The Best Films of 2023
2023 unquestionably has been one the wildest and most unpredictable years for cinema in probably a whole decade. With superhero flicks taking a backseat both in earnings and in quality, independent cinema gaining major attention than ever before, the strikes from the SAG-AFTRA & WGA to help protect the industry and thousands of jobs for artists, to the unexpected cultural phenomenon double feature of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie & Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer - “Barbenheimer”. These two were the biggest sensations this year. A hit with critics and audiences alike and surprisingly the substantial box office winners this year. We honestly can’t imagine what 2024 will bring to us after everything this year, though we sure can look forward to quite a lot of what’s to come. That will be a discussion for another day, for now let's get into some of the best movies 2023 had to offer us. Before we get into the top 10, let’s start off with some honorable mentions. There were many films that didn’t end up making the cut or one’s that I missed out on, so just like any “best list” these are just personal picks. Hopefully this list can help expand your cinema background and bring you closer together with the rest of us cinephiles.
- May December
- Dream Scenario
- Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
- Creed III
- No One Will Save You
- Asteroid City
- The Killer
- Past Lives
- The Zone of Interest
- Polite Society
- Anatomy of a Fall
- You Hurt My Feelings
- Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
- Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One
Talk to Me is the best horror film of 2023 by a landslide. From brothers Danny and Michael Phillippou all the way from Australia, getting their start from YouTube (RackaRacka) and have now made their way on to their directorial debut which has become the most original, stylish, and consistent horror picture that’s come out this year. The Phillippou’s we’re not afraid to get dirty here, it feels like a true revelation to see a film like this that has real intent and grit behind it from beginning to end. The film is not just downright mean throughout its runtime, it has an enormous amount of excitement and emotional weight holding it all tightly. Spiritual possession has been done to death no doubt, even certain themes and scares that this film showcases has been done before, but it’s the way these brothers do it is why it’s unique. If anybody actually takes the time and watches their home made YouTube videos can track why this film has such gifted energy to it, and even a bit immaturity to it (in a good way) since we are dealing with teenagers at the end of the day (particularly because it’s Gen Z), it all feels justified and mind-bending in such a thrilling way that can’t be stressed enough. The talent behind and infront of the camera are both equivalent, the teenagers here actually feel real, they feel messy, and the weight of their decisions actually make us root and hurt for them. The performances all around never felt forced here, but the name Sophie Wilde should now be on everyone’s radar. Horror movies have been a bit stale this year, but Talk to Me was the most disturbing and exciting one to come out. The existence of this film is relishing, seeing a couple of YouTubers take what they have learned and worked so hard to create over the years and apply it to film should no doubt inspire artists going forward. Cannot wait to see what the Phillippou brothers have planned next.
Ahhh, the good ol days of the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry smartphone is treated almost like a fairy tale in today’s time, if anybody even remembers the phone at this point. It’s so sad and embarrassing to see the founders and hundreds of employees create what was at the time the most useful tool in all of America, even going from owning 50% of the smartphone market only to get completely obliterated by some guy in a turtleneck (Steve Jobs). For the film BlackBerry however, there have been a lot of business biopics this year from Air, Tetris, Flamin’ Hot, and Dumb Money and they all have been either decent or lukewarm with critics and audiences alike. It’s probably because this subgenre does get oversaturated a lot of the time as many of them try to copy off or one-up the brilliance of The Social Network and can never match that film's magnetic force. When it comes to BlackBerry this is the best one to come out not only this year, but probably even since 2015’s The Big Short. What makes this one memorable is not only its aesthetic and style, but that it isn’t your typical feel-good rags-to-riches story even though this is partially a comedy. A bunch of geniuses and a bunch of idiots who were involved in the epic rise & fall of what was the greatest creation of a technological device of the time. Directed by Matt Johnson, who also co stars in the film alongside Jay Baruchel as Mike Lazarides one the founders and Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie the businessman who stepped in and helped bring the phone into the market. This film will still be compared to films like The Big Short and The Social Network, as they all deal with illegal activities, backstabbing, companies growing, other companies stepping in and those comparisons are earned, but Director Matt Johnson really is shooting for something different here, he’s creating more of a caricature rather than going for a profound screenplay or character study but exaggerating for more of a comedic