2023 Sundance: The Best Movies, Picked by 367 Critics – Survey

The top winners were some of the hottest at this year’s festival, from ‘Fair Play’ to ‘Past Lives’ and beyond.

This year, the Sundance Film Festival returned the in-person events with a bang. After two straight, mostly virtual editions, the festival returned to near-normalcy, with packed crowds squeezing into shuttles and trudging up and down Main Street. The festival also allowed its films to be screened virtually on its platform at the distributor’s discretion for accredited press who were still covering Sundance from afar.

This meant that in our annual critics survey this year, some films were simply seen by more journalists than others. But it’s striking that in the final tally, some movies that were available practically all the time didn’t make it, while some movies that were played exclusively in person at Park City were ranked high.

This time, a record 367 critics voted on the IndieWire Critics Survey for Sundance 2023. Chloe Domont’s “Fair Play,” which was on the online streaming platform Sundance, was followed by the most funding and sold to Netflix for $20 million. Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” which has been the A24 title since its inception and has only been played in person in Park City.

“Fair Play” topped the Best Picture category with 163 out of 367 critics voting for it. Each critic had to choose their top three films, with first-place winners receiving three points, second-place winners two points, and third-place winners one point. In total, nineteen critics voted for “Fair Play” over “Past Lives”. However, “Past Lives” received more votes overall: thirty-seven to “Fair Play’s” 32. That suggests a lot of enthusiasm for Song’s film, which will next compete at the Berlinale next month.

“Fair Play” and “Past Lives” are both first-timers and, unsurprisingly, are also up for Best First Feature (which only asked for one selection instead of three). “Fair Play” was also nominated for Best Director and Best Screenplay. “Past Lives” was fourth in the best direction category and third in the best screenwriting category.

At the time of release, the Top 10 films without distributors are “Magazin Dreams” (ranked third on the list as well as best director and eighth for best screenplay) and “Eileen,” both of which were considered the best. purchase addresses at the beginning of the festival.

"You hurt my feelings"

“You Hurt My Feelings”

courtesy of Sundance Institute/A24

In addition to “Past Lives,” A24’s top 10 films include “You Hurt My Feelings” and “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.” Searchlight has “Rye Lane” and “Theatre Camp,” while Neon’s “Infinity Pool” (ninth on the Best Picture list but second on the Best Director list) is now in theaters on general public, and MUBI bought “Passes.”

In terms of the number of respondents, this time we were able to extract from the best film category what would be only among the first five films in the World Cinema Dramatic competition. Somewhat fewer votes were received than the Top 10 listed among the best films, but at the center of enthusiasm it is still worth mentioning: the main prize of the World Cinema jury, “Scrapper”, as well as “Shayda”, “Mamacruz”, “Heroic” and ” Slow’ was the top five.

Voting for the best documentary film followed the same process as for the best film category (although respondents could have voted for documentaries in the best film category as well). Two were clearly ahead of the pack: “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” and “20 Days in Mariupol” collected the most votes in the Premieres and World Documentary Competition sections. Of the top 10 documentaries selected by critics, three were selected from Premieres, two from NEXT, three from the US Documentary Competition, and two from the World Documentary Competition.

Harris Dickinson and Lola Campbell star in Charlotte Regan's Scrapper, an Official World Drama Competition Selection at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.  Courtesy of the Sundance Institute.  |  Photo: Chris Harris.  All photos are copyrighted and may only be used by the press for news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs.  Photographs must be credited to the photographer and/or “Courtesy of Sundance Institute”.  Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photographs is strictly prohibited.


Chris Harris

The critical consensus at Sundance can be an unpredictable barometer for future success. Last year’s survey winner, “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” scored a big deal with Apple at the festival, but failed to garner much traction come awards season; however, a year earlier, the survey was led by two future Oscar winners, “CODA” and “Judas and the Black Messiah.”

See the full critics’ poll results below. For all Sundance 2023 news, including reviews of the films below and related interviews, head here.


1. “Fair Play”
2. “Past Lives”
3. “Magazine Dreams”
4. “Rye Lane”
5. “Eileen”
6. “Theatre Camp”
7. “Passages”
8. “You Hurt My Feelings”
9. “infinity pool”
10. “All dirt roads taste like salt”

BEST WORLD CINEMA DRAMA FILMS (from the best film vote)

1. “Scrapper”
2. “Shayda”
3. “Mamacruz”
4. “Heroic”
5. “Slow”


1. “Currently: A Michael J. Fox Movie”
2. “20 days in Mariupol”
3. “Little Richard: I Am Everything”
4. “Kokomo City”
5. “Beyond Utopia”
6. “The Eternal Memory”
7. “The Disappearance of Shere Hite”
8. “Kim’s Video”
9. “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields”
10. “Judy Blume Forever”


1. “Fair Play” (Chloe Domont)
2. “Infinity Pool” (Brandon Cronenberg)
3. “Magazine Dreams” (Elijah Bynum)
4. “Past Lives” (Celine Song)
5. “Every Dirt Road Tastes Salty” (Raven Jackson)
6. “Eileen” (William Oldroyd)
7. “Passages” (Ira Sachs)
8. “Rye Lane” (Raine Allen Miller)
9. “Ezeregy” (AV Rockwell)
10. “Cassandro” (Roger Ross Williams)


1. “Fair Play” (Chloe Domont)
2. “You Hurt My Feelings” (Nicole Holofcener)
3. “Past Lives” (Celine Song)
4. “Passages” (Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias)
5. “Rye Lane” (Nathan Brian and Tom Melia)
6. “Eileen” (Ottessa Moshfegh and Luke Goebel)
7. “Theatre Camp” (Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Ben Platt and Noah Galvin)
8. “Magazine Dreams” (Elijah Bynum)
9. “The Persian Version” (Maryam Keshavarz)
10. “Infinity Pool” (Brandon Cronenberg)


“Past Lives”
“Rye Lane”
“Theatre Camp”
“Thousand and one”
“All dirt roads taste salty”
TIE: “Birth/Rebirth” and “Polite Society”
TIE: “Fairyland” and “Scrapper”

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