Top 50 Films International Films 2023
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As compared to any year in the past decade, 2023 was when I watched the most international films. In the process, I missed out on watching some of the finest language films from India (or was rather late to discover the good ones). That said, the effort of attending and covering various film festivals did me good and so did the early access to some of the best films from across geographies.

Below is the list of 50 best international (non-Indian) films of 2023, ranked in reverse order:

50. Maestro (USA)

Bradley Cooper’s controversial nose aside, the Leonard Bernstein biopic is a musical treat. I am glad to not have missed it on the big screen as the film flies high on sound and melodies. A key sequence that showcases Bernstein in action projects Cooper’s authority as a performer as well as the promise he holds as a filmmaker.

49. The Dreamer (France, Belgium)

The intriguing plot set against an unusual backdrop in Anaïs Tellenne’s debut feature was a welcome surprise. Both the film’s steadfast originality and Raphaël Thierry’s understatedly outstanding lead performance are noteworthy.

48. The Sweet East (USA)

The Sweet East is a captivating drama about a coming-of-age that centers on a sequence of upsetting incidents. With the help of a charming soundtrack and a talented cast, Talia Ryder has an incredible opportunity to shine in the movie following her 2020 breakthrough performance.

47. Vincent Must Die (France, Belgium)

The suspense in Stéphan Castang’s dark comedy is maintained for a considerable amount of time once it opens on a disturbing note. But the third act curse prevents Vincent Must Die from ever quite returning to that first happy place. Though it could have been far more than it set out to be, it’s an interesting watch from beginning to end.

46. Les Indésirables (France)

Even though Ladj Ly’s film isn’t as good as his first project, Les Misérables, it’s nonetheless a terrifying look at the lives of those who are less fortunate in suburban Paris. Even though debutante Aristote Luyindula steals the show in a brief violent scene, Anta Diaw, who plays the main character, dominates the show with a powerful performance.

45. Inshallah a Boy (Jordan, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar)

My main (and possibly only) complaint about Amjad Al Rasheed’s movie is its title. The biggest spoiler in a screenplay that could have been somewhat more suspenseful is the title of the movie. Nevertheless, the film is captivating to watch thanks to its fearless commentary on women’s rights in the Middle East and its brilliant editing.

44. The Book of Solutions (France)

After a rather lengthy break, Michel Gondry—the man behind the enduring hit Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—returns with a deliciously frenetic and hilariously sarcastic work titled The Book of Solutions. Marc, the main character, is portrayed by Pierre Niney with remarkable mastery over his facial expressions and body language. Although the text had its share of highs and lows, I felt that the film was more about the performance and its meter. Still, Gondry’s movie provided a respite in a season full of action-packed releases.

The Book of Solutions

43. Melody (Tajikistan)

A gorgeous musical film about a music teacher’s arduous attempt to compose a unique tune for children suffering from cancer, Behrooz Sebt-Rasoul film is held ably by Diman Zandi in the title role. Visualized and lensed with absolute beauty, the film is high on drama quotient and the soundtrack, predictably, is a delight.

42. The Settlers (Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark)

With the most basic of shots, The Settlers haunts for hours later. This less explored chapter of history is not taught in Chilean schools, but Felipe Gálvez Haberle’s interpretation of it is unwavering in a beautifully shot film with a superb soundtrack and sound design.

41. The Siren (France, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium)

The Siren, an animated film that tells the story of a period in Iraqi history, is a worthy addition to this year’s festival lineup. In a movie that attempts to depict the trajectory of civilian life in a conflict zone, the animation is deft. Sepideh Farsi’s characters are as ubiquitous as they come, from the main character Omid to the minor ones like the warring cockerel Shir Khan and the village danseuse.

40. Drift (France, Greece, UK)

The mind-numbing story of a woman who lost everything to a massacre, Drift is an empathetic fare that would prompt you to count your blessings. Helmed by Anthony Chen, the film features a glistening (and sometimes tear-jerking) lead performance by Cynthia Erivo.  

39. Big Boys (USA)

A simple film about adolescence and sexuality, Big Boys is narrated at a leisurely yet pleasant pace. The main attraction of Corby Sherman’s moving fare is Isaac Krasner – the main lead who masterfully projects the awkwardness of coming out as a gay man. 

38. Endless Borders (Iran)

The Golden Peacock winner at IFFI 2023, Endless Borders is a riveting chronicle of life in a less-privileged corner of the Middle East. The narrative is fast and the screenplay abounds with plenty of memorable characters rendering the film an eerie yet life-like feel.

37. Afire (Germany)

There is never a huge flame in a movie about a forest fire in Germany. Because of the ambient horror and the way the story is constructed, we are never really prepared for what is to come. The film by Christian Petzold stands out, especially for its evocative cinematography and sound design.