effect. Whether certain things in this film happened in real life or not does not really matter because the style and tone are at the forefront and they both manage to create many iconic moments that will be impossible to forget the films messages of work culture, the consequences of being only good enough and how BlackBerry failed because they ultimately couldn’t keep up with the times. The film has a great balance of the cutthroat business side and the nerdy tech side and how they intertwine within each other so at times it makes you feel as if you’re watching a tech thriller. It’s all marginalized with great editing and heightens both those sides of the business because it makes the jargon and conceptual side really easy to understand like how they switched to data, how many phones were allowed on the network, market shares, stock prices, all made not only by being accessible but engaging. Mike and Jim both act as proxies for the opposite side of the business. Jay Barachuel and Glenn Howerton really bring out the best performances of their careers, they’re mostly known for their comedic appearances, but here they both bring out the best of that world and thensome. Matt Johnson also shoots this all in handheld and is some of the best use of it in awhile, not only gives it this a docu-drama approach, but really heightens the heated conversations and the nerdiness of the 90’s and early 2000’s so you can definitely tell this is made by a film lover. The film flew under the radar when it released in theaters earlier in the year unfortunately, but this is definitely one worth checking out on streaming or rental if you’re in the mood for not only some tech and history education, just simply for a good ol time.
For as big as the Barbie name is, I don't think anybody predicted that this would not only come out on top as the highest grossing film of the year (net $1.442. Billion), but ended up being the most fun time at the movies this year with the most challenging source material at its core. Yes, the Barbie movie is challenging source material just not in the way some may think, not talking about the Barbie name and complexities of the character because that is a whole other topic. It’s the fact that the company/owners of Barbie “Mattel” were directly involved with this project and haven’t allowed one of their toys to have a live action debut ever and usually when that happens it usually is not a very good sign. Even some of the marketing had a lot of people scratching their heads on what is this movie trying to say, why is it being made, and how it will be relevant in today’s time with Barbie’s and toys all across the world becoming an afterthought. When companies get involved with the making of their products being turned into a movie or television show, studios like to play it very safe without really exploring any new territories. It’s understandable that it’s pretty difficult to attract people to go to the movies nowadays which is why studios have to lean in such a direction and end up with a half baked, fine, or just good enough over something truly strange and different. Many were worried, myself included, that Barbie would become just that or even worse and never give it a second thought once it’s initial release. AND HOLY COW! Barbie is THAT good. This is the most enjoyable filmmaking I’ve seen all year. Every new character, every new detail, every new, every new prop made me grin throughout its entire 114 minute runtime. This was the most overwhelming joy I've been filled with all year long and I haven’t walked away from a film that made me believe this hard in movie magic in probably 10 years like Barbie did. I wanted to wear nothing but pink for the rest of the day after seeing this delight. The production design is too perfect and can be discussed for a week straight, it genuinely makes you feel as if you are living in a toyworld. The textures, the props, the colors, everything here is nothing short of masterful. Never once does it feel as if they’re just throwing things at us; it all feels intentional and placed in properly. Director Greta Gerwig really has the magic touch when it comes to this art form, I knew all the way back in 2017 when Lady Bird released that she was going to become the most talked about director working in the industry today and would later go on to tackle stories like Lady Bird and Little Women on a much grander scale, and little did I know that grander scale of a film would be a Barbie movie. It’s blushing to see Gerwig and her partner Noah Baumbach pen the script together on this because they are both some of the funniest and heartwarming artists working in the industry. The performances from everybody in the ensemble cast are giving 110% all around, obviously Margot Robbie is a gem. It’s almost impossible not to imagine her as Barbie because she always had such a natural beauty to her, she is doing so well here it’s almost as if she’s treating this film as the last performance she’ll ever give. Ryan Gosling as Ken on the other hand… I mean what hell is there left to say that hasn’t been said already? The man was born to play this role and it brings me so much catharsis to finally see him get the recognition he’s deserved his entire career and I’m glad this role finally did it for him. While the film can feel a bit artificial and non-human at times there is a bit of everything in here for anyone to enjoy and at least the film has things to actually say that are important and brings awareness to certain discussions such as body image, self-esteem, identity, and falsehood. Barbie