The Biggest Movie News Of 2023

Oppenheimer and Barbie marquee

by Ben Travis |
Published on

As December winds down, the credits are rolling on 2023 – and it’s been another tumultuous year in film. There have been highs, with incredible movies making their way to the screen, a raft of great directors making long-awaited comebacks, and exciting new voices making themselves heard. It’s been full of surprises, with thrilling announcements, rules broken, and big swings. And there have been lows too, with challenges for so many people in the industry, titles disappearing from circulation, and plenty of beloved names lost along the way.

Revisit the rollercoaster ride that was 2023 in Empire’s epic roundup of the biggest movie (and TV) news this year.

Game adaptations go huge

The Last Of Us

When it came to making game-to-screen adaptations that felt really successful, 2023 was when Hollywood finally hit ‘Start’. First there was The Last Of Us on HBO – the long-form series adaptation of Naughty Dog’s apocalyptic epic proving another stellar storytelling experience on the small screen. While adapting the first game closely, it leant into the televisual, delivering some of the most acclaimed episodes of the year when 2023 had barely begun – most notably the Bill and Frank-centric ‘Long, Long Time’. Then, on the other end of the video game spectrum, The Super Mario Bros Movie blue-shelled the competition, making $1.3 billion at the box office – even if it wasn’t lavished with praise in reviews. Add in the smash opening weekend for Five Nights At Freddy’s, and the narrative of Hollywood’s video game curse is well and truly broken. Game on.

Read the Empire review of The Last Of Us

Everything Everywhere wins everything, everywhere at the Oscars

Oscars 2023 – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Frankly, nobody predicted this. Because while Everything Everywhere All At Once was beloved by critics and raked in big money for A24, it was surely too damn weird to sweep the Oscars. Right? Wrong. Finally, dildo fights, googly eyes, and hotdog hands were endorsed by the Academy – and the filmmaking duo known as Daniels were swimming in gold statues. Everything Everywhere bagged seven awards on the night – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh (admit it, you cried), Best Supporting Actor for Ke Huy Quan (admit it, you cried even harder), Best Supporting Actress for Jamie Lee Curtis (no tears, but great job), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing. Of all the universes to live in, the one where this film broke big on Hollywood’s starriest night is where you want to be.

Read the Oscars report

Star Wars confirms three major new movies

Star Wars Celebration

Over the Easter weekend, London’s ExCeL centre was flooded with Jedi, Sith, Stormtroopers – and Andor cosplayers doing their best “One way out!” chants. Star Wars Celebration brought four days of geeky glee to the capital, and the big headline was Kathleen Kennedy announcing an upcoming movie slate. She detailed three new films, set at various points in the timeline: a ‘Biblical epic’ about the discover of The Force, tens of thousands of years before the Skywalker Saga films, to be directed by James Mangold; a big-screen outing for director Dave Filoni, bringing his ‘Mando-verse’ to cinemas; and, in a delight to Sequel Trilogy fans, the return of Rey in a film set 15 years post-The Rise Of Skywalker, with Daisy Ridley’s hero setting up a New Jedi Order, to be directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. May the Force be with all three projects – hopefully, none are shelved.

Read Empire's Star Wars Celebration 2023 report

Streaming originals go off the grid


Continuing from the disappearance of Batgirl last year, the promise of the streaming era took another knock this year. It wasn’t just upcoming originals being denied a release and written off for tax purposes (as happened late in the year with the high-testing Coyote Vs. Acme), but existing streaming-only titles being unceremoniously removed from services. Disney+ jettisoned starry works like the Willow series and the Artemis Fowl film; Paramount+ sent Grease series Rise Of The Pink Ladies off in a flying car and banished the Twilight Zone revival to, well, The Twilight Zone; HBO Max removed Westworld after not renewing it for a final season, and ditched Snowpiercer too. The dream of everything being available always is well and truly over.

Read Empire's Willow review

The Flash flops

Flash SB trailer main

This was a rough year for many superhero movies – but few hit the deck as hard as The Flash. After a much-delayed release, the solo outing for Ezra Miller’s speedster initially picked up major early buzz from industry screenings. There were even specific reports about how much Tom Cruise had enjoyed Andy Muschietti’s film. But on release, the backlash began, and rather than speeding to the finish line, Barry Allen’s time-twisting adventure pumped the brakes – it banked $270 million worldwide, with only $108 million in the US. That’s far behind what was expected, and signalled a difficult year for DC – still releasing several major movies in cinemas after announcing a reboot for the cinematic universe to come in 2025.

