September 27, 2023

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The 23 Most Anticipated Movies of 2023

Staring down the most packed calendar since 2020, we have plenty to look forward to: July alone promises to be the biggest box-office battleground in recent memory. But there’s also less confusion this year: Most of these titles are likely to come out on their scheduled release dates. Ultimately, picking just 23 titles is a little conservative, and there are a few big names missing in the roll call below—but just assume we’re as excited for The Super Mario Bros. Movie as you are (and please don’t ask any follow-up questions).

Knock at the Cabin (February 3)

The last time M. Night Shyamalan went apocalyptic, in The Happening, the results were less than awe-inspiring. But he’s got sturdy, scary material to work with this time out in the form of Paul Tremblay’s 2018 novel, The Cabin at the End of the World, about a family staring down not only a group of bizarrely armed home invaders, but also an impossible ethical choice.

Magic Mike’s Last Dance (February 10)

If the irresistible Magic Mike XXL was, at its core, a story about the beauty of personal expression—of performing for the sheer, cathartic joy of it—the elegiacally titled Last Dance seems to be a treatise on professionalism and perfectionism in the world of for-her-pleasure dancing: “the Super Bowl of stripping,” per Channing Tatum’s good-natured hype. Releasing this one theatrically for Valentine’s Day—instead of sending it straight to streaming, as originally planned—could end up saving the movies even more than James Cameron did.

Cocaine Bear (February 24)

Apparently, Elizabeth Banks’s new comic thriller is based on a true story: In 1985, in Georgia, a black bear consumed a duffel bag’s work of stolen blow and [checks notes] died. It’s a pretty good bet that nothing in the film’s buzzworthy red-band trailer actually happened, but then, you don’t go to a movie called Cocaine Bear for authenticity—you go to laugh, to cry, to feel, to see yourself and your dreams illuminated by the beam of the projector.

Creed III (March 3)

Ryan Coogler’s original Creed wasn’t just an unexpected blockbuster but a genuinely thrilling, grown-up drama that probably deserved the same Academy love Rocky got 50 years earlier. Notwithstanding Dolph Lundgren’s stellar cameo, Creed II was … not that. That Creed III, Michael B. Jordan’s directorial debut, was moved from its intended 2022 award season release date may be a sign that the third installment is closer to the second in quality. But ideally, this follow-up has been more effectively calibrated and has found something worthwhile in a story that pits Adonis against his ex-con ex-bestie (Jonathan Majors) in a fight that’s been a long time coming.

Scream VI (March 10)

If Jason could take Manhattan, then Ghostface deserves a shot, too. The urban setting and seemingly supernatural twist in this latest bit of brand extension are potentially intriguing, while Jenna Ortega has spent the time since last year’s unexpectedly successful “re-quel” getting seriously famous via Wednesday. Not present this time out: Neve Campbell, who claimed that the studio lowballed her after she spent 26 years as the face of the franchise.

Air (April 5)

In a year that also promises a behind-the-scenes drama about the creation of the BlackBerry, Ben Affleck aims even higher with Air, set at the primal scene of Nike in the 1980s, with the director playing the company’s cofounder—and eventual MJ whisperer—Phil Knight (Matt Damon is there too as Sonny Vaccaro). Will it be as good as The Social Network? Does Michael Jordan need another encomium to his paradigm-shifting greatness? Does it matter that the ’80s sneaker wars were already basically done as a sub-subplot on Winning Time? How about this one: Is there any chance you aren’t watching this?

Beau Is Afraid (April 21)

Beau, it seems, is Joaquin Phoenix, and the question of what he has to be afraid of is wide open considering his creator is horror-meister Ari Aster. The trailer suggests one source of our hero’s anxieties may be parental, putting Beau Is Afraid in a tradition of familial psychodramas; using the all-time-brilliant Broadway actress Patti LuPone as Beau’s mother could turn out to be the greatest casting coup of the year.

