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DARREN'S TOP 20 FILMS OF 2023!



230 films later, my 2023 film year has come to an end. And what a year it has been for film! Cinema was back in full swing with exciting blockbusters that took audiences by storm like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, incredible awards contenders such as Killers of the Flower Moon and Maestro, wonderful animated films captured the attention of millions of moviegoers like The Super Mario Bros Movie and The Boy and the Heron, and one little film event became a worldwide phenomenon: Barbenheimer. Sony brought back both the R rated comedy and the romantic comedies with hit films like Love Again, No Hard Feelings and Anyone But You, reminding audiences that not everything has to be a blockbuster level event to be a fun night out at the movies, while the horror genre continued to terrify viewers and scare up great money at the box office with hits like Scream VI, Talk to Me and Evil Dead Rise. There was something for everyone to watch, making it a stellar year for cinema all the way around.


Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Anyone But You, Blackberry, The Boy and the Heron, The Iron Claw, No Hard Feelings, Past Lives, Saltburn, Society of the Snow



20. The Boys in the Boat (4.5/5)

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Without question, The Boys in the Boat will have audiences cheering in their seats as they watch this true story of the underdog team that went the distance, beating all the odds at every turn, become an outstanding big screen experience thanks to a strong cast with a scene stealing performance by Luke Slattery and a triumphant musical score from Alexandre Desplat!


19. Theater Camp (4.5/5)

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Whether it be the outstanding cast, Noah Galvin’s scene stealing performance, the great humour or brilliant writing of Ben Platt, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin and Nick Lieberman that captures the undying love of the theater community and the many personalities within it, Theater Camp is a joyous celebration of theater and live performing that is destined to delight theater lovers! 


18. Wonka (4.5/5)

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Wonka gives audiences a true golden ticket as audiences are whisked away on a fantastical adventure thanks to the imagination of Paul King that is bursting with catchy musical numbers, incredible world building, and a truly marvelous performance by Timothée Chalamet that captures the spirit of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka with a wink and smile, reminding audiences of the power of dreams in one magical cinematic experience!


17. The Color Purple (4.5/5)

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Full of truly incredible performances from a star studded cast led by Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson and Danielle Brooks, not only does this visionary new take on Alice Walker’s classic story breathe new life into this timeless tale of sisterhood, friendship and love for a new generation, The Color Purple is one of the best films of the year that is a truly remarkable spectacle at every turn that reminds you why movies need to be experienced on the big screen!



16. Killers of the Flower Moon (4.5/5)

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Led by a truly unforgettable performance from Lily Gladstone that will leave you speechless, Martin Scorsese tells the story of the Osage murders with a delicacy to the individuals involved, but with a grand, epic scale that makes Killers of the Flower Moon a must see motion picture event that is among one of the legendary director’s finest films!


15. The Holdovers (4.5/5)

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Capturing laughter, joy, a profound emotional depth, and an unforgettable school-based drama that we have not seen the likes of since Dead Poets Society, Alexander Payne has delivered a new holiday classic with The Holdovers that will warm your heart and tells an unforgettable story, a story that is only elevated by a trio of powerhouse and awards worthy performances from Paul Giamatti, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa!


14. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (4.5/5)

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Anchored by a career-making performance from Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret and an outstanding supporting turn from Rachel McAdams, Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret makes its big screen debut with a film full of heart, love, laughter and graceful handling of complex themes that will have audiences falling in love with this story all over again.


13. Scream VI (4.5/5)

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Ghostface is back and he means business in the most brutal, gory and violent entry in the Scream franchise with Scream VI, that thanks to the two outstanding lead performances of Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega combined with a story that is not afraid to push the franchise in an exciting new direction, makes for not only the best Scream films since the original, but the best horror film of the year!


12. Tetris (5/5)

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Taron Egerton is outstanding as always, but it is the thrilling and unbelievable true story that makes Tetris one of the best films of the year. Mixing video games with a historical thriller evoking elements of some of the best spy thrillers, all the pieces fall together in Tetris, racking up a true high score for video game films and AppleTV+ with a truly brilliant film that you cannot miss!


11. The Creator (5/5)

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Jaw-dropping visuals, incredible performances, an outstanding musical score from Hans Zimmer, and a story full of rich themes that swings big and delivers an unforgettable adventure are all just ingredients of Gareth Edwards’s latest film, but it his direction and grand vision for the film that makes The Creator a science fiction masterpiece that is destined to become a quintessential classic of the genre!


10. Fair Play (5/5)

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Not only does Fair Play indicate the renaissance of the erotic thriller is upon us, it is one of the most important and nerve wracking films of the entire year. With a bold screenplay and direction from Chloe Domont that explores gender dynamics in the workplace with a brutal honesty that will have you on the edge of your seat, and featuring two sensational performances from Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich that ensure you cannot take your eyes off the screen, Fair Play is a truly brilliant feature film debut for Domont that delivers an unforgettable and relentless cinematic experience!



9. Poor Things (5/5)

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Not only does Yorgos Lanthimos continue to prove himself as one of the most daring filmmakers currently working, he has delivered his greatest film to date with Poor Things! It’s an ambitious story told through Yorgos Lanthimos’s signature dark comedic style, but the heart of the story will resonate with audiences as they embark on this life embracing adventure with Bella Baxter. From stunning production design, costumes and cinematography that brings to life this marvellous world, and a truly spectacular performance from Emma Stone that confirms her as one of the greatest actresses of our time, Poor Things is an unforgettable cinematic experience of self discovery that you will want to revisit over and over again!


