Golden Year Award 2023

The Golden Year Award honors the people who created, worked on, or starred in some of the year’s best movies and TV shows, based on their achievements. This could mean anything from big awards to zeitgeist-capturing moments to hugely successful projects — and in most cases, multiple hugely successful projects. The Rotten Tomatoes staff and editorial team got together and whittled down a massive list of folks who impressed us in 2023, debating the merits of over 50 big names until we arrived at seven consensus picks. It was not an easy task, but we think the winners we’ve selected are not only unquestionably worthy of the recognition, but they also represent a nice intersection of film and television, blockbusters and indies, awards contenders and genre favorites. Congratulations to all of our Golden Year Award winners!

Ayo Edebiri
Ayo Edebiri’s true breakout year may have come in 2022, when she won audiences over as sous-chef Sydney on The Bear, but she continued to kill it on season 2 of that show in 2023, earning a Golden Globe, a Critics Choice Award, and an Emmy in the process. Beyond that, she also appeared in (or voiced a character in) series ranging from Abbott Elementary to Black Mirror to Big Mouth, and she starred in a trio of Certified Fresh films — Theater Camp, Bottoms, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Oh, and let’s not forget about her iconic Letterboxd reviews. She may have had a busy schedule, but it was a busy schedule full of remarkable work.

Lily Gladstone
Lily Gladstone has been active for over a decade, earning accolades particularly for her work with Kelly Reichardt, but Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon provided her with what could rightly be called her breakout role. For her portrayal of Mollie Kyle in the historical drama, Gladstone has already netted a number of awards from critics organizations as well as a Golden Globe, and most have her pegged for a potential run at the Oscars. In the meantime, 2023 also brought her recognition for her work in Morrisa Maltz’s Unknown Country, Eria Tremblay’s Fancy Dance, and the series finale of hit comedy Reservation Dogs.

Cillian Murphy
We won’t deny that Oppenheimer was a monumental achievement by Christopher Nolan, but our Golden Year Award for the film goes to its magnetic star. Cillian Murphy has worked with Nolan on six of his films, beginning with an appearance as the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, but this was his first high-profile leading role for the director, and he knocked it out of the park. We all knew he was supremely talented, even in smaller roles, and he’s earned recognition for that work in the past — particularly for the BBC/Netflix crime drama Peaky Blinders — but nothing quite compares to the reception he’s enjoyed for Oppenheimer. We’re not saying he’s a lock for the Oscar, but an Academy Award win to top off the year would not surprise anyone.

Pedro Pascal
You know you’re doing something right when you’re a multiple winner of the Golden Year Award. Pedro Pascal earned the distinction back in 2020, but we dare say his 2023 was even better. He kicked off the year with one of its most anticipated series, HBO’s The Last of Us, and alongside Bella Ramsey he gave us one of the best — if not THE best — video game adaptations ever. Then, in March, he returned as Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, finishing the third season with what could have served as a tidy series finale… before we eventually learned Mando and Grogu are coming back for an adventure on the big screen. In the middle of all that, he also managed to star opposite Ethan Hawke in Pedro Almodóvar’s short Western Strange Way of Life, tying a nice little bow on a year of genre-defining entertainment.

Margot Robbie
Let’s face it: No conversation about 2023 will ever be complete without mentioning the pop culture juggernaut that was Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. And while both of them have rightly been celebrated for the film, we have to single out Robbie, who not only delivered a brilliant performance on screen, but also served as a producer on the film, pitching it to Warner Bros. and bringing Gerwig on board. The film went on to become the biggest hit of the year, as well as the highest-grossing film directed by a woman and the highest-grossing film in the history of Warner Bros. Did we mention she also found time to appear in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City and produce Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn? That’s a pretty Golden Year.

Emma Stone
In 2023, Emma Stone starred in and produced two projects that were as different from each other as they could possibly be, reminding us all that she is one of this generation’s most versatile actors. Most recently, we cringed through an entire season of Showtime’s The Curse, which was virtually carried by Stone’s pitch-perfect performance. Before that, she reunited with The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos for Poor Things, a steampunk riff on the Frankenstein story that you’ll have to see for yourself. Suffice it to say she just won the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy, and she’s a frontrunner for Best Actress at the Oscars, capping off a pretty excellent year.

Jeremy Allen White
Like his co-star Ayo Edebiri, Jeremy Allen White blew everyone away with his leading role in the first season of The Bear, winning basically every major award for it, and he proved to be just as excellent in season 2. He’s already won a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award for it, and along with Edebiri, he’s nominated for a SAG Award and is very likely going to be frontrunner for a back-to-back Emmy win. White also had a big year in film, though, appearing in Babak Jalali’s drama Fremont and co-starring in the sci-fi romance Fingernails before closing out 2023 with a pivotal role in Sean Durkin’s Certified Fresh drama The Iron Claw, which made it onto the National Board of Review’s Top Ten Films of the year.