Feature

The most anticipated movies of 2023

Get ready for Mario, Willy Wonka, Ariel, Indiana Jones, Barbie, J. Robert Oppenheimer … and some really big worms

That indescribable feeling you get when the lights begin to dim in the movie theater? You'll be feeling that a lot in 2023, because the "coming soon" docket is stacked with films you aren't going to want to miss.

From several revivals of iconic franchises, to a big Marvel finale, to a new Martin Scorsese picture, there are lots of good excuses to venture back to the multiplex. Here are the films we're most looking forward to seeing this year: 

Scream VI (March 10)

In 2023, Ghostface takes Manhattan. 

The Scream franchise returned with 2022's pitch-perfect "requel," and just over a year later, a sequel to the requel is already arriving. But this entry will give the slasher series a unique feel by moving the setting from Woodsboro to New York City. According to star Melissa Barrera, that makes things "20 times more mortifying" because in a big city, "everyone is kind of doing their own thing, and someone is screaming for help, and no one will come to help them." Yeah, sounds about right. 

The writers and directors behind the 2022 film are back, as is the surviving new cast, including Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, and Jasmin Savoy Brown, while new additions include Dermot Mulroney, Henry Czerny, Tony Revolori, and Samara Weaving. Courteney Cox is also returning as Gale Weathers for the sixth time. Unfortunately, this will be the franchise's first installment without star Neve Campbell, who exited after a salary dispute. But at least Hayden Panettiere is returning as fan favorite Kirby Reed from Scream 4. The film's official title has been confirmed as Scream VI, even though the last film was just titled Scream despite being a sequel and not a remake. This being Scream, we expect the characters to nitpick this title inconsistency as much as fans.

Evil Dead Rise (April 21)

Groovy! The Evil Dead franchise has moved to television in recent years with the Ash vs Evil Dead Starz series, but it's about time we saw some Deadites get slashed up on the big screen again. Evil Dead Rise is the horror series' first film since the phenomenal 2013 remake starring Jane Levy, though it's not a continuation of that storyline.

Instead, Rise revolves around a new character, Beth (Lily Sullivan), who pays a visit to her sister Ellie (Alyssa Sutherland) at her apartment in Los Angeles, only for them to discover the famed book of the dead is in her building. Yeah, moving horror franchises into cities is going to be a big thing in the first half of the year, and Evil Dead is eschewing the traditional cabin-in-the-woods setting this time. 

Don't expect to see Bruce Campbell or Jane Levy show up, unless one or both has a surprise cameo. But Campbell is producing, as is series creator Sam Raimi. Evil Dead Rise was originally set to be released directly to HBO Max, but in a major show of faith, Warner Bros. shifted it to theaters — so it's sort of an anti-Batgirl

The Super Mario Bros. Movie (April 7)

Twitter might love to hate Chris Pratt's Mario voice, but The Super Mario Bros. Movie is still going to make so much money, it will have rival studios exclaiming, "Mamma mia."  

Three decades after the disastrous live-action Super Mario Bros. film from 1993, Nintendo hopes to do right by the character this time by placing him in the hands of Illumination, the animation studio behind the Minions. Pratt's casting in the lead role attracted early criticism that only became more intense after the trailer revealed his Mario voice sounds basically just like … Chris Pratt. But the rest of the cast is less contentious, with Jack Black voicing Bowser, Charlie Day voicing Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy voicing Peach, Keegan-Michael Key voicing Toad, and Seth Rogen voicing Donkey Kong. Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario in the games, will also show up for some surprise cameos, Nintendo says.

We don't know much about the plot of the Mario Bros. movie, but it seems to involve Mario learning about the Mushroom Kingdom for the first time, as Bowser tries to take over the world while Princess Peach and others try to stop him. The most recent trailer also revealed the film will pull from other Mario properties outside of the main platforming games, including with a sequence inspired by Mario Kart. Get ready to have PTSD flashbacks in the theater at the sight of Rainbow Road. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (May 5)

Come and get your tissues.

Marvel has three big movies slated for 2023, including February's Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and July's The Marvels. But the most anticipated has to be May's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which looks like it will be a tear-jerking finale for the Guardians trilogy. Writer-director James Gunn has promised it will serve as a farewell to the current Guardians lineup, presumably meaning one or more of them will die or retire. 