is a playful, dazzling, and funny movie that manages to capture what roles we as humans and the symbol of Barbie mean to us in 2023 exceptionally. Seeing this film on opening day felt like I was being transported back to 2008 with multiplexes packed with audiences lined up for a double feature, all geared up in both of the films' costume designs. I hope WB and other major Hollywood studios realize by giving audiences something different that they’re invested in and they will show up. It can’t be the umpteenth variation of the same thing that comes out every two months, which is why the superhero fatigue is dying out (more on that topic later), releasing Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day was the best thing to happen to movies in a long time and it was all because moviegoers such as myself wanted something new to believe in, not because a major billion dollar corporate studio told us to. Anyways, let the celebration of Barbie’s succession continue because we’re certainly never going to get something like this again.
#7. Killers of the Flower Moon
The name Martin Scorsese should speak for itself, so if anyone out there that is not familiar with the man’s work or the name then stop reading this and go watch Goodfellas, that’ll tell you everything you need to know about the man and his work. He is 80 years old and still going strong. We're now presented with Killers of the Flower Moon, a project he has been working on for a while now and one that he has said is very personal to him. With Scorsese you probably know just like most of his work it’s going to be a morality tale caught in a wild web of greed, vengeance, betrayal, injustice all done in the rich fundamental way we’ve come to know from Scorsese. Even when somebody as exceptional as him may not be at his best necessarily he’s still doing much better than your average filmmaker could do on their very best day. As for the elephant in the room, there’s been a lot of dreadful discourse about the film's runtime from people who have seen the film and even people who haven’t yet. It clocks in at 3 hours and 26 minutes and that was the turnoff for a lot of people. Personally I was able to feel the runtime but never once was I bored with the film because the film is engaging and impressively well paced, I wish I could say it flew by but 3 and a half hours is A LOT of movie. Our bodies have an internal clock though watching a 3 in a half hour movie in a theater flys by much quicker than watching one at home and I’ll debate anybody that says otherwise. The runtime should be at the bottom of this film's topics because it’s almost as if everyone’s treating this as some chore and have forgotten that Scorsese is one of the most entertaining filmmakers who ever lived. Now that’s out of the way I can finally say that this film is spectacular, surprise surprise Martin Scorsese made a great film. Not going to go into any particular plot points or character choices or singular motivations in case anyone is still looking to go in fresh, as for the premise itself the film takes place in the 1920’s in Oklahoma centered in the Osage Nation where oil was discovered and in Scorsese fashion it quickly becomes a story of American wealth, greed, and murder with some of the prominently characters involved with such murders. It’s a case study of American history and the abuse of power with the erasure of Native American culture. The subject matter is dire and disturbing, but Scorese really takes us through the ringer with each character making sure we understand everybody’s intent and desires to paint the whole picture. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robet De Niro are dynamite here as in every Scorsese movie they are in, but for me it is Lily Gladstone who is the backbone of this movie who holds it all together, her captivating eyes and subtle movements make you feel every bit of nuance in her performance and showcase everything you need to know about not just her mindset, but the entirety of the Osage tribe. What makes this film standout to other of Scorese’s past filmography is it’s fearlessness, he didn’t need to prove himself as a fearless filmmaker as he’s been doing so since his start, it’s the fact that it’s a new genre he’s exploring a Western, especially this late in his career and tackling a subject matter as sensitive as the Osage murderers and not by only pulling it off respectively but by taking themes he’s built on explored in his entire career into a story like this. It not only recontextualizes some of this history that resonates on a deeper level to general audiences, but his one work itself. Scorsese is at this point in his career where’s he’s reflecting on some of the quality of his themes and traits such with films such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Silence, and The Irishman they all share a more wiser and more critical perspective on the stories he’s told in the past and Killers of the Flower Moon is no different. It’s a perspective that only a few filmmakers as giant as Martin Scorsese can properly examine and Killers not only commentates on how exploitative the true crime genre has become but it takes it and does it the right way an ending that is so jarring that not only have I haven’t seen done from Scorese before and but is is one of the best and urgent finales to a film all year long. Killers of the Flower Moon proved to be another engulfing epic from one of the great living legends, Scorsese has talked about his age recently and hopes to continue making films while he can and I say salute to that!
