty and aesthetics from various perspectives, this documentary successfully takes an admittedly very esoteric subject and makes it compelling. Director Suzanne Raes easily gets to the essence of the complex questions and insights that these Vermeer experts have, but without dumbing them down or reducing them into generic academic talking points. In fact, the thing that really comes through in the film's discussions is the emotion that these people feel in figuring out how Vermeer managed to paint such stunning images, and what the man was drawn to in human beings. It's oddly persuasive; whether or not you're a fan of 17th-century artists, watching Close to Vermeer feels like finally solving a puzzle.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Documentary, History
Actor: Abbie Vandivere, Anna Krekeler, Gregor J. M. Weber, Jonathan Janson, Pieter Roelofs
Director: Suzanne Raes
94.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam (2023)

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam might not immediately make sense to audiences new to director Lijo Jose Pellissery, but it’s still an interesting film that depicts Tamil culture. Also known as Like an Afternoon Dream, the contemplative bilingual film is centered around a prejudiced Malayali tour guide who wakes up as another man, specifically someone fluent in Tamil, and walks into the nearby village. Through vignettes focused on the village inhabitants, the film slowly unravels the dynamics between each of the villagers, flitting back to the tour bus on occasion to see how they’re faring. While some of the comedy goes over viewer’s heads, especially for people unfamiliar with the state, the slow-paced film feels like a fond memory from Pellissery. The film doesn’t explain anything at all, in the same way strange dreams refuse to do.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Actor: Ashokan, Ashwanth Ashokkumar, Mammootty, Rajesh Sharma, Ramachandran Durairaj, Ramya Pandian, Ramya Suvi
Director: Lijo Jose Pellissery
93.

Fair Play (2023)

Making a good erotic thriller out on Wall Street is no easy feat, but Fair Play has just the right ratio of wit, sex, and sleaze to spice up a Friday night viewing. There's also undeniable pleasure in watching a fairytale love story corrode, especially under the influence of money and power—here's one for the romantic capitalists! And even if the script feels a bit uneven and Emily's character a bit too silent until the film's third act, it's a heightened yet realistic depiction of exactly how solidified heteronormative standards still are: in bed, at home, at the workplace. Who would have guessed that's where the true horror lies? 

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Alden Ehrenreich, Buck Braithwaite, Eddie Marsan, Filip Todorovic, Geraldine Somerville, Ivona Kustudić, Jamie Wilkes, Jelena Stupljanin, Jim Sturgeon, Katarina Gojković, Laurel Lefkow, Leopold Hughes, Linda Ljoka, Patrick Fischler, Phoebe Dynevor, Rich Sommer, Sebastian de Souza, Sia Alipour
Director: Chloe Domont
92.

Shin Kamen Rider (2023)

With Marvel and DC monopolizing the superhero landscape with high budgets, big-name actors, and CGI graphics, Shin Kamen Rider feels like a breath of fresh air. Also known as Shin Masked Rider in other territories, the adaptation recalls the campy costumes and over-the-top action of the original 70s tokusatsu series. It’s fun, if a little bit silly, and slightly unhinged, albeit with a more modern polish. The bizarre action sequences tend to be paired with old 70s rock, blood oversplashing, motorcycle stunts, and exaggerated expressions, especially from the villains. It’s a fitting love letter for the series’ 50th anniversary.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Action, Drama, Science Fiction
Actor: Kanata Hongo, Ken Yasuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mikako Ichikawa, Minami Hamabe, Mirai Moriyama, Moriyama Mirai, Nanase Nishino, Nao Ōmori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Shuhei Uesugi, Sosuke Ikematsu, Suzuki Matsuo, Takumi Saitoh, Tasuku Emoto, Tori Matsuzaka, Toru Nakamura, Toru Tezuka, Yutaka Takenouchi
Director: Hideaki Anno
Rating: NR
91.

Infinity Pool (2023)

Surreal, off-putting, and extremely disturbing, Infinity Pool plays with the concepts of cloning and the death penalty to craft an examination on colonial tourism. It’s a thematically rich horror film, with hazy neon-lit sex scenes and absolutely terrible behavior, enabled by their wealth and advanced technology that could have been put to better use. Mia Goth, in particular, is strikingly unhinged, as Gabi taunts and lures James into bigger and more terrible crimes, crimes that he can only pay off with the wealth of his father-in-law. And Alexander Skarsgård as James believably gets sucked into this extremely libertine lifestyle, fuelled by the nepotistic anxiety of not living up to his own potential. The film presents a scary notion that pushed by wealth and playground tactics, one will willingly kill their own conscience, again and again, to belong to their cohort.

Our staff rating: 7.5/10
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller
Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Amanda Brugel, Amar Bukvić, Caroline Boulton, Cleopatra Coleman, Géza Kovács, Jalil Lespert, Jeff Ricketts, John Ralston, Mia Goth, Roderick Hill, Romina Tonković, Thomas Kretschmann
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Rating: R

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