2023 heralded the arrival of many much-anticipated films, including additions to popular horror franchises like Saw and Scream, more Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, and the first live action adaptation of the popular video game Five Nights At Freddy’s. Although I didn’t get to see all the new movies that I wanted to this year (such as Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Poor Things), I fortunately did watch quite a few (shoutout to Regal Unlimited!). Here are all the 2023 movies I watched this year, ranked purely based on how much I enjoyed them.
It’s not often that I regret seeing a movie in theaters, but I could have done without ever watching this movie at all. There was far too little world building; what is this advanced civilization of 65 million years ago, and what happened to them? It just dives straight into the story and never really explains the universe in which it takes place. The pacing is odd and the story is predictable. And not to be nitpicky, but why are we still depicting dinosaurs as lizard-like and featherless in 2023 when it has been known for years now that dinosaurs were much more closely related to birds than to reptiles? I like Adam Driver and I love dinosaurs, but this movie was just a waste of time.
25: The Meg 2: The Trench
NOT. ENOUGH. SHARKS. You can read all of my thoughts on this deep sea disappointment in this review.
24: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
When the credits stopped rolling, one of the friends I went to see this with said, “That was a really bad movie.” One of my other friends asked, “But in a good way, right?” He was met with silence, and we all quietly agreed that it was not in a good way. The dialogue was frequently cringey, MODOK was too much, and the ending was both illogical and incredibly anticlimactic. The film was visually stunning and Zeb was endearing (he somewhat reminded me of Korg, who is one of my favorite characters in the MCU), but those are honestly the only positive things I can say. Frankly, my favorite part of the whole movie was the extremely brief cameo by Buzzfeed Unsolved and Watcher’s Ryan Bergara and his wife.
The chupacabra is one of my favorite cryptids (which is ironic considering goats are my favorite animal but the chupacabra preys on them), so I was excited to see a new movie about this urban legend. I couldn’t decide from the trailer if Chupa was more adorable or disturbing, but after watching the full film I lean towards him being cute. He has an interesting design, although it doesn’t really align with any common descriptions of the creature.
There was no need for this movie to be a musical. It was silly and cute enough without the singing; the songs just made it worse. Still, I can’t really say I had particularly high expectations for an Adam Sandler movie about a talking lizard. It was actually pretty funny and I enjoyed watching it with my family.
Nicolas Cage’s performance as Dracula actually blew me away. He was genuinely unsettling, which was awesome and almost too good for a comedy. Unfortunately, I didn’t find this movie to be quite as funny as I had hoped or expected, and it wasn’t scary enough to make up for that. Definitely gory, though!
20: The Nun II
Okay, I’m just going to say it: the movies in The Conjuring Universe aren’t that amazing. They’re decently scary, and there are definitely worse horror movies out there, but none of them have particularly stuck with me. The Nun and its sequel are no exception. I do have to say, though, that I totally loved the goat demon in this particular film. This is probably 99% just because I’m obsessed with goats, but also the creature was genuinely horrifying and visions of it haunted me for the rest of the night.
19: Insidious: The Red Door
I’ve only seen the first two Insidious movies, and was unimpressed enough that I have no desire to watch the fourth or fifth ones. However, a good friend of mine said The Red Door was pretty good, so I decided to give it a chance. I did find it to be better than the first two, although there were a few things that could have used explaining. I may or may not have also been influenced by the fact that Ghost, one of my favorite bands of all time, performs the end-credits theme along with the film’s star Patrick Wilson (which ended up being #53 on my Spotify Wrapped this year).
I didn’t include this movie in my ranking because IMDb and Letterboxd both list it as a 2022 movie; however, since its wide theatrical release was January 2023, I do think it belongs here, especially since it was one of the most talked about horror films of this year. Unfortunately for M3GAN, though, I would describe it as creepy but not incredible. You can read my full review of the movie here.
The fact that this nonsensical movie isn’t at the very bottom of this list really is proof that this ranking is based on my subjective enjoyment, not objective quality. You can read all my thoughts about this bizarre slasher here.
