2023's best movies: Animated masterpieces and the biggest movie of the year

Barbie (Margot Robbie) really made one of the best movies of the year. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
1 of 5 | Barbie (Margot Robbie) really made one of the best movies of the year. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The best movies of 2023 include some of the biggest blockbusters and most prestigious artists. There were also some surprises out of film festivals. Three of this year's best were animated movies, but only one of them was among big studio releases.

These films showcase how movies, at their best, can reach viewers with deep, relatable themes. That goes for serious dramas and crowd-pleasing blockbusters. But also, some action movies just kick ass. Find links to our full reviews for more elaboration.


10. 'Extraction 2'

The sequel to Extraction truly delivers extra action with its two long, elaborate escape sequences. In fact, except for one other notable entry on this list, Extraction moved ahead of most theatrically released action franchises.

9. 'Robot Dreams'

This sweet animated film from Spain and France is about the friendship between a dog and a robot. Told with no dialogue, it nevertheless conveys all the joy and heartbreak of their ups and downs. Its bittersweet observations about life make it as emotional as Up and Toy Story 2 and just as relevant. That lack of dialogue allows viewers to imprint their own feelings in the characters' expressions. After its Cannes premiere, it opened in limited release in November.


8. 'Barbie'

There is a right way to make a movie out of a toy. Like The Lego Movie, Barbie uses the consumer toy to tell a profound story about what society expects of women and men, and how that's confusing to both. The film is entirely deserving of its hype.

7. 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse'

There is also a right way to make a multiverse story. While many live-action films use the multiverse as lazy ways to combine franchise actors, the Spider-Verse films use it to imagine creative new worlds and to challenge Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (voice of Hailee Steinfeld) to make difficult decisions in their lives. Clever beyond imagination and thrilling with its unique animation styles, Across the Spider-Verse builds off the foundation of 2018's Into the Spider-Verse.

6. 'John Wick: Chapter 4'

John Wick is absolutely the best action franchise being produced. The fourth film invents sequences that top or complement the amazing work that has come before.

5. 'How to Blow Up a Pipeline'

This is a powerful drama about environmental activists who put their money where their mouths are. Their planning and execution of bombing an oil pipeline is tense and suspenseful. Whether the viewer agrees with their methods or not, the film, based on Andreas Malm's call to arms, shows how people are driven to extreme resistance by an unsympathetic system.


4. 'Fair Play'

The provocative story of lovers who work at the same company explores the layers under the surfaces of jealousy. Luke (Alden Ehrenrich) can't even fake being supportive of Emily's (Phoebe Dynevor) success and refuses to learn from his mistakes. Yet, Emily picks up aggressive behavior from the establishment. Writer-director Chloe Domont puts these personalities in a drama in which they can only collide, and it is utterly compelling.

3. 'Nimona'

This visual feast of animation on Netflix is also a deconstruction of fairy tale myths worthy of Frozen. A disgraced knight in a futuristic medieval kingdom tries to prove his innocence when a shapeshifting girl encourages him to just embrace being the villain everyone thinks he is. Irreverent energy propels humor and poignant revelations about the stories we take for granted, in fiction and real life.

2. 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Martin Scorsese has made an epic masterpiece about a blight on American history. The adaptation of David Grann's account showed how White interests insidiously intruded upon the lives of Osage Nation people just to get the money from the oil rights on their land. It is a tragically accurate depiction of how narcissists can justify unforgivable behavior, and a tragedy that so many Osage had to die before the FBI stepped in.



Of all this year's movies about the story behind famous products (including Air, Blackberry and Flaming Hot), Tetris has the tale with the most global consequences. Dealing with Russia in the '80s was about more than just a video game. It was about negotiating with foreign powers and giving creators freedom to transcend politics. Tetris also boasts the most engaging style of the four, combining manic video game energy with political-thriller genre trappings.

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