8. Origin (5/5)

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Origin is a truly visionary work of storytelling, seamlessly mixing Isabel Wilkerson’s thesis with the author’s personal story of love, loss, and a search for greater understanding, resulting in one of the most compelling, timely, and important films of the past decade. Truly cementing herself as one of my favourite filmmakers of all time, Ava DuVernay is at the height of her game as a storyteller, wonderfully showcasing her cinematic talents in her latest film. From writing an intricate screenplay and directing to bring to life this incredible blending of one woman’s story and her entire findings on the societal structures that dictate how our society functions, all held together by a truly extraordinary Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Origin is a visionary work of art from Ava DuVernay that is profoundly moving and informative, making for one of the year’s finest films.


7. Air (5/5)

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Air is a prime example of why audiences love cinema. It’s a crowd pleasing film, bringing to life the story of how Nike changed the sports industry forever with their historic signing of Michael Jordan. From the second the film stars, Ben Affleck’s direction and Alex Converys’s screenplay create an incredibly entertaining and moving cinematic experience that will raise your spirits with this incredible true story about one of the greatest athletes of all time and a shoe company’s pursuit of him. Brought to life by sensational performances by the entire cast, notably the compelling and sensational Viola Davis as Dolores Jordan and the excellent Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, Air is a true cinematic slam dunk that is guaranteed to have you cheering in your seats!


6. Maestro (5/5)

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Not only has Bradley Cooper yet again proven himself a remarkable director and his innate ability to capture music on camera with his second directorial effort, but he has crafted one of the best films of the year. It’s a remarkable experience in every aspect of filmmaking ranging from mesmerizing performances, the tender and intimate portrayal of the relationship between Bernstein and Felicia, and the directorial prowess that Bradley Cooper brings to the film. With a career defining performance from Bradley Cooper and another sensational performance from Carey Mulligan that should set them both on the path to winning their first Academy Awards, Maestro conducts an intimate and show-stopping experience that crescendos throughout and reaches a grandisimo with a stunning musical sequence, delivering one of the most unforgettable films biopics in recent memory!


5. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (5/5)

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Some audiences may complain about an oversaturation of superhero films, but Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is easily one of the greatest superhero films of all time. Never for a second playing it safe, but instead swinging for the skies with its ambitious, exciting and incredibly emotional story that is certain to leave fans speechless and unable to wait until the story concludes in Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse. Truly magnificent in every way imaginable from the unforgettable, visually stunning, dynamic animation; the marvelous story that ranks among one of the great stories ever told in the superhero genre, and sensational voice performances from the entire cast but notably Hailee Steinfeld and Oscar Isaac, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the definition of a masterpiece that is certain to amaze both Spider-Man fans and general audiences alike! 



4. Barbie (5/5)

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There truly aren’t words to describe the cinematic experience that is Barbie other than to call it Ken-tastic, as Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach have conjured up a dazzling, self-aware comedy and absolutely moving film that audiences are going to love. From outstanding direction from Greta Gerwig, an unforgettable, hilarious and deeply moving screenplay from Gerwig and Noah Baumbach that builds a honest story about gender, society and consumerism, brought to life by one of the most star studded casts of the year led by phenomenal performances from Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, Barbie is nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece that is destined to become a true classic.


3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (5/5)

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While this may be the final outing with this iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, they have gone out on the highest note imaginable that smashes all expectations audiences will have going into the film! There have been few Marvel films to capture this much emotion, but James Gunn has delivered a superhero masterpiece that will have audiences cheering, holding their breath in anticipation, and crying tears of joy and sadness throughout this epic adventure for the Guardians of the Galaxy. With incredible needle drops energizing the film, unforgettable visuals and sensational performances with Bradley Cooper stealing the film as Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a true spectacle in filmmaking that closes out one of the greatest trilogies ever made in a poignant, beautiful sendoff that fans will never forget!


2. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One (5/5)

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There is only one man who can continue to one up himself and deliver exhilarating theatrical experience after theatrical experience, and that man is Tom Cruise. His mission has always been to showcase why films are made for a theatrical setting, and it is a mission he will always choose to accept and deliver an experience unlike anything you have ever witnessed. And once again, he does just that Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One alongside his frequent collaborator Christopher McQuarrie as they deliver one of the most outstanding action films ever made. Displaying brilliance in every aspect of the film, Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One is without question the best action film of the year thanks to a thrilling story, Hayley Atwell’s electrifying performance, and an unrelenting intensity created by the jaw dropping stunts and unbelievable action sequences that proves there is nothing Tom Cruise cannot and will not do in the name of creating the greatest cinematic experience he can dream up!



1. Oppenheimer (5/5)

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There are few big budget films that are made outside of the blockbuster genre these days, creating epic historical dramas, but Christopher Nolan has done exactly that with Oppenheimer and makes a strong argument for it being the finest film of his entire career. Creating a sprawling epic full of history and morality, playing out as a thrilling courtroom drama while showcasing the unforgettable test of the Atomic bomb, with some of the best performances of the year from an all star cast including Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Jason Clarke, all combined with Christopher Nolan’s larger than life approach to filmmaking, Oppenheimer is a one of a kind cinematic experience that reignites the love of cinema and will have audiences pondering its chilling cautionary tale for years to come!


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(Poster/Photo/Video credit:

Warner Bros. Pictures Canada, Searchlight Pictures, Paramount Pictures Canada)



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