The Movie Waffler TMW’s 50 Best Movies of 2023 | The Movie Waffler

TMW’s 50 Best Movies of 2023

TMW’s 50 Best Movies of 2023
Our faves from another great year for movies.

As another year comes to a close it's time to crunch the numbers and employ a highly scientific process to determine the 50 best movies of 2023, or at least our favourites.


50. Blackberry
We said: It's testament to Matt Johnson's storytelling skills that we remain invested in the lead players, despite them being the sort of people we'd cross the road to avoid in real life. One of the guilty pleasures of cinema is being able to root for assholes, and there are few bigger assholes than Jim Balsillie, or at least this version of him.

Raging Grace

49. Raging Grace
We said: With his feature debut, British writer-director Paris Zarcilla taps into his Filipino roots for a modern update on a classic British horror format, adding issues of race and immigration to the still hot button topic of class.

Infinity Pool

48. Infinity Pool
We said: I think I know what Infinity Pool is about, but I could be wrong. One thing I know for sure is that Brandon Cronenberg knows exactly what he's doing here. If he is wrestling with insecurity (and what good artist doesn't?), it isn't reflected in his work, which is as confident as that of the best of today's genre filmmakers.


47. Reality
We said: Sydney Sweeney is excellent in what are essentially dual roles: that of Reality Winner and of the role of wide-eyed innocent Winner adopts before she's backed into a corner and forced to confess.


46. Influencer
We said: Its title wouldn't have drawn recognition a mere decade ago, but Influencer's contemporary concerns mask a classic thriller, one that could have been made 30 or 80 years ago. Technology may change, but thrillers always rely on a compelling villain and a twisty plot, both of which are very much present here.

Until Branches Bend

45. Until Branches Bend
We said: Director Sophie Jarvis poses the question of what if Erin Brockovich wasn't smart, sassy and sexy, but rather a socially awkward introvert who struggles to hold a simple conversation with another human, let alone take on a company. The answer is a uniquely rewarding spin on the environmental thriller sub-genre.

I Used to Be Funny

44. I Used to Be Funny
We said: It's a movie of two distinct halves, one being a feelgood friendship comedy as we warm to Sam and Brooke's sisterly relationship, the other a dark drama about recovering from a heinous act. What's so distinctive about Ally Pankiw's approach is how she so effortlessly blends the two.

Full Time

43. Full Time
We said: There are no real villains in Full Time, and everyone who presents an obstacle to Julie's progress is simply trying to get by themselves, from the striking train drivers to her boss at the hotel. If there's an antagonist in Eric Gravel's film it's simply modern life, which increasingly leaves us less and less time for living.


42. Medusa
We said: Concerned with female-on-female violence and the rising wave of active conservatism in Brazil, Rocha da Silveira's film is a serious satire of where the filmmaker sees Brazil heading, and which confronts its audience with vivid and sensual imagery to make its point.


41. Lola
We said: With Lola, director Andrew Legge does for The Kinks what Danny Boyle's Yesterday failed to do for The Beatles.

Fallen Leaves

40. Fallen Leaves
We said: While it's as doleful and deadpan as any of his films, Fallen Leaves might be Aki Kaurismaki's most accessible film to date. It has the narrative simplicity of a Chaplin short and it's the perfect entry point for those new to his distinctive aesthetic and worldview.

Blue Jean

39. Blue Jean
We said: Georgia Oakley films with a conspicuously female gaze, where lesbian sex is celebrated, and female flesh is illicitly charged. There are a couple of group shower scenes that would make Brian DePalma drop his walking stick, although here the depiction of nudity is not voyeuristic, but pertains to danger.

How to Have Sex

38. How to Have Sex
We said: The revelatory Mia McKenna-Bruce plays Tara as though she's uncomfortable with being a teenager and the expectations that come with it. Towered over by her statuesque-in-comparison friends and practically everyone else, Tara is always the smallest person in the room, always in danger of being tread on, physically or metaphorically.


37. Pamfir
We said: The pagan energy of Pamfir transcends its conditional contexts and, in its final scenes especially, becomes a universal treatise on what it means to be a man.


36. Monica
We said: In blunter filmmaking hands, Monica would inevitably lead to tearful monologues and fiery confrontations, but Andrea Pallaoro takes a refreshingly subtle and nuanced approach to this subject. Monica and Eugenia bond through glances and touches rather than dialogue.

The Royal Hotel

35. The Royal Hotel
We said: Kitty Green has added much needed nuance to the largely binary conversation around the MeToo movement. Her films portray men as predatory, regardless of whether they possess the power of a Harvey Weinstein or are lowly blue collar grunts. But she also dares to explore female complicity and refreshingly, she doesn't care if we like her female protagonists or not.