The first trailer heavily implies it could be Rocket that bites the dust, also teasing that we'll learn more about his creation with a flashback to when he was just a normal raccoon. Another big focus will be Peter's relationship with Gamora, who is actually from an alternate timeline because the "real" Gamora from the first two films was killed, for real, by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Joining the cast this time will be Chukwudi Iwuji as the High Evolutionary and Will Poulter as Adam Warlock, and Maria Bakalova reprises the voice of Cosmo the Spacedog after appearing in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Vol. 3 will also serve as Gunn's own farewell to Marvel, as he has since been hired to serve as co-CEO of DC's films. So soak in his impeccable taste in '70s music while you still can. 

The Little Mermaid (May 26)

Disney fans, it's almost time for Halle Bailey to be part of your world.

Disney's latest live-action remake of one of its classic animated films is The Little Mermaid, which sees the 22-year-old singer take over the role of Ariel — and, if the trailer is any indication, absolutely nail the original's iconic song "Part of Your World." Jonah Hauer-King has been cast as Eric, while Melissa McCarthy plays Ursula, and Javier Bardem is King Triton. Daveed Diggs also voices Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay voices Flounder, and Awkwafina voices Scuttle. Rob Marshall, who helmed previous Disney musicals Into the Woods and Mary Poppins Returns, directs.

While Disney does have further live-action remakes on its schedule including a new Snow White with Rachel Zegler, The Little Mermaid will be one of the last major films of the studio's "renaissance" era to be adapted into live-action, with the other big one left to go being Hercules. Lin-Manuel Miranda is collaborating with Alan Menken on writing "three or four" new songs, though he promised all the "ones you like" from the original are in the film, too. Don't even think about cutting "Poor Unfortunate Souls." 

The casting of a Black woman as Ariel has sadly prompted some racist online backlash, but if we had to guess, that won't prevent Disney from raking in box office treasures untold. 

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

Between Venom and Morbius, Sony hasn't had the best track record of making Spider-Man movies without Marvel Studios — well, unless they're animated. 

2018's Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was one of the best-reviewed superhero films of the modern era, giving us a Spider-Man adventure involving the multiverse before it was cool. In summer 2023, it's finally getting a follow-up, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. It once again centers around Miles Morales, with Gwen Stacy and Peter B. Parker, who came in from other universes in the original, also returning. 

This time, though, the film will be hopping around between six different universes, which means it will feature six different unique art styles — and 240 characters. The new voice cast includes Issa Rae as Spider-Woman and Daniel Kaluuya as a punk rock version of Spider-Man called Spider-Punk. Miles "encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting" the multiverse, but "when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders," the synopsis says

Across the Spider-Verse was originally titled Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One), with part two set for a year later. But the second part has now been given its own unique title: Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, and it's scheduled for release less than a year later, in March 2024. If the first is anything to go by, we expect spectacular and amazing things. 

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30)

Indy … We're home. 

It's almost time for Indiana Jones to hang up his whip, but not before one last adventure. Harrison Ford returns in this fifth Indiana Jones outing, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which will be his final appearance as the character — as confirmed by the actor, and also the ravages of time. 

Set in 1969 amid the space race, the film will see Indiana Jones once again take on Nazis, who have been recruited for the U.S. moon landing program. "The simple fact is that the moon-landing program was run by a bunch of ex-Nazis," co-writer Jez Butterworth told Empire. "How 'ex' they are is the question. And it gets up Indy's nose." One such Nazi is Mads Mikkelsen's Voller, who according to Empire was inspired by Wernher von Braun, a real Nazi who became a NASA engineer. Also joining Indy on the mission is his goddaughter Helena, played by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who fans have speculated could be the daughter of Marcus Brody. But before you jump to conclusions that she's the "next Indiana Jones," director James Mangold clarified, "No one is 'taking over' or replacing Indy or donning his hat." Still, TBD is how Dial of Destiny will explain what the heck happened to Indiana Jones' son Mutt Williams, as, for obvious reasons, actor Shia LaBeouf isn't coming back. 

Sadly, this will be the first Indiana Jones film not directed by Steven Spielberg, though it's in the capable hands of Mangold, who previously helmed Logan and Ford v Ferrari. The movie hits theaters at the end of June, at which point you can expect John Williams' Indiana Jones theme to be stuck in your head for the rest of the summer. 

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (July 14)

A year later, will some of that Top Gun: Maverick juice rub off on the Mission: Impossible franchise?

After Maverick became an unprecedented box office phenomenon, Tom Cruise hopes to wow audiences with a big-screen spectacle for the second consecutive summer with this seventh Mission: Impossible entry. Christopher McQuarrie, director of Rogue Nation and Fallout, returns, and the film's release has been a long time coming considering it was one of the first major Hollywood productions to resume filming amid the pandemic. (Remember Cruise's infamous COVID rant on set?) 

