Real’s Favorite Films of 2023

A wise man once said, “Those who create film must also watch film, and those who watch film must also create a year-end-list of all of their favorites so that it can be made into a blog post.”

 

When reflecting on the films of 2023, Daniel Skubal (Post-Production Manager) writes,

Even with the writer and actor’s strikes, this ended up being an exceptional year for movies… 

It’s very clear we are in the era of Metamodernism in film history, where storytellers have deemed audiences intelligent enough to be aware of the proscenium arch, but also remain engaged in the story itself. 

[Metamodernism] also creates additional layers of complexity by holding a mirror to the audience, identifying the faults of mankind, or making grander statements on politics and social inequalities…”

 

We’ve also seen a drastic drop off in box office for what used to be studios’ tent-pole blockbusters, perhaps pointing to audience’s waning interest in franchises, and a shifted interest to the “eventizing” of the theater experience (i.e., Barbenheimer).

Or…this year was just a fluke, and everything will go back to the way it was after the dust from the most recent strikes and studio backlashes settles.

In any case, the team agrees that 2023 was a benchmark of change for Hollywood; resulting in the grueling exercise that was putting together “Real’s Favorite Films of the Year” list.

This year, a number of 26 films are represented, made up of selections and quotes from the team.

 

So, in alphabetical order, here’s our favorite films released in 2023 for your scrolling pleasure:

Air

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“This was released so early in the year, I think this one is unjustly being left off a lot of year end lists.  This is a story I didn’t think I needed to see, but loved once I finally got around to watching it.  It’s always a fun ride watching an underdog take on a goliath and seeing them come out on top, and this one does so with technical precision and strong performances all around.  I don’t think there is anything remarkable about the film, other than it maybe bucks the trend of Metamodernism and is told with confidence in the story without needing to wink or nod to the audience in any way and for that I really appreciate this one.” - Daniel

Asteroid City

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*TEAM FAVORITE*

“I love the art direction of Wes Anderson movies. This one was no exception.” - Kevin

 

“A flawless (and familiar) visual aesthetic with excitingly new layered storytelling from Anderson.” - Ben 

 

“As with all WA films of late it took a second watching to really appreciate the story, dialog and art direction of Asteroid City.  A few chuckles here and there. Also, I loved the look!” - Josh

 

“Few films this year had me grinning with delight quite like Asteroid City.  Everything about it was fun to watch.  I’ve definitely developed a greater appreciation for Wes Anderson over the years, and after walking out of the theater, I felt certain this was my favorite film of his.  It holds all the DNA of a Wes Anderson film, but toys more boldly with the storytelling by containing stories within stories within stories— and trying to follow along through all the dense dialogue and visual gags became a joy to watch unfold.” - Daniel

Barbie

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“Great, funny movie. I didn't know what to expect initially; I basically saw it because my kids wanted to. The cast is what made it for me.” - Ryan

 

“The family and I had a lot of fun watching this together, although the themes went way over my 4, 8 and 10 year old’s little heads. I have to say Ryan Gosling as Ken stole the show in a movie about Barbie.” - Josh

"This was a runner up on the “fun scale” of Asteroid City. I caught myself smiling through this whole film as well.  This is certainly the most overt example of Metamodernism I’ve seen this year, recognizing Barbie as a cultural icon, but also showing the criticisms of a sexualized doll projecting idealized self-imagery on children, all through the lens of being both a man and a woman in the modern world.  Depending on how deep you want to take it, I feel like Barbie is the film version of Gender Studies 101, introducing the ideas of feminism, but also recognizing that philosophy can only take you so far, but individualism is really the only way to survive the expectations placed us you by the world.” - Daniel

BlackBerry

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“Great movie and cast. Another good weekend movie to watch. Totally brought me back to when I had my BlackBerry…. for a week…. and then bought an iPhone. - Ryan

Beau is Afraid

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“As I’ve gotten older and branched out to more abstract films, I’ve really grown to enjoy them.  This one was enigmatic in the most entertaining way, watching the world through the eyes of someone suffering through mental illness, it really felt like you were experiencing the paranoia, fear, and uncertainty first hand. I suspect this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I sure had fun watching this bizarre and often surreal film unfold.” - Daniel

Cocaine Bear

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What did I just watch??? Comedy mixed with gruesome. I liked it.”  - Ryan

The Covenant

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One of the better war movies I have seen in a while. Great movie from start to finish, action-packed and suspenseful.” - Ryan

 

“Was looking forward to seeing this, since I’m a big fan of Guy Ritchie. Some cool, signature Ritchie shots/editing.” - David

The Creator

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“I was pleasantly surprised with this film. In a year when talks of AI seemed to come up in every conversation, this story seemed more relevant than ever. While the film is dystopian, I think you come out the other end feeling hopeful for mankind, and in a film about robots, we’re reminded of the things that make us human. John D. Washington delivers a powerful performance in this one, and with every film feels like he’s climbing out of the shadow of his father and earning his place as the incredible actor that he is.” - Daniel

Fingernails

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“A quirky look at love and loneliness. I love the retro sci-fi vibes.” - Kevin

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

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“The third installment in the ‘Guardians’ franchise establishes it as the best trilogy in the MCU, hands down, and is the only film where a CGI raccoon can make you ugly cry.” - Ben

The Holdovers

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“Daringly sentimental with perfectly spirited execution. Even if the film were graded under the harsh discipline of Mr. Hunham himself, it’s still an A+.” - Ben

 

