2023 Fall Movie Preview: A look ahead at the most highly anticipated upcoming films

These are the films to have on your radar this fall.

September 8, 2023, 4:01 AM

Welcome to Fall Movie Preview 2023: Strike Zone.

That's right. Actors have been on picket lines since July (and writers two months before that). And there's still no end in sight. It's not all about money. Actors don't want to be replaced by artificial intelligence. Neither do writers.

No matter how many movies open in the next four months, their star players will not be available to promote them until a deal is reached and ratified. Think of the hotly awaited "Dune, Part Two" without stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya available to beat the drum. A nervous Warner Bros recently moved the fantasy epic to March of next year. There's no telling how many other fall films will run scared and follow suit.

Still, hope springs eternal for those fall blockbusters willing to stand their ground. We still have Chalamet as the candy man in "Wonka," Jason Momoa returning as Aquaman, and Brie Larson as Captain Marvel herself in "The Marvels."

Then there's a sequel to "The Exorcist," a prequel to "The Hunger Games," and a musical take on "The Color Purple." And don't forget Taylor Swift in the concert film version her Eras Tour on Oct. 13.

Traditionally, fall is the hunting ground for Oscar contenders. Taking on summer's massive "Barbenheimer" phenom in the rush for Academy gold is Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro hunting oil on Native American ground.

Or Emma Stone going gonzo as a lady Frankenstein in "Poor Things." Or acting powerhouse Sandra Hüller as a wife on trial for her husband's murder in "Anatomy of a Fall."

Oscar's recent penchant for mining indie films for best picture prizes ("CODA," "Everything Everywhere All at Once") may echo in "The Holdovers" with Paul Giamatti as a New England teacher who stays behind at Christmas with students who have no place to go. Or will director George Clooney hit historical paydirt with "The Boys in the Boat" about members of the University of Washington rowing team competing in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany?

Sounds pretty exciting to me. With hundreds of movies to choose from, here are the 30 I'm most excited to see this fall, strike permitting.

Sept. 15

"A Haunting in Venice"

What better than an all-star Agatha Christie murder mystery to ease us into a fall movie season? Back for the third time, after "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile, " is director Kenneth Branagh starring as Belgian master detective Hercule Poirot -- he of the epic mustache of such towering tonsorial splendor that it should be eligible for its own awards. Based on Dame Agatha's lesser known 1969 novel, "Hallowe'en Party," the film has been transposed from England to the city of canals -- Venice -- where a seance brings together suspects played by Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, "Yellowstone" scene-stealer Kelly Reilly and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh. Who done it? As always, the fun comes in the guessing.

Kenneth Branagh is seen in a still from the trailer for 20th Century Studios' upcoming film "A Haunting in Venice."
20th Century Studios

"Dumb Money"

Based on the true story of a group of amateur "dumb money" investors, led by Paul Dano and Pete Davidson as brothers, this film version of Ben Mezrich's book "The Antisocial Network" hilariously details the movers behind the Reddit page called "WallStreetBets", who became billionaires by betting against hedge funders who insisted that GameStop shares would fail. "I, Tonya" director Craig Gillespie, a wizard of mischief, gathers a top cast, including Seth Rogen, America Ferrera, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley and Nick Offerman to add a "Big Short" sting to a tale that proves again that truth is stranger than fiction.

Paul Dano is shown in a scene from the movie "Dumb Money."
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Sept. 29

"The Creator"

The fight between human creativity and artificial intelligence is as timely as the current strikes by actors and writers now firing up Hollywood. In this sci-fi action epic from director Gareth Edwards ("Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"), John David Washington stars as a former special forces agent in a life-or-death search for the Creator, an AI architect who takes the form of a cyborg child with the power to destroy mankind as we know it. Scared yet? You ought to be.

John David Washington is shown in a scene from the movie "The Creator."
20th Century Studios

Oct. 6


Young Irish stars don't come starrier than Saoirse Ronan ("Lady Bird") and Paul Mescal ("Aftersun"), who play a couple from rural America dealing with a major problem: an environmental plague that has destroyed most of the planet. In the script by director Garth Davis ("Lion") and Iain Reid, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, they're all alone except for a mysterious stranger played by Aaron Pierre, who wants to replace hubby with a robot. Intrigued? That's the idea.

Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan star in the movie "Foe."

