While 2023 has been a whirlwind of events, we’re happy to say that it’s been another stellar year for film and TV entertainment. Everyone on the internet is talking about their favorite movies and TV shows from 2023, so we thought we’d join the conversation and share our top picks! It was tough to choose only one per category, but the CordCutting.com crew managed to narrow down their choices below.
Stephen Lovely — Editor-in-Chief
Top Movie: ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is another late-career masterpiece from Martin Scorsese. It's based on David Grann's non-fiction book of the same name (also recommended), which covers an epidemic of murders carried out by white Oklahomans attempting to steal lucrative shares of oil rights from members of the Osage Nation on whose land the oil had been found. The film zeroes in on one particular case (also explored at length in the book), that of Ernest Burkhart and his Osage wife, Mollie.
“Killers” is unflinching in its portrayal of evil and violence, but it doesn't allow its leads to collapse into caricatures. Powerhouse performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone bring an immediacy to the story, and the film dares to explore the traces of humanity in its irredeemable villains — particularly in the case of DiCaprio's occasionally conflicted and nearly constantly pathetic Ernest Burkhart, whose relationship with Gladstone's weary but dignified Mollie feels disturbingly believable, even as his unspeakable betrayals unfold. It's a choice that makes the film far more complex, disturbing, and unforgettable.
Honorable Mentions: “Past Lives,” “Barbie”
Top Show: ‘The Bear’
The first season of “The Bear” was one of the best things on TV last year, but it also ended on a note that set up an incredible challenge for 2023’s Season 2: The messy little counter-service shop that had hosted so much of Season 1’s chaotic drama was gone, and the main characters were committed to starting a new high-end restaurant in its place.
The series’ second season rose to that challenge. “The Bear” became a more expansive and imaginative show. Individual episodes elevated supporting characters to temporary starring roles and frequently took viewers far away from the restaurant — to Copenhagen, for example, or to a family Christmas years in the past. The chaotic core of Season 1 resurfaced only occasionally, but I found myself loving this very different version of “The Bear” even more.
Honorable Mentions: “Succession”
Deanna Nguyen — Streaming Editor
Top Movie: ‘The Boy and the Heron’
Hayao Miyazaki keeps coming out of retirement to make his “final” film, which is supposed to be “The Boy and the Heron.” Whether or not this film will truly be his last, it left a deep impression on me long after I walked out of the movie theater. I watched it in the original Japanese dub with English subtitles, but I might watch it a second time to hear the English voice cast, which includes Robert Pattinson, Christian Bale, Mark Hamill, Gemma Chan, Florence Pugh, and more.
It’s not unusual to find bits and pieces of Miyazaki’s life in the movies that he’s directed, and this newest one is no different. What stands out is the theme of legacy; Miyazaki isn’t getting any younger and can’t work like he used to. The question of who will be his successor at Studio Ghibli has been asked numerous times, but Miyazaki is fine if it ends with him — at least, that was my interpretation of “The Boy and the Heron.” The movie reflects this sentiment, with the granduncle giving Mahito (voiced by Soma Santoki) a choice: Be the successor to the magical tower or return to his real home.
I didn’t immediately catch onto this revelation, as I tend to just focus on the worldbuilding of Ghibli movies, but this one really came across as the final Miyazaki-directed movie. I also noticed many scenes that were direct influences of his previous works. “The Boy and the Heron” is a retrospective of Miyazaki and his legacy at Studio Ghibli as well as the grief some of us might feel about the film’s tone of finality — and I love it.
Honorable Mentions: “Barbie,” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”
Top Show: ‘Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End’
Truth be told, I originally wrote “Jujutsu Kaisen” as my top pick, but after binge-watching “Frieren: Beyond the Journey’s End” in one day, I had to demote the former.
Fantasy is about the hero’s journey, but how often do we come across a show that explores what happens afterward? That’s the premise for “Frieren,” at least on the surface; but once you’ve dedicated an entire day consuming the show without so much as a bathroom break like me, you begin to emotionally resonate with its themes.