#6. The Iron Claw
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Von Erich family might wanna save any research about the history of that name until watching this. The story of the Von Erich family is so tragic costar Jeremy Allen White said it best in an interview when researching about the character he would be playing, studying the history he said it sounded almost like folklore and after seeing it for myself I can say while watching this film it feels so surreal to see how true and devastating this story was such a big family. On top of that, imaging how difficult it must have been to make in the process because of its tragedy. The Iron Claw is a family portrait with a big wealth of characters navigating their way into the wrestling scenery in the early 1980’s. Coming to us from the best movie studio today A24 and starring Zac Efron, Harrison Dickson, Jermey Allen White, and Lily James who all deliver their best performances (particularly Efron). If wrestling or sports movies aren’t your niche I encourage you to hear me out, this film is so much more than just wrestling it’s a cautionary tale and very reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler another very tragic tale about wrestlers if that gives you a better picture of what to expect in this film. What The Iron Claw gets right about being a biopic in a year oversaturated with them is that it has a why, a cinematic why and not just another retelling of objective happenings and not a trite exploration of legacy and masculinity. Director Sean Durkin really elevates this film into something incredibly more hopeful, spiritual, and universal, that may all seem generic for this genre, but once you witness that 3rd act of the film it’s all completely justified. The film is rooted in this framing device of a family curse, the family is very superstitious about bad luck tied to their family name, it’s slightly teased at the beginning of the film but it lurks in the background lightly throughout the rest of the runtime. You do get your crowd-pleasing moments you’d expect in a film like this, a romance, training montages, and fun synchronized wrestling team ups (which they filmed entire matches to choose what footage to use), but then the film hits this complete tonal shift and whatever film you thought you were watching is all gone now. It surprisingly starts to subvert the All-American golden boy legacy that this film starts to have and gets deeper into their family dynamic once all of these horrific things start to happen to them. A very important detail that The Iron Claw draws into is the attention given to the mental health of athletes but in general male mental health and our societal notions of strength in men. Really don’t want to dive into too many specifics, but while this many not may be your typical feel good sports flick it’s definitely one to watch as a family because it’s reminds families what’s important family values and despite the complexities of our relationships, A24 releasing it right before Christmas was a smart decision. This is definitely one to watch around the holidays, while this probably won’t spark up any conversations at the Oscars this is one that should not go underlooked for anyone looking for a sports film that has more to offer such as The Iron Claw.
