We are more than halfway through 2023, and there have already been dozens of stellar films. From major blockbusters to delightful comedies and thought-provoking biopics, 2023 has given us several incredible pictures that have been widely embraced by critics and audiences alike.
Some of these are among the most popular movies of 2023 at the box office, and some are modest, yet still commendable performers. However, they all are acclaimed efforts from some of the most respected directors working in Hollywood that star highly regarded actors at the top of their game. And while we still have four-and-a-half months left in the year, most of these films will remain in audiences’ minds as the best efforts to premiere in 2023.
For the first time in his career, Michael B. Jordan (A Journal for Jordan) steps behind the camera to direct Creed III, the latest entry in the franchise. Donnie (Jordan) is retired from fighting, working as a promoter instead of taking punches to the head. He’s still happily with Bianca Taylor (Thor: Love and Thunder’s Tessa Thompson) and their young daughter. Donnie’s seemingly perfect life is turned upside when childhood friend Damian Anderson (Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’s Jonathan Majors) re-enters Donnie’s life after a lengthy prison sentence.
Damian took the fall for Donnie and went to prison when they were kids, and now, he wants everything Donnie has earned. It’s all building toward the exhilarating showdown between the former friends. Jordan is still great as Donnie, but Majors is the perfect stick of dynamite to shake the franchise up. If Michael B. Jordan wants to continue making Creed movies, he should have every right to do so because these films rule.
Creed III is now available on Prime Video.
At times, Infinity Pool is gross, disturbing, and visceral. However, Alexander Skarsgård (Succession) and Mia Goth (Pearl) are as committed as ever, making Infinity Pool a worthy addition to this list. Directed by Brandon Cronenberg (Possessor), son of the legendary David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future), Infinity Pool follows James Foster (Skarsgård), a novelist on vacation with his wealthy wife, Em (Rebel Moon’s Cleopatra Coleman), in a seaside town.
James meets Gabi (Goth), who, along with her husband, Alban (Iris’ Jalil Lespert), invites the couple out for a night of drinking and partying. When James accidentally kills a local man, he experiences the country’s unique legal system, where the wealthy can clone themselves and watch their duplicates be killed in their place. I’ll stop now because this is truly a “you need to see it to believe it” type of movie. This movie will not be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for something wild and unpredictable, give Infinity Pool a shot.
Infinity Pool is now available on Hulu.
The Night of the 12th opens with a suburban house party just ending, and a twentysomething female, Clara, walking alone in the dead of night. Clara soon encounters a masked man, who sprays lighter fluid on her and sets her on fire, killing her. The rest of the movie initially focuses on the investigation behind Clara’s death as two detectives, the recently promoted Yohan and his older partner, Marceau, question the deceased girl’s family, friends, and lovers. As the film progresses, the suspect list continues to grow, and what was once a seemingly open-and-shut case becomes frustratingly complex and increasingly hopeless.
Who killed Clara? And why? Every good mystery movie has its list of suspects the audience can choose from, but the genius of Dominik Moll’s film is that it openly questions why so many people, and especially why so many men, have a credible motive for killing Clara in such a brutal fashion. The Night of the 12th is more than a simple thriller; it’s also a contemplative drama about the randomness of existence, a cynical satire on the banal bureaucracy of police work, and a sad portrait of people getting trapped in a toxic loop of obsession over the past.
The Night of the 12th is available to rent or purchase at a variety of digital vendors.
In his feature directorial debut, Kyle Edward Ball’s experimental horror film is about a nightmare scenario involving two children. Set in the mid-’90s, six-year-old Kaylee (Dali Rose Tetreault) and her four-year-old brother Kevin (Lucas Paul) wake up in the middle of the night to find out their father is missing.
To make matters worse, the windows and doors in the house have mysteriously vanished. As they search for their father, mysterious and chilling voices call for the children in all directions. Skinamarink will scare even the most diehard horror fans. It’s a childhood nightmare played out in real life, which is something that all viewers can relate to.
Skinamarink is now on Hulu.
In 2016, documentarian Alice Diop (Nous), who was pregnant, attended the trial of Fabienne Kabou, a Senegalese-French woman accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter. Kabou left her daughter to drown on the shores of Berck-sur-Mer, where the child was found dead the next day. Psychiatrists determined that Kabou was paranoid as she stated that evil forces wanted to kill the child. However, Kabou was still deemed fit to stand trial.