Frieren is an elven mage who ages very slowly, and as a result, her perception of time is vastly different than that of her human companions. After spending “a mere 10 years” (Frieren’s words) on their journey together, the group parted ways and reunites when everyone but Frieren is covered in wrinkles. It isn’t until Himmel the Hero passes away that Frieren begins her own journey, one where she witnesses Himmel’s legacy and impact on not only her life but also the people they saved. She forms a new party and eases into Himmel the Hero’s position. The leader who recruits and mentors members makes the decisions and points them in the right direction as they head toward their final destination — heaven.
“Frieren” is a reflective lens into a genre that doesn’t always slow down and live with the characters, especially once they complete the main quest. It’s beautifully sentimental, even for a fantasy setting. The show is also a phenomenal work of animation; Madhouse gave so much care and attention to detail to characters’ movements, further emphasizing that these characters either are or exhibit human qualities that close the gap between their fantastical journey and our experiences in reality.
Honorable Mentions: “The Last of Us,” “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” “The Apothecary Diaries,” “Castlevania: Nocturne,” “Jujutsu Kaisen” Season 2
Andrew Cole — Internet Editor
Top Movie: ‘Barbie’
Not since my early years of sneaking to steal my older sister’s Barbies for a cross-functional fantasy mission born from my imagination did I think I would cross paths with Barbie again. However, “Barbie” took me by surprise, and the world by storm, this past summer as my favorite movie of the year. Now, don’t take me as a self-fulfilling prophet who merely chose “Barbie” because it was my most anticipated movie for 2023. Instead, I went into the theater on opening weekend with my own reservations and expectations (as I’m sure many people did).
Rather, I was immediately met with a perfectly crafted (and pink) world that took the droll delivery of Ryan Gosling’s Ken and paired it with the introspective journey into the human condition of Margot Robbie’s Barbie. I laughed at the cleverly choreographed dance routines, I cried when Barbie came to accept that she’s not perfect (I felt that), and I left the movie theater with a sense of joy and fulfillment. That’s what cinema is about for me — catharsis. And that’s why I have to put “Barbie” as the best movie of 2023.
Honorable Mentions: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” “Flamin’ Hot”
Top Show: ‘The Bear’
There’s a Native American tale that talks about the two bears (sometimes it's wolves) we have inside, each fighting for our soul. One bear is evil — it represents anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, greed, ego, and feelings of doubt. One bear is good — it represents love, hope, peace, kindness, empathy, truth, and feelings of courage. The bear that wins this battle is the one we feed.
“The Bear” is a lot like this proverb. Season 1 was all about a dying restaurant with resentment and hatred toward Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) for coming in and trying to run it like his previous Michelin Star restaurant. That place revolved around dissatisfaction and thrived on conflict and chaos. Season 2, for me, represented a change of hands and the shift from the evil bear's superabundance to the good bear's nourishment. Sydney (Ayo Edebiri) takes charge of the creation of the new restaurant, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) lets go of his previous life holding him back, and Tina (Liza Colón-Zayas) and Marcus (Lionel Boyce) truly believe they are capable of much more than being line order cooks.
I chose “The Bear” as my top show pick for 2023 because it is a story of evolution, expansion, and metamorphosis. We all get stuck in our ways, sometimes becoming prey to our own habits and tendencies, allowing them to hold us where we are and keep us from becoming more. “The Bear” shows us that we don’t have to become waiters at the feet of the ravenous evil bear. We can, at any moment, choose to be better people, better friends — better humans.
Plus, who doesn’t love Matty Matheson?
Honorable Mentions: “Love & Death,” “The Last of Us,” “Based on a True Story”
Shari Weiss — Editor
Top Movie: ‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes’
As someone who never read a book series as fast as I did The Hunger Games trilogy and as someone who still rewatches the film adaptations on a somewhat regular basis, I was extremely eager for “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” to hit the big screen. I remain fascinated by all things Panem and was thrilled to return to the dystopian society that made Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) a household name.
