It’s fall film festival season: aka the madness begins. It’s the season of Oscar players, adult dramas, and cool, left-of-field, auteur-driven arthouse and indie films. What was considered to be one of the best fall film festival seasons in ages has, so far, lived up to the immense hype. The Venice Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival have already kicked off so you can read reviews about Alfonso Cuaron‘s “Roma,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” “Bradley Cooper‘s “A Star Is Born,” “Suspiria” with Dakota Johnson, Jason Reitman‘s “The Front Runner,” the Coen Brothers‘ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and many more. But now, it’s time for the Toronto International Film Festival to shine.
55 Must-See Films: The 2018 Fall Movie Preview
Many of the aforementioned titles will be playing TIFF too (minus the Coens and “Suspiria”) and those are big titles you’ll obviously want to catch up on, but we wanted to mostly spotlight films we haven’t heard from yet. And it’s a really eclectic festival, per usual, even including a few horror surprises like “Halloween” and a big genre movie in “The Predator.” So, without further ado, our TIFF preview: 22 films must-see films you’ll want to try and catch in Toronto.
READ MORE: Venice Film Festival Preview: 20 Most Anticipated Movies
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
Cast: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry, Dave Franco, Ed Skrein, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal
Synopsis: A woman in Harlem desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child.
What You Need to Know: If fate continues to work in his favor, Barry Jenkins may go down as one of the most iconic filmmakers of his era. Although Jenkins previously helmed another film before his powerful Best Picture recipient — “Medicine for Melancholy” was shot on a budget of $13,000 — “Moonlight” established the Miami-born filmmaker as a rising talent to keep an eye out for in the coming years. And his latest project appears to continue that narrative. Based on the 1974 novel written by James Baldwin, “If Beale Street Could Talk” is sure to find Jenkins returning to the meditative pacing and thematic exploration of the struggles and complexities within the African-American community. Additionally, given the subject matter, ‘Beale Street’ could prove to be a timely response to the current political state in America while also functioning as one of the more artistically daring releases of the fall season — and hopefully garner some rightfully deserved Oscar buzz along the way.
Release Date: November 30 — Jonathan Christian
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Mia Goth, Juliette Binoche
Synopsis: A father and his daughter struggle to survive in deep space where they live in isolation.
What You Need to Know: Robert Pattinson is starring in a Claire Denis-directed sci-fi drama about alternative energies, human experimentation, and space criminals? Even if the movie turns out to be horrible — the chances of this happening are considerably low… right? — the concepts outlined in the plot sound positively genius. “High Life” will be Denis’ first venture into science fiction, as the French filmmaker is best known for her dramatic work, specifically the universally acclaimed “Beau Travail.” Surprisingly, the film has been a passion project of the director’s for nearly two decades, as Denis told Indiewire that she had originally envisioned Vincent Gallo and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role before ultimately deciding to offer the leading role to Pattinson. Cerebral arthouse sci-fi sounds appetizing on any day, but “High Life,” in theory, holds the individual elements to a possible masterpiece. Let’s hope Denis can deliver on the hype.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution — JC
“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”
Cast: Kit Harrington, Thandie Newton, Jacob Tremblay
Synopsis: A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces the written correspondence he shared with him, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives.
What You Need to Know: “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” is the first English-language film with a star-studded cast, and the pressure is on for filmmaker Xavier Dolan, coming off the heels of his first real disappointment in his short yet prolific career with “It’s Always the End of the World.” That being said, Dolan also directed “Mommy,” “Laurence Anyways,” and “Tom at the Farm” so the concern, stemming from the long post-production time or Jessica Chastain’s character being cut, one blunder shouldn’t be enough to ruin any excitement for this film. Known for his unburdened vibrancy and an ability to make the film’s heart the central focus point, allowing our connections to the characters to feel immediate.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution– Ally Johnson
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Steve Carrell, Maura Tierney
Synopsis: Based on two highly-successful memoirs, the film chronicles the relationship between a father and son, as the latter struggles with addiction.
What You Need to Know: There’s so much at play here that could turn out wildly successful. Timothée Chalamet is hot off the heels of his incendiary, star-making performance in “Call Me By Your Name,” while Steve Carrell, when making an appearance is more dramatic fare, does well when the roles are reactionary, rather than being the driving force. Based on a book written by Carrell’s character, “Beautiful Boy” goes beyond your standard awards season weepy with director Felix Van Groeningen at the helm. Having directed the soul-wrenching “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” he is no stranger to heavier subjects and with this raw material at his disposal, it’s safe to wager a success unless it veers off into a totally different direction than what we’re imagining.
