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Hannah Tran’s Top 10 Films of 2023

Written by: Hannah Tran | December 27th, 2023

This year was the perfect balance between film legends doing what they do best and newer talents giving us a few wonderful surprises. Many of my most anticipated films not only emerged as some of the year’s most popular, they also exceeded my expectations in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’m surprised by how weighty most of these selections are, despite how much they differ from one another. All of the films on this list are narrative, and half are inspired by true stories. Most importantly, they are united by their masterful demonstration of character, thematic richness, and emotional resonance. There are still some films I have yet to see that have a perfectly good chance at making this list, such as Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers, and Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction. However, all the films here had a massive impact on me this year and are fully deserving of their regard.

Below are my top ten, ranked in order of preference. Where I have previously reviewed the film, the title is hyperlinked to that review. Where I have not, I have written a short description of the movie to help explain why I chose it.

1. The Holdovers (Alexander Payne): ­I may have little in common with the characters at the center of The Holdovers, but there is not a film in recent memory that has felt so specific to me. It’s like a movie lost from another time. The nostalgic filmmaking and sincere story are lovingly nestled between bitter and sweet. There’s something so special to me about the particular dreary holiday melancholy that this film captures. I wish I could bottle up and experience the feeling I got at the end of this one forever, and I feel lucky that Payne has given it to us.

2. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)

3. The Iron Claw (Sean Durkin)

4. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan): Massive, gorgeous, and important, Oppenheimer is an astounding biopic with a strong, nuanced vision. Nolan is one of the most experimental mainstream directors, and his unique sensibilities mesh perfectly with the incomparable talents of cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, sound designer Richard King, and score composer Ludwig Göransson, to create a pointed, virtuosic story. As Robert J. Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy expertly delivers what is probably the defining performance of the year. All these talents merge into a steady and confident exploration of the limits of humanity.

5. May December (Todd Haynes): Todd Haynes is back with what is probably the most fascinating subject of the year. The sublime mind of Haynes combines with the impeccably layered screenplay by Samy Burch for a challenging, provocative, and campy masterpiece. While it keeps a distance from its characters, there is so much subtle interiority to chew on. Between the complex dialogue and the astounding performances, the characters are gifted so much nuance—and embodied through clever symbolism—that the whole is enthralling to dissect.

6. Air (Ben Affleck): Air is a simple movie that is done right. Its screenplay, written by newcomer Alex Convery, is stripped down but full of slick dialogue and powerful moments between triumph and defeat. With its nostalgic look, effortless style, and unparalleled cast, it can’t lose.

7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (Kelly Fremon Craig): Having never read the book, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to connect with Judy Blume’s story of young Margaret Simon, an eleven-year-old who begins to reckon with womanhood and the religious differences of her family all at once. Upon watching, however, I grieved for a younger me who never had this story until now. In this film, Fremon Craig crafts a beautiful, sweet tale full of wonderful characters brought to life by relatable young lead Abby Ryder Fortson and an incredibly moving Rachel McAdams.

8. Fair Play (Chloe Domont)

9. Landscape with Invisible Hand (Cory Finley): The world that this film creates is as unique, original, and foreboding as its title. From the synthy score to the ottoman-esque alien design to the genuinely moving art that sets this coming-of-age-meets-sci-fi plot in motion, it is one of a kind. And packed within its wonderfully weird world is a genuinely poignant and occasionally silly commentary on racial and class disparities.

1o. Saltburn (Emerald Fennell): This is Fennell’s second outing as a director and her second time appearing on my year end list. While not quite as polished as 2020’s Promising Young Woman, Saltburn is just as transgressive and even more absurd. Her work feels young and dumb, and I mean that as a compliment. All of the performances perfectly add to the hilarious insanity, but Barry Keoghan truly shines as a psychotic interloper, and he leaves us with an unforgettable dance sequence that marvelously encapsulates Fennell’s taste for the bizarre.


Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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