Year 2023 has been quite good for Malayalam cinema in terms of quality. Box office-wise, it has been a mixed bag. 2023 was the year where Malayalam Cinema got its highest-grossing film in Jude Anthany Joseph's 2018, and it is also a year where Mammootty made a hit out of Kaathal The Core, a film with LGBTQIA+ themes, where he himself played a closeted gay character. By the time of writing this article, even Mohanlal finds box office form with his latest Jeethu Joseph film, NeruNeru Movie Review: Mohanlal is Back With a Blast in Jeethu Joseph's Overdrawn Courtroom Drama.

But at the same time, there were several good films that didn't click at the box office, as the audiences were rather invested in watching them when they arrived on OTT platforms. While that is certainly a disappointment, especially for an industry where Tamil and Telugu movies often threaten to eat into their collections, we need to thank actors, directors, and producers for not not getting discouraged by this and continue to make good content in Malayalam cinema that ranks among the best in the country. So in this special year-ender feature, we look into 10 Malayalam movies that impressed us the most (in ranking of their release dates) and where to watch them online.

Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

A Still From Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam

Director: Lijo Jose Pelissery, Writer: S Hareesh

Lijo Jose Pelissery's film, like some of his other recent releases, is not an easy film to follow, and yet that's what makes it so charming and interesting. It has a central mystery that doesn't give a clear answer, but like with David Lynch movies, it is more fun to get into the theories and decode the solutions (?) ourselves. The camerawork is brilliant, rarely going for closeup shots (and when it does, it makes for the movie's most standout moment), and Mammootty is just too good as a theatre artiste who simply decides to live the life of another man - a complete stranger - much to the dismay of his family, friends, and the family of that stranger. Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam is streaming on Netflix. Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam Movie Review: Mammootty's Dual Performance is Unsurprisingly Fabulous in Lijo Jose Pelissery's Confounding Dramedy.


A Still From Thankam

Director: Saheed Arafath, Writer: Syam Pushkaran

Thankam is an investigative drama that goes 'Pan India' in finding the answers that lead to the death of a gold broker. The pacing is good, the writing surprises at every turn, and there are some really good performances from Biju Menon, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Aparna Balamurali, and Girish Kulkarni. It's not a perfect film, as there are some discernible flaws, especially the underwhelming resolution to the mystery, but the journey is what makes Thankam so memorable. Thankam is streaming on Prime Video.


A Still From Iratta

Director: Rohit MG Krishnan, Writer: Rohit MG Krishnan

Iratta is the kind of film that would make the late Padmarajan proud. A psychological investigative drama, Iratta features an excellent double act from a never-better Joju George, playing two estranged cop twins, where one has to investigate the murder/suicide of the other, and the reasons for the same. The film does a good job at getting into the psyche of each character and has a shocking third act that would leave certainly leave you disturbed and stunned for hours. Iratta is streaming on Netflix. Iratta Movie Review: Joju George's Brilliant Double Act Elevates this Gripping Investigative Drama with a Haunting Finale.


A Still From Romancham

Director: Jithu Madhavan, Writer:  Jithu Madhavan

It is hard to make a good comedy these days, no matter which industry you belong to. Not only do you have to be politically correct with your humour, but the humour should also land well. Which is why Romancham deserves to be on this list. A supernatural buddy comedy, based on the director's own experiences, the film is funny, relatable, and had enjoyable performances from a nearly-newcomer cast, led by Soubin Shahir. The marriage of comedy and spookiness works really well. The second half is uneven post Arjun Ashokan's entry, but the actor still manages to stand out with his quirky portrayal and his now-viral head-shake. Romancham is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.


A Still From Thuramukham

Director: Rajeev Ravi, Writer: Gopan Chidambaram

I do get why Thuramukham didn't work at the box office. Rajeev Ravi's period drama, based on harbour workers' protest against Chappa system in the '40s, is certainly ambitious and hard-hitting, but it is also nihilistic and never aims for a softer conclusion. Which is tragic since Thuramukham is a fantastic film that overwhelms you with its stark depiction of the condition of blue-collar workers, that might have only slightly improved by this date. The cast is excellent, with strong performances from Nivin Pauly, Arjun Ashokan, Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan, Sudev Nair, and a towering Poornima Indrajith (who also was impressive in the Netflix series Kaala Paani), and the movie boasts of some impressive cinematography and production design. Thuramukham is streaming on SonyLIV.

Purusha Pretham

A Still From Purusha Pretham

Director: Krishand, Writer: Ajith Haridas, Manu Thodupuzha

The writer was a big fan of Krishand's sophomore feature-length directorial Aavasavyuham and was glad to find out that the director's sparkling form and irreverent tendency of not sticking to a genre continues with this cop dramedy/satire. There is humour - white and black, there is suspense, there is good character drama, and there is a stark but humorous portrayal of the law and order system. Alexander Prasanth finally gets his spot in the sunlight, and he takes excellent advantage of that, with some excellent support from Jagadeesh, Darshana Rajendran, Devaki Rajendran, Jeo Baby, Sanju Sivram, among others. Purusha Pretham is streaming on SonyLIV. Purusha Pretham Movie Review: Krishand's Refreshingly Subversive Cop Satire is Boosted By Prashanth Alexander and Jagadish's Standout Performances.


A Still From 2018

Director: Jude Anthany Joseph, Writer:  Jude Anthany Joseph, Akhil P Dharmajan

Malayalam cinema's biggest grosser was also India's official entry for Oscars 2024 (though it didn't get shortlisted). But neither makes it the requisite to make it to the list. What many Malayalis, like me, loved about 2018 is how it handled what is a tragedy that not many Keralites would forget anytime soon. JAJ doesn't treat the film like a disaster thriller - he isn't interested in showing casualties. There are only two deaths in the movie, and both managed to affect you deeply. Instead, what he does is celebrate the humanity that comes to fore in the wake of such tragedies and honor the unlikely heroes who risked their lives to save those. 2018 features an ensemble cast, including the likes of Tovino Thomas, Kunchacko Boban, Asif Ali, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Narain, Aparna Balamurali, Lal, among others. Not all get good scope or character development, but not one gives a bad performance. Special mention also to the film's depiction of flood scenes with minimal use of CGI, that makes it all the more haunting. 2018 is streaming on SonyLIV.


A Still From Ennivar

Director: Sidhartha Siva, Writer: Sidhartha Siva

Siddharth Siva's much-delayed political drama got overshadowed by Tinu Pappachan's visually-stunning-but-narratively meandering-Chaaver, which released a week later. What's funny is that both the movies had nearly the same plot. Yet, even though Ennivar doesn't have the visual acumen of Chaaver or the starry presence of Kunchacko Boban, it still turns out to be a better film, an underrated presence in the year with strong performances, good writing, and a gut-punch of a climax. Ennivar is streaming on Saina Play.


A Still From Falimy

Director: Nithish Sahadev, Writer: Nithish Sahadev, Sanjo Joseph

I don't know how he does it, but Basil Joseph movies would somehow make it to my best year-ender lists where he is either a director or an actor. This year, it is the place for Falimy, a road trip comedy that is definitely influenced by Little Miss Sunshine. Falimy is decently humorous, but it is the emotional scenes that hit you hard - the bus scene where a character reacts to a death news is easily Family's standout moment. The movie never stops to surprise you, and what's more, it features excellent performances from the cast, with veteran Jagadeesh and Manju Pillai putting their best foot forward,Basil showing off his dramatic chops once again, while newcomers Abhiram Radhakrishnan and Meenaraj Palluruthy steals the show. Falimy is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

Kaathal – The Core

A Still From Kaathal – The Core

Director: Jeo Baby, Writer: Adarsh Sukumaran, Paulson Skaria

It's 2023 and Mammootty is in no mood to slow down when it comes to showing that even at 72, he has in it to surprise the hell out of you and take on roles that you don't expect him to. Jeo Baby's drama features Mammootty's boldest role, and while it is certainly not among his career-best performances, Matthew Devassy is one of his best and most significant characters of all time. But it is just not how Mammootty performs the role, it is also how Jeo Baby sensitively handles the politics around the same and even though at times we feel the movie isn't pushing itself much in that direction, any steps into the direction of acceptance, prodded by a superstar himself, are always a welcome push. Also features notable performances from Jyothika, Sudhi Kozhikode, RS Panickar, and Anagha Maya Ravi. Kaathal – The Core hasn't yet arrived on any OTT platform yet. Kaathal The Core Movie Review: Mammootty's Subtly Superlative Performance in Jeo Baby's Deeply Moving Drama Deserves Highest Acclaim.

Honourable MentionsRDX: Robert Dony Xavier, Kannur Squad, Aayirathonnu Nunakal, Neymar, Pookkaalam, Madanolsavam, Pachuvum Athbutha Vilakkum, Padmini et al.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 26, 2023 09:19 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website