Release Date: October 12th – AJ
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson
Synopsis: After their husbands are killed, four widows decide to finish the heist started by their spouses.
What You Need to Know: To be completely honest, “Widows” looks so perfect on paper that it’s almost unfair to the remainder of the films premiering at TIFF this year. Think of it like opening presents on Christmas morning, but each subsequent gift you open gets better and better. A new Steve McQueen movie? Awesome. Gillian Flynn collaborated on the script and Hans Zimmer will compose the soundtrack? Alright, stop teasing. Wait, you added Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Brian Tyree Henry and Daniel Kaluuya to the cast? If you listen very closely, you will actually hear the sound of thousands of film fanatics sighing in ecstasy. With any luck, “Widows” will hopefully stand as one of the fall season’s must-see releases for both cinephiles and general audiences alike.
Release Date: November 16 — JC
“The Land Of Steady Habits”
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Connie Britton, Thomas Mann
Synopsis: Anders Hill (Mendelsohn) retires from his finance job and leaves his wife Helene (Falco) in an attempt to re-discover himself.
What You Need To Know: Ben Mendelsohn may be Hollywood’s go-to bad guy since he’s played sinister figures in films like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and the upcoming reboot/remake/whatever of “Robin Hood.” But in the upcoming film “The Land Of Steady Habits,” where he plays a middle-aged man dissatisfied with his life’s direction and tries to start anew, he relievingly gets to demonstrate his softer and vulnerable side. In an interview with Vanity Fair, director Nicole Holofcener spoke about how she recognized the soulfulness present in his acting ability when casting him as the film’s lead. Whether this steadily working character actor will get his due on the Oscar front remains to be seen since it’s a September release. But the fact that it’s playing at TIFF, an awards campaign pit stop, hints that Mendelsohn and the film may end up somewhere in the conversation.
Release Date: September 14 — Matt St.Clair
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone
Synopsis: When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer.
What You Need to Know: Featuring strong talent behind the camera, including director Marielle Heller of “Diary of a Teenage Girl” acclaim and TIFF staple Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said” “The Lands of Steady Habits“) co-writing the script with Jeff Whitty, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” would be of interest no matter the subject matter. This film, based on a true story, stars Melissa McCarthy who, despite recent box office woes, remains one of the most recognizable talents in the industry. Given McCarthy’s ability to provide nuance to characters that may feel broad in less skilled hands, the film provides an opportunity for the acclaim she once received when she burst onto the scene in her Oscar-nominated “Bridesmaids” role. Additionally, it has been three long years since we have had the privilege of a Heller-directed movie. Hopefully the talent behind, and in front of, the camera reach levels we have seen in the past.
Release Date: October 28 – Karl Schleider
Cast: Roman Kolinka, Aarshi Banerjee, Suzan Anbeh
Synopsis: The film follows a 30-year-old man named Gabriel, a French war reporter who was taken to hostage in Syria and then heads to India after months in captivity.
What You Need to Know: Mia Hansen-Løve has quickly established herself as one of the finest talents working today despite failing to amass a huge following. However, her fans are dedicated and know films such as “Goodbye to First Love,” “Eden” and “Things to Come” were modern masterclasses in sprawling character studies. “Maya” seemingly follow suits with regular contributor Roman Kolinka filling the leading role this time after playing supporting characters in “Eden” and “Things to Come.” With every project, Hansen-Løve manages to surprise us by taking similar themes of love, old and new, and finding a story that services it while also, simultaneously, keeping it fresh. Hansen-Løve is one of most humanistic directors working today.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution — AJ
“White Boy Rick”
Cast: Richie Merritt, Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bruce Dern, Jonathan Majors, Bel Powley, Piper Laurie
Synopsis: The film weaves the infamous rise and fall of Detroit crime legend-turned-informant Ricky Wershe Jr., a.k.a. White Boy Rick.
What You Need to Know: “‘71” director Yann Demange could factor into the big 007 director discussion here soon with Danny Boyle’s recent departure. Until then, let’s see if his Motor City-set crime drama hoists the same white-knuckled stress fest as “‘71” put on display a few years ago. The trailer sizzles with that Scorsese-patented, locale-based crime charm and Demange’s relentless pacing. Supporting player McConaughey, in particular, is beginning to rustle up a bit of awards talk, so keep a keen eye on this one as it hits Toronto. The McConaissance seems to have cooled a bit after its mid-decade explosion, but the actor continues to take inspired roles. Maybe this, October’s Hitchcock-y “Serenity,” and next spring’s Harmony Korine effort “The Beach Bum” will give the McConaissance its second wind. Either way, it’s a thrill to have Demange back and building on the promise we saw in that 2014 debut.
