Kory’s Top Movies of 2023

You know, we had a podcast that you can listen to that we spent over six hours recording, but even while talking for over six hours in real time (the podcast is shorter than that!), it still feels like there were movies that I missed out on talking about in even relative depth.

One thing about me is that I don’t really like rankings. I know I literally have a podcast where I rank things very explicitly every year, but I much prefer tiers. So here’s the tiers of movies I watched in 2023, from most favorite to least favorite! There are 68 of them.

(Movies within tiers sorted alphabetically.)

These are the best movies I watched all year, and it’s relatively pointless to ask me which one I really liked more

  • The First Slam Dunk
  • Godzilla Minus One
  • Past Lives
  • Perfect Days
  • Riceboy Sleeps
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
  • Honorable mention that’s not a movie but is on Letterboxd: The History of the Minnesota Vikings

I talked about all of these pretty extensively on the podcast, because they were either on my list or on someone else’s. So I won’t dwell on them here.

I feel emotionally destroyed and drained after these movies

  • Anatomy of a Fall
  • Elemental
  • The Iron Claw
  • Killers of a Flower Moon
  • Monster
  • A Thousand and One
  • The Zone of Interest

I talked about I think all of these except A Thousand and One in depth on the podcast, so again I won’t dwell on them here.

But here’s the entire contents from my Letterboxd review of A Thousand and One:

Really amazing story about this family (a mom, her 6 year old, growing to 13 then 17 year old, and eventually dad) trying to live their lives and stay afloat in a society and city that doesn’t care whether they do. Interspersed commentaries about how the city of New York (and more broadly US systems as a whole) fail its citizens are on point. 

The ending I thought was great. Life goes on; it has to. And none of us know where it’s going.

This and the previous tier are basically interchangeable, but these are more fun

  • Barbie
  • Dream Scenario
  • John Wick: Chapter 4
  • Joy Ride
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

There’s like a subgenre of comedy that’s just raunchy comedy, and those never really hit with me? I mean also sometimes I like poop or fart or dick jokes in something like Superbad, but it has to be a very specific context and vibe for me to feel to really like those things.

But then there’s something like Joy Ride, which is very raunchy, but also woman- and Asian-led, so it feels like it will just always hit with me? And within that, it’s this sub-story of really finding yourself as an Asian adoptee, that Ashley Park’s character, Audrey, went through. I don’t know if there’s too many scenes that I related to more than Audrey out drinking with Chao (Ronny Chieng) and being confused and/or disgusted by the various drinks and foods, just because they’re Not White.

Then there’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which I feel is peak (behind Endgame) Marvel storytelling. Something that Marvel hasn’t done at all until Guardians 3 is have this same creative force behind every single movie in a single series. Captain America probably got the closest with the Russos in charge of Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War, and Endgame, but everyone else has these different directors and writers in charge, all trying to work within the vision of Kevin Feige. Whatever working relationship James Gunn and Kevin Feige and the rest of the Guardians and Marvel crew had going on really worked and really paid off here. Definitely a high point in MCU post Endgame.

The Yorgos Lanthimos and Todd Haynes power hour

  • May December
  • Poor Things

I can’t say anything better than what Chris said on the podcast about Poor Things, but it’s an incredible achievement.

We talked about May December for a long time on the podcast, so I’ll leave it at that.

I don’t quite know how to group all these together, but they’re definitely below Poor Things and above the next tier

  • Blackberry
  • The Creator
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
  • Nimona
  • Polite Society
  • Rye Lane
  • Sitting in Bars with Cake
  • STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Sooooooo…This is a group of movies huh? Quick hit comments!

Blackberry is one of those movies about real events that really has it together and presents that story in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re jumping all over the place, but also creates a cohesive narrative with the Blackberry phone and all those involved. It’s a treasure!

The Creator is something I wrote extensively about on New Years Eve, the last day before I knew I had COVID from Christmas travel, and I really loved every topic it was exploring from the sci-fi side of things.

There was probably no funner movie than Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves in 2023.

There should be more movies with the creative energy of Nimona!

