Fall 2023 movie preview: Our 25 most-anticipated films, from 'Aquaman' to 'Exorcist' sequels, Sofia Coppola to Martin Scorsese

Although several key films have been bumped due to strikes, expect a slew of buzzy blockbusters and award contenders this fall.

Clockwise: The Hunger Games (Lionsgate), Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple TV+), The Color Purple (WB), The Marvels (Disney)
Clockwise: The Hunger Games (Lionsgate), Killers of the Flower Moon (Apple TV+), The Color Purple (WB), The Marvels (Disney)

Can superhero flicks like The Marvels and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom still thrive without movie stars to promote them? What will the major fall film festivals look like without any celebrity-powered premieres? What will the awards race look like without any actors campaigning? And will any other studios follow in the path of Warner Bros. (Dune Part Two), MGM (another Zendaya title, Challengers) and A24 (the SXSW hit Problemista) and move their titles out of 2023 altogether?

Those are just a few questions lingering over Hollywood as the actors and writers strikes slog on without any clear end in sight.

Still there’s an exciting lineup of movies releasing over the next four months — light on blockbuster fare (especially after Dune’s recent move) but teeming with prestige films from the likes of Martin Scorsese (Killers of the Flower Moon), David Fincher (The Killer), Ridley Scott (Napoleon), Sofia Coppola (Priscilla) and Alexander Payne (The Holdovers) no less. There's a Taylor Swift concert film, too.

Here are the 25 movies we’re most excited about, and how to watch them.

25. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Release date: Dec. 20 in theaters
The scoop: Henry Cavill’s Superman launched the Snyderverse a decade ago, but it’s up to Jason Momoa’s Aquaman to put this now-defunct version of the Justice League to bed. Momoa’s second solo outing as the Atlantean king marks the final DC Extended Universe film before James Gunn and Peter Safran reboot (almost) everything with 2025’s Superman: Legacy. Returning director James Wan also has the challenge of equaling the previous film’s billion-dollar gross at a time when DC movies like Shazam: Fury of the Gods and The Flash have been flaming out at the box office. Luckily for him, it ain’t over until the octopus plays the drums.

24. May December

Release date: Nov. 17 in theaters, Dec. 1 on Netflix
The scoop: Talk about dynamic duos. Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore headline celebrated auteur Todd Haynes’s first narrative feature since 2019’s Dark Waters as, respectively, an A-list actress and the true-crime suspect whose life is the basis for a new film. Netflix acquired the drama after its acclaimed premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where critics praised Haynes’s hall of mirrors approach to how life imitates art and vice versa. Knowing the filmmaker’s expert taste in music, May December is guaranteed to have a soundtrack for all seasons, too.

23. The Boys in the Boat

Release date: Dec. 25 in theaters
The scoop: He has had a charmed life and enviable acting career, but George Clooney has been hit (Good Night, and Good Luck, The Midnight Sky) and miss (Leatherheads, The Monuments Men) as a director. Still, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his latest effort behind the camera — which, to be fair, has tons of promise. Based on Daniel James Brown’s 2013 book of the same name, the Christmas release follows the true story of the University of Washington crew team that overcame steep odds to win the gold at the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin just as Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror began.

22. Five Nights at Freddy’s

Release date: Oct. 27 in theaters
The scoop: You may never look at Chuck E. Cheese the same again. Josh Hutcherson (yes, let’s hear it for a Josh Hutcherson comeback!) stars as the neophyte overnight security guard at a shuttered children’s restaurant who learns that the animatronic animals are out for his daughter’s soul in this stylish adaptation of the popular video game. The fact that the movie is getting a primetime Halloween release from the horror hitmakers at Blumhouse is a very good sign.

