There’s no question: 2023 is one of the best years for cinema so far this century, with an astonishing range of formally inventive, philosophically rich, and deliriously entertaining films. The year has been filled with great examples of nearly every type of movie, from mainstream theatrical releases and international festival entries to auteur-driven historical pieces and star-driven character studies, with innovative pictures by filmmakers from a broad array of backgrounds.

The art of cinematography has been particularly robust, and choosing the very best work in a year so rich is a difficult task. There are dozens of films not on this list that easily would have made it in a lesser year, and the ones that did make the cut will, we believe, stand the test of time. In terms of subject matter and tone the films couldn’t be more different; the candy-colored satirical extravaganza that is “Barbie” is as different from the darkly comic black-and-white horror of “El Conde” as the chilling natural light of “The Zone of Interest” is from the expressionistic stylization of “Marlowe.”

The only thing these movies have in common is that they all represent cinematographers operating at the peak of their talents — which is really saying something since most of them are already recognized as among the best in their field (and those who aren’t soon will be). Some are shot mostly or entirely on film (“Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro”) while others represent the liberating, experimental potential of digital (“Priscilla”) or even create entirely new formats (the black and white IMAX of “Oppenheimer”). All are movies that use light, color, movement, and composition to tell essential stories from a diverse group of eras and places.

Christian Blauvelt, Bill Desowitz, and Sarah Shachat also contributed reporting.

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