TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2023

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2023 is officially in the books, and we’re still here, against all odds.

Actually, for the purposes of weird movie accounting, we put 2023 to bed last month. Our annual movie calendar traditionally ends on the last day of November. We’re usually not missing out on much; December releases are typically limited to Oscar bait dramas and extended-universe tentpoles. This year, however, a pair of major weird releases dropped in December, too late to qualify for this list: ‘s animated fantasy The Boy and the Heron and ‘ horror/sci-fi satire Poor Things. I have a feeling that, based on their performance in my overall 2023 list (which, confusingly, does include December releases), you will see both of them place high in next year’s weird movie list.

Once Within a Time, Weirdest Movie of 2023As always, there were hard cuts at the bottom of the list. struck again with another absurdist comedy, the picaresque, kaiju-esque Smoking Causes Coughing. Dream Scenario gave a mainstream prestige role, but still allowed him the chance to explore a nerdier shade of weird.  A New Old Play, which was made in 2021 but didn’t screen in the U.S. until this year, was a phantasmagorical trip  through Chinese history (and into Chinese Hell). Minimalist surrealism found expression(ism) in the low budget, mythologically-sourced Leda. And Zapper!, another microbudget psychedelic marvel with flying moose heads and banana guns, was the final film to miss the top 10 cut.

This year, this is my personal list, with no input from the rest of the staff—although you can see Giles Edwards‘ and El Rob Hubbard‘s choices at the bottom of this post (along with a composite from the three of us), and also in our most recent episode of Pod 366. Therefore, if you feel that it’s a crime that your favorite came in at #3 when any idiot can see it obviously deserves to be #1, I am the idiot to blame. When ranking, I use a secret proprietary formula that accounts for cinematic craftsmanship, the degree of surrealism/weirdness, and the perceived prestige in the weird movie community based on buzz and reader feedback, then I shuffle them into whatever arbitrary order I momentarily feel like without regard to any of that.

So, on to the official Weirdest Movies of 2023 List! As always, films are listed in random order—the weirdest of orders.

1. Once Within a Time: Also coming in at #10 on my overall 2023 top list. Unfortunately, almost no one got to see Godfrey Reggio‘s 45-minute surrealist romp, which played only a few specialty venues and has yet to show up on home video or streaming. That’s a shame, because it’s both the weirdest movie of 2023, and one of the best. UFOs zoom into dreamspaces and blast giant robots with their ray guns, monkeys experiment with virtual reality goggles, and cell phones appear as 2001 monoliths, all filmed in a dusty film stock and set to a new Philip Glass score. Please release this soon, Oscilloscope: this is nourishment for weird souls.

8. Infinity Pool: Also coming in at #7 on my overall list. ‘s scathing satire of ultra-rich depravity is highlighted by a wicked performance by horror goddess . The action is set in a third-world country where those with the necessary cash and connections can escape punishment for their crimes by allowing their clone to be executed in their place. This Faustian permissiveness generates bad behavior, as hedonistic orgies progress to masochistic self-destruction (depicted with horrific literalism). Have pity on your clone!

9. Emesis Blue: Here’s an oddity indeed: a feature-length psychological horror movie made with software intended to allow fans of the shoot-em-up console game Team Fortress II to make short animations using game assets. The (quite confusing) plot involves a soldier uncovering a conspiracy involving respawning and a valium-esque drug that leads him to question the nature of his reality as he ventures through a series of violent encounters. Packed with Easter Eggs for game fans, this is nevertheless a standalone feature that anyone can… watch, if not necessarily enjoy (or understand). Due to the limitations of the form, the movie’s palette is necessarily dark, bleak, and bloody, but it’s remarkable how much texture coaxes out of the limited resources. It’s also free to watch.

3. Adult Swim Yule Log: Recently Apocryphacized! It begins as an ambient shot of a Yule log, but then the cleaning lady walks into the frame, and soon enough we’re dealing with serial killers, aliens, occultists, and the Little Man: is this log haunted, or are the edibles hitting early? A remarkable prank of a film that is utterly ridiculous, but played completely straight, generating legitimate suspense and fright. This dropped with no advance notice just before Christmas of last year, too late to be included among 2022’s weirdest films, and this year’s holiday rewatch proved that it was no joke. Yule like it!

 Adult Swim Yule Log

Watch complete film free on Adult Swim

10. Leonor Will Never Die: After a conk on the noggin, an aging screenwriter finds herself inside her unfinished action movie script. Leonor explores the way stories inform life and vice versa by offering two films in one: a spot-on parody of a gritty macho Filipino B-movie wrapped inside a dramedy about an eccentric grandma. Also with a ghost, a pregnant man, and random musical sequences.