Read Empire's The Flash review

Elemental plays the long game


Fittingly for a film about a woman made of flame, Elemental proved to be a slow burn. Pixar’s latest film had a lukewarm opening, resulting in the smallest opening weekend in the studio’s history. But while initial reports posited a poor performance for a former behemoth, Elemental had real legs. It chugged along quietly in cinemas for months, pulling in audiences with strong word of mouth, and garnering real success around the world – by the end of its time in cinemas, it had earned just under $500 million around the globe, including $154 million in the US alone. It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the year ended with Pixar confirming that previous streaming-only movies Luca, Soul, and Turning Red would be coming to cinemas in 2024. As we all suspected, Pixar films really do belong on the big screen.

Read Empire's Elemental review

Barbenheimer blows up the box office

Barbenheimer – Oppenheimer and Barbie

It was much better news, though, for Barbie and Oppenheimer. At first, ‘Barbenheimer’ was merely a meme – film fans pointing out that you could do a wildly mismatched (or so it seemed) double bill of Greta Gerwig’s pink fantasia, and Christopher Nolan’s explosive historical epic. As it turned out, both films were fantastic – and seeing both back-to-back became a reality for many cinemagoers. While Barbie went on to become the biggest hit of the year by far, and saw screenings packed out with pink-clad punters, Oppenheimer drew in astonishingly huge crowds for a three-hour atomic bomb drama, making almost $1 billion on initial release. If there’s one thing 2023 will go down as, it’s the year of Barbenheimer. And incidentally, they both ended up being existential odysseys in which our heroes experience incessant thoughts of death. Who knew?!

Read how the 'Barbenheimer' phenomenon ruled the box office

A double strike hits Hollywood


Just as Barbie and Oppenheimer hit the screen and made mega-millions, Hollywood ground to a halt. In fact, the Oppenheimer premiere was moved forward by hours so that the stars could still walk the carpet before strike action kicked in – and they left as soon as the walkout came into effect. The summer was defined by months of picketing from both writers and actors – a dual strike from SAG and the WGA, fighting back against a lack of streaming residuals and the encroach of A.I., amid other concerns. The Writers Strike ran from 2 May to 27 September before finally reaching a resolution, while the Actors Strike ran from 14 July to 9 November – during which time numerous films and series stopped shooting, tensions rose thanks to contentious statements from studio heads, and titans of the industry stood shoulder to shoulder with jobbing workers to secure a brighter future for all. For now, deals have been struck that have got wheels in motion again. But expect the effects of the strike to rumble on far into the future.

Marvel takes a tumble

Secret Invasion

History will dictate whether 2023 really was the beginning of the end of the MCU or not – but undeniably, this was not a banner year for a franchise that had previously experienced unprecedented success. The first tremor came when Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania underperformed at the box office – the film intended to really launch the next era of Marvel suffered from middling reviews, and underwhelming box office receipts. While Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 and Loki Season 2 found the studio back on form, the real blow was streaming series Secret Invasion, which came under serious criticism for its writing and storytelling. By the time The Marvels came out to record-low figures for the MCU (despite more positive reviews), the narrative seemed set: the Marvel Cinematic Universe is no longer what it used to be. Stay tuned for course corrections going forward – with only Deadpool 3 on the cinema slate in 2024.

Hayao Miyazaki returns

Hayao Miyazaki

No promo.” That was the mantra for Studio Ghibli’s latest work – the unexpected comeback from Hayao Miyazaki, who had intended to retire after 2013’s The Wind Rises. So it was that The Boy And The Heron – or How Do You Live?, as it was titled in Japan – hit cinema screens in its home country without a single trailer or official image to herald its arrival. Off the back of a relatively abstract poster alone, the return of one of cinema’s greatest auteurs became an instant success, and was hailed as another Miyazaki masterpiece by fans and critics. Despite being 82 years old, Miyazaki has since claimed that this won’t be his final film – though whether or not he commits to another masterwork remains to be seen. If he said he was retiring, that’d feel more like confirmation that he’s not done yet. Either way, The Boy And The Heron is a miracle in its own right.

