Picturehouse Votes: The Best Films of 2023

Another year, another countdown! See what our Members and our team crowned the 10 best movies of the year.

Lara Peters, Hope Hopkinson, Lucy Fenwick Elliott

21 Dec 23

We know we say this every year, but it's been a great year for movies, hasn't it? With the bona fide cultural phenomenon that was Barbenheimer conquering cinemas this summer,  the spotlight fell once again on the big screen in 2023 – and the months surrounding those two blockbuster behemoths seemed to pull out all the cinematic stops to match up. 

As is customary when the year draws to a close, we checked in with our most trusted resource – the loyal cinephiles that are our Picturehouse Members – to create a countdown chronicling their favourite films of the year. It's no surprise to find the aforementioned pair circling the top spot, but there are more than a few surprises in store, too…

10. Asteroid City 

Wes Anderson is a perennial Picturehouse fave – we've done all-nighters, all-dayers, costume competitions, and even made films of our own in his honour – so the freight train of delights that is Asteroid City rolled into our cinemas with plenty of fanfare. Its '50s-Americana style, nesting-doll storytelling (a play inside a television special inside a film!) and typically starry cast headed up by a top-notch Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson all made for an out-of-this-world start to a stellar summer of movies.

"Despite being set in a roasting hot desert with some funny one-liners and an amazing cast, this could easily be some of Wes's darkest and most poignant work", said Picturehouse at FACT Member Clara. "Asteroid City touches on grief and the question of mortality, whilst still keeping things entertaining and beautiful to watch. I LOVED it!" So did we. (LP)

9. TÁR

Starting 2023 off with a veritable crescendo, Cate Blanchett stepped up to the podium and became the eponymous Lydia Tár (EGOT): a philharmonic conductor whose private turmoils cannibalised her intricately composed public persona from the inside out. Inspiring a plethora of think-pieces (as well as Google searches for both tailored women's suits and "is Lydia Tár a real person?"), it's a credit to Blanchett's performance and Todd Field's nuanced take on an incredibly complex character, letting us into the cavernous mind of a woman hell-bent on control no matter the cost.

"Brilliant, provocative and challenging," says Cinema City local Kelsie English, singing the praises of "Cate Blanchett 's uncompromising performance, [which] continues to live on in the mind." With an early entry for the most rewarding final act of the year, TÁR goes far and beyond the well-trodden discussions about cancel culture and abuse of power, and presents a monumental portrait of a woman on the verge of a downward spiral – and everything she takes down with her. (HH)

8. Scrapper

The first of two entries from our very own Picturehouse Entertainment (a testament to the calibre of a stacked 2023 catalogue), indie darling Charlotte Regan's debut feature took our screens by storm this Summer in all its playful, frank, and heart-rending glory. Starring plucky newcomer Lola Campbell and Triangle of Sadness' Harris Dickinson as an unlikely father-daughter duo, Scrapper tackles social realism without ever breaching a dreary or self-pitying territory; its vibrant palette, daydreaming sensibility and charmingly unconventional direction breathing life into a story of resilience and recovery.

A Picturehouse Central regular fondly recalls its "imaginative, honest and delightfully joyful evocation of British working-class life that perfectly blends social and magic realism without sentimentality or patronising its characters." We couldn't agree more, and plan on being first in line to anything and everything that Charlotte Regan does next. (HH)

7. Rye Lane

Our apologies to Richard Curtis, but forget Notting Hill: Peckham is for lovers. Astonishingly assured for a film from a debut director (the third on our list!), Raine Allen Miller's Sundance Film Festival smash Rye Lane reinvigorated the homegrown romantic comedy, updating its setting and its stars to reflect what modern love really looks like – and proving once and for all that there's plenty of colour, charm, and character to be found south of the river. 

"In a [year] of excellent British independent films, romances, and heartwarming fare I'll watch over and again, Rye Lane managed to be all three," declares Hackney Picturehouse Member, Sarah. But don't let her East London locale put you off – one Member who grew up in the film's neck of the woods "couldn't stop smiling and laughing throughout." We anticipate big things for its director and its fast-rising stars, the utterly buoyant Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson, whose karaoke scene is worth the price of admission alone. (LP)

6. Saltburn

After Promising Young Woman skipped cinemas in 2021, it was time for the big screen to meet Emerald Fennell with her audacious sophomore feature Saltburn. And audacious it was: the noughties-set psychosexual thriller took a decadent dive into class division that similarly divided critics. But with an acidic pop soundtrack, hypnotic cinematography from Linus Sandgren and an all-star cast having the time of their lives, there's one thing we could all seemingly agree on - this is cinematic spectacle (and scandal!) at the highest level.