“I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I would say it is my favorite for 2023. The plot was fun and kept me engaged. Very heartfelt. Technically, I love the experimentation of adding film grain and vintage texture to the look of the film. Watching this made me feel like I was watching The Graduate from a stylistic stand point. (another favorite of mine)” - Josh

 

“I’m a sucker for the character films of “Golden Era” of the 1970s, and this effortlessly fits in with the feel and aesthetic of those classic stories.  Paul Giamatti and Da'Vine Joy Randolph give outstanding performances as two damaged individuals trying to hold their lives together against the backdrop of a strict boys’ school during Christmas break. I wouldn’t call this a “man in a room” type of story, but it certainly gets close by remaining in the confines of an emptied out school for a majority of the film, allowing room for character development and breathing room to ruminate as the story develops.” - Daniel

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Lucasfilm's INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

“Okay, to call this the ‘best of film’ this year would be stretching it, but as a child of the 80s who grew up with Indiana Jones, this film strikes close to the mark going back to the thrill of watching those original films. As with any Indiana Jones film, there isn’t much substance beyond what unfolds on screen, but it sure is fun to watch the seemingly relentless action with lovable protagonists take on some nasty bad guys with a lot of swagger.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame sets herself up nicely as a potential future adventurer to take the mantle from Indy, and if that ever comes to be, I’d definitely welcome it.” - Daniel

The Iron Claw

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“I’m writing this an hour after seeing the film in the theaters… and I have no words other than OUCH, WOW, and EFRON.” - Ben

John Wick: Chapter 4

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“When the most intense and exhausting action scenes you’ve ever seen are equally as hilarious.” - Ben

 

“They say that the John Wick series created a new genre called ‘gunfu’. I couldn’t agree more. I loved the lighting in this movie.” - Kevin

The Killer

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“Just an all around fun action movie. When a perfect plan gets chaotic.” - Kevin

Leave the World Behind

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It’s like a really freaking good episode of Black Mirror that could happen tomorrow… We’re all just sitting ducks, and this film shows the barrel of the gun.” - Ben

Moon Garden

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“I had caught the trailer for this lesser-known indie movie several months ago, and made it a point to seek it out.  Moon Garden lands somewhere between “The Fall,” “A Monster Calls”, and a Tim Burton fever dream, but its low budget practical effects and world building with an adorable little girl made it a delight to watch.” - Daniel

Murder Mystery 2

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Just an all around great family weekend night movie, fun with some action. I’m a big fan of Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston as cast mates.” - Ryan

Napoleon

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“Been a fan of Ridley Scott as well. The film was beautifully shot (though way too long) and staring at Vanessa Kirby most of the movie made it enjoyable (I still have a thing for English women). Other than that, it made me want to visit the island of Saint Helena sometime… place looks nice… but not easy to get to.” - David

Oppenheimer

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Big cast. Big boom. Big yes.” - Ben

 

“The Yang to Barbie’s Yin" of “Barbenheimer”; an antithesis to the wild antics offered by Barbie to a subjective telling of a lesser known part of American history. I really enjoyed this one on first viewing, but felt like I was able to pick up on the themes of the film more clearly the second time around.  I suspect the more I watch this one, the more I’ll be able to unpack, but it’s certainly engrossing to watch a man in remarkable circumstances wrestle with his own convictions while being pulled in so many directions. Additionally, I think the sound design and Hans Zimmer’s score elevate the film to a masterpiece by enhancing the subjective point of view as Oppenheimer faces each obstacle in the story.” - Daniel

Priscilla

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Post Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, this film seemingly sets the record straight with focus, glamor, and (tastefully) respect.” - Ben

Rye Lane

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One of the most stylish and engaging films of the year; a true sleeper-hit that I couldn’t leave off the list.” - Ben

Spider-Man: Across the Spider Verse

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“This is the current pinnacle of comic book movies. Period.” - Ben

 

“Hands down some of the best animation I’ve seen. I loved Spider-Punk.” - Kevin

 

“Few sequels eclipse the original film, but I feel like this one may accomplish this.  This film borrows from the best that “Into the Spiderverse” sets up and elevates it to further heighten the stakes.  Where the other Metamodern films of the year leaned into the tongue-in-cheek humor of recognizing itself as a story, Spiderman has turned it into a storytelling mechanism that helps explain the world and create a deeper conflict.” - Daniel

Squaring the Circle: The History of Hipgnosis

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“First feature documentary from one of my favorite photographers/directors, Anton Corbijn, and it did not disappoint. It follows the story of the Hipgnosis art design studio that created some of the most iconic and recognizable album covers like Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Houses of the Holy, Dirty Deeds and many, many more. If you are a fan of music and album art—this will be right up your alley. Really inspiring to see some of their creative processes (way before Photoshop) and Anton’s iconic black & white style on the interview portions of the documentary are quite fitting.” - David

Still

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“A well done retrospect on Michael J. Fox’s career as it overlaps with Parkinson's disease that held onto his authenticity and humor.” - Kevin

The Stones and Brian Jones

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“Another documentary (See a theme here?). I’m not the biggest Stones fan, but I figured I’d give it a watch. Free on BBC if you set your VPN up correctly. Engrossing… and sad, to say the least. Brian Jones was the incredibly talented founder of The Rolling Stones who, sadly, lived a bit of a troubled life that had a tragic demise.” - David

Well, that’s that!

Let us know if there’s any we missed, and we wish you a happy new year of meta-dom, watching, and creating!