Every publication runs its list of the Most Anticipated Movies of the Year in late December or early January, but not Above the Line, home of the world’s greatest procrastinator — yours truly. And though this list has changed somewhat over the first three and a half months of the year that have thus far elapsed, in many ways, it is very much the same as my initial draft.
However, I cannot in good conscience include movies I’ve already seen, though rest assured, Ben Affleck‘s Air was on this list in January when most of the titles were selected. It is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year, along with a handful of Sundance titles, one of which is now in theaters — A.V. Rockwell‘s festival-winning drama A Thousand and One. But that’s why you won’t see something like A24’s Talk to Me or the upcoming Jonathan Majors film Magazine Dreams on the list below — because I already saw them, so they can no longer be anticipated.
There are plenty of blockbusters and other commercial movies that I’m looking forward to/terrified of this year, including but not limited to Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Greta Gerwig‘s buzzy Barbie movie, Dune: Part Two, David Gordon Green‘s new Exorcist movie, Fast X, The Flash, a new Ghostbusters movie code-named Firehouse, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Kraven the Hunter, The Little Mermaid, The Marvels, Zack Snyder‘s Rebel Moon, Saw X, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Wonka starring Timothée Chalamet, and Dexter Fletcher‘s Renfield, which stars Nicolas Cage as Dracula.
Those kinds of movies typically make most sites’ Most Anticipated lists, but none of them made the cut here, for this list was reserved for the true cream of the crop. May it rise to the top this year — though I’m happy to be proved wrong by the tentpoles above. For now, I have the utmost faith in the following films:
1. David Fincher’s The Killer
Hollywood hasn’t quite known what to do with Michael Fassbender in recent years, yet he’s one of the best actors out there, from Hunger and Shame to Steve Jobs and 12 Years a Slave. I can’t wait to see him play an assassin who develops a conscience in Fincher’s adaptation of a French graphic novel, which reunites the director with his Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, while Brad Pitt serves as a producer. Expect this to be a major awards contender for Netflix while racking up far more views than Mank or Mindhunter.
2. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon (Oct. 6)
This epic crime drama is based on David Grann‘s acclaimed book of the same name, which chronicles a series of murders of Native Americans and the FBI investigation they sparked. Jesse Plemons, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Robert De Niro star in the $200 million film, which will debut at Cannes before it receives a theatrical release from Paramount ahead of its streaming debut on Apple TV+. The streamer will also be pushing this one for Oscars, though the behind-the-scenes buzz has been suspiciously muted for this one… stay tuned.
3. Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning – Part One (July 14)
Mission: Impossible is the greatest active live-action franchise and it’s coming off what is perhaps its best entry yet in Fallout, so I’m pumped for Dead Reckoning – Part One, especially with some of the new additions surrounding Tom Cruise, such as Shea Whigham, Hayley Atwell, Pom Klementieff, Cary Elwes, Rob Delaney, and Esai Morales. And it sounds like Part Two will deliver the goods as well, with Cruise performing yet another death-defying stunt that is thus far being kept under wraps. Either way, this franchise hasn’t let me down in decades, so the only mission that may be “impossible” now is in Cruise topping himself.
4. Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (July 21)
Who better than Nolan to bring the story behind the atomic bomb to the big screen? The director’s good luck charm, Cillian Murphy, stars as the Manhattan Project’s lead scientist, Robert Oppenheimer, who is considered the father of nuclear weapons. He’s surrounded by a stacked cast that includes Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Florence Pugh, Rami Malek, Gary Oldman, Kenneth Branagh, and Michael Caine, among other notables. Universal’s marketing campaign is well underway, which is wise, as Oppenheimer remains slated to open on the same day as Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie. Sure, that movie is chasing a very different audience, but I wonder if it will lure some young men away from Oppenheimer with a fun marketing campaign of its own courtesy of Nolan’s former studio, Warner Bros.
5. Ridley Scott’s Napoleon (Nov. 22)
Napoleon is said to be a stunning and epic portrait of the French military leader from Sir Ridley, who reteams with his Gladiator star Joaquin Phoenix here. Hollywood has been trying to tell Napoleon’s story for decades — Stanely Kubrick‘s script is notorious — but leave it to the 85-year-old Scott, who moves faster than anyone, to actually get it done, and with one of the greatest actors alive in the title role. This will be Apple’s major awards movie next year along with Killers of the Flower Moon and Steve McQueen‘s WWII movie Blitz starring Saoirse Ronan.