Take it from Jack, a Member at Little Theatre Cinema in Bath: "After I watched Saltburn I could not stop thinking about it for days on end. The twists, the cinematography, the score, the soundtrack, and to top it off, Barry [Keoghan] and Jacob [Elordi] were absolutely exquisite. It's one of those films where you come out with no words to describe what you just saw." (LFE)

5. Killers of the Flower Moon

Marty's back, tell a friend! His return to the big screen following the epic 2019 mob procedural The Irishman marked one of the most hotly anticipated cinematic events of the year, and it certainly didn't disappoint. Whilst vast in scope and length, in typical Scorsese fashion Killers of the Flower Moon is a hugely intimate piece, worming itself into the darkest crevices of the most contemptible evil to shed light on the enduring resilience and strength of the Osage people. Topped off by an epilogue for the ages - placing Scorsese as storyteller and us as an audience in the epicentre of the narrative - even after its hefty (but necessary!) run-time has elapsed, the question of "can you spot the wolves in this picture?" lingers on.

Duke of York's Member Tara Hanks says, "grand-scale filmmaking with a soul – a late-career masterpiece from Scorsese," and that's just on his latest foray into cinema with his cameos in daughter Francesca's TikToks. In earnest: with one of the most profoundly empathetic performances of the year from the inimitable Lily Gladstone as its beating heart, Killers of the Flower Moon is a living, breathing, crying triumph. We do love this movie, sir.  (HH)

4. Barbie

Hello, dolly - it's no great surprise to see you here, given that Barbie took over the internet, the box office, and Picturehouses the land over. Member Joseph from Finsbury Park reminded us of the cultural moment that was Barbenheimer's opening weekend: "I'll never forget premiere night, dressing pink with the girlies, laughing at the silly jokes, whooping and hollering at the dance sequences, crying my eyes out. It was unlike any other film."

Greta Gerwig's meteoric rise from mumblecore darling to arthouse icon to queen of the global box office gifted us a summer blockbuster to remember - one that underpins its dizzying fun and choreographed dance parties with a heady, hearty and expansive exploration of gender and humanity. Or, as fellow Finsbury Park Member Stewart succinctly puts it, "Every other film is just Ken." (LFE)

3. Oppenheimer

Speaking of Kens...where'd Barbie be without her counterpart? We'll let Jack, a Member at Clapham Picturehouse, capture the scale of this one for you: "The magnum opus of one of the great modern popular filmmakers, pushing all his skills to new heights, proved that audiences will still show up to old-school character-driven dramas, and that name-brand directors are still worth investing in. It might just be the film that saves cinema itself." No pressure, Mr. Nolan. You've got it under control.

It feels redundant to call Oppenheimer a massive achievement, but we'll do it anyway: in terms of scope, style and substance, to say nothing of its stacked cast, the story of the man who built the atomic bomb made for one of the biggest movies of the year. Balancing weighty themes with spectacular craft, and anchored by a barn-storming lead in long-time Nolan collaborator/excellent hat-wearer Cillian Murphy, long story short: this one will blow your mind. (And maybe your eardrums.) (LP)

2. Anatomy of a Fall

You'd have been hard-pressed to step into a Picturehouse this November and not be confronted with the question of whether or not he fell or was pushed. Whilst this was a question raised by Justine Triet's Palme d'Or-winning Anatomy of a Fall, her cross-examination of a courtroom drama did away with seeking an answer, more concerned with underpinning the notion of justice itself. Featuring year-best performances from Sandra Huller & Swann Arlaud (not to mention an award-winning turn from Snoop the dog), it's meticulously crafted to make us interrogate our desire for a logical narrative, whilst providing a thoroughly compelling and unpredictable viewing experience from start to finish.

