The 10 Movies from 2023 You Need to See

Bill Newcott suggests 10 flicks from the past year that you might find interesting and engaging.


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’Tis the season for “Best of the Year” movie lists, which have always struck me as a bit presumptuous. I’m not going to pompously certify these 10 films as the “Best” of the year, but I think you’ll find them to be the most interesting and engaging.

In alphabetical order:

Dream Scenario

In Theaters


Nicolas Cage’s latter-career trend of making any kind of movie he darn well pleases continues to pay dividends: Here he takes on the role of a mild-mannered college professor who, inexplicably, begins to turn up in the dreams of people around the globe. No one is better at portraying dawning realization than Cage, and this is a vintage performance: His Professor Paul Matthias is by turn mystified, intrigued, horrified, and outraged by his newfound subliminal notoriety. Quirky and at times calamitous, Dream Scenario spends just the right amount of time setting up its oddball premise, then starts riffing on the theme with variations that are unexpected yet, in retrospect, inevitable. Cage, among our most resourceful cinematic jazz artists himself, meets every change in tone.

Flora and Son

Streaming on Apple TV+

(David Cleary/Apple TV+)

In the year’s most engaging and unusual romantic comedy, Eve Hewson is rough-edged but radiant as a struggling single mom in Dublin who uses music as a channel to connect with her hellraising adolescent son Max (Orén Kinlan), while embarking on a long-distance Internet romance with her California guitar teacher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The film is from writer/director/songwriter John Carney (Once), who is unmatched in his gift for demonstrating how music, through its mere existence, can change lives and enrich the world.

The Holdovers 

In Theaters and Streaming

(Focus Features)

Unabashedly sentimental, defiantly humane, wickedly funny, The Holdovers is a lot like the holidays: a gamut of emotions wrapped up in the regrets of the past and uncertainty about the future. Paul Giamatti is a solitary, universally disliked ancient history teacher at a posh boys’ school; Dominic Sessa is a solitary, equally disliked junior at said school, thrust together over the holidays due, largely, to their shared isolation from humanity. Set in 1970 (and opening with some cleverly imagined production logos for Focus Features and Miramax, neither of which existed at the time), the film is unapologetically old-fashioned; a less traumatized Dead Poets Society. The narrative shambles a bit over its 2 hours and 13 minutes, occasionally defying the rules of cinematic storytelling, but people rarely reveal themselves in neat three-act dramas, and the characters here are in no hurry, telling us what they want us to know about themselves in their own good time.

Killers of the Flower Moon

In Theaters

(Apple TV+)

There’s word that this may be director Martin Scorsese’s last film — and it may well be his greatest achievement. The 3 ½-hour story of how white power brokers of the early 20th century reacted to the discovery of oil on the land of the Osage Native Americans touches on themes Scorsese has explored from the beginning: greed, murder, and the rewriting of history. Robert DeNiro, who in recent years has proven he can slum with the best of them, digs deeper than an oil field gusher to craft the portrait of a businessman who exudes a Harry S. Truman-sort of friendliness — while plotting to steal every possible penny from the Osage, no matter what the cost. As his naïve but willing nephew, Leonardo DiCaprio gives his most nuanced performance, even assimilating DeNiro’s trademark upside-down, sinister smile. Best of all is Lily Gladstone as DiCaprio’s proud, strong-willed Osage wife, although it does beg credulity that she would stick with this loser as long as she does. 

The Lost King

Streaming on Prime

(IFC Films)

One problem with best-of-the-year movie lists is they tend to develop amnesia when it comes to films released before Memorial Day. One of the most pleasant surprises of the year was this spring release, the relentlessly sweet-natured true story about an amateur historian named Philippa Langley (The Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins) and her take-no-prisoners determination to find the burial spot of England’s King Richard III. You remember him: the notorious hump-backed monarch who — according to Shakespeare, at least — murdered his own young nephews to assure his ascendance to the throne. What’s more, Langley is also set on rehabilitating Richard’s ugly reputation. Hawkins brings adorable conviction to the lead role, the ever-pleasing Steve Coogan charms as Langley’s skeptical but supportive hubby, and director Stephen Frears (The Queen) leaves plenty of room for his quirky characters to grow on us.