Evil Dead Rise (April 21)

There’s never really been much at stake in the Evil Dead movies beyond Bruce Campbell’s dignity; the fun has always lain in the feisty, disposable human characters messing with supernatural forces beyond their control. But Lee Cronin’s Evil Dead Rise looks like an emotional roller coaster, with three young children forced to witness—and survive—the transformation of their loving, harried mother (Alyssa Sutherland) into a rictus-grinning Deadite.

Fast X (May 19)

The estimated budget of Fast X is $340 million, which is getting close to Avatar territory—Pandora being one of the only places that Dom and the gang haven’t rampaged through at some point in the last 20-plus years. (Given the casting of Jason Momoa as the new bad guy, maybe they can get a tax credit to film in Atlantis.) As an experiment in taking action-movie tropes exponentially over the top until the top completely disappears, the Fast movies are humming along nicely. There’s no reason to suspect that the franchise brain trust will mess this one up: Some things really are too big to fail.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2)

Again with the multiverse: At this point, the everything-everywhere-all-at-onceness of inter-dimensional storytelling is getting tired. That said, 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse was a beautifully designed and executed exercise in chaos, and Shameik Moore’s animated Miles Morales is as soulful and funny as Tom Holland’s live-action Peter Parker (not slated to appear) is stiff and gormless. Most exciting Spider-Cameo: Daniel Kaluuya as Spider-Punk, a spiky, Cockney-accented guitar slinger who literally uses his guitar as a machine to kill fascists.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30)

The good news is that Mutt Williams (remember him?) died on his way back to his home planet, effectively cleaning the slate for Indy to take on a new protégé. That’d be Phoebe Waller-Bridge as his goddaughter, Helena, a potentially crackerjack piece of casting that gives the material a witty Last Crusade–style dynamic. (Harrison Ford’s always played the character as older and crankier than his years anyway.) Kudos as well for enlisting Mads Mikkelsen as an ex-Nazi villain—a nifty idea given the story’s space race backdrop. There’s a lot of goodwill accrued here, and director James Mangold is a steady enough hand that he probably won’t blow it.

Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning, Part One (July 14)

There is a gladiatorial subtext to every new Tom Cruise stunt: “Are you not entertained?” he seems to ask as he sticks the HALO jump or motorcycle landing, over and over again. The tension between a superstar’s quasi-suicidal showmanship and the kind of franchise storytelling that requires Ethan Hunt to be indestructible has turned the Mission: Impossible movies into a gold standard, which is why we’ll let them get away with a title that includes not just the traditional colon but also a dash—a grammatical clusterfuck that doubles as a reminder that they’re drawing these final chapters out as long as possible.

Barbie (July 21)

Points to Greta Gerwig for finessing her new project’s teaser trailer into an homage to the most monolithic art-movie auteur of all time—a good way to get the internet buzzing (and bitching) about what, exactly, Barbie will be. Expect Gerwig and her cowriter, Noah Baumbach, to locate the line between stupid and clever; the question is whether walking it will get them and their movie anywhere worth going. In the meantime, the glimpses of Ryan Gosling’s authentically anodyne Ken serve as a reminder that the Goz is always (always!) better doing comedy than two-fisted brooding. I would pay anything to see a remake of Drive with this wardrobe.

Oppenheimer (July 21)

Congratulations, reader: It seems that you, too, have been cast in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, along with Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Roman Reigns, Benny Safdie, Kenneth Branagh, Gary Oldman, Casey Affleck, Matthew Modine, and Harry Styles. (I made only two of these up.) There’s a rich, terrifying subject here, and Nolan tends to rock it in period-piece mode. He also allegedly set off a nuclear explosion for this movie? Anyway, let us know what shooting the movie was like, and see you on the red carpet.

The Exorcist (October 13)

Back in 2000, when George Washington was entrancing art-house audiences, you could have gotten pretty long odds on David Gordon Green reinventing himself as the guy who remakes canonical ’70s horror movies. Whatever you think of the nu-Halloween trilogy, the prospect of a direct sequel to The Exorcist—one with Ellen Burstyn on board, no less—is hard to dismiss. For now, there’s nothing to go on except the promise that Pazuzu will be back in some form. That’s enough for me.

