By Little Eddie O'Hare
Greetings Wicked Theory readers! My Buddy Bill has been gracious enough to once again let me post my
top ten movies list here this year. I saw 220 new films over the past 12 months. Below are my top ten
(16 if you count the honorable mentions).
Quick note up front: THESE ARE MY OPINIONS! There were many other movies that I enjoyed this year. The ones on this list hit me in the feels. So here it is.
First, Honorable Mentions:
Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (Paramount Pictures) dir. Christopher McQuarrie,
runtime 2h 43m – Available on Paramount+
John Wick: Chapter 4 (Lionsgate) dir. Chad Stahelski, runtime 2h 49m – Available on Starz
Creed III (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) dir. Michael B. Jordan, runtime 1h 56m – Available on Amazon Prime
Poor Things (Searchlight Pictures) dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, runtime 2h 21m – Available in Theaters
The Holdovers (Focus Features) dir. Alexander Payne, runtime 2h 13m – Available on Peacock
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (Nickelodeon Movies) dir. Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears,
runtime 1h 39m – Available on Paramount+
And now the Top Ten:
#10 - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (Marvel
Dir. James Gunn, runtime 2h 30m – Available on Disney+
This year was widely considered a low point for superhero cinema. However, there were a few bright spots. James Gunn and Marvel not only made us care about a talking raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper); they made us cry a river of tears for the scruffy, little guy. The Guardians movies have always been about forming unconventional families. This installment takes that idea to a new level, challenging our heroes to stick together and be there for their grumpiest member when his horrific past comes back with a vengeance. This is a triumphant end to the strongest sci-fi trilogy of the 21 st century so far.#9 - Anatomy of a Fall (Neon)
Dir. Justine Triet, runtime 2h 30m – Available on Video On-Demand
I abhor the phrase “they don’t make movies like this anymore.” Mainly because I feel like I hear
someone say that every week. However, it was quite refreshing to see a courtroom drama play out on a big screen for a change. This French import features an author (Sandra Hüller) on trial for the murder of her husband. We hear the story from every angle and the film strives to keep the truth unclear. Law & Order fans should note that the French judicial system is very different from America and it can be tricky figuring which side has the upper hand. I found myself wanting to scream at the prosecutor that “She is not a murderer! She’s just German!” There are some breathtaking landscapes of the snow and the Alps in this film. Plus, the writing and performances leaves one pondering heavily on the nature of love and
#8 - Maestro (Netflix)
Dir. Bradley Cooper, runtime 2h 9m – Available on Netflix
Maestro is a “Great Man” movie and Director/Star Bradley Cooper emphasizes that by making incredibly BOLD choices! Every millimeter of every frame is meticulously considered in an effort to knock the viewers’ shoulders to the back of their seats. Cooper wants watching the film to be just as awe-inspiring as listening to Leonard Bernstein’s music. Despite all the bombast, Cary Mulligan’s performance as Bernstein’s wife, Felicia, grounds the movie so it never feels over-the-top.
#7 - Killers of the Flower Moon (Paramount
Dir. Martin Scorsese, runtime 3h 26m – Available on Video On-Demand
I know. I know. 3 and a half hours. This is a mini-series and not a movie. Well, it was in theaters and I held my bladder long enough to sit through the whole thing (barely). More importantly, this film is
directed by Martin Scorsese and he has not lost a step. We see how a generation of Native women in Osage County, Oklahoma were systematically killed for their oil shares. At the outset, you may think the highlight of the film is the long-awaited team-up of Scorsese favorite leads DeNiro and DiCaprio. However, Lily Gladstone steals this film and really drives home the impact of the victims in a way that has gotten lost in the glitz of some of Marty’s previous works.
#6 - 10 Days of a Good Man (Netflix)
Dir. Uluç Bayraktar, runtime 2h 4m – Available on Netflix
I really tried to branch out and watch more independent and international movies this year and this Turkish mystery was a jewel I never would have seen in past years. Nejat Isler plays Sadik, a private eye who wishes he was Phillip Marlowe. After being hired to find a missing person, Sadik quickly finds himself in over his head with the wrong kind of people. This movie is a warm blanket I could curl up with any day. It has all the style and wit of classic noirs, the edge of ‘70s crime thrillers and sophistication of a modern romance. It is the first film in a trilogy and I am anxiously awaiting the final installment next year.
#5 Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Dir. Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson, runtime 2h 20m – Available on Netflix
Into the Spider-Verse felt like a revolution in animation and Across the Spider-Verse takes things to a whole new level. The mix of animation styles works even better. I feel as though an entire college course could be taught just on the use of color in this movie. That said, what really make movie gel is the characters. If you build heroes as strong as Miles and Gwen, the audience will stay with you, no matter how complex the story gets.
#4 - Godzilla Minus One (Toho International)
Dir. Takashi Yamazaki, runtime 2h 5m – Available in Theaters
I have a confession to make. For years, I thought the American versions of Godzilla were boring because they spent too much time with the human characters, when all we wanted to see was the big monsters fight. This film proved me wrong. It showed me that the American versions of Godzilla are boring because they find convoluted ways to make the Monster the hero, when instead the Green Guy should be treated like a horror villain. The simplicity of this story makes for the most emotional impact. Ryunosuke Kamiki plays Koichi Shikishima, a Kamikaze pilot who failed to complete his mission in the war and is helpless to stop Godzilla’s destruction. Do not scoff at the fact that this is a monster movie. This is about the real price of war and the struggle to overcome personal trauma.
#3 - Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures)
Dir. Christopher Nolan, runtime 3h – Available on Video On-Demand
Pretty much every established prestige filmmaker put out a movie in 2023. Christopher Nolan led the
charge with his take on the “Great Man” story. Nolan used his signature narrative structure to go back and forth in J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life to show how he helped create the first weapon of mass-destruction and dealt with the consequences of his creation. The film has a way of effortlessly moving from naturalistic moments to lyrical ones that makes the viewer feel the real weight of Oppenheimer’s genius, as well as the closed-mindedness of his rivals.
Dir. Jalmari Helander, runtime 1h 31m – Available on Starz
Finland, 1944. An old man digs up a bunch of gold and the only thing standing between him and the
nearest bank is a whole army of Nazis. This year had a running theme of killing Nazis. I feel like I saw about dozen movies that all revolved around killing Nazis. Sisu was far and away the most intense and violent of the bunch. Watching this film was one of my most therapeutic cinematic experiences of the last decade. I can’t think of many things more inspiring than watching a man who has just set himself on fire swim underneath a row boat, tip it over, slice open the neck of the Nazi that falls out of the boat and suck in the air from that Nazi’s exposed windpipe so he can continue to swim underwater and kill more Nazis. Please seek this out.
#1 The Iron Claw (A24)
Dir. Sean Durkin, runtime 2h 10m – Available in Theaters
The Iron Claw is inspired by the true story of the Von-Erichs, a family of wrestlers from Texas whose immense talent became overshadowed by a mountain of personal tragedies. While Fritz (Holt McCallany) is a demanding father, I do not think it is fair to say he is the villain of this story. The love between all the brothers (Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson & Stanley Simons) is palpable. Durkin finds a new way to show wrestling on screen that puts you right in the action and really translates the appeal of the sport to the uninitiated. While this may seem like a real downer, Efron’s performance lifts up the whole movie and should inspire us all to have the courage to carry on.
Another great year of film and looking forward to 2024!