By Amber Wiles

TW: Sexual exploitation

With the Oscars having been held this Sunday (Monday for the UK), it feels like a great time to rank this year’s Best Picture. The question is, who truly deserved to take home the coveted golden statuette in 2023?

10. Elvis

Director: Baz Luhrmann

By this point, the world is used to Baz Luhrmann’s over-the-top movie-making style. So, it would seem the combination of Luhrmann and Elvis – also famous for his flamboyance – would be a perfect match. Yet the two clash in Elvis, making for an overly bloated and surface-level movie most of the time. Arguably, It also features a career-worst performance by Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker, whose character could be described as a pantomime villain (and not a fun one at that). Elvis does however boast a career-changing performance from Austin Butler as Elvis, who truly transforms into the ‘King of Rock n Roll.’ This is certainly a divisive film, and not for everyone, but if you like campy biopics this is probably the film for you.

9. All Quiet on the Western Front

Director: Edward Berger

Whilst there are those out there who go fanatical about World War films (*cough* BAFTA *cough*), I am not one of them. I am of the mind, once you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen them all. Which is why this film is so low on the list. No doubt this film has beautiful cinematography, a jarring yet beautiful soundtrack and an award-worthy performance from Felix Kammerer, but it lacks in its pacing and editing most of the time. You can’t obtain an emotional grasp at times, with it cuts from one location to another or scene to scene, before you’ve ever really invested in the moment. I’ve not read Erich Maria Remarque’s original novel, so I can’t say whether this is a worthy adaptation, but it certainly is stark in portraying the horrors of WWI for young German soldiers. So for a war film, it succeeded in this regard, but as a casual movie it’s a little boring.

8. Tár

Director: Todd Field

A fictional biopic that follows chief conductor Lydia Tár as she prepares for an upcoming live performance with the Berlin Philharmonic. As the movie unravels however it is revealed that there is more to Tár than initially believed. This movie certainly offers a powerhouse performance from Cate Blanchett who steals every scene she is in. It also is interesting in its exploration of cancel culture and the madness and complexity of music composition. It is however a little too on the nose at times, with its investigation of the elitist world of classical music. It becomes the very thing it’s attempting to critique, especially towards the end. This film is interesting to watch, yet sometimes I found myself dissecting it rather than enjoying it. To quote Harry Styles “it feels like a movie.”

7. Triangle of Sadness

Director: Ruben Östlund

A critique on the ridiculousness of uber wealth. Count me in! In Ruben Östlund’s English-language debut, he explores two influencers as they argue about money, are then invited onto a luxury yacht and are then stranded on an island. It is ultimately a critique of money and its infallibility when faced with the fundamentals of human existence. Even from my description, it’s easy to tell this movie is a little on the nose its themes and storytelling, yet it’s easy to look past this when faced with great acting and some killer moments throughout. There are some pacing issues, especially with the film being split into three parts. It also features a relatively unknown cast, apart from Woody Harrelson, but this doesn’t make for a weakened movie. The acting is strong throughout, and the ensemble’s chemistry often elevates the movie. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s worth the watch to see if it’s for you.

6. Women Talking

Director: Sarah Polley

This movie is exactly what it states in the title. It is about a group of women talking, specifically a group of ammonite women who grapple with whether to leave the religious colony they grew up in, after finding out the women have been subjected to sexual exploitation. On the surface, it’s not the most exciting premise, however, director and writer Sarah Polley managed to add layers of depth which make for an interesting view of the human approach to life-changing choices. Exploring misogyny and how it affects everyone both male and female, it ultimately asks if can you change who you are when it’s all you’ve ever known. With powerful performances from Claire Foy and Jessie Buckley – who haven’t received the awards show love they deserved – this is a quiet movie with big things to say.

