From action epics like John Wick: Chapter 4 to intimate studies of human relationships, such as Past Lives and Scrapper, 2023 provided audiences with a variety of entertaining and heartfelt films.

So, as the New Year approaches, we’ve pulled together some film highlights from the past 12 months – whether you’d like some inspiration this holiday season or you simply want to look back on everything the world of cinema had to offer.

Below, you’ll find some of the best films of 2023 – in no particular order!

1. Oppenheimer

Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy leads an all-star cast in Christopher Nolan’s latest project about J. Robert Oppenheimer – the man who created the atomic bomb.

Featuring Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr. and more, all eyes were on this three-hour-long extravaganza to deliver this summer – and deliver it did! Early predictions from critics are already betting on Oscars for both Murphy and Nolan in the New Year.

2. Rye Lane

If you’re a fan of rom-coms, this new one from director Raine Allen-Miller will come as a breath of fresh air. Simultaneously reminding us of love stories gone by and adding fresh flavour to the genre, Rye Lane tells the tale of two youngsters who share a day to remember in South London.

With plenty of humour and heart, this is as much a film about place as people. As critic Jeffery Overstreet says, “[t]he most inspiring love story here is the one between director Raine Allen-Miller and South London”.

3. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

Complete with goofy gadgetry and death-defying stunts, the seventh Mission Impossible instalment brings more of what fans love about the franchise to the big screen. The first of a double bill of films, this one finds Ethan Hunt and his team facing off against a rogue artificial intelligence.

Love him or hate him, at 61, Tom Cruise is still one of the most daring and watchable action stars around – proving that age really is just a number. Check out our full review here.

4. The Boy and The Heron

From the miraculous mind of Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and The Heron follows a young boy named Mahito who moves into his family’s country estate after his mother’s death. Here, he encounters a fantasy world where the living and the dead meet.

Not only is The Boy and The Heron Hayao Miyazaki’s first film in 20 years, but it’s also a fantastical re-imagining of the 82-year-old’s childhood. If reviews are anything to go by, it’s up there with his earlier masterpieces, like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle.

The Boy and The Heron is in cinemas from 26th December 2023.

5. Barbie

Full of music, laughs, and existential crises, Barbie was this year’s highest-grossing film – and for good reason.

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s script is fresh and funny, the candy floss pink set design is a dizzying visual treat, and Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling give outstanding performances as two dolls brought to life.

But, despite the comedy, Barbie’s overall message about female empowerment packs a hefty punch – perfect for Barbie lovers and haters alike.

6. Scrapper

Described by critics as full of rare heart and [brimming] with energy, ideas and colour, young filmmaker Charlotte Regan’s debut centres on Georgie, a young girl grieving the loss of her mother.

Living in a London flat all alone, the crafty 12-year-old looks after herself. She earns a living by stealing bikes and keeps social services away with stories of a made-up uncle. But this set-up is challenged when Jason, her absent father, shows up on her doorstep.

Scrapper proves that the British indie film scene is in as good a shape as ever – with an impressive debut performance from the young Lola Campbell. It’s a must-watch for anyone who enjoyed last year’s Aftersun.

7. Godzilla Minus One

It’s been a while since Western audiences have been treated to a really good monster film. Luckily, we can always rely on the original masters of the genre in Japan.

This latest reimagining of everyone’s favourite city-flattening lizard takes place in post-war Japan – a country still traumatised by the effects of the atomic bomb. It follows Shikishima, a Kamikaze pilot riddled with guilt, as he tries to find a way to stop Godzilla once and for all.

Hailed by critics for its insightfully human story, Godzilla Minus One, as the London Evening Standard says, “really shows Hollywood how it’s done”.

8. Killers of the Flower Moon

Based on David Grann’s bestselling book, Killers of the Flower Moon takes place in 1920s Oklahoma. It tells the true story of the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe whose citizens were murdered after oil was found under their land.

Clocking in at a whopping three and a half hours, Martin Scoursese’s 26th feature film is a long watch – but critics promise it’s worth it. Despite powerful performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, it’s little-known actress Lily Gladstone, who audiences say steals the show.

9. A Thousand and One

Spread over years, A Thousand and One tells the story of the fierce but wayward Inez, who abducts her son from the foster care system to start their life over again.

The film stars singer Teyana Taylor in what critics are calling “a true breakout” performance. It’s a tale of love and family set against New York City’s shifting and gentrifying backdrop – and was so well-received that it took home the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

10. John Wick: Chapter 4

In the latest chapter of the John Wick saga, Keanu Reeves’ relentless assassin discovers a way to defeat his shadowy enemies, known as The High Table, once and for all. However, before he can do so, he must face off against a new threat, who also happens to be an old friend.

Thanks to its spectacular stunts and fantastic fight choreography, John Wick: Chapter 4 has earned itself a certified fresh score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Action lovers will rejoice watching Reeves beat up bad guys in some of the most creative ways ever to grace the big screen.

11. Anatomy of a Fall

German writer Sandra and her French husband, Samuel, live in a secluded chalet with their son, Daniel. When Samuel is discovered dead in the snow, apparently having fallen from the attic, accusations slowly turn towards Sandra.