Inspired by these events, Diop wrote and directed her feature debut, Saint Omer. In the film, novelist Rama (Les Nègres’s Kayije Kagame) attends the trial of Laurence Coly (The Romanoffs’ Guslagie Malanda), a Senegalese immigrant accused of killing her infant child on the beach Berck. Rama, who is fourth-months pregnant, attends the trial to gain inspiration for her modern retelling of Medea that she plans to write. As the case progresses, Rama starts to reflect on her own life after hearing about Coly’s difficult upbringing. Saint Omer is a riveting courtroom drama that forces viewers to confront these difficult questions, resulting in a powerful film about sympathy and humanity.
Saint Omer is now available on Hulu.
Keanu Reeves returns for the fourth and seemingly last time in Chad Stahelski’s hectic action film John Wick: Chapter 4. The plot centers on the titular assassin who must fight through hordes of enemies on his way to the Marquis de Gramont, a high-ranking member of the Table with his sight set on Wick. Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, and the late Lance Reddick reprise their roles from previous films in the John Wick series, joined by Bill Skarsgård, Donnie Yen, and Shamier Anderson.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is everything fans love about the series and more. Reeves and Yen shine in the elaborate action sequences, perfectly antagonized by a chilling Skarsgård playing the best Bond villain outside the Bond franchise. Although the film will not earn the Baba Yaga any new fans, those already converted to the Wick faith will leave the theater exhilarated at the sheer display of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring action.
John Wick is now available digitally and on demand.
A cast of familiar, yet underappreciated actors star in Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry, arguably the most pleasant surprise of 2023. The film offers a fictionalized version of the events behind the creation of the BlackBerry line of mobile phones, with Jay Baruchel and Johnson playing co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin and Glenn Howerton as investor Jim Balsillie.
BlackBerry seamlessly blends comedy with the classic drama expected from a business picture, resulting in a thoroughly entertaining behind-the-scenes look at a product that changed the technological industry forever. The screenplay is sharp, witty, and fast-paced, supported by a stellar ensemble of reliable performers, some of which finally get the chance to shine. However, BlackBerry belongs to Howerton, who delivers an utterly unhinged performance for the ages — he doesn’t chew scenery, he swallows it whole, and we love him for it. In a fair world, his name would join the Goslings and Downeys of 2023 in the Best Supporting Actor Oscar race.
BlackBerry is now available digitally and on demand.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the long-awaited sequel to the Oscar-winning 2018 animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The plot sees Miles Morales meeting the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099, and clashing with them over how to handle a new multiversal threat known as the Spot.
Featuring the same dazzling, eye-popping animation that made the first film such a refreshing effort, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is yet another victory for Sony Pictures Animation. The film offers a riveting and emotion-packed adventure that juggles thought-provoking themes with vibrant, unrestrained animation, resulting in an ambitious and refreshing film that dwarfs most other animated and superhero efforts. Across the Spider-Verse signals a bright future for comic book movies, proving there’s more to the genre than just loud explosions and senseless plots.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now available digitally and on demand.
Greta Gerwig’s uncompromisingly feminist fantasy comedy Barbie is arguably the film of 2023. Oscar nominees Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star as Stereotypical Barbie and Ken, who embark on a journey of self-discovery to the real world following a sudden existential crisis that disrupts their peaceful life in Barbieland. Colorful, self-aware, and remarkably clever, Barbie is a subversive look at one of pop culture’s most enduring icons.
Elevated by career-best work from Robbie and especially Gosling, Barbie is a sharp and biting story that tackles feminism, gender dynamics, existentialism, and consumerism with a comedic and clever twist. Gerwig offers yet another emotionally charged look at the contradictions and joys of womanhood and masculinity, using her trademark humor to deliver a thoughtful and thoroughly entertaining adventure. Barbie is a cultural phenomenon, a before-and-after in the careers of everyone involved and a cinematic triumph for the modern age.
Barbie is now in theaters.
After years of playing supporting roles in some of Christopher Nolan’s best movies, Cillian Murphy finally takes the spotlight in Oppenheimer. Based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus, the film chronicles J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life and career, particularly his efforts leading the Manhattan Project during World War II, which resulted in the development of the atomic bomb, and his eventual fall from grace after his 1954 security hearing.
Oppenheimer might be Nolan’s magnum opus and is a much-deserved showcase for Murphy. Further enhanced by a stellar supporting cast, including an Oscar-worthy Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer is a captivating and intimate character study of a defining figure from the 20th century. The film is a technical and narrative triumph, a stunning look into the fragile relationship between science and politics and how it shaped one of the worst conflicts in human history. Oppenheimer adds another masterpiece to Nolan’s already impressive résumé and cements his place among modern cinema’s best auteurs and as one of the few artists capable of mobilizing audiences on name alone.
Oppenheimer is now in theaters.