Release Date: September 14 — Cory Woodroof
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Will Patton, Virginia Gardner, Andi Matichak
Synopsis: Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers.
What You Need to Know: “Halloween” seems a bit out of place standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the majority of the films included on the TIFF lineup. Nevertheless, its inclusion may be an indication that David Gordon Green believes in the project’s merits enough to toss it out onto the esteemed festival circuit. As yet another entry into an already haggard franchise, the forthcoming slasher flick is unlikely to dissuade naysayers but may possess enough gruesome nostalgia to charm longtime horror geeks. Luckily for both parties, Green is an eclectic enough director to keep things interesting — “George Washington,” “Pineapple Express,” and “Stronger” are all included on the filmmaker’s portfolio — and the fact that Danny McBride co-wrote the script suggests there is more to the movie than meets the eye. Likewise, with John Carpenter returning to compose an original score and Jamie Lee Curtis praising the film as both empowering and socially relevant, “Halloween” may offer an entertainingly brutal return to form for the series.
Release Date: October 19 — JC
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown, Jacob Tremblay, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Yvonne Strahovski
Synopsis: Tremblay somehow summons a horde of Predators to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where his dad and a team of veterans and other government officials try to take on the otherworldly human hunters.
What You Need to Know: Shane Black returns to the click-click-boom alien horror franchise to hopefully give it his patented shine. His somewhat self-aware work on “Iron Man 3” grows in esteem as time goes on (oh, stop complaining, the big third act reveal in that is awesome), and one wonders if he’ll slam the pedal to the meta-metal on the franchise that helped launch his career. The addition of “bigger, badder” Predators feels like a clever Trojan horse for something far more interesting to be said for how Hollywood revamps these age-old series; Black’s wit perfect for a few gentle jabs at the familiarity factory. Even if it’s just a straight-up sequel, Black’s writing paired with that eclectic cast is enough to raise your excitement.
Release Date: September 14 — CW
Cast: Julianne Moore, Michael Cera, Holland Taylor, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, John Turturro, Tyson Ritter
Synopsis: A free-spirited woman in her 50s seeks out love at L.A. dance clubs.
What You Need To Know: Based on the critically acclaimed Chilean film “Gloria,” Sebastián Lelio returns to write and direct the American version of his breakthrough film. Lelio has been stunning audiences with his other captivating work, most recently “A Fantastic Woman” (Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film this past year) as well as “Disobedience,” both nearly unanimously loved by critics. With a track record like this, it is of little surprise that A24 has recently acquired the film ahead of its debut at the Toronto Film Festival. In a statement, Lelio said, “I really admire the films that A24 has championed. The company is strong and daring, which I think matches beautifully ‘Gloria Bell’s’ attitude about life.”
Release Date: Spring 2019 — Martine Olivier
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe
Synopsis: Jared is the son of a small-town Baptist pastor who gets outed to his parents at age 19. He’s soon faced with an ultimatum — attend a gay conversion therapy program or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith.
What You Need to Know: As “Boy Erased” makes its debut at this year’s Telluride Film Festival, it would seem many are already drawing the comparisons to another gay conversion therapy film from 2018, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post.” A shame, considering the only similarities are paper thin. Only the second feature film he’s directed, Joel Edgerton takes a sharp turn here from his last thriller “The Gift” with another based on true events adaptation. Lucas Hedges is quickly defining himself as one the ones to watch of his generation while Russell Crowe and especially Nicole Kidman nearly always deliver. Our critic who saw it in Telluride said “…Kidman often carries the movie in these sequences. She subtly conveys the gnawing pain of a mother who is increasingly unwilling to stand by and let her son be mistreated.” [Our Review]
Release Date: November 2nd— AJ
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany
Synopsis: As a young cop, Erin Bell went undercover to infiltrate a gang in the California desert — with tragic results. When the leader of that gang re-emerges, Bell must work her way back through the remaining members while confronting her own demons.
