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Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Last year in cinema: the 10 best films of 2023

I get it, just another film nerd with a Celebration Cinema VIP subscription and a Letterboxd account that thinks he’s a critic because he made some big fancy list? Is that it? You bet your bottom dollar that’s what I think of myself and that I have to disagree with even the Golden Globes on some takes. So, if you were expecting to find “Oppenheimer” or “Past Lives” anywhere on this list, I’d recommend checking out someone else’s rankings. There are, however, some notable films that I was not able to see in 2023, which include “Maestro,” “The Zone of Interest,” “Asteroid City” and “May December.” Without further ado, here’s my list. 

  1. “The Killer”

If “The Killer” proved anything, it’s that David Fincher is incapable of putting out a boring product. In his first feature project since 2020’s “Mank,” Fincher once again returned to elevate the genre of B-level action movies, just like he did with 2002’s “Panic Room.” This time, however, Fincher brought along Michael Faasbender to portray the film’s titular character. Playing an emotionless hitman that isn’t exactly great at his job, Faasbender gives the coldest, and possibly funniest, performance of the year. Also, Fincher’s prominent use of music from The Smiths’ discography throughout the film contributes to what is the year’s best soundtrack. 

  1. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Growing up in the 2000s, there wasn’t a DVD that I replayed more than Sam Raimi’s original “Spider-Man” with Tobey Maguire. I can still vividly remember the excitement of tearing the wrapping paper on my birthday present, revealing a set of Spider-Man web shooters that held cans of silly string, which my mother would quickly regret gifting me. Nearly two decades later, my love and appreciation for the Spider-Man character has reached new heights with “Across the Spider-Verse.” 

Following the surprising and groundbreaking success of 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse,” perhaps no film of 2023 had higher expectations than this one. Incredibly, it somehow exceeded every expectation and then some. With much left to be resolved in Miles Morales’ story, this film has the unique opportunity to cement itself as the “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” of this generation. 

  1. “Ferrari”

Ever since 2019’s “Ford v Ferrari” and the explosion of Formula 1 racing thanks to Netflix, Hollywood has made it their yearly mission to deliver us a heart-pounding racing film that appeals to a mass audience. Director Michael Mann, on the other hand, had no intention of sacrificing the story he wanted to tell, which is how we ended up with “Ferrari.” 

Adam Driver gives a tour de force performance as Enzo Ferrari, the power hungry, intimidating founder of Ferrari S.p.A. Set during the Summer of 1957, “Ferrari” sees Driver scramble to save his company on the brink of bankruptcy, while managing his infidelity and complicated home life. 

  1. “Scream VI”

During my childhood, nothing in the entire world scared me more than the Ghostface mask. Wes Craven’s original “Scream” was the first horror film that I remember watching, which naturally resulted in years of nightmares and Ghostface becoming my boogeyman.

Now almost two decades since my introduction to the franchise, watching Ghostface terrorize New York City on the big screen was like saying hello to an old friend that doesn’t come around too often. Scenes like Ghostface hunting Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega inside of a tiny bodega are why I found myself going to the theater six separate times in 2023 to watch “Scream VI.”

With the future of the “Scream” franchise currently in limbo because of inner-turmoil on set, many fans –including myself– are left to wonder: what’s next? Rumors speculating Neve Campbell’s return to the franchise are already swirling, as well as theories about Mathew Lillard’s fan favorite character Stu Macher. For now, we’ll just have to play the waiting game and hope that this beloved franchise has more left to give. 

  1. “The Holdovers”

No film in 2023 surprised me more than “The Holdovers.” Alexander Payne’s heartwarming and tear-jerking holiday movie about a curmudgeonly New England professor at an all boys prep school that has to forgo winter break to babysit the students with nowhere to go is simply masterful. Led by Paul Giamatti, who has already received award recognition for his performance, this is one of those rare films that reminds you to consider what might be going on in someone else’s life. 

