Posted January 10, 2024

The Best of 2023: JBFC Staff's Favorite Films

by JBFC Marketing Manager Paige Grand Pré

Between Barbenheimer and the writers and actors’ strikes, it’s been a wild year for the film industry! In celebration of the cinematic medium that weathered it all, we’ve compiled “Best of 2023” lists from staff members across the Jacob Burns Film Center. Featuring a wide range of titles that made us laugh, cry, grow, think, reflect, and cheer, this best-of roundup is a testament to our staff’s diverse tastes and undying love for film, as well the myriad ways this beloved art form can bring us together. Please note: Lists are only numbered if staff members ranked their picks.

We’ll see you at the movies!


Liv Hodgson, Programming Administrative Assistant

  1. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig — Obviously the highest-grossing, most talked about film of the year, which made it just a joyful experience at the theaters. A fun, heartfelt, humorous, and smart movie. In my opinion, this is an instant classic.
  2. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song — I saw this one twice and both times I found myself tearing up during that final scene. A beautiful, contemplative look at the human experience of wondering “what if?” Absolutely stunning.
  3. Asteroid City | Dir. Wes Anderson — As someone who isn’t normally a Wes Anderson fan, I didn’t expect to love this. But it was so brilliant and so honest, and just a creative, funny piece of art. All around it was a true joy to watch, which is really all I can ask for.
  4. The Starling Girl | Dir. Laurel Parmet — THIS. A criminally underrated masterpiece of a movie. It’s hard to even express how it felt to watch it, especially as a woman. It captures the shame and guilt that go along with being a girl in our modern society so tactfully and with such genuine, raw understanding. I’m a big advocate for this film reaching a wider audience.
  5. Bottoms | Dir. Emma Seligman — The funniest movie I’ve seen in YEARS. There’s nothing like the high I felt after walking out of the screening. This movie is so genuine, such a fantastic time, so expertly written, and so thoughtful. Everything about it, from the writing to the cinematography to the sets and costumes to the performances, is so earnest and deeply hilarious. An incredibly absurd parody of American high school and gender stereotypes with a keen sense of heart and humor.


Cameron Lee, Usher

  1. Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan
  2. The Taste of Things | Dir. Tran Anh Hung
  3. The Zone of Interest | Dir. Jonathan Glazer
  4. Poor Things | Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
  5. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig


Lynne Barcenas, House Manager

  1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse | Dir. Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson & Kemp Powers
  2. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig
  3. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song
  4. Bottoms | Dir. Emma Seligman
  5. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour | Dir. Sam Wrench


Tara Bongiorno, Customer Service Manager

  1. The Color Purple | Dir. Blitz Bazawule
  2. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig
  3. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song
  4. The Holdovers | Dir. Alexander Payne
  5. It Ain’t Over | Dir. Sean Mullin

Honorable Mention: Little Richard: I Am Everything | Dir. Lisa Cortés


Miguel Aguilar, AV Supervisor

  1. When Evil Lurks | Dir. Demián Rugna
  2. The Fist Slam Dunk | Dir. Takehiko Inoue
  3. How to Blow Up a Pipeline | Dir. Daniel Goldhaber
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 | Dir. James Gunn
  5. The Royal Hotel | Dir. Kitty Green


Kaitlyn Hare, Audience Services Associate

  1. Fallen Leaves | Dir. Aki Kaurismäki
  2. The Holdovers | Dir. Alexander Payne
  3. Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan
  4. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig
  5. Poor Things | Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos


Sam Van Der Meer, Projectionist

Perfect Days | Dir. Wim Wenders — Soberly, quietly, and beautifully optimistic and endlessly pleasant, with Koji Yakusho given a lead role of quiet contentedness and unpretentious philosophy, with the gentle touch that Wim Wenders has so often exuded in past films. Even following a man whose work is to clean public restrooms, Tokyo is alive and beautiful in all of its cracks and crevices, playing as an optimistic and still realistic flipside to films that will scandalize the darker aspects of heavy urbanization. Wenders and Yakusho personal favorites of mine, so to see such excellent later-career work from both is heartwarming.

