It’s been a pretty embarrassing summer at the movies—one where the big Hollywood studios sat us down in questionable chairs and flung handfuls of shit at our faces. King Arthur. Baywatch. The Mummy. Pirates of the Caribbean. Rough Night. Transformers. The Dark Tower. With the notable exceptions of Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, and War for the Planet of the Apes, worthwhile offerings were in short supply.
The occasional respite from the crap onslaught came courtesy of the indiewood world, which gave us South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho’s gastronomic adventure Okja; Edgar Wright’s stylish swerver Baby Driver; Kumail Nanjiani’s race relations romcom The Big Sick; and David Lowery’s affecting tone poem A Ghost Story.
And now that fall is upon us, there will be much more like this, as the big studios and mini-majors begin unspooling their Oscar bait fare. So without further ado, here are the most anticipated films hitting theaters (or Netflix) this fall season.
IT (Sept. 8)
While I was more excited for the original iteration of this Stephen King remake—to be directed by Cary Fukunaga and star Will Poulter—in a summer relatively devoid of scares, a good ol’ fashioned horror flick is a nice way to ring in the fall. This one is helmed by Andy Muschietti (Mama) and features Bill Skarsgard (younger brother of Alexander) as the demonic clown Pennywise, a shape-shifting presence stalking a group of children in the quaint suburb of Derry, Maine, during the summer of 1989. Think Stranger Things meets Halloween.
MOTHER! (Sept. 15)
Precious little is known about the latest from acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. What we do know is it stars the inimitable Jennifer Lawrence as a young woman whose peaceful life with her husband (Javier Bardem) at their rural abode is violently disrupted by the arrival of a curious older couple (Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris) who crash with them. This feels like a return to Black Swan psychological-thriller territory for Aronofsky, whose last film, the Biblical epic Noah, felt dour and uneven.
AMERICAN ASSASSIN (Sept. 15)
America, fuck yeah! That is the message of American Assassin, Michael Cuesta’s action-thriller about a twenty-something (Dylan O’Brien) who loses his fiancée during a terrorist attack at a tropical resort, and then seeks vengeance on those who killed her. After a spell of self-training, he’s recruited by the CIA (Sanaa Lathan) as a black ops agent and trained by a grizzled veteran (Michael Keaton) in the art of espionage. Soon, he’s embarking on a mission to track a mysterious international terrorist named Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who’s attempting to acquire a nuclear weapon in order to ignite a war in the Middle East.
BRAD’S STATUS (Sept. 15)
Ever since his pitch-black comedy Chuck & Buck, Mike White has been an exciting voice in cinema and television (see: HBO’s Enlightened). Here, he returns with his sophomore effort in the director’s chair, telling the story of Brad (Ben Stiller), a content father and husband in the suburbs of Sacramento. And yet, while showing his musical-prodigy son (Austin Abrams) around schools in Boston, and reconnecting with his former college classmates who’ve gone on to reach great professional heights, Brad begins to question just how satisfied he really is. The film also stars Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement, and Mike White.
FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER (Sept. 15)
Unfortunate pre-release press notwithstanding, the latest from Angelina Jolie-Filmmaker (Unbroken) is this adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir of the same name about a young girl’s journey during Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime. The five-year-old daughter of a high-ranking government official in Phnom Penh, Ung (played by Sareum Srey Moch) is forced to go into hiding after her father is killed by Pol Pot’s forces, eventually training as a child soldier. Jolie, who has an adopted son from Cambodia, hired local Cambodian actors and crew members, and the film is almost entirely in their native language of Khmer.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES (Sept. 22)
Given John McEnroe’s recent boneheaded comments about Serena Williams’ potential on the male tour and the fact that there is an admitted pussy-grabber in the White House, this dramedy about the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs couldn’t be more zeitgeisty. That it’s directed by the pair behind Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the title roles, and explores topics ranging from the gender pay gap to being a closeted gay athlete, only adds to it.
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (Sept. 22)
The church sequence in the first Kingsman, one that saw dapper Colin Firth dispatch a hundred or so evil rednecks with extreme prejudice, remains one of the best action scenes of the past several years. Director Matthew Vaughn and stars Taron Egerton, Mark Strong and Firth have returned for this supercharged 3D sequel that sees the Kingsman join forces with the Statesman (the U.S. branch) to take on The Golden Circle, a secret sect hell-bent on global domination (and led by Julianne Moore). The all-star cast includes Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, and Sir Elton John—playing himself.
THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE (Sept. 22)
Yup, it’s another Lego movie. And #branding aside, these films are—as far as kids’ movies go—pretty reliable fun. This go-around focuses on the martial arts characters of the Ninjago franchise, focusing on six teenagers who train in kung-fu in order to take on the evil Lord Garmadon, who seeks to rule Ninjago. The film marks the directorial debut of longtime animator Charlie Bean (The Powerpuff Girls Movie), and features the voice talents of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Kumail Nanjiani, Jackie Chan, Abbi Jacobson, and Fred Armisen.
STRONGER (Sept. 22)
Jake Gyllenhaal should have received Oscar nominations for his eccentric turns in Prisoners and Nightcrawler. Now, he’s decided to go the more Academy-traditional route to getting the nod, starring in this biopic of Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The film, directed by David Gordon Green, chronicles his journey to walking again and adjusting to his new life. It also stars Tatiana Maslany as Bauman’s girlfriend Erin Hurley as well as Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown as his mother and father.
AMERICAN MADE (Sept. 29)
There is no one better at movie-running than Tom Cruise, and chances are he does quite a bit of it in this ‘based on a true story’ crime saga. The film reunites Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman with star Cruise to tell the tale of Barry Seal (Cruise), a former airline pilot who ran missions for the CIA, then became a drug smuggler for the notorious Medellin Cartel in the ‘80s, before eventually turning into a DEA informant. The film also stars Sarah Wright, Domhnall Gleeson, Jesse Plemons, and Lola Kirke.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Oct. 6)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the impressive Canadian filmmaker behind Prisoners, Sicario, and last year’s Arrival, comes this 3D IMAX sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic. The year is 2049, and a new Blade Runner (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a replicant-related secret that leads him to the original Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford). The two must then team-up to take on the pending global threat. The film, lensed by the legendary Roger Deakins, also stars Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Mackenzie Davis, and Jared Leto as a villainous replicant producer.
THE FLORIDA PROJECT (Oct. 6)
In 2015, filmmaker Sean Baker immediately established himself as one of the most exciting voices in cinema with his avant-garde effort Tangerine, a thoroughly entrancing trans odyssey shot entirely on iPhones. His beautifully rendered, pastel-colored sophomore feature follows Moonee (newcomer Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a gifted six-year-old navigating a community of motel guests in Kissimmee, Florida. The film, which received raves out of Sundance, also stars Willem Dafoe as the motel owner, Bria Vinaite as Moonee’s mom, Caleb Landry Jones, and Macon Blair.
UNA (Oct. 6)
Directed by Aussie theatre helmer Benedict Andrews, this film adaptation of the hit Broadway play Blackbird sees Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn step into the roles played by Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels on stage. Mara stars as Una, a woman who one day confronts Ray (Mendelsohn) at his place of work about the illicit sexual relationship they had when she was 13 and he an adult neighbor and friend of her family’s. The two have it out over the statutory rape, as Una probes Ray’s motivations, desires, and guilt. The film also stars Riz Ahmed, Indira Varma, Tara Fitzgerald, and Tobias Menzies.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (Oct. 13)
The latest from British playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is this comedy-drama centered on a woman (Frances McDormand) who’s mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. It’s been months since her daughter’s murder in a small Missouri town and the police have no leads, so she decides to erect three billboards calling out the cops for their ineptitude, kicking up quite the storm in the process. The film also stars Woody Harrelson as the town sheriff, Sam Rockwell as a local cop, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, and Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea).
BREATHE (Oct. 13)
There is little that Andy Serkis, character actor par excellence via performance capture and live-action, can’t do. And now the man behind Gollum and Caesar, who served as second-unit director on the Hobbit prequels, will make his feature directorial debut with this period drama starring Andrew Garfield as the real-life Robin Cavendish, a man stricken with polio at 28, paralyzed from the neck down, and given only a few months to live. With the help of his loving wife (The Crown’s Claire Foy), he became a world-traveling advocate for the disabled. The film also stars Tom Hollander, Hugh Bonneville, and Stephen Mangan.
