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Best movies of 2023: ‘Oppenheimer,’ ‘Fallen Leaves,’ ‘May December’

Here are the top movie picks for 2023 from The Associated Press’ film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle:

Quick Read

Lindsey Bahr’s Picks:

  1. “Oppenheimer” by Christopher Nolan – A fusion of large format film, the tension between humanity and science, and the turmoil of a brilliant mind.
  2. “The Zone of Interest” by Jonathan Glazer – A chilling, artful representation of the not so grey areas of complicity in Nazi Germany.
  3. “Priscilla” by Sofia Coppola – A beautifully minimalist storytelling, focusing on small, imperceptible moments.
  4. “Asteroid City” by Wes Anderson – A self-conscious film about Anderson’s style, rewatchable and humorous.
  5. “May December” by Todd Haynes – A blend of high camp, melodrama, and grounded emotion in a satire about Lifetime-ing human tragedies.
  6. “Fallen Leaves” by Aki Kaurismäki – A deadpan romance about missed connections in a cold, alcohol-soaked setting.
  7. “The Holdovers” by Alexander Payne – A film set in a New England boarding school, exploring self-discovery and companionship.
  8. “Poor Things” by Yorgos Lanthimos – A provocative, stylish fairy tale with ambitious themes.
  9. “A Thousand and One” by A.V. Rockwell – A vibrant portrait of a mother and son in 1990s New York City.
  10. “Bottoms” by Emma Seligman – A wild, funny, and weird high school movie.

Jake Coyle’s Picks:

  1. “Fallen Leaves” by Aki Kaurismäki – A minimalist fable about maybe-romance in a bleak world.
  2. “The Holdovers” by Alexander Payne – A film with a strong anti-authoritarian streak and a nostalgic spirit.
  3. “The Eight Mountains” by Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch – A gentle tale of friendship in the Italian Alps.
  4. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” – A visually spectacular and giddy film pushing the limits of superhero convention.
  5. “Perfect Days” by Wim Wenders – An ode to the everyday life of a solitary Tokyo public toilet cleaner.
  6. “Origin” by Ava DuVernay – A dramatization mixing historical accounts of caste systems with personal dramas.
  7. “Barbie” by Greta Gerwig – A funny movie balancing brand marketing and gender satire.
  8. “La Chimera” by Alice Rohrwacher – A magical but earthy tale about an Englishman in 1980s Tuscany.
  9. “All of Us Strangers” by Andrew Haigh – An aching ghost story about family, loss, and romance.
  10. “Tótem” by Lila Aviles – A film about family and grief, seen through the perspective of a young girl.

Both writers also listed additional notable films including “20 Days in Mariupol,” “Theater Camp,” “Blue Jean,” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Pigeon Tunnel,” “R.M.N.,” and “Past Lives,” among others.

Best movies of 2023: ‘Oppenheimer,’ ‘Fallen Leaves,’ ‘May December’

Newslooks- (AP)

The Associated Press’ Film Writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle’s picks for the best movies of 2023:


1. “Oppenheimer”

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Cillian Murphy in a scene from “Oppenheimer.” (Universal Pictures via AP)

Christopher Nolan has had so many major films in a relatively short time, that “ Oppenheimer ” might seem like a given, rather than the triumphant fusion of everything he’s passionate about: Large format film; the tension between humanity and science; the turmoil of a brilliant mind; and the wonder of an exceptional group coming together to make an impossible thing (in this case a nuclear weapon) but also on a meta level, the film.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows from left, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh in party opening of “Oppenheimer.” (Universal Pictures via AP)

2. “The Zone of Interest”

This image released by A24 shows Christian Friedel in a scene from “The Zone of Interest.” (A24 via AP)

Like “Oppenheimer,” the horror in Jonathan Glazer’s “ The Zone of Interest ” is what is unseen. Depiction bubbled up as a hot topic this year, as though audiences aren’t intelligent enough to imagine the worst. In “The Zone of Interest,” it’s only a wall that separates one Nazi family from the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Glazer’s film is a masterclass in atmosphere: A chilling, artful representation of the not so grey areas of complicity.

3. “Priscilla”

This image released by A24 shows Jacob Elordi as Elvis, right, and Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla, in a scene from “Priscilla.” (Philippe Le Sourd/A24 via AP)

Sofia Coppola’s “ Priscilla ” is so beautiful to look at, it’s easy not to notice its rigorous restraint and minimalism in storytelling. It provides a singular showcase for her very capable actors, Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi, that’s about all the small things — the moments that might be imperceptible were it not for her quiet gaze. That the Elvis estate wasn’t on board just means she did her job as an independent artist.

