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The 20 Best Movies of 2023: Ranking the Year's Best Films | No Hard Feelings

The 20 Best Movies of 2023 (Ranking the Year’s Best)

by Steve Lawson

Oh man, another year of fantastic movies has come and gone, and I am so excited to take you on a journey of the best.

From action-packed masterpieces to beautiful romance, 2023 offered us some truly wonderful storytelling. So, as the year comes to a close, let’s take a look back at the highlights of the big screen.

Keep in mind that this is not a list of the top earners nor the most critically beloved. This is my list – mine. A list of my 20 best experiences, the favorite messages, acting performances, production values, etc.

Mark these down for your rainy-day watchlist!

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The 20 Best Movies of 2023 (Ranking the Year’s Best)

20. “Oppenheimer”

Starting the list off with a war movie is out of character for me. I am not the biggest fan of war films and have said that so many times over my life. However, seeing how “Oppenheimer” approached the aftermath of the atomic bomb was interesting, and the acting was certainly top-notch!

Cillian Murphy plays the titular character, delivering a tormented performance alongside a cast that includes Emily Blunt (Katherine Oppenheimer), Robert Downey Jr. and Matt Damon (Leslie Groves). Frankly, Downey’s performance as Lewis Strauss should be commended, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Academy Award nomination come his way for the masterclass he put on in this movie.

Clocking in at a whopping three hours, it might be tough to slot into your day; Christopher Nolan is no stranger to long movies though. Is it a must-see? Not really – like I said, war movies typically are not my preference – but it does make our top 20.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube (From $5.99), Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99)

19. “Poor Things”

Emma Stone (Bella Baxter) really went for it in this bizarre, artsy movie. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, this film is a comedy that never really gets hilarious. Rather, it is a comedy in the classical sense of the situation’s absurdity and the commentary within its script.

Stone ensures she is at her strangest, pulling no punches and shedding the idea of what she has been thus far in her Hollywood life. It is truly difficult to put this movie in a box, and it is best for you to just experience it for yourself.

Joining Stone are Mark Ruffalo (Duncan Wedderburn) and Willem Dafoe (Dr. GOdwin Baxter), so you know the acting from these three will be fantastic! It’s another movie that might not be a must-watch, but certainly a should-watch.

Streaming Platforms: N/A

18. “Talk to Me”

“Talk to Me” is an Australian horror film that packs in the discomfort at every turn. I say this with a big spoiler alert, this is not a feel-good movie. At all.

The initial incident is disturbing and graphic. If you are squeamish at all or triggered by injuries to children, then this movie is not for you. That being said, as far as a horror movie, it was very well done.

Shocking, disturbed and intense “Talk to Me” took me on a journey I really didn’t expect to go on, and I am happy I did! As a certified horror junkie, I am always on the lookout for new and insane movies to make me squirm in my chair. This was certainly that.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube (From $4.99), Amazon Prime Video (From $4.99)

17. “Bottoms”

And then, on the flip side of that is “Bottoms.” And if that sounds like a queer romp movie, you wouldn’t be wrong. “Bottoms” uses the idea of “Fight Club,” makes it campy as fuck, and uses Marshawn Lynch (Mr. G) and an amazing cast to deliver one of the more ridiculous movies I have ever seen.

Truly, this movie felt like a fever dream. With the two leads, Rachel Sennot (PJ) and Ayo Edebiri (Josie), they found magic. In their “villain” Nicholas Galitzine (Jeff), they found one of the funniest “straight-guy-bromo” of all time.

“Bottoms” deserves your viewership, if for nothing else to prove that it doesn’t have to be a $200-million-mega movie to get an audience.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube TV (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (Premium Subscription)

16. “Red, White & Royal Blue”

Speaking of Nicholas Galitzine, let’s talk about one of the best queer films of the year (there are a few more on this list), “Red, White, and Royal Blue.”  Based on the novel of the same name by Casey McQuiston, this movie did its best to bring the beloved novel to life.