What You Need to Know: Karyn Kusama has delivered one breakout film after another and still has yet to see the fruits of that success. From the gritty “Girlfight” to the purposefully playful and wicked “Jennifer’s Body” to the genuinely unnerving “The Invitation,” Kusama has mastered jumping from one genre to another with ease. With “Destroyer” it would seem she’s molding a number of genres together, with a synopsis vague enough to have us instantly intrigued by the moment the film starts. According to our critic, Kidman is a knockout and Sebastian Stan and Tatiana Maslany are welcome additions into the fold. [Our Review]
Release Date: December 25 via Annapura Pictures — AJ
Cast: Chris Pine, Aaron Taylor–Johnson, Florence Pugh
Synopsis: After being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce is forced into exile by the English and leads a band of outlaws to help him reclaim the throne.
What You Need to Know: What looks to be one of Netflix’s biggest productions to date, “Outlaw King” casts an impressive and seemingly impenetrable glow with only its first, engaging trailer. Reteaming with his “Hell or High Water” star Chris Pine, director David Mackenzie has managed to build an eclectic career for himself in just the past few years. “Hell or High Water” was a meditative, Western heist film, “Perfect Sense” a horrifically deranged romance, and “Starred Up” a raw and intimated look into the Irish prison system. “Outlaw King” continues to flip the script with the tone being decidedly old school “epic” but with more blood. Pine leads and we’re excited to see what he does, considering he did his best work ever with the filmmaker, but we’re almost more excited to see what Pugh will do having left us gobsmacked following last years “Lady Macbeth.”
Release Date: November 9 via Netflix — AJ
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Amber Heard, Cara Delevingne, Dan Stevens, Agyness Deyn, Ashley Benson
Synopsis: A self-destructive punk rocker struggles with sobriety while trying to recapture the creative inspiration that led her band to success.
What You Need to Know: Over the course of his five — soon to be six — film career, one recurring theme unites all of Alex Ross Perry’s work: he does not write likable characters. Although the majority of writers tend to create characters that audiences will relate to in some way, Perry pens quick-witted narcissists, snarky sociopaths, and over-privileged brats. “It’s just always about people at their worst.” Perry stated during a discussion about his film “Queen of Earth,” which also stars Elisabeth Moss. “Not that they’re the worst [people]. It’s just the part of their lives that I want to find them in is the point at which they are really at an ebb.” Considering that Perry’s newest feature centers on a self-destructive punk rocker, “Her Smell” seems set on continuing the director’s examination of humans at their least amiable. Expect a healthy serving of sardonic irony, sharp dialogue, and deeply flawed individuals.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution — JC
“Hotel By the River”
Cast: Joo-Bong Ki, Min-hee Kim, Hae-hyo Kwon
Synopsis: This Korean film follows a middle-aged poet who summons his two sons to a waterside inn when he thinks he may die soon.
What You Need to Know: Coming off the warm reception of its premiere at the Locarno Film Festival, “Hotel By the River” is the second feature film of 2018 by prolific Korean director Hong Sang-soo. Peaking with the acclaim of “Right Now, Wrong Then” in 2016, Hong has remained a strong international voice for quiet stories about art, human connections, and our mortality. Cinematographer Kim Hyung-koo once again works with Hong, providing the film a crisp black-and-white palette for his tale told in two parallel, and sometimes intersecting, strands. The parallel plotlines feature relatable themes around facing your own mortality and around facing your life after losing love.
Release Date: October 6 – KS
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston
Synopsis: First-time director Jonah Hill takes the coming-of-age story, slaps some sick wheels on it and rides it through the mid-’90s.
What You Need to Know: After a wonderful year of skateboard-based tales of youth, featuring the underrated “Skate Kitchen,” Hill makes his directorial debut with “mid90s,” a film that looks like “Boyhood” meets “Lords of Dogtown.” Hill’s sensibilities appear to be quite reserved and lingering, making the Richard Linklater comparisons apt. We’ve not got too many ’90s nostalgia pieces just yet (though, rest assuredly, they’re coming), so this one could be special and a forerunner for a new slice of coming-of-age stories. Suljic made quite an indent in last fall’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” and here, he gets center stage (or, should we say, prime hang time). Hedges is also building up to quite a fall between this and festival titles “Boy Erased” and “Ben is Back.”
Release Date: October 19— CW
“Hold the Dark”
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, Riley Keough, James Badge Dale, Macon Blair, James Bloor
Synopsis: Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier returns with a look at a tracker who investigates disappearances and a gnarly pack of wolves in Alaska.
What You Need to Know: After the one-two punch of “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room,” Saulnier is establishing himself as one of the striking American auteurs of the decade; his vision rooted in those grimy little corners of Americana where the best and worst of us duke it out under the greenery and rust. “Hold the Dark” looks to be a bit more expansive and austere, as the director fields his best cast yet. It’ll be a bummer for those that don’t get to see this one in the Toronto run because Magnus Nordenhof Jønck’s lensing of those unforgiving Alaskan landscapes looks like a left hook to the senses. No matter, this has to be one of the most potential-laden titles of the fall.