6. Gareth Evans‘ Havoc
The Raid and its sequel are two of the greatest action movies ever made, so the idea of director Gareth Evans teaming up with Tom Hardy for something that sounds like a Nicolas Winding Refn movie is like a dream come true. Hardy is one of the few Hollywood stars who I truly wouldn’t want to see in a dark alley, and here, he plays a detective who must fight his way through a criminal underworld after a drug deal gone wrong, all while untangling the dark web of conspiracy and corruption that has ensnared his city. Sign me the fuck up!
7. Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest
You can’t really make a successful Holocaust (or slavery) movie these days without bringing something new to the table, but I suspect that Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Under the Skin) has done just that. His bold and ambitious take on Auschwitz comes with a glimmer of romance, as it’s based on Martin Amis‘ novel of the same name, which follows a Nazi officer who becomes enamored with the wife of the concentration camp’s commander. Having been shot in 2021, it’s believed that this film will premiere at Cannes, and Scarlett Johansson is rumored to be part of the cast, though reports indicate that the film may not have a true protagonist in the traditional sense of the word.
8. Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders
I like that Nichols is out there making original movies rather than giving in to Hollywood’s franchise craze. He exited the spinoff to A Quiet Place to direct this tale of a fictional Midwestern motorcycle club, and he recruited a hell of a cast as well — Tom Hardy, Austin Butler, Michael Shannon, Boyd Holbrook, Norman Reedus, Emory Cohen, West Side Story breakout Mike Faist, and Killing Eve sensation Jodie Comer as the film’s female lead. That package gets a big “yes” from me, and I wasn’t even a Sons of Anarchy guy…
9. Celine Song‘s Past Lives (June 2)
If you didn’t cry watching that trailer, check your pulse, because you may be dead inside. I heard a lot of chatter about Celine Song’s romantic drama at Sundance earlier this year, and though I’m sad to have missed it at the festival, I’m excited to have it to look forward to this spring. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo play Nora and Hae Sung, two deeply connected childhood friends who lose touch after Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea. 20 years later, they are reunited for one fateful week as they confront notions of love and destiny. Something tells me this A24 movie is going to sneak into the Best Picture lineup this year if it delivers as I’ve heard it does.
10. Michael Mann’s Ferrari
Michael Mann‘s biopic of Italian race car driver turned entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari will likely debut at the Venice Film Festival next year before it races into theaters — unless a streamer takes the wheel first. Adam Driver plays the title character as he deals with his familia while prepping for the legendary Mille Miglia race. Penélope Cruz and Shailene Woodley play the women in Ferrari’s life, while Sarah Gadon, Jack O’Connell, and Patrick Dempsey also co-star. Mann may have lost a step of late, but a new movie from the maestro is still a reason to celebrate, and it always will be.
11. Sean Durkin’s The Iron Claw
This A24 movie starring Zac Efron follows the Von Erich family of wrestlers, who fought mainly in smaller leagues and briefly battled in the WWF of the early ’90s, though what makes their tragic story especially interesting is that they believed there was a curse than plagued their family. Efron is joined by Jeremy Allen White (The Bear) and Harris Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness), while Holt McCallany (Mindhunter) plays their father, if I’m not mistaken, and Lily James plays the film’s female lead. Though I wasn’t a fan of Sean Durkin‘s previous film, The Nest, the indie director proved his chops with his debut feature, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and I look forward to seeing what he can do with a more commercial story.
12. Jeremy Saulnier’s Rebel Ridge
Saulnier (Green Room) returns with this high-velocity thriller that explores systemic American injustices through bone-breaking action sequences, suspense, and dark humor. This movie was supposed to star John Boyega before he left in the middle of filming, forcing the production to take a break and ultimately resume with Aaron Pierre (The Underground Railroad) stepping in to play the protagonist alongside Don Johnson, James Badge Dale, James Cromwell, AnnaSophia Robb, and Emory Cohen. Saulnier’s work is usually pretty interesting and I always liked the premise of this film, so I look forward to seeing what Pierre does with the lead role here, as I was encouraged by his turn in M. Night Shyamalan‘s Old.
