‘ANATOMY of a Fall.’

My top 10 films of 2023 were chosen and ranked according to their cinematic impact and the joy these films brought to my soul — with number one the best of them all.

It’s important to note, though, that I did not take into consideration my numerical ratings for the films listed below, as they are irrelevant to my feelings at the time I created my list. I also admit that I haven’t seen a lot of movies this year, and it’s quite a difficult task to create a list based on what little I have been exposed to. Nevertheless, here are the memorable ones for me.

The Super Mario Bros. Movie

10. The Super Mario Bros. Movie. Sure, call this disposable entertainment, but at least it’s not trying hard to be cool. It’s just simply fun, oftentimes hilarious, too cute and inspires nostalgia.

Mario and Luigi’s adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom is a fan service to ‘90s kids. It is packed with charm and wholesome humor, and it’s just every-second delightful.


9. GomBurZa. This Metro Manila Film Festival entry puts director Pepe Diokno in the front row of this generation’s heavyweight local directors. His historical drama borrows styles from Spielberg, Hitchcock and other familiar Hollywood procedural dramas — still, the guy knows how to make a real, sophisticated movie that elevates Philippine cinema. Great performances and breathtaking cinematography, with a strong visual language.

Killers of the Flower Moon

8. Killers of the Flower Moon. Martin Scorsese’s Western drama on the Osage murders may be a bloated piece with a 3.5-hour runtime, but it boasts magnificent scale, vision and strong performances from Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio.

In the realm of entertainment clogged with horrific or mediocre content that can be seen either on the smallest of screens or the biggest of IMAX theaters yet makes no difference at all, Killers reminds you why you love going to the cinema in the first place. This big-screen epic film is simply cinematic opulence. This is no “theme park.” This is true cinema.


7. Oppenheimer. It is crammed with alienating scientific jargon that makes one teeter between boredom and awe. Still, one cannot deny Christopher Nolan’s artistic genius in this surgically woven biography of the “Father of Atomic Bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy). This is a visceral work of an expressionist artist best seen on IMAX.

More abstract than straightforward, the imagery and sound design will remain with you for a long time. Nolan, using practical effects over CGI, shows the external and internal drama of a man who destroys and is destroyed. Both grand and intimate, it’s a sinuous visual journey of dreams, visions, conscience and moral dilemma.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

6. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Not a fan of the franchise, but this prequel centered on the saga’s villain Coriolanus Snow is visually arresting and constantly simmers with political tension and ambition.

It’s a bit narratively uneven, and Rachel Zegler is highly annoying (when she sings, it’s a different story). But the powerful performances from Tom Blyth, Viola Davis and Peter Dinklage — plus the breathtaking visuals and the thrilling, unsettling vibe all throughout this tale of classism — makes it one of the best this year.

Wish You Were the One

5. Wish You Were the One. Viva Films surprised us in August when it released an underrated love story. No, you won’t get tired of the powerful chemistry between Bela Padilla and JC Santos when the screenplay is as intelligent as this.

Created by the Mallari tandem of director Derick Cabrido and screenwriter Enrico Santos, this unpretentious mainstream Tagalog movie knows the anatomy of a wholly engaging love story.


4. Wonka. Not a fan of musicals? Then let Wonka surprise you. This is just pure, escapist fun. Paul King’s solid prequel about the origins of Roald Dahl’s fictional Willy Wonka is like being high on one of the chocolatier’s candies.

Funny, surprisingly tender, packed with lovely songs and the always-great Timothee Chalamet breathing life into the eccentric candyman, Wonka is that delicious family movie that you can watch again and again.

‘AS If It’s True.’

3. As If It’s True. John Rogers’ toxic love story is a personal Cinemalaya favorite of mine. Rogers never spoon-feeds his audience and holds back enough details to intellectually tease the audience.

Cocooning his love story within the realm of social media by pairing an influencer (Ashley Ortega) and her lover-slash-business partner (an unforgettable Khalil Ramos), Rogers constantly tricks us with what is painfully real and what is deceptive YouTube content.

Underneath the layers of the business of social media engagement lies a kind of romantic relationship that inspires psychoanalysis, yet is also undeniably romantic. Bristling with dark humor, natural conversations and performances as if a script never existed, this is indie perfection.

‘Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.’

2. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. This movie adaptation of Judy Blume’s 1970s classic YA novel is fearlessly unaffected by the current era of “woke cinema.” Nowadays, it is hard to find a gem underneath all the pretentious cinematic rubble out there. This is that rare gem, unassumingly hidden on Netflix.

You don’t have to be a pre-adolescent young girl to be swept up by the sweet coming-of-age story of 11-year-old Margaret (Abby Ryder Fortson) who, emotionally displaced by a sudden move to a new city, starts praying to God.

Kelly Fremon Craig’s storytelling is generous with emotions, yet is sharply focused and never melodramatic. This flawlessly told story about girls, women and the complex search for God and religion is a must-see for all ages and genders.

‘ANATOMY of a Fall.’

1. Anatomy of a Fall. This year’s Palme d’Or winner, which screened in Manila at the French Film Festival, is one of the best of the decade and now belongs to one of my all-time favorites. Its simple plot about a wife (a spectacular Sandra Hüller) accused of murdering her husband, with their blind son (an Oscar-deserving Milo Machado Graner) the sole witness, unfolds into a cutting, gut-wrenching realistic family drama.

Justine Triet’s exquisitely restrained film is not just an arthouse whodunit, it’s also a piercing examination of a misaligned marriage. It’s not merely a guessing game as to why the husband fell to his death, the film also immerses you in a painful marital case study, making for a cerebral but also emotional rollercoaster. Triet utilizes highly effective filmmaking techniques that make this a true masterpiece.