Oppie & Miles & Nora & Arthur – Alex’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2023 | FirstShowing.net

Oppie & Miles & Nora & Arthur – Alex’s Top 10 Favorite Films of 2023

by Alex Billington
January 5, 2024

“The world is changing. Reforming. This is your moment.” Another year, another Top 10. After watching more than 400 films throughout 2023 (always logging everything on my Letterboxd for anyone curious) it’s time to share my final selection of My Top 10 Favorite Films of 2023. I try to watch as much as I can and give myself time to catch up with any extra films at the end of the year, but my favorites can come from anytime in 2023. I fell hard for all the major ones – Oppenheimer, Spider-Verse, Past Lives, Poor Things, and American Fiction. Before anyone asks about the ones missing: I’m not that big on Killers of the Flower Moon (it’s good not great), I quite like Anatomy of a Fall but it didn’t make the cut, Godland and The Eight Mountains are on last year’s Top 10, Saltburn is bad (yeah it’s meh), and Godzilla: Minus One is great also didn’t make the cut. I stuck to my gut and chose these 10 that made me passionate for cinema all over again.

For the previous year’s Top 10 of 2022 list, topped by EEAAO of course, click here (also 2021 + 2020). You can check out my selection of Favorite Movie Posters from 2023 with a look at some of the best cinema art.

A few notes: this is a list of my favorite films, not the best films of the year, these are the ones that I love for my own reasons and I’ll try to explain why with each one. As always, I wish I had so much more to time to watch/rewatch films, and see every last film that played in 2023, but that’s impossible so this is just what I decided to run with. Also – my film selection is based on the date when I originally saw the film at a public event, including film festivals (Venice, Sundance) or public releases limited or otherwise. This is not based on only films released in 2023, but the ones I experienced in 2023, and is a good representation of the best cinema has given us, in my opinion. I’m always a bit nervous to finalize my list, but these are all films I love.

#1. La Chimera directed by Alice Rohrwacher

La Chimera

Arthur and his band of Tombaroli. I watched this film three times at three festivals in 2023. It’s that good. There are two songs performed in the film by an Italian folk singer and when the first one kicks in (the song about the “Tombaroli”), I get chills every time. I adore this film. It’s magical, mystical, and special in about 100 ways. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think anyone else can even attempt to replicate Alice Rohrwacher’s filmmaking. Truly one-of-a-kind. La Chimera is a mesmerizing, alluring journey through the afterlife – exploring the idea of souls and humanity traversing across time from generation to generation. I am in awe of the performance by Josh O’Connor as Arthur, one of my all-time favorite performances. There’s an aching longing that he embodies so perfectly, while maintaining his sense of appreciation for life as he rolls around the Italian hillsides with the Tombaroli. The shot-on-film cinematography by the French DP maestro Hélène Louvart is also heavenly. I can watch this film over & over & over and never tire of it.

#2. Oppenheimer directed by Christopher Nolan


“Are you saying that there’s a chance that when we push that button… we destroy the world?” Yes, indeed there is. This might just be Christopher Nolan’s Magnum Opus. It’s an incredible movie. I wasn’t sure if he would pull this off, it’s such a precarious and dangerous story to tell, yet he aced it. A monumental work of cinema and storytelling. The moment I knew it would be on my Top 10 actually hit me during my second viewing. I went to see it in IMAX (after the initial press screening in a regular cinema) and they cranked the volume and when that “Can You Hear the Music” track kicks in and it cuts to the shot of the clouds over the German city while Oppie’s living in Europe, I was completely taken away. My whole body was shook to its core by Ludwig Göransson’s one-of-the-best-of-all-time scores (yes, seriously) perfectly complementing this intricate story of a complicated intellectual and his destructive creation. And that is just one part. Cillian Murphy’s performance is flawless, the set design and production design is extraordinary, the editing are breathtaking. This is the kind of cinematic experience I live for, and once again, Nolan has made my Top 10.

#3. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse directed by Joaquim Dos Santos & Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson

Across the Spider-Verse

It does not bother me at all that this is only “half of the story,” it’s a phenomenal work of art and completes a strong arc with Gwen anyway. The first Into the Spider-Verse was on my Top 10 of 2018, and I’m happy that the sequel is as good as, if not better, than that masterpiece. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the they-actually-went-and-did-it sequel that lives up to the heart & soul of the original, and again breaks the barriers of visual storytelling by pushing everything further than it has before. I wrote a glowing review when it first came out: “It’s the epitome of cinema as a visual medium, an eye-popping blend of comic book fundamentals, animation (all styles / techniques / formats), and modern storytelling concepts. As always with cinema, story is key – and the filmmakers know this and care deeply. They’ve also outdone themselves in creating one of the most mesmerizing and psychedelic works of art in cinema.” I love how the colors and the stylistic choices in every scene represent the emotions of the characters and what they’re feeling as they go through a moment in their story. I can’t wait to find out what happens next in Beyond the Spider-Verse.

