Between theaters and streamers, there’s a lot to sift through if you want to find the best movies of 2023. To spare you that effort and save you some time, we’re keeping a running list of good movies to watch as they open throughout the year. Existential unease, literate thrills, and devastation await. And, yes, most of the films listed below are either in theaters or available for streaming or rental (or will be soon). Happy watching.
Watching Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch’s vivid, sweeping film about male friendship is like reading a satisfying novel. (Indeed, the film is based on Paolo Cognetti’s book.) It has heft and breadth and spans decades, tracing the bond between two Italians as they leave boyhood behind and venture into manhood. The film’s narrative turns may get a bit grandiose toward the end, but what precedes that is rich and moving. The Eight Mountains is, among other things, a sensitive look at class in a country riven with economic problems, and a testament to how adolescent experience can shape an entire life. Much of this drama is set against stunning alpine vistas, filmed in such gorgeous enormity that The Eight Mountains should be shown in IMAX. (In theaters April 28)
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any streaming offers for The Eight Mountains.
Director Hlynur Pálmason’s grand and forbidding film, about a Danish priest traveling to Iceland at the end of the 19th century, is not an easy sit. The film is stark and withholding, a trek across harsh and desolate landscape toward, well, nothing good. But Godland proves enveloping in all that strain and struggle—the film is an effectively somber, despairing meditation on faith, vanity, and colonialism. While much of his film is austere, Pálmason employs a few flashy techniques to enhance the eerie mood of existential unease. Godland is by no means a casual watch, but it rewards patience and investment.
A nervy eco-thriller that doubles as a persuasive piece of activist messaging, Daniel Goldhaber’s film vibrates with urgency. A band of 20-somethings from various backgrounds and all across the country come together to make good on the title of the film. Their thinking is that because all manner of peaceful climate change activism has failed, radical action must be taken. The film makes a worthy philosophical, political, and moral argument, while also serving as a compelling riff on the heist film. How to Blow Up a Pipeline may represent a shift in culture’s approach to the climate crisis, as a younger generation comes of age and begins fighting for their future.
Australian Macedonian filmmaker Goran Stolevski’s sophomore feature (his first was last year’s exquisite You Won’t Be Alone) is a coming-out story, of sorts. Told in two parts, Of an Age centers on Kol (Elias Anton), who begins the film as a closeted teenager who has a chance encounter with a friend’s older brother, Adam (Thom Green). An attraction blooms and is consummated, but the two young men’s lives are on divergent paths. A time jump reveals them as more fully realized adults, perhaps still carrying torches for one another. Stolevski seems to have been influenced by Andrew Haigh’s landmark gay romance Weekend; there’s a similar wistfulness, a discursive chattiness, a woozy sense of closeness at work in Of an Age. But Stolevski has threaded his film with textures all his own, looking at the Balkan diaspora in Australia and allowing for some gentle humor. Though the ending of Of an Age is dismayingly abrupt, much of what’s come before is sweet and erotic and wise about the fits-and-starts process of coming out—chiefly to oneself.