10 Best Films 2023: Mark Carnochan

Another year of cinematic offerings has passed, and oh what a delightful feast it was. The last twelve months offered us innovative new releases from the worlds of horror and action cinema, with the grand finale of the John Wick saga and debut features from Kyle Edward Ball and the Philippou twins. Masters of the form like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese released two new pictures this year too. 

Mainstream cinema may remain stale, with the highest-grossing films of the year including the typical franchise fare that one has come to expect. However, Hollywood received a much needed shot in the arm in the form of the Barbenheimer frenzy that took over the world, leading to the behemoth’s that were Barbie and Oppenheimer.

This year seemed to point towards a new form of output in western cinema. Audiences are getting tired of the same old type of blockbusters, leading to less-desirable receptions for Marvel movies. Mid-budget features from big studios are finding their way back into cinemas after being seemingly relegated to streaming for a handful of years. Furthermore, international releases like Godzilla Minus One and Anatomy of a Fall have proven popular at the box office.

Cinema in 2023 marks a year of change, but one which shows the audience’s need for good filmmaking and human storytelling. Whether we are watching a film about a hitman, two childhood sweethearts from South Korea, a composer, or the inventor of the atomic bomb, the best films of this year took us on a deep dive into their characters’ psyches. After years of being fed superhuman street racers, jedi and superheroes, it is clear that modern audiences are looking for a human connection in the only way we know how; through a screen. 

Based on UK release dates, these are the very best of these films; my 10 Best Films of 2023.

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10. Barbie

Barbie Review

Barbie was the highest-grossing movie of the year and for good reason. The Barbenheimer madness that was July 21st 2023 was all fun and games – seeing everyone packing out movie theaters and dressed up for that day’s double bill was a sight to behold – but once you sat down in your own seat, a realisation hit you; what if these films aren’t any good?

The entire concept and the craze was built via the internet and essentially worked as a meme to poke fun at how wildly different these two films were, in spite of the fact they would be released on the same day. Yet, no one could predict how successful or well made they would actually turn out to be. Thus, the moment we all found ourselves waiting for our first screening of the day to begin (Oppenheimer first and then Barbie, there is no other correct way to double bill these movies), we all realised just how much was riding on this. Thankfully, both were excellent. The hype was real, the success was earned, and the payoff was worth it.

What’s more, the two films weren’t as different as you’d expect. In fact, they had an awful lot in common. In a way, they were like Yin and Yang. One light, the other dark, but both had a little bit of the other inside of them. In Barbie’s case, the film’s glossy pink aesthetic and pop-infused soundtrack sold it as a light, cheery film. It certainly was that, but with a dark undertone; one which challenged traditional ideas of womanhood, and which dealt with creation and destruction in a biting satirical manner.

It was a masterstroke from director Greta Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach, who used the shell of a “girls toy” in order to deliver a mature, adult message through the guise of a (somewhat) child-friendly film. The movies are one of the first places younger audiences begin to question the world around them via what is deemed acceptable in the media – given the fact that Barbie’s message had to be said at all, it is all the better that this film made as much money as it did and was seen by as many people as it was.

9. Rye Lane

2023 marked a great year for British filmmaking. There were brilliant indies that showed the fresh voices that are coming out of the United Kingdom like Femme, Scrapper and How to Have Sex, and even some bigger studio films like Aardman’s Chicken Run: The Dawn of the Nugget and Warner Bros’ Wonka. Even the usual matinee pictures for the pensioners churned out one of the year’s most delightful surprises in The Great Escaper.

One of the best to come out of the UK this year was Rye Lane. Thanks to poor marketing, the film flew under the radar upon its initial release but went on to make £1.5million due to word of mouth. It follows two strangers whom, after having just gone through breakups, meet by chance and spend the day getting to know each other.

Many have compared the film to the work of Spike Lee. Specifically, many compare Rye Lane to the director’s early masterpiece Do the Right Thing, focusing on how Lee introduces the viewer to the neighbourhood of New York which the film is set in, as well as the characters that inhabit it. Despite this apt comparison, Rye Lane never feels lazy in its references. Instead, the film clearly wears its influences on its sleeve, all the while delivering its own story in a way that is both fresh and contemporary.

Although this is Raine Allen-Miller’s directorial debut, they direct with flare, shooting the film throughout some of the most interesting areas London has to offer and capturing them in the most beautiful way courtesy of Olan Collardy’s wonderful cinematography.

As brilliant as Allen-Miller’s direction may be, it is the writing that makes Rye Lane the film it is. Yas and Dom are insanely likeable characters – very human and both coming with their own sets of faults alongside all that makes them great. Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson take what was written on the page and bring it to the screen seamlessly, delivering two terrific performances which beautifully compliment each other and craft a relationship we simply adore. 

Rye Lane is a surprisingly unique take on the rom-com, something which is becoming increasingly hard these days. Even for those of you who tend to dislike this type of film, Rye Lane is a great time which is sure to put a smile on your face.

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