Willoughby, Ohio — OK, yes, we’re well into February, so it’s a little late to be putting together a look at movies set for release in 2023. With the exception of director M. Night Shyamalan’s recently released “Knock at the Cabin,” though, we haven’t really missed much.
The coming days bring the first really big release of the year — Disney-owned Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” — so now it’s go time. Because it’s right on the doorstep, I’m leaving that one out of my picks of 23 movies to be excited about this year.
Catch me another day, and this list surely would be a little different. For starters, I may have included “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” prequel “Wonka” (Dec. 15), starring Timothée Chalamet. And I’m not sure how I left out the next film from writer-director Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit” “Thor: Love and Thunder”), “Next Goal Wins” (April 21), a soccer dramedy starring Michael Fassbender. There are others.
But here are 23 picks — 23 movies, kinda, sorta but not wholly in order of my interest level:
1. “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” — May 5, theaters — In summer 2014, when I walked into a screening of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe offering, I had little idea of the blast that was ahead of me. Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Zaldana and Dave Bautista, along with voice work by Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, “Guardians of the Galaxy” was a humor-filled adventure in space. And while we probably aren’t saying goodbye to the whole gang of misfit heroes, this will be the last “Guardians” hurrah for brilliant writer-director James Gunn, who also helmed 2017’s better-with-age “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” (Gunn already has begun his reign as co-chairman and CEO of DC Studios and the overseer of the new DC Universe. End of a trilogy. End of an era.
2. “Oppenheimer” — July 21, theaters — You can’t help but look forward to any work from the endlessly creative filmmaker Christopher Nolan. And while you wouldn’t expect anything as mind-bending as 2000’s “Memento,” 2010’s “Inception” or 2020’s “Tenet,” Nolan undoubtedly will bring something interesting to this biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.” Cillian Murphy, who has appeared in several Nolan efforts, including “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” portrays the film’s namesake, while Emily Blunt plays his wife, Katherine, aka “Kitty.” The loaded cast also includes Matt Damon, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Robert Downey Jr. and several other well-known names.
3. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” — June 30, theaters — I didn’t detest 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” the way many folks did … but I’ve also never come close to rewatching it. Perhaps legendary filmmakers Steven Spielberg (director) and George Lucas (story by) were the problem? Or, um, maybe star Harrison Ford just needs a bit more seasoning? Well, the famous pals behind the four Indiana Jones entries — dating to 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — aren’t filling their normal behind-the-scenes roles for this fifth installment, and Indiana himself, Ford, is now 80, albeit a spry 80. The talented James Mangold (“Walk the Line,” “Logan”) directs, working from a screenplay he co-wrote with brothers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, who’ve collaborated on “Edge of Tomorrow” and “Ford v Ferrari,” among other movies. Sharing the screen with Ford will be “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge (love her), as Indy’s goddaughter, and Mads Mikkelsen, playing the big bad, as he did in last year’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.”
4. “Killers of the Flower Moon” — TBA, Apple TV+ — Believed to be arriving sometime in May, the latest film from director extraordinaire Martin Scorsese — his first since 2019’s “The Irishman” — pairs two of his frequent collaborators, actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. Also featuring Jesse Plemons and “The Whale” star Brendan Fraser, the film is based on the 2017 nonfiction book of the same name by David Grann, the subtitle of which is “The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. The action takes place in 1920s Oklahoma and involves murders that took place after oil was found on American-Indian land. DiCaprio and De Niro co-starred in 1993’s “This Boy’s Life,” but it will be interesting to see them together in a Scorsese film. This one, by the way, is penned by prolific screenwriter Eric Roth (“A Star Is Born,” “Dune”).
5. “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” — theaters, July 14 — Speaking of aging stars who still have it: Tom Cruise. If you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes featurette about a stunt Cruise performed in this movie, you know that he isn’t messing around with this, the seventh entry in the franchise. Neither is Christopher McQuarrie, who for the third time is the writer-director for one of these action-packed spy thrillers and who gets the best from the star. (See the aforementioned “Edge of Tomorrow” for further evidence.) Returning for more action alongside Cruise are Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby and, of course, Simon Pegg.
6. “Barbie” — July 21, theaters — You’d think a rom-com based on the enduring doll franchise wouldn’t have a blond snowball’s chance in hell of making this list. But how can you not be intrigued by it considering it’s directed by the clever and insightful Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird,” “Little Women”) and co-written by her and partner and frequent collaborator Noah Baumbach (“White Noise”)? And the fact Barbie herself is played by the always engaging Margot Robbie — with the talented Ryan Gosling as love-interest Ken — makes it only that much more appealing.