We don't know much about the plot of Dead Reckoning, but Henry Czerny, who we haven't seen as former IMF director Eugene Kittridge since the original film in 1996, is back. Cary Elwes and Pom Klementieff are also joining the series in mysterious roles. The trailer teases a whole bunch of stunts that could have gotten Tom Cruise killed, including one that sees Cruise ride a motorcycle off a cliff — which, yes, he actually did for real. The man is truly (nearly) dying to entertain us.

Dead Reckoning Part Two will arrive a year after Part One, hitting theaters in June 2024.

Oppenheimer (July 21)

It wouldn't be a Christopher Nolan film without an obsession with time. So naturally, the marketing for his latest, Oppenheimer, comes with a fascinating hook: The trailer is actually a live stream counting down to the film's debut, and that stream has been active on YouTube for months. Now that's commitment to the bit. 

The director's follow-up to Tenet stars Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the "father of the atomic bomb" due to his involvement in the Manhattan Project. But on top of Murphy, Oppenheimer boasts one of the most absurdly star-studded casts in recent memory, including Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, Jack Quaid, Alden Ehrenreich, Kenneth Branagh, Josh Peck, Alex Wolff, Gary Oldman, Benny Safdie, Josh Hartnett, and Dane DeHaan, among others. It might be easier to list the actors who aren't in it.

Given Nolan seems to be leaning more into biographical drama than blockbuster spectacle this time, it's possible Oppenheimer could be his best chance yet at having a major presence at the Academy Awards. Notably, the movie also sees Nolan move over to Universal after years of working with Warner Bros.; the studio had notably infuriated the director, a major proponent of movie theaters, by dropping all its 2021 movies on streaming. But Warner Bros. has other plans for July 21…  

Barbie (July 21)

Finally, some real cinema. That's right: Two of the most anticipated films of 2023 release on the same day. Just when Nolan's latest hits theaters, Warner Bros. is simultaneously debuting Greta Gerwig's Barbie. Weirdest double feature ever.

Margot Robbie stars as Barbie in the live-action film, while Ryan Gosling plays Ken, and set photos of the two rollerblading around California in bright neon outfits set social media ablaze last year. We don't know a lot about the plot, though it reportedly will feature multiple Barbies and Kens, with Issa Rae and Hari Nef rumored to be playing other Barbies and Simu Liu and Ncuti Gatwa playing other Kens.

Will Ferrell is also playing the CEO of Mattel, and set photos have shown him pursuing Barbie in a chase. So it sounds like the movie could involve Barbie realizing she's a toy and escaping a Mattel factory into the real world, sort of like The Truman Show. Not only is Oscar-nominee Gerwig directing, but she co-wrote it with her partner, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Noah Baumbach, so it's safe to assume they have something interesting and subversive in store. Barbie as our 2024 Best Picture winner … believe it! 

The Exorcist (Oct. 13)

Pazuzu dies tonight!

David Gordon Green and Blumhouse concluded their rebooted Halloween trilogy last year with Halloween Ends, and in 2023, they're already moving on to another iconic series: The Exorcist. In the same vein as Green's 2018 Halloween, this new Exorcist will revive the franchise but within the continuity of the original, and Ellen Burstyn is even returning as her character from the 1973 classic. According to Green, it's a follow-up to the original, though it's not erasing the existence of the other sequels. 

The main new star, though, is Hamilton's Leslie Odom Jr., who reportedly plays the father of a possessed child who seeks out Burstyn's character's help. Green described Burstyn as the new team's "spiritual guru," but William Friedkin, director of the original, isn't involved. 

Also, like the new Halloween series, the plan is to make this a trilogy, and Universal closed a head-spinning $400 million deal for three films. Green will direct all three, though the release dates of the second and third films haven't been confirmed. If his Halloween trilogy is anything to go by, though, we can't wait to see which random dude named Corey will take center stage in part three. 

Dune: Part Two (Nov. 3)

When they said this is only the beginning, they weren't kidding. 

Denis Villeneuve's 2021 film Dune sort of felt like half a movie, which made sense considering he was only adapting about half the Frank Herbert novel. Well, two years later, he's back to adapt the other half. The cast of the original film — at least, those who survived — are all returning for Part Two, and after Zendaya was barely in the first one, she'll be far more prominent this time. 

