After a pandemic pause, IndieWire has brought back our directors’ survey, wherein we ask the directors who made great films and episodes of television in 2023 (and, honestly, across the last four years) to tell us what they’ve been watching that has moved and inspired them.

Although our 2023 ranking of best films is obviously, objectively correct, really interesting things can happen when “Best Of” is framed more in terms of celebrating what filled directors’ creative tanks than putting films of all shapes and sizes into one list. There was a lot of love for the types of movies that Best Of lists usually forget about: horror, action, docs, and international releases, as well as a fair amount of praise for the television, music, and video games that also created art alongside film this year. We gave the directors a great deal of freedom in how they reflected on the year in moving images.

In fact, there’s a fair number of films on these lists that stretch beyond 2023 — some films that directors only caught this year (filmmakers have too much to watch and are constantly catching up on things: they’re just like us!); some films that technically reached U.S. theaters last year but only screened where these directors live this year; some lists that highlight masterful restorations of older movies and discoveries of films from the ’30s on (proving it’s never too late to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” for the first time). We asked directors for as broad a definition of “best films of the year” as we could to get a true snapshot of what has been meaningful to them.

The collection of answers we received varies, but taken together create a wonderful tapestry of the best filmmaking of 2023. There are plenty of expected names — “Anatomy of a Fall,” “The Zone of Interest,” and “Poor Things” were either included by most of the directors’ who responded to our survey or mentioned as films they have yet to see. But there are also plenty of what feels like deserved end-of-the-year gifts of praise for films from throughout 2023 — “Talk to Me,” “Godzilla Minus One,” and “A Thousand and One” couldn’t be more different, but they all made their mark on multiple filmmakers this year. If you are bored with every end-of-the-year list looking the same, you are in for a treat, as some of the best filmmakers highlight movies that fell through critics’ and awards gaps.

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