21. Cassandro

Release date: Sept. 15 in theaters, Sept. 22 on Prime Video
The scoop: Roger Ross Williams made history when he became the first African American director to win an Oscar, nabbing Best Documentary Short in 2009 for his film Music by Prudence. For his first scripted feature, the veteran documentarian tells the story of another cultural game changer: Saúl Armendáriz (Gael García Bernal in perhaps his best performance to date), aka Cassandro, the El Paso-born wrestler who took the lucha libre world by storm in the 1980s, becoming one of its first gay icons. Cassandro was one of the biggest crowd pleasers at January’s Sundance Film Festival, and should get a boost from the presence of reggaeton sensation Bad Bunny in a supporting role.

20. Ferrari

Release date: Dec. 25 in theaters
The scoop: Mann, oh Mann. Michael Mann’s first release since the 2015 box-office bust Blackhat does not have a major studio motoring it. The biopic about Italian race-car driver-turned-entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari (House of Gucci alum/Hollywood’s new go-to Italian stallion Adam Driver) was financed, produced and shot independently and acquired by Neon Films (the up-and-coming distributor behind Best Picture winner Parasite) in July. Don’t let that slow your excitement, though. The movie is drawing major kudos from this week’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, with Variety calling the Ferrari “a gripping and masterful drama.”

19. Rustin

Release date: Nov. 3 in theaters, Nov. 17 on Netflix
The scoop: It’s about time Colman Domingo gets his flowers. The prolific veteran actor has been elevating everything he’s been in for years, from Fear the Walking Dead to If Beale Street Could Talk to Euphoria to Zola. He finally gets the lead in Rustin, a biopic from his Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom director George C. Wolfe about Bayard Rustin, the gay civil rights activist and architect of 1963’s March on Washington, D.C. Chris Rock, Glynn Turman and Da’Vine Joy Randolph co-star.

18. The Holdovers

Release date: Oct. 27 in limited theaters, Nov. 10 in wide release
The scoop: Here’s a reunion nearly two decades in the making. Paul Giamatti re-teams with Sideways director Alexander Payne for the first time since that 2004 hit, once again playing a high school teacher with severely mixed feelings about his job. For The Holdovers, Giamatti’s curmudgeonly character is tasked with sticking around the elite Barton Academy boarding school over Christmas break to supervise students who can’t go home for the holidays. Among them is 15-year-old Angus (Dominic Tessa), a particularly troublesome pupil that the instructor thinks he can connect with. Preferably not via a bottle of Merlot.

17. Pain Hustlers

Release date: Oct. 20 in theaters, Oct. 27 on Netflix
The scoop: Do you think co-stars Emily Blunt and Chris Evans reminisced about Blunt’s future husband, John Krasinski, losing out on the role of Captain America, the gig that turned Evans into a global superstar? Probably not, but it’s fun to imagine. Anyhow, Blunt stars in this true-life dramatic thriller from Harry Potter director David Yates as a high school dropout and single mom whose promising gig at a failing Florida pharmaceutical start-up lands her in the middle of a criminal conspiracy. Evans plays the “greasy” pharma bro who recruits her.

16. Dumb Money

Release date: Sept. 15 in limited theaters, Oct. 6 in wide release
The scoop: Imagine Adam McKay’s The Big Short, but replace the investment bankers mucking around the mortgage market with the group of Reddit-based rebel investors who shocked Wall Street with a concerted effort to boost GameStop stock, and you’ve got a good handle on Dumb Money. Craig Gillespie (Lars and the Real Girl, I, Tonya) directs a star-studded ensemble including Paul Dano, Peter Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Anthony Ramos, Nick Offerman, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogen.

15. Wish

Release date: Nov. 22 in theaters
The scoop: While Disney has been reimagining all their vintage classic animated features as live-action moneymakers, er, movies (some to more controversy than others), one thing has been lacking from the Mouse House: new classic animated features. Wish is here to change that. Leaning into old-school Disney Animation storytelling, this fantasy musical follows a 17-year-old girl (princess?) named Asha (West Side Story Oscar winner Ariana DeBose) on an adventure to save her kingdom of Rosas. Having Frozen co-director Chris Buck (who shares duties with Fawn Veerasunthorn) at the helm should excite Disneyphiles.

