While 2022 was a great year for movies, 2023 promises to top it with a schedule full of great films from all types of genres, including science fiction (Dune Part Two), comic book (The Flash), drama (The Color Purple), and comedy like Barbie.
One genre in particular is geared to have a great year in 2023: action. Whether sequels, video game adaptations, of reboots, these five action films stand out as the best of a very crowded pack that we can’t wait to watch later in the year.
John Wick: Chapter 4 (March 24)
OK, so The Matrix Resurrections wasn’t quite the success fans and Warner Bros. hoped for in late 2021, but fear not, Keanu Reeves is returning to the franchise he is better-known for these days: John Wick. Yes, everyone’s favorite dog-loving, revenge-seeking assassin is back for a fourth installment, er, chapter that promises the gunplay, double-crosses, and cool-looking action cinematography that the series is famous for.
Returning with Reeves is his Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King alongside an impressive roster of new additions to the franchise that includes arts martial master Donnie Yen as a fellow assassin who is blind, It actor Bill Skarsgård as the main antagonist, Ian McShane as Wick’s friend Winston Scott, and rock musician Rina Sawayama as the mysterious Akira. Filmed in Paris, Berlin, Japan. and New York City, John Wick: Chapter 4 promises a globe-spanning journey with blood being splattered on famous monuments. The director, Chad Stahelski, helmed the previous three John Wicks, so if you liked those movies (and chances are you did), then you will probably like this one.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (March 31)
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of Vin Diesel and company going on and on about family while blowing things up in the latest Fast & Furious movie. The series has been milked to death at this point, with pointless spinoffs and sequels with diminishing returns. So while everyone expects Fast X to be on this list, we’re honestly more excited about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves — even though history is against it. Anyone who remembers the dreadful 2000 Dungeons & Dragons movie with Marlon Wayans (yes, that’s not a typo) knows what I’m talking about.
So what makes Honor Among Thieves different? First, the cast is oddball in all the right ways, with Chris Pine, Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, It‘s Sophia Ellis, and Hugh Grant all seeming to have a ball in the film’s recently released trailer. Second, and most importantly, the movie is written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the duo behind the comedies Horrible Bosses and Game Night. D & D die-hards are probably upset about the comedic, somewhat campy tone the movie has, but they can whine to their Gamemaster about it. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an enjoyable action-fantasy movie that isn’t bogged down with seriousness and trauma, and Honor Among Thieves seems to fit the bill for lightweight fun.
Gran Turismo (August 11)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a major movie studio is about to release an adaptation of a popular racing video game that’s been around for decades. No, this isn’t The Need For Speed; it’s Gran Turismo. What’s the difference? Well, The Need for Speed was a terrible movie that bore little resemblance to its gaming source whereas Gran Turismo has the promise to be both faithful and good … or, at the very least, better than Need for Speed.
That’s largely due to movie’s director, Neill Blomkamp. Yes, the same guy who directed District 9, which was nominated for Best Picture way back in 2009. Blomkamp’s star has lost some of its luster recently (absolutely no one saw his last movie, Demonic), but if he can bring the same thoughtful action that powered District 9, Gran Turismo could be something special. The solid cas t– Orlando Bloom, David Harbour, Djimon Hounsou — doesn’t hurt, and the screenplay is co-written by Zach Baylin, who made King Richard so memorable in 2021. Video game adaptations don’t usually carry this kind of prestigious pedigree behind the camera, so we’re optimistic Sony can finally make a decent racing movie that isn’t part of the Fast & Furious franchise.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (June 30)
In the 1980s, the three Indiana Jones movies — Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade — each perfected and pushed the action genre to new highs. Each film was perfect in its own way, from Raiders’ giddy nostalgia for yesteryear adventure to Temple‘s dark and intense action to Last Crusade‘s ruminations on broken families and faith. And then came Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which broke the streak with its flying monkeys and leather-clad Shia LaBeouf as Indy’s long-lost son, Mutt Williams.
Indy is back, this time without LaBeouf or Steven Spielberg and George Lucas behind the camera. That’s a good thing, as the franchise needed some fresh blood, and gets it in the form of Logan director James Mangold, who knows a thing or two about reviving a dying franchise. There’s no getting around the fact that lead star Harrison Ford is 80 and looks it, but he’s assisted by a lively cast featuring Fleabag‘s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Indy’s goddaughter, Mads Mikkelsen as (what else?) the German villain, and Antonio Banderas, John Rhys-Davies, and Toby Jones as friends of Doctor Jones. The trailer looks like the movie takes place all across Europe and at a festive parade in New York City, with the usual gun-toting Nazis seeking hidden treasure and threatening our hero. Dial of Destiny probably won’t break new ground, but it doesn’t need to; all we ask is that it’s better than Crystal Skull so Indy can have a proper sendoff.
Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part 1 (July 14)
Aside from James Bond, there is no modern action franchise as revered or as respected as the Mission: Impossible series. First launched in 1996 with the excellent Brian De Palma installment, the Mission: Impossible franchise became must-see cinematic events with Ghost Protocol and never looked back. The latest entry, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1, is so highly anticipated that Paramount Pictures released a teaser a full year in advance of the film’s premiere just to appease the impatient fan base and remind everyone why Mission: Impossible still kicks ass after all these years.
It worked. The trailer shows one jaw-dropping stunt after another, with the usual crew of Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Rebecca Ferguson helping everyone’s favorite rogue agent, Ethan Hunt, save the world yet again. Christopher McQuarrie, the writer/director of the previous two entries, Rogue Nation and Fallout, returns, but the glue that holds everything together is Tom Cruise. As Ethan, Cruise undergoes all kinds of abuse to please action fans, and it’s what we expect from the death-defying Top Gun: Maverick star. With sword fights in Venice, motorcycles chasing runaway trains, shootouts at posh rave parties, and a Lawrence of Arabia-esque sequence in an empty desert, Dead Reckoning Part 1 promises to be the most epic action movie of all time. .. until Dead Reckoning Part 2 hits theaters in 2024, of course.