The Boy and the Heron | Dir. Hayao Miyazaki — As an artist, Hayao Miyazaki’s motifs and style have become so synonymous with Japanese animation that his is work often taken for granted. Yet to watch his latest, in all of its wrestling with his own struggles with art, its meaning, and walking away from bodies of work while still delivering a stunningly beautiful work of fantasy, you can’t help but tear up in awe of it all. Begs for a second viewing which I desperately need; another master and personal favorite at work.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline | Dir. Daniel Goldhaber — Edited and told with lean, practical efficiency and top-to-bottom outstanding performances, this was one I walked into optimistically but wouldn’t have suspected to enjoy and think about as much as I have.

Pacifiction | Dir. Albert Serra — For nearly three hours Albert Serra revels in political doublespeak and gorgeous Tahitian vistas while his French bureaucrat (Benoit Magimel) gnaws at the increasing unease brewing in a neo-colonial political flashpoint with potentially-nuclear implications. For its seeping paranoia, I wasn’t sold on Pacifiction, despite its constant technical prowess, until its final moments, hammering the point in a way that makes its languid pace seem like the longest fuse you can imagine.

El Conde | Dir. Pablo Larraín — Pablo Larraín remains prolific, seemingly effortlessly, dabbling in a magical realism with his Pinochet vampire movie while still honing a scathing historical tone, his stark compositions and dry delivery of shocking material in line with his best works. Featuring what may be my favorite shot of the year in the lonely nocturnal habits of a brutal vampire dictator.

(Need to see: Mami Wata, La Chimera, The Zone of Interest (Dir. Jonathan Glazer), and Scarlet!)

With a special mention to Boots Riley’s I’m a Virgo, his limited series following up his feature debut Sorry to Bother You from 2018. Riley takes the biggest of ideas (literally, with a 13-foot tall giant starring) and forges blisteringly honest and relevant social satire, taking aim at everything from consumer culture to junk media, privatization and militarization of police and system racism while taking up the gonzo aesthetic of Alex Cox for the 21st century.


Liam Verdon, Audience Services Associate

(Disclaimer: I am yet to see Past Lives (Dir. Celine Song), The Zone of Interest (Dir. Jonathan Glazer), Perfect Days (Dir. Wim Wenders), and The Taste of Things (Dir. Tran Anh Hung).

  1. Fallen Leaves | Dir. Aki Kaurismäki — This film transcended the medium for me. Aki Kaurismaki’s deadpan writing complimented his color palate and actors almost too well. A tender love story that remains realist throughout the run time. Panoramic yet intimate, simply a beautiful film that anyone in our world can appreciate.
  2. Anatomy of a Fall | Dir. Justine Triet — A grueling court procedural and examination of truth and relationships. The screenplay is pristine, one of the better films I’ve seen in the last decade. Milo Machado Graner’s performance stands out.
  3. Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan — I feel guilty ranking Nolan’s opus at third. In a time choc full of terminal CGI and insufferable Hollywood biopics, Christopher Nolan did God’s work. Oppenheimer is not only an outstanding biopic but one of the best cinematic experiences in memory. Cillian Murphy remains one of my favorite current actors, though Emily Blunt is the best of the film for me. Ludwig Gorranson’s score is masterful; incredible that he was a replacement!
  4. Asteroid City | Dir. Wes Anderson — Peak Wes Anderson, one of my favorites from the auteur. Wonderful characters (Montana in particular) and a perfect soundtrack.
  5. Poor Things | Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos — Emma Stone’s rollicking performance is my favorite of the year and Willem Dafoe’s character is wild fun. The world building by Yorgos Lanthimos is a masterclass.


Denise Treco, Director of Marketing and Communications

  1. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song
  2. Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan
  3. Anatomy of a Fall | Dir. Justine Triet
  4. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig
  5. It Ain’t Over | Dir. Sean Mullin