14. The Zone of Interest

Release date: Dec. 8 in theaters
The scoop: Jonathan Glazer is an infrequent filmmaker… but when he does step behind the camera, the world tends to sit up and take notice. For his first narrative feature in 10 years, the director of provocations like Sexy Beast, Birth and Under the Skin tackles the legacy of the Holocaust from the perspective of a Nazi officer at Auschwitz who hopes to build his dream house next to the notorious death camp. Ecstatically reviewed at the Cannes Film Festival, The Zone of Interest is guaranteed to generate plenty of interest on the fall festival circuit.

13. Next Goal Wins

Release date: Nov. 17 in theaters
The scoop: What We Do in the Shadows, Marvel movies, Jojo Rabbit, The Mandalorian, Reservation Dogs… does Taika Waititi ever stop winning? The opposite was long true for the subject of his latest directorial effort, the American Samoa national football (soccer) team, considered the weakest squad in the world. Enter Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender), the Dutch-American coach tasked with turning around the team’s fortunes in this sports comedy that is already giving us Cool Running vibes.

12. The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Release date: Nov. 17 in theaters
The scoop: It’s not just Josh Hutcherson making a comeback this fall, but the YA series that made him a star. Eight years after Jennifer Lawrence ended her run in Panem, Rachel Zegler (West Side Story, next year’s Snow White) takes the lead in this prequel as Lucy Gray Baird, a tribute mentored by future Big Bad Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth). Francis Lawrence returns after directing the last three Hunger Games installments, while Peter Dinklage, Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis co-star.

11. Priscilla

Release date: Oct. 27 in theaters
The scoop: Baz Luhrmann told us Elvis Presley’s story — now Sofia Coppola is presenting Priscilla Presley’s version of events. Working with the full approval of the King of Rock’s former wife, the Lost in Translation director casts Mare of Easttown star Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla and Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi as Elvis, exploring their life together from their first meeting when she was 14 and he was 24. And Coppola has said that she drew on her own experience growing up in the public eye as a way into Priscilla’s story.

10. The Exorcist: Believer

Release date: Oct. 6 in theaters
The scoop: After resurrecting the Halloween franchise, David Gordon Green is going to bring back that pesky little devil known as Pazuzu. A direct sequel to the late William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic, Believer takes place 50 years after the events of The Exorcist and stars Leslie Odom Jr. as a single father whose daughter and friend are experiencing their own case of possession. Enter Ellen Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil, who lends her first-hand expertise to the case. Getting the pea soup stains out of the bedding has to top the list.

9. Wonka

Release date: Dec. 15 in theaters
The scoop: Meet the year’s biggest “could go either way” release. Yes, it’s a tall task recapturing the magic of a beloved classic like 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (just ask 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). But Wonka comes from Paul King, the director of Paddington and more importantly Paddington 2, who recruited one of the most talented and popular actors in the game to play Young Wonka (Timothée Chalamet), and already seems to have one of the best cameos of the year (Hugh Grant as an Oompa Loompa).

8. Napoleon

Release date: Nov. 22 in theaters
The scoop: It is hard to believe what director Ridley Scott is still accomplishing at age 85. His latest feat: helming the heftily budgeted battle epic Napoleon, starring recent Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix as the notorious French military leader and emperor. Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) is hoping for a rebound after his critically acclaimed period piece The Last Duel bombed — and might have his long-awaited first Oscar in sight. If not, there’s always Gladiator 2, which he was shooting when the strikes hit and has been indefinitely paused.

7. Maestro

Release date: Nov. 22 in theaters, Dec. 20 on Netflix
The scoop: Bradley Cooper trades a guitar for a conductor’s baton in his expansive portrait of celebrated composer Leonard Bernstein. As with his blockbuster version of A Star Is Born, Cooper directs and stars in the film, while Carey Mulligan portrays his equally renowned spouse, Felicia Montealegre Bernstein. Maestro is already the subject of pre-release controversy due to Cooper’s decision to don a false nose to play Bernstein — a choice that has led to charges of “Jewface.” We’ll see how he orchestrates his response as the release date approaches.

