In 2023, writers and actors alike went to bat for better pay and treatment in Hollywood, and it altered this year’s entertainment in a big way. Although there wasn’t as much press surrounding 2023’s major movie releases, more than a dozen gems still hit the silver screen either in theaters, on streaming services, or both.

Read on to see what movies The Beat staff thinks are the cream of the crop.

Asteroid City promotional poster

Asteroid City

Directed by Wes Anderson
Screenplay by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Produced by American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush

Marvelous artifice. A period piece, set in the stage-to-screen era of television, actor addressing the camera, ludicrous. The setting is a set. And yet the broadcast within the broadcast is complete immersion into fantasy, the vision in the playwright’s mind when dreaming a script. What kind of script? Well, it’s a Wes Anderson movie, so deeply depressed people sweetly helping each other accept the finality of death. It’s a comedy! Stoic and vulnerable performances from a great ensemble cast of adults (parents at the science fair), and earnest, unbound energy from the cast of younger actors (award-winning teenage super-geniuses). Anderson is trying something new while being utterly himself, and everyone in the cast (who’s acted before) follows suit, taking what they do best and doing it in a way that feels fresh. — Arpad Okay

Barbie promotional poster


Directed by Greta Gerwig
Screenplay by Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Starring Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie and Ryan Gosling as “Just” Ken, the Barbie movie showed the world that even hot people can make smart people movies (Zoolander would be proud). While that may sound glib, it’s not. The movie smartly turned gender roles on their head, showing that even dolls, make-up, and clothes can be suitable story fodder to create a movie with heart and brains. Not to mention, choosing a slew of non-binary musicians for what’s surely the best soundtrack of the year was surely a stroke of genius. Nothing exemplifies this more than the “dream ballet” sequence, a musical theater nerd’s wet dream. Rebecca Oliver Kaplan

Beau Is Afraid promotional poster

Beau Is Afraid

Directed by Ari Aster
Screenplay by Ari Aster
Distributed by A24

Ari Aster broke out as one of the most promising directors of his generation with 2018’s Hereditary (this critic’s favorite horror film) and 2019’s Midsommar, a pair of painstakingly crafted, controversial, slow-burn horrors that dug into some of the darkest, yet universal depths of human fears. Beau Is Afraid may be the young filmmaker’s most divisive effort yet, and that seems to be by design.

A surrealist fable that’s one of the few horror-comedies as gut-wrenchingly horrifying as it is twistedly hilarious, Beau is decidedly not for everyone. For some, it’s a self-indulgent, pretentious, and confusing exercise in cringe. But for others—especially if you have an anxiety disorder, like I do—it will still be excruciatingly stressful (think Uncut Gems multiplied by Shiva Baby), but rewarding if they’re willing to engage with the film on its own terms. Those terms will not be acceptable to folks who struggle with unreliable narrators, films that never give you the satisfaction of knowing what is and isn’t “real,” or stories that don’t have a straightforward narrative style in general. But if you accept Beau Is Afraid for what it is—an emotionally honest, yet deliberately absurd depiction of what it feels like to struggle with anxiety—it’s refreshingly original and unforgettably powerful. Joaquin Phoenix is electric as the title character, with Patti LuPone, Nathan Lane, Amy Ryan, and more in supporting roles that perfectly complement the film’s uniquely tragicomic tone. — Gregory Paul Silber

Godzilla Minus One promotional poster

Godzilla Minus One

Directed by Takashi Yamazaki
Screenplay by Takashi Yamazaki
Produced by Toho Studios, Robot Communications

Godzilla is one of the most imposing icons in pop culture and one of the most malleable. It’s impressive how many genres, metaphors, and ideas the iconic kaiju can embody. In Minus One, he stands as an expression of postwar anxiety, but also as a catalyst for veteran action in the face of a government that forgets about soldiers after wars. Director Takashi Yamazaki crafts some of the scariest scenes in Godzilla’s film history, most notably a boat chase that easily beats any other contender for most tense sequence of the year. Godzilla essentially drops the King of the Monsters title to become the God of Monsters. A lot more destruction is sure to come, and it’s all thanks to Minus One ushering in a new age for the legendary kaiju. — Ricardo Serrano

