Critics Survey: The Best Movies of Sundance 2023, According to 367 Critics

The top winners were among the buzziest of this year's festival, from "Fair Play" to "Past Lives" and more.
IndieWire Critics Survey Sundance 2023: (from clockwise) Infinity Pool, Fair Play, Magazine Dreams, and Past Lives are among the films deemed best of the festival.
"Infinity Pool," "Fair Play," "Magazine Dreams," "Past Lives"

This year, the Sundance Film Festival returned in-person events with a vengeance. After two straight mostly virtual editions, the festival got back to almost-normal with packed crowds squeezing into the shuttles and trudging up and down Main Street. The festival also allowed its films, at distributors’ discretion, to screen virtually on its platform for accredited press who were still covering Sundance remotely.

That meant, in conducting our annual critics survey this year, some films may simply have been seen by more journalists than others. But it is striking that in the final tally, some buzzy films that were available virtually the entire time did not make the cut, while some titles that played exclusively in-person in Park City ranked high.

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

“Fair Play” topped the Best Film category, with 163 of the 367 critics voting for it. Each critic was asked to select their top three films, with first-place choices being assigned three points, second-place choices two points, and third-place choices one point. Nineteen more critics voted for “Fair Play” overall than for “Past Lives.” However, “Past Lives” received more overall No. 1 votes: Thirty-seven to the 32 for “Fair Play.” That suggests major enthusiasm for Song’s film, which next plays in competition at Berlinale next month.

Both “Fair Play” and “Past Lives” are first-time features, and, unsurprisingly, ranked the same way in the Best First Film category (which only asked for one selection as opposed to three). “Fair Play” also topped Best Directing and Best Screenwriting. “Past Lives” came in fourth for Best Directing and third for Best Screenwriting.

As of publication time, the films without distributors in the Top 10 are “Magazine Dreams,” (No. 3 on that list as well as on Best Directing, and No. 8 in Best Screenwriting) and “Eileen,” both of which were considered hot acquisition titles at the start of the festival.

"You Hurt My Feelings"
“You Hurt My Feelings”Courtesy of A24

Along with “Past Lives,” A24 titles in the Top 10 films include “You Hurt My Feelings” and “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt.” Searchlight has “Rye Lane” and “Theater Camp,” while Neon’s “Infinity Pool” (at No. 9 on the Best Film List, but No. 2 at Best Directing) is already in theaters for the general public to see, and MUBI acquired “Passages.”

Given the number of respondents this time around, we were able to pull out of the Best Film category what the top five would be for just films in the World Cinema Dramatic competition. All received fewer votes than the Top 10 listed under Best Film, but still were focal points of enthusiasm worth mentioning: World Cinema Grand Jury Prize winner “Scrapper,” as well as “Shayda,” “Mamacruz,” “Heroic,” and “Slow” were those top five.

The voting for Best Documentary followed the same process for Best Film (though those polled could have voted for documentaries in the Best Film category as well). Two clearly stood ahead of the pack: “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” and “20 Days in Mariupol” garnered the most votes, from the Premieres and World Documentary Competition sections respectively. Of the Top 10 Documentaries the critics selected, three were from Premieres, two from NEXT, three from the U.S. Documentary Competition, and two from the World Documentary Competition.

Harris Dickinson and Lola Campbell appear in Scrapper by Charlotte Regan, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Chris Harris. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.
“Scrapper”Chris Harris

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

Check out the full results of the critics survey below. And for every bit of news about Sundance 2023, including reviews of the below films and related interviews, go here.


1. “Fair Play”
2. “Past Lives”
3. “Magazine Dreams”
4. “Rye Lane”
5. “Eileen”
6. “Theater Camp”
7. “Passages”
8. “You Hurt My Feelings”
9. “Infinity Pool”
10. “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt”

BEST WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC FILMS (from overall Best Film voting)

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


1. “Still: 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. “All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt” (Raven Jackson)
6. “Eileen” (William Oldroyd)
7. “Passages” (Ira Sachs)
8. “Rye Lane” (Raine Allen Miller)
9. “A Thousand and One” (A.V. 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. “Theater 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)


“Fair Play”
“Past Lives”
“Rye Lane”
“Theater Camp”
“A Thousand and One”
“All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt”
TIE: “Birth/Rebirth” and “Polite Society”
TIE: “Fairyland” and “Scrapper”

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