Last year, we were psyched for the seemingly imminent arrival of Dune: Part Two, only to have Denis Villeneuve’s sandworm-sized sequel pushed down the road to spring 2024. Although 2023’s release calendar reflected a return to business as usual, business didn’t remain usual for long—and now, following Hollywood’s longest and most contentious work stoppages in decades, the aftershocks will be felt up and down this year’s slate as studios look to fill gaps and jockey for the top box office position. As usual, our list of the most anticipated movies of the year is succinct, subjective, and subject to change (though it’d take a lot of additional cancellations to get us to include The Garfield Movie here).
I Saw the TV Glow (January 18, Sundance Film Festival)
Jane Schoenbrun’s feature film debut in 2021, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, was a small but delectable dish of cinematic creepypasta; for their much-anticipated follow-up, the director has seemingly crafted another sliver of intimate, shivery technophobia concerning a pair of teenagers and a canceled television series. Few filmmakers have their finger as firmly on the pulse of millennial anxieties as Schoenbrun; what’s interesting is how pedigreed I Saw the TV Glow is around the edges, from the presence of Emma Stone as a producer to a supporting cast including Conner O’Malley, Phoebe Bridgers, and … um … Fred Durst?
Drive-Away Dolls (February 23)
One of this year’s two genre-inflected lesbian-themed romps featuring indie-ratified It Girls—in this case, Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan, playing platonic pals thrown forcibly into underworld intrigue en route to Tallahassee, Florida. Suffice it to say that Ethan Coen’s solo directorial debut sounds riskier than Joel’s victory lap around one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays; while the dumb-criminals stuff seems suitably Coen-esque, the question of exactly what he’s doing taking on this material—in collaboration with his wife, Tricia Cooke, who cowrote the screenplay—is tantalizing and a little terrifying. In this case, it’s probably best to adjust expectations: Even if Drive-Away Dolls seems like a long shot to rank with the Coens’ best work, it could serve as a memorable introduction to a directorial duo with its own insular, intimate sensibility.
Dune: Part Two (March 1)
The trailer looks pretty swank, the cast is stacked (we see you, Léa Seydoux), and there’s reason to believe that Denis Villeneuve is steering his dream project with a sure hand. Not since Peter Jackson has a filmmaker managed to placate a massive cult fan base while also thrilling the uninitiated, and with the superhero-industrial complex seemingly on its last legs, there’s a good chance Dune: Part Two could be the biggest movie of the first half of 2024—which would, in turn, give Villeneuve the receipts to attempt Dune Messiah, a story that even diehards would concede is nearly unfilmable.
Love Lies Bleeding (March 8)
It’s the oldest story line in the book: A gym manager with family ties to a criminal empire falls in love with the female competitive bodybuilder who starts hanging out at her joint. Much heavy lifting—and breathing—ensues. Even putting aside the instantly striking pairing of Kristen Stewart and Mandalorian regular Katy O’Brian—who doesn’t so much tower over her on-screen partner in the trailer as enfold her—Love Lies Bleeding sounds like the kind of sweaty, sexy pulp that sadly went out of style in the ’90s, and director Rose Glass, whose bruising Saint Maud was one of the best horror debuts of the decade, has the chops (and ambition) to make something startling and seductive.
Mickey 17 (March 29)
Edward Ashton’s 2022 novel, Mickey7, concerns an “expendable” protagonist who’s been plunged into deep space on a mission to help terraform a frozen world; the title character is a clone who’s on his seventh Sisyphean iteration. In interviews, Ashton referred to his main theme as a kind of “crappy immortality”—an idea at once haunting and funny enough to suit the gifts of Korean master Bong Joon-ho, whose return to English-language filmmaking after the seismic success of Parasite features Robert Pattinson in the lead role. Expect Bong to play fast and loose with the source material—as he did in Snowpiercer—but, to be fair, few filmmakers have earned such a long leash. It’ll be interesting to see whether Warner Bros. Discovery wants to spend March going head-to-head with its own valuable intellectual property in Dune: Part Two or whether it will decide to hold Bong’s latest for festival season, when he’ll be greeted like a conquering hero.