13. Luca Guadagnino‘s Challengers
Luca Guadagnino‘s drama had a recent test screening where those lucky to be in the audience suggested that Zendaya gives the best performance of her career. The film is described as a romantic comedy that is set in the tennis world and involves a steamy but complicated love triangle between Zendaya and two male lovers — her husband (Mike Faist) and her ex (Josh O’Connor). Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross do the music, and you know what that means — we’ve got a contender on our hands! Look for this one to debut at the Venice Film Festival…
14. Matthew Vaughn‘s Argylle
If Christopher McQuarrie’s spy films play a bit old-fashioned, Matthew Vaughn’s are anything but. He’s an extremely modern filmmaker. But when he launches a property, be it Kick-Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service, attention must be paid. Argylle is a potential spy franchise starring McQuarrie’s Fallout villain Henry Cavill, who is joined by an all-star supporting cast that includes John Cena, Bryan Cranston, Bryce Dallas Howard, Catherine O’Hara, Sam Rockwell, and Vaughn’s Kingsman baddie Samuel L. Jackson.
I’m told that BDH is the protagonist, a novelist with amnesia who is adapting her returning memories into a spy series called Argylle, with Cavill playing her deadly creation and Cranston playing dual roles. Either way, it sounds like a real head trip with some stunning action sequences that will leave your jaw on the floor, and in Vaughn’s hands, it could be gold, so here’s hoping that Apple gives it a proper theatrical release, as the director’s films are known to outperform expectations.
15. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant (April 21)
Ritchie has been one of my favorite filmmakers since I was a teenager, and though he doesn’t always hit, his movies are always worth watching. Now he’s working with one of my favorite actors in Jake Gyllenhaal, and though the trailer makes this film look both badass and a little sappy all at once, I’ve heard good things about it from those who have seen it, and I always trust Gyllenhaal’s taste in material. Here, he plays a U.S. Army Sergeant who bonds with his unit’s Afghan interpreter (Dar Salim) and is willing to risk his life to rescue his friend from behind enemy lines. Depending on the execution, this one could be powerful and a welcome change of pace for Ritchie.
16. Johan Renck‘s Spaceman
Anytime Adam Sandler doesn’t do a goofy comedy, it’s worth paying attention to, and this one hails from Chernobyl director Johan Renck, so yeah, I’m interested. Based on Jaroslav Kalfař’s absurdist science fiction novel Spaceman of Bohemia, this Netflix film casts Sandler as the Czech Republic’s first astronaut, who embarks on a solo mission to a cloud made up of intergalactic dust, and befriends a giant alien spider (voiced by Paul Dano) during his journey. Carey Mulligan and Isabella Rossellini co-star, and they don’t make a lot of bad movies, so they must have seen something special in this script. I have faith in the Sandman, and Renck’s involvement is especially reassuring, as he could’ve done anything after Chernobyl, which is one of the greatest TV series of the last decade.
17. Scott Derrickson‘s The Gorge
Details on The Gorge are slim, but it’s supposedly a genre-bending love story featuring plenty of action, and it’s going to star Miles Teller and Anya Taylor-Joy, which is impressive on paper. They’ll play two very dangerous young people, who despite the corrupt and lethal world they operate in, find a soulmate in each other. I don’t know what kind of chemistry they’ll have, but both are very talented, obviously. Plus, Sigourney Weaver co-stars and Scott Derrickson is directing, which bodes well for this Apple TV+ movie.
18. Sam Esmail‘s Leave the World Behind
I didn’t watch Mr. Robot, and while Homecoming was interesting, it wasn’t my favorite show… but there’s something about Esmail and this book, in particular, that has me really excited for this movie. The level of talent involved here speaks highly of the material, as Denzel Washington was originally going to star before being replaced by Mahershala Ali opposite Julia Roberts. The cast also includes Ethan Hawke and Kevin Bacon, so yeah, it’s pretty stacked. But most importantly, I love the premise — it’s a psychological thriller about a Black family that rents its summer cottage to a white family only to return early, all while strange events in the city exacerbate racial tensions.
19. Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn
There is very little information that’s publicly available out there about Saltburn, which serves as Fennell’s follow-up to her electrifying debut, Promising Young Woman, but from what I understand, the thriller follows an aristocratic English family and finds Oscar nominee Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) becoming obsessed with a young man played by Euphoria star Jacob Elordi. Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, and Richard E. Grant co-star in the film, which will likely premiere on the fall festival circuit before bowing on Amazon Prime Video later this year.