6. Poor Things

Release date: Dec. 8 in theaters
The scoop: Get ready for another art-house sensation from Yorgos Lanthimos, the auteur behind The Lobster and The Favourite. The director’s favorite star, Emma Stone, plays Bella, a resurrected woman who ditches her re-animator, Dr. Baxter (Willem Dafoe), for the roguish charmer Duncan (Mark Ruffalo). Bella soon discovers that the world is much bigger and stranger than she knew in her previous existence. Don’t feel too bad for Stone — this poor thing is likely a shoo-in for another Oscar nomination.

5. Saltburn

Release date: Nov. 24 in limited theaters and Dec. 1 wide
The scoop: There’s very little intel out there about this drama, but we do know this: It’s written and directed by Emerald Fennell, who in 2020 brought us a whopper of a #MeToo thriller with her Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman. What else we know: Barry Keoghan (an Oscar nominee for The Banshees of Inisherin) stars as a young man seduced by a lavish, hedonistic lifestyle after he's invited to the sprawling manor of his filthy rich friend (Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi) for the summer. Richard E. Grant, Rosamund Pike and PYW alum Carey Mulligan also star.

4. The Marvels

Release date: Nov. 10 in theaters
The scoop: 2019’s Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson was a fun and sprightly Marvel '90s throwback. Teyonah Parris was a key contributor to WandaVision (2021), easily Disney+’s best Marvel series. Ms. Marvel (2022) was way better than anyone reasonably expected, with a killer debut from first-time actress Iman Vellani. And Nia DaCosta showed flashes of brilliance directing the Jordan Peele-produced Candyman (2021). So why isn’t there more excitement for The Marvels, the team-up bringing these four women together?

3. The Killer

Release date: Oct. 27 in theaters, Nov. 10 on Netflix
The scoop: Martin Scorsese might not be interested in directing comic book movies… but David Fincher sure is. The filmmaker behind the likes of Fight Club and The Social Network adapts the French graphic novel series into a star vehicle for Michael Fassbender, who plays a veteran assassin who is starting to tire of his work. Filmed on location in Paris, The Killer could be the crime film that finally gets Fincher that overdue Best Director statuette — just like The Departed did for Scorsese.

2. The Color Purple

Release date: Dec. 25 in theaters
The scoop: Before Warner Bros. announced it was moving Dune 2 to 2024, there were rumors the studio could also bump Aquaman and The Color Purple into next year. Ultimately, Warners left this Christmas gift intact. A screen adaptation of the Broadway hit (itself a musical twist on Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film, based on Alice Walker’s 1982 book), this has the makings of one of Hollywood’s biggest song-and-dance spectacles in years, with a star-studded cast including Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks, Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, Ciara and H.E.R.

1. Killers of the Flower Moon

Release date: Oct. 20 in theaters
The scoop: Here’s why Martin Scorsese is the GOAT: At 80 years young, the transformative filmmaker behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation of Christ summons all of his artistic and commercial powers for a three-and-a-half hour period drama depicting a too-often ignored piece of 20th century history. Based on the bestselling true-crime book by David Grann, Killers of the Flower Moon uses the murders of several Osage tribe members as the jumping off point for an expansive portrait of law and order in the face of racial bigotry. Scorsese regulars like Leonard DiCaprio and Robert De Niro head up a cast that also includes Lily Gladstone, Jesse Plemons and John Lithgow.

Bonus Pick: Taylor Swift: Eras Tour

Release date: Oct. 13
The scoop: Didn't score tickets for Taylor Swift's Eras Tour? (We heard there may have been a Ticketmaster issue??) The pop superstar is bringing her act to the big screen with a full-length concert documentary. And it may actually be one of fall's biggest blockbusters. Announced Thursday, the film has already sold a reported 10 million tickets — sending AMC stock soaring.