Hit Man (TBD)
Speaking of film festivals, Richard Linklater’s deceptively folksy, ice-veined, and putatively fast-backed romantic comedy was gobbled up by Netflix last fall, and this spring would be as good a time as any for a story about a young man—played by Glen Powell—whose fancy turns to thoughts of love. Not only does Powell look, sound, and feel like a movie star here, but he’s got so much chemistry with Adria Arjona that you could market Hit Man as the anti–Anyone but You and get away with it. This is a funny, sexy, and, above all, deeply fucked-up movie, and it deserves better than the streaming algorithm. (Early 2024 prediction: Look for Hit Man on The Ringer’s best-of list about 11 months from now.)
Challengers (April 26)
After taking bloody chunks out of the cult horror and YA demographics with Suspiria and Bones and All, Luca Guadagnino cashes in his mainstream chips with Challengers, a glossy romantic drama set on the Grand Slam tennis circuit. The film was supposed to open last fall’s Venice International Film Festival, but amid the strike, Amazon ultimately decided that it couldn’t stomach the thought of a red carpet without Zendaya on it. Based on its trailers, Challengers looks like it’ll be plenty accessible—still months away from its release, it’s already been memed to death by Gen Z.
Civil War (April 12)
The higher concept that Alex Garland gets, the greater the danger that he’ll fall splat on his face. Exhibit A: Men, a horror movie far too elevated for its own good. With this in mind, there’s a certain amount of presumption—or maybe chutzpah—in a British filmmaker choosing an election year to stage a future-shock thriller in which the U.S. ends up splitting off into armed, factional combat. Based on the trailer, it looks like California and Texas have joined forces, which just seems like trolling, but who knows? While Garland isn’t known for his sense of humor, casting Ron Swanson as the president of an ideologically irreconcilable, fatally divided America may be a hint that this is less a Peter Watkins–style cautionary tale than a Kubrickian stab at apocalyptic slapstick satire.
The Fall Guy (May 3)
As Barbie just proved to the tune of a billion dollars and change, Ryan Gosling’s best mode is cocky, knockabout comedy (see also: The Nice Guys). Hence the good vibes radiating off David Leitch’s action comedy about a stuntman turned private detective trying to keep himself in one piece while investigating a disappearance on a big-budget production directed by his ex (Emily Blunt). That the film is based on a 1980s television series starring Lee “The Six Million Dollar Man” Majors probably won’t matter to younger viewers whose pop cultural frame of reference starts with “I’m Just Ken.” In a best-case scenario, Leitch, who knows stunts as one of the architects of the John Wick films, keeps things light and funny while putting Gosling and his action-figure body through the wringer.
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (May 24)
For George Miller’s newest entry in cinema’s longest-running demolition derby to live up to its predecessors, the professionally waifish Anya Taylor-Joy will have to convince us she’s made of the same steely stuff as Charlize Theron. Stranger things have happened, though, and for all the skepticism about Furiosa’s CGI-soaked trailer—and the mixed reaction to Miller’s recent literary fantasy Three Thousand Years of Longing—the Mad Max mystique is real. We are all witnesses.
Oh, Canada (TBD)
A year after being hospitalized for COVID, Paul Schrader shot his 25th feature in three weeks flat in New York City. The story is about a Vietnam-era draft dodger looking back at his life from his deathbed; the cast includes Richard Gere, Michael Imperioli, and the suddenly ubiquitous Jacob Elordi. Schrader’s as tenacious as they come, and his late-career comeback has been amazing to see.
The Shrouds (TBD)
Oh Canada, Part II: Fresh off the critical triumph of Crimes of the Future, David Cronenberg is set to unleash what advance rumors suggest may be his most visceral and intense vision … ever? No official release date on this one, but considering that Cronenberg is pretty much ensconced at Cannes, a festival premiere (at least) seems likely.
Ballerina (June 7)
The John Wick universe is a baffling but intricate place where the main sources of employment seem to be contract killing and hotel management; given the high levels of stress, it follows that in between gunfights, the characters would want to take in some high culture. Enter Ana de Armas, whose character, a prima ballerina hunting down the bad guys who killed her family, was present and embodied by dancer Unity Phelan in John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum. This new entry—set in between the events of Chapter 3 and Chapter 4—is a custom-tooled vehicle and another chance for de Armas to grab the action heroine brass ring after the failures of The Gray Man and Ghosted. Not that she was culpable: As her foray into the Bond franchise proved, de Armas is a witty, agile, physical comedienne who can hold her own during a stunt sequence. The ace production values and choreography of the Wick franchise should suit her skill set nicely, while the ridiculousness of the premise and the dialogue (“My power is in my duality”) is part and parcel of the stylized grandeur of the whole franchise.
The Bikeriders (June 21)
The title is not a metaphor: Jeff Nichols’s drama centers on a 1960s motorcycle club whose growing membership includes a few very bad eggs. After emerging as one of the most interesting and idiosyncratic American filmmakers of the 2000s with Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter, Nichols has been on a hiatus. The Bikeriders is his first movie in seven years, but it’s got the kind of cast that’s worth the wait, including Austin Butler, Tom Hardy, Jodie Comer, and the director’s eternal collaborator Michael Shannon (who appears in only a couple of frames of the trailer but looks as magnificent as you’d expect).
Deadpool 3 (July 26)
The truest test of whether audiences are experiencing superhero fatigue may be whether they turn up for the one franchise that doesn’t take cape shit seriously. It doesn’t hurt that Deadpool 3 features the return of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine—a throwback to those halcyon pre-MCU days when comic book cinema had a little bid of edge—and as long as there are teenage boys (and poorly socialized adults), Ryan Reynolds’s smirking, complicit edgelord shtick will have a substantial fan base. There are even rumors that Taylor Swift will show up, which is probably the only way to top Deadpool 2’s use of a very game Céline Dion.
Trap (August 2)
The only thing we know for sure about M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller is that it stars Josh Hartnett alongside Shyamalan’s songwriter daughter Saleka; last summer, the ever-chatty filmmaker teased a few details, revealing that the story was set at a concert and that the novelty had less to do with the plot than with the use of point of view. At this point, Shyamalan has fully revitalized his career and stands alone—or at least alongside his spiritual inheritor Jordan Peele—as America’s reigning master genre director. Hopefully, his modest but real winning streak continues.
Alien: Romulus (August 16)
Two summers ago, Disney was criticized for releasing the enjoyable Predator pre-boot Prey exclusively for streaming; given the movie’s genuine throwback qualities, it felt like something that belonged in a movie theater. That imbroglio may have contributed to the move of Alien: Romulus—which is set in the interregnum between Ridley Scott’s and James Cameron’s classic installments—from online only to wide release, where it’ll have to overcome its parent franchise’s recently diminishing returns. The timing is good, at least: The movie’s lead, Cailee Spaeny, is coming off great reviews (and a possible Oscar nomination) for Priscilla.
Joker: Folie à Deux (October 4)
It’s at least a little bit funny that a movie meant as a lean, mean corrective to the pandering market logic of comic book cinema has now spawned its own—seemingly completely superfluous—sequel. You know it’s going to be pretentious when the subtitle is a French term for a “shared psychosis,” and it’s easy to imagine Lady Gaga’s thinking with regard to the role of Harley Quinn: If a gritty Joker reboot won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar, why couldn’t she get the same results by glomming on to the material? Never mind that Margot Robbie has been pretty much perfect in the part elsewhere—Gaga’s going to come with the wildest, most nasal accent you’ve ever heard. Watch as she dives in.
Gladiator 2 (November 22)
Supposedly, Paul Mescal scored the lead role in Gladiator 2 after studio executives took in a London stage performance of A Streetcar Named Desire; the deciding factor was not his acting, but the “vocal” reaction of female audience members when Stanley Kowalski took his shirt off. (Somewhere, Ned Flanders is smiling.) Mescal is, of course, a wonderful actor, and it’s just too bad he couldn’t have signed on for the now-mythic Nick Cave version of the film, which would have seen Maximus return from the dead to assassinate Jesus Christ. At least we have Ridley Scott’s next unhinged press tour to look forward to.
Nosferatu (December 25)
Whatever you thought of the hallucinatory berserker action of The Northman, Robert Eggers couldn’t be accused of playing it safe: The outspoken director put his blank studio check where his mouth was. By contrast, an ornate, gory, sexy period vampire riff should be a pretty safe bet, commercially speaking, especially considering the inspired casting of Pennywise himself in the title role. Plus: Willem Dafoe as a fearless vampire killer! Merry Christmas to all.
This post has been updated to include Civil War’s new release date, April 12.
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.