#5. Poor Things
By far the most wild and inventive film that has come out this year is none other than Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things. If you’ve seen or heard of any of the movies from the Greek filmmaker whether it’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lobster, or The Favorite you know it’s going to be very unusual and absurd. If you don’t have the stomach for his films or you simply just find the dialogue and satire of his work a bit stilted then this one probably won’t change your mind. For myself, I loved every second of this. To me Lanthimos is one of the most consistent and unique directors working today and whenever he announces a new film there’s a special kind of anticipation I build up exclusively for him which I try my very best to avoid with any filmmaker, actor, or film to avoid feeling of despondency. No matter how much of expectations I set for Lanthimos he always manages to present something so much weirder and a lot better than I could have ever hoped for. Poor Things stars Emma Stone as Bella Baxter, a victorian woman who is brought back to life from an unorthodox scientist played by the great Willen Dafoe and sets out on a journey of self discovery, liberation, existence, and body exploration. So that’s just the film's tagline, that description doesn’t even come close to what the film is actually about. Just like most of Lanthimos’s work his characters often feel stiff and have to explore humanity from a ground level, his sets feel like doll houses which is why a story such as Poor Things is the perfect exploration for somebody like him to dip his hands into. Bella is a woman discovering the world for the very first time as a grown up infant transitioning into adulthood while learning about societal norms, sexual liberation, and even simply learning how to walk. Essentially why the film is often being compared to a Frankenstein story or even the Barbie film this year for adults or just us weirdos, those comparisons are valid but not only is it still mildly different from those works it still manages to set itself apart from even other Lanthimos films. I honestly don’t know how he did it but he did. The cinematography is really some of the best this year, even if the film isn’t your cup of tea many can agree the technicality is a marvel. The steampunk setting makes everything from the camera work feel all the more sensational, Bella will travel to some of the most famous cities in the world such as Paris and Lisbon but then turn the cities into these absurd otherworldly versions of themselves yet somehow still manage to capture the essence of them it’s so mind bending. Even though this is a world of fantasy and science fiction it all feels completely lived in. Even from the title cards of Bella in slow motion moving over to these dreamlike settings is so gorgeous and the last thing I ever would have thought that I would be praising from a film this year is stinking title cards and yet here we are. That’s just what you get when you have some like Lantimos at the helm. This film can be studied and overanalyzed for hours (just like every single one of his films), but that would just take too much time away from the other films that we have yet to dive into. In the end Poor Things is unlike anything else I’ve seen this year. It's lovable, inspirational, original, disturbing, and all of the things a film with heart should have. This one really felt like Lanthimos’s most humane film to date and a lot of that is thanks to Emma Stone having such a commanding yet loveable presence here. She really brings out such a funny and heartwarming performance here that could’ve easily come off as offensive or even cartoonish, yet she completely lives in it and makes out something very tragic yet inspiring with the character. Throughout its 2 hour and 21 minute runtime you can’t help but feel what she's feeling in every scene, you never get bored of her and she never feels one note. Stone not only gives the most committed performance of this year, but of her entire career up to this point, she and Lanthimos really made something special here. Hopefully we get to see this much creative liberty next year from other studios and artists.
#4. The Holdovers
With as many films as I watch over the course every year there’s rarely a film that makes me feel a certain way about wanting to live in the world that is being presented to me. Once every 5 years or such is there a film that i’ll come across that makes me bask about its tone, its feel, or aura of the environment that just makes me not wanna leave said place and I’m sure everyone has felt that way at least once in their life with one film they’ve experienced in life. The Holdovers is that movie through and through. For the narrative The Holovers tells an amazing story of three different individuals played by Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da’vine Joy Randolph seemingly trapped in three different stages in life at a New England boarding school on Christmas break in the 1970’s. Each dealing with their own struggles and deep-seated pain, these otherwise unrelated characters find solace in helping each other heal and grow, ultimately breeding comfort from the wreckage of unimaginable damage. That should be descriptive enough as a premise. The Holdovers is the film of 2023 I never knew I wanted until I saw it. It's been a while since there’s been a new Christmas movie that brought new flavor to the table. Though this saying gets thrown out a lot nowadays, The Holdovers IS the one that “they just make movies like that anymore” and yet they did and it exists here. The film not only excels within its writing and directing, which are both still outstanding, but its cinematography and overall aesthetics are what stay true to its 1970’s setting. The film even goes the extra mile in crafting its visual presentation, reflecting the cinematic style of that era. It’s not just about looking like it was shot on film; the camera movements, zooms, and overall composition bring back the feel of movies from 50 years ago. Each detail fosters a bygone atmosphere, evoking a nostalgic sensation reminiscent of films half a century ago. As impressive as it all is, it’s still not the deepest, most ambitious, or most profound filmmaking to come out this year, but it's perfect on what it’s trying to do and is definitely a film I can see myself rewatching for years and years to come. It’s cozy, sincere, joyful without ever becoming corny and is further elevated by the extraordinary performances from all three actors. The Holdovers is the most effusive and uplighting film of the year and for those who missed out on it this year at the theaters, check it out next Christmas with any family, friends, or loved ones you may have in your life.
