RIGHT NOW WITH RUSSELL: Top 10 Movies of 2023

Movies in 2023 tested our beliefs, boundaries and bladders.

As directors chose to explore the definition of family and relationships, the cross-generational impact of female empowerment, and America’s troubling history with discrimination and race, audiences experienced a trend toward films stretching three hours or more.

There are still a significant handful of movies with Oscar buzz heading our way (“All of Us Strangers,” “American Fiction,” “Fallen Leaves” and “The Zone of Interest” among others), but here are my choices nonetheless for the best films of the year.


Alexander Payne’s outstanding dramedy is a wonderfully intimate and meaningful account of friendship and forgiveness set in 1970 at a New England boarding school. Paul Giamatti shines as Paul Hunham, a curmudgeonly history teacher responsible for looking after a handful of students unable to be with their families during Christmas break. Dominic Sessa as frustrated student Angus Tully and funny, touching Da’Vine Joy Randolph as grieving cafeteria worker Mary Lamb are equally winning, especially when situations swell off campus.


At 81, Martin Scorsese is still in a league of his own. His compelling yet startlingly lengthy (3 hours and 26 minutes!) look at the terrible crimes against the Osage Nation in Oklahoma was a frank reminder of America’s injustices toward Native Americans. In addition to 80-year-old Robert De Niro at his treacherous best as sinister cattleman William Hale and Leonardo DiCaprio’s dopey grit as Hale’s loyal nephew Ernest, the phenomenal Lily Gladstone steals the film as Ernest’s devoted wife Mollie, a wealthy Osage woman who becomes unsuspecting prey.


Director Christopher Nolan’s fascinating, fast-moving and intellectual character study about America’s pivotal nuclear weapons-centered Manhattan Project greatly benefited from Cillian Murphy’s strikingly cool and calculated portrayal of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb.” And as Ludwig Göransson’s booming, imposing score kept the action on edge, Robert Downey Jr. proves revelatory as U.S. Atomic Energy Chairman Lewis Strauss and a completely unrecognizable Gary Oldman delivers one of the most surprisingly disturbing portrayals of President Harry Truman that has ever been captured on film.


Celine Strong’s quiet, relatable and moving story of Korean childhood friends reuniting as adults in New York City pulsates with yearning and lingering questions. As Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Too) attempt to reconnect and somewhat rekindle the sparks of long ago, Strong vividly reminds us that we cannot change the past even when our emotions demand otherwise.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP


Greta Gerwig’s colorful cultural phenomenon defied expectations as a funny, witty romp existing within a smart cautionary tale centered on female empowerment. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are pitch-perfect but the film was taken to another level thanks to America Ferrera as Gloria, a Mattel employee from the real world who travels to Barbie Land and releases the Barbies from their submissiveness during the patriarchal reign of the Kens. Ferrera’s powerful monologue reminding the Barbies of the expectations and pressures of being a woman in America laid the groundwork for a larger discussion of equality in 2023.


A remarkable Bradley Cooper delivers the performance of his career as the legendary American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein. Sidestepping most of the music that made Bernstein iconic (notably “West Side Story”), this biopic is uniquely framed around the tender yet complicated love story between the bisexual Bernstein and his devoted wife Felicia (a superb Carey Mulligan). Cooper’s marvelous embodiment of Bernstein passionately conducting Mahler’s gorgeous Resurrection Symphony while shaking to the core in ecstatic euphoria is one of many reasons why he’ll be the Oscar frontrunner for Best Actor.


This kooky, thought-provoking Frankenstein-inspired Victorian saga from director Yorgos Lanthimos embraces themes of class, science, liberation, sexuality, motherhood, and marriage with playful velocity. Emma Stone, in an impressively physical portrayal, delightfully dominates as resurrected vixen Bella Baxter. Excellent support stems from charming Willem Dafoe as ailing scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter and wacky Mark Ruffalo as silly scoundrel Duncan Wedderburn.


Director Blitz Bazawule’s beautiful, energetic and inspiring musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel soars with cultural authenticity, luminous vocals and rousing choreography. An exceptionally understated Fantasia Barrino reprises her acclaimed Broadway portrayal of the demoralized yet ultimately emboldened Celie. Barrino’s full-throttle, direct-to-camera rendition of “I’m Here” is an uplifting, applause-inducing tour de force. Danielle Brooks also dazzles in Oscar worthy fashion as larger-than-life Sofia.


Justine Triet’s riveting French courtroom drama dissects a marriage in turmoil. As flashbacks unfold, Sandra Hüller’s splendidly controlled portrayal of a novelist suspected of killing her husband never diminishes in complexity or intrigue. This film also finds a way to use 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” to chilling effect.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP


Just when you think you’ve seen absolutely everything on the big screen — and I mean everything — along comes Emerald Fennell’s shockingly good contemporary satire about class, betrayal, obsession and power at a grand England estate. A dynamic Barry Keoghan rules the roost as the seemingly naïve Oliver Quick, who weasels his way into high society with glee. This bold, psychosexual and jaw-dropping spin on “The Talented Mr. Ripley” is a thrill ride that pulls you in without letting go while giving new meaning to graveside grief.

Honorable Mentions:

“A Thousand and One”


“American Symphony”

“Asteroid City”

“The Boys in the Boat”



“The Iron Claw”

“King Coal”

“Leave the World Behind”

“Lie with Me”

“The Little Mermaid”

“May December”

“Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”





“Strange Way of Life”

“Theater Camp”

“You Hurt My Feelings”

Right Now with Russell spotlights pop culture every Friday and as news arises. From the latest in film, music, books and TV to the buzz of awards season and other hot button topics, the goal is to fill you in on what’s new in order to satisfy your entertainment cravings. He can be reached at Russell.Florence@coxohio.com.

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