Top movies of 2023

If 2022 saw a return to normality for the first time since 2019, in 2023 cinema took a beat to consolidate. And if 2022 was really all about Top Gun: Maverick, in 2023 the pie got divided up rather more evenly. Australian box office dominated by “Barbienheimer” with the international smash hit Barbie taking out top spot, with Oppenheimer at no. 3. They were separated by the surprise success of The Super Mario Bros. Movie at no. 2; and followed by the totally expected success of Avatar: The Way of Water (a 2022 release whose earnings continued into 2023) at no. 4. The top five were rounded out by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Barbenheimer dominated the 2023 box office

Once again, audiences seemed keen on sequels, remakes and reboots. Places 6, 7, 8 and 9 in the top ten were all in those categories (John Wick: Chapter 4, The Little Mermaid, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish). At least no. 10 was an original – Disney-Pixar’s Elemental.

Box office returns yielded some surprising results. For example, the gentle Tom Hanks drama A Man Called Otto (no. 21) outstripped the flashy superhero adventure The Marvels (no. 24). And the bonkers Cocaine Bear (no. 31) did far better than the much-hyped Shazam: Fury of the Gods (no. 42).

On the international awards circuit, the Oscar went to (one of our favourites) Everything, Everywhere, All at Once; with Michelle Yeoh making history as the first Asian-American best actress winner. At Cannes, Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall (releasing in Australia on 25 January 2024) scooped the Palme d’Or, with the Grand Prix going to Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest (releasing 22 February) and the Special Jury Prize awarded to Fallen Leaves (14 February) by Cannes favourite Aki Kaurismäki. Incidentally, both Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest featured German actress Sandra Hüller, who surprisingly didn’t win the best actress prize. In Venice, the Golden Lion went to Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things (out now); while in Berlin, the Golden Bear was awarded to a documentary, Nicolas Philibert’s On the Adamant. Closer to home, the Sydney Film Prize went to another documentary, The Mother of All Lies by Asmae El Moudir.

But beyond box office or awards, the movies are what you make them. If you can’t get enough Jason Statham, then go for it. If you love nothing more than a costume drama, frock up and get out to one. And, if possible, go to a cinema. I know the temptation of just waiting a few months (or recently, sometimes just days) for a movie to leave cinemas and appear on streaming, but they’re totally different experiences – and both worth embracing.

With that in mind, here are our critics’ lists of the top 10 films of 2023.

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