The Worst and Best of 2023 Movies

It’s that time again! Last year was the first time I really got into tracking my movie-watching habits, so my 2022 watches are the first meaningfully populated year. But 2023 has been full-throttle Letterboxd and I’ve got opinions. (Click for the list on letterboxd. Links in this article either go to my reviews on this website or my reviews on letterboxd.)

I’ll probably keep watching 2023 movies as we move through awards season; I’ll be back with future reviews if something changes.


Your Place or Mine, Cocaine Bear, and The Weeknd: Live at SoFi Stadium were the worst movies I saw come out of 2023. The former two are movies I completely bounced off of and barely finished. The Weeknd’s concert feels a little more like a personal rating because I used to really, really like his music. He’s pulled off great staging at some of his live events. I had high expectations, and this was…not good. He stood around singing the whole time, and his dancers don’t really dance. This marked falling out of love with The Weeknd’s music (his TV show, The Idol, and the extreme amount of cringe resulting from it was the real death blow).


In the category of mediocre things I still kinda enjoyed, we have Little Mermaid, Red, White, & Royal Blue (aka RWRB), and Rebel Moon.

Little Mermaid isn’t the worst of the Disney live action remakes and that’s the faintest praise with which I may damn it. Halle Bailey was charming and seemed to understand she was mostly doing a modeling job; she looks pretty through all the extremely artificial shots, projects princess vibes, and throws a giant middle finger to people who can’t handle princesses with melanin. Plus she’s great at singing!

RWRB was just so much not my interest. I don’t remember it well, but the main thing that sticks out when I reflect is how much the guy playing the prince looked like a Windsor, and how much that was a *massive* turnoff. The fairytale mirror universe version of real-world politics didn’t work for me either. But honestly, if you’d just switched these out for fake countries, this might have been one of my favorites of the year.

I already talked at length about how much I loved hating Rebel Moon, and I keep thinking about watching it again so I can laugh at it again. Zack Snyder is good at making movies I think are so wonderfully bad. He always makes me ask myself how bad his movies *really* are, when I have so much fun. You know? But I can’t defend his disaster screenplay and wouldn’t try.


My next tier includes surprisingly enjoyable watches like Renfield, Five Nights at Freddy’s (aka FNAF), Elemental, and Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain.

I’m never sure if I’m going to enjoy Nicolas Cage or be annoyed that I’m watching a Nicolas Cage movie. Renfield is one where I enjoyed him, albeit not as much as Mandy (my personal favorite recent Cage flick). The sheer ambition of the gore levels in Renfield was really endearing. It made me just want to go watch What We Do In the Shadows again, but also, I never feel like my time is wasted by yet another Dracula movie that uses whole buckets of blood.

FNAF was a long-anticipated movie in my household; I couldn’t help but enjoy it because my eldest did. I can tell you, knowing as much as I reluctantly know about this franchise, the FNAF adaptation was perfect for its audience.

Elemental was a weird slippery one for me. I liked it a lot and thought it was beautiful, but deeply flawed. The flaws didn’t seem to matter when Elemental was obviously made with so much love? I wonder if I would have rated Elemental higher a little higher when my kids were younger and more likely to sit in front of its bright colors for hours on end. I don’t get tired of loving immigrant stories, regardless.

Please Don’t Destroy is a movie by a nepobaby and his friends where you don’t hate them for the nepotism. They’re so harmlessly, stupidly funny, and concerned with the arrested development of new adulthood, that it’s hard to resent them for much of anything. Bowen Yang elevates everything he bats his eyelashes in. Plus two of the heroines are fat. That’s cool. The kids are all right.


In the tier of really great movies that came out of 2023, we have Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Blue Beetle, Nimona, and Bottoms.

My love of genre is surely showing here. Whatever else is going on in Dungeons & Dragons, I just freaking love second world fantasy, and I’ve enjoyed D&D since I forced guys to play with me in high school. This movie is charming and funny and only a little plodding. We get tracer beasts, a mimic, and Tiefling racism on-screen. For better or worse, this is my exact kind of steaming heap of genre.

Similarly, Blue Beetle reminded me why I’ve been a lifelong superhero fan. It’s healing to remember I do love superheroes so much when it feels like movies have made me mostly resent their presence these last few years. As a love letter to the classic origin story, Blue Beetle was exactly the shot of family-friendly energy I wanted this year.

Nimona was much the same, playing with all the fantasy and science fiction tropes I love in the queerest way possible. It’s the most honest, authentic expression of how *excruciatingly* lonely it is to be trans. But it’s also fun.

If you don’t want to feel any bad vibes about being gay, you might like Bottoms as much as I did. I related strongly to the ugly, untalented lesbians at the center of the movie, which reinforced one important fact: Nobody in this world will hate you for being gay, just being gay and absolutely useless. Doggedly chasing high fashion cheerleader tail when you, yourself, barely know how to wear a t-shirt and jeans is exactly the bullshit nonsense I got up to at this age, and Bottoms is the dadaist gay comedy of my dreams.


Given the themes of May December, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it. I almost didn’t make it through the first ten minutes. I’m so glad I did. This is a breathtakingly complicated movie by artists operating at the peak of their power.

The director is responsible for Velvet Goldmine, one of my all-time favorite movies. That one happens to be like colorful fanfic about David Bowie and Iggy Pop. It’s weird getting so personal about real-life figures, but May December gets even weirder by being colorful fanfic about Mary Kay Letourneau and the man she began abusing when he was a child.

You’re not allowed to be comfortable with the situation at any point, but it’s all done so well, it’s problematically good. The extreme recursive conflict of being a soapy, pulpy movie about the worst parts of real humans’ lives is centered in May December, accusing itself of exploitation while being exploitative. I’ve found that I like feeling kind of weird and gross and guilty, and the negativity of feelings from May December almost makes me want to shelve it with horror. The masterful control of storytelling made this one of the biggest standouts of the year.


There was nothing I loved this year the way I loved What Happens Later. It’s one of those things where it arrived at the right time and place in my life. I was already doing a big watch of romcoms, including romcoms with Meg Ryan, so a new Meg Ryan romcom was serendipity. (No, not that Serendipity. That’s Kate Beckinsale.)

Imagine this movie like having an air travel layover in Heaven. No, you’re not dead, despite the fact this movie definitely makes it look like the leads are dead. It’s more like something divine (God? Angels? Gen X pop-rock muzak?) has plucked Meg Ryan and David Duchovny out of their lives to force them to help each other.

With a screenplay adapted by Meg Ryan and the gift of this woman’s directorial vision, What Happens Later feels like the most beautiful sublime dream with wonderfully bittersweet emotion at its core. I’m not yet in my fifties, which is where these main characters find themselves treading water, but even now I can already relate to the strangeness of looking back on a life and asking, “What if?”

Those unanswerable questions ring in the hollow spaces of Meg Ryan’s deft work. This woman understands love and romance. She only gives us an HEA in this one (fair warning), but the power of love and hope and change is so healing that it’s way more satisfying than so many other romcoms with more definitive conclusions.

You want these two to get it together and talk things out so badly. And when they do, I was crying along with them. I loved What Happens Later a lot. I think it fell softly on the year in terms of release impact, but it’s one I plan to revisit a lot in the gray winters to come.

How would you rank your 2023 movie watches, buds?

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