Despite some of the bigger franchises in Hollywood having less-than-stellar years, 2023 has been outstanding for films. From arthouse hits to horror triumphs, you don’t need DC, Marvel, or Star Wars to have some fun at the movies. Below is a list of Nerdist‘s top 10 movies of the year, as decided upon by our great staff. This doesn’t represent anyone’s individual list, nor does it represent every good movie that came out this year. But it does have two movies based on Marvel properties. It’s still a geek website after all. Let’s start the countdown!
10. Evil Dead Rise
I have to admit, when I first saw Evil Dead Rise, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. It was a completely new take on the material, moving the action from a cabin in the woods to a dilapidated apartment building. Instead of hot teens out for some action, the curse of the Book of the Dead befalls a family just trying to get by. But at its heart, this new installment keeps much of the blood-soaked hallmarks of the original Sam Raimi movies, especially the hallowed Evil Dead 2. I’ve watched it several times since and I think it kinda rips.
9. Asteroid City
Another one that slow-burned its way onto this list. For a filmmaker already obsessed with artifice, Wes Anderson really outdid himself in Asteroid City. A story within a story within a story, layers and layers of separation between reality and fiction, and yet it’s entirely compelling from start to finish. The cast is outstanding, as per, and it might have the best use of Bryan Cranston since Breaking Bad. Anderson hides the real story under layers and layers of artifice and distance to give us a treatise on the American Theatre, UFO culture, and mid-century emotional stunting. It’s also super goofy and plays like a greatest hits of previous Anderson films. It’s a bafflement, but I can’t not applaud it for that.
8. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1
What a world we live in. Any other year, this latest installment in the unbelievably good Mission: Impossible series should have made a billion dollars, easy. But in 2023, it underperformed. That is by no means a reflection of quality. While it didn’t work quite as well for me as either Rogue Nation or Fallout, it’s still a tremendously enjoyable, exciting action adventure. The car chase through Rome with Tom Cruise and Hayley Atwell handcuffed together would be enough to make it a good movie. Then we get to the end where they have to climb through a train that is simultaneously falling off a cliff. Just an incredible action sequence. These movies rule.
7. Talk to Me
2023 was actually a pretty amazing year for horror movies. The aforementioned Evil Dead Rise is but one. Possibly the best of the bunch is the indie Talk to Me, written and directed by Australian YouTubers-turned-filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou. A take on teenage drug use as a form of coping, replacing demonic possession for narcotics, the main character’s slow descent feels like you’re watching a movie about addiction more than a horror movie. And that’s what makes it all the scarier. I said it before, but it’s like Euphoria but with seances, in the best way.
6. Poor Things
A dark horse addition to the list, Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest is a dark fairytale-esque look at women’s sexuality through the guise of a Frankenstein story. Emma Stone plays a newly revived experiment who quickly learns the wonders of life and lust only for “proper Victorian values” (which feel oddly accurate to today) try to keep her down. Mark Ruffalo gives a tremendously funny performance as the dandyish would-be lothario. It’s a very weird movie, as you’d expect from Lanthimos, but thoroughly engaging from start to finish.
Surely you’ve heard of this one. It was only the biggest thing in the world this summer. It’s delightful, it’s gorgeous, it’s funny and touching. No one expected a movie based on a doll would be the year’s biggest success story, but here we are. The suits will takeaway that the public wants more Mattel movies, or more toy movies. The real lesson is give Greta Gerwig a budget and people will flock to the cinema in record numbers.
The other half of the one-two punch of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s surprisingly taut exploration of the man behind the atomic bomb is maybe the most engaging and resonant biopic we’ve seen in forever. A cast the size of the universe, and filmmaking prowess for miles, Oppenheimer proved Nolan’s more than gimmickry and tricksy narratives. If Cillian Murphy doesn’t win an Oscar, there’s a problem with the Academy. (Spoiler: there already is one.)
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Look, we’re not going to mince words. Most of the recent Marvel Studios offerings have been lacking a bit of lustre. We were really hoping James Gunn would bring his trilogy of Guardians of the Galaxy movies home in a satisfying way, especially since he’s moving on to run DC. We needn’t have worried. The third installment is maybe not as raucous or expansive as the previous two, but it focuses on the characters and gives everyone a satisfying conclusion. Plus it has a good villain in the High Evolutionary. Plus plus, that corridor fight sequence in faux-one take is truly masterful.
2. John Wick: Chapter 4
While I appreciated the action prowess of the second and third John Wick movies, neither held a candle to the first in terms of compelling narrative. That all changed with Chapter 4, which goes full spaghetti western-meets-samurai-showdown. Donnie Yen’s blind swordsman, Shamier Anderson’s nameless gunfighter, and Skarsgård’s repugnant aristocrat make for some superb additions to the saga’s underworld. But at the heart, it’s John Wick trying to survive an onslaught of millions and that makes it work. No hyperbole, it’s one of the best action movies ever made. The entire third act in Paris—a riff on Walter Hill’s The Warriors—is perfect. If John never appears again, he got a fitting (and bloody) send-off.
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Look. I also didn’t think they’d ever match the glory of Into the Spider-Verse. How do you improve on perfection? You can’t. But you can do something different also perfectly. Expanding the roster of Spider-People by about 90 million and putting Gwen Stacy in the protagonist role changed things up in just the right way. Miles gets to be the catalyst for everything, and prove why uniqueness is good, while Miguel O’Hara shines as the de-facto antagonist. We cannot wait to see how the story concludes, but there’s enough in this entry to make it outstanding and rewatchable on its own forever. Also Spider-Punk is our new deity.