Compilation of 2023 AFCC award winners.

(Atlanta – December 4, 2023)  After a weekend of vote tallying and several close races, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle (AFCC) has announced its 7th annual awards celebrating the top film achievements of the year.

The AFCC’s Best Film of 2023 is Oppenheimer, a biographical thriller portraying the life of nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, the film swept the AFCC’s awards in several categories, including Best Director (Christopher Nolan), Best Actor (Cillian Murphy), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Downey Jr.), Best Cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema), Best Ensemble, Best Screenplay (Christopher Nolan), and Best Score (Ludwig Göransson).

Many of the AFCC’s Top 10 films effortlessly combined compelling storytelling with an examination of societal issues that stretch back for decades.

“It’s always hard to narrow down our favorite films of the year, but this year felt particularly tough thanks to a plethora of incredible options,” said AFCC member Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor at Engadget and co-host of The Filmcast. “In the same year we saw Barbie reckon with toxic masculinity and the limits of living in a patriarchal society, we also saw films explore the evil of building the atomic bomb and Native American genocide.”

In a year punctuated by ongoing wars, labor union strikes, and advanced leaps in artificial intelligence, Oppenheimer delivers a timely – and terrifying– message about the pursuit of technical progress without consideration of the consequences. The film’s cultural significance also transcended its own contents when it became part of a celebration of the
movie-going experience. Oppenheimer was released the same weekend as director Greta Gerwig’s box office and critical hit Barbie. Rather than creating a divisive face-off at the box office, the overlapping releases prompted an unlikely theatrical double-feature dubbed “Barbenheimer.” Barbie also landed in the AFCC’s top films of the year.

It seems fitting, then, that the Best Supporting Actor race resulted in a tied vote between performances in the two films, with Ryan Gosling winning Best Supporting Actor for his role in Barbie as Ken and Robert Downey Jr. winning for his portrayal of politician Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer.

AFCC advisory board member Josh Sewell said the committee counting votes required several rounds of tallying in some categories due to how tight the races were, including a near 3-way-tie in the Best Supporting Actor field. “Only a handful of votes separated the back half of our Top 10, which speaks to the overall quality of the filmmakers and
performers,” he said. “That seems fitting in a year when actors and writers were forced to strike in order to prove how valuable their work is to the industry.”

Rather than splitting the vote, actress Lily Gladstone won it twice, securing both Best Lead Actress and Best Breakthrough Performer for her work in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. “Lily Gladstone, the AFCC’s choice for both Best Actress and Breakthrough Performer, is the heart and soul of Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon,” said AFCC member Curt Holman, film columnist for Creative Loafing. “As the film documents a murderous conspiracy striking the Osage nation in the 1920s, Gladstone infuses hercharacter with dignity and a complicated emotional life that transcendspotential clichés as a victim.”

Other winner highlights this year include director Celine Song’s Past Lives, which won Best First Feature, Da’Vine Joy Randolph for Best Supporting Actress in The Holdovers, French film The Anatomy of a Fall for Best International Feature, and John Wick: Chapter 4 for the AFCC’s second-ever Best Stunt Work award.

AFCC member Nsenga Burton, Ph.D., Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Burton Wire, said the winners signaled a year for large collaborative efforts, sometimes at the expense of smaller, character-driven films. “As you can see from the list, ensemble films were the big winners this year for AFCC,” she said. “But I’m excited to see breakout star Lily
Gladstone and screenwriters and filmmakers like Celine Song and Cord Jefferson make the cut.”

Co-founded by longtime Atlanta film critics Felicia Feaster and Michael Clark in 2017, the Atlanta Film Critics Circle is an attempt to fill a void in the local film community, and in the representation of Atlanta’s media on the national stage. The AFCC is supported by its Advisory Board and longtime critics Jason Evans, Will Leitch, Hannah Lodge, Michael McKinney, Kyle Pinion, and Josh Sewell. Composed of a dynamic mix of 34 Atlanta-based critics working in newspaper, magazine, and online journalism, the AFCC’s mission is to establish a national presence for a film critics group in Atlanta and to foster a vibrant film culture in Atlanta, already home to an exploding film industry production presence.

Members (critics living in and/or currently writing for global, national, regional
and/or Atlanta metro area outlets) of AFCC voted on December 3 for the group’s
annual awards.

Complete AFCC Award List

BEST FILM: Oppenheimer
TOP 10 FILMS (ranked from first place to tenth place)
1. Oppenheimer
2. Killers of the Flower Moon
3. The Holdovers
4. Past Lives
5. Barbie
6. May December
7. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
8. American Fiction
9. Anatomy of a Fall
10. Poor Things


Cillian Murphy, Oppenheimer

Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

TIE – Robert Downey Jr., Oppenheimer; Ryan Gosling, Barbie

Da’Vine Joy Randolph, The Holdovers


Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan, Oppenheimer

Still: A Michael J. Fox Story

Anatomy of a Fall (France)

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Hoyte van Hoytema, Oppenheimer

Ludwig Göransson, Oppenheimer

John Wick: Chapter 4


Lily Gladstone, Killers of the Flower Moon

Celine Song, Past Lives

This post was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire. Follow Nsenga on social media @Ntellectual. Full disclosure: Nsenga is a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. 

Follow the Burton Wire @TheBurtonWireNews or @TheBurtonWire on IG.

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