Dune: Part Two (November 3)

Do the voice. Until we hear Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha, we can assume that he’ll make the young Harkonnen villain sound like Elvis. Because its predecessor was a pleasant surprise—artistically as well as commercially, with a genuine sense of scale and wonder—Dune: Part Two will carry weighty expectations, and yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to bet against its director. Some have the ability to realize military-sized visions without sacrificing subtler touches, and Denis Villeneuve’s skill set is no longer in question. He fought for the chance to tell this story on a big, sprawling canvas, and he proved himself right.

The Killer (November 10)

Having gotten Mank safely out of his system, David Fincher returns to glossy genre fare with this graphic-novel adaptation about a globe-trotting assassin starring the recently MIA Michael Fassbender. Safe to say there probably isn’t a more exciting proposition this year; the November release date hints that it may even play some film festivals first.

Cat Person (TBD)

Kristen Roupenian’s 2017 New Yorker short story “Cat Person” was a pop-literary phenomenon, a cautionary tale about 20-something dating rituals that scraped the surface (or the underbelly) of something larger and more unsettling. How it’ll work as a movie—with Cousin Greg himself in the part of the eponymous feline appreciator—is anybody’s guess, but based on the polarizing reaction out of Sundance, you can bet that the internet will be happy to relitigate Roupenian’s complex, contradictory themes of sex, power, guilt, and privilege all over again.

Ferrari (TBD)

Adam Driver’s campaign to work with every major living American filmmaker checks a big box with Michael Mann’s Enzo Ferrari biopic, a project that positively exudes gearhead cool. Considering that Mann’s been trying to tell this story for 20 years—since he was working on his last biopic, Ali—he must have a thematic angle he likes. You know he’ll have the right camera angles, and the prospect of seeing all that ’50s chic through the eyes of a master is tantalizing. When you need a filmmaker to dramatize a hard-driving perfectionist, accept no substitutes.

Maestro (TBD)

No word on whether Bradley Cooper’s portrait of Leonard Bernstein will feature a cameo by a young Lydia Tár. What we do know is that there is a significant amount of prosthetics involved in transforming Cooper—who stars as well as directs—into the legendary composer, and that Cooper has been looking at this one as a passion project for a long time. Bernstein is a major figure, and his legend and talent are surely worthy of cinematic treatment, though hopefully not through a procession of biopic clichés. Cooper’s directorial work on A Star Is Born showed a nice mix of freshness and classicism, so it may be worth holding out hope.

MaXXXine (TBD)

Ti West’s insta-trilogy will run its course in just over one calendar year, with the ’80s-set MaXXXine serving as a coda to the ’70s pastiche X and its World War I–era prequel, Pearl. The director’s achievement in churning out three swift, nasty, female-led horror comedies is one thing, but the real heroine of the series is Mia Goth, who’s already given three (not two) terrific performances in the first two movies and should be poised for (at least) one more.

Poor Things (TBD)

The plot summary of Yorgos Lanthimos’s modern gloss on Frankenstein tells us that Emma Stone’s character somehow receives her unborn baby’s brain as part of an experimental transplant. Greek Freak Lanthimos is several movies into his Hollywood crossover, and his bizarre sensibility keeps attracting A-listers willing (or desperate) to stretch. (No prizes for guessing that the only surgeon daring enough to try this experimental procedure is played by Willem Dafoe.)

The Zone of Interest (TBD)

Since Under the Skin, the only thing Jonathan Glazer has released is two shorts, Strasbourg 1518 and the horrifying The Fall—a reminder of the British director’s brilliance at all things visceral. Given Glazer’s skills for terror, it’s hard to know how to take the news that his long-gestating follow-up is a Holocaust drama—more specifically, a romance between German officers at Auschwitz. The potential for controversy is off the charts, but so is the intrigue.

And finally …

Last year, we cited Martin Scorsese’s true-crime adaptation Killers of the Flower Moon as the most anticipated movie of 2022. After it featured prominently in the Timothée Chalamet Apple TV+ commercial, it seems we’ll be seeing it sometime in May this year—possibly after it premieres at Cannes.

Adam Nayman is a film critic, teacher, and author based in Toronto; his book The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together is available now from Abrams.