What ensues is a devastating court case that unravels the thread of Sandra and Samuel’s marriage and tests Daniel’s relationship with his mother. More than just a crime procedural, Anatomy of a Fall explores the disastrous effects of people’s inability to communicate.

French filmmaker Justine Triet won the Palme d’Or (top prize at the Cannes Film Festival) for this innovative courtroom thriller.

12. Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret.

When her family leave the city for a life in the New Jersey suburbs, 11-year-old Margaret has to contend with the challenges of starting a new school, finding new friends, and all the trickiness that comes with puberty.

Based on the seminal book by American writer Judy Bloom, this coming-of-age story stars Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates as Margaret’s mother and grandmother. It’s earned rave reviews, including an astonishing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.

13. Past Lives

Simple yet complex, heartbreaking yet life-affirming, Celine Song’s debut feature film tells the story of Na-young and Hae Sung, two childhood sweethearts who are separated when Na-young’s family moves from Korea to Canada.

Decades later, Hae Sung visits Na-young (now going by Nora), who’s living happily in New York with her American husband. Together, the old friends confront their complicated relationship and questions of fate and identity.

Past Lives is a perfect film for anyone looking for a realistic and thoughtful depiction of romance and connection.

14. Nimona

Set in a unique world that blends science fiction and mediaeval fantasy elements, Nimona follows Ballister Boldheart, a knight framed for a crime against the kingdom.

While on the run, he’s tracked down by a troublemaking, shape-shifting teenage girl whom his order has sworn to kill. But she might also be his only chance for redemption.

Nimona is an eye-poppingly colourful, beautifully animated film for the whole family. But it’s also got a powerful message – one of love and acceptance, despite our differences.

15. Talk to Me

2023 has been a good year for horror fans. As well as the fifth instalment in the Evil Dead series, audiences were treated to critical hits like M3gan and Evil Lurks. However, the standout flick for many was Talk to Me, which tells the story of a group of teenagers who discover how to contact spirits through an embalmed hand.

It’s directed by Australian twins Danny and Michael Philippou, who rose to fame for their horror/comedy YouTube channel. Veteran critic Mark Kermode describes it as “an intelligently entertaining chiller that packs a crowd-pleasing wallop”.

Talk to Me is a perfect choice if you’re planning a spooky film night over the holiday season.

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16. The Fabelmans

Loosely based on director Stephen Spielberg’s childhood, The Fabelmans charts the adolescence of Sammy Fabelman, who’s entranced by the power of films when his parents take him to the cinema. Encouraged by his mother, Sammy sets out to create his own movie masterpieces.

With an all-star cast of Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, and Seth Rogen, the auteur who brought us E.T. and Jaws turns the camera on himself for this tender portrayal of family and the possibilities of art.

17. Return to Seoul

When Freddie was an infant, she was adopted by a French couple and whisked away from Korea. Now 25 and back in Seoul, she decides to track down her biological parents – a decision that sends her on an emotional path to self-discovery.

Return to Seoul is enjoying a certified fresh score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also been nominated as Cambodia’s entry for the Best International Feature Film at next year’s Oscars.

18. They Cloned Tyrone

When drug dealer Fontaine is shot dead by a rival gangster, he’s surprised to wake up the following morning alive and well.

Wanting to get to the bottom of the incident, he decides to do some digging and teams up with a pimp named Slick Charles and a prostitute called Yo-Yo. Soon, the trio find themselves in the middle of an unbelievable government conspiracy.

This off-beat, comedic mystery doesn’t take itself seriously but still manages to touch on serious topics – and John Boyega, Jamie Foxx, and Teyonah Parris all give cracking performances.

19. Fremont

This understated but powerful film follows Afghan immigrant Donya. She’s a former translator for the U.S. military who now works in a fortune cookie factory in Fremont, California. Lonely and struggling to rebuild her life in America, she suddenly decides to send a message out into the world smuggled inside one of the cookies.

Fremont is a quiet and heartfelt film with, as the New Yorker describes, “a spare, wry tone that belies its earnest and ample substance”. It’s an intimate look at the immigrant experience, investigating the importance of connection and how people deal with survivor’s guilt.

20. Maestro

Following 2017’s A Star is Born, audiences have been waiting with bated breath to see what Oscar winner Bradley Cooper comes up with next. And this year, the actor/writer/director serves up a biopic of the legendary conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein.

As well as depicting Bernstein’s complexities as a closeted bisexual man, Maestro explores his powerful relationship with his wife, Felicia, played by Carey Mulligan, in what critics have lauded as a career-best performance.

Final thoughts…

There were plenty of spectacular films in 2023, and while we couldn’t fit them all onto this list, we hope we’ve provided a good round-up of what this year had to offer – and maybe inspired your next film night.

For more movie content, why not visit our film and TV section? Here, you’ll find everything from reviews to iconic film locations to visit. And if you’re looking for something to watch in the new year, take a look at our review of the upcoming Poor Things.

Is your favourite film of the year on our list? If not, what was it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.