Best Movies 2023: Navigating the ever-shifting terrain of science fiction cinema to unearth the crème de la crème is no small feat. As your go-to authority on all things sci-fi, I’ve meticulously curated a catalog of the paramount science fiction movies spanning across eras.
These cinematic gems have etched an enduring legacy within the genre and society, skillfully intertwining engrossing storylines, pioneering special effects, and the exploration of profound themes. Our elite selection of science fiction masterpieces strikes a harmonious chord between the contemporary and the classic, featuring both renowned and emerging talents. Embracing indie darlings alongside critical darlings and blockbuster phenomena, this compilation represents the epitome of the sci-fi cinematic experience.
As we stand on the cusp of 2024, we find ourselves with just a handful of days to reflect upon the highs and lows of the cinematic journey that was 2023. Fortunately, this past year has bequeathed cinephiles with an abundance of conversational fodder. In the realm of sci-fi, 2023 stands out, offering a diverse spectrum of films that cater to various tastes, from the universally appealing to the daringly avant-garde.
Having previously acknowledged the standout comedies, thrillers, and TV shows of the year, it’s now time to cast our gaze back and commemorate the top 10 sci-fi movies of 2023. This list includes hidden gems that might have slipped under the radar for many movie enthusiasts upon their initial release.
Released quietly in February, Linoleum emerges as a nuanced and intricate sci-fi jewel. Crafted by Colin West, who serves as both writer and director, and featuring the talents of Jim Gaffigan and Rhea Seehorn, this ambitious yet budget-conscious drama conceals a multitude of ideas, many of which remain veiled until the film’s poignantly touching final moments.
Initially appearing as a whimsically straightforward tale centered around the host of a children’s science show endeavoring to construct his dream rocket, Linoleum harbors profound layers beneath its surface narrative. The film beckons exploration solely for the experience of witnessing how it methodically unveils the poignant, empathetic core pulsating at its center.
9. Totally Killer
In a playful nod to the Back to the Future concept, Totally Killer ventures into the unconventional realm of a slasher thriller. This eccentric and delightfully entertaining film revolves around a young girl finding herself trapped in the 1980s, tasked with rescuing her mom’s teenage self from a masked assailant. True to the spirit of exceptional time travel movies, this Amazon Prime Video original maintains a balance of simplicity and subversion, absurdity and relatability.
Kiernan Shipka’s charismatic and spirited lead performance serves as the anchor, making it a movie warmly embraced by horror enthusiasts. Despite earning the accolades of genre fans, Totally Killer stands out as one of 2023’s most underestimated sci-fi offerings, with the hope that its recognition will grow in the years to come.
Best Movies of 2023: In the realm of sci-fi cinema this year, few offerings stood out as distinctly in terms of visuals, style, and narrative flair as They Cloned Tyrone. Premiering on Netflix in late July, this original film is a captivating fusion of genre-bending sci-fi comedy and a heartfelt homage to the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Beyond its multifaceted identity, it also unfolds as a conspiracy thriller, delivering its messages with a level of attitude and panache that surpasses many of the sci-fi titles gracing the screens in 2023.
Since its summer release, They Cloned Tyrone has garnered a fervent fanbase, and there’s every indication that this adoration will only burgeon in the days ahead. It possesses the innate quality to stealthily secure a place on the lists of favorite sci-fi films for many viewers—a testament to its exceptional allure.
7. Infinity Pool
Following his visceral 2020 feature debut, Possessor, writer-director Brandon Cronenberg opted for a bold follow-up with one of the year’s most acerbic and indelible sci-fi thrillers. In an alternate reality where the elite absolve themselves of culpability by transferring the consequences of their crimes onto readily available clones, Infinity Pool emerges as a cynical critique of the bourgeoisie, a haunting sci-fi allegory, and a disorienting thriller.
Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård deliver two unforgettable and unhinged performances, propelling Infinity Pool to solidify Cronenberg’s status as one of the globe’s most exhilarating and distinctive new filmmakers. Released in January, its mesmerizing grip continues to linger nearly a year later, making it a cinematic experience challenging to shake off.
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem takes the inherent sci-fi elements of its franchise as far as it possibly can. The Jeff Rowe-directed animated film features more gloriously well-designed mutated creatures and characters than it knows what to do with, and it climaxes with a kaiju battle that perfectly rides the line between absurd and horrifying.
The movie makes hanging out with its four eponymous leads seem more appealing than any of the TMNT films that have come before it. When it was released in early August, it seemed destined to rank as one of 2023’s most endearing blockbusters. Now that the year is winding down, it seems safe to say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has firmly held onto that title.
No One Will Save You is one of the year’s simplest and most effective thrillers. Written and directed by Brian Duffield, it follows a young woman as she’s forced to fight for her life during an alien invasion. Despite being ostracized by the other citizens of her small town, she proves to be uniquely difficult for her alien attackers to defeat. The harder she fights for her existence, however, the more insight both viewers and her extra-terrestrial enemies get into the past traumas that have defined her life.
Anchored by yet another formidable lead performance from Kaitlyn Dever, No One Will Save You is simultaneously a nail-biting thriller that’ll have you on the edge of your seat for the majority of its runtime and an introspective exploration of the lasting effects of guilt and the importance of forgiveness — no matter who or where it comes from.
A visually breathtaking blockbuster of truly remarkable proportions, director Takashi Yamazaki’s Godzilla Minus One makes the forgettable nature of many of America’s kaiju films seem much less forgivable. Across its 125-minute runtime, the Toho-produced Japanese film manages to introduce and pay off human storylines that actually work, all while delivering enough incredible set pieces to justify the massive scale of its story.
In other words, the film pulls off many of the things that Hollywood viewers had previously been forced to accept as impossible. It’s not only one of 2023’s biggest last-minute surprises but also one of the year’s very best sci-fi films.
Wes Anderson’s latest directorial endeavor, Asteroid City, is a multifaceted creation: a quarantine comedy, a homage to the theater, and a poignant exploration of grief. Amidst the myriad layers of the film, it’s easy to overlook that its central narrative revolves entirely around the sudden arrival of alien life on Earth. Yet, the brief UFO sequences in Asteroid City are far from gratuitous instances of sci-fi invention—they hold equal significance, intricately woven into the fabric of the film.
In the tradition of great sci-fi tales, Asteroid City delves into the experience of confronting the vast unknowns of the universe and the endeavor to discover one’s role in the expansive cosmic wilderness. A splendid addition to the sci-fi genre, the film is adorned with flawless retro-futuristic design choices and intricate details. Moreover, it offers numerous moments of profound emotional and intellectual insight, ensuring it becomes a cinematic gem that beckons you to revisit it time and time again.
2. Poor Things
Poor Things unfolds as a visually captivating and distinctly feminist interpretation of Frankenstein under the direction of Yorgos Lanthimos. In this acclaimed comedy, we follow Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), a recently deceased woman possessing the mind of a child, embarking on a journey of self-discovery in a surreal Victorian-era European setting. The film’s aesthetic allure is so potent that, were it not for Stone’s audacious lead performance, the sci-fi elements of Poor Things might have risked fading into the background during its initial act.
Stone’s resolute and uninhibited portrayal of Bella, however, is so compelling that it steadfastly anchors the viewer in the awareness of witnessing a woman’s growth amidst the most peculiar sci-fi circumstances. This is just one facet of why Poor Things excels; effortlessly balancing diverse elements, it renders many of the year’s other films seemingly simplistic and lackluster by comparison.
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
No other movie this year packs in quite as many sci-fi thrills as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. The film, which also ranks as 2023’s best superhero movie, is an awe-inspiring adventure that somehow manages to make the otherwise increasingly stale idea of the multiverse still seem exciting. It does so by taking full advantage of the opportunities presented by its multiple realities — throwing viewers headfirst into universes that look, move, and feel completely different from each other.
The film is one of the most gobsmackingly beautiful, technically impressive feature-length animated movies ever made, and seeing how well it uses its medium to tell its purposefully complex, high-concept sci-fi story is just one of the many pleasures that Across the Spider-Verse has to offer.