When called to the stand, Little Theatre Member Harry praised its "absolutely gripping script, constantly playing with the viewers' perception of what actually took place," and we concur! He continues, "The camerawork was incredible, and although the film was almost 3 hours it flew by. I can't wait to watch it again!" Our verdict? Guilty of being one of the most original, impactful takes on the genre in recent memory. (HH)

1. Past Lives

In a year full of grand spectacles, something special stormed ahead in the poll by quite a way – and it's still going strong after a remarkable 15 weeks on Picturehouse screens. Our Members' greatest love of the year was Celine Song's divine debut Past Lives:delicate and subtle (but completely heart-pulverising) story of two childhood friends who come together years later, this film completely won us over with its tender look at romance as both a tapestry of moments and a sea of possibilities.

Cameo Member Andreia praises the unorthodox love story as a "very intimate film, beautifully shot," and focuses on how it "completely avoids the tropes of 'romantic triangle' and 'star-crossed lovers'" to instead deliver "a nuanced take on the emigrant experience, of belonging in two places but also neither, and living with the 'what ifs' that come with moving on."

We've been a fan of this one since we brought it to Sundance Film Festival: London (where it won the Audience Award, too!)  so you could say plenty of layers of in-yun brought it to the top of our countdown. Don't wait until your next life to see it. (LFE)

Need to catch up? Find some of the best films of the year at a Picturehouse near you. Get tickets.

2023 in review on the Picturehouse podcast

Want to hear some of our team's picks (and quibbles)? Check in with The Love of Cinema for a very special 2023 year-in-review episode.

The Team Picturehouse Top 10

Ask anyone working at our cinemas, and they'll share their love of film too. Votes were taken from all across the Picturehouse family, from up in Edinburgh to down in Brighton. 


"Every part of this film showcases the top level of talent both behind the camera and in front of it. Career-defining work from Nolan and Murphy." – Bailey, Supervisor at The Little Theatre Cinema


"Being a highly-anticipated sequel to one of the most refreshing, dynamic films of recent memory wasn't an easy task, but [it] manages to be bolder and better than its predecessor. Breaks the mould of the recent multiverse zeitgeist with some excellent emotional storytelling, and sets up what might be the greatest film trilogy of all time! – Jamie, Duty Manager at Picturehouse at FACT


"It was beautiful in every sense: visually, in its plot, its sound, in what was said and not said. GLORIOUS!" – Helen, Deputy General Manager at Cinema City, Norwich


"Greta Gerwig pulled it off and created something that was as delightfully funny as it was startlingly existential and emotional. Quite simply: SUBLIME! And, of course, it was a joy to see so many people coming to our cinema this summer to join in and feel the Kenergy." – Anneka, Marketing Manager at Harbour Lights


"You'd be a (anatomy of a) fool not to recognise Justine Triet's searing indictment of the courtroom drama as the best film of 2023. Did she push him? Did he jump? Does it matter? No. What matters is this examination of truth as spectacle, a topic Justine has explored before in her sophomore feature In Bed With Victoria, but that she develops here with a larger scope and assured directorial lens. A Triet Truimph!" – Johnathan, Marketing Manager at The Ritzy


"Even though it was pretty wild, it left a lasting impression – and most importantly I had fun!" – Zoe, Designer


"Revels in its incredibly intelligent script – the most sickly, twisted, gloriously camp and terrifyingly funny film of 2023. The acting is all top-notch, with Charles Melton (after throwing his Riverdale varsity jacket in the fire) pulling off one of the most sensitive and layered performances of the year." – Millie, Duty Manager at the Phoenix Picturehouse

8. TÁR

"Cate Blanchett somehow pulls out yet another career-best performance: she is phenomenal here and the supporting cast is clearly energised by her spiky, unpredictable performance. The editing and sound design are impeccably used to evoke Lydia Tár's slowly crumbling world." – Levi, Marketing Manager at the Regal Picturehouse


"As someone who was (and is?) decidedly not a Wes girl, I really wasn't expecting it to do much of anything for me. I was instead met by a gentle and truly profound rumination on grief, opening yourself up to feeling life's big feelings, and banding together to comprehend the heft of it all. So many sweet little moments stuck with me, and on a second watch it cemented as something far more special and self-contained than I could've dreamed." – Hope, Sponsorship & Social Media Executive


"As someone usually annoyed by a three-hour runtime, I didn't feel the length at all – I just got swept up in the historical setting, and a part of American history I knew very little about. I also enjoyed all the performances; none of the characters were perfect, and nothing was ever black and white." – Rhiannon, Marketing Manager at East Dulwich Picturehouse