My top 5 movies of the year
OPINION: Overall, it was a weak year in movies, but there were a few great films that broke through, including documentaries about Beyoncé and Little Richard.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Overall, 2023 was a pretty weak year for movies. I was highly disappointed by several big films that many critics liked — “Oppenheimer,” “Asteroid City” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” I also saw a lot of movies that were solid but not overwhelmingly awesome — “The Killer,” “May December” and “Barbie.” But, of course, there were a few gems that I adored.
5. “Napoleon”: The epic story of a military genius who becomes the ruler of France. The main element here is Joaquin Phoenix, an incredible actor who is mesmerizing in every scene he’s in. Phoenix has the inner power and the magnetism to play massive historical figures over and over — he was the emperor of Rome in “Gladiator,” Jesus in “Mary Magdalene” and Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line.” I always love his performance. Of course, his Joker is incredible. Anything with Phoenix in it is going to be compelling.
4. “Little Richard: I Am Everything”: It’s a doc but it’s so fun and illuminating that it was more engaging than most Hollywood movies this year. Richard is, in so many ways, the source of everything. From him comes R&B and soul and rock and Prince, who is his own genre. This film really helps you understand that Little Richard is Prince’s true cultural father as well as the true cultural father of so much of modern pop culture.
3. “Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé.” It’s much more than a concert film. It’s more than an artist’s doc. It’s an experience that takes you into Beyoncéworld — into both her mind and her family. Throughout this nearly three-hour film, I was lost in the moment like I was at the show. I’m reminded of “Purple Rain” the movie, where the concert scenes were so powerful that they brought the thrill of a concert space into staid movie theaters. “Renaissance” does that, too. If you’re in a theater showing “Renaissance” and you’re not dancing, you might be dead. Or white.
2. “American Fiction”: A really smart and funny film about what it means to be Black. We watch Jeffrey Wright’s Monk mull over whether he’s going perform Blackness in an authentic way or a stereotypical way that will pay him extremely well. Wright is great in this; he’s such a smart actor. He’s one of the best character actors in modern Hollywood because he’s a true chameleon. In each role he plays, he becomes someone entirely new. In this film, he gives life, humanity and complexity to a character who speaks to an existential crisis going on in our community.
1. “Poor Things”: By far the most extraordinary cinematic experience of the year. It’s a visual feast. It’s beautiful, it’s creepy, it’s funny, it’s sexual — “Poor Things” touches every button. The film is hard to describe without giving too much away but let’s say Emma Stone is a woman with a very particular physical challenge, who is searching for her place in the world. This film is not for everyone — it’s the kind of piece where two friends could go see it and one could walk away starry-eyed while another is turned off. I saw this as an amazing achievement in artistic cinema.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.