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 promotional poster

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Directed by James Gunn
Screenplay by James Gunn
Produced by Marvel Studios

My infatuation with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and superheroes in general has been on the decline in the past year, but James Gunn’s conclusion to his Guardians of the Galaxy was a much-needed reminder of why I adore these stories in the first place. At first, I was somewhat lukewarm towards Vol. 3, but after subsequent viewings, the themes began to resonate with me on a deeper level. In contrast to last year’s Thor: Love and Thunder, GotG Vol. 3 showcases Gunn’s mastership of balancing humor and heart. I’m continually amazed at his ability to infuse commercial properties with personal art best exemplified by breakout character Rocket Raccoon. I’m not ashamed to admit I found myself tearing up during a few scenes.  — Taimur Dar

A Haunting in Venice promotional poster

A Haunting in Venice

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Michael Green
Distributed by 20th Century Studios

This Halloween, you’re cordially invited to a séance with Michelle Yeoh and Poirot’s dark origin moustache. You will find guests asked to mask their true selves and be as unreliable as the narrator, Poirot, who finds himself once again avoidant of another mystery. There are a solid mix of tiny mysteries that add to larger, overarching mysteries the further Poirot goes. Director Kenneth Branagh plays foil to a cadre of character actors with whip-smart wit and cutting motives. Stay sharp and you’ll follow the curated design of its character performances to great effect! Beau Q.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline promotional poster

How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Directed by Daniel Goldhaber
Screenplay by Daniel Goldhaber, Ariela Barer, Jordan Sjol
Produced by Chrono, Lyrical Media, Spacemaker Productions

A concise thought experiment regarding radical protest. A pulp crime yarn that is exactly what the title promises, an effective argument for “good trouble” in the name of climate justice. What I didn’t expect was for this movie to be riveting. Pipeline has the structure, tension, and thrills of a great heist film. Or a war movie, with Kathryn Bigelow-level white-knuckle tension from start to finish. The ensemble cast brings veritas, the black humor of resistance fighters, and, in their sorrow, gravitas to what they’re standing for. Truth, meaning, and explosions. — Arpad Okay

John Wick Chapter 4 promotional poster

John Wick: Chapter 4

Directed by Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by Shay Hatten, Michael Finch
Distributed by Lionsgate Films

Every John Wick film (The Continental spinoff TV miniseries notwithstanding) is a capital-G Great action film, with two masterworks bookending the series thus far. A lot of that has to do with the quality of the action itself: director and former stuntman Chad Stahelski, who’s directed every installment of the franchise thus far (with David Leitch co-directing the original), arguably knows how to mount an action scene better than any other contemporary blockbuster filmmaker. It helps to have a titular star Keanu Reeves who can walk the line between badass, bone-breaking action hero and bitter, aging assassin with a death wish.

But that’s the thing about the John Wick franchise: it never plays by the same rules as other tentpole pictures (and at least with the original, was never intended to be lumped in with the likes of the MCU or Star Wars). Stahelski favors real, often breathtaking sets over green screens, long shots of intricate stunts and fight choreography over CGI and quick-cut mishmoshes, and, crucially, a focus on believable emotions, compelling character development, and authentic storytelling over fan service and sequel set-ups. What makes Chapter 4 uniquely powerful is that, unlike so many franchises that are intended to continue an unending cycle of sequels and reboots, John Wick knows how and when to end. Hopefully, it won’t be long until we get another action series as aesthetically inventive, emotionally complex, and craft-driven as John Wick. — Gregory Paul Silber

Junk Head promotional poster

Junk Head

Directed by Takehide Hori
Screenplay by Takehide Hori
Produced by GAGA Corporation