16: Cocaine Bear
This movie is just as insane as you would expect. The kills were so utterly ridiculous that I often found myself just gaping wide-eyed at the screen while uttering a startled laugh. It was equally parts gory and funny, which is exactly what you want from a dark comedy like this. You can read my colleague Yali’s review of the craziness here.
15: The Boy and The Heron
This movie made me realize that I might not be as intelligent as I thought I was, because there’s just so much that I didn’t understand. Studio Ghibli movies are always full of whimsy and profound themes, but I found that this one just straight up did not make sense in many places. I also felt that it dragged several times, and it almost didn’t keep my attention for the whole duration. Still, I don’t think Hayao Miyazaki is capable of making a bad film, and I’m considering re-watching it in Japanese with subtitles instead of in the English dub as I did when I saw it in theaters. (Speaking of the English dub, I still cannot believe that was Robert Pattinson as The Heron. I NEED to see footage of him recording his lines.)
14: Zoey 102
This is pretty much everything I could have asked for in a sequel to a childhood TV show. It was just as funny as I remember Zoey 101 being, even without sticking to the early 2000s Nickelodeon brand of humor, and it was so nostalgic to see the original cast together. I do wish they would have slipped in a mention of Lola even though Victoria Justice wasn’t in the movie, especially since they mentioned Dana despite Kristin Herrera not being there either.
13: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
I confess that I have never played DND (except for the beginning of a very brief failed campaign in my early years of college), but I’ve always wanted to. I believe this film did a successful job of capturing the sense of adventure and camaraderie that makes people invested in this game. Even without being familiar with the ins and outs of DND, I was able to fully enjoy the movie and never felt lost; however, I wonder if this is because it was SO newbie-friendly that it really didn’t need to have “Dungeons & Dragons” in the title at all and could have just been any unaffiliated fantasy adventure. I have a feeling that this movie was not what DND players expected or hoped for.
12: The Marvels
I was worried that since the only Marvel TV shows I’ve seen are WandaVision and the first season of Loki, I would be lost watching a movie that stars the protagonist of Ms. Marvel. However, this was fortunately not the case (although I may have been more excited about certain parts had I watched Hawkeye and possibly Secret Invasion). That aside, I enjoyed this movie a lot despite its incredibly poor box office performance. It was funny without being too corny, and just as action-packed as you’d want any superhero movie to be. I admittedly did find Kamala Khan to be obnoxious at first, but by the end of the film I found her endearing.
11: Godzilla: Minus One
When this movie hit theaters, my Facebook news feed was flooded with posts singing its praises, hailing it as not just the best Godzilla movie ever made but also one of the greatest movies of 2023. I… did not share this sentiment. Don’t get me wrong: it was a great movie, with powerful social commentary alongside the classic monster destruction. Objectively, I know I should rank this higher, but it was hyped up SO much that I expected to leave the theater blown away in absolute awe, and that simply didn’t happen. I almost think I might have liked it better if I hadn’t seen so many glowing reviews beforehand.
I was pleasantly surprised by how good and not-cheesy this movie was. You can read my review of it here.
9: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes
When this book came out in 2020, I remember it blowing my mind. I even added it to my Favorites shelf on Goodreads. The movie, while excellent, did not leave me with the same awestruck feeling. I have always found that The Hunger Games movies were some of the best book-to-movie adaptations out there, so I’m a little disappointed that the newest addition to the franchise didn’t feel as incredible. It certainly could have been MUCH worse, though! I’m just being nitpicky because I loved the book so much.
8: Five Nights At Freddy’s
All I know about FNAF is what one of my students has told me about it, so I went into this movie with a mostly clean slate. Since I was fortunate enough not to be distracted by any inconsistencies in the lore, I had a great time! I had somehow managed to avoid being spoiled about who the villain is, so that reveal literally made me gasp out loud. Movies are much easier for me to consume than video games, and my to-read shelf is far too long for me to add the FNAF books to it, so I’m excited to see this franchise continue on the big screen.
