10 Best Films 2023: Mark Carnochan

8. Polite Society

Polite Society

In a year where the popularity of superhero movies is dwindling, an independent movie basing its entire aesthetic around the comic book style could have failed miserably. Polite Society, though, is no ordinary movie. 

The film follows teenager Ria Khan (played by the wonderful Priya Kansara in her big screen debut), a wannabe stuntwoman who struggles to accept that her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) has given up on her dreams of becoming an artist and has accepted her fate of an arranged marriage. Ria deals with this the only way she knows how… by coming up with an over-the-top heist-like plan to save her older sister.

What Polite Society does best is take a topic such as arranged marriage, which not everyone can directly relate to, and delivers it in an incredibly accessible way through the film’s quirky style. With this in mind, Polite Society offers a wildly funny and entertaining movie that packs a punch.

With such great material to work with, it is clear that everyone involved is having a ball making this film, and it shines through in the performances. The cast is fantastic, with brilliant chemistry; they elevate the material and ensure that Polite Society is one of 2023’s best.

7. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Review

Considering the excellence that is Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, it should come as no surprise that its sequel is just as brilliant.

Given the downward trend in comic book movies, the fact that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse was one of the most successful releases of the year speaks volumes about its quality. Whereas the belief that “bigger is better” isn’t always on the money, this Sony Pictures Animation film is most certainly bigger and by God… it just might be better.

This entry into the Miles Morales story follows his Spider-Man as he goes on a multiverse-hopping adventure with Gwen Stacy before finding himself in conflict with the Spider-Society thanks to his handling of a new threat in the evil villain, The Spot.

The longer runtime, the new universes, the sheer amount of new Spider-beings introduced, all make for an absolute thrill ride of a movie. The stakes are high and they have us on the edge of our seats from the very first second to the closing credits. 

In recent years, it feels as though the argument for animation as an artform rather than just another genre has become more and more heated. To put it bluntly, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a perfect argument for animation as art. It is also this year’s most entertaining picture.

Recommended for you: Spider-Man Movies Ranked

6. Godzilla Minus One

Godzilla Minus One Review

After seventy years of Godzilla movies, did any of us really expect Toho to come out with the best one they’ve ever made?

Godzilla Minus One sets itself in post WWII Japan and follows a former kamikaze pilot who claimed his plane was faulty and abandoned his position. In doing so, he found himself face to face with Godzilla alongside several mechanics working on his plane, and in a moment of fear failed to save any of their lives.

This plot point, which plays out as the film’s opening twenty minutes (one of this year’s greatest movie sequences), creates an emotional throughline and a beautiful character arc for the film’s main character Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki). 

Unlike previous Godzilla films that have focused more on the monster and on delivering good kaiju fun, Godzilla Minus One is a human story. Whereas the original 1954 movie uses the monster as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, particularly those used on Japan by The United States of America during World War Two, Minus One focuses on the wider effects of the bombs post-war, as well as on the relationship between the US and Japan during this period. 

Dealing with topics such as PTSD, the nation’s shame over their actions during WWII, the effects of the atomic bomb on Japan, and the United States–Japan Security Treaty, Godzilla Minus One is a film that takes the original idea of Godzilla and delivers it with more nuance than it ever has before. 

Furthermore, taking major inspiration from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Minus One rarely shows us Godzilla and instead focuses on those human elements of the story. In doing so, Yamazaki creates wonderful characters that we genuinely care about, making the reign of terror inflicted by Godzilla all the more terrifying. 

With Godzilla Minus One, the creature has never been scarier nor better.

Recommended for you: Showa Era Godzilla Movies Ranked (1954-1975)

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