After Polite Society and We Are Lady Parts, Nida Manzoor is on my must watch anything she’s creating.

As Film Crit Hulk put it, Rye Lane is just an extremely pleasant an well executed, 90 minute rom-com.

I put Sitting in Bars with Cake as my number 10 movie on the podcast, cause I like to use that spot for a random movie that’s underappreciated and less known that I loved, so I’ll leave it at that.

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie is something I talked about briefly on the podcast, and Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. It’s well worth checking out, if you’re a fan of his work or not, for the uplifting nature of living with Parkinson’s and how he deals with it.

I’m not a Ninja Turtles guy; I didn’t watch it growing up or anything and I didn’t have any of the toys either. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was an absolute joy.

d r a m a

  • Afire
  • All of Us Strangers
  • Asteroid City
  • Beau Is Afraid
  • The Eternal Memory
  • The Holdovers
  • Missing
  • Saltburn
  • Talk to Me

I don’t think this is actually really, truly true, but is a great drama harder to make than a great comedy? There are definitely dramas that hit me very personally from some emotional level that resonates, and that’s the point and great part of cinema!

These are all the latter category, where I recognize how great they are and how well executed they all are, but they didn’t have a personal, emotional resonance that really hit me.

My favorite among these is maybe The Holdovers because Dominic Sessa was an absolute force.

ok we’re going back to fun movies

  • Air
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
  • Bottoms
  • Cocaine Bear
  • Next Goal Wins
  • Renfield
  • Quiz Lady

It’s at this point that I’m running out of substantive things to say, so I’ll probably stick to a sentence or two on one movie from here.

There’s something about a really, really good coming-of-age story that executes well on it’s core purpose, and improves (from what I heard) on the source material by bringing it if not literally to modern times (it’s still set in the 1970s), then in presentation to modern times. I loved Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

There’s just something not quite there for me

  • Return to Seoul
  • Shortcomings

Here’s what I wrote in my Letterboxd review on Return to Seoul:

I don’t know if this is the movie for me, and that’s not because it isn’t bad or good necessarily (I did like it), but because it portrays a narrative where an adoptee finds their birth family, and it’s not a neat little wrapping with a cute little bow on top. Stories may have good and bad endings, but that’s not necessarily how life is.

Freddie just wants to live her life. Her own life. Not a Korean life or French life or Korean-French life or French-Korean life. Freddie’s life.

Childhood nostalgia

  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always
  • Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

These were AWESOME and I will listen to NOTHING to the contrary.

These all happen to be based on real events, real people, or are documentaries

  • Boston Strangler
  • Cassandro
  • Jackals & Fireflies
  • Just. One. Mile.
  • The Last Repair Shop
  • Lynch/Oz

I don’t remember watching Cassandro in Lucha Underground, but apparently I have? It’s sad that the culture around a sport that’s literally about sweaty men rubbing up against other sweaty men is so homophobic, and I’m glad we’re consistently (hopefully) getting better about that as a society.

The remains (complimentary)

  • The Blackening
  • Flora an Son
  • Sharper
  • The Swan
  • They Cloned Tyrone
  • The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

If you didn’t get enough of Julianne Moore playing a manipulative person in May December, well Sharper is here for you!

Second to last

  • El Conde
  • Poison
  • The Rat Catcher

There were clearly better and worse of Wes Anderson’s four shorts that came onto Netflix in 2023. I did like several moments and shots from The Rat Catcher a lot though.

The remains (derogatory)

  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

I wrote a bunch of random observations in my Letterboxd review, but here’s the wrap up:

I dunno man. I love Ant-Man as a character in these movies. I love Paul Rudd. but with basically every one of the MCU movies I watch, I feel compelled to check out some more Marvel comics, ostensibly part of the goal of these movies. but I’ve never felt that with Ant-Man? I’m sure there are good Ant-Man comics, but he works so, so much better as like the AT-AT in Civil War or the quippy guy in the Avengers. he needs the others to work off of.

These are half movies! Stop making half movies!

  • Fast X
  • Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

I legitimately CANNOT WAIT for part two of both of these though.

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