7: Haunted Mansion
It’s been many years since I’ve watched Eddie Murphy’s The Haunted Mansion (I actually may not have even ever watched it at all; I can’t remember), but I really, REALLY enjoyed this rendition. I was drawn in by the star-studded cast (Danny DeVito AND Owen Wilson? There’s no way this movie wasn’t going to be hilarious) and was surprised to find that in addition to the humor, it also had a moment or two that made me tear up. There was also at least one jump scare that genuinely startled me and reminded me that the movie is rated PG-13.
6: Knock at the Cabin
I was already biased in this movie’s favor because 1) I’m in love with Dave Bautista and 2) the ending scene was filmed just 10 miles away from my house. However, I did genuinely think it was a great film. It was extremely suspenseful with excellent performances from the whole cast. I was also very pleased with the queer representation and how they portrayed Andrew and Eric not as just a couple of gay guys that adopted a kid (like the show Modern Family often does with Cam and Mitchell), but rather as two parents who love each other and are fiercely protective of their daughter.
5: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The multiverse is all the rage in superhero movies nowadays. While this concept can be super confusing, I believe that Across the Spider-Verse handles it the best. The plethora of Spider-people (and animals) that we see both taking center stage and appearing in the background provide tons of Easter eggs for long-time Spider-Man fans while still being entertaining for watchers who are new to or just less familiar with the franchise. In addition, the unique animation style is mesmerizing, especially the way Hobie is animated; I’ve never seen anything like it. I will say, though, that the cliffhanger this movie ends on is infuriating. I wish they had ended a little sooner and saved the final parts for Beyond The Spider-Verse, although I’m sure that movie is already going to be at least 2 hours long so they probably wouldn’t have room for much more.
4: Scream VI
I have to confess: As much as I love individual horror movies, I’ve actually never followed any of the classic slasher franchises. I didn’t watch A Nightmare on Elm Street until I was a freshman in college, Halloween until 2022, and Friday the 13th this past October—and I’ve never seen any of the sequels for any of those three movies, just the originals. When I saw that Scream VI was coming to theaters, however, I set aside an entire day binging the first 5 Screams. I loved them so much that I named my new kitten Sidney Prescat. Although there are very mixed reviews about the new direction that the movies have taken, I personally very much enjoyed the two most recent additions to the franchise. I was particularly impressed by VI because the scene on the subway genuinely scared me more than anything I have ever seen in a horror movie. Maybe it’s just because I hate New York City and I was robbed at a metro station in Paris, but the suspense of that scene had me almost hyperventilating. It takes a lot to get such a visceral reaction out of me.
3: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
It took me a long time to finally watch this movie because I didn’t want to see it without my parents since they loved the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but my mom kept putting it off because she had read that it was sad. Well, she was right. I’ve shed some tears over a few Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in the past, but this is the first one that left me full-on bawling. Rocket’s back story is not only horrendously cruel and heartbreaking, it’s also horrifying. I’ve seen horror movies that are less scary than some of the monstrosities we see in Rocket’s past; in my Letterboxd review of this movie, I called it “The Marvelification of The Island of Dr. Moreau.” With all that being said, this isn’t in the Top 3 of this list because I’m a sucker for pain: it was genuinely moving and full of heart.
There’s a good reason why this movie broke so many records at the box office. It perfectly captures the nostalgia of playing with Barbie dolls while also criticizing the patriarchy in an effective yet comical way. In addition to being hilarious, there was a surprising amount of emotionally heavy moments, and my mom and I both found ourselves sobbing real tears at least three times. I definitely feel like this movie was worth the hype, and I hope it brings home at least a couple of Oscars. (PS: “I’m Just Ken” ended up as #48 on my 2023 Spotify Wrapped.)
1: Saw X
As with Scream, I am embarrassingly new to the Saw franchise: I watched the first movie for the first time in 2022, and then binged the remaining 8 movies in the span of 4 days in preparation for Saw X. Somehow, however, it feels as though I’ve loved these movies for years. Anyway, with the first 9 movies so fresh in my memory, I can confidently say that Saw X is by far one of the best films, if not the best film, in the entire franchise. Jigsaw always chooses his victims based on their wrongdoings, but this time we witness their crimes firsthand and can feel John Kramer’s despair as he seeks revenge. You can read my colleague Martin’s review of this masterpiece here.