7. “Dune: Part Two” — Nov. 3, theaters — “Dune,” Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation of part of Frank Herbert’s influential 1965 science-fiction novel of the same name, is a good movie — Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Blade Runner 2049”) makes only strong films — but, given some of the story elements, I’m still surprised it did as well as it did at the box office and on HBO Max. “Dune: Part One,” as it’s also known, did so well that Warner Bros Pictures quickly green-lit this sequel. (More spice and sandworms for everybody!). Villeneuve is back, of course, as are actors Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Dave Baustista and others, with noteworthy additions including Florence Pugh and “Elvis” star Austin Butler.
8. “Leave the World Behind” — Dec. 8, Netflix — Rumaan Alam’s 2020 novel is an engrossing, thought-provoking read, so it’s exciting that it is being made into a film by “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail. Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke play a couple who rents a home in Long Island, New York, for a vacation with their teen children. However, a mysterious event causes the home’s owners (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la Herrold) to return to the house, even though it’s being used as an Airbnb. These strangers face challenges together as the world may be coming to an end.
9 “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” — June 2, theaters — There have been delays and title tweaks — this sequel to animated 2018 dazzler “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” originally had a planned “Part One” it its title, but a planned third film is now submitted “Beyond the Spider-Verse” — but we’re finally close to another adventure with young hero Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) at the center. This version of the web-slinger again will be joined by others, voiced by the likes of returnees Hailee Steinfeld and Jake Johnson and newcomers Oscar Isaac, Issa Rae and Daniel Kaluuya. Jason Schwartzman voices the Spot, the movie’s multiverse-navigating villain.
10. “Fast X” — May 19, theaters — Say it ain’t so — the beginning of the end of the best bad-movie franchise going. The 10th main entry in the “Fast & Furious” series is intended to be the first half of a two-part finale. As with other recent entries, this one is star-studded, with big names Jason Momoa and Brie Larson among the newcomers joining scads of returning players, starting with Vin Diesel but also including Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Jason Statham, John Cena and Charlize Theron. I’m bummed that director Justin Lin — who helmed the physics-defying, action-packed series’ best installment, 2011’s “Fast Five,” its most recent, 2021’s “F9” and other stupid-fun chapters — departed the project. But here’s hoping his replacement, Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter,” starring Statham) can handle all this horsepower. As always, it’s ride or die.
11. “The Flash” — June 23, theaters — You’re likely aware that star Ezra Miller, who has played the seriously speedy DC hero in a few DC Extended Universe flicks, has had a rocky last few years, to say the least. Said to be doing better these days, Miller is front and center in this film, which was believed to have been on shaky ground for a bit. In his recent video laying out where the DC movies are heading, the aforementioned Gunn called it “a fantastic movie that I really love that represents the entire DC Universe.” The movie is said to be inspired by the “Flashpoint” storyline from the comics, which has a universe-reshaping wallop. It is believed we will see old friends from previous DC timelines (cough, Michael Keaton’s Batman)
12. “Air” — April 5, theaters — It’s a little surprising, given their friendship and how prolific they are, that this comedy-drama will be the first time Ben Affleck has directed Matt Damon. They both will act in the film — as they’ve done in films including 1997’s “Good Will Hunting” and 2021’s “The Last Duel” — about Nike’s huge gamble involving an NBA rookie named Michael Jordan. It’s the first movie from Affleck and Damon’s new production company, Artists Equity, and it’s being released by Amazon Studios, so expect it to hit Prime Video sooner rather than later.
13. “The Marvels” — July 28, theaters — Last year’s “Ms. Marvel,” a Marvel Cinematic Universe series available on Disney+, faded for me as it went along, but I’m happy to spend more time as its namesake hero, also known as Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani). She now gets to team with her idol — Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel — in an MCU adventure that also will boast familiar faces Teyonah Parris, as Monica Rambeau, and Samuel L. Jackson, as Nick Fury. Then again, that teaming up may have to wait, as the story is said to involve the heroines mysteriously swapping places with one another. Nia DaCosta, who helmed 2021’s “Candyman” and “No Normal,” the “Ms. Marvel finale, directs.
14. “Scream VI” — March 10, theaters — The directing (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett) and writing (James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick) of last year’s “Scream” really breathed some new death into the series. Both a reboot and a sequel to 2011’s “Scream 4,” it was so bloody good that you could forgive the re-use of the title of the 1996 Wes Craven-directed original. The new quartet will continue to carry on the scary-fun, genre-aware brand of horror started by writer Kevin Williamson, who returns to the fold as an executive producer. The action this time moves from Woodsboro to the Big Apple, but you can’t escape Ghostface that easily. The cast includes 2022 “Scream” stars Jenna Ortega (“Wednesday”) and franchise vet Courteney Cox, while the fresh faces include Samara Weaving, who starred in 2019’s highly entertaining “Ready or Not,” directed by Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett and co-written by Busick.