36. All The Fires (Mexico)

All The Fires, which stars Sebastian Rojano in the lead role, has the impression that someone has documented the actions of a bewildered teenager, and the actor is well deserving of praise for this. While Antonio Fortier skillfully portrays a stereotypical character, Ximena Ayala exhibits exquisite restraint. Even in her little screen time, Ari Lopez makes an impression, while Natalia Quiroz’s spontaneity is given a good amount of attention.

35. Memory (Mexico, USA)

Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard headline a soulful romance centered on loss, dementia, and parenting. Filled with lingering tender moments and a slew of heartfelt dialogues, Michel Franco’s film scores high on empathy and is a treat to those who love the genre.

34. The Summer with Carmen (Greece)

This sensual drama with an LGBT theme is a welcome surprise – much like a breezy trip to Greece. The plot is gentle and sympathetic, the nudity is tasteful, and the picture-postcard frames are constantly bursting with color. In a lighthearted yet incredibly engaging movie, Yorgos Tsiantoulas and Andreas Labropoulos brilliantly feed off each other’s energies.

33. The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed (USA)

Its lengthy and incredibly bland title should not be taken as gospel. The film directed by Joanna Arnow is extremely thought-provoking. It analyses the complexities of contemporary urban relationships with a remarkable degree of candor, with Arnow playing the lead role. The performance is brilliantly acted, hilarious, and unique. In a traditional sense, we certainly feel horrible for the male lead, but the movie also shows us that life is what it is.

32. Monster (Japan)

Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda dexterously explores the complexities of childhood in his intricately crafted new feature with an underlying queer theme. While it may not be among the filmmaker’s greatest efforts, the well-calibrated performances and the binding tension in the narrative make it a must-watch for those who have loved his earlier outings.

Monster Film

31. A House in Jerusalem (Germany, Netherlands, UK, Palestine, Qatar)

The film by Muayad Alayan is a delicate interplay of memory and grief centered on a delicate political thread. The narrative is layered around a child’s natural sweetness, but it also makes a profound point on a global crisis. No, A House in Jerusalem is not a toxic positive, but it does pose a question regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict: Will the suffering that the younger lot in both countries have experienced eventually be erased?

30. Daaaaaali! (France)

Exploring Quentin Dupieux’s absurdist universes is always worthwhile. This time, the filmmaker offers a funny interpretation of the life of the surrealist artist that immerses us in the amazing mind of Salvador Dali. Among the more lighthearted films on the list, the movie holds its own with plenty of humor and quirky frames.

29. Society of the Snow (Spain)

Based on a real event, this Netflix Original is a period drama about a harrowing plane crash somewhere in the freezing temperatures of the Andes. Chronicling the story of a group of people stranded at the tipping point of death, starved of food, and devoid of outlets to escape, the film makes for difficult viewing but is engaging from the word go.

28. All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White (Nigeria)

In a film directed by Tunde Apalowo, a Nigerian guy comes to terms with his sexual orientation. It has an intriguing title. Despite a clear lack of gloss and ostentatious writing, this drama set in Lagos is quiet yet effective in so many ways that it makes you feel a strong sense of empathy for its central character.

27. American Fiction (USA)

American Fiction is an amusing and arresting comedy that is best enjoyed when it exposes the obvious hypocrisy of America’s liberal elite. It is a scathing and witty satire that also serves as an earnest family drama to go along with its biting critique. Not only is this intriguing film one of the funniest of the year, but it also marks the beginning of a very promising career for its director, Cord Jefferson. 

26. The Green Border (Poland, Czech Republic, France, Belgium)

Green Border is not for the timid. It is a terrifying tale about the geopolitical predicament refugees on the Belarus-Poland border are facing. Filmed in black and white, Agnieszka Holland solidifies her extraordinary reputation by tackling many relevant issues with a well-written script and carefully captured shots.

25. Killers of The Flower Moon (USA)

Based on a true story and adapted from David Grann’s book by the same name, Killers of the Flower Moon depicts the cruelty and greed of William King Hale and his allies as well as the suffering that the Osage Nation endured as a result of their horrible deeds. Scorsese, who co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth, is a master maker who weaves a sinister tale with many emotional details. With a cast to die for, eye-catching cinematography, and a tale that will make you laugh and cry at the same time, the rather lengthy film is worth every penny you paid for the experience.

24. The Boy and The Heron (Japan)

A splendid animation charmer from the maestro Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy and The Heron is everything you would want from a Ghibli fare – it is atmospheric, action-packed, and thought-provoking. While the animation matches up to the production house’s standards, it is the suspenseful storytelling that primarily kept me hooked.

