The Handbook
By Rufus Punt | 14th December 2023
2023 Films

2023 is nearly over, and it’s definitely been a pretty great year for films, from big blockbusters that had to be seen like Barbie and Oppenheimer, to smaller and more contemplative films like Past Lives and All of Us Strangers.

With the year coming to a close and awards season heating up, there’s no better time to revisit the best of the best from the last 12 months, especially if you’re looking for something to watch over the Christmas hols. So we’ve created this list of our favourite ten films of the year (in no particular order) that you need to watch.

Past Lives

Past Lives

One of the year’s most emotional films, Past Lives stars Greta Lee and Teo Yoo as two friends, Na Young and Hae Sung who’ve known each other since childhood and have grown apart in the decades since. The two lost contact after Na Young’s family left for North America and don’t reconnect until years later when they find each other through Facebook and plan to meet up in person. 

But their past feelings for each other, with Na Young (now called Nora) in a relationship and Hae Sung having served in the military, loom over them as they contemplate their future. The core performances and writing are what make it particularly worth seeing, and the film is a strong contender for awards next year.

Where to watch: Amazon

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers Of the flower moon

Despite being a bleak and often harrowing watch, as well as three and a half hours in length, Killers of the Flower Moon is one of the best films of the year and one of the best of director Martin Scorcese’s career. With winning performances from Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro and Lily Gladstone, it tells the story of the Osage Nation murders during the early 20th century.

It explores the story of Mollie (Gladstone)’s Native American family being slowly assassinated over time, and the perpetrators scheming to gain control of their oil. A lengthy epic steeped in American history, it’s become a huge critical success, and the performances, particularly Gladstone and De Niro, are favourites for acting awards at the Oscars next year.

Where to watch: Apple TV

May December

May December

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore star in this dark character drama, in which Portman’s character Elizabeth, a Hollywood actress who heads to Georgia to study and interview the subject of her newest film, Gracie Artherton-Yoo (Moore). Gracie made national news and became infamous for having a relationship with a schoolboy starting when he was only 13 years old and serving time in jail. Despite this, she remains married to Joe over two decades after the controversy, and the two are excited to see how Elizabeth portrays their story.

But as the days go by, Elizabeth and the married couple begin to bond in ways that they didn’t expect, and Gracie and Joe wonder if perhaps they’ve made a big mistake. All three core performances are excellent, and the film will make you feel uncomfortable plenty of times throughout.

Where to watch: Sky Cinema

Poor Things

Poor Things

Perhaps the quirkiest film on this list, Poor Things stars Emma Stone as Bella, a young woman who is brought back to life after dying by an eccentric scientist (Willem Dafoe). Bella is naive to almost everything in her new life but is keen to explore, learn and educate herself on the wider world. Her scientist guardian Dr Baxter isn’t able to keep her from deciding to break free and step out to find herself and experience all life has to offer, especially when she meets lawyer Duncan Wedderburn.

As well as finding that she can’t get enough of sex, Bella wants to defy the society and attitudes of the world she lives in and bring others along with her. Director Yorgos Lanthimos ensures Poor Things is truly beautiful to look at, very unique and a ride quite unlike anything else this year.

Where to watch: In cinemas from January 12th

Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer

The other grand American historical drama this year is Oppenheimer, which defied worries about its subject matter (a tormented physicist), its runtime (three hours) and weighty themes (nuclear armageddon) to become a big box office hit and a critical favourite. You’re probably familiar by now with the premise: the biopic tells the story of both how J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) led the effort to create the first atomic weapons during WWII, and how his actions and turbulent personal life led to parts of the US government and his colleagues to turn against him.

The huge cast also includes Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Benny Safdie and Florence Pugh, and the film is a favourite to scoop Christopher Nolan his first Best Picture award at the Oscars next year. It’s a riveting journey and informative history lesson, and of course, became a viral sensation when it was paired with the next film on our list…

Where to watch: Amazon

Barbie

Barbie

The other half of Barbenheimer, Barbie was an even bigger hit with audiences and gave the world a great movie about a dress-up doll and her sidekick Ken. Margot Robbie plays Barbie, Ryan Gosling plays Ken, and Greta Gerwig directs a story about our plastic heroine travelling to the real world, while also exploring our roles in society. Often a hilarious comedy but at points touching and poignant, the stories of both Barbie and “just Ken” captured our hearts and provided us with a soundtrack that’ll be stuck in our heads long after the credits roll.

Barbie also boasts an eclectic cast (America Ferrera, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Simu Liu and Helen Mirren to name a few) and some zany set designs that caused a worldwide shortage of pink paint. If you’re not one of the millions who’ve already seen it, make sure to stick it on your watch list this Christmas.

Where to watch: Amazon

Anatomy of a Fall

Anatomy of a fall

The winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year was the French language Anatomy of a Fall, a legal thriller about a woman accused of murdering her husband. It’s a fairly well-worn concept, but the film does it well, as Sandra (German actress Sandra Huller) fights to maintain her innocence. Her husband Samuel is found dead following an argument between the two, apparently having fallen from the top floor of their idyllic mountain chalet.

Sandra claims it was an accident, but suspicion begins to fall on her, and she’s quickly put under arrest and put on trial. The gripping thriller will keep you on edge and guessing the whole way through, and cements it as one of the best of the year.

Where to watch: In cinemas now

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Are you there god

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret released earlier this year, and flew slightly under the radar, but is still a really good coming-of-age story about a young girl reaching her teenage years. Abby Ryder Fortson plays the young Margaret Simon, a girl raised by both a Christian mother (played by Rachel McAdams) and a Jewish father (played by Benny Safdie), who’s finding it hard to settle into her new neighbourhood in New Jersey. She’s also worried about the dawn of her teenage years and the start of puberty and wants to find her place in the world.

How will she keep up with other girls? What should she do about her growing interest in boys? Does she believe in God? The film explores all of these classic adolescent worries in a fresh and heartfelt way that’s relatable to anyone who watches it.

Where to watch: Amazon

All of Us Strangers

All of us strangers

Another dark horse in the awards race that’s starting up in Hollywood, All of Us Strangers seemed destined to get great reviews, namely because it is anchored by Fleabag and Sherlock star Andrew Scott, and Normal People and Aftersun’s Paul Mescal. It’s set in London, as Adam (Scott) returns to his flat when he suddenly meets Harry (Mescal), a mysterious neighbour whom he knows nothing about.

The encounter though will change his life, as he and Harry bond and form a relationship- but Adam is also preoccupied with the fact that his parents, who died when he was young, are still alive. Claire Foy and Jamie Bell play Adam’s mum and dad, and the film as you’d expect has amazing lead performances and thought-provoking themes about life and death.

Where to watch: In cinemas from January 26th

Talk To Me

Talk to me

A unique and creepy horror movie, Talk To Me became a small viral sensation earlier this year for its fresh take on the usual horror tropes of teenage hijinks colliding with the supernatural. Starring actress Sophie Wilde in the lead role of Mia, a 17-year-old navigating grief and a difficult relationship with her father following her mother’s death. She and her friends come across a severed hand that seems to have appeared from nowhere and no one knows exactly where it came from.

Quickly they discover that it has supernatural powers, allowing them to contact spirits and use them to manipulate the world around them, which seems like a lot of fun at first. Of course, meddling in the supernatural and with the dead rarely goes well, and Talk to Me becomes a nightmarish thrill ride and is great even if you’re not usually a fan of horror.

Where to watch: Amazon


Want to receive more great articles like this every day? Join our daily email now