Best Movies of 2023
It’s that time of year again – we’re looking back over the movies we enjoyed in 2023. In case you missed them, here are our favorites.
Movies for Kids
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (PG, Grade: A). Sequels can be sad shadows of the original, but not this one. Picking up after the events of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, this film explodes with action, excitement, and jaw-dropping animation. Young Miles Morales is desperate to save the multiverse (yes, it’s a familiar plot by now, but this is well-told) and wants to be part of the elite squad of superheroes tasked with the job. Along the way, he learns some valuable lessons about family, sacrifice, and the power of choices. Parents should note that the movie may be rated PG, but there is lots of animated violence and many moments of peril. Sensitive kids should stay away from this one, but animation fans will love it.
Pixar hits all the right notes with Elemental (PG, Grade: A-), a story about a woman made of fire who falls in love with a man made of water. Stunning visual design, excellent animation, and a solid story combine for a film that any family can love. Not only is the movie devoid of inter-personal violence, but it’s also packed with great messages about diversity, family legacies, communication, cultural preservation, and love.
An over-protective father, an adventurous mother, and a bad sense of direction see a family of ducks lost in the wilds of New York City. Migration (PG, Grade: A) tells a great story of courage, family, and love with the help of an excellent voice cast. Funny, well-animated, and out in 3D, this sweet film is a great choice for families.
Movies for Teens and Adults
Witty, campy, and candy-coated, Barbie (PG-13, Grade: A-) is more than the sum of its parts. Mixing comedy and social commentary, the movie delivers laughter and vindication for exhausted female viewers – and a different perspective on life for men in the audience. More impressively, the script also delves into deeper issues about moral agency, encountering different perspectives, self-acceptance, and the pain that can come with growth. Funny it most certainly is, but this movie has a powerful story to tell.
Godzilla Minus One (PG-13, Grade: B+) This Japanese creature feature isn’t just another infrastructure-destroying wreck-a-thon. In this well-crafted story, Japan’s post-war devastation and the tragedy of its people’s lives are front and center, providing the movie with real heart and a sense of place. Fans of monster movies will love this surprisingly thoughtful film, and for those who aren’t already keen on the genre, this is a good place to start.
The Creator (PG-13, Grade: B-), Caught up in a world war that revolves around the use of Artificial Intelligence, American operative Josh is tasked with retrieving a powerful weapon. When he discovers the weapon is actually a child, Josh starts questioning the war itself. Piercingly topical, this is a film that raises big questions about AI and militarism while also telling an immersive, compelling story.
Critics dream of original films that offer something different and Polite Society (PG-13, Grade: B-) delivers. A mash-up of Bollywood, Jane Austen, and a martial arts flick, this movie centers on Ria, an Anglo-Pakistani teen who is deeply suspicious of her sister’s fiancé and his family. Ria’s determined to save her sister from a terrible fate – whether she wants it or not. Full of madcap adventure and zany plot elements, this is a brightly-colored, riotously fun film.
Quirky, heartfelt, and gloriously absurd, Jules (PG-13, Grade: B+) is the tale of a lonely senior citizen who is in the early stages of cognitive decline. When a spaceship crashes into his backyard, he finds himself unexpectedly working with two female friends to repair the ship and hide the alien. Laugh-out loud funny and filled with pathos, this is a gem of a film which is boosted by strong writing and a stellar cast. Teens are unlikely to warm to the themes of aging, courage, and loss, but it’s a win for older viewers.
One of the most heart-warming stories of the year, Radical (PG-13, Grade: A-) is an inspirational teacher movie. Sergio Juarez Correa has volunteered to teach at a failing school in a poverty-stricken town in Mexico. Convinced that his students are full of potential that can be unleashed by exploring their interests and solving problems on their own, even Sergio is surprised by the magnitude of his students’ achievements. Poignant and filled with positive themes, this is an excellent choice for teens and adults who either speak Spanish or are prepared to read subtitles.
Also recommended are A Man Called Otto, The Road Dance, What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Tetris, Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, Chevalier, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Missing, and Living.
For Adults Only
Sometimes we run across movies with powerful stories or themes that are not family-friendly for thematic reasons or due to negative content, such as profanity. This year we came across some R-rated movies that we felt were worth watching despite their negative content.
Left at boarding school by their parents over Christmas, a few students are overseen by a crotchety history teacher and the food services manager. The Holdovers (Restricted, Grade: C) tells a familiar but touching tale of misfits discovering each other’s humanity. The abundant swearing and other negative content make this film unsuitable for families, which is unfortunate because it is a charming, funny film with a clear sense of direction.