2023 Wrap: The 10 Best Tamil Movies of The Year

Even if action might have been the flavour of 2023, Kollywood held the space for smaller films like ‘Ayothi' and ‘Chithha’ amidst the likes of ‘PS-2’ and ‘Jailer’.
Best Tamil Movies of 2023
Best Tamil Movies of 2023

Not just big, bigger and biggest, 2023 held space for small films too in the Tamil film industry. While the flavour of the season is still the action genre, there were quite a few films that explored different themes and won the hearts of the audience. Here is our top 10 list from Kollywood. 


After Gautham Ramachandran’s Gargi (2022) last year, comes Chithha, another sensitively made film on child sexual abuse. Directed by SU Arun Kumar, the film is set in Palani and revolves around a man whose niece goes missing. Siddharth plays Eeswaran with an urgency that bleeds into the viewer, and child actor Sahasra Shree is brilliant in her role as Sundari (also called Settai). But what sets the film apart is its understanding that toxic masculinity is at the root of sexual violence. While Eeswaran is convinced that he must seek revenge for what has happened to his niece, his girlfriend Sakthi (Nimisha Sajayan) calls him out for making it all about himself. This is a film that gets what #YesAllMen means, and empowers a female character to spell it out – and Nimisha is terrific in the scene. A relief from the innumerable hero-centric rape-revenge dramas we have watched over the years.

Viduthalai – Part 1

The opening sequence in this Vetrimaaran film – a long single take of a derailed train – immediately plunges the viewer into its central conflict. A people’s army on one side that seemingly uses terrorist methods of protest and the police on the other side that’s tasked with stopping them. It’s an excellent choice to make a lowrung policeman the protagonist of this gripping story. Kumaresan (Soori) has the uniform, but not all the power that comes with it, and it’s through his eyes that we discover Perumal (Vijay Sethupathi), the leader of the people’s army. Is he a brute or a saviour? A legend or a criminal? Soori is a surprise in the role, navigating a whole range of emotions as Kumaresan is torn between duty, love and ethics. The graphic visuals of custodial torture in the film are debatable, especially since the film is based on real life events and the victims belong to marginalised communities. Still, there’s no doubt that Viduthalai - Part 1 makes for a searing watch. 

Jigarthanda Double X

Karthik Subbaraj’s tribute to cinema is a spiritual sequel to Jigarthanda (2014), his critically acclaimed action comedy that revolves around a gangster who aspires to be a movie star. Here, too, there is one such gangster who wants to become the Tamil film industry’s first dark-skinned superstar. Actually, he aspires to become a “Pandya” star (you have to laugh at the jibe at pan Indian movies here). But, there’s more to the story. Subbaraj marries the sensibilities of a Western with local politics and cinema history, pulling off a layered satire that becomes an act of resistance towards the end. Raghava Lawrence plays Allius Caesar, an adivasi man who is also a brutal gangster. He is reformed because of cinema, not through the process of watching but becoming a part of the art. SJ Suryah delivers yet another superb performance as a cop who discovers that the camera is a more effective weapon than the gun. Subbaraj’s film is a reminder about the power of art and the immortality of the artist. 

Por Thozhil

Vignesh Raja’s serial killer thriller follows two cops – a stony senior and a fresh-faced junior – as they go on a twisty, exhilarating hunt. The film is as much about the dynamics between SP Loganathan (Sarathkumar) and Prakash (Ashok Selvan) as it is about uncovering the killer. Both the actors deliver compelling performances, but Sarath Babu is the real surprise. You can cut the tension with a chopping knife in the scene when a cop interrogates him at a railway crossing. The title of the film translates to ‘The Art of War’, and the writing leads the viewer into the mind of the killer with enough twists and turns that keep us hooked till the end. Nikhila Vimal’s small role as a technical assistant is also a pleasant change from the conventional “love interest” roles that women actors get stuck with in such films. 


In this polarised era where opinions on politics have divided families and estranged friends, Manthira Moorthy’s moving drama – which sometimes tips into melodrama – brings back humanity to the discourse. A family from Uttar Pradesh is travelling to Tamil Nadu for a pilgrimage when their car meets with an accident. Sasikumar plays the good samaritan who comes to their aid as they struggle with the unfamiliar land, its people and their language. With a simple and straightforward plot, the film navigates through a labyrinth of complex identities – that of gender, religion, language and community. While many Tamil films have mocked Hindi speakers and migrants as a way of resisting Hindi imposition by the political class, Ayothi moves past such easy caricaturing. Preethi Asrani as Shivani, a young woman from a conservative family, is particularly impressive in the scene where she stands up to her bigoted father. 