23. Io Capitano (Italy, France, Belgium)

In Matteo Garrone’s realistic film, a couple of young Senegalese boys falsely believe that Europe is the place where dreams come true. So, they set out to follow their goals and leave their nation. Regretfully, their choice sends them on a terrible path where their only option is to survive. Io Capitano is one of the most masterfully edited films on the list.

22. The Peasants (Poland)

It is a magnificent Polish fare with the melodrama quotient of a Bollywood film. Good melodrama, that is. Filmmakers DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman’s The Peasants is an adaptation of a novel that won the Nobel Prize and it employs a fascinating oil painting animation. The film does a fantastic job of drawing viewers into its environment through dynamic camera movements intended to evoke a sense of Polish culture and rural life. As Jagna, the rural beauty whose life is dictated by others at every turn, Kamila Urzedowska is amazing.

21. Seagrass (Canada)

A cozy embrace is not what Seagrass feels like as a family movie. It doesn’t fix problems. What is striking, though, is the harsh hint of realism that goes beyond romanticism. The film by Meredith Hama-Brown explores the relationship between family members without advising on how they should be. No family is perfect, and there is no right way to create one. You have to occasionally learn to live with the flaws. The love could fade. You would find a means of surviving, and the beauty is found in the journey there.

20. All of Us Strangers (United Kingdom)

I was immediately engrossed in All of Us Strangers, a heart-wrenching tone in which fantasy and love blend like a delicate dream. It features many attractive set pieces, dramatic situations, and gorgeous visuals. It’s also a beautifully honest gay film, needless to say, and the sensual (but not explicit) lovemaking and the coming-out scene enhance its flavor. The music score is flawless as well.


19. Oppenheimer (USA, United Kingdom)

Oppenheimer – with Ludwig Göransson’s terrific original score setting the mood – is a unique outing for Christopher Nolan. While I wouldn’t call it his bravest yet, it’s perhaps the one with maximum fodder for diverse points of view. A Canadian watching the film may not decipher it the way a Japanese or an Icelandic person would. Nolan’s latest film is here to make way for many perspective pieces and debates while quietly setting the world box office ablaze.

18. The Delinquents (Argentina)

In addition to being a story about the fallout from a robbery, The Delinquents explores the anxieties, desires, and larger lives of those who are not involved in it. Each of them is looking for salvation, yet these things are difficult to come by in this life. The process of learning this throughout the movie has a melancholic quality, yet it has a poetic quality. The route ahead is just as long as the one that presently stretches far behind a character, even when the time finally arrives for them to ride off into the sunset.

17. About Dry Grasses (Turkey, France, Germany)

The story of About Dry Grasses is about a nation that stunts the development of its people. The main character is a man who won’t change his circumstances because he is so at ease venting about his problems. To demonstrate his correctness, he would prefer to see everyone fail. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s treatment demonstrates that is a mere agent who benefits from the system’s faults.

16. The Promised Land (Denmark)

There are very few actors who are as watchable as Mads Mikkelsen. The Promised Land skillfully strikes a balance between the heartwarming and the terrifying to produce a continually captivating Western. It does this by using the vast canvas of an epic to tell the story of its small-scale, intimate human drama. The central themes of the story are family and unity, but there is also growing tension beneath the surface that frequently explodes in violent scenes when the ambition of a nobody meets the greed of a madman. 

15. Shayda (Australia)

Shayda is a gem that deftly addresses the nuanced aspects of violent relationships. Zar Amir Ebrahimi gives a towering central act and Noora Niasari’s directing results in an emotionally and intellectually stimulating movie. In addition to captivating us with its compelling story, it is a potent illustration of the tenacity of people trying to break free from unhealthy relationships.

14. Blaga’s Lessons (Bulgaria)

Director Stephan Komandarev chronicles Bulgaria with great poignance in Blaga’s Lessons besides being a brave criminal thriller. This is an angry movie about a nation searching for some semblance of dignity. This tough-minded film realistically projects a neglected, sick segment of Bulgarian society and is also not hesitant to push the boundaries of realism in the name of a compelling narrative.

13. We Have Never Been Modern (Czech Republic)

In Matěj Chlupáček’s film, intersexuality or hermaphroditism is the central theme. Curiosity drives Helena (Eliška Křenková) to discover that an intersex person is working in the factory, and this discovery sparks a series of other revelations that could jeopardize her happy marriage and social standing. We Have Never Been Modern, a costume drama centered on a wealthy doyen, becomes a gripping thriller with a dash of politics mixed in.

12. Barbie (USA, United Kingdom)

Greta Gerwig’s picture may prickle many raw male nerves in a world where misogyny and male-centricity are celebrated in the film business and society at large. Understanding the reasons behind the film’s writing and production values requires a certain amount of wisdom. Barbie does not detest men. If it is anti-systemic in any way, it is against the idea that women should exist off of the scraps left by the male nobility. Get on board the wave that is currently catapulting Greta Gerwig’s audacious, sympathetic, and incredibly inventive movie into the history of the box office. The film’s enormous international success is something that women deserve in full.

11. Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry (Switzerland, Georgia)

Elene Naveriani’s film chronicles the life of a 48-year-old spinster named Etero. She runs a department store in a quaint Georgian village and is seemingly content with her love for blackberries, pastries, and a life devoid of responsibilities. The people around her, somehow, are critical of her cumulative life choices until she meets a man in the unlikeliest of ways. In this slow yet significantly eventful film, Eka Chavleishvili’s superb lead performance glows bright.

10. Anatomy of a Fall (France)

The French drama, which took home the Palme d’Or at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, is still drawing attention. It’s a great indictment of marriage as a system, full of ambiguities, witty flashbacks, and intriguing surprises. Sandra Hüller, the lead actress, uses the complex character sketch to her advantage to give a standout performance.

9. Perfect Days (Japan, Germany)

A festival favorite, Wim Wenders’s film is about a suburban Tokyo janitor named Hirayama (played in an incredibly touching turn by Kōji Yakusho). Throughout the film, he just says a few sentences. But despite his life’s lethargic state, it’s deep and meditative, making the movie one that sticks with you long after it ends.

8. Slow (Lithuania, Spain, Sweden)

Although you are in a relationship, it is not what you would like to be in. As the title implies, Marija Kavtaradzė’s film is a slow-moving romantic drama that delves deeply into the awkward pitfalls of what might otherwise be a miraculous union of two souls in love. In this brilliantly crafted film, which has amazing performances by Greta Grinevičiūtė and Kęstutis Cicėnas, the silent scenes are just as telling as the ones with dialogue. With its exquisite soundtrack, Slow makes you feel content, agitated, and reflective—all in the best possible ways.

7. The Teachers’ Lounge (Germany)

Leonie Benesch powers the fiery German thriller that, surprisingly, is set in a school staff room. One that runs at a breakneck speed, the film smoothly packs the tense atmosphere surrounding an unexpected allegation towards a co-worker by the protagonist. While maneuvering bravely through several of society’s rigid norms and contradictions, Ilker Çatak’s film is a sparkling example of how to general thrills out of the monotony of daily life.

The Teacher's Lounge

6. The Taste of Things (France)

The opening sequence of Tran Anh Hung’s film is singularly the most stimulating audio-visual experience I had in any film in 2023. So much so that it triggered the non-foodie in me to crave a sumptuous spread – which I eventually relished every morsel of. That aside, the Juliette Binoche-Benoît Magimel starrer is a lovingly made period drama laced with splendid performances, breathtaking camerawork, and a lingering soundtrack.

5. Poor Things (USA)

Aesthetic, original, and wildly creative, Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is an absolute jawdropper that undrapes the cold realities of human living. Emma Stone delivers a performance of a lifetime whereas the intricate screenplay gives you enough fodder to ponder for days.

4. The Holdovers (USA)

An affecting, gratifying drama of three embittered individuals, Alexander Payne’s high-school set drama has a beaming heart. If Paul Giamatti’s leading act is a massive winner, Dominic Sessa makes an endearing big-screen debut as the troubled Angus. However, it’s Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s Mary unexpectedly witty and empathetic turn that fills your heart with maximum feeling and, hence, predictably every award trophy this year.

3. The Zone of Interest (United Kingdom, Poland, USA)

The profoundly disturbing portrayal of a massive human catastrophe by Jonathan Glazer has consequences that could never be reversed. I was reminded of Vittorio De Sica’s skill in the 1970 masterpiece The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by the film’s deft use of implicit violence. A lot of us didn’t anticipate the most devastating film of the year from Glazer, who abridges his source material, Martin Amis’ “The Zone of Interest.”

2. Past Lives (USA)

In the most elegant way possible, Past Lives sets out several uncomfortable ideas that conventional couples won’t talk about. We could just as well imagine ourselves in a derivative or abstract way at some point during the film’s running length as Nora, Hae Sung, Arthur, or all of them. Celine Song doesn’t preach or tell others what is good or bad. Her impartial treatment of the realities faced by her heroes makes the movie incredibly satisfying, and the skill on exhibit propels it into the exclusive category of instant classics.

1. Fallen Leaves (Finland, Germany)

Classic Kaurismäki elements include an unconventional love tale with a calm, vintage feel, the atmosphere of karaoke bars, old movie posters, closeups of billboards, and an underdog-like protagonist. Even though the movie has a somber tone as the battle in Ukraine approaches, the words are humorous. The principal performances, along with that of the companion dog, immediately touch your heart. Fallen Leaves is a slow, melancholic, and rhythmic film that embodies all the elements I love in a film, and, predictably it tops my list of best international films of 2023.

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Tusshar Sasi

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