The Settlers

34. The Settlers
We said: Felipe Gálvez's directorial debut is striking in its portrayal of atrocities committed against an indigenous people. Not because it's particularly graphic or blunt in its condemnation of the birth of a nation (in this case Chile) but because it's so matter of fact about the evil men do.


33. Amanda
We said: It's credit to Carolina Cavalli's writing and Benedetta Porcaroli's performance that the crazier Amanda behaves, the more we warm to her. She's narcissistic from the point of view of believing she's more intelligent than everyone around her, but the thing is, she's probably right.


32. Haar
We said: Haar is a tender tale of a tough woman. With its protagonist traversing a scenic European city, it has the feel of Linklater's Before Sunrise, but instead of asking the audience if two protagonists might fall in love, it proffers the question of whether one woman might learn to love herself.


31. Parachute
We said: What makes Parachute stand out from similar narratives is that rather than posing the question of whether two people who clearly love one another will get together, it asks whether they should get together.

Killers of the Flower Moon

30. Killers of the Flower Moon
We said: Martin Scorsese doesn't make set-pieces out of the killings. There's a swiftness to their brutality, and they're often carried out like errands by men eager to get a dirty deed out of the way before they go drinking or gambling, who react to being ordered to kill like a teenage boy whose mother has asked to bring the bins in.


29. Monolith
We said: Any film that revolves around a single character will ultimately succeed or fail on the strength of the performer occupying that role. Lily Sullivan is magnificent as The Interviewer, evolving from cocksure and confident to paranoid, nervous wreck as the mystery overwhelms her and seems intent on wrapping her up in its enigmatic tentacles.

The Mental State

28. The Mental State
We said: The eternal tragedy of every teenager is their inability to see the bigger picture, to understand the longevity of adulthood and the consequences of youthful actions. In The Mental State we see the effects of violence, both short term and long,  in empathetic, crushing delineation.

Paradise is Burning

27. Paradise is Burning
We said: The movie's closing scenes evoke that knot in the stomach every teenager feels on the last weekend of the summer holidays, when you've been allowed to simply be a kid for a few weeks but must return to a world governed by adults, a world that makes little sense for a teen and not much more for an adult either.


26. Europa
We said: As Beate, Lilith Stangenberg is a terrifying presence, one of the great villains of recent cinema. It's riveting to watch her move through the gears as Beate gradually changes her approach from a benevolent figure who claims to want to improve the life of a disadvantaged community to one who employs the sort of tactics you might expect from a mobster running a protection racket.

War Pony

25. War Pony
We said: Despite its very American setting and very American theme of entrepreneurial endeavours, War Pony has a universal quality that could be translated to any part of the world where a working class community has been left to rot.

Love According to Dalva

24. Love According to Dalva
We said: It's hard to think of more troubling subject matter than Dalva's backstory, but Emmanuelle Nicot has created a movie that is thoroughly charming. Watching Dalva open up to kids her own age and embrace the simple delights of childhood is quite affecting.

More Than Ever

23. More Than Ever
We said: More Than Ever depicts illness and that attendant sense of being in life's shadow with an unflinching but unceremonious camera. Naturally, most of the film's compulsive humanity rests on the great Vicky Krieps, but the subtlety of Emily Atef's filmmaking has a magnetic relatability.

Law of Tehran

22. Law of Tehran
We said: I've never seen a thriller so invested in the process of temporary incarceration as Law of Tehran, with hundreds of men piled into overcrowded cells, the stench of urine and desperation almost wafting off the screen.

What You Wish For

21. What You Wish For
We said: There's some delicious irony at play here. Ryan finds himself in a nightmarish scenario, yet it also offers him the chance to live his dream of preparing the meal of his life. Nick Stahl brilliantly conveys this duality, swapping back and forth between sweaty desperation and professional pride.

Past Lives

20. Past Lives
We said: We know this isn't the sort of romantic drama that will climax in a late dash to the airport, but its brilliance lies in how it makes us wish for such a comforting cliché.

Love Life

19. Love Life
We said: With its melancholic humour, tinkly piano score and profound human insight, Koji Fukada's latest might be mistaken for the work of his compatriots Hirokazu Kore-eda or Naomi Kawase.


18. Close
We said: I imagine any parents who watch Lukas Dhont's devastating drama may start paying slightly more attention to their own children. Filmmakers can often over-estimate the importance of their work, but if Close causes one parent or teacher to step in before tragedy strikes, it will be the most important movie of the year.

Return to Seoul

17. Return to Seoul
We said: Freddie is difficult to like and even more difficult to understand, but she's never not charismatic, and we don't give up on her because we always sense that every time she hurts someone, she hurts herself a little more.