Paige Grand Pré, Marketing Manager

  1. Showing Up | Dir. Kelly Reichardt — A phenomenal, unassuming look at the lives of creatives that—like many of Reichardt’s films—uses seemingly quotidian moments and pensive, nuanced performances to subtly build up to a powerfully emotional crescendo. The end result, a surprisingly sentimental (at least for Reichardt) reminder that “90% of life is showing up,” is a really beautiful reflection on the ways families—both by blood and by choice—show up for one another, and how important that simple act of Showing Up can be.
  2. Theater Camp | Dir. Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman — It’s rare that a film can make me laugh so hard, help me feel so seen, and heal my inner child all at once. Theater Camp seems like it was a true joy to make, and it was a real treat to watch.
  3. May December | Dir. Todd Haynes — This may well be Haynes’ most self-assured film in years, perhaps since Carol, but it’s Samy Burch’s spectacular screenplay and Marcelo Zarvos’ haunting score that really put it over the top.
  4. Saltburn | Dir. Emerald Fennell — Brideshead Revisited, but make it hornier—with the added bonus of killer one-liners, sumptuous and indulgent cinematography, beautifully blasé acting, gloriously grandiose sets and production design, a just-dated-enough soundtrack to inspire fierce nostalgia, and an iconic nude dancing sequence that’s catapulted Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 anthem “Murder on the Dancefloor” back onto the Billboard charts decades later. Who could ask for more?
  5. Bottoms | Dir. Emma Seligman — Finally: Onscreen representation for untalented gays!!!
  6. Godzilla Minus One | Dir. Takashi Yamazaki — Everything a blockbuster film should be, and then some. Set against the backdrop of postwar Japan, Godzilla Minus One elevates what could’ve easily been just another run-of-the-mill monster movie plot beyond filler to something truly meaningful, playing on survivor’s guilt after the bombing of Tokyo, the crushing military restrictions imposed on Japan after WWII, and the then-unknown consequences of nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll to create a wholly original take on one of cinema’s oldest and most well-known monsters, never once losing sight of the highly compelling human story at its core. Writer/director/special effects supervisor Yamazaki (yes, he actually did all three) bucks the industry trend of prioritizing flash over substance in more ways than one; by eschewing the industry’s heavy reliance on CGI in favor of more practical effects, staging truly spectacular action sequences wracked with edge-of-your-seat suspense, and interweaving an intricate, perfect three-act-structure family drama throughout it all, Yamazaki achieves what very few action flicks, superhero films, monster movies, or blockbusters have in the past decade—and maybe even longer—all on a mere $15 million budget. Now that’s movie magic.
  7. Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan — I have long derided Nolan for his needlessly complicated plots and bloated big-budget pictures, but Oppenheimer hit all the right notes for me—perhaps because it was so antithetical to Nolan’s past few films. Cillian Murphy was almost transcendent in the title role, but the ensemble cast (something I usually abhor) also deserves praise across the board. The film’s three-hour runtime seemed to fly by, while the sound mixing and editing was a work of art in its own right.
  8. They Cloned Tyrone | Dir. Juel Taylor — While a little rough around the edges, They Cloned Tyrone is my idea of a perfect first feature, as writer/director Juel Taylor offers up a film that is wildly original in its premise yet firmly rooted in film history with its stylized homage to the Blaxploitation genre. Drawing on his family’s roots—Taylor hails from Tuskegee, home of the infamous Tuskegee Study—to craft a dystopian world as fascinating as it is sinister, Taylor brings They Cloned Tyrone vividly to life with quippy dialogue, delivered via superb performances from a stellar cast. Bonus points for transferring the final result to film, even though it was shot digitally to save money; the hyper-saturated, grainy result is beyond perfect.
  9. Polite Society | Dir. Nida Manzoor — This film kicks ass in every sense of the phrase. Come for the action sequences and comedic set pieces, stay for the poignant celebration of platonic and sisterly love.
  10. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig — Only Greta could turn Barbie, the avatar of late-stage-capitalism and a body image nightmare for generations of women, into a charmingly hilarious send-up of sexism that returns the doll to the original intention behind her creation. Beyond the laughs (Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken”) and the tears (Billie Eilish’s gut-punch “What Was I Made For?”), I cherished Barbie for what it accomplished: reminding the public just how fun going to the movies could be, celebrating the invisible struggles generations of women have endured, providing a vast swath of moviegoers with a crash course in Feminism 101, and proving to the studios once and for all that stories by, for, and about women—however silly, saccharine, or saturated in pink they may be—don’t just matter, but are an economic force to be reckoned with.