15. “The Color Purple” — Dec. 20, theaters — Singer-actress Fantasia stars in this second big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed 1982 novel by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg having directed the 1985 version. This new take, directed by Blitz Bazawule, is based on the Tony Award-winning musical version that made its Broadway debut in 2005. Set in the American South during the first half of the 20th century, “The Color Purple” is a powerful examination of racial inequality of the day, especially as it pertained to Black women such as Fantasia’s Celie. The cast also boasts Colmon Domingo and Taraji P. Henson.
16. “The Little Mermaid” — May 26, theaters — Disney’s live-action adaptations of its animated classic have been a mixed bag. I’m betting on this effort being one of the better ones because director Rob Marshall is pretty dependable, with credits that include “Chicago” (2002), “Into the Woods” (2014) and “Mary Poppins Returns” (2018). Halie Lynn Bailey — of the musical duo Chloe x Halle, with sister Chloe — tales on the role of mermaid princess Ariel, while supporting players include Jonah Hauer-King (“A Dog’s Way Home”), Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy.
17. “Creed III” — March 3, theaters — Michael B. Jordan, star of the first two movies centered around boxer Adonis Creed, is making his directorial debut with this installment, working from a story by screenwriters Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin, as well as Ryan Coogler, director of 2015’s excellent “Creed” (and brother of Keenan). In the movie, a childhood friend and boxing prodigy, played by the terrific Jonathan Majors, resurfaces in his life and becomes an adversary. Tessa Thompson returns, but this reportedly will be the first film in the “Rocky” franchise without Sylvester Stallone in the role of Rocky Balboa, a mentor to Donnie. It’s a bummer, but Stallone is around as a producer.
18. “John Wick: Chapter 4” — March 24, theaters — As long as you don’t spend any bit of your brainpower on how silly the continuing story is, the “John Wick” movies are a good, action-packed, bodies-dropping good time. The titular assassin, endlessly out for revenge for all the wrong done to him, is the ideal use of star Keanu Reeves’ particular set of skills. Supporting players Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne and Lance Reddick return, while Mr. Wick this time must deal with a character played by Bill Skarsgard who is a member of the High Table. As always, stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski is at the helm.
19. “The Killer” — Nov. 10, Netflix — I’m not going to lie: I didn’t love David Fincher’s previous film, the Academy Award-nominated “Mank” — and it hit Netflix in 2020, when we were all staying home a lot and were somewhat starved for entertainment. And yet Fincher is a tremendous filmmaker, so I greatly look forward to his next film — also coming via the streaming giant — which is based on a French graphic novel. Michael Fassbender portrays an assassin who begins to lose his edge. The cast also boasts Tilda Swinton.
20. “Elemental” June 16, theaters — Another high-concept work from Disney subsidiary Pixar Animation Studios, “Elemental” is the story of a fire element, Ember Lumen (voiced by Leah Lewis), and Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), a water element, who discover what they have in common may outweigh their differences. Peter Sohn (Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur”) directs.
21. “Renfield” — April 14, theaters — Nicolas Cage applying his massive talent to playing Dracula in a comedy? Yes, please. Nicholas Hoult — simply great in the great Hulu series “The Great” — in the titular role of Dracula’s stressed-out servant? Oh, my yes. What else do you need to know about this one? Fine, fine — it’s directed by Christopher McKay (“The Lego Batman Movie” and stems from the mind of “Robert Kirkman,” the father of “The Walking Dead.”
22. “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” — March 17, theaters — “Shazam!” (2019) was a good bit of fun — a superhero movie meets “Big” — and you have to expect more entertainment from this sequel, which returns director David F. Sandberg and ever-likable star Zachary Levi. The title refers to gods, and two of them — Anthea and Hespera, both daughters of Atlas — will be played by Rachel Zegler and Helen Mirren, respectively. Bringing up Gunn one last time, and assuming you have any interest left in this topic, he says Levi’s DCEU Shazam will shift easily into the DCU. (Also said to be sticking around is Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, who returns to theaters Christmas Day in “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” the sequel to 2018’s uneven “Aquaman.”)
23. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” — Nov. 17, theaters — You kept waiting for something more than an unrevealing teaser to drop last year as this “Hunger Games” prequel — adapted from author Suzanne Collins’ 2020 novel of the same name — crept closer to its holiday-season release. And then, unsurprisingly, came the delay. We’re still waiting for a glimpse of the latest “Hunger Games” flick directed by Francis Lawrence. This one stars Tom Blyth (“Benediction”) and Rachel Zegler.