The Skinny's Films of 2023

The best films of the year feature acts of protest and resistance, alongside work that reckons with horrors wreaked by abusers, narcissists and racists – which seems particularly apt for 2023...

Article by The Skinny Film Team | 07 Dec 2023
  • All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

1. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed 

Dir. Laura Poitras

This year – both cinematically and politically – has been characterised by crisis, a refrain it seems we have been singing for almost a decade now. How warm, and gorgeous, and vital, then, to have the film of the year be based entirely on the Earth-shattering possibilities of resistance and struggle. Entangling myriad narratives of grief and sheer, vibrating rage with near impossible scope, Laura Poitras’ blazing documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – created in collaboration with her subject, photographer and activist Nan Goldin – reminds us of the power we all have to refuse the terms of our blood-soaked world. [Anahit Behrooz]  

A still from Killers of the Flower Moon.

2. Killers of the Flower Moon

Dir. Martin Scorsese 

Along with Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street and The Irishman, Killers of the Flower Moon constitutes a stunning late-career trilogy examining moral rot in 20th-century America. Discarding the investigative aspect of David Grann's book, Scorsese and co-writer Eric Roth give us an unblinking portrait of greed, evil and complicity, as the oil-rich Osage community is destroyed from within. It’s a monumental film, growing in power through every one of its 216 minutes. The audacious coda – wherein Scorsese reflects on his own role as teller of this tale – is as ingenious as it is profoundly moving. [Philip Concannon]

A still from Past Lives.

3. Past Lives

Dir. Celine Song

Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, Celine Song’s stunning debut is a love story about missed connections, sliding doors and paths not taken. Nora (Greta Lee) is living the dream out in New York, working as a writer and sharing a home with her loving husband, Arthur (John Magaro). One day, her childhood sweetheart Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) steps off a plane from South Korea and back into her life. Standing in front of each other for the first time in two decades, Nora and Hae Sung can only wonder what might have been. Soft-spoken yet thunderously powerful, Past Lives is truly special. [Ross McIndoe]

A still from Oppenheimer.

4. Oppenheimer

Dir. Christopher Nolan

Fragmented, reactive psychology is not something Christopher Nolan films are known for – and that includes the one that takes place largely in people's minds. But in scaling down his finely designed spectacle to the perspective of a man who originated the destruction and anxiety that the world would thereafter be defined by, it's clear that Nolan's films can still feel titanic even if they're action-free historical dramas. Stunning to behold and upsetting to process, Oppenheimer's cast of literally everyone you've seen in movies before is led by a perfectly anomalous and isolated Cillian Murphy. Cinema to make your seat shake. [Rory Doherty]

A still from Tár.

5. Tár

Dir. Todd Field

Todd Field’s controversy-courting portrait of a monstrous maestro is at once a tawdry satire of the classical music industry; an impartial examination of cancel culture within a heightened yet recognisable world; and a tortured ghostly fantasy where fact and fiction, condemnation and celebration are presented with equal weight (did Lydia Tár even know Leonard Bernstein?). Cate Blanchett’s performance flashes between cool, cultured control seeped in heterodox power structures and a baser fear as past indiscretions bring down her meticulously constructed world. With Mahler, Elgar and Bach counterbalanced by Hildur Guðnadóttir’s chilling score, Tár is an ambiguous, deliberately alienating, and fascinating portrait of corruption. [Carmen Paddock]

A still from How To Blow Up a Pipeline.

6. How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Dir. Daniel Goldhaber

“This is an act of self-defence,” goes the tagline for Daniel Goldhaber’s story of a misfit group of hardcore environmental activists looking to hit the pockets of a major polluter. The film itself is a high-wire balancing act: a bold adaptation of a book of political theory, a diverse and youthful ensemble cast, multiple intersecting storylines, a flashback plot device making every freeze frame and cliffhanger even more gasp-inducing. It succeeds in coalescing into a taut and moving thriller powerful enough to make you feel complicit in climate destruction, and ask yourself: would I do the same? [Tony Inglis]

A still from Rye Lane.

7. Rye Lane

Dir. Raine Allen-Miller

Rye Lane is a gorgeous testament to the wonder of unexpected connections. Fresh off their respective breakups, a chance encounter sees Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivian Oparah) spend a day righting relationship wrongs with joy and mischief. The result is a love letter in and of itself. With pops of colour and a wide lens, it celebrates South London in all its glory. Brilliantly observed and seamlessly delivered, its comedic rhythm carries heartbreak with ease and warmth. With Rye Lane, romantic comedies are well and truly back, and this one is tender (and a little sweetly sour) in all the right places. [Eilidh Akilade]

A still from Passages.

8. Passages

Dir. Ira Sachs

The film that gave us the “now we know what Paddington topping sounds like” tweet, Passages is Ira Sachs’ hilariously Parisian ménage-à-trois. Tomas (Franz Rogowski), who we meet directing a film crew with all the people skills of Malcolm Tucker, knows exactly what he wants from fiction. Life is a more destructive affair. Real narcissists might not wear such glorious knitwear (who does?) but sadly, they do exist; charged with such unpredictable intensity that we stay in their orbit even when it’s an asteroid belt. A horrifying 90 minutes of praying that long-suffering boyfriend Martin (Ben Whishaw) and newest infatuation Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos) will send him on his bike. [Louis Cammell]

A still from May December.

9. May December

Dir. Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes zooms in on a contentious affair with witty dialogue and camp to spare as an actress shadows the controversial woman she’s set to play in a biopic. Elizabeth Berry (Natalie Portman) meets Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Julianne Moore), whose grooming relationship with her now-husband Joe (Charles Melton) started when she was 36 and he 13. A brilliantly disquieting watch, May December holds off judgment to let the audience sit in their own discomfort. Echoing All About Eve, the film offers a fascinating, eerie caricature of method acting, with Elizabeth and Gracie clashing over their questionable motives. Portman and Moore are flawless, but Melton quietly holds his own in a reflection on consent more compelling than some overtly preaching tales. [Stefania Sarrubba]

A still from Saint Omer.

10. Saint Omer

Dir. Alice Diop

Alice Diop's sublime drama delivers an innovative new approach to the courtroom drama that’s troubling, moving and deeply mysterious. At its centre is the enigmatic Laurence, a French Senegalese woman on trial after confessing to drowning her infant daughter. Observing the trial for research purposes is Medea scholar and soon-to-be-mother Rama. Motherhood isn’t the only bond these women share, and Rama becomes increasingly unsettled as she hears more about the life of her cracked mirror image in the docks. Films rarely present us with fresh ways of seeing, but Diop gives us one of the year's most original and intelligent films. [Jamie Dunn]

The Next Ten: Our Films of 2023, 11-20

11. Return to Seoul
Dir. Davy Chou

12. Asteroid City
Dir. Wes Anderson

13. Blue Jean
Dir. Georgia Oakley

14. Barbie
Dir. Greta Gerwig

15. The Fabelmans
Dir. Steven Spielberg

16. The Eight Mountains
Dirs. Felix Van Groeningen, Charlotte Vandermeersch

17. How to Have Sex
Dir. Molly Manning Walker

18. Anatomy of a Fall
Dir. Justine Triet

19. Godland
Dir. Hlynur Pálmason

20. BlackBerry
Dir. Matthew Johnson

For more on our Films of 2023, listen to the latest episode of The Cineskinny podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, in the player below, or wherever you get your podcasts...