Now, I will be the first to admit that this would have been better served as a mini-series. However, the movie still works and delivers much of the book’s magic. The co-stars Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez, playing Prince Henry and Alex Claremont-Diaz respectfully, have such chemistry it’s hard to believe they aren’t these characters in real life.

The movie has charm, humor and a lot of heart as we watch these two men navigate the complicated world of love and politics. For any queer person who may struggle with finding their way in the world, I recommend this movie (and the book) because it touches on so many struggles.

Galitzine drives home the film’s heart in his monologue at the end of Act Two. And his line of “not trading one prison for another” stuck with me and so many viewers. Be prepared to laugh, cry and swoon as you take this journey with Alex and Henry.

Streaming Platforms: Amazon Prime Video (Subscription)

15. “Of an Age”

Queer cinema was on one in 2023. And “Of an Age” is no exception. “Of an Age” is another Australian production, and I have to give props to the filmmakers down under; they know how to make me feel a lot of feelings…

We join Kol (Elias Anton) as he is discovering his sexuality, and as we move through the movie, we watch the 24-hour whirlwind romance he finds. Then, we are taken on one of the most emotionally taxing rollercoasters of a movie I have ever seen.

My heart fluttered, bled and broke during my viewing of this film, and every bone in my body wants to watch it again and experience the pain all over. That’s how you know pain was done right in cinema.

Streaming Platforms: Amazon Prime Video (Subscription), YouTube (From $3.99)

14. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

The final installment of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” series was a strong one. Tragic beyond what we have come to expect from James Gunn, “Volume 3″delivers the emotional sendoff our heroes deserve.

It also gives us our first, and so far only, f-bomb in the MCU.

Strong performances across the board carry this film through some difficulties with the script. The highlight of which is Bradley Cooper’s vocal work as Rocket Raccoon. Watching his journey and the emotion in Cooper’s voice was so amazing I fell in love with that little CGI raccoon.

Marvel has been getting dragged a bit lately, but this one was strong. Maybe not every movie will be “Endgame,” but this was a strong stand-alone MCU film.

Streaming Platforms: Disney+ (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (From $3.99), YouTube (From $3.99)

13. “Saltburn”

This is the most disturbing movie on the list. And anyone who has seen it knows exactly what I am talking about.

Yes, the bathtub scene.

But holy hell, did “Saltburn” give me goosebumps. Barry Keoghan (Oliver Quick) and Jacob Elordi (Felix Catton) are unreal in this one, delivering some of the most incredible acting you will ever see on screen.

The tension, passion, pain and unease were, ugh, so good!

Streaming Platforms: Amazon Prime Video (Subscription)

12. “The Little Mermaid”

Don’t come at me, but I love the Disney remakes. I loved the originals, and now I get to experience them in a new and exciting way. If you have an issue, don’t grump about it…

“The Little Mermaid” hit on everything it needed to and delivered all of the original’s magic. Met with idiotic and disgusting backlash at the casting of Halle Bailey as Ariel, “The Little Mermaid” should have been one of the highest-grossing films of the year.

Mermaids aren’t real; there was no need for people to be gross… The reason it isn’t higher is because, well, it’s a remake. I knew what to expect; I knew the scenes for the most part, so there were few surprises.

Melissa McCarthy was one of the surprises. She slayed and was iconic as Ursula. Bailey also delivered the best version of “Part of Your World” I have ever heard. This movie is in the discussion for Disney’s best live-action remake.

Streaming Platforms: Disney+ (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99), YouTube (From $5.99)

11. “A Haunting in Venice”

I love a good whodunnit. Murder mysteries tickle a part of my brain I cannot totally understand. “A Haunting in Venice” had plenty of horror elements that made it unique and different enough from the other Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe movies that I felt were fresh and fun!

Kenneth Branagh delivers a strong performance as Hercule Poirot, and his directorial style stays strong with this movie!

If you want fun, scares, mystery and excitement, look no further. “A Haunting in Venice” has something for everyone and doesn’t let off the gas for very long. Just don’t plan any bathroom breaks with this one; it doesn’t give you the chance.

