Sadly, I didn’t see many new movies this year. Some were a little disappointing (mini rant: we need more original content). Others I still haven’t seen! Because of that, my list is both small and probably not surprising given the popularity of these films!
I would argue these films are popular partly because of the failure of many franchises to offer something unique, well-written, and immersive. I would also argue that these films had a single, visionary writer or director behind them who made them with love–something I think is missing from many franchises.
I chose these films because they surprised me by breaking out of the mold and making me feel things. These are also all action-packed movies because, admittedly, I haven’t seen many dramas this year. I’m sure there are many independent films breaking out of molds in beautiful ways that I haven’t seen, so feel free to leave suggestions in the comments!
RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt)
RRR is a now the most popular Indian Telugu-language film. It feels similar to a super hero or martial arts film but that takes special effects and stunts to the next level of impossibility. You have to suspend your disbelief and take in the story as you would an epic legend. Beneath all of the stunning special effects is a story about friendship and colonialism. The film is strange to someone like me who isn’t used to Tollywood or Bollywood films, but that’s why I liked it: it continually surprised me and showed me that films can be different from Hollywood.
I don’t recommend this film to anyone who struggles with watching violence. Though not gory, there is a lot of fighting.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Watching Everything Everywhere All at Once in the theater with some friends was one of the most fun movie experiences I’ve had in awhile. I had no idea what to expect with each scene. It was shockingly funny while also being emotional and meaningful. What I think worked so well for me was how they took a big, world-changing dilemma but made it personal to the protagonist.
Because I went into the film without knowing anything about it except that it involved the multiverse and starred Michelle Yeoh (who is just amazing) and Ke Huy Quan, or “Data from The Goonies,” I’m going to leave the rest for you to discover: I won’t even leave the trailer. I will warn that this is an adult film with adult content and themes, including some nudity and violence.
Top Gun: Maverick
You have probably already seen Top Gun: Maverick. I know I just said we need more original films, but I think this sequel has its own merit. Unlike some Disney remakes that earn money and then disappear, people continued to see this film when it was brought back to theaters.
I think this is because it feels like a classic, heartfelt, cinematic blockbuster film. In this case, breaking out of the mold meant moving comfortably back into one that was working well. This may partly be because Maverick is also a kind of hero that we don’t see often anymore: a male character who isn’t almost unbearable (mini rant 2: we need more good male characters).
The film isn’t “deep,” but it is fun and inspiring to watch people overcome huge obstacles with courage. It was also nice to see a female character who was capable without the men around her constantly telling her that she isn’t (mini rant 3: women in stories don’t need men underestimating them so they can prove their strength). This showed that women in films can be strong without constantly having to prove it to sexist men, or even to men who only sexualize her. It showed that male characters can be be decent. Even the biggest jerk in the film gets a chance to be decent (what a concept!).
What films did you love this year? What films are you looking forward to in 2023?