We love a franchise as much as the next person, but there's something about exciting original movies that just feels special. At times, it can feel like we use up all of the cinematic real estate on the Marvels and Fast & Furiouses of the world — not to mention the dozens of book and TV show adaptations that arrive every year.
But it's time to look ahead to 2023 and celebrate some of the original material that's heading to cinema screens and streaming platforms in the next 12 months, from weighty historical material to J-Lo kicking butt in a wedding dress and a bear with a bloodstream full of cocaine.
Read more: The most exciting movies coming in 2023
Here are the most exciting original movies of 2023...
Till (6 January)
In 1955, Black teenager Emmett Till was brutally murdered by two white men following an interaction with a white woman at a grocery store, with his death a huge flashpoint in the civil rights movement. This powerful film by Clemency director Chinonye Chukwu follows Till's mother Mamie as she works tirelessly to get justice for her son. Danielle Deadwyler's performance as Mamie has been tipped as a possible Oscar contender.
M3GAN (13 January)
Already a viral sensation thanks to a scene of her dancing in the movie's trailer, M3GAN is grabbing the killer robot horror subgenre by the throat. This movie from the writer of breakout hit Malignant tells the story of an ambitious young scientist (Allison Williams) who creates a super-intelligent doll, designed to be the perfect companion for children. Naturally, when she gifts the doll to her niece, things go violently wrong.
Enys Men (13 January)
Mark Jenkin planted a flag firmly in the soil of British cinema with his 2019 film Bait — the tale of a Cornish fisherman struggling against gentrification. Shot in black and white using 16mm film and a hand-cranked camera with post-synced sound, it's a unique experience.
His follow-up is, if anything, even more unorthodox. Enys Men follows a woman who silently observes flowers on a secluded island, only for the movie to transform into a psychologically exhausting, time-bending nightmare.
Tár (13 January)
In the wake of a big win at the Venice Film Festival, Cate Blanchett is the clear frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar thanks to her titular role in this drama set within the classical music world. Lydia Tár is a renowned composer and conductor who experiences something of a downfall due to her interactions with the people around her. It's an epic drama and, based on everything we've heard, Blanchett is worth the price of admission.
Babylon (20 January)
Damien Chazelle is directing another story about Hollywood, but this one definitely isn't La La Land. Set in the roaring twenties, as cinema makes the move from silent to sound, it's a three-hour epic of debauchery and chaos in Tinseltown. Margot Robbie leads the packed ensemble cast as a budding starlet determined to embrace the glamour, with other key cast members including Diego Calva, Brad Pitt, Tobey Maguire and Jovan Adepo.
Holy Spider (20 January)
Iranian filmmaker Ali Abbasi became a big name in the indie film world when his exceptionally strange supernatural romance movie Border won a prize at Cannes and became Sweden's pick for the Best International Feature Oscar. His follow-up, Holy Spider, is inspired by the true story of a serial killer who targeted sex workers in the Iranian city of Mashhad. It follows a fictional journalist investigating a series of linked murders.
The Fabelmans (27 January)
Steven Spielberg delves deep into his own childhood for this semi-autobiographical work, which is being tipped as a potential Best Picture winner and was written by Spielberg with regular collaborator Tony Kushner. Gabriel LaBelle plays the Spielberg analogue here — a teenager obsessed with movies who dreams of making one of his own. His parents are played by Michelle Williams and Paul Dano.
Shotgun Wedding (27 January, Prime Video)
Jennifer Lopez delves into the action arena for this high-octane comedy, in which she and hubby-to-be Josh Duhamel see their extravagant destination wedding go awry. Suddenly, all of the guests are taken hostage and it's down to the couple to defend their family and friends by any means necessary.
Unwelcome (27 January)
Eagle-eyed readers with long memories might note that this movie actually appeared on last year's version of this list, but COVID-19 delays pushed it into 2023. Northern Irish writer-director Jon Wright weaves a supernatural tale in which Hannah John-Kamen and Douglas Booth play a couple who learn that their new property requires them to leave out a nightly blood sacrifice for the local goblins. They probably didn't list that on the Zoopla page.
Distant (10 February)
Will Speck and Josh Gordon's career as a directing pair has been a varied one, with the likes of cult hit Blades of Glory standing alongside the successful but pretty naff 2022 movie Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Their next movie, filmed during the tail end of the pandemic-hit 2020, is a sci-fi comedy in which Hamilton star Anthony Ramos plays an asteroid miner who becomes trapped on an alien planet, connecting via radio with a crew member (Naomi Scott) who is trapped inside an escape pod.
Creature (24 February)
Asif Kapadia is best known as one of the UK's finest documentary filmmakers, winning awards and acclaim with films like Senna and Amy. His next project, though, is something entirely different. Created in connection with the English National Ballet and choreographed by Akram Khan, it's the tale of an outsider told in experimental fashion.
Cocaine Bear (24 February)
What would happen if a bear took cocaine? Well, in the real story that inspired Elizabeth Banks's latest comedy, the bear was found dead after ingesting cocaine from a drug runner's downed plane. But for the purposes of cinema — and viral infamy — this bear goes on a drug-fuelled rampage. The cast includes Keri Russell, Alden Ehrenreich and O'Shea Jackson Jr.