MARSHALL (Oct. 13)
Directed by House Party helmer—and former BET president—Reginald Hudlin, this autobiographical film stars biopic expert Chadwick Boseman (soon to be Black Panther) as a young Thurgood Marshall. In the years before WWII, well before he became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Marshall was a struggling lawyer who was dispatched by the NAACP to Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur (Sterling K. Brown) who was accused of rape and attempted murder by his wealthy socialite employer (Kate Hudson). There, Marshall teams up with Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad), an inexperienced Jewish lawyer, with the two going up against a hostile, conservative town and an iniquitous system. The film also stars Dan Stevens, James Cromwell, Jussie Smollett, and TLC’s Chilli.
THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (Oct. 13)
The latest from celebrated writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) also marks Adam Sandler’s return to dramatic territory, which he successfully delved into in the past in Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. Here, he stars as Danny Meyerowitz, member of a loose-knit Jewish family who are all reuniting in upstate New York in order to celebrate the artistic achievement of the patriarch, played by Dustin Hoffman. The film, which will be released by Netflix, earned positive reviews at Cannes, and also stars Emma Thompson, Grace Van Patten, Elizabeth Marvel, Candice Bergen, Adam Driver, and Sigourney Weaver (as herself).
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (Oct. 20)
Helmed by Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, who’s received Oscar nominations for his films Paradise Now and Omar, this adventure-romance stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers, a surgeon and a photojournalist, whose charter plane crashes high in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. The two survive, and must navigate a freezing, unforgiving terrain in order to get back to civilization—all the while developing feelings for one another. Written by Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Rogue One), the film also stars Beau Bridges and Dermot Mulroney.
ONLY THE BRAVE (Oct. 20)
Directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy), this action-drama stars Josh Brolin and Jeff Bridges as the leaders of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team of firefighters whose mission is to fight wildfires. Here, they do battle with the real-life Yarnell Hill Fire, a lightning-ignited wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, that eventually claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. The film also stars Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, James Badge Dale, Scott Haze, and Andie MacDowell.
THE SNOWMAN (Oct. 20)
No, this is not an adaptation of the celebrated children’s book but rather a British crime drama by Swedish filmmaker Tomas Alfredson, the gifted director of Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Michael Fassbender plays Det. Harry Hole, a cop investigating the mysterious disappearance of a woman whose colorful scarf was found wrapped around the neck of a snowman. The film’s talented cast also includes Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons, and Val Kilmer.
WONDERSTRUCK (Oct. 20)
Filmmaker Todd Haynes’s follow-up to the brilliant Carol is Wonderstuck. Adapted by author Brian Selznick from his 2011 novel of the same name, it centers on a deaf girl (Millicent Simmons) in 1927 New Jersey who escapes her home to see her idol, Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). The other part of the film is set in 1977 Minnesota and as young Ben (Oakes Fegley) embarks on a journey to New York after discovering a mysterious note following his mother’s death. The film also stars Michelle Williams, Amy Hargreaves, Cory Michael Smith, and Tom Noonan.
SUBURBICON (Oct. 27)
Adapted from a Coen Brothers script that’s been kicking around since the late-‘80s, the latest from George Clooney-Filmmaker is this dark satire juxtaposing the criminal doings of a white family (Matt Damon, Julianne Moore) with the arrival of an innocent black family next door in 1959 suburbia. While the presence of the black family sparks a racist mob, police are completely blind to the murder and mayhem occurring a stone’s throw away (see: white privilege). Clooney’s timely film is an impressive return to form (after clunker Monuments Men) and also stars Oscar Isaac, Noah Jupe, Karimah Westbrook, and Leith M. Burke.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (Oct. 27)
Not to be confused with A Tribe Called Quest’s recent—and final—album, this war drama marks the directorial debut of Jason Hall, who received an Oscar nod for penning the screenplay to American Sniper. The film follows a group of American soldiers who return from Iraq and struggle to adjust to normal life, haunted by PTSD. Miles Teller, Beulah Koale, Joe Cole, and Scott Haze star as the soldiers returning home, while Haley Bennett, Amy Schumer, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Kate Lyn Sheil portray their wives. This is Schumer’s first dramatic role.