4. “Asteroid City”

This image released by Focus Features shows Scarlett Johansson in a scene from “Asteroid City.” (Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features via AP)

The play within a play conceit of Wes Anderson’sAsteroid City ” is perhaps his most self-conscious film, made in his signature style but also about his style and the artifice of it. It is immensely rewatchable, funny and quotable, with a career best performance from Scarlett Johansson and a brilliant Margot Robbie cameo.

This image released by Focus Features shows Steve Carell, left, and Liev Schreiber, right, in a scene from “Asteroid City.” (Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features via AP)

5. “May December”

This image released by Netflix shows Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry and Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo and in a scene from the film “May December.” Film at Lincoln Center, which puts on the New York Film Festival, announced Tuesday that “May December” — one of the standouts at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — will be the opening night film at this year’s edition. The gala will take place Sept. 29 at Alice Tully Hall. (Francois Duhamel/Netflix via AP)

It takes a master like Todd Haynes to authentically blend high camp and melodrama with grounded emotion, but that’s what he’s managed to do with the sickly entertaining “ May December. ” It’s a satire about actors and the Lifetime-ing of human tragedies and a soulful portrait of a victim who doesn’t realize it.

6. “Fallen Leaves”

This image released by MUBI shows Alma Pöysti, left, and Jussi Vatanen in a scene from “Fallen Leaves.” (MUBI via AP)

Aki Kaurismäki was, embarrassingly, a blind spot for me. But the Finnish filmmaker’s deadpan romance about the missed connections of two lonely souls in a cold, unglamorous, alcohol-soaked setting is a wonderful place to start. Like Holappa and Ansa come to learn, it’s never too late to grow.

7. “The Holdovers”

This image released by Focus Features shows Dominic Sessa, from left, Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in a scene from “The Holdovers.” (Seacia Pavao/Focus Features via AP)

There were a few movies this year that were just so good and so watchable that it feels too easy to select them. Alexander Payne’s “ The Holdovers ” is the best of them: A well written, acted and composed film that makes you feel like you too are stuck in a New England boarding school over a holiday break and learning things about yourself and those in the trenches with you.

8. “Poor Things”

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Emma Stone, left, and Mark Ruffalo in a scene from “Poor Things.” (Atsushi Nishijima/Searchlight Pictures via AP)

Yorgos Lanthimos crafts a deranged, provocative, unabashedly stylish and funny fairy tale that feels completely fresh. The themes aren’t exactly subtle, what with Emma Stone’s insatiable Bella Baxter calling her creator (Willem Dafoe) God, but it is one of those huge, ambitious swings that works.

9. “A Thousand and One”

This image released by Focus Features shows Teyana Taylor, left, and Aaron Kingsley Adetola in a scene from “A Thousand and One.” (Focus Features via AP)

Writer-director A.V. Rockwell made the year’s best debut feature in this vibrant portrait of a mother and son in New York City in the 1990s. The city as character may be a tired trope, but here you feel their home changing and gentrifying as their own relationship takes unexpected turns. This grand opening statement is both intimate and epic, with a pulsating soundtrack.

10. “Bottoms”

This image released by Orion Releasing shows Ayo Edebiri, from left, Rachel Sennott, Zamani Wilder, Summer Joy Campbell, Havana Rose Liu, Kaia Gerber and Virginia Tucker in a scene from “Bottoms.” (Orion Releasing via AP)

It’s kind of hard to believe that “ Bottoms ” was a real movie that was really released by a major studio, MGM. Director Emma Seligman and her co-writer/muse/star Rachel Sennott created one of the wildest, funniest, weirdest high school movies that Gen Z still needs to discover and claim. It’s ok, there’s time.

Also:20 Days in Mariupol,” “ Theater Camp,” “ Blue Jean,” “All of Us Strangers,” “ Eileen,” “ Showing Up,” “ You Hurt My Feelings,” “ Killers of the Flower Moon,” “ The Eight Mountains,” “ Anatomy of a Fall,” “ The Pigeon Tunnel.”


1. “Fallen Leaves”

This image released by MUBI shows Alma Pöysti, left, and Jussi Vatanen in a scene from “Fallen Leaves.” (MUBI via AP)

Loneliness and lousy bosses are everywhere in the cold world of Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki’s latest. But there are stirring signs of life beneath the deadpan surface of “Fallen Leaves,” a minimalist fable about a maybe-romance between two working-class loners (Alma Pöysti, Jussi Vatanen). Kaurismäki doesn’t need much — a trip to the movies, a few good songs, a dog named Chaplin — to say a lot. An 82-minute balm for a bleak world.

2. “The Holdovers”

This image released by Focus Features shows Paul Giamatti in a scene from “The Holdovers.” (Seacia Pavao/Focus Features via AP)

Alexander Payne’s latest, with its cozy, Christmas New England environs, has sometimes been compared to a warm blanket. But there’s a strong anti-authoritarian streak running through “The Holdovers,” much like the ’70s films it models itself on. The cast, including Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and newcomer Dominic Sessa, is flawless. There’s plenty of warmth here, but there’s rage, too — including a lament for a lost spirit of American filmmaking.