5. Avatar: The Way of Water

Director: James Cameron 

Fourteen years in the making. James Cameron has been teasing the sequel to the highest-grossing movie Avatar for a while, and December 2022 saw it finally hit the big screen. And was it worth the wait? I think so. The movie is a visual masterpiece, with some of the best CGI of the last decade. It also uses practical effects which create the feeling that you’re truly in the world of Pandora. Moving away from the forest setting from the previous movie, this gives us ‘the way of the water’, introducing a new water tribe, and a whole new visual feast for fans to appreciate. The film leans heavily into themes of the family with Jake and Neytiri now parents to four children, who take centre stage for a lot of this movie. This movie is three hours long, which is a trek at a time. Certainly, there are a lot of sweeping shots that could have been left out in editing, but it remains an overall enjoyable watch.

4. The Banshees of Inisherin

Director: Marton McDonough

“You used to be nice.” The crux of this movie is summed up in a single line acted perfectly by Colin Farrell. Set on the fictional Irish island Inisherin against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War in 1923, this movie is simple in its concept but near perfect in its execution. Director and writer Martin McDonough’s career history lies in playwriting, which is obvious in a movie which feels like a play in movie form. Whilst the writing is the foundation for what makes this tragicomedy so great, it is the performances which lift it to new heights. Colin Farrell shines as Pádraic, an Inisherin native controlled by his need to be liked. This is exacerbated when his long-time friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) decides to stop being his friend with no explanation. Performances by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan who provide tragic performances of those victimised by the isolated island environment of Inisherin are also fabulous editions to the film. This is an absolute must-watch!

3. Top Gun: Maverick

Director: Joseph Kosinski

As a sequel to the 1986 cult classic Top Gun, this film had a lot to live up to. Sequels in Hollywood are often notoriously bad, but Maverick breaks the curse with a follow-up which is equal if not better than the original. Following a now fifty-something Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) as he trains a group of young Top Gun Academy recruits for a special mission, the film manages to be both nostalgic and fresh. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its issues. Jennifer Connolly’s character falls into the one-dimensional love interest trope, and it is increasingly difficult to see the US military as heroes of the western world. The movie however features amazing practical effects, a great ensemble and a hit song with OneRepublic’s I Ain’t Worried. The movie is truly the perfect summer blockbuster.

2. The Fabelmans

Director: Steven Spielberg 

You think movies, you think Steven Spielberg. His name is a legend within the movie industry. E.T., Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park, to name but a few, are epic adventures that sum up who Spielberg has historically been as a director. But for The Fabelmans he movies away from the epic, to tell his magnum opus…his childhood story. A semi-autobiographical movie told from the perspective of Sammy Fabelman (Gabrielle LaBelle), this movie is a love letter to Spielberg’s family, movies and what makes us who we are. With an exploration of how art can overcome us to the point of ignoring reality. With a beautiful script from Spielberg and Tony Kushner and a magnificently shot movie by Spielberg. The Fabelmans manages to feel both intimate and epic in scope. It’s safe to say Spielberg has still got it.

1. *Best Picture Winner* Everything Everywhere All At Once 

Director: The Daniels aka Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

A weird and wacky story about a woman who is thrust into the multiverse on the day she has her taxes due. In theory, a premise that shouldn’t work, yet it just does. This movie is a masterpiece in every sense of the word and will go down as one of the great movies of the 21st century. Not only have directors The Daniels constructed a beautiful movie about destiny, interpersonal relationships and generational trauma, but they’ve done it in a way that leaves a huge impact after watching it. This is alongside a perfect cast which features Ke Huy Quan, who you might recognise as Shorthand from Indiana Jones, Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephanie Hsu and the incomparable Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh is a force in this movie, who takes on every role an actor could ask for in one movie. An A24 film that has stormed the world against all odds, not only is this my favourite, it was the Academy’s favourite with the movie taking home the coveted Best Picture Oscar. And rightly so. If I could convince you to do anything this year it would be to watch this movie. You’ll be a different person after you watched it.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Yap via Unsplash