As the long infertile and mostly robotic human race finally dries up, desperate scientists hope to study the mutant, post-human variations of themselves that live deep below the surface. Of course, a volunteer is immediately reduced to a head, and then made to live in a body scrapped together from junk. Get it? The world beneath, though full of unlikely friendships and boundless silliness, is a labyrinth of nightmare worm monsters made out of spikes and bent on murder. Did I mention that the execution is stop-motion? It’s surprisingly lighthearted and occasionally sensitive, full of adventure, and is it weird. — Arpad Okay

Killers of the Flower Moon promotional poster

Killers of the Flower Moon

Directed by Martin Scorcese
Screenplay by Eric Roth, Martin Scorcese
Distributed by Paramount Pictures, Apple TV+

After more than half a century of filmmaking, Killers of the Flower Moon might just be director Martin Scorcese’s masterpiece. I realize that’s a bold statement, as Scorcese has already made several films throughout five decades that many consider among the greatest of all time. But at 81 years old, Scorcese and co-screenwriter Eric Roth bring a palpable anger to the film’s tragic proceedings that makes Killers arguably Scorcese’s most explicitly political work, and unique among prestige dramas.

Starring longtime Scorcese players Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, alongside Lily Gladstone in an emotionally devastating role that will hopefully launch a long and acclaimed career, Killers is never boring. Much has been made about its nearly 3.5-hour runtime, but the story of an Osage community plagued by a series of unsolved murders is heartbreaking, suspenseful, harrowing, and ultimately, a damning statement about the United States’ genocidal history towards indigenous communities. You’ll hardly be able to take your eyes off the screen. — Gregory Paul Silber

The Marvels promotional poster

The Marvels

Directed by Nia DaCosta
Screenplay by Nia DaCosta, Megan McDonnell, Elissa Karasik
Distributed by Marvel Studios

The model for what superhero movies could be, in a world not obsessed with continuity and always going bigger. The Marvels is a relatively stand-alone adventure, with more to explore if you like the characters, but you don’t have to study to enjoy the ride. There’s plenty of humor and weirdness and great friendships and self-sacrificing heroism and found family. There’s a clever character-switching device and some fun commentary on fandom. I liked getting to know more about these characters and spending time with them without everything having to be life-or-death. Of course, the male fanboys and studio decision-makers consider it a failure. But with movie-going permanently changed, medium-scale adventures are the future. — Johanna Draper Carlson

Nimona promotional poster


Directed by Nick Bruno, Troy Quane
Screenplay by Robert L. Baird, Lloyd Taylor
Based on the comic by ND Stevenson
Distributed by Netflix

In a world that defines the default as good, anything outside the default must therefore be evil. But what if you don’t fit in, don’t want to be evil, and aren’t even good at doing evil? Will a mysterious sidekick who is absolutely enthused about nefarious plots, plans, and villainy change things up? Or will she instead help you and maybe others to see what’s actually good and evil? With excellent voice acting from Chloë Grace Moretz (Nimona) and Riz Ahmed (Ballister Boldheart) leading the cast, this queer webcomic adaption was a delightful version of the world, made all the better by it finally being released after years of anticipation. — Kelas Lloyd

Oppenheimer promotional poster


Directed by Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by Christopher Nolan, Kai Bird, Martin Sherwin
Released by Universal Pictures

A monumental work of history, biography, and catastrophe. The story of Robert Oppenheimer is one that led to the establishment of a pre- and post-world. Pre-nuclear, post-nuclear. Christopher Nolan and his amazing cast, led by a career-defining performance from Cillian Murphy and an almost scene-stealing performance by Robert Downey Jr., treat the controversial figure’s story with the appropriate weight afforded to him by history. At three hours long, the movie barely stops to let a sense of calm set in. The perils of success are never out of sight but are often overtaken by the anticipation of making history. It keeps the story moving at a near-frantic pace that feels exciting rather than exhausting. Oppenheimer is a triumph that might be remembered as Nolan’s best film. — Ricardo Serrano