"The Exorcist: Believer"

Nothing scares off a demon, except the arrival of a Taylor Swift concert film that sent this sequel to "The Exorcist," scurrying to move up a week to avoid competing with the biggest pop star on the planet. Wise move. There have been five followups to the late William Friedkin's 1973 horror smash, but director David Gordon Green, who successfully revived the "Halloween" franchise with Jamie Lee Curtis, is pretending this is the first one. Ellen Burstyn is back as Chris MacNeil, the movie star mother of Linda Blair in the original (the buzz is Blair will also make an appearance). Leslie Odom Jr. plays the father of a possessed girl who turns to Chris for help. I'm in. How about you?

Lidya Jewett is shown in a scene from "The Exorcist: Believer."
Universal Pictures

Oct. 13

"Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Concert Film"

Here's the concert movie that sent "The Exorcist" running for cover -- and it's already a box-office behemoth, having earned a wowza $26 million in single day presales at AMC theaters, breaking the record previously set by "Spider-Man: No Way Home." You're probably not surprised, given the success of Swift's sold-out live tour. So the movie is a bargain with tickets going for $19.89 plus tax for adults (any resemblance to Taylor's "1989" album is no coincidence) and $13.13 plus tax for children's and senior tickets. Swifties received a personal message from their idol on Instagram: "The Eras Tour has been the most meaningful, electric experience of my life so far and I'm overjoyed to tell you that it'll be coming to the big screen. Eras attire, friendship bracelets, singing and dancing encouraged." You heard the lady.

Taylor Swift performs onstage during "Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour" at SoFi Stadium on Aug. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif.
Kevin Winter/tas23 via Getty Images

"Anatomy of a Fall"

Look for mentions of this traumatic marriage story all over the Oscar nominations, starting with star Sandra Hüller, of "Toni Erdmann" fame, who gives the performance of her career as a widow on trial for the murder of her husband (Samuel Theis). She says he fell from the isolated chalet in the French Alps, shared with their mute 11-year-old son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner). Yet this film from Justine Triet suggests all kinds of possibilities in its dazzling distillation of scenes from a complex marriage. This modern masterpiece will keep you up nights.

Sandra Huller is shown in a scene from the movie "Anatomy of A Fall."
Madmen Films

Oct. 20

"Killers of the Flower Moon"

Move over, "Oppenheimer," you just found your fiercest competition for the best picture Oscar in Martin Scorsese's stunning film adaptation of David Grann's 2017 nonfiction book. Set in Oklahoma in the 1920s, the film deals with the systemic murders of oil-rich Native Americans living on reservation land where the government basically sent them to dwindle and die. Then the wells started gushing. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a World War I veteran in a convenient marriage to a wealthy Osage woman (Lily Gladstone) organized by his greedy rancher uncle (Robert De Niro), this brilliantly rendered Scorsese epic cuts to the core of American exploitation of Indigenous people. And the performances of DiCaprio, De Niro and newcomer Gladstone will soon be the stuff of legend.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon," coming soon to Apple TV+.
Apple TV+


Annette Bening delivers a stirring warts-and-all portrait of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad in this bruising biopic that culminates in her historic 110-mile, 53-hour 2013 swim from Cuba to Florida, damn the sharks and jellyfish. The openly gay Nyad was 64 at the time and hadn't done a competitive swim in three decades. Famously combative, she clouded her reputation with accusations of exaggerating and fact-fudging. But there's no denying the unstinting excellence of the Bening tour de force and Jodie Foster's superb turn as Nyad coach and best friend Bonnie Stoll. The film is a tribute to both their extraordinary talents.

Annette Bening as Diana Nyad and Jodie Foster as Bonnie Stoll in NYAD.
Kimberley French/Netflix

Oct. 27


The life and times of Priscilla Presley were shortchanged last year in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis." But they're the whole show in this biopic from writer-director Sofia Coppola, who had to pull off the coup without access to Elvis Presley's music. Luckily, Coppola had access to the talents of Cailee Spaeny (the young murder victim in "Mare of Easttown") as Priscilla and Jacob Elordi ("Euphoria") as Elvis, as well as the participation of Priscilla Presley herself, whose 1985 book, "Elvis and Me," served as a source for a union that began when she was 14. For Coppola, daughter of "The Godfather" legend Francis Ford Coppola, "Priscilla" is an emotional journey she could connect to through her own experiences in the goldfish bowl of fame. Expect the unexpected.