Memories of Paris (Revoir Paris)

Streaming on Prime


Devastating and all-too timely, writer/director Alice Winocour’s haunting drama follows the emotional journey of Mia (Virginie Efira), a Parisian woman who survives a terrorist attack on a crowded bistro. Unable to recall any details after the first gunshots that awful night, she tracks down fellow survivors, trying to piece together her shattered memories. Along the way she meets a charming, if similarly damaged, survivor (Benoît Magimel), and together they discover the mysterious, maddening ways tragedy can lead to entirely new perspectives on life.


Streaming on Netflix


Will Annette Bening finally win the Oscar she’s deserved for decades? The Golden Globes have already nominated her for this, the true story of Diana Nyad, the woman who, after numerous near-fatal attempts, swam from Cuba to Florida in 2013. It’s yet another astonishingly brave performance from one of our most essential screen actors. As Nyad, Bening is grumpy, selfish, reckless, and thinks nothing of endangering others in pursuit of her ambitions without so much as a thank you. The world, to her mind, exists to be in service to her whims. Yet despite that legion of truly awful qualities, Bening’s Nyad — with a flash of despair in her eyes, a fleeting recognition of her own miserable ridiculousness — draws us to this singularly difficult woman. Like her longtime friend — wonderfully drawn by Jodie Foster, also Golden Globe nominated — we sigh, shrug our shoulders, and follow Nyad into the churning seas of life.


In Theaters, Streaming, and on Blu-ray Disc

(Universal Pictures)

It’s a marriage made in movie heaven: Stubbornly cerebral screen poet Christopher Nolan (Inception) tackles the life and legacy of philosopher physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. It’s impressive enough on the home screen, but if you can find a theater still featuring it, go there now: Rejecting digital cameras and computer-generated effects, Nolan has shot his larger-than-life story on IMAX film, detonating real explosives in New Mexico’s desert to re-create the moment when, in Oppenheimer’s words, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight Rises), the actor with the most haunted eyes in Hollywood, is perfectly cast as the man who, from the start, saw his creation as both unimaginable and inevitable. The last hour or so of this 3-hour epic could have used a sharper pair of scissors, but don’t let that stop you from reveling in Nolan’s masterpiece of cinematic magic.

A Thousand and One

Streaming on multiple platforms

(Focus Features)

Another gem from early in 2023, this sometimes tough-to-watch but ultimately triumphant family drama follows Inez, a troubled young New York City woman (singer Teyana Taylor, a revelation here) who kidnaps her little boy, Terry, from a group home. Changing both their names, staying with friends, and ultimately finding a rough apartment where the landlady doesn’t ask too many questions, for more than a decade Inez raises Terry on the mean streets of New York, steering him away from the lure of bad characters and guiding him to the kind of success she’s never known. Three actors play the maturing Terry — each one brilliantly. First-time feature writer/director A.V. Rockwell deftly navigates the epic narrative, including a finale that somehow both breaks your heart and sends your spirit soaring.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

Streaming on Apple TV+

(Apple TV+)

“I think we all get our own bag of hammers,” says Michael J. Fox, the onetime child star-turned-big screen heartthrob. In this improbably upbeat documentary, director David Guggenheim unfolds a transcendent account of an incurable optimist who ultimately kept his head, even after that whole bag of hammers, in the form of Parkinson’s disease, was dropped on it at age 29. There’s a healthy heaping of clips from Fox’s TV and movie career, including snippets that, in retrospect, betray the condition he hid from the world for years. And then there’s Fox in the present day: a charmingly boyish companion, running a trembling hand through his hair, a bittersweet echo of the tics he infused into his breakthrough sitcom character, Alex Keaton, so long ago.

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