#3. John Wick: Chapter 4
I mean c'mon man. What really is there left to say about this film that hasn’t been said already? Rather than the fact that this is not only the best action that this year had to offer, but probably the best of our century thus far. Just when you thought the John Wick franchise may have been heading into a repetitive never-ending cycle, Chapter 4 absolutely eradicated these delusions and completely blew every installment and every other action film out of the water from the last few years. I already wrote a full fledged review for this back in March, so for anyone wanting to read more insight or an in-depth analysis take can go check it on the Nerdthusiast page. The entire film is just absurdly good. The lighting is just stupid how maximalist it is, the choreographers and stunt teams are just showing off. And you know what, let them, they deserve to! So if you haven’t watched the John Wick films by now then what are you doing here? Erase everything on your watchlist and our savior Keanu Reeves spear his way through the nine circles of hell and go, “YEAHHH” while doing so!
#2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
THIS! This right here is what the movies are all about. Before we get deeper into the discussion of this I just wanna say that animation IS cinema people! Just because movies, shows, or videos are sometimes animated doesn’t make them any less significant. Really been wanting to get that off my chest because I’m sick and tired of people downsizing a certain medium only because it’s animated. The direction given to animation is just as important as it is in live-action and I don’t think that some of us can even fathom the care and attention to detail that has to go into creating these movies. So with that out of the way, how is the sequel to one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse? This film is…Surprise, surprise another masterpiece. When it comes to Across the Spider-Verse we all pretty much knew it was going to be good from the start. The first film managed to capture so much about not just the character but the symbol of Spider-Man as a whole, revolutionize a new style in animation, and bring to life an unforgettable and engaging story about the Multiverse (before it became tiresome and repetitive like it is now). It has also quickly become a lot of people’s favorite iteration of the character and has since gone down as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made. Into the Spider-Verse really set a new bar for both animation and superhero films, as we’ve seen in the animated films of the last couple years become clearly inspired by the Spider-Verse approach such as Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and TMNT: Mutant Mayhem. And while it is way too long of a topic to discuss, at least most of us who grew up reading or watching superheroes can all agree for the most part that the tales have become a bit more stale in the last few years. When it comes to the Spider-Verse films they never feel increasingly dull or unimpassioned content, and now with the threat of AI on the rise things are starting to feel a bit more bleak in the modern blockbuster. But thank goodness for this movie! Across the Spider-Verse is both the hero we deserve and need as of right now, it’s a film that not only pushes the medium of animation to places we haven't seen it go before but takes so much care and pride in handling a character that so many people around the world care about including myself and is such a shining beacon of raw creative ingenuity, joy, and color. I really didn’t think this film was going to top off a single thing about the first one and it did in every single way. I’m overly shocked by what this film was able to accomplish, and despite the sheer number of characters in the film it somehow remarkably succeeds in bestowing every returning & new character addition in this entry and gives every one of them a distinctive personality, meaningful development, and a fully fleshed-out backstory. Each character, regardless of their screen time, is assiduously crafted with depth and nuance, leaving no one as mere archetype or afterthought. This all results in a story that feels both epic in scope, yet intimate in its narrative. Some may think it’s corny to say this, but I don’t care because not only are we a part of seeing historic progress in animation, but on the cusp of witnessing the birth of one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time. Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller weren’t kidding when they said this film is The Empire Strikes Back in their soon to be trilogy, because that ending alone ranks up there along with it. I couldn’t be any happier for these movies, these movies aren’t special because it deals with the Multiverse concept, they're special because of the story this version of Spider-Man centers on. Miles Morales deals with the responsibility, tragedy, and great power we’ve come to know from the beloved web-head but actually fights against the tragedy that defines that character and forge his own path. As a longtime Spidey fan, Miles’s journey is unlike anything I’ve seen in a Spider-Man story. I can talk about this film for the rest of the blog, but in closing even though personally I think this one is the superior one compared to its predecessor, I will not challenge anybody that says the first is still their favorite. In the grand scheme of things who really cares, they are both excellent art pieces that deserved to be strung up on a canvas with every scene (if that’s even remotely possible). Hopefully other studios take better notes than the ones they tried to do with the first film because both Into and Across proved that not only for animation but the superhero genre can still evolve after all these years. One thing for sure is, Stan Lee would be so damn proud in seeing this film touch so many people across the globe. I know it did for me. How about you?