20. Jeff Rowe and Kyler Spears‘ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem
OK, so full disclosure, I was determined to give one of these slots to an animated movie, and for months, it was going to be The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and I wrote a long thing about it, but we’ve all seen it now, so it doesn’t qualify anymore. As such, the animated movie that I’m most looking forward to this year, even more so than Pixar’s Elemental, is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem from producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Like Super Mario, this movie features an all-star voice cast including Paul Rudd, Jackie Chan (Splinter), Ayo Edibiri (April O’Neil), Giancarlo Esposito, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph, Ice Cube, Hannibal Burress and Post Malone, plus Rogen and John Cena as Bebop and Rocksteady. I grew up reading these comics and writing my own, so I wouldn’t miss this for the world.
21. Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry (May 12)
It’s only fitting that Jay Baruchel would be right next to Seth Rogen on this list, as the two Canadian funnymen go all the way back to Undeclared. Baruchel plays the co-founder of BlackBerry, and the film bearing the same name as the Canadian company tells the story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world’s first smartphone.
Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) is said to give a fantastic performance, and I love that this movie is filled with great character actors such as Saul Rubinek, Cary Elwes, Michael Ironside, Martin Donovan, and Rich Sommer. I just can’t believe it’s been a decade since Matt Johnson landed on my radar with The Dirties, and I’m excited to see his raw indie sensibility imprinted on this wild true story, which is obviously told through a comedic lens.
22. Paul Schrader‘s Master Gardener (May 19)
Paul Schrader‘s latest drama stars Joel Edgerton as a meticulous horticulturist who is devoted to tending the grounds of a beautiful estate where he panders to the wealthy widow (Sigourney Weaver) who employs him. As he takes her niece (Quintessa Swindell) under his wing for the summer, he’s forced to confront his dark past as a white supremacist.
Edgerton is one of the industry’s most consistently interesting actors, and even though I haven’t loved Schrader’s recent stuff, it, too, is always thoughtful. I’ve heard mixed things about this movie but I’m going to trust my own instincts here and not listen to snooty critics, even though I fully acknowledge that they may very well be right this time.
23. Ti West‘s MaXXXine
I’m pretty excited for Ti West‘s MaXXXine, which will serve as a follow-up to X and its prequel Pearl. This one will be set in Los Angeles in the ’80s, and West could have a field day with his surviving heroine (Mia Goth) in that environment. She’ll be joined by Kevin Bacon, Lily Collins, Michelle Monaghan, Elizabeth Debicki, Giancarlo Esposito, Bobby Cannavale, Moses Sumney, and Halsey, so yeah, you could say that Hollywood has been paying attention to this franchise, which has certainly risen in stature from its humble origins.
And finally, since I just named 23 movies above, here are 27 Honorable Mentions, just to bring this list of titles to an even 50. These are movies we actually expect will be released at some point in 2023, which is why you won’t see Robert Eggers‘ Nosferatu, Francis Ford Coppola‘s Megalopolis, or the Safdie brothers‘ new Adam Sandler movie on here, none of which are likely to be ready for release before the end of the year. For now, 2023 sure is looking like a great year for movies as well as a rebound year for the box office thanks to all the IP-driven titles listed above, though those aren’t necessarily my bag, as you’ll see below.
[in alphabetical order]
Duke Johnson‘s The Actor
Wes Anderson‘s Asteroid City
Steve McQueen‘s Blitz
Jeymes Samuel‘s The Book of Clarence
Emma Seligman‘s Bottoms
Brady Corbet‘s The Brutalist
Susanna Fogel‘s Cat Person
Alex Garland‘s Civil War
Blitz Bazawule‘s The Color Purple
Woody Allen‘s Coup de Chance
Craig Gillespie‘s Dumb Money
Chloe Domont‘s Fair Play
Richard Linklater‘s Hitman
Alexander Payne‘s The Holdovers
Mimi Cave‘s Holland, Michigan
Adele Lim‘s Joy Ride
Bradley Cooper‘s Maestro
Todd Haynes‘ May/December
Taika Waititi‘s Next Goal Wins
Marielle Heller‘s Nightbitch
David Yates‘ Pain Hustlers
Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Poor Things
Grant Singer‘s Reptile
Eli Roth‘s Thanksgiving
Gareth Edwards‘ True Love
Ethan Coen‘s Untitled Comedy
Paul Briganti‘s Untitled Please Don’t Destroy Comedy