5. Triple Trouble: After a crisis of faith, a priest becomes a plumber and goes insane, becoming obsessed by a conspiracy of fungus. From the cult band the Residents, this experimental film throws out a lot of ideas—a malfunctioning drone A.I., a kidnapping, the protagonist’s ghost father (a former member of the Residents), a bunch of dream sequences featuring the Residents, clips from the Resident’s abandoned “Vileness Fats” project, and remarkably little music–and follows none of them to a conclusion, settling instead for a lazy-feeling “portrait of a schizophrenic man” approach. Hard to imagine anyone but dedicated Residents fans picking this up on Blu-ray, but bonus points for incorporating large amounts (all?) of Vileness Fats. Based on its sheer weirdness, this makes the list over more coherent films.

Scene form "Vileness Fats" as included in "Triple Trouble" (2023)

4. Give Me Pity!: A one woman 1970s TV special slides into a psychedelic nightmare. It’s a disco-ball-lit parody of period celebrity TV events (and also of confessional “one woman” shows); it’s also a serious critique of the vanity of America’s obsession with fame, spiked with LSD freakout interludes. Following up on the equally strange Please Baby Please (2022), is a rising weird movie talent with a feminist outlook who will hopefully continue making waves in the future.

6. Asteroid City: Came in at #4 on my mainstream best-of 2023 list. We all knew one day would go full weird. Well, maybe we were wrong, but this is definitely his weirdest movie to date. The plot of this meta-movie involves playwright Conrad Earp, who writes “Asteroid City,” about a photojournalist visiting the titular location with his gifted son for a Junior Stargazers convention. Everyone is stranded there when an extraterrestrial event causes the town to be quarantined; we occasionally peek behind the scenes to watch as the play is adapted by another director. The cast (, , , Tom Hanks, , Brian Cranston, and more) are top-notch; the stagey desert sets (with an interstate on-ramp to nowhere) are amazing; and it contains one of the strangest alien sequences you’ll ever see, a hoedown with lyrics that begin “Dear alien, who art in Heaven,” and characters chanting “you can’t wake up if you don’t fall asleep.”

7. Divinity: Two aliens kidnap the ultraweathy entrepreneur (inspired by Elon Musk, the credits hint) who has created the fountain-of-youth drug Divinity. Meanwhile, an all-female cult hunts for the last remaining fertile females on Earth. A strange black and white, beautifully expressionistic sci-fi satire with plentiful nudity that goes gleefully bonkers in the last act, with stop-motion battle between the aliens and the roided-up magnate and an insane joke of a final shot. It has plot and focus issues, but ‘s go-for-broke style blows right through them.

2. Beau Is Afraid: Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), who lives with crippling anxiety (caused by his upbringing), stresses out in apocalyptic fashion when his scheduled trip to see his mother hits some snags. From his apartment menaced by homeless bath-salts zombies to a hallucinatory play staged by orphans in the remote woods to his final visit to confront his domestic demons, Ari Aster’s horror/black comedy is end-to-end insanity; 3 hours of mania and a trembling Phoenix is, in fact, way, way too much, but the excess is part of the charm.

And now, for completeness’ sake:

Giles Edwards Top 10 Weird Movies of 2023

  1. Leda
  2. A New Old Play
  3. Moon Garden
  4. Unicorn Wars
  5. Beau Is Afraid
  6. Divinity
  7. 5000 Space Aliens
  8. Corner Office
  9. Infinity Pool
  10. FP 4EVZ

Honorable mentions: Something in the Dirt, Todd Tarantula, Sympathy for the Devil, Give Me Pity!, Freaks vs. the Reich

El Rob Hubbard’s Top 10 Weird Movies of 2023

  1. Adult Swim Yule Log
  2. Beau Is Afraid
  3. Infinity Pool
  4. A Wounded Faun
  5. The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future
  6. Divinity
  7. Leda
  8. Skinamarink
  9. Leonor Will Never Die
  10. Smoking Causes Coughing

Honorable mentions: Dream Scenario, Something in the Dirt, Once Upon a Time in Uganda, Kick Me

and combining the three lists together, we get a 366 Weird Movies staff consensus list of

  1. Once Within a Time
  2. Adult Swim Yule Log
  3. Beau is Afraid
  4. Infinity Pool
  5. Divinity
  6. Leda
  7. Triple Trouble
  8. Asteroid City
  9. A New Old Play
  10. Give Me Pity!

2 thoughts on “TOP 10 WEIRD MOVIES OF 2023”

  1. Will definitely have to check out Once Within a Time if I ever get the chance. Sounds great. How did it end up atop the concensus list when it’s only on one list? Giles and El Rob just weren’t able to see it?

    1. That’s right, Olivia. Once Within a Time was released to a few theaters in late 2023 but is not yet on streaming or home video. I saw it through a screener, but Giles and El Rob didn’t have the same opportunity. When I averaged the ratings, I didn’t include their non-existent votes, so my score was the only one. I averaged ratings for movies we’d all seen.

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