Past Lives promotional poster

Past Lives

Directed by Celine Song
Screenplay by Celine Song
Distributed by A24

How often do we ask ourselves about a path not taken in life? Do we mourn those possibilities? Or do we accept where we are? Past Lives, the thoughtful debut from writer/director Celine Song, ponders those possibilities. When a childhood crush contacts Greta Lee’s Korean immigrant Nora Moon, she ponders the different path her life could have taken. The result is a beautiful and quietly devastating film. Song wisely frames the story of Moon and Teo Yoo’s Hae Sung as a story of missed connections rather than lovers with an obstacle between them. There are so many finely observed discussions about connections and relationships between people. The final conversation between Nora and Hae might be one of the emotionally most devastating in ages. Truly a film meant to destroy you in the best ways. Also, John Magaro’s Arthur deserves movie husband of the year. — D. Morris

Shin Kamen Rider promotional poster

Shin Kamen Rider

Directed by Hideaki Anno
Screenplay by Hideaki Anno
Distributed by Toei Company Ltd.

If there’s superhero fatigue, no one told Shin Kamen Rider director writer/director Hideaki Anno. Anno’s passion for Shotaro Ishinomori’s iconic character is evident in every frame. He brings the saga of Hongo Takeshi’s fight against the evil S.H.O.C.K.E.R. to modern audiences while being true to the material. There are fun Easter eggs throughout from the character’s past that don’t make the movie inaccessible to potential new fans. His background as an animator shows in his attention to detail, from character designs to how each fight overflows with energy. Every villain Kamen Rider encounters in the film looks totally unique. Everyone in this film is dressed to the nines. Into all of this, Anno brings his fascination with free will and happiness adding gravitas to the hero’s struggles. More superhero media would benefit from his passion for the source material and the film’s visual inventiveness. — D. Morris

Spider-Man Across the Universe promotional poster

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham
Produced by Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is an absolute visual feast, with one of the most stunning and creative productions I’ve ever seen. The visual storytelling absorbs you into the movie with its mix of art styles and techniques fleshing out the different universes and Spider-Mans (yes, that’s the plural for Spider-Man). The clever use of complementary colors—particularly in portraying the emotional distance between Gwen and her dad—is nothing short of amazing. The moment when these colors blend in harmony during their heartfelt hug left me genuinely moved (I bawled my eyes out). I simply cannot stop applauding the film’s artistic freedom and flawless execution.

The movie is not just flashy colors. The introduction of the Spider-Society and escalating conflicts in parallel had me on the edge of my seat in both amazement and anticipation. The nonstop action and the cliffhanger leave no room to breathe! Anyway, I feel like Across the Spider-Verse is a movie with which many will relate. In a world filled with Spider-People just like him, Miles is the odd one out. Miles just wants to be himself and use his power for what he deems right in a world that rejects him. A message that struck home for me. — Matias De la Piedra

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Mayhem promotional poster

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

Directed by Jeff Rowe
Written by Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg, Jeff Rowe, Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

After Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it was argued that all future superhero movies should be animated. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem offers more compelling evidence for that opinion. This is a legitimately funny film with some incredible action sequences. Director Jeff Rowe (Mitchells vs. The Machines) gives the CG animation film a unique, handmade look. All of the mutants look great. New York City is as much a character as anyone in the film. Thanks to a cast of teen voice actors (who mostly ad-libbed) playing the mutant heroes, the characters get to be actual teenagers. They’re as endearing as they can be annoying. At the heart of it all, though, is the idea of family, both blood relatives and found. The film is a fantastic reminder of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles remains such a fun concept. — D. Morris

Don’t miss all of our “best of 2023” lists:
Comics and Graphic Novels | Manga | Webtoons | Anime | Movies | Television

In case you missed it, here are The Beat’s best of 2022.


  1. I definitely don’t think Asteroid City belongs on this list. I don’t even know if that was a movie.

  2. Thank you for including ASTEROID CITY on this list! It was a fun ride, an emotional ride, a smart ride that, once again, shows why Wes Anderson is the genius that he is!

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