Take our money! Top 14 blockbuster movies to look forward to in 2023, including ‘Oppenheimer,’ ‘The Little Mermaid’ …

In 2022, the box office was all over the place in terms of mega-hits and absolute flops, to the point where it was hard to figure out whether the COVID pandemic was still having any effect on things … or whether audiences had just gotten more finicky or inundated with other content. 2023 will certainly be a year to watch, as there are far more potential franchise blockbusters on the way. But other than various Marvel and DC superhero movies, it’s hard to see how this year will fare without a “Top Gun: Maverick” or “Avatar: The Way of Water.” 

And yet, if there’s anything we can discern from the Top 14 blockbuster movies we’ve carefully selected for our spotlight below, it’s that Hollywood and theaters are desperately trying to get things back to normal from the “before-times.” The following list is presented in chronological order of release, since there are a few entries, particularly those later in the year, where we haven’t even seen a trailer yet and not a lot is known about them.

SEE January 2023 box office preview

“Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania” (Marvel/Disney) – Feb. 17

2023 will really get going in mid-February with the first of seven superhero-related movies for the year with Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly returning as the MCU’s tiniest superheroes. Opening over Presidents’ Day weekend, a lot of the excitement for this threequel revolves around Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, who will play a huge role in the next “Avengers” movie, which won’t be released until May 2025. Major will also play a major villain role in “Creed III,” directed by Michael B. Jordan, which will open two weeks after this one.

“Shazam! Fury of the Gods” (Warner Bros) – March 17

One month after the first Marvel movie of the month, Warner Bros. returns with its sequel to the 2019 movie which racked up $140.3 million domestically, introducing Zachary Levi as the DC Comics superhero as powerful as Superman. This one introduces new characters played by Oscar-winner Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler from “West Side Story,” although sadly, we’ll probably never see the Shazam Family face off against their greatest enemy, Dwayne Johnson’s “Black Adam.”

“John Wick: Chapter 4” (Lionsgate)  – March 24

Keanu Reeves’ popular action franchise was hobbled by COVID unlike almost any other, since it was supposed to come out in May 2021, two years after the hugely successful third chapter, which grossed $171 million in North America. As luck would have it, the movie didn’t even start production until June of 2021, which should help build anticipation for the next chapter. They’re already filming the spin-off “Ballerina,” starring Ana de Armas, which also features many of the characters from the main series, including Keanu.

SEE 2022 box office hits: Every movie that made more than $100 million

“Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3” (Marvel/Disney) –  May 5

As has mostly been the case for the past 15 years, Marvel gets to kick off the lucrative summer movie season with the finale of James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” trilogy, which is not only his long-awaited return to the MCU but also his swan song, since he’s now in charge of Warner Bros’ DC Cinematic Universe. As of yet, not a lot is known about this three-quel from the deliberately vague first trailer, although we do know that Will Poulter (“Midsommar”) will play Adam Warlock, a major cosmic character who has connections to David Bautista’s Drax and Zoe Saldana’s Gamora.

“Fast X” (Universal) – May 19

The penultimate chapter of the action franchise that began all the way back in 2001 reunites Vin Diesel with his street racing family. This one is directed by Louis Letterier (“The Incredible Hulk”) after franchise regular Justin Lin stepped away as director, but as of now, little is known about the direction the tenth movie might take. The most significant additions to an already-teeming cast are Brie Larson, Jason Momoa and Michael Rooker from “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” so they may need more cars.

The Little Mermaid” (Disney) – May 26

Memorial Day weekend belongs to Disney and their latest live action adaptation of one of the studio’s popular animated films, in this case, the 1989 musical that introduced the world to Ariel. Directed by Rob Marshall (“Mary Poppins Returns”) and starring Halle Bailey, this should be a fantastic follow-up for previous Disney blockbusters like “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

SEE Grab the popcorn and sound off in our movie forums

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (Sony) – June 2

June will kick off as the animated Miles Morales Spider-Man film franchise continues, with many more Spider-Men and Women than you can shake a Multiverse at. Sony Animation surprised many who were expecting just one sequel when it was announced this would be the first of two sequels, with “Beyond the Spider-Verse” scheduled for March, 2024.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (LucasFilm/Disney) – June 30

It’s been 15 years since Harrison Ford last played Indiana Jones in 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which grossed $300 million domestically. While that installment is often looked at with disdain, the fifth and presumably final movie is directed by James Mangold (“Ford v Ferrari”), and it will presumably end Indy’s story similar to how 2021’s “No Time to Die” ended Daniel Craig’s run as James Bond.

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

What’s likely to be another one of the 2023’s more anticipated films is Tom Cruise’s follow-up to his 2022 mega-blockbuster, “Top Gun: Maverick,” and the first of two finales to a franchise that Cruise began making all the way back in 1996. (Harrison Ford still has Cruise beat, because his five “Indiana Jones” movies have been stretched across 42 years.) The previous movie, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” was the highest-grossing movie of the franchise with $787 million worldwide, and the early previews in front of “Top Gun” and “Avatar” have made this one of this coming summer’s must-see films.

Oppenheimer” (Universal) – July 21

After the unfortunate release of “Tenet” in the midst of a global pandemic, filmmaker Christopher Nolan switches studios for his historical look at the creation of the atomic bomb with his regular collaborator, Cillian Murphy, playing the title role of Robert Oppenheimer. It’s going to be interesting to see if Nolan can recover his past glory with an original film released during a summer full of anticipated sequels and franchise movies. (The movie opens against Greta Gerwig‘s “Barbie” movie, starring Margot Robbie, which could make this one of the more interesting weekends this coming summer.)

“The Marvels” (Marvel/Disney) – July 28

Although the third and final Marvel movie of 2023 will be out before summer’s end, this is the sequel to Brie Larson’s debut as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel, bringing in a number of other Marvels, such as Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel and Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau. The original “Captain Marvel” made $426.8 million domestically in March 2019, and though there hasn’t been a trailer or much other information about this sequel, directed by Nia DaCosta (“Candyman”), it’s likely that fans of the 2019 movie are ready to catch-up with Carol.

“Dune Part 2” (Warner Bros.) – Nov. 3

Another anticipated movie coming out this year is Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to his 2021 sci-fi epic, which only grossed $108.3 million but won six Oscars out of the ten for which it was nominated. One has to imagine the sequel will do far better, since it probably won’t be released simultaneously on HBO Max ala the first movie, and it should be a great kick-off to this year’s holiday and awards season.

“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (Lionsgate) – Nov. 17

The four movies based on Suzanne Collins trilogy of dystopian young adults novels were such a huge hit for Lionsgate that it makes sense for the studio to want to adopt Collins’ 2020 prequel novel, although taking place decades before the adventures of Katniss Everdeen means that none of the original trio – Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson – will be returning. Instead, the biggest names for this prequel are Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage and Jason Schwartzman. Will it matter? We’ll find out in November.

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” (Warner Bros.) – Dec. 25

The big holiday release for 2023 is James Wan’s sequel to his 2018 movie based on DC Comics’ King of the Seven Seas, as played by Jason Momoa, which made $335 million domestic. Although the movie was delayed a full year in the 2022 Warner Bros. shake-up, it’s going to benefit from not having so much competition in December, so maybe the year-long delay will prove beneficial.

That’s it for now, but remember that Gold Derby offers a monthly box office preview every month, as well as a weekend preview every Wednesday about the movies coming out over the weekend.

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