I feel like it is impossible to overstate how astonishing it is that a 3 hour historical drama that is Rated-R, mostly people just talking, and half black and white, made just shy of a billion dollars and had a bigger box office run than almost anything else that came out this year. It really should be studied till the end of time and as interesting as it is to talk about the film's financial success right next to Barbie, there is much much more to dissect about the year's most ambitious film and that is Christopher Nolan’s Oppenhiemer. Where do I even begin with a massive film like this? Well the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer aka “The Father of The Atomic Bomb”, is one very devoid of answers; it's full of complicated ethics and inevitabilities and ultimately defined by one of the biggest chapters in American history. I really can’t say much about the real man on a personal level because frankly I’m sure many people like myself didn’t know too much about him until this movie came out and only the fact that he created the very first Atomic Bomb. This is not a history lesson, this is just a discussion about the movie I saw the most out of any other film this year and what director Christopher Nolan might have to say about it. To put the film’s premise in the simplest terms as humanly possible, it’s about a smart guy who created something catastrophic and in many cases destroyed the world and then was punished for it by both his community and by his own mind. The subject matter is a devastating and complicated one. Once I heard somebody as big and complex as Nolan was going to be tackling this project I knew it was going to be his most harrowing one yet. There are so many angles from historical, political, and psychological implications that you can spend hours unpacking a single scene. The film feels so urgent at every turn even something as simple as the men in suits talking in boardrooms are so riveting they feel almost like action sequences and the way Nolan is able to communicate the weight of these dialogue-heavy scenes in such small rooms feel like the most intense thing imaginable. Some of the most brilliant editing and sound mixing that’s been in a Nolan film by far, I swear even the music score is playing through 90% of the conversations which usually get aggravating especially in some of Nolan’s past films, here it make every scene all the more uplighting and didn’t overshadow any crucial moments. Oppenhiemer has too many technical achievements that i’ll need at least 100 more pages to write on further discussions, from the team behind creating the trinity test and refusing to use CGI, the fact that Nolan and his partners had to create new kodak film stock for the black and white sequences to be shot in IMAX which has never been in the history of filmmaking until now, the principal photography is also nothing short of amazing and the way they use overblown lighting to create discomfort for not only the trinity test, but the integration scenes during the rescind of Oppenhiemer’s security clearance, by far the most claustrophobic thing my eyes have bared to witness in years. The is also some of the best written dialogue for a screenplay all year which is not something you usually here praise in a Nolan film, but they’re are so many moments of backstabbing, betrayal, and fallacious conspiracy theories in this maximum 3 hour runtime filled to the brim of the most frenetic dialogue exchange I’ve heard in a historical thriller probably since Oliver Stone’s JFK. In classic Nolan fashion it's told out of order, the black and white scenes here with Robert Downey Jr.’s character Lewis Strauss in hearing for the Secretary of Commerce position, his trial is meant to represent the objective truth (or at least that storyline) and the colored sections with Oppenheimer are to represent his subjective point of view. Those are some of the film's best moments because Nolan is able to play around with the surreal and put us inside Oppenheimer's head with moments that feel straight out of a horror movie. It’s this part of the film about these men that are some of the most interesting, the dynamic between the two really develops a certain rivalry that is very reminiscent of Miloš Forman’s Amadeus between Mozart and Salieri. Hopefully that is more than enough description on the synopsis, this next topic I wanted to start out with but there is a lot to tackle here. And now that the premise of the film is set in stone, it’s finally time to move on to what I’ve been aching to get into since the beginning of this article and that is the captivating performance from Mr. Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer. With a resume such as his, I say with no levity that his is not only the crowning jewel of his career, but the best performance from an actor this decade. With as a big of role this is to play you have to find the perfect actor to portray a man like Oppenheimer, especially with this films script where its stripping down the bearings of a man who feels as if he single-handedly helped usher in the end of the world, sees nothing but infinite impending doom and is now trying to repent for his sins. With a touchy character such as this you need to have somebody that embodies the ethos of the man physically and mentality that can bring all of that together. Casting Murphy here is so extraordinary and daunting it’s actually kind of a scary miracle. He looks like the quintessential kind of the mid-20th Century man, hell even the Invisible Man at times with the gray suit and the hat, it’s almost as if he jumped straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. He’s able to capture such a haunting image just in his body, Murphy did lose a lot of weight for this role and it shows. His face is gaunt and it allows his eyes to bug out more and makes those blue eyes of his the most expressive ones showcased this year. The fact that more than half of this film is shot in IMAX makes this all the more immaculate because Murphy’s face is taking up a lot of that screen, it’s never exaggerated for this experience, it works so perfectly and is like this balance of the operatic as well as the intimate, the grandiose, and the simple and both Murphy and Nolan understand every bit of the nuance. All the film's tension somehow magically exists right at the surface with that face and we can feel so many kinds of emotions swirling around in our lead character. Murphy’s eyes are simultaneously impossible to ignore, but are also difficult to decipher, because with most of cinema's more interesting protagonists, the character should still remain a mystery, in the case of Oppenhimer he absolutely does. The refinement and that polish to him feels dignified and different from the other men in suits around him. To have some big emotional arc but you’re relying on these revelations all internally just from the flicker of your eyes is a true God given gift to have. Now I think I’ve discussed Cillian Murphy and his eyes enough for now and if the Academy awards have any bit of sense left in them they would be delivering him the golden statue to his front door step right now. As eccentric as Murphy is thankfully he’s not separating himself from any of the other performers, it never feels like he’s leaving anybody in the dust here, the entire cast and crew all feel as if they are working tirelessly together to bring this epic into fruition. They create a wonderful wreath around him because the film is from his point-of-view and the feeling of internal walls closing in by his paranoia taking over and getting the better of him. There are many many things to really engage with in this film, but at the center of it all it’s Murphy and I don’t have a lot left in my vocabulary to express just how remarkable and astounding the performance that this man gives here. With everything being said there is to say about Murphy, the entirety of this ensemble cast are spectacular all the way from Matt Damon, to Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Benny Safdie, and so on and so on, every single one of them get their moments to shine and all work together so effortlessly. Robert Downey Jr. also gives his best in a very long time, as good as his career comeback and time was with Iron Man. It's nice to not see him become swallowed up by the Marvel machine like some of those actors have become and here we are reminded why he is so great and that he’s still got it. Christopher Nolan is truly one of the great auteurs, what the man has accomplished here is so gargantuan it left such a vast impact beyond the theater. We are so blessed to have someone with his talents pushing the limits of what film can reach, and challenging himself in so many interesting ways. The theater experience for this film was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. Seeing this spectacle in IMAX 70mm felt like a privilege, and it’s not often one can experience a movie that was shot on film being projected through film because it felt truly larger than life. I firmly believe Nolan has delivered the best and most profound film of not only of the year, but of his entire career and has reached his Magnum Opus. Oppenheimer is a visceral experience that cements us in a true work of art about the current state of our world as it does its fatally flawed men who helped build it. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve gone on long enough. Thank you Mr. Nolan, Mr. Murphy, and to the hundreds of others who worked on the film for giving us one of the most seemingly wellspring and most important films of the 21st Century. Happy New Year everybody! Let’s hope 2024 is a good one!