Katniss herself, of course, isn't in this prequel, but there are plenty of connections to the books and movies we know and love (I won't spoil all the Easter eggs!). When I finished the book version of “Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” after it was released in 2020 (not exactly light pandemic reading…), I thought the ending was a bit rushed. The novel wrapped up too quickly. With the movie, however, I had a slightly different perspective.
The film's ending didn't feel like, well, an ending — but rather a new beginning. There are still decades between Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) studying under Dr. Gaul (Viola Davis) as a future Gameskeeper and when we meet him as President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland) in “The Hunger Games.” Imagine all that we still don't know and haven't yet seen about the years in between. The door is now open for intermediary chapters to be explored, assuming author Suzanne Collins is willing to visit the Capitol and its districts again. If she is, sign me up.
Honorable Mentions: “Air,” “Barbie,” “Past Lives,” “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Theater Camp,” “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah”
Top Show: ‘Stars on Mars’
Deanna joked about one of us putting “Stars on Mars” as our top TV pick of 2023, but I’m really going for it. Before the CordCutting.com editors decided to watch the new FOX reality competition each week and sound off in weekly roundtables, I had no intention of venturing to faux Mars with the likes of Lance Armstrong, Ariel Winter, and Tinashe. Shock of shocks: Now I am so glad I did.
I had no idea I'd be so enthralled watching Marshawn Lynch's antics, Armstrong and Winter feuding, Adam Rippon's quips, and Porsha Williams maintaining her glam on the Red Planet. Sure, I was rooting for the celebronauts to fail all of their missions, but even though they succeeded most of the time, there were enough hijinks to keep me entertained.
Of course, the real hilarity came in discussing the show with Stephen, Deanna, and Andrew. I knew my colleagues were smart, but boy are they clever and fun, too! It was a blast (blast-off?) bantering with them after each episode, making predictions on what would happen next and dissecting the ridiculousness of it all. By the way, I was the only one on the team to correctly pick eventual-winner Rippon as the one to root for after Episode 1! If “Stars on Mars” gets a Season 2, I may have to tune in, even if my crewmates abandon the space station.
Honorable Mentions: Every “Bachelor Nation” series, “Masterchef,” “Survivor,” “The Summer I Turned Pretty”
Sarah Gottlieb — Writer
Top Movie: ‘Wonka’
As a voracious childhood reader, I still can’t resist any Roald Dahl adaptation to this day. These stories were a huge part of my youth, and throw the producer of the Harry Potter films, the director of “Paddington,” and Timothée Chalamet into the mix and you’re sure to have a recipe for a fantastical, heartwarming good time.
What I like about the approach in “Wonka” is that it’s not a straight adaptation, as was done brilliantly in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971), nor is it a dark reimagining with a wounded Wonka like in “Charlie and the Factory” (2005). Without treading on the toes of any previous adaptations, “Wonka” manages to weave a believable and complex original backstory for the beloved character, creating a prequel that serves as a great spiritual successor to the ‘70s classic musical.
Whimsical and wholesome, “Wonka” is the kind of adventure I want to be taken on if I pay to go out to the movies. Despite skepticism because of his age, Chalamet plays a perfect younger Wonka — exactly how you might imagine the character before he had gained the wisdom and melancholy of Gene Wilder’s iconic performance. Creative, visually vibrant, well-cast, and with a catchy original soundtrack, 2023 finished out strong with “Wonka” as one of the final releases of the year.
Honorable mentions: “A Haunting in Venice,” “Barbie”
Top Show: ‘Mayfair Witches’
AMC already had me hooked on Anne Rice's Immortal Universe franchise when “Interview with a Vampire” came out in 2022. What’s a recovering teenage goth supposed to do other than devour anything Anne Rice-related like it’s just gone on sale at Hot Topic? So, when I saw that my favorite of her novels, “The Witching Hour,” had been adapted as part of the same franchise, I clicked so fast I nearly broke the mouse.