Honorable mentions

Denzel Washington has made another sequelizer with The Equalizer 3 (Sept. 1); Texas teens bond over the summer in Lin-Manuel Miranda-produced Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Sept. 8); Agatha Christie never goes out of style with A Haunting in Venice (Sept. 15); the old gang is back together again in Expend4bles (Sept. 22); Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez help Robert Rodriguez reboot family franchise with Spy Kids: Armageddon (Sept. 22); Once and Sing Street writer-director John Carney has another charming musical romance with Flora and Son (Sept. 22); Rogue One director Gareth Edwards taps John David Washington for the sci-fi actioner The Creator (Sept. 29); the original Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) returns for Saw X (Sept. 29); Benicio del Toro investigates a murder (could it be Justin Timberlake?) in Reptile (Sept. 29); War of the Roses meets Wall Street in the Sundance favorite Fair Play (Sept. 29); the buzz is building on Dicks: The Musical (Sept. 29) from Borat director Larry Charles; Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke team up in Pedro Almodóvar’s soapy gay western short Strange Way of Life (Oct. 4); hot young Irish actors Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan team for sci-fi romance Foe (Oct. 6); Justine Triet’s French crime thriller Anatomy of a Fall (Oct. 13) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes; Annette Bening plays a famed long-distance swimmer in Nyad (Oct. 20); the harrowing North Korea escape documentary Beyond Utopia (Oct. 23) should be an Oscar contender; Meg Ryan is back (!), directing and starring with David Duchovny in the rom-com What Happens Later (Nov. 3); Jeffrey Wright is a frustrated English lit professor and writer in American Fiction (Nov. 3); Awkwafina and Sandra Oh team for the Hulu comedy Quiz Lady (Nov. 3); look out for a Bear sighting as Jeremy Allen White co-stars with Jessie Buckley in Fingernails (Nov. 3); Nicolas Cage shows up in everyone’s dreams (sounds about right) in Dream Scenario (Nov. 10); they gave those SNL skit-stealers their own movie, Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Soggy Mountain (Nov. 17); Eli Roth adapts the Grindhouse trailer Thanksgiving into an actual horror movie (Nov. 17); we will see if Trolls Band Together (Nov. 17) will be as surprisingly good as the first two; Adam Sandler voices the class pet lizard who has seen it all in the animated comedy Leo (Nov. 21); prison worker Thomasin McKenzie better watch out for her new colleague (Anne Hathaway) in Eileen (Dec. 1); Julia Roberts and Mahershala Ali headline Sam Esmail’s psychological thriller Leave the World Behind (Dec. 8); the title of the stop-motion sequel Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (Dec. 15) makes us very, very nervous; Kumail Nanjiani leads the animated bird family comedy Migration (Dec. 22); another Bear sighting as Jeremy Allen White is one of Zac Efron’s three “cursed” wrestling brothers in The Iron Claw (Dec. 22); Zack Snyder goes interplanetary with the reliably stylish Rebel Moon Part One: A Child of Fire (Dec. 22); Paul Mescal discovers his long-dead parents are alive and well in Strangers (Dec. 22).