Jacob Elordi and Cailee Spaeny in a scene in the movie "Priscilla."


Romantic sci-fi is a tricky business -- for every "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" there are dozens of duds. But Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou ("Apples"), in his first film in English, is up to the task as Oscar nominee Jessie Buckley ("The Lost Daughter") and Emmy contender Jeremy Allen White ("The Bear") play a couple who test their "true love" at an institute that uses a detached fingernail (ouch!) to detect eternal compatibility. Then she meets instructor Riz Ahmed ("Sound of Metal"), who throws a monkey wrench into the process. Sure it's a weird concept, but insert a trio of superb actors and you're in for something freshly fierce and funny.

Jessie Buckley in a scene from the movie Fingernails.

"The Killer"

Just when you thought Michael Fassbender had forsaken acting for racing, director David Fincher ("Fight Club," "Gone Girl") pulls this stunner of an actor back in for this psychological character study of a hitman who thinks his mind is going. Based on the French graphic novel of the same name, the movie -- costarring the ever-fab Tilda Swinton, written with "Seven" screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, and pumped by a score from Fincher favorites Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross -- keeps springing surprises you'll never see coming.

Michael Fassbender as an assassin in The Killer.

Nov. 3


Colman Domingo enters the Oscar race full bore as Bayard Rustin, the openly gay civil-rights leader who organized the historic 1963 march on Washington. Reuniting with galvanizing director George C. Wolfe after "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," Domingo fires up every scene, especially in his feud with NAACP leader Roy Wilkins (Chris Rock) and his efforts to influence his friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Aml Ameen) to adopt the policy of nonviolent protest. This is history rendered with bolts of lightning and a stupendous star performance.

Glynn Turman as A. Philip Randolph and Colman Domingo as Bayard Rustin in Rustin.
David Lee/Netflix

Nov. 10

"The Marvels"

If fatigue with the Marvel Cinematic Universe doesn't deter you -- it's a lot -- you'll probably enthuse over the return of Oscar winner Brie Larson as Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. Here, she teams up with with Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and her estranged niece, astronaut Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). How's that for female empowerment? While investigating a wormhole linked to the Kree, their powers become intertwined, prompting a planet-destroying new villain, Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), to bring them down. Fat chance.

Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris and Iman Vellani in a scene from "The Marvels."
Marvel Studios

"The Holdovers"

Nearly two decades ago, Paul Giamatti made movie magic with director Alexander Payne in the wine-country comedy "Sideways." Neither won an Oscar. Now, the Academy gets a chance to redeem its sorry self in this bittersweet dramedy about a grumpy teacher (Giamatti) at a New England prep school in 1970 who must babysit students with nowhere to go during the Christmas break. With newcomer Dominic Sessa as the student hardcase and the utterly sublime Da'Vine Joy Randolph as the school cook, who lost a son in Vietnam, the film skirts familiarity and sentimentality while forging a funny, touching and vital path to the heart. And word is that Giamatti is sheer perfection in a role that should reward him with screen immortality.

Dominic Sessa stars as Angus Tully, Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunham and Da’Vine Joy Randolph as Mary Lamb in The Holdovers.
Seacia Pavao/Focus Features

Nov. 17

"The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes"

It's a risk doing a prequel to the four-part "Hunger Games" franchise without the power engine of Jennifer Lawrence. But here we go, 64 years before Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen even drew breath. The aged tyrant Coriolanus Snow, played by Donald Sutherland, is now an 18-year-old stripling in the person of Tom Blyth ("Billy the Kid"). Future dictator Snow has been assigned as a games mentor to Lucy Gray Baird, played by "West Side Story" breakout Rachel Zegler. With Peter Dinklage and Viola Davis as architects of the 10th Hunger Games, songbird Lucy has her work cut out for her as the female tribute from impoverished District 12. What are the odds these newcomers can pull this off? Place your bets.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler as Lucy Gray Baird in "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes."
Murray Close/Lionsgate

"May December"

Director Todd Haynes delivers this erotic fable -- campy and compelling in equal doses -- about a Hollywood star (Natalie Portman) who travels to Georgia to meet the real woman (Julianne Moore) she'll be playing, a tabloid sensation who went to jail after she was caught having sex with a 13-year-old boy at the pet store where she works. Two decades on, the woman has married the now-grown boy (a fantastic Charles Melton) -- they're parents of high schoolers -- and the star finds it hard to make easy judgements. Portman and Moore -- both hitting new career peaks -- dig out every ounce of guilt, denial and scrappy provocation in the script. Just sit back and behold.

Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry and Julianne Moore as Gracie Atherton-Yoo in May December.
Francois Duhamel/Netflix

"Next Goal Wins"

Director Taika Waititi ("Jojo Rabbit,") isn't showing an ounce of intimidation in bringing this true sports story to the screen, even if truth gives way to entertainment. You've been warned. Michael Fassbender, the star of "The Killer," isn't content with just one fall film. Here he plays a Dutch American soccer coach (heads up, Ted Lasso) trying to shape up a ragtag team of American Samoan players to make it to World Cup. With Will Arnett, Elisabeth Moss and Kaitlyn Dever in his cast, Waititi has no intention of letting facts interrupt the fun.

Michael Fassbender in Next Goal Wins.
Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/Searchlight Pictures

Nov. 22


With "Gladiator" director Ridley Scott at the helm and "Joker" Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix starring as the French military commander who seized power in 1799 amid his tumultuous relationship with his first wife Josephine (Vanessa Kirby), you don't expect a by-the-numbers account of the controversial emperor. And you won't get one. Scott has already riled historians by comparing Napoleon Bonaparte to Hitler and Stalin. But Scott is a master at stirring up excitement for his movie epics. We'll have to see the completed film to decide whether he sees Napoleon as a flawed man or an unregenerate monster, but there's no true film junkie who'd dream of missing this one.

Joaquin Phoenix in "Napoleon," 2023.
Sony Pictures


The raves coming out of the Venice Film Festival are justified for Bradley Cooper's take on the life and turbulent times of Leonard Bernstein, the virtuoso composer and conductor, and his actress wife, Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). What sounds tabloidy and sordid, Cooper -- as director, writer and star -- transforms into a love story of enduring ferocity and feeling. Mulligan matches Cooper's total immersion in his role. Oscars were made to reward performances like this.

Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre and Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein in "Maestro," 2023.

Nov. 24


Director Emerald Fennell won an Oscar for writing "Promising Young Woman" and she didn't do it by playing it safe. In her spin on the pomp and privilege of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," this time time set in the zeitgeist of "Superbad" and "Harry Potter," Fennell focuses on the fatal attraction that awkward Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan, an Oscar nominee as the village idiot in "The Banshees of Inisherin") feels for handsome, old-money hunk Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi, who plays Elvis in "Priscilla"). It's at Saltburn, the Catton family mansion, that everything comes crashing into a wild blend of mirth and menace.

Barry Keoghan as Oliver and Archie Madekwe as Farleigh in Saltburn.
MGM Studios

Dec. 1

"The Bikeriders"

Writer-director Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter," "Mud") emerges with his most intriguing film yet in this film take on the 1968 Danny Lyons book of photos and anecdotes about the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club. Nichols mixes fact with fiction as the film's Danny (Mike Faist) interviews Johnny (Tom Hardy), the club's founder, and members like the moody, mesmerizing Benny (Austin Butler) and his wife Kathy (the electrifying Jodie Comer). Not since "Easy Rider" has a movie captured the lure and the underlying violence of the open road.

Austin Butler in "The Bikeriders," 2023.
20th Century Studios

Dec. 8

"Poor Things"

Oh boy is this one a dazzling doozy. From the no-holds-barred director Yorgos Lanthimos ("The Favourite") comes a Frankenstein story like no other. In Victorian London, on the operating table of Dr. Godwin -- God for short -- Baxter (the reliably great Willem Dafoe), Bella Baxter (a twisted force of nature in Emma Stone) is created as a feral creature thirsty for adventure and sex with everyone, especially libidinous lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). As Bella morphs from wild child to independent woman, Lanthimos pulls out all the creative stops to build a nonstop blast of cinematic pow. Stone's road to her second Oscar after "La La Land" seems unstoppable. The buzz is you've never seen anything like her or her movie in your life.

Ramy Youssef and Emma Stone in "Poor Things," 2023.
Searchlight Pictures

"The Zone of Interest"

There's surely never been a family film like this one. Hedwig Hoss (Sandra Hüller), her husband Rudolf and their children live in bucolic bliss -- except for the fact that their home is located on outskirts of Auschwitz where smoke from the crematorium and cries of Jews being slaughtered occasionally interrupt daily life. The Hoss family pretends not to notice. And director Jonathan Glazer ("Sexy Beast," "Under the Skin") takes the same approach, their denial only intensifying the horror. Here's a powerhouse that means to shake you, and does.