Like many witch stories, there are strong undertones of powerful femininity being held back by oppressors and confusers, religious undercurrents and spiritual questioning, light versus dark, and sexuality and passion. The show, like the book, gets at the heart of what is so enduringly appealing about tales of witches, with an endearing lead in Alexandra Daddario as a neurosurgeon learning to accept her power that she has turned away from, and coming to terms with, her shocking past. Good fantasy TV is incredibly hard to come by, and with the first season finishing out strong, I can’t wait to see what they do with the following two books of the trilogy in upcoming years.
Honorable Mentions: “Poker Face,” “Lockwood & Co.,” “Three-Body”
Rebecca Carlyle — Writer
Top Movie: ‘A Haunting in Venice’
Although I only saw two movies in theaters throughout 2023, we watch a lot in my household — it’s a pretty common date night. Honestly, it was a challenge to narrow down which film I enjoyed the most. Anything in the mystery and thriller genre is my bread and butter (I picked up my first Sherlock Holmes book in the fourth grade and haven’t been able to curb the obsession since), making “A Haunting in Venice” a perfect watch for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Poirot films, “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile,” so I’ve been waiting for the third to come out.
The third Agatha Christie movie adaptation didn’t disappoint, and it was entertaining to see Tina Fey in something that wasn’t comedic. This installment was more unnerving and sinister than the previous ones, and I enjoyed this departure. One aspect of these films that I love is how Poiroit’s (Kenneth Branagh) logic and analysis of the situation are expressed to viewers as if we can see his thought process. Producer James Prichard has already hinted at a fourth movie, and I can’t wait to see which novel they adapt next.
Honorable Mentions: “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” “The Out-Laws,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Happiness for Beginners,” “Love Again,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” “Boston Strangler”
Top Show: ‘Not Dead Yet’
In complete honesty, I love a good sitcom, and Gina Rodriguez is so adorable; it’s about time she starred in another show. The concept for this plotline is fun and quirky, and it was really enjoyable. If the ghosts of the people I was writing obituaries for started following me around, I’d think I was going crazy, too. Rodriquez’s character, Nell, is sarcastic and doesn’t take herself too seriously. This show is over the top, ridiculous, and filled with wine nights, making it just my speed. My only complaint is that the season only lasted 13 episodes.
Honorable Mentions: “A Murder at the End of the World,” “Black Cake,” “Based on a True Story,” “The Crowded Room,” “Jury Duty,” “The Watchful Eye”
Vallie Lynn Watson — Writer
Top Show: ‘Below Deck: Down Under’
My guilty-pleasure television tropes are teen dramas and Bravo reality shows. Though both can be problematic — setting up unrealistic expectations of appearance, reinforcing stereotypes, potentially promoting all kinds of -isms — the reality viewing carries a bit more actual guilt. It hits differently to watch real people behave badly.
But last season’s “Below Deck: Down Under” got something very right when they had to tackle the horrific situation of two of their crew, a man and a woman, being targets of potential sexual assault by other crew members. The producers did not hesitate to break the fourth wall and intervene immediately; they also made the choice to show the intervention and the raw aftermath. The situation was handled with kindness and common sense, and while upsetting in many ways, the handling of the trauma gives me hope that we may see some needed reality reckoning in the Bravo-verse.
Honorable Mentions: “House of Villains,” “Vanderpump Rules”
Melanie Merritt — Writer
Top Movie: ‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’
To be frank, I’m just not as much of a movie person as I am a television viewer. In fact, I only watched two movies in theaters in 2023: Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” and Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.” The former was surface-level and cute while the latter was awful, so there’s no chance I’m assigning either one as my top movie of the year. Fortunately, I did stream one movie worth sharing (aside from my honorable mention pick, “Barbie”). Apple TV+’s “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” was captivating and highly entertaining.
Fiction is typically more my style when it comes to movies, so including a documentary as my top movie of the year is a true testament to how deeply I enjoyed it. I’ve been a Michael J. Fox fan since I can remember. Between “Family Ties,” “Teen Wolf,” and the Back to the Future franchise, Fox was a huge part of my childhood media consumption. My appreciation for him continued into adulthood; I’m also a fan of “Spin City” and him as a person in general.