#4. Past Lives directed by Celine Song

Past Lives

What a film. What a beautiful film. What more can I add to the discourse that hasn’t already been said by everyone else who adores this touching film from writer / director Celine Song. I am still so astonished that this is her feature debut, but it also goes to show she really has an eye for cinematic storytelling. There are a few shots that I can never forget just because the cinematography is so lovely to look at, so softly and warmly capturing the moment with a great amount of intimacy focused on Nora. It’s her story after all. I had to watch this film twice before really settling into my appreciation of it, and accepting it as such a moving work of art that does work as well on repeat viewings. I got hit hard by emotions both times when it gets to that end scene, where Nora walks Hae Sung out to his Uber at the end of his trip to NYC. That’s the power of great cinema. Absolutely an iconic performance from Greta Lee taking on Nora, but I also need to praise both John Magaro and Teo Yoo in holding their own with grace as her two great loves. Such charmers.

#5. Poor Things directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Poor Things

Bella Baxter! Woman of the year! Heartbreaker! Love-maker! Pastéis enjoyer! Ha ha. This film SLAYS. The press screening at the Venice Film Festival was one of the year’s best experiences because you could almost touch the buzz wafting in the air with everyone loving it more & more as it played. Which is not a common occurrence in a room full of snobby critics, to be frank. I also watched this film two times at two different festivals to confirm it holds up and it does. And the audience loved it the second time as well. One of the best performances ever from Emma Stone, though I always think she’s exceptional. At first she doesn’t seem that refined… until you watch her progressively mature and begin to “grow up” over the course of the film, becoming more empowered and insightful as she surfs the waves of patriarchy. The strange score by Jerskin Fendrix is so inexplicably odd yet nicely adds to the weirdness of the whole film, and it’s hard to forget after hearing it. A total knock out, sex-positive, feminist, fearless, freaky creation from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos. I still think the opening 30 minutes are rough, but other than that, this is a genius film.

#6. Perfect Days directed by Wim Wenders

Perfect Days

A-ha! This is another of my personal favorites from Cannes back in May (my full review) that I haven’t been able to get off of my mind all year. The peace and calm of this film is deeply inspirational and so moving for me. I am profoundly drawn to the Buddhist philosophy found within, the way it shows us how Hirayama has left his life of luxury and wealth to live a simple life, doing the job that no one wants to do yet still finding happiness in every moment. I love that he takes photos of trees. I love his little apartment that he cleans up every day. I love how humble and heartfelt he always is dealing with any situation. Koji Yakusho really does deserve all the awards and accolades for his performance as Hirayama in this, it’s the most soulful and rejuvenating performance in any film of 2023. The soundtrack is great, all of his favorite oldies that make his days brighter. Another film I’ve been recommending and encouraging anyone watch whenever they can.

#7. American Fiction directed by Cord Jefferson

American Fiction

Have a laugh with Monk as he sets out to prove his point about how dumb everyone is right now. This film! Such a joy to watch, some of the best laughs of the year. Such a smart script that slices through the bullshit to show everyone how much the conversation around media right now is total nonsense. Yes of course the meta commentary is obvious, especially considering this is Cord Jefferson’s feature directorial debut, and we have to wonder if he’s thinking about what everyone is saying about this film in the context of what the film is literally about. Jeffrey Wright is always great in any role, no matter how big or small (love him in Wes Anderson’s films), but he’s especially remarkable in this film. Not only does he need to ace the Stagg R. Leigh persona on top of his regular performance, he also needs to hold all the emotional weight of someone going through this and dealing with the loss in his family. I also really do appreciation the more emotional, grounded side of the story about his family and budding romance, it adds depth to the film & Monk’s story.

