The worst films of 2023

The worst films of 2023. Picture: ON FILE

2023 is defined by strikes and implosions.

Rallying for fair compensation in the streaming era and safeguards against AI content, the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike on May 2, with the SAG-AFTRA American actors union following suit on July 14. The writers strike saw a favourable resolution on September 27, and the actors strike finally ended on November 9 (although the final deal still has some concerning details about AI actor likenesses). These strikes significantly disrupted Hollywood productions, with many films and shows delayed or cancelled (and Bill Maher and Drew Barrymore were very tone-deaf in their intent to resume their respective shows without their writers). One big casualty was Part 2 of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, which now has a projected March 2024 release.

The blockbuster bubble is bursting. With uneven quality and lack of direction after Avengers: Endgame and the costly flop that was the Secret Invasion show, audiences are finally getting tired of the MCU, and 2023 is full of box-office failures. Blockbusters are now so unsustainably expensive to make, market and distribute (yet, ironically, dime-a-dozen) that films such as Fast X, The Little Mermaid, Indiana Jones 5, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts and The Flash can each make hundreds of millions of dollars but fail to break even and thus cost their studios hundreds of millions (and Mission Impossible 7 was reportedly only profitable thanks to an insurance payout). The Hollywood blockbuster machine is collapsing and the big studios need to stop spending fortunes they can’t get back.

After all the upheavals in the film industry and beyond, the bad movies of 2023 were overall not that bad. It also hurts to see so many indie films end up in my list. But bad is bad and negative criticism is constructive criticism, so here are my picks for the ten worst films of 2023.

10. The Exorcist: Believer. A solid horror movie in isolation, but a pointless, uncreative sequel.

9. The Whale. Not a bad movie, but one I look back on with zero fondness: it’s depressing, stagnant in its staging and lack of development for the protagonist, and his daughter is too monstrously cruel to engage with.

8. Foe. Flat and heavy-handed, with world-building so flimsy you can hardly even call it sci-fi.

7. 65. Static action and very poor pacing and editing. Plus, the dinosaur designs suck.

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. A Marvel misfire with contrived quippy dialogue, an impersonal Macguffin-driven plot and badly-shot action.

5. Asteroid City. A beautiful, charming film that shoots itself in the foot and eliminates all tension with its central gimmick.

4. Beau is Afraid. This reads as an indie filmmaker (Ari Aster of Hereditary and Midsommar) who got carried away with a bigger budget. There are some engaging or beautiful vignettes, but the film is ludicrous, mean-spirited and either mishandles or fails to engage with its themes.

3. Spider-Man: Lotus. A mopey, overwritten, uneventful slog. This may be a fan film, but it’s fair game.

2. Ghosted. A romantic action-comedy that isn’t funny, and the main characters are both garbage people.

1. Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey. Essentially a Halloween movie if Pooh were Michael Myers, and not scary or funny enough to justify its existence. Strangely, Blood and Honey shows some genuine skill and effort – decent set design, atmosphere and practical effects; some well-executed moments of tension; the swimming pool scene is kinda cool – but the acting, dialogue, plot and pacing are all shockingly bad.

Join me next week for my list of 2023’s best films.

– Seth Lukas Hynes