Streaming Platforms: Hulu (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99), YouTube (From $5.99)

10. “Scream VI”

I love the “Scream” franchise. Know that going into this bit.

With that, I will say that I feel that “Scream VI” went back to the quality that Wes Craven himself held the franchise to!

The new leads, Melissa Barrera (Samantha Carpenter) and Jenna Ortega (Tara Carpenter) take up the mantle vacated by Neve Campbell, who is missed in this film, and show how badass women do it in horror movies! Controversy surrounds the future of the franchise, and frankly, that is entirely on the studio. Still, this latest installment was worth the time to watch and the performances are so good you’ll have to work very hard not to enjoy it.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube (Subscription), Showtime (Subscription), Paramount (Subscription)

9. “The Marvels”

Yeah, yeah, come at me if you want, but this movie kicked all sorts of ass!

Brie Larson (Captain Marvel) has gotten the shit end of the stick for too long, and I am tired of the narrative that “The Marvels” isn’t a good movie. It is, and people should have better defended it.

We need to be able to have female-led superhero movies. Anyone can be a superhero.

But the story is solid, the visuals are great and the humor is off-the-charts good. The chemistry between Larson and her co-stars, Teyonah Parris (Monica Rambeau) and Iman Vellani (Ms. Marvel), is pure theater.

This movie comes highly recommended from me, and I will fight back against any bashing of this one!

Streaming Platforms: YouTube (From $19.99)

8. “Barbie”

Ah, yes, the movie that most would have expected to be No. 1. Along with “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie” created a phenomenon at the theaters as they combined for “Barbenheimer” weekend!

“Barbie” was a feminist masterpiece. It is a film that refuses to lecture but educates through entertainment. Margot Robbie (Barbie) was perfection, Ryan Gosling was…well…he was Ken. And I mean that in the best way!

The ability to juggle its message with the ridiculous premise of Barbie escaping Dreamland and going into the real world was impressive. Making us feel the way that director Gretta Gerwig did? Queen shit.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube TV (Subscription), Max (Subscription), Hulu (Premium Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (Premium Subscription)

7. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Another movie that will get me yelled at for its ranking, but remember, I don’t really care about box-office numbers. This list is about a million different factors, and this feels like a fair spot for the newest animated adventure of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

An A-list voice cast, a unique animation style and a fun plot deliver one of the best movies of 2023. Shameik Moore (Miles Morales), Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen Stacy) and Jake Johnson (Peter B. Parker) are in full force in this one. So many amazing actors join them I cannot take the space in this article to name them. Instead, I’ll link the cast list here!

Whether you are a Spidey fan or not, this is a fun movie. It does require a watch of the first installment of the “Spiderverse” series, but that’s another worthwhile task!

Streaming Platforms: Netflix (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99), Apple TV (From $5.99)

6. “Saw X”

Have I told you I love horror movies? Well, I actually have never loved the “Saw” series because gore like this makes me squeamish. But “Saw X” isn’t like other installments and focuses on the Jigsaw Killer himself, John Kramer.

Tobin Bell reprises his role as Kramer and is as twisted as ever, but now we get to see the “why.” And his intense calmness is as bone-chilling as ever!

Truly a revival for a franchise that had seemed to die in its own trap, “Saw X” is maybe the best in the series save for the original.

Streaming Platforms: Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99), YouTube (From $5.99)

5. “Blue Beetle”

A DC movie in the top 10? You bet your ass! “Blue Beetle” is, in my opinion, DCEU’s best work thus far. Hilarious, grounded and fun, it really had the feel of an early MCU movie.

Aside from sometimes suffering from being too predictable, the movie is so enjoyable, and the humor is driven most by a resurgent George Lopez (Rudy Reyes). Star Xolo Mariduena (Blue Beetle) shows off the chops needed to be a hero, and if James Gunn plans on the new DCEU being successful, he should keep the “Blue Beetle” cast together and put more movies like this one together!