#8. The Holdovers directed by Alexander Payne

The Holdovers

A new Christmas classic. Yep, it’s already a classic. I watched this film again during Christmas just to see if it holds up to that acclaim, and it really does. There’s just something so cinematically warm and wholesome and endearing about it, even though it’s set during a cold winter. The performances, the vintage 70s vibe, the snowy setting, the soundtrack and song choices, the story about these three lonely people going through the holidays trying to make sense of their lives. How much of a difference good friends and good cheer and good moments can make. A shining example of how to make a great film where everything works together. Paul Giamatti is hilariously unforgettable as the stodgy Paul Hunham, Dominic Sessa is impressive and endearing in his first ever big screen role as Angus Tully, though my favorite performance is still Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb. Her “mhmms” will live on in my mind forever. I’ve been recommending this film to everyone this winter. 🎶 “Crying never did nobody no good, no how… That’s why I don’t cry…” 🎶

#9. The Taste of Things / The Pot au Feu directed by Anh Hung Tran

The Taste of Things

I’m still not sure if this new English title holds up. The Taste of Things is all too bland for such an elegant film. I prefer it as The Pot au Feu, which is what it originally screened under at Cannes this year (though I also don’t care for the longer French title La Passion de Dodin Bouffant). Nonetheless, this magnificent film is one of the best food films ever made. Perfect from start to finish, with some of the finest cinematography all year. Gorgeous shots galore, everything’s framed so perfectly. I actually think it’s better than most of the other food films that other critics reference when they compare this one. Juliette Binoche plays Eugénie with just the right amount of confidence and sophistication, an unforgettable character and incomparably great chef. Benoît Magimel as the Dodin Bouffant also brings his charm to the table to match her, as their chemistry is vitally important in making the heart of this film beat so vividly and so passionately. I may not want to try every dish she makes, but that doesn’t make me like this any less. That pear shot is an all-timer.

#10. The Monk and the Gun directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji

The Monk and the Gun

Another wonderful surprise from the second half of the year. Bhutanese director Pawo Choyning Dorji returns with his second feature film after Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, and its even better with a more potent message. Aside from how terrific it is to see more stories from the tiny mountain country of Bhutan told authentically from the Bhutanese side (which is what makes this one particularly unique), this film becomes something more meaningful once it gets to the core of what it’s trying to convey with this story of “the monk and the gun.” The performances are all exceptional, especially by Tandin Wangchuk as Tashi and Deki Lhamo as Tshomo. As the film plays out (why does he need this gun?) and the story unfolds, I started to feel more and more invigorated by what I was watching, where it was going, what it was trying to say. They don’t know what you to know that this film makes fun of American ideals, but it does so in such a wholesome and uplifting way it’s hard not to be completely charmed by this film. Absolutely worth a watch.

BONUS! Mars Express directed by Jérémie Périn

Mars Express

Another animated movie that deserves to be mentioned alongside all the other movies in this Top 10. Yes, of course I already have Across the Spider-Verse on here, but animation is awesome (and it’s for anyone of any age to enjoy) and so is this movie. I haven’t stopped thinking about this since first catching it at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival back in May. It has stayed on my mind all this time and stands out. Mars Express is a spectacular, thrilling, visually engaging modern animated sci-fi movie. It’s a futuristic noir detective story about robots and AI and technology, borrowing plenty from the classics Ghost in the Shell & Blade Runner, but still delivering something entirely unique in its own ways. Not enough people have been able to see it yet, following its premieres in Cannes & Annecy last summer, but I think the buzz will grow with more time. The characters are memorable, the whole experience is riveting and even better watched on the big screen if at all possible. This is the excellent sci-fi cinema I look forward to encountering and it is worth discovering.

More 2023 Faves: Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, Sam Freeman & Ng Choon Ping’s Femme, Richard Linklater’s Hitman (tore down the house in Venice), Chloe Domont’s Fair Play, Laura McGann’s The Deepest Breath, Roger Ross Williams’ Cassandro, Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman’s Theater Camp, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (yep!), Jeff Rowe’s Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and Charlotte Regan’s Scrapper.

I could discuss all of my favorites endlessly, so if you ever want to chat about cinema, just ask me something about any of them. You can always find all of my ratings and additional thoughts on every film I watched in 2023 on my Letterboxd profile. There are always a few other films I did not get the chance to watch last year due to time constraints, but I still try to catch as many films as possible that my colleagues have been talking about. I am always watching new work throughout the year, seeking out the most exhilarating cinema – films that leave me in awe. If you have questions or thoughts about my Top 10 picks (or anything else), please get in touch: @firstshowing or @alexb.bsky.social. Now let’s dive right into 2024 with hope for what lies ahead.


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