The Biggest Stories of 2023: Matthew Perry, Jonathan Majors, Barbenheimer & More

We count down the biggest pop culture stories of 2023, including the strikes, Barbenheimer, Jonathan Majors and Matthew Perry.

2023 was supposed to be an excellent year for movies. Now that people were no longer reluctant to return to the theatres due to COVID, the year was expected to be peppered with blockbusters, making this one of the highest-grossing years in memory. After all, there were Marvel movies, DC movies, new stars, and a pipeline of film that didn’t seem like it would dry up soon. Of course, things ended up a little different, with Hollywood brought to a standstill by strikes. At the same time, once influential franchises started to wane when pitted against an incredibly weary public hungry for something new. Indeed, it was a pretty dramatic year overall, so here at JoBlo, we’re counting down some of the biggest stories of the year.

james gunn, superman

10. James Gunn takes over the DCU:

The DCU has never matched up to Marvel regarding box office success, and many chalk this up to the fact that there was no creative visionary like Kevin Feige at the helm. WB tried to remedy the situation by hiring James Gunn to head up the new DCU, with him announcing an ambitious slate of movies that seemingly ends the run of all current DCU stars.

9. Scream 7 Cast upheaval:

One of the first big hits of 2023 was Scream VI, a film that proved the new cast, headed by Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega, was popular enough with fans to bring in big numbers at the box office. Scream 7, with a new director, Christopher Landon, at the helm, was expected to go right into production but, in a shocking move, star Melissa Barrera was fired due to social media comments critical of Israel that were deemed anti-semitic. Around this time, Jenna Ortega, who’s become a big star over the last year due to the success of her Netflix show Wednesday, also passed on the film, which has been left in limbo. The film is being retooled to focus on the legacy cast, which may include the return of Neve Campbell and Patrick Dempsey.

Perry Foundation

8. The Death of Matthew Perry:

Friends fans were shocked by the sudden death of Chandler himself, Matthew Perry, who had fought drug addiction for years but seemed to be on a healthy path forward. His death was one of several shocking ones this year, including Lance Reddick, Andre Braugher, Alan Arkin, Tina Turner, Angus Cloud, Michael Gambon, Tony Bennett, and many more.

Taylor Swift

7. Taylor Swift rules the world:

During the strike, almost every movie put out by a significant studio failed, to some extent, at the box office following the breakout success of Barbie and Oppenheimer. One exception was Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour movie, which grossed hundreds of millions, while the Tour itself was the concert ticket of the year everyone wanted but no one could get. Plus, she had hit records, grammy wins, and her relationship with Travis Kelce went ultra-viral, climaxing with her being named Time’s Person of the Year.

Jeremy Renner Instagram

6. Big stars show their mortality:

Two beloved stars, Jeremy Renner and Jamie Foxx, both had notable brushes with death this year, with Renner being run over by a snow-plow, while Foxx suffered a mystery illness that had him on the brink of extinction. Both men have started to remerge despite being left with permanent reminders of their brushes with death, although the way fans rallied around them and their determination to allow the public to see them as the mortals they are was inspiring.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Digital release date

5. Disney’s Very Bad Year:

2023 was Disney’s centennial and was supposed to be an excellent year for the company. After all, they had substantial franchise movies, MCU films, and even an Indiana Jones movie. With only a few exceptions, all of their films underperformed, while a few of them, including Wish, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and The Marvels, were all out flops. What happened? Many pointed at the company for spending too much energy on messaging rather than entertainment, with behind-the-scenes stories from Marvel depicting a company that had lost its way. It didn’t help that some of the messaging revolving around these movies was overly politicized, with many slamming West Side Story star Rachel Zegler for her comments about her upcoming Snow White remake that seemed to throw the legacy of the Disney classic it is based on under the bus because it was deemed no longer politically correct. This is the thinking many feel has made the company’s films too concerned with identity politics rather than pure entertainment. 

Jonathan Majors, London, domestic abuse

4. The Rise and Fall Of Jonathan Majors:

No movie star has ever had as swift a rise and dramatic a fall as Jonathan Majors. At the beginning of the year, he seemed destined for superstar status, with him kicking off a run as Kang in the MCU, co-starring in Creed III and getting Oscar buzz for his Sundance film Magazine Dreams. By the end of the year, he would be found guilty of assault and harassment. While waiting for sentencing, he was fired by Marvel, leaving him essentially unemployed for the foreseeable future. Even his formerly close colleague, Michael B. Jordan, who touted the pair as the next De Niro and Pacino, has seemingly kept his distance.

The Marvels, cameo, spoiler

3. Superhero Fatigue:

With the notable exception of Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, superhero movies mainly tanked this year. The Marvels and The Flash were big enough disasters that some even think the genre could be dead, but perhaps that’s premature.

SAG-AGTRA, strike, over

2. The Strikes:

Film production reached a standstill thanks to dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, which meant no movies or TV shows were filming for much of the year. While significant gains were made, the strike had a devastating effect on the livelihoods of some union members, with many saying the studios were cold-blooded in their refusal to negotiate. The immediate fall-out of the strike will likely be more apparent in 2024, with it set to be a light year for movies, as films are being delayed thanks to the filming shutdown.


1. Barbenheimer:

Let’s end things on an up note. Early in the year, everyone assumed Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer were on a delay collision course at the box office as they had the same release date. Rather than cancel each other out, the Barbenheimer phenomenon, sparked by the fact that both were good movies, drove each film to become gargantuan blockbusters, with many movie fans opting to do a double feature and see both on the same day. This was a much-needed piece of good news, as the dual failure of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, both of which were seated by the Christian movie Sound of Freedom at the box office, made Hollywood think the whole summer would be a write-off, and it almost was. 

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.