We’re celebrating the halfway point of the year by looking at the best movies of 2023 so far… and some of the worst.
We’re now six months through the year, so now is as good a time as any to start taking stack, and take a look back over the best movies of 2023 so far.
These movies are listed from those that were given a cinematic or streaming release in Ireland and the UK on or after 1 January and up to 30 June 2023, and to avoid any real confusion in terms of ranking, I’ve gone with a good, old fashioned alphabetical format. Starting with…
Beau Is Afraid
One of those movies that I can never really see watching ever again, because the memory of that first viewing is so scorched into my mind. Who actively wants to revisit a three-hour long anxiety attack? Having said that, I will actively seek out clips of the Joaquin Phoenix-fronted insanity online for the rest of my days.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves
A huge blockbuster based on a very popular but probably kinda niche board game… this SHOULD have been a disaster. Unfortunately, commercially, it was: barely $200 million worldwide on a $150 million production budget and maybe another $150 promotions budget. But it was also one of the most purely entertaining big budget movies in years.
Evil Dead Rise
Gloriously gory, darkly funny and endlessly inventive, Irish writer/director Lee Cronin took what we thought an Evil Dead movie should be – a group of sexy teens killed off in a cabin in the woods – and effectively turned it inside out. Horror fans were left absolutely delighted.
Yes, it was a bit like Spielberg decided to direct the first few chapters of his own unpublished autobiography, but in the process, he delivered us his best film of the last 10 years. Spielberg stand-in Gabriel LaBelle is a revelation, and he’s surrounded by an incredible supporting cast, all of whom are firing on all cylinders.
John Wick: Chapter 4
How much further can we take this franchise about one man getting revenge for his dead puppy? Hopefully, quite a bit further, considering the lengths that Keanu Reeves and his stunt team go to in order to out-action themselves. Yes, 169 minutes is A LOT, but the relentlessness of the action scenes means it absolutely zips by.
Realising that it maybe wasn’t quite as scary as it should be, the creative team behind this little-robot-girl thriller decided to lean fully into the dark comedy instead. The end result is a hilariously dark comedy, serrated by the edgy thrill that anyone on screen could be violently killed off at any moment.
The sorta-sequel to 2018’s minor hit Searching, this sees a young girl trying to find her missing mother, using nothing but her mobile phone and laptop. The always-on-screen format hasn’t been mined so much that it is tiresome yet, while the literally gasp-inducing plot twists will keep you gripped throughout.
Mia Goth returns as the aged killer we previously met in 2022 slasher film X, but this time we get to see how the murderer came to be so cut throat. Literally. Goth continues to be one of the most interesting performers in Hollywood today, while writer/director Ti West continues to provide her with endlessly fascinating characters to perform.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish
It has been 12 years since the last Puss In Boots movie, and 13 years since the last Shrek movie. Who would have thought that anyone would even care about the Antonio Banderas-voiced feline, let alone that the long-delayed sequel would be THIS good? And with the Wolf, chillingly voiced by Wagner Moura, an entire generation of kids will be traumatised by a truly scary villain.
Good rom-coms come along so very rarely, that when we do get one, we should celebrate it as much and as loudly as we possibly can. This story of two recent break-up victims who find each other in London and try to help each other through their pain is relentlessly cute.
Another movie that I will add to the “Will never watch again” list. A visceral horror about two very young kids who wake up in the middle of the night and discover their parents are missing and every door and window in their home has disappeared and been replaced by brick walls… it has a nightmare logic all of its own. You’ll either be bored senseless, or be irrevocably scarred by fear. I was in the latter group.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse
Ripping apart the entire idea of what it actually means to be a superhero… or more specifically… what it means to be Spider-Man, the uniquely high IQ for Across The Spider-Verse is matched only by its eye-popping visuals, astounding soundtrack and sterling voice work.
A quite long movie about Cate Blanchett playing a world famous conductor who gets caught up in some personal dilemmas might not sound super interesting… but bolstered by Blanchett’s absolutely scorching performance, this delves into some very powerful and very timely topics, ending with one of the most powerful dramas you’ll ever see in your life.
And now on to the worst, which I’ve kept to a much shorter list, simply because while there are some bad movies, these are the ones that don’t even qualify as so-bad-they’re-entertaining. In short, avoid the following:
Kevin Hart plays Kevin Hart, in a movie about Kevin Hart, but Kevin Hart doesn’t want to be a comedy star anymore, so he joins an acting school run by John Travolta, to help him become an action star. Funnily, the comedy about not wanting to be a comedy star anymore… isn’t funny at all. So… mission accomplished?
The director of Rocketman, the writers of Community and American Dad, with two of the sexiest people in the world (Ana De Armas and Chris Evans), dropped into an action comedy thriller. How did all of these elements result in something so painfully unfunny, unsexy and unexciting?
The first 20 minutes of this movie are actually pretty great. Ben Affleck and director Robert Rodriguez seem to be pitching an Inception-meets-Inside Man type heist thriller. But then things begin to fall apart at an alarming rate, rattling from good to bad to so-bad-its-good to no-just-plain-bad.
Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel have their dream island wedding hijacked by local pirates. Not even the presence of Jennifer Coolidge can drag this action-tinted rom-com from doldrums.
An Ireland-set horror in which a happily married couple discover that their new countryside home is actually the last line of defence against a group of nasty little creatures from eating the locals. It isn’t scary, it just ends up being kinda boring, which is worse than being flat out bad, to be honest.
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