by Anthony King
At the beginning of the year I made a list of movie goals. One of those goals was to watch at least 60 new releases. For many (most?) that's nothing, but for a guy who spends most of his time watching older movies this posed a challenge. While I didn't hit 60, I'm happy to report I watched 53 movies released this year, the most new releases I've ever watched. Obviously I missed several big releases of the year: Killers of the Flower Moon and Oppenheimer being the big two I'll eventually watch; Poor Things, Saltburn, The Zone of Interest, and Beau is Afraid are four more I'll also watch soon. A big portion of my 2023 list are independent films (lots of indie horror). Worry not, though, I also watched a handful of big titles. Films I liked but didn't make the top 10 include: Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Five Nights at Freddy's, M3GAN, Evil Dead Rise, Dungeons & Dragons Honor Among Thieves, Cocaine Bear, and Renfield. Bigger titles I did NOT like include: May December and Maestro. Here are my ten favorite movies of 2023.
10. Narvik (dir. Erik Skjoldbjaerg)
I love a good piece of historical fiction, and Narvik satiates all my cravings. It tells the story of a small port town in Norway who has to defend itself as the Nazi army begins to invade. Ingrid helps run the local inn which is currently hosting a meeting of diplomats. Her husband Gunnar is a devoted soldier in the Norwegian army who has to leave suddenly to help stave off the Germans. Narvik is part grandiose war movie, part thrilling spy movie, and part touching romance. The performances are top notch, the drama made this writer cry several times, and the battle sequences are fist-pumping good. Find it on Netflix.
9. Landlocked (dir. Paul Owens)
8. The Price We Pay (dir. Ryuhei Kitamura)
I try not to make assumptions but usually when people use the term “mean-spirited” it has a negative connotation. For me, though, it's my siren call. And Kitamura has been calling me ever since I saw Midnight Meat Train (2008). In MMT he showed a darkly, violently voyeuristic obsessive Bradley Cooper. In Downrange he had a mad sniper picking off innocent passersby on a lonely highway. In Nightmare Cinema (2018) he terrorized Catholic high school girls. And in The Price We Pay he has a backwoods Texas Chain Saw-style family torture women and burglars. Like Patrick stated earlier this year, you have no idea what's coming in this movie if you go in as blind as possible. I can't guarantee you'll love it, but I can guarantee you'll be surprised. And if you love Kitamura as much as I do, you're going to lap every bit of The Price We Pay up. Available on Peacock.
7. Infinity Pool (dir. Brandon Cronenberg)
6. Scream VI (dirs. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett)
With all the drama coming to light surrounding the next entry in the Scream franchise, I sincerely hope the sixth is the final entry. Let's go out on a drama-free high note! Leading up to its release I ran through all the previous entries, all of which I saw for the first time this year with exception to the first. Consider me a fan of the entire franchise, and someone who was just happy to see it continue. I love the setting in NYC, I finally loved Melissa Barrera, my love for Jenna Ortega grew, and this only proved to me that MBO and TG can do no wrong. Not since the first time I saw Scream (1996) in theaters was I as surprised at the killer's reveal. Hopefully this delivered what all the forever crybabies constantly whine about Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) needed in a horror franchise. Scream VI is streaming on Paramount Plus.
5. Sick (dir. John Hyams)
Sick is the second of three movies on this list that caught me by surprise (Landlocked is the first). Sick also caused us to subscribe to Peacock, a streaming service I vowed never to add to our ever-expanding library of services (for no other reason than to keep the number low). As I wrote about in the past, the last thing I wanted to watch was another COVID movie, but the early raves reeled me in, and my jaw still drops whenever I think about the reveal. Maybe I'm stupid, naive, or whatever, but I did NOT see the second half of this movie coming. The story tells of a couple friends in the early stages of the pandemic who isolate themselves at a lakeside mansion. It quickly turns into a home invasion movie and gets very violent. Hyams obviously knows how to make an action, but the way he delivers an extremely tense thriller mixed with his brilliant action-oriented filming style is mind-boggling. I wasn't super impressed with Alone (2020), but Hyams delivers so hard with Sick I became a lifelong fan. Find Sick on the Cock.
4. Infiesto (dir. Patxi Amezcua)
3. Gran Turismo (dir. Neill Blomkamp)
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (dir. Jeff Rowe)
I thought for sure this would be my number one. It held the top spot for four months even. I also thought for sure this wouldn't be anywhere near my top 10 list. Which is why this is the biggest surprise of the year for me. As much as I love TMNT and cartoons, I'm hardly ever blown away by the animated movies I see. Yet the fearsome foursome delivered in a way that I wasn't expecting. A lot of people couldn't get into Mutant Mayhem because of the animation, but it was that very thing that hooked me. It's doodles (very very good doodles, mind you) in a notebook come to life. While I grew up with the original live-action movie and have associated those voices with The Turtles for most of my life, Mutant Mayhem delivers the perfect voice characterizations for our heroes in a half shell. It's very funny, very exciting, and insanely rewatchable. In fact, go watch it on Paramount Plus right now!
1. The Holdovers (dir. Alexander Payne)
I watched more new movies than I ever have and I made a list. Coming next week, my film discoveries of 2023!