Also joining the cast for Part Two will be Christopher Walken as Emperor Shaddam IV, Florence Pugh as the emperor's daughter Princess Irulan, Léa Seydoux as Lady Margot, and Austin Butler as Feyd-Rautha, the nephew of Stellan Skarsgård's Baron Harkonnen. Part Two is expected to adapt the entire rest of the original novel, so you can expect it to feel more conclusive than the original. But there's room for more films based on the further Dune books, and a prequel show set in the universe called Dune: The Sisterhood is already in the works for HBO Max.

For now, the spice will flow back into movie theaters in November. 

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Nov. 17)

It hasn't been a great few years for Lionsgate, especially after losing the Knives Out sequels to Netflix. But when it comes to reviving one of the biggest new franchises of recent years, will the odds be ever in their favor?

Eight years after the conclusion of The Hunger Games, the series is returning with this prequel based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Collins. It takes place decades before the original series and revolves around a young Coriolanus Snow, who will eventually become the villainous President Snow. He's tasked with mentoring a tribute for the 10th Hunger Games: Lucy Gray Baird, a young girl from District 12. Tom Blyth has been cast as Coriolanus Snow, while West Side Story's Rachel Zegler is playing Lucy. Euphoria's Hunter Schafer is also playing Tigris Snow, cousin of Coriolanus, while Peter Dinklage stars as dean Casca Highbottom, Viola Davis plays gamemaker Volumnia Gaul, and Jason Schwartzman plays TV host "Lucky" Flickerman. 

The film should probably feel fairly similar to the originals considering Francis Lawrence, who helmed all the Hunger Games movies except the first, is directing. It remains to be seen how much appetite there is for more Hunger Games, but hey, a prequel to a popular franchise with "game" in the title already worked once, right? 

Wonka (Dec. 15)

If the film world needed one thing, it was a Joker-style Willy Wonka origin movie — though Wonka probably won't have quite as many murders. 

Timothée Chalamet stars as the title character in this Willy Wonka prequel, which is set before the character opens his chocolate factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Keegan-Michael Key, Rowan Atkinson, Sally Hawkins, and Olivia Colman also star. The film is arguably one of the biggest question marks of 2023, as it sounds like it could either be a massive hit or an outright flop. 

But there's one reason to bet on the former: Wonka is being directed by Paul King, the filmmaker behind the beloved Paddington movies, and he wrote it with the screenwriter behind Paddington 2. It sounds like Wonka is also a full-blown musical. Chalamet told British Vogue he has seven musical numbers in the film, which he described as "so sincere" and "so joyous." Colman also had high praise for her co-star, telling Variety he's "doing something different" in the film but "it's such a treat. He's so beautiful on-screen. He's magical."

When Wonka becomes the surprise highest-grossing movie of 2023, don't be shocked when we get spinoff movies about each individual Oompa Loompa. 

Killers of the Flower Moon (TBD)

Killers of the Flower Moon is the latest Martin Scorsese picture, and if that isn't enough to get you in the door, it should be. Technically, the movie hasn't been officially set for a 2023 release, and it was originally thought to be coming out in 2022, setting up an epic Spielberg vs. Scorsese battle at the Oscars. But Scorsese recently claimed the movie will be released "in a few months," presumably referring to its film festival debut.

Scorsese reunites with Leonardo DiCaprio for Killers of the Flower Moon, which revolves around an investigation into the mysterious murders of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma in the 1920s. It's based on the non-fiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. The cast also includes Robert De Niro, Jesse Plemons, John Lithgow, and Brendan Fraser. That's right: It's a continuation of the ongoing Brenaissance. Jack White of the White Stripes is also randomly in here in a role that hasn't been revealed. 

With The Fabelmans being this year's Oscar frontrunner, could we be looking at back-to-back Best Picture wins for longtime pals Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese? We'll have to see, but after Netflix's The Irishman, this is also another big streaming film from Scorsese with a ridiculously huge budget, as it's being co-distributed by Apple and reportedly cost $200 million. Is Marty's master plan to bankrupt every streamer in Hollywood one by one? We're not saying that, but we're also not not saying it. 

Honorable mentions 

Also look forward to…

  • Magic Mike's Last Dance (Feb. 10) 
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (Feb. 17) 
  • Creed III (March 3) 
  • Shazam! Fury of the Gods (March 17) 
  • John Wick: Chapter 4 (March 24)
  • Fast X (May 19)
  • Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (June 9)
  • Elemental (June 16)
  • The Flash (June 16)
  • The Marvels (July 28)
  • The Expendables 4 (Sept. 22) 
  • Saw X (Oct. 27)
  • Wish (Nov. 22)
  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (Dec. 25)

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