Ponniyin Selvan 2

The second part of Mani Ratnam’s historical fiction film divided the Ponniyin Selvan fandom over its writing and directorial choices, but when the dust settled, most agreed that this was probably as close to a satisfying film adaptation as one could get of the beloved Kalki novel. While the novel is about the succession battle in the Chola kingdom, the film focuses on the tragic romance between Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) and Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) that drives the story. Vikram is fantastic as the hot-headed, restless Karikalan and Aishwarya matches his performance with her ice queen demeanour that thaws in rare moments of vulnerability. Be it the beautiful ‘Aga Naga’ song or the scene when the three siblings (Vikram, Jayam Ravi and Trisha) cuddle together even as enemies swarm around them, the adaptation succeeds in retaining the magic of the novel even as it rewrites it. 


In this unusual superhero film, Madonne Ashwin gives us a comic book artist who hears a voice in his head – that of a character he created. Unlike Sathya (Sivakarthikeyan) who avoids confrontations, Maaveeran (Vijay Sethupathi’s voice) is a battle-ready warrior. When Sathya’s family is relocated from a slum to a fancy apartment building and things go downhill, Maaveeran awakens within Sathya. Mixing comedy with social messaging, Ashwin’s writing is almost always engaging even if the residents of Makkal Maaligai seem strangely lacking in agency. The action scenes are especially a hoot as Sathya unsuccessfully fights Maaveeran in his head. Yogi Babu is hilarious as a Tamil construction worker who pretends to be a Hindi-speaking migrant. A satisfying addition to the desi superhero genre after Basil Joseph’s Minnal Murali (2021).


After the fiasco that was Beast (2022), Rajinikanth fans were nervous about Nelson Dilipkumar’s Jailer, but they needn’t have worried. The director is in fine form in this crime comedy where the Superstar, a retired cop and doting grandfather, goes in search of his missing son. As ‘Tiger’ Muthuvel Pandian, Rajinikanth is remarkably restrained and yet maxes the swag when he’s allowed to unleash it to Anirudh’s amazing background score. Two other superstars – Mohanlal and Shivrajkumar – make excellent cameos in the film, and the climax is paisa vasool several times over. The detours in the second half may seem unnecessary but grow on you with repeat watches. Vinayakan is brilliant as the deranged Varman, with his “Manasalayo?” quickly becoming a catchphrase among the audience. The women characters, though, are a total disappointment, and the biggest crime on screen is probably how little Ramya Krishnan has to do in the film.  


Not Mari Selvaraj’s best, but an important film nevertheless in how it reclaims the narrative set by an iconic and influential film like Thevar Magan (1992). Centred on a Dalit politician in a Dravidian party and his rebellious son (Udayanidhi Stalin), the film marks the return of popular comedian Vadivelu to the big screen in a layered role. In this reimagination of Thevar Magan, Selvaraj questions the legacy of the classic by turning its hero into his antagonist – the brutal, caste-obsessed Rathinavel (a spectacular Fahadh Faasil). The rousing interval block that references a real life incident is the film’s highlight, and Selvaraj exposes how caste is written into anything and everything, including the simple act of sitting on a chair. The second half loses steam with a listless election taking centerstage, but the film comes alive once again in its final stretch. 

Good Night

In a sea of films where the hero solves all problems with a gun and an endless supply of bullets, comes Vinayak Chandrasekaran’s movie about a man whose biggest problem is that he snores. He’s married to a woman whose biggest problem is that she thinks she brings bad luck. The characters surrounding this couple are also interesting, perhaps more interesting – a couple who can’t get pregnant, a sister with a secret boyfriend, a mother who is loving and snide at the same time, and an older OK Kanmani type couple that screams goals when it comes to chemistry. This is a middle class film about middle class problems, and it doesn’t aspire to be anything else. The characters look and behave like people we know, the lines sound like conversations we’ve been part of or overheard. What’s not to like about a film where romance happens over chicken puff and bun-butter-jam? The cast – Manikandan, Meetha Raghunath, Ramesh Thilak, Raichal Rebecca, Balaji Sakthivel, Saivam Kala and others – are right on the money in their performances. The drama in the second half is somewhat stretched, but even so, you like everyone enough to stay invested in their tears and smiles. 

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