3. “The Eight Mountains”

This image released by Sideshow and Janus Films shows Luca Marinelli, left, and Alessandro Borghi in a scene from “The Eight Mountains.” (Sideshow and Janus Films via AP)

Seasons sweep through Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s gentle tale of friendship set in the Italian Alps. The film, vast and intimate at once, tracks two childhood friends (Luca Marinelli, Alessandro Borghi) over the course of years, enveloping them in a breathtaking high-mountain backdrop and the radiant folk songs of Daniel Norgren.

4. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

This image released by Sony Pictures Animation shows Spider-Man, voiced by Shameik Moore in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” (Sony Pictures Animation via AP)

The year’s giddiest and most spectacular film. As good as “Into the Spider-Verse” was, the second chapter pushes dazzlingly against both superhero convention and the limits of animation.

5. “Perfect Days”

This image released by Neon shows Kôji Yakusho, left, and Arisa Nakano in a scene from “Perfect Days.” (Neon via AP)

The great Japanese actor Koji Yakusho stars as a solitary, soft-spoken public toilet cleaner in Tokyo in Wim Wenders’ profoundly lovely ode to the everyday. Though plot and backstory make hesitant inroads, “Perfect Days” is mostly about the day-to-day rhythms of Hirayam, who reads Faulkner at night, takes pictures of trees on his lunch break and listens to cassette tapes (yes, including Lou Reed) while he drives.

6. “Origin”

Suraj Yengde (second from right) with Ava Duvernay at the 80th edition of Venice Film Festival.

Ava DuVernay’s stirring adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s “Caste” isn’t exactly an adaptation. DuVernay dramatizes Wilkerson’s writing of the celebrated nonfiction book, mixing in historical accounts of caste systems with the intimate dramas of Wilkerson’s own life. The combination movingly fuses social with personal.

7. “Barbie”

This combination of images shows promotional art for “Barbie,” left, and “Oppenheimer.” (Warner Bros Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP)

Here’s one thing that’s not been said enough about Greta Gerwig’s runaway sensation: It’s the funniest movie of the year. With apologies to Cord Jefferson’s blistering debut, “American Fiction,” and Nicole Holofcener’s white-lie opus, “You Hurt My Feelings,” nothing was as clever as Gerwig’s I’ll-have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too balancing act of brand marketing and gender satire.

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Margot Robbie in a scene from “Barbie.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

8. “La Chimera”

This image released by Neon shows Carol Duarte, left, and Josh O’Connor in a scene from “La Chimera.” (Neon via AP)

The past in everywhere in Alice Rohrwacher’s enchanting 1980-set folk tale, underfoot and in the melancholy eyes of its Englishman protagonist (Josh O’Connor), the gifted but haunted leader of a ramshackle band of tombaroli who raid ancient Etruscan burial sites in Tuscany. This is a magical but earthy movie.

9. “All of Us Strangers”

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Andrew Scott, left, and and Paul Mescal in a scene from “All of Us Strangers.” (Parisa Taghizadeh/ Searchlight Pictures via AP)

The latest by Andrew Haigh, the British filmmaker of “Weekend” and “45 Years,” is an aching, unshakeable ghost story. In a dreamy metaphysical daze, the film toggles between the unfolding relationship of two gay men, Adam (Andrew Scott) and Harry (Paul Mescal), and Harry’s visitations to his frozen-in-time childhood home where he finds his long-dead parents (Claire Foy, Jamie Bell). It’s about family, loss, fiction, romance, coming out, growing older, and it will absolutely level you.

10. “Tótem”

This image released by Sideshow and Janus FIlms shows Naíma Sentíes in a scene from “Totem.” (Sideshow and Janus Films via AP)

Mexican writer-director Lila Aviles’ film is likewise about family and grief, and it, too, has the power to devastate. Aviles’ follow-up to her 2018 debut “The Chambermaid” is largely seen through the perspective of young Sol (Naima Senties) on a day when her multigenerational family is preparing a birthday party for her dying father (Mateo García Elizondo). The teeming, distracted lives of her relatives nearly obscure the hard truth at hand for Sol.

Also: “R.M.N.,” “Anatomy of a Fall,” “Oppenheimer,” “You Hurt My Feelings,” “A Thousand and One,” “Tori and Lokita,” “Youth (Spring),” “Killers of the Flower Moon,” “The Delinquents,” “Orlando: My Political Documentary,” “Past Lives,” “American Fiction,” “Ferrari,” “The Boy and the Heron,” “Asteroid City”

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