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  • Writer's pictureJack Aling

ESC's Top 20 Films of 2023

2023 is over... Let's look back at the incredible year of cinema. We've created our list of the twenty best films of 2023. Don't bother looking at other lists on the internet - this is the only correct one. NOTE: This list is based on UK release dates.

Before we jump in, here are some Honorable Mentions that just missed the list:

Polite Society

An action-packed burst of energy, Polite Society embraces its passion for martial arts to elevate its mix of genres.


A dark twisted fantasy, Saltburn sets its sights to shock and appal in this sleek, sophisticated and stylish drama.

Blue Jean

This touching and hauntingly honest debut builds pressure as it tells an LGBT story under the constraints of the UK's Section 28 laws.

The Boy and The Heron

Transports audiences to fantastical lands filled with weird and wonderful creatures with a style, soul and heart that only Studio Ghibli can deliver.

On with the list...

20) Creed III

Creed III proves that the franchise still has some fight left in it with a ferocious directorial debut from Michael B. Jordan. A true spectacle full of passion that excels at visual storytelling while keeping the core of the series close to its heart.

19) No One Will Save You

This silent thriller flips the alien invasion on its head. An inventive, scary and unique creature feature with a powerhouse performance from Kaitlyn Dever.

18) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

This cosy tale within a tale is inventively told through precise production design and alluring performances at a breakneck speed that feels like you are being read the ultimate bedtime story.

17) The Whale

It makes it almost impossible to ignore the self-destructive behaviour but there is a sense of bittersweet heartbreak as Brendan Fraser's Charlie holds on to hope of those few that surround him.

16) Full Time

Full Time does a worryingly good job of capturing the anxieties of balancing unreliable commuting, claustrophobic work life and the financial constraints of daily life. A slice of life in the best and worst possible way.

15) Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

The confident animation style of Puss in Boots makes for vibrant and thrilling sequences that could make even the most mundane task look interesting becoming one of this year's biggest surprises.

14) Past Lives

A beautifully acted, directed and crafted film whose message of "What if?" weaves and attaches itself to the audience's own experiences only adding to its cathartic nature.

13) Godzilla Minus One

A tough and gut-wrenching drama that shows the harrowing impact on the soul in post-war Japan that is one of the year's best political dramas... then Godzilla shows up.

12) Barbie

Packed to the brim with vivid colour - there is much more to Barbie than meets the eye. A film that embraces the camp to help audiences let down their guard before revealing its true much more enlightened nature.

11) How to Have Sex

Molly Manning Walker delivers one of the strongest British debuts in years building a world that stands as a stark reflection of our own harsh reality. An important conversation starter makes this essential viewing.

10) Killers of The Flower Moon

A vast American history lesson presented by one of cinema's masters unveils the ultimate tale of greed in corruption. Despicable yet unavoidably gripping, no one can put the enticing sin of corruption to screen quite like Scorsese.

9) The Creator

A stunning reminder that boldly original films can still make it out of a modern studio system, The Creator tells a story that feels very relevant as we take our first steps into understanding the impact of Artificial Intelligence.

8) Rye Lane

A refreshing urban safari through the streets of South London, Rye Lane breathes new life into the romantic comedy - reinventing it for a modern and quintessentially British audience.

7) The Fabelmans

Spielberg has undoubtedly left his mark on modern cinema. So it was interesting to see him turn the camera on himself, in a semi-autobiographical manner, to understand where his passion and love of the cinema came from.

6) Guardians of the Galaxy Volume. 3

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 is easily the strongest of Marvel's Multiverse Saga so far. Tying a bow around a pitch-perfect trilogy, it feels appropriately wrapped up while leaving the door slightly ajar for any possible returns.

5) Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

Tom Cruise continues his mission to save cinema, returning to the franchise where he pushes himself and the Hollywood health and safety laws to their limits.

4) Oppenheimer

Over three hours, the film keeps a constant fast pace cutting back and forth amongst Oppenheimer's past and present, going deep into the psychological effects a project of its scale can have on a single man.

3) Babylon

Damien Chazelle realised he had one shot to make the craziest, loudest, most disruptive, most bombastic film that a major studio could ever think of releasing… and he threw everything at it.

2) John Wick: Chapter 4

John Wick returns for his most relentless chapter yet. This instalment is every part as brutal, chaotic and thrilling as you’d expect - and then some.

1) Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse

An inventive and exciting adventure through the multiverse, pushing the boundaries of visual filmmaking with six wildly different animation styles. Across The Spider-Verse celebrates creativity, revolutionary animation and most importantly, Spider-Man.

What is your favourite film of 2023? Did it make our list? What have we missed?

Send us your recommendations on Twitter or comment below.

Join the discussion: Share your thoughts using #ESCfilmclub on Twitter. Share posts and stories using #ESCfilmclub on Instagram Review and discuss your thoughts by tagging ESCfilmclub on Letterboxd.

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