THOR: RAGNAROK (Nov. 3)
Directed by acclaimed New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), this marks the third film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor trilogy and the last one for Loki’s Tom Hiddleston, who may receive a spectacular exit. In this star-studded superhero flick, the Norse God Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) join forces to take down the goddess Hela (Cate Blanchett), the first female supervillain in the MCU. The film also sees Idris Elba return as the Asgardian sentry Heimdall, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Jeff Goldblum as the hedonistic Grandmaster. Expect plenty of laughs, thanks to the guiding hand of Waititi.
LAST FLAG FLYING (Nov. 3)
This sequel to the 1973 Hal Ashby film The Last Detail, which starred Jack Nicholson as “Badass” Buddusky, a Navy man escorting a fellow seaman to prison for the crime of stealing forty bucks, tells the story of a trio of ex-Marines from the same unit who reunite when one of their sons is killed in action. The film is directed by the great Richard Linklater, who was robbed of several Oscars for Boyhood, and stars Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne as the aforementioned Marines.
A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS (Nov. 3)
Bad Moms was one of the most surprisingly hilarious films of 2016—and a huge hit, grossing $184 million worldwide on a $20 million budget. So naturally, they’ve decided to rush out a sequel, directed once again by Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, and bringing back the rowdy, hell-raising trio of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn, who stole every scene of the first installment. This time around, the moms rebel against the hell that is planning a family Christmas. Complicating matters is the arrival of their own mothers, played by Susan Sarandon, Christine Baranski, and Cheryl Hines (who seems way too young to play one of these women’s mothers).
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. (Nov. 3)
I mean, it’s Denzel Washington starring as a guy named Roman Israel. While that is surely worth the price of admission alone, filmmaker Dan Gilroy’s follow-up to the impressive Nightcrawler sees the incomparable Denzel play a liberal, fair-minded lawyer who takes it upon himself to clean up his corrupt law firm when he’s suddenly placed in charge. The film also stars Colin Farrell as a rival lawyer, Carmen Ejogo, Joseph David-Jones, and Shelley Hennig.
THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (Nov. 3)
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, whose surreal satire The Lobster was one of the very best movies of 2016, is returning just one year later with this drama about a teenager whose attempt to bring a gifted surgeon (Colin Farrell) and his wife (Nicole Kidman) into their family leads to some strange, unintended consequences. The film also stars Alicia Silverstone in a comeback role, Raffey Cassidy, Barry Keoghan, and The Night Of’s Bill Camp.
LBJ (Nov. 10)
The stark racial divide in America has naturally given way to a series of films exploring the tenure of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Southern politician who played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement. There was his supporting role in Selma, starring one in All the Way, and now LBJ, a biopic of Johnson featuring Woody Harrelson in the title role. The film, directed by Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men), follows Johnson from his early years all the way through to his passing of the Civil Rights Act, and also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird Johnson, Richard Jenkins, Bill Pullman, Kim Allen, C. Thomas Howell, and Jeffrey Donovan.
LADY BIRD (Nov. 10)
No, this has nothing to do with the previously mentioned Lady Bird Johnson. But it does serve as the directorial debut of actress Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote Francis Ha, and stars Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan as the titular Lady Bird—a teenage outcast at a Catholic high school in Sacramento negotiating the treacherous terrain of social strata, boys, and her tough-as-nails mom (Laurie Metcalf). The coming-of-age indie, which received raves out of Telluride, also stars Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothee Chalamet, and Lois Smith.
JUSTICE LEAGUE (Nov. 17)
The DC Extended Universe has a lot riding on this superhero team-up, essentially their version of The Avengers. It does reteam the people behind the abysmal Batman v Superman, screenwriter Chris Terrio (Argo) with director Zack Snyder, but early footage suggest a lighter tone than that dreadfully somber snoozefest. Here, Batman (Ben Affleck) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) assemble a team of superheroes—Superman (Henry Cavill), Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher)—to take on the villainous Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds). The film also features Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, J.K. Simmons as Commissioner Gordon, and more.
MUDBOUND (Nov. 17)
Exciting young filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) is back with this race relations drama. Based on the novel of the same name by Hillary Jordan, the 1946-set film stars Carey Mulligan as a young, city-bred wife who moves to a cotton farm in rural Mississippi with her older husband (Jason Clarke). There, she’s turned off by the racism