Cinema enters its Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour era

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour

Are you ready for it? Cinemas were on the receiving end of another curveball this year, with one of the buzziest titles of 2023 being… well, one of the buzziest tours of 2023. Taylor Swift’s record-smashing, sell-out, headline-grabbing Eras Tour made waves across US stadiums in the first half of the year – and given the scrum for tickets, it was clear that the recorded version was going to be a must-see for audiences worldwide. So it goes that The Eras Tour concert film swept Swifties into cinemas in droves, pulling in huge ticket sales and turning multiplex screens into mass sing-alongs. It was the industry side of it that was most notable, though – Taylor proved she loves the game by declining underwhelming offers from traditional film studios, instead teaming up directly with cinemas to show every version of herself in her career-spanning show, and making millions in the process. She’s Hollywood’s new anti-hero.

Read Empire's Eras Tour report from a Non-Swiftie

Matthew Perry dies

Matthew Perry

As ever, this year was studded with painful losses – from Andre Braugher and William Friedkin, to Tina Turner, Lance Reddick, Michael Gambon, Richard Roundtree and Burt Young. But most shocking was the passing of Friends icon Matthew Perry, who died at the age of 54 in October. His unexpected passing brought forth all kinds of tributes from fans and friends alike, who shone a light not only on his acting career, but on his life as an advocate for addiction recovery and his charity work.

Read the news report

Scream 7 loses its leads

Melissa Barrera

At the start of the year, the Scream franchise was in rude health – with the slasher series’ sixth instalment proving the new trilogy was a continuing hit with audiences. But by the end of the year, the third chapter in the new saga hit a major snag. First came the news that franchise lead Melissa Barrera, vocal online in her support for Palestine, was let go from the film following social media posts that Spyglass Media Group declared “crosses the line into hate speech”. Shortly after, it was announced that Jenna Ortega would not be returning either – while her departure was said to be down to her Wednesday filming schedule, it sparked speculation that she declined to shoot Scream 7 out of solidarity for her co-star. Either way, behind-the-scenes wrangling on the sequel has a higher bodycount than a Ghostface spree.

Read the news report

Dave Filoni becomes Star Wars’ creative boss

Dave Filoni – Star Wars Celebration 2023
©Jeff Spicer/Getty

It’s been a good year for Dave Filoni. It began with him being announced as the director of an upcoming Star Wars film, and continued with him releasing Ahsoka into the world, taking the character he originated in animation and placing her at the centre of her own live-action series. Then, he capped it off (or, cowboy-hatted it off) with a major new gig: he’s now Chief Creative Officer at Lucasfilm. That means he’ll be working under Kathleen Kennedy to oversee the creative side of Star Wars – not necessarily pulling all the strings himself, but working to ensure that the various storytelling arms of the galaxy far, far away are working in the same narrative direction. And with all those new films, several upcoming series, and the continuation of The High Republic novels on the way, he’ll have his work cut out for him. Our advice, Dave? Use the Force.

Read the news report

Godzilla rules the world

Typical – you wait for one Godzilla, and three come along at once. The final months of 2023 were dominated by cinema’s greatest kaiju. While Godzilla Minus One received rave reviews and massive box office in Japan – swiftly followed by the rest of the world – the US take on the character continued to flourish. The Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire trailer saw the big lizard upgraded with glowing pink powers in the sequel to Godzilla Vs. Kong, and on the small screen Apple TV+ series Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters made sure that G-man fans had a fix of monster mayhem coming their way weekly. Wherever you turned, Godzilla was going god-mode. How’s that for a 70th birthday celebration?

Read Empire's Godzilla Minus One review

Jonathan Majors is dropped from Marvel

Jonathan Majors

The year ended on a serious note. In the early months of 2023, it was looking like a great year ahead for Jonathan Majors, stepping into the MCU as Kang in Quantumania, earning plaudits for Creed III, and garnering acclaim for his role in Magazine Dreams. Then in March, he was arrested on domestic violence charges, leading to a trial that dominated the news for weeks. In the past few days, Majors was found guilty on two counts of assault and harassment, and is awaiting sentencing – in the wake of the decision, he’s been dropped from the role of Kang in the MCU. Expect the story to continue into 2024, with Majors’ sentence due to be announced in February.

Read the news report

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