Release Date: September 28 via Netflix — CW
Cast: Jamie Bell, Frank Grillo, James Badge Dale, Margaret Qualley
Synopsis: Money hangs in the balance as two fighters prepare to go at it, bare knuckles-style.
What You Need to Know: Tim Sutton has quietly been building a heck of a resume in independent cinema, with his Aurora shooting-based 2017 film “Dark Night” an overwhelming display of what he’s capable of. He’s back with what appears to be a loose adaptation of the acclaimed 2013 short story-driven novel of the same name. The longline reads this as “No Country for Old Men” meets “Fight Club,” which is certainly a comparison, though we get shades of a nastier version of “Warrior” here as well. Bell turned in a strong performance last fall in the so-so biopic “Only Film Stars Live in Liverpool,” so it’ll be curious if this is finally the vehicle that grants his unique talents a wider audience, and if Sutton’s eye is able to translate into bigger projects.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution — CW
“Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy”
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, Laura Dern, Jim Sturgess, Courtney Love
Synopsis: A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.
What You Need To Know: “Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy” is the newest film from director Justin Kelly who was also the creative force behind the very controversial “I Am Michael” as well as “King Cobra.” This film covers the true story of successful author Laura Albert and her faux literary persona JT Leroy. Albert enlisted her sister-in-law, Savannah Knoop, to start masquerading as the writer who was taking Hollywood and the literary world by storm. The film makes for a spellbinding retelling of the impact of gender, identity and defining what is or is not ‘real.’ What began as a pen name evolved into so much more, particularly when the truth inevitably comes out.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution — MO
Cast: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill, Julian Barrett, Steve Oram, Gwendoline Christie, Fatma Mohamed
Synopsis: A surge of misfortunes afflicts customers who come into contact with a bewitched dress at an eerie department store.
What You Need To Know: Director Peter Strickland, known for outré, cinematically fetishistic films like “Berberian Sound System” and “The Duke Of Burgundy,” is, as the kids say, back on his shit with something that sounds haunting, beguiling and as usual, bizarre and weird ass. Strickland’s out-there, psychedelic scores are always a treat too (in the past using Broadcast and Cat’s Eyes) and this time taps experimental, electronic outfit Cavern of Anti-Matter— founded by Stereolab’s Tim Gane— for the musical chores. If it’s anything like is anything like Strickland’s previous films it’s going to be wonderfully strange and extravagant.
Release Date: Awaiting Distribution – Rodrigo Perez
Trust us, there’s plenty more. The just-announced “A Private War” by acclaimed documentarian Matthew Heineman starring Rosamund Pike in his first narrative feature; Peter Farrelly‘s “Green Book” with Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen; Dan Fogelman‘s “Life Itself” which features a large ensemble cast including Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac; Zhang Yimou‘s “Shadow“; George Tillman Jr.’s “The Hate You Give“; Jafar Panahi‘s “3 Faces“; Paolo Sorrentino‘s “Lorro“; Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 11/9“; Kim Nguyen’s ” The Hummingbird Project.”
More: Paul Greengrass‘ “22 July“; Sam Taylor-Johnson‘s “A Million Little Pieces” starring husband Aaron Taylor-Johnson; Peter Hedges’ “Ben Is Back” with Julia Roberts and his son Lucas Hedges; Neil Jordan‘s “Greta” with Chloe Moretz-Grace; Anthony Maras’ “Hotel Mumbai“; Thomas Vinterberg’s “Kursk” starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Léa Seydoux, and Colin Firth; Max Minghella‘s directorial debut “Teen Spirit” with Elle Fanning; “Tell It To The Bees” featuring Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger; Amma Asante‘s already-generating-controversy “Where Hands Touch” with rising star Amandla Stenberg and dozens and dozens more.
As mentioned, this is not really including all the major films that already premiered at the Venice Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival (click on those links for all our coverage); films like Natalie Portman’s “Vox Lux,” “The Old Man & The Gun” with Robert Redford‘s last performance, Jacques Audiard‘s “The Sisters Brothers” with the stacked cast of Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed and many more. Happy TIFF-ing out there and stay safe, fed, and hydrated as you run from film to film to catch all these riches. The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6-16. Stay tuned for a mountain of coverage.
Check out all our coverage from the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival here.