The Holdovers


Killers of the Flower Moon



Are you There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

Poor Things

Fallen Leaves

American Fiction


There is no objectivity in crafting “ten best” lists at the end of the year; it’s all a matter of opinion. I like to think that mine is an informed opinion, at least, but it still reflects just one person’s point of view.

These are the films that spoke to me this past year. I enjoyed both components of Barbenheimer but neither Greta Gerwig’s megahit nor Christopher Nolan’s (predictably) overlong docudrama meant that much to me.

But when I watched Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I realized that I was witnessing a rare bird: a movie that was absolutely perfect. It held up to a second viewing when I welcomed its writer-director, Kelly Fremon Craig, to my class at USC. (That’s the only time I get to revisit a film I’ve already seen.) The same is true of Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which grew deeper and more resonant the second time around, and Cord Jefferson’s funny, smart social satire American Fiction.

Several of the films on my list can be described as daring: Yorgos Lanthimos’s Poor Things is a jaw-dropper, alternately wondrous and hilarious. Maestro is an audaciously ambitious endeavor that Bradley Cooper and company pull off deliciously well. And Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of Isabel Wilkerson’s Origin is a formidable achievement by any measure. (It played in theaters for one week to qualify for Oscars, which it deserves, but won’t be released until February of 2024.)

Killers of the Flower Moon may not be perfect, and is far too long, but it captures the essence of a long-untold American saga as seen through the eyes of a virtuoso, director Martin Scorsese. I’m also citing Auki Kurasmaki’s 81-minute gem Fallen Leaves, which left me grinning from ear to ear. The Finnish filmmaker and champion of the eccentric has become one of my favorites in the world of cinema.

Nyad is a compelling biopic that could have been bland, or didactic, or dull. Instead, in the hands of documentary filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, with a smart script by Julia Cox, it soars. One of this year’s great pleasures was watching Annette Bening and Jodie Foster together, inhabiting their characters so completely that it didn’t seem like acting at all. I would also nominate Rhys Ifans for Best Supporting Actor.

Another film that doesn’t open until Christmas Day, Ferrari has yet to be judged by the public, but Michael Mann’s masterwork is incredibly gripping and superbly crafted. Adam Driver delivers a stunning performance in the leading role and Penelope Cruz is equally memorable as his miserable wife.

Some of my other favorites came along in the year-end crush that always leaves some films begging for attention. Fortunately, that isn’t the case for Hayao Miyazaki’s exquisite The Boy and the Heron, or the elegant French import The Taste of Things, which has already received the recognition it deserves. I would also recommend May December, Godzilla Minus One, Anatomy of a Fall, The Zone of Interest, 20 Days in Mariupol, Theater Camp, and Bottoms. My next column will focus on several sleepers from 2023 you don’t want to miss.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

Subscribe to our newsletter


Maltin tee on TeePublic


Maltin on Movies podcast


Past podcasts


Maltin On Movies Patreon


Leonard Maltin appearances and booking


May 2024