Also opening

Hilary Swank and Olivia Cooke track down a killer in The Good Mother (Sept. 1); Asa Butterfield headlines the horror flick All Fun and Games (Sept. 1); that creepy nun gets even creepier in The Nun II (Sept. 8); Yara Shahidi is Sitting in Bars With Cake (Sept. 8); the horror anthology Satanic Hispanics (Sept. 14) comes from all Latinx filmmakers; Leonardo da Vinci (Stephen Fry) gets animated in The Inventor (Sept. 15); Pablo Larrraín’s Chilean black comedy El Conde (Sept. 15) sounds bonkers; Batgirl co-directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah rebound with the low-budget drama Rebel (Sept. 15); the documentary Invisible Beauty (Sept. 15) looks at fashion pioneer Bethann Hardison; a former migrant worker goes to space in true-life tale A Million Miles Away (Sept. 15); White Lotus alum Haley Lu Richardson finds more romance in Love at First Sight (Sept. 15); Sung Kang (Fast and Furious) makes his directorial debut with horror comedy Shaky Shivers (Sept. 21); Wes Anderson turns Roald Dahl’s collection of short stories into the animated short film The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Sept. TBD); an Indian-American teen fights a demonic spirit in It Lives Inside (Sept. 22); Stephen Gyllenhaal looks at the true power of giving in the documentary Uncharitable (Sept. 22); Carlos: The Santana Journey (Sept. 23) brings us up close and personal with the rock icon; Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson team for the art world-inspired dark comedy thriller The Kill Room (Sept. 29); Taraji P. Henson and Chris Rock join McKenna Grace in voicing PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie (Sept. 29); Josh Hutcherson has a busy fall, he’s alongside Morgan Freeman in 57 Seconds (Sept. 29); Peter Facinelli co-directs and stars in survival drama On Fire (Sept. 29).

The horror prequel Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (Oct. 6) takes the evil back to 1969; Jamie Foxx’s personal injury lawyer helps a funeral homeowner in The Burial (in theaters Oct. 6; on Prime Video Oct. 13); John Cena and Alison Brie have a new action-comedy gig with Freelance (Oct. 6); Daisy Ridley tracks down her vicious father in The Marsh King’s Daughter (Oct. 6); Peter Dinklage, Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei are part of an odd love triangle in Rebecca Miller's fairy tale rom-com, She Came to Me (Oct. 6); Kiernan Shipka goes back to the future to prevent her mom’s murder in Totally Killer (Oct. 6); Hilary Swank rallies the community to help a critically ill young girl in Ordinary Angels (Oct. 13); Amber Heard ignites a battle of science vs. religion in the possession thriller In the Fire (Oct. 13); a large Iranian-American family spills secrets in The Persian Version (Oct. 13); Rodrigo Moreno’s heist comedy The Delinquents (Oct. 18) was another Cannes crowd-pleaser; Coda co-star Eugenio Derbez is teaching again in the Sundance audience favorite Radical (Oct. 20); Josephine Langford leads the high-concept high-school rom-com The Other Zoey (Oct. 20); famed documentarian Errol Morris aims his lens at British spy/novelist John Le Carré in The Pigeon Tunnel (Oct. 20); Heather Graham gets an assist from Barbara Crampton in the campy midnight horror flick Suitable Flesh (Oct. 27); Olga Kurylenko is the eponymous Celtic warrior in Boudica Queen of War (Oct. 27); Raven Jackson’s All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Oct. TBD) spans decades of a Mississippi woman’s life; a young fashion designer’s life spirals into something gnarly in Appendage (Oct. TBD); Lil Rel Howery headlines the Kafka-esque sci-fi thriller The Mill (Oct. TBD).

Thom Zimny takes an intimate look at Rambo and Rocky icon Sylvester Stallone in Sly (Nov. 3); Terrence Howard and Dolph Lundgren team up to save a movie theater in Showdown at the Grand (Nov. 3); Miranda Otto and Noah Wyle may not have the best intentions as they shelter Salvadoran immigrants in At the Gates (Nov. 3); Tim Blake Nelson raises his daughter off the grid in Asleep in My Palm (Nov. 3); Joe Keery is hellbent on escaping prison in Marmalade (Nov. 10); Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms headline McG-directed comedy Family Switch (Nov. 30); Austin Butler follows up his Oscar-nominated turn in Elvis with the motorcycle club drama The Bikeriders (Dec. 1); Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell clash in Will Gluck’s rom-com Anyone But You (Dec. 15); Steve McQueen looks at early-1940s Amsterdam in the documentary Occupied City (Dec. 25); Emilia Jones’s older hookup Nicholas Braun turns stalker in Cat Person (TBD); Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki unveils his latest feature, The Boy and the Heron (TBD); David Straitharn and Jane Levy team in the Sundance drama A Little Prayer (TBD).