"The Zone of Interest," 2023.

Dec. 15


Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp have both played the proprietor of Roald Dahl's classic chocolate factory. Now Timothée Chalamet gets his chance in this musical Willy Wonka origin story with songs by Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy and Hugh Grant, of all people, as a particularly obstreperous Oompa-Loompa. Grant was one of the comic highlights of two "Paddington" films directed by Paul King, who also leads this parade of all-stars, including Olivia Colman, Sally Hawkins and Keegan-Michael Key, which means Wonka fans couldn't be in better hands.

Timothee Chalamet and Hugh Grant in a scene from the upcoming movie "Wonka."
Warner Bros.

Dec. 20

"Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom"

Talk of trouble has been deafening for the sequel to the 2018 original starring Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, the half-human, half-fish king of Atlantis who protects his subjects by talking seafood sense and swimming at supersonic speeds. That first film with its surf-and-turf hero was labeled the joke of the DC Comics universe, but went on to be DC Comic's highest grosser. So don't be quick to write off the follow-up, again directed James Wan, despite rumors of poor test screenings that leave audiences lost in a surplus of underwater kingdoms. And remember: the shirtless but never humorless Momoa is a one-man charm assault that lots of folks are ready to welcome home for the holidays.

A scene from "AQUAMAN 2: The Lost Kingdom."
Warner Bros.

Dec. 22

"All of Us Strangers"

Already widely hailed on the festival circuit as one of the year's very best films, this spellbinder stars Andrew Scott -- the hot priest from "Fleabag" -- as a queer screenwriter whose isolation causes him to retreat from an attractive neighbor (Paul Mescal) as he tries to put his feelings into words about the 1980's AIDS epidemic of his youth. A chance meeting in a London park reunites him with his parents, played by Jamie Bell and Claire Foy. Nothing strange there, except mom and died 30 years ago in a car crash. And so director Andrew Haigh, working with a quartet of superlative actors, constructs a ghost story that will surely take a piece out of you.

Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal in "All of Us strangers," 2023.
Searchlight Pictures

Dec. 25

"The Color Purple"

In director Blitz Bazawule's film version of the Broadway musical hit, based on Alice Walker's 1982 novel of the Black female struggle in the Deep South from 1909 to 1947, "American Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino stars as Celie, whose oppressed life is further traumatized when she runs toward what she thinks is a better future. The glorious-voiced Barrino costars with Colman Domingo as Celie's abusive husband, Halle Bailey of "The Little Mermaid" as her beloved sister, Taraji P. Henson as her lover, and a showstopping Danielle Brooks as her best friend, a role Oprah Winfrey played in the 1995 Steven Spielberg film of the same name. Just listen to a snippet of Celie singing in the trailer about finding resilience in self-worth: "But most of all, I'm thankful for / Lovin' who I really am / I'm beautiful / Yes, I'm beautiful / And I'm here." How do you resist that? Easy answer: You don't.

Halle Bailey in a scene from the movie "The Color Purple."
Warner Bros.


Master filmmaker Michael Mann ("Heat," "The Insider"), 80, directs a powerfully nuanced Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, the former race-car icon now settled in his 50s and determined his team will win 1957's biggest heat -- the Mille Miglia, the 1,000-mile race across Italy. Victory will save the company he and his wife Laura (a sensational Penelope Cruz) built from scratch. Out of that familiar outline, Mann constructs a character study of subtle force and feeling. It's the intimacy amid the vroom that makes this a Mann film and a genuine movie event.

Adam Driver from the newly released "Ferrari" teaser trailer
Neon via YouTube

"The Boys in the Boat"

If you read the 2013 nonfiction bestseller about the University of Washington rowing crew that represented the U.S. in the 1936 summer Olympics in Berlin, you know it's a hell of a tale. Can George Clooney, directing and not acting, bring the underdog story to life onscreen through young power rower Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) and his fight against the Hitler propaganda machine that set so-called Aryan purity against America's working-class athletes? Word from test screenings is that Clooney knocks it out of the park in a movie built for cheers and tears. Corny? Maybe. But in these dark times, it may be just what we all need.