Allie Garner, Donor Engagement Manager

  1. May December | Dir. Todd Haynes
  2. Polite Society | Dir. Nida Manzoor
  3. Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig
  4. Theater Camp | Dir. Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman
  5. Asteroid City | Dir. Wes Anderson


Ryan Harrington, Director of Film Programs—Curator-in-Chief

Anatomy of a Fall | Dir. Justine Triet

Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig

Bottoms | Dir. Emma Seligman

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy | Dir. Nancy Buirski

The Eternal Memory | Dir. Maite Alberdi

Fallen Leaves | Dir. Aki Kaurismäki

The Holdovers | Dir. Alexander Payne

Joan Baez I Am a Noise | Dir. Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky & Maeve O’Boyle

Poor Things | Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

The Zone of Interest | Dir. Jonathan Glazer


Isha Parkhi, Marketing Associate

  1. All of Us Strangers | Dir. Andrew Haigh — I gasped out loud when I found out Andrew Haigh was going to be in attendance at our one-night-only preview screening of All of Us Strangers. His work always strikes a chord in my heart and this film did just that, and more. It may not sound like it to most but my cathartic weeping in the front row of the David Swope Theater as the end credits rolled in, was a 2023 film moment I will treasure for years to come.
  2. Stop Making Sense | Dir. Jonathan Demme — Although it came out in 1984, this was my first-time watching Stop Making Sense in theaters—thanks to A24’s 4K restoration. You can count me in attendance for any and all future screenings of this film at the Burns—possibly dancing in the aisles.
  3. Anatomy of a Fall | Dir. Justine Triet — Courtroom drama + Airing out dirty laundry + Great acting by a dog + Steel drum rendition of a 50 Cent song = A+ in Isha’s books
  4. Polite Society | Dir. Nida Manzoor — For my money, this felt like representation done ~right~ . For extra fun, I’d double feature it with Gurinder Chadha’s Bend it Like Beckham.
  5. Showing Up | Dir. Kelly Reichardt — Creating art is often times just as mundane as it is magical and Showing Up really taps into that alternation. For me, watching this film prompted a newfound love for Kelly Reichardt’s work and I’m slowly going back through her filmography.


Ian LoCascio, Programming Coordinator

  1. Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World | Dir. Radu Jude
  2. De Humani Corporis Fabrica | Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Verena Paravel
  3. May December | Dir. Todd Haynes
  4. Afire | Dir. Christian Petzold
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon | Dir. Martin Scorsese

Honorable Mentions:

Oppenheimer | Dir. Christopher Nolan

Passages | Dir. Ira Sachs

Showing Up | Dir. Kelly Reichardt


Maria Arizmendi, Usher

  1. Radical | Dir. Christopher Zalla — If I could only recommend one movie it would be this one! Based on a true story which first gained attention because of this article I fell in love with this story and believe in the conversation this movie will start about changing the education system.
  2. Cassandro | Dir. Roger Ross Williams — wow! This was one of the first movies that played at the Burns when I started working here, and I loved doing theater checks and hearing Spanish and seeing a Mexican story on the screen! This is a story that had to be told and shines light on breaking a lot of social norms.
  3. War Pony | Dir. Gina Gammell & Riley Keough — Feels like a documentary because of how amazing the acting is. It can make you feel uncomfortable at times but it is a must see that shares stories of life on a reservation.
  4. Que Viva Mexico | Dir. Luis Estrada — Not a movie I thought would make the list but it is pretty memorable and a movie that as a family we reference a lot since watching it! Watching it with my family made me appreciate how my family is not like the one in the movie. It is very theatrical, it feels like you are sitting through a 3 hour play with all these characters. If you make it to the end you could say it is a political satire with a powerful meaning at the end of the craziness!
  5. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song — Each scene is so beautiful and the story is filled with love for childhood and for culture. Glad to have learned about In Yun.


Monica Castillo, Senior Film Programmer

  1. American Fiction | Dir. Cord Jefferson
  2. All of Us Strangers | Dir. Andrew Haigh
  3. Killers of the Flower Moon | Dir. Martin Scorsese
  4. A Thousand and One | Dir. A.V. Rockwell
  5. May December | Dir. Todd Haynes
  6. The Taste of Things | Dir. Tran Anh Hung
  7. The Holdovers | Dir. Alexander Payne
  8. Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song
  9. Menus-Plaisirs — Les Troisgros | Dir. Frederick Wiseman
  10. Tótem | Dir. Lila Aviles


Chris Holliday, Director of Special Event Programming

(in no particular order)

Past Lives | Dir. Celine Song — moved me so much. That last scene. Oof.

Barbie | Dir. Greta Gerwig — fun, impactful and Ryan Gosling dancing. A triumph.

Anatomy of a Fall | Dir. Justine Triet — phenomenal performances. A gripping watch.

Passages | Dir. Ira Sachs — sexy, dark, I’ll never look at Paddington in the same way again.

Kokomo City | Dir. D. Smith — an amazing, funny, powerful doc about trans sex workers.

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