Streaming Platforms: YouTube TV (Subscription), Max (Subscription), Hulu (Premium Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (Premium Subscription)

4. “No Hard Feelings”

Along with “Blue Beetle,” “No Hard Feelings” might be my biggest surprise movie of the year. Jennifer Lawrence (Maddie) and Andrew Barth-Feldman (Percy) lead this funny and warm movie, and from the jump, they let viewers know they aren’t going to phone it in.

The movie is quick, witty and has a surprising depth to it. Yes, “J-Law” is amazing at the raunchy side of comedy, but her acting chops allow her to be so multi-dimensional in this role that she makes each scene her own and gives it more than one layer.

The debut for Barth-Feldman? Impressive, to say the least. You wouldn’t know he had never been the lead in a movie before, and his scene in the bar with “maneater” is top-notch.

Streaming Platforms: Netflix (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (From $5.99), YouTube (From $5.99)

3. “John Wick: Chapter 4”

John Wick, the Boogeyman, the Baba Yaga and one hell of a franchise.

If this proves to be the franchise’s end, it will have gone out on a note that I believe is worthy of an Oscar, notably for its visuals. A truly gorgeous movie; the settings were unreal. The action was intense and engaging. Plus, Keanu Reeves was his stoic best for his latest turn as the assassin king.

“John Wick” is a franchise that won’t make many grand statements or deliver soul-crushing realizations, but it will do what it does best. Entertain. It will rack up the body count, show off its cast and make you roar in excitement!

I hope this isn’t the end, but Wick will have succeeded in his mission if it is.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube TV (Subscription), Starz (Subscription), Hulu (Premium Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (Premium Subscription)

2. “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”

I didn’t expect this to be as good as it was. Why I was surprised is a bit of a mystery to me because the cast alone is enough to carry the movie.

Chris Pine (Edgin), Michelle Rodriguez (Holga), Rege-Jean Page (Xenx), Justice Smith (Simon) and Sophia Lillis (Doric) are wonderfully brought together and play their roles with excitement and passion, which is exactly what the DnD community deserves!

I hope they make an entire franchise out of this movie because I will be at every single one of those installments. It’s funny, has adventure and plenty of magic to satisfy even the most snobby fantasy nerds.

Go and enjoy this one, perfect for a chill night in!

Streaming Platforms: YouTube TV (Subscription), Paramount+ (Subscription), Amazon Prime Video (Subscription)

1. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”

Can we give it up for queer cinema this year? Never in my lifetime did I think that I would get to rank a movie about LGBTQ+ people at the top of my “Movies of the Year” article. Not only that, but it is an unashamed, beautifully shot and incredibly acted piece of cinema.

Make no mistake. This isn’t some sap-fest that’s too gooey and sweet to make you feel anything. “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” hurts when it needs to. Director Aitch Alberto made sure we felt Ari and Dante’s individual struggles.

The two young leads, Max Pelayo (Ari) and Reese Gonzalez (Dante), are featured in another list of mine, and for good reason. They are powerful. They deliver the raw emotion of young people in love, and at a time when to do so was so scary and dangerous.

It isn’t lost on me that this is more than a queer film. It’s important for people of Hispanic heritage as much as it is for queer people. It is a movie that isn’t afraid to address the world for both and to show that being one doesn’t disqualify you from identifying with the other.

This is a beautiful film. I remember sitting in the theater and hearing the sniffles. And the best part is that it didn’t need to be a sad scene to illicit such emotion. For many people, myself included, we see ourselves in those young men. We felt the fear Ari had about his feelings for Dante. We felt out of place like Dante did.

We saw ourselves in them, and that means so much in a world that so frequently likes to pretend that LGBTQ+ struggles are an antiquated thing. The world still scares many of us. But, we brave it regardless, like Ari and Dante. We still look at the world with hope, like they did.

And for many of us, we want to discover the secrets of the universe, too.

Streaming Platforms: YouTube (From $3.99), Amazon Prime Video (From $3.99)

Thanks for reading “The 20 Best Movies of 2023 (Ranking the Year’s Best).” For more entertainment and sports takes, find me on Twitter, @Steve_Lawson93.

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