What's Love Got to Do with It? (24 February)
Indian director Shekhar Kapur helms this Britain-set romcom, starring Lily James and Shazad Latif — best known either for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance or as Clem Fandango in Toast of London, depending on your telly tastes. The duo play long-term friends, with James a documentary filmmaker who decides to follow Latif's character as he goes through the process of an arranged marriage.
65 (10 March)
Another movie that appeared on last year's list before being heavily delayed, this high-concept sci-fi stars Adam Driver and comes from the minds of Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — the writers behind A Quiet Place. Driver plays an astronaut whose ship is hit by an asteroid leaving him alone on a previously uncharted alien world except for a child. The nature of the alien threat is a pretty cool reveal, so feel free to avoid that trailer until you can actually experience the film in all of its glory.
Tetris (March TBC, Apple TV+)
Not a video game adaptation, but rather a movie about the invention of a video game, Tetris stars Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers — the publisher of Tetris. Directed by Stan & Ollie and Filth filmmaker Jon S. Baird, the movie has been described as something akin to The Social Network, following the tense Cold War legal wranglings that got in the way of Tetris's journey to becoming one of the most famous games of all time.
The Pope’s Exorcist (7 April)
Julius Avery, who directed the bloody Second World War zombie movie Overlord in 2018, returns to the horror genre with this based-on-truth chiller. Russell Crowe portrays Catholic priest Father Gabriele Amorth, who spent more than six decades as a priest and performed thousands of exorcisms. He was so proficient that he became Chief Exorcist of the Vatican, hence the movie's title. The real Father Amorth, who passed away in 2016, considered The Exorcist to be his favourite film, so he probably would've loved his own journey to the big screen.
Suzume (14 April)
Makoto Shinkai's one-two punch of Your Name in 2016 and Weathering With You in 2019 cemented him as arguably the biggest name in modern anime outside of Studio Ghibli. His new movie follows a teenage girl and a young man as they travel together in the hope of averting a series of terrible events in Japan after "doors of disaster" begin to open across the country.
The Mother (May TBC)
Kiwi filmmaker Niki Caro won attention with her Māori coming-of-age tale Whale Rider and was subsequently given the keys to the live-action Mulan by Disney. Her next film is another action outing for Jennifer Lopez — her second on this list. J-Lo gets the chance to go all Liam Neeson in this one, playing a former assassin who emerges from hiding in order to protect her estranged daughter from a selection of very bad people.
Elemental (6 June)
Pixar's next fiesta of big emotions and even bigger ideas comes courtesy of The Good Dinosaur director Peter Sohn — last seen as the voice of robot cat Sox in Lightyear. It is set in a world in which manifestations of the different elements — fire, water, air, land — all live together and focuses on the bond between a fire element and a water element, who are unable to touch each other. Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie provide the lead voices.
No Hard Feelings (23 June)
Jennifer Lawrence has been dipping her toe back into acting in recent years, appearing in last year's Netflix comedy Don't Look Up and leading the subdued drama Causeway on Apple TV+ more recently. She has also signed on to play the lead role in this coming-of-age drama, in which she plays a woman who answers a mother's Craiglist ad looking for a woman to date her son before he goes to college. Good Boys writer-director Gene Stupnitsky is behind the camera, and Lawrence is also producing.
Oppenheimer (21 July)
After his very public spat with Warner Bros over the HBO Max 2021 deal, Christopher Nolan has set up at Universal for Oppenheimer — his monochrome drama about the father of the atomic bomb. Cillian Murphy plays the man himself at the head of a huge ensemble cast, which includes Florence Pugh, Emily Blunt, Kenneth Branagh, Robert Downey Jr and Rami Malek. Nolan has recently claimed that he found a way to recreate a nuclear explosion for the film without CGI. That guy certainly can't be accused of lacking ambition.
Wish (24 November)
Frozen co-director Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn are at the helm of this film, timed for the centenary of the Walt Disney Company and focusing on the origin of the "wishing star" which is such a big part of fairy tale lore. Set in the magical kingdom of Rosas, the story follows West Side Story star and Oscar-winner Ariana DeBose as the voice of a young woman who is visited by a ball of cosmic energy when she turns to the skies for help in a moment of need.
Havoc (TBC 2023, Netflix)
We have Gareth Evans to thank for a lot of recent big screen action. The Welshman brought the Indonesian martial art pencak silat to Western audiences via his work with Iko Uwais in Merantau and The Raid, before raising the bar on telly action with the first series of Gangs of London. His next project is another action thriller, with Tom Hardy as a detective fighting his way through the underworld in the wake of a botched drug deal and the conspiracy around it.
Maestro (TBC 2023, Netflix)
Bradley Cooper has been at work on this biopic of conductor and West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein for many years, as his directorial follow-up to the most recent spin on A Star is Born. Cooper plays Bernstein over several decades of his life, with particular focus on his marriage to singer Felicia Montealegre, who will be played by Carey Mulligan. Expect this movie to be a big part of the discussion at the 2024 Oscars.
Heart of Stone (TBC 2023, Netflix)
Gal Gadot has become a reliable Hollywood action star in recent years, including in films like Red Notice and the Fast & Furious franchise as well as her role as Wonder Woman. In this Netflix thriller, she plays a CIA agent trying to defend a valuable asset for the agency. Jamie Dornan is also in the cast, with Wild Rose and The Aeronauts director Tom Harper behind the camera.