16. Deadland
We said: With its sweaty American SouthWest setting and Border Patrol protagonists, Deadland recalls 1980s thrillers like The Border and Flashpoint, but it's also a ghost story, a tale of fathers, sons and (un?)holy spirits.

Tobacco Barns

15. Tobacco Barns
We said: There's something of the young Penelope Cruz about Ada Mar, not just in her movie star looks but in how she's able to effortlessly convey a simultaneous mix of feistiness and vulnerability. For a first-timer, her work here is remarkable.

Sometimes I Think About Dying

14. Sometimes I Think About Dying
We said: Daisy Ridley is really only known for her role in the Star Wars franchise, so her performance here almost feels like we're seeing her for the first time, and she's revelatory. She proves herself a consummate screen actor, conveying multitudes through simple physical gestures like angling her head in a manner that hides her face, or moving her hands awkwardly like an alien who finds themselves possessing fingers for the first time.

Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor

13. Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor
We said: It's very rare for me to be able to say I was honestly unnerved by a horror film, and I don't believe horror even needs to be scary to work, as the genre is about far more than that. But watching The Carmichael Manor at home alone on a stormy night with the wind whistling down my chimney and the front door creaking, well, congrats got me.


12. Lakelands
We said: Much of Lakelands can make life in rural Ireland seem like a monotonous drag, reliant upon the distractions of sport and alcohol to get through another week, but occasionally the film will pause to observe Cian as he looks over land and lakes and takes in their beauty, breathing deep breaths of clean country air perfumed by cow shite. Sure it could be worse.


11. Tár
We said: What a protagonist Lydia Tár is. Cate Blanchett's great strength has always been in portraying women who seem to have it together on the outside while falling apart emotionally, so it's no surprise that Todd Field wrote the part specifically for the Aussie star.

Master Gardener

10. Master Gardener
We said: If you think two damaged people finding comfort in one another is obscene, this probably isn't the movie for you. If you want to see a master filmmaker making peace with the world as he prepares to leave it, Master Gardener should be top of your watch list.

Falcon Lake

9. Falcon Lake
We said: Charlotte Le Bon's directorial debut suggests great things to come. She's made a movie with a universal theme everyone can relate to, but which feels intensely personal. Along with cinematographer Kristof Brandl she's created an evocative world that will have you pining for your own childhood summers.

The Beasts

8. The Beasts
We said: When Rodrigo Sorogoyen takes the narrative into full-on thriller territory, he does so in stunningly effective fashion. The Beasts is one of the most tense films I've seen in recent years, and that Sorogoyen is able to make us identify with a character who isn't entirely likeable is testament to his skills in cinematic manipulation.

Talk to Me

7. Talk to Me
We said: I can't remember being so traumatised by a horror film, yet here I am, excited about the next time I watch it and thrilled about whatever dark gems the Philippous cut in the future.

One Fine Morning

6. One Fine Morning
We said: Léa Seydoux tangibly conveys the feelings of a woman who needs to be strong for both her father and her daughter, who doesn't have the luxury of being able to curl up in bed for a few hours and cry her eyes out.

Godzilla Minus One

5. Godzilla Minus One
We said: Godzilla Minus One is a proper spectacle, the sort of movie that makes you feel like an ant as you stare up at the screen. Spectacle is nothing without heart though, and Godzilla Minus One throbs with humanity.

The Killer

4. The Killer
We said: Despite its bleakness, The Killer is a surprisingly humorous movie from a director not exactly known for making laugh riots. There's a lot of physical comedy generated by Michael Fassbender, who plays the role like a man who believes he's Sean Connery but is actually Roger Moore.

The Eternal Daughter

3. The Eternal Daughter
We said: Seasoned viewers will predict where this is going but the final revelation is less of a twist and more of an inevitability. How this all ends is moot; it's about the time we get to spend with these two women, neither of whom are particularly remarkable, which makes their relationship all the more affecting.

That They May Face The Rising Sun

2. That They May Face The Rising Sun
We said: This is a film almost completely devoid of the sort of elements screenwriting gurus insist are essential. There's practically no conflict and the biggest drama comes when two old men reenact a scene from The Playboy of the Western World. It's about the simple joy of living day to day, of friends drifting in and out of your life and your kitchen, of being content with your lot. It's beautiful.

Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One

1. Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
We said: From the off there's something a little different about this entry in the franchise. You get the sense that the stakes are higher, not for the planet, but for Ethan Hunt and his friends. You feel they may not get out of this one, and it's a mark of how we've gotten to know them so well over previous films that we actually care.