  1. “Infinity Pool”

There hasn’t been a film that I’ve thought about more since I watched it than Brandon Cronenberg’s psychosexual, sci-fi, horror film “Infinity Pool.” Set in the fictional island country of Li Tolqa, where the government accepts exorbitant payments from wealthy tourists to live out their repressed fantasies and desires, “Infinity Pool” continues the recent Hollywood trend of examining wealth inequality and the corruption of money. Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth share some of the year’s most depraved scenes, much to my delight. 

  1. “Beau Is Afraid”

What Ari Aster has accomplished in his first three-directorial efforts is nothing short of legendary. Coming off the successes of “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” Aster’s anxiety-ridden horror comedy “Beau Is Afraid” was my most anticipated movie of 2023. Not only was I blown away by Joaquin Phoenix’s chaotic performance as Beau Wasserman, a paranoid man that encounters absurd obstacles on a surrealist journey to his mothers funeral, but also the bravery of Aster to even attempt this project. Between giant genitalia monsters and entrancing theater scenes that blur the line between reality and fantasy, “Beau Is Afraid” is unlike any movie I have ever seen. 

While Aster’s debut project “Hereditary” still reigns supreme in the landscape of 21st century horror, “Beau Is Afraid” is a welcome addition to the short list of films that have a legitimate claim to that title.

  1. “The Iron Claw”

If you didn’t leave the theater misty-eyed with a desire to call your family to say you love them, you likely weren’t watching “The Iron Claw.” Retelling the devastating history of the Von Erich’s, a prominent wrestling family that operated an independent wrestling promotion in Texas during the ‘80s, this film is an emotional roller coaster of triumph and tragedy. Packed to the brim with unforgettable performances from the likes of Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White and Holt McCallany, professional wrestling has never been more in the spotlight. 

  1. “Priscilla”

Coming just a year after Baz Luhrman’s nearly three-hour biopic of Elvis’ rise to stardom and subsequent fall, which saw Austin Butler take home best actor at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, “Priscilla” shows a much different side of the rock ‘n’ roll king. 

Director Sofia Coppola centers her film around the complicated relationship between Priscilla Wagner and Elvis Presley, specifically Elvis’ controlling and abusive behavior. Cailee Spaeny’s portrayal of Wagner is among the year’s best, and Jacob Elordi shines as a more subdued version of the Elvis character that we are all familiar with. 

  1. “Killers of the Flower Moon”

Was there ever any doubt? The greatest director of all time once again proves why he has stood the test of time. Delivering a three and a half hour Western crime drama that never drags or loses focus for even a moment. Martin Scorsese’s heartbreaking retelling of the Reign of Terror is admittedly much different than the 2017 David Grann book of the same name, but the intention was very much the same: exposing the role that Ernest Burkhart and William Hale played in the genocide of the Osage community. 

However, many indigenous viewers were disappointed with the film’s sympathetic portrayal of Burkhart, claiming that this story should’ve been told by an Indigenous artist. Throughout Scorsese’s extensive and illustrious career, he has never been one to shy away from challenging audiences with his irredeemable and unlikeable main characters. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Burkhart is no exception, adding to the laundry list of controversial Scorsese movie characters. 

Regardless, “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a modern masterwork from our greatest living director, which should not be taken for granted. With speculation that Scorsese’s upcoming film about the teachings of Jesus may be his swan song, we can only say thank you and farewell for the legacy that he leaves behind.

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About the Contributor
Dylan Hoffius
Dylan Hoffius, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Dylan Hoffius is the Lanthorn's Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Winter 2024 semester. He previously worked as an Arts & Entertainment staff writer during the Fall 2023 semester. Dylan is a senior at Grand Valley State University, majoring in journalism, broadcast, and digital media, with aspirations to critique film and write for a sports and pop-culture outlet after graduation. He loves to watch movies at the theater, play disc golf and cheer for Michigan-based sports teams, specifically the Lions and Pistons. Follow his Letterboxd account for unbiased movie reviews and rankings. Graduating Winter 2024 Major: Journalism, Broadcast, and Digital Media