Learning first-hand about his experience as an actor and getting a closer glimpse into his journey with Parkinson’s kept me compelled while also stirring up some nostalgia and emotions. If you’re a fan of documentaries and appreciate Michael J. Fox’s body of work, add this one to your watchlist!
Honorable Mentions: “Barbie” and “Leave the World Behind”
Top Show: ‘Poker Face’
Narrowing down my list of TV shows I loved in 2023 wasn’t an easy task, yet I persisted. Rian Johnson’s murder-mystery comedy “Poker Face” on Peacock earns the top slot. Natasha Lyonne stars as Charlie Cale, a casino worker with a unique skill — she can tell when a person is lying. A helpful ability for a person swept up in a murder-of-the-week story across 10 anthology-style episodes. I enjoyed the mystery and storytelling and appreciated the strong cinematography. Also noteworthy: Lyonne debuted her writing and directing skills in episode 8, “The Orpheus Syndrome.”
The star-studded lineup of actors and guest stars runs deep: Benjamin Bratt, Adrien Brody, Ellen Barkin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Nolte, Chloë Sevigny, Judith Light, Tim Meadows, and Clea DuVall, to name a few. While the use of guest stars and the procedural nature of the show felt formulaic at times, the celebrity factor and Lyonne’s comedic genius superseded that vibe.
The new series earned Lyonne a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 75th Emmy Awards to be held in January 2024. “Poker Face” has already been renewed for a second season, though production hasn’t resumed yet. I can’t wait to see what Johnson has in store!
Honorable Mentions: “Lessons in Chemistry,” “Shrinking,” “Silo,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Other Black Girl,” “The Last of Us,” “Dear Child”
Gabriel Aikins — Writer
Top Movie: ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem’
Throughout their long history on the screen in both television shows and movies, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have often focused more on the “ninja” part than on the “teenage” aspect. Don’t get me wrong, ninjas are very cool! But being a teenager is a confusing, important time in life and already a rich gold mine of thematic material. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” finally gives Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Donatello (Micah Abbey), and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) more teenage problems to worry about, like making friends and if girls — mostly April O’Neil (Ayo Edibri) — like them.
This is my favorite TMNT movie because it captures so much of the joy, energy, and challenges of being a teenager. The brothers talk to each other in memes, love K-pop, and feel like real teenagers. At the same time, the action is everything TMNT fans have come to expect from the heroes, with plenty of mutant butt-kicking action. The animation style is gorgeous, and “Mutant Mayhem” genuinely has a ton of heart in its story about finding acceptance and the importance of the family you’re born with and the people you choose to add. If you’re a fan of the heroes in a half shell, you owe it to yourself to check out “Mutant Mayhem.”
Honorable Mentions: “Me3gan,” “Thanksgiving,” “Oppenheimer,” “Barbie,” “No Hard Feelings”
Top Show: ‘The Last of Us’
As a huge fan of the game “The Last of Us: Part 1,” I had high expectations and a few reservations about the show. I consider the game to be the greatest story ever told in the video game medium, and game-to-live-action adaptations don’t have a stellar track record. I was completely thrilled then that “The Last of Us” delivered some of the best television of the decade, let alone the year.
Taking place after a fungal-based apocalypse, the story of stoic, hardened survivor Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), a girl who carries an immunity to the fungus, is full of thrilling moments and jaw-dropping setpieces. But much more than the action, “The Last of Us” captures the human spirit of survival and the cost of going on more than any other show I’ve ever seen. All of the acting is superb, and the show gives all of its characters time to breathe. The episode following the story of survivors Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) is genuinely the most touching love story I’ve ever seen on television. “The Last of Us” is a towering achievement not only for video game adaptations but for television as a whole.
Honorable Mentions: “Succession” Season 4, “Love & Death,” “Jury Duty,” “The Bear” Season 2