My name is Jacob Mash, and I am a movie connoisseur. I have seen a lot of movies in the theaters and I try to review them when I have time, whether it be in written form like this article, or on my podcast, “The Smasher Reviews: A Movie Podcast.” I’ve made a goal to see 60 new releases this year, and as I’m writing this, I’m about halfway there. So, I thought I’d take the time to write about my favorite films I’ve seen so far in 2023.
Now, for the purposes of this list, I have decided to provide these films in alphabetical order, because honestly, while I’m in the midst of doing all of these, it’s really hard to keep a rigidly ranked list, as opinions shift, some movies grow on you while others fade into the background.
There were many great movies that did not make this list. Ultimately, these ten films spoke to me the most. So, without further ado, let’s get started:
After a period of failed projects, alcoholism, and a reunion with Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck returns to the director’s chair to tell this story about the creation of the Air Jordan, even though all of the cards are stacked against the people behind this at-the-time crazy idea for a Nike product. It’s an excellent underdog story that is very dynamic and entertaining throughout, featuring actors like Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, and Viola Davis doing really strong work, as well as an awesome (and probably VERY expensive) 1980s soundtrack.
From one film about the creation of a product to another, this film about the creation of the Blackberry phone company is lesser known, but I think it’s even better than Air. Telling the story of this now-defunct phone company was a stroke of genius, creating a shrewdly funny movie with fantastic performances from Jay Baruchel, Matt Johnson (also the director), and especially Glenn Howerton, giving a performance that I think deserves an Oscar nomination.
All apologies to the very good Creed III, but I think this is my favorite sports movie of the year. A true story that mixes Ender’s Game with Days of Thunder, director Neill Blomkamp crafts an incredibly exciting and surprisingly moving underdog story about a kid who became really good at the Gran Turismo video games, earning the opportunity to race in real life while making it big in the process. Archie Madekwe is a new star in the making, and Djimon Hounsou and David Harbour do very great work as his father and trainer, respectively.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
They stuck the landing! James Gunn made one more trip to Marvel before going to run DC, creating an intensely satisfying conclusion to what might be the best series within the larger franchise of the MCU. In telling the story of the Guardians going on a mission to protect Rocket Raccoon from his creator, James Gunn creates a darker, even more emotionally moving story about accepting new roles in our lives, even if we’re not ready to handle them. However, because it’s James Gunn, it’s also incredibly funny and charming, filled with delightful character work, very creative world design, and a stellar sense of music.
Even as someone who is a Christian, I understand that faith-based movies are a hit-and-miss genre. However, I think this one is fabulous. In telling the story of the Jesus Freaks movement, Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle tell a remarkably upbeat and charming film about people from all walks of life coming together for a common goal and finding themselves incredibly spiritually moved by their experiences. I, for one, was moved too.
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part 1
I wrestled with which globe-trotting action sequel to put on this list, between this and John Wick: Chapter 4, but I ultimately couldn’t deny Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, and company with this movie. This is one of the more exhilarating action film viewing experiences I’ve had in recent years. In particular, the train sequence at the end is the most deviously entertaining piece of filmmaking I’ve seen this year, leaving me with the biggest possible grin on my face in the process.
Christopher Nolan is a master filmmaker, and here, he gets to bring all of his technical know-how into making the story of the man who created the atomic bomb, turning it into a terse, yet incredibly involving film. The technical aspects are all top-notch, and the performances even more so. Cillian Murphy is amazing as the titular character, but it’s Robert Downey Jr. who walked away with the movie for me, turning in a spectacular performance that is unlike anything he has done in a very long time. I think we may see him with a certain golden statue in the near future.
I know this list is supposed to be unranked, but if I picked a number one, this would definitely be it. Celine Song’s directorial debut is a gorgeous film, both in filmmaking and story. As two childhood friends fall in and out of each other’s lives over the course of 24 years, the movie reflects on how the choices we make, and the relationships we have, can have unexpected and sometimes devastating ripple effects through our lives. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo are splendid together, and Shabier Kirchner photographs the best-looking live-action film of the year. However, it is Song who emerges from this as the true discovery, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.
From one film about two people hanging out and having long conversations that could possibly lead to romance to another, Rye Lane is delightful in every sense of the word. Two people who have recently gone through bad breakups (David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah) meet up and spend the day together. That’s it, and yet, the film is incredibly lively, funny, and romantic. Jonsson and Oparah have crackling good chemistry together, and director Raine Allen-Miller directs the film with tons of style and visual creativity, putting together a movie that I like the more I think about it.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
This film is just staggering on every level. From an opening scene that looks like a mood ring came to life (and I mean that in the coolest possible way), to a coming-of-age moment for Miles Morales’ superhero life that led me to actually yell, “YEAH!!,” in the theater, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings for the fences and knocks down every single one. Telling the story of Morales’ next great adventure in being a superhero, the movie is almost overwhelming in its visual creativity, and yet, across its epic 2 hour 20 minute running time, the film always remembers to slow down to build up the characters in a remarkably satisfying way. These movies are something special and I cannot wait for the third one.
Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash