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The 50 best films of 2023 in the UK

<span>Illustration: Guardian Design/A24</span>
Illustration: Guardian Design/A24

50

The Beasts

Middle-class incomers to a remote village in Spain’s ‘wild west’ expose fear, resentment and nationalism in Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s disturbing true-crime drama. Read the full review

49

Mother and Son

A son reflects on the struggles he faced with his brother and wayward mother after they moved to France from Ivory Coast, in a meditative coming-of-age story. Read the full review

48

War Pony

The tenderness, wisdom and instinct to survive of two teenage Native Americans is beautifully observed in actor turned director Riley Keough’s debut feature. Read the full review

47

Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV

Documentary about the awe-inspiring vocation of the Korean avant garde disruptor, who foresaw the internet and meme culture’s importance in the 1970s. Read the full review

46

Tish

Gripping portrait of a passionate photographer of austerity Britain who lived a life as tough as those she shot in different eras of deprivation and marginalisation. Read the full review

45

The Damned Don’t Cry

Fyzal Boulifa explores the decisions forced on a poverty-stricken Moroccan family in this vivid and powerful drama of colonial tension. Read the full review

44

The Future Tense

Semi-dramatised essay film by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy explores complicated national loyalties alongside those of an extraordinary rebel. Read the full review

43

The Deepest Breath

The dangerous act of freediving is explored in a visually immersive new film taking us down to the depths and examining what causes those involved to take such major risks. Read the full review

42

On the Adamant

Nicolas Philibert offers art and soul in a warm and sympathetic documentary about a boat for mental-health patients on the Seine. Read the full review

41

Rodeo

Real-life motorbike racer Julie Ledru plays a young tearaway on the outskirts of Bordeaux, drawn to take desperate risks with a criminal biker gang. Read the full review

40

Name Me Lawand

Empathic and inspiring portrait of deaf Iraqi refugee boy that shows us the world from the point of view of a migrant whose life was revolutionised by a school for the deaf. Read the full review

39

Passages

A gay man cheats on his husband with a straight woman in Ira Sachs’s fiercely sexy and heartbreaking tale of young Parisians. Read the full review

38

Strange Way of Life

Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke sizzle in Almodóvar’s queer cowboy yarn, a dusty lusty tale of long-lost lovers bound by a bloody fate. Read the full review

37

One Fine Morning

Léa Seydoux sparkles in poignant drama from Mia Hansen-Løve, the powerful story of a single mother torn between emotionally unavailable men. Read the full review

36

Napoleon

Ridley Scott dispenses with the symbolic weight attached to previous biopics in favour of a spectacle with a great star at its centre. Read the full review

35

You Hurt My Feelings

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies lead grownup marital-pain comedy whose bittersweet punchlines stress the bitter component. Read the full review

34

Wonka

Charming prequel to Roald Dahl’s celebrated chocolate-focused kids story, with Timothée Chalamet immensely likable as the youthful version of the top-hatted sweetmaker. Read the full review

33

My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock

In this critically agile film from Mark Cousins, Hitchcock supposedly narrates from beyond the grave, using movie clips to reveal techniques and meanings in his work. Read the full review

32

Oppenheimer

Flawed but extraordinary, Christopher Nolan’s account of the physicist who led the Manhattan Project captures the most agonising of success stories. Read the full review

31

Pretty Red Dress

Terrific performances from Natey Jones, Alexandra Burke and Temilola Olatunbosun match this big-hearted music drama about masculinity. Read the full review

30

Nostalgia

Tremendously shot and terrifically acted, this Neapolitan gangster drama from Mario Martone shatters the rose-tinted spectacles. Read the full review

29

My Imaginary Country

Patricio Guzmán’s staggering documentary examines popular protest that swept through Chile in 2019, when hundreds of thousands of people – chiefly young women – took to the streets of Santiago. Read the full review

28

May December

Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman potent in Todd Haynes’ drama, with Portman as an actor spending time with Moore’s married sex offender as research for playing her in a film. Read the full review

27

Love Life

Japanese director Kôji Fukada has crafted a richly painful and quietly comic human drama filled with tangled and tragic chaotic life twists. Read the full review

26

Fremont

There are hints of early Jim Jarmusch in Babak Jalali’s dreamy fourth feature about a fortune cookie writer looking for love, with fine supporting turns from The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White and Gregg Turkington. Read the full review

25

Creature

Asif Kapadia and Akram Khan join up for intriguing dance film, which has an ambiguous intensity that should interest audiences beyond dance fans. Read the full review

24

Law of Tehran

A barnstorming – and ultimately gruesome – opening sequence sets the grisly action-packed tone of this ferocious Michael Mann-style thriller of the Iranian underworld. Read the full review

23

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg’s 1950s-set semi-memoir brilliantly examines how we edit our own life stories, and the repercussions. Read the full review

22

Typist Artist Pirate King

Carol Morley’s warm and sympathetic film imagines artist Audrey Amiss, whose mental illness curtailed her ambitions, on a tragicomic road trip to exhibit her work. Read the full review

21

Joyland

Saim Sadiq’s film explores the unsettled social and sexual identities of a widower and his children with delicacy and tenderness. Read the full review

20

Pacifiction

Benoît Magimel’s French high commissioner confronts the end of his personal Eden in Tahiti, in Albert Serra’s distinctive film. Read the full review

19

Incredible But True

Giddy comedy about middle-aged house hunters who find more in a bargain buy than anyone but director Quentin Dupieux could have dreamed of. Read the full review

18

Full Time

School-run thriller turns into high-stakes motherhood drama, with Laure Calamy in an acutely relatable story that grips. Read the full review

17

Blind Willow Sleeping Woman

The seductively quirky sad-serious tone of Haruki Murakami is evident in this animated adaptation of his surreal tales, as a constellation of characters try to save Tokyo – including a lost cat and a giant talkative frog. Read the full review

16

The Eternal Daughter

Tilda Swinton plays both mother and daughter in a moving and disconcerting move into pseudo horror from the director of The Souvenir. Read the full review

15

Amanda

A wealthy young woman, friendless and lost after studying abroad, sets about recovering an old friendship she thinks she once had. Read the full review

14

Return to Seoul

Absorbing and emotional Korean drama in which a woman visits the country of her birth and decides on a whim to seek out her biological parents – with gripping consequences. Read the full review

13

Alcarràs

Carla Simón’s award-winning story of a peach farmer struggling to make ends meet asks many important questions about our relationship with the land and the human cost of progress. Read the full review

12

Maestro

Bradley Cooper’s head-flingingly heartfelt Leonard Bernstein biopic offers an eerily exact impersonation of the great composer, and gets to the heart of the sacrifices great artists feel they need to make. Read the full review

11

The Eight Mountains

A meditation on our capacity for love shapes this sweeping story of two friends, torn apart by family and life’s journeys but bound by something deeper. Read the full review

10

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On

Bijou stop-motion animation that ought to be irritating is somehow funny and beguiling, with its story about a tiny talking shell with shoes trying to find his family. Read the full review

9

All the Beauty & the Bloodshed

Photographer Nan Goldin, who became addicted to OxyContin, takes on big pharma as she confronts the wealthy art patrons who profited from the drug’s sale. Read more

8

Anatomy of a Fall

Sandra Hüller compels as an author accused of murder in Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or winning psychothriller, about a suspicious death whose only reliable witness happens to be blind. Read more

7

Saint Omer

Alice Diop ’s unnerving fiction feature is based on the true case of a Senegalese immigrant accused in the French court of murdering her 15-month-old daughter. Read the full review

6

Godland

Hlynur Pálmason’s fictional account of a Danish pastor sent to Iceland in the 19th century is superb in its compositions and nuanced depictions of hostility. Read the full review

5

The Boy and the Heron

Swansong release from Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki, a bittersweet tale of a kid searching for the spirit of his dead mother, killed in a Tokyo bomb attack during the second world war. Read the full review

4

20 Days in Mariupol

Film-maker Mstyslav Chernov risked everything to document Russia’s attack from within the besieged Ukrainian city, recording unthinkable horrors in this vital account. Read the full review

3

Killers of the Flower Moon

Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone star in Martin Scorsese’s macabre western about serial murders among the Osage tribe in 1920s Oklahoma, which reflects the erasure of Native Americans from the US. Read the full review

2

Tár

Demanding, passionate, mercurial, brilliant: Cate Blanchett stars as the fictional principal conductor of a major German orchestra in a sensational and hypnotic film that tracks her increasingly intense state of mind as she heads for a creative breakthrough or a crackup. Read the full review

1

Past Lives

Celine Song’s feature debut, about two people whose lives intertwine again after years apart, is delicate and sophisticated, but also simple and direct. Read the full review