By Riley Dauber
Summer 2023 marked a successful few months for movies, with so many titles coming out each week that it was hard to keep track. Some fell between the cracks, while others, thanks to big production companies or famous directors at the helm, became major talking points on social media and amid friend groups.
To make sure you did not miss any movies you wanted to see, here is a roundup of the major film releases from this past summer.
In the past few years, the hit film was most likely a sequel or a superhero flick. However, 2023 saw not one original film’s success, but two with the Barbenheimer double feature.
“Barbie,” directed by Greta Gerwig, and “Oppenheimer,” directed by Christopher Nolan, both released on July 21. The fact that the two films had the same release date led to a myriad of internet jokes and memes, with many moviegoers pledging to see both films on the same day.
“Barbie” stars Margot Robbie as the titular doll as she realizes not everything is perfect in Barbieland. When she starts having “irrepressible thoughts of death,” she learns that the human playing with her is upset and making her act this way. She travels to the real world with Ken (Ryan Gosling), and this trip changes the future of their world.
According to The Direct, the film had immense success at the box office, grossing over a billion dollars worldwide. “Barbie” is also the highest-grossing film with a female director as well as the highest-grossing film of the year.
On the other end of the spectrum, Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is a three-hour biopic starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb.
The film includes many of Nolan’s staples: a well-known cast, unique timelines, and impressive cinematography and sound design.
“Oppenheimer” grossed $700 million globally, and is the fourth-highest grossing film in Nolan’s filmography and of the year, according to Variety.
This summer also saw a return to R-rated comedies, a genre once popular in the 2000s with hits like “The Hangover” and “Bridesmaids.” Newer releases, however, are working to add more diversity and nuance to the age-old comedy tropes, according to The Wall Street Journal.
For example, while the girls’ trip premise at the center of “Joy Ride” may seem overdone, the film manages to discuss issues of identity thanks to the Asian-American leads.
Although “Joy Ride” did not perform well at the box office, grossing $14.4 million, the Jennifer Lawrence-centered comedy “No Hard Feelings” grossed $83 million, according to Comscore.
The film follows a down-on-her-luck Uber driver named Maddie, who answers a Craigslist ad from two parents looking for someone to date their inexperienced 19-year-old son before he starts college.
The age gap relationship may lead to some raised eyebrows, but “No Hard Feelings” is ultimately about finding oneself, moving on, and embracing change. The film is full of heart and plenty of laughs, including a pretty infamous fight on the beach.
This trend continued with the release of “Bottoms” on Aug. 25. The film follows two high school students starting a fight club for the other girls at school with the hopes of impressing their cheerleader crushes. Like the other comedies this summer, “Bottoms” focused on adding more diversity to the genre thanks to its two LGBTQ+ leads.
Reboots, Sequels, and Remakes
Many reboots, sequels, and remakes made their way to the big screen this summer – but did not see much success at the box office.
Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” was an enjoyable reboot of the animated classic, brought to life thanks to Halle Berry’s star turn as Ariel. The film grossed half a billion dollars at the box office, but failed to break even due to its large budget, according to The Numbers.
However, “The Little Mermaid” was not Disney’s only financial failure this summer. “Haunted Mansion” lost over $100 million, according to CBR. It does not help that the film came out July 28, a mere week after the “Barbenheimer” release.
“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” the fifth film in the franchise, failed to capture the magic of the original film and to break even at the box office, according to CBR.
Other sequels, like “Fast X,” “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” and “Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One,” underperformed at the box office and made little impact.
Animated sequels and reboots like “Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” introduced viewers to creative art styles reminiscent of comic books. The former is a stand-out amid the “Barbenheimer” craze, leaving many fans waiting for the sequel next year.
While “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were heavy hitters this summer, plenty of the aforementioned films became fan favorites. Some earlier releases are currently available to stream if you missed their theatrical debuts, but viewers may have to wait a bit longer to see titles like “The Little Mermaid,” “Barbie,” and “Oppenheimer” on the small screen.
Photo courtesy of Riley Dauber
Photo Caption: Social media users turned “Barbie’s” tagline into memes.