The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2023

The Pop Culture We’re Thankful for Getting Us Through 2023

Beyond the basics of life that we all have to be thankful for, each and every year brings us pop culture that helps make our lives more enjoyable. That goes for movie, games, trends, characters—anything that has brought us some joy and happiness in the past year or so. And, as we’ve been doing the last few years, io9’s staff is ready to reveal our picks to you right now.

We’re thankful for… Barbie

Image: Warner Bros.

Obviously, we could be thankful for Barbie just because it’s Barbie and it’s great. But the real reason Barbie is on this list is because it probably shouldn’t have been great. For a moment, take Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and all those people away. The simple statement “Warner Bros. is making a Barbie movie” sounds like a recipe for disaster. But then, all those talented people were hired. Everyone did incredible work. And Barbie ended up being one of those rare cinematic events that brought the world together. It not only reignited faith in theatrical movie-going, it reminded us that not every movie based on some big, famous IP has to be bad. Sometimes it can be downright masterful. – Germain Lussier

We’re thankful for… 2023’s great horror books

Image: One World

The year started to feel extra spooky on the page when Stephen Graham Jones’ Don’t Fear the Reaper came out in February. As 2023 continued, the killer hits kept coming; we must’ve done something to please the horror-book gods to get releases like Lone Women by Victor LaValle (above), The Beast You Are by Paul Tremblay, The Handyman Method by Nick Cutter and Andrew F. Sullivan, and The Dead Take the A Train by Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw packed into a single 12-month span. Plus, there are so many more on our “to-read” list, we’ll be enjoying 2023’s gifts well into the new year. – Cheryl Eddy

We’re thankful for… Baldur’s Gate 3

Screenshot: Gizmodo/Larian Studios

I have been looking forward to Larian’s long-awaited sequel to the legendary D&D CRPG series since it was announced, and even more so over its lengthy period of early access. But the final game itself came out at the perfect time in what has not been the best of years in my personal life, and the chance to be swept away by its world and characters was deeply appreciated. Over the past few months since its launch in the summer, I’ve wandered the Sword Coast righting wrongs, romancing beary druids, and eldritch blasting anything and everything into very deep chasms across hundreds of hours and multiple playthroughs, and I am still finding ways for Baldur’s Gate 3 to surprise me. – James Whitbrook

We’re thankful for… adorable agents of chaos

Image: Disney/Universal

The year kicked off with the cutest nihilistic blue star, Lumalee, in The Super Mario Bros. Movie delivering iconic lines like “There is no escape. The only hope is the sweet relief of death,” while giggling like a child, perhaps because they were indeed voiced by a kid, reciting some of the darkest lines committed to screen. Lumalee stole the show and we need more of them. And at the end of the year in a cosmic balance of energy, Disney Wish’s Star is like the medicated optimistic version of Lumalee, an adorable bundle of unpredictable joyful mischief. Both are an interchangeable vibe as we end the year in unprecedented times. – Sabina Graves

We’re thankful for… amazing animation

Blue Eye Samurai

Usually, there are one or two big animated standouts of the year, but 2023 has had too many to count. Starting with the likes of Trigun Stampede
and Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, then summer’s TMNT: Mutant Mayhem and Across the Spider-Verse to the more recent Blue Eye Samurai
and Scavengers Reign, the year has been packed with some amazing animated outings. While the animation industry needs to change in many respects, it’s been great to see the medium in top form at a time when it feels like it’s being stripped either for parts or to be abandoned. – Justin Carter

We’re thankful for… the Our Flag Means Death ensemble

Madeleine Sami, Vico Ortiz, David Fane, and Joel Fry

The romance between Blackbeard and Steed, with Izzy Hands tangents, rightfully captured the imaginations of Our Flag Means Death’s viewers. But the show’s not-so-secret weapon is the talented and hilarious ensemble that plays its peripatetic pirate crew, a group of performers whose dynamic chemistry feels like it simply has to extend into real life. Their characters don’t always see eye-to-eye (with each other, or with whoever happens to be their captain), but they have an emotionally evolved approach to problem-solving—and they’ll take any excuse to throw a big party. We’d hit the high seas with them anytime. – Cheryl Eddy

We’re thankful for… Andor. Still.

Image: Lucasfilm

Andor came out last year, and it bowled me over with its nuanced, complicated, and often bitterly messy view of the early days of organized resistance against the Galactic Empire. But its ultimately hopeful story of resilience and community in the face of Imperial ambition and cruelty has kept me revisiting it over and over, even as we have had new Star Wars material to engage with between the likes of The Mandalorian’s haphazard third season and Ahsoka’s stage-setting debut for what’s to come. On repeat viewing Andor is just as surprising and hard-hitting, and the chance to hold the series up to scrutiny and re-examine its worldview has been a balm as Star Wars at large charts its uncertain future. – James Whitbrook

We’re grateful for… fantastic film scores

Image: Sony

In a year of some great movie music, there’ve been two standout composers for me. Ludwig Göransson has found a great collaborator in Christopher Nolan. Oppenheimer is only their second film together, but you can feel how well they sync up and make already big moments feel bigger. Meanwhile, with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Daniel Pemberton further cements himself as one of our best composers for superhero music, doing a great job in building out a distinct theme for Miles and the other superheroic characters in the sequel like Gwen, Miguel, Miles-42, and Spot. – Justin Carter

We’re thankful for… Ramona Flowers

Image: Universal/Netflix

In Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Mary Elizabeth Winstead takes the lead, giving “the girl with hair like this” in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World her due. In a stupendous turn of events, Winstead’s Ramona becomes the main character in the fight for her love that shows Flowers gain the power of agency in her own story. It’s clever and refreshing to see her take on accountability in how things ended with each evil ex, while also giving those fun characters more depth. A manic pixie dream girl contains multitudes and maybe is an imperfect person who gets to grow outside of a trope we should keep back in the aughts. – Sabina Graves

We’re thankful for… Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Image: Lucasfilm

Many people, Disney and Lucasfilm probably most of all, were disappointed by Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny for one reason or another. And while so many of those reasons are valid, I look at it this way: we got to see a new Indiana Jones movie this year! A new Indiana Jones movie that I thoroughly enjoyed and have revisited several times since it came out. No, it’s not as good as the original three, but this one coming out gave me an excuse to revisit those original films and make me feel like a kid again. So even if Dial of Destiny didn’t deliver, it gave me an excuse to reignite my fandom and passion for Indy as a franchise and character. – Germain Lussier