What a summer! There is no denying that this movie season has been one for the books. From blockbuster hits to surprising successes, no opening weekend has been wasted. As Labor Day weekend approaches, the summer film market is coming to a close. School is starting and the leaves are changing colors, which means it’s about time we look back at this summer and name some of the films that took our breath away. But, no rest for the enthusiastic movie fan, let’s also look forward to the fall season and glance at some of the movies we’re setting the most in store for.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 May 5, 2023
Starting off the summer with a bang, it’s hard to say no to another Marvel film, even if this marks the fifth film they’ve put out in the past year. Adding on to the recent theme of diving deeper into character development rather than plot building, Guardians gave us more insight into how Rocket became a part of the team and an inside look at his psyche. While Vol. 3 did perform worse than Vol. 2 in the box office, with $359 million compared to $389 million domestically, it did still make for an entertaining film and a satisfying ending to the Guardians trilogy as Marvel continues to make way for its next phase.
4. Red, White, & Royal Blue August 11, 2023
Representing the beloved novel by Casey McQuiston of the same name, the stakes were high for Matthew López in his feature film debut. Following the enemies to lovers romance between the son of the president of the United States and the youngest Prince of England, Red, White, & Royal Blue had a massive and passionate fanbase from the book’s publication in 2019. Even though the plot line is wildly unrelatable, the depiction of queer life from the intimate sex scenes to discussions of PrEP, an HIV prevention drug, has earned it high praise across the internet. While Red, White, & Royal Blue never hit theaters, rather was exclusively on Amazon Prime, the response has been widely positive and prompted a massive influx of new Prime subscribers, serving as a testament of the film’s popularity and general success.
3. Oppenheimer July 21, 2023
No summer recap would be complete without this now iconic film. Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece told the story of the creation of the atomic bomb used by the United States to end World War II. It then followed the repercussions that reverberated through the culture wars happening at the time, particularly the legal gymnastics that J. Robert Oppenheimer was sent through for his involvement in the Manhattan project. Many of its tickets were sold due to double features with Barbie after the internet took up the infamous Barbenheimer phenomenon, the result of a counterprogramming attempt gone wild, but Oppenheimer still managed to impress with its high quality production value and star studded cast. It will be shocking if this film is not nominated in multiple categories this coming award season.
2. Barbie July 21, 2023
The other half of the Barbenheimer phenomenon, Barbie has now successfully beat out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II to become Warner Bros highest grossing film in the studio’s history, surpassing $1.342 billion globally. The marketing team for this film went all out and with the help of its unprecedented internet meme status as Barbenheimer, the opening weekend brought in an impressive $162 million domestically. However, that wasn’t the end of Barbie as the film’s star studded cast and dedicated production team created a film for the ages discussing the gender imbalance in our society and serving as a wake up call to people everywhere. Barbie’s continued success is definitely a testament to the quality of the film and the relevance of its storyline. This will be another one to watch out for come award season.
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse June 2, 2023
Just when you thought the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse universe couldn’t possibly get any better, Across the Spider-Verse hit theaters. The original 2018 film successfully broke the internet and blew minds with its comic realness animation style that has inspired academics and producers everywhere along with its masterfully crafted storyline and script that has been praised by fans and critics alike. With such a difficult movie to sequel, Across the Spider-Verse was up against a tough fan base, but did not disappoint. Charting well at the box office, grossing $381 million domestically, and receiving high praise from critics, Miles’ story continues as he juggles new challenges to protect the multiverse as we know it. Across the Spider-Verse managed to keep the already immensely popular storyline alive while still delivering an action packed and innovative film that is destined for greatness both critically and commercially. While the other films on this list put up a good fight, Spider-Verse is easily the best film of the summer.
With such a loaded summer season, movie fans must be exhausted from film hopping and discussing such incredible films online. However, as the previews for these films remind us, the fall season is gearing up to be just as stacked. Let’s look at some of the most anticipated films of the fall.
5. A Haunting in Venice September 15, 2023
Fall 2023 is shaping up the be the season of book-to-film adaptations. Based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel, Hallowe’en Party, A Haunting in Venice is a supernatural mystery thriller that takes place, you guessed it, in Venice post-World War II. The plot follows now-retired detective, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), as he is reluctantly pulled into a murder case of someone who was killed at a seance he attended. A Haunting in Venice serves as the third film in the series of Agatha Christie adaptations that Kenneth Branagh has directed in the past few years, following Death on the Nile (2022) and Murder on the Orient Express (2017). Both Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express did relatively well, internationally grossing $137 million and $352 million respectively, thus creating high hopes for Branagh’s third adaptation.
4. Killers of the Flower Moon October 20, 2023
Another book to film adaptation, Killers of the Flower Moon is based on the book of the same name by journalist, David Grann which tells the true story of a series of murders in the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma in the 1920s. With the discovery of oil under their land, the Osage people became some of the wealthiest in the country, attracting more attention than ever before. However, as the number of murders increased, the newly formed FBI got involved, becoming, as Grann calls it, the official birth of the organization. With David Grann’s book already being held in high esteem, the film adaptation, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, has been highly anticipated since its announcement.
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe September 8, 2023
Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (I did say it was the season for book to film adaptations), Aristotle and Dante follows the friendship of two Mexican-American boys coming of age in El Paso, Texas. Addressing themes of growing up and coming to terms with individual racial, ethnic, and sexual identity, the original novel was well received and remains a well-known and highly praised bildungsroman. With such beloved source material, the stakes are high for director Aitch Alberto, catering to such an expectant fanbase, but all the promotional material that has come out so far has come to assure eager fans that she is up for the challenge.
2. The Color Purple December 25, 2023
That The Color Purple is a masterpiece would be nothing but an understatement. The original 1982 novel by writer and activist Alice Walker was incredibly well received and has since been adapted twice, once into a film in 1985 directed by Steven Spielberg and once as a stage musical running on Broadway from 2005-2008. The success of the original novel and these two past adaptations set a lot in store for Blitz Bazawule’s newest version coming this December. The plot follows a pair of African-American sisters, chronicling their lives and the struggles they faced in the American south in the 1900s. Being set in comparison to not just one source material, but that and two past adaptations is a challenge in itself, but speculation on Bazawule breathing new life into the story has been strong from the onset.
1. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes November 17, 2023
Flash back to the early 2010s, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games books were blowing the world away and the film adaptations of the trilogy were taking the cinematic world by storm. Then, in 2020, Collins snatched her fanbase’s attention once again with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which chronicled the backstory of Coriolanus Snow, the antagonistic President Snow in the original trilogy, and his role in the 10th Hunger Games. The film adaptation of this book, directed by Francis Lawrence, who was director for the adaptations of the second, third, and fourth Hunger Games films, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I and II, has easily become the most anticipated film of the season, with masterfully crafted trailers and a source material that has had the world in a deathgrip since the first installment back in 2008. Expectations are high, but with Lawrence’s return and praise already streaming in with the casting of Rachel Zegler and Tom Blyth as Lucy Gray and Coriolanus, fans continue to giddily count down the days until November.
Following such a successful and packed summer season, fall movies have a lot to live up to. Especially because so many films debuting in the fall are book to film adaptations, the expectations from existing fanbases has put extra pressure on directors and production teams. However, from the word go, many of these films have seen passionate teams that seem eager to cater to the high expectations that have been set for them. It will be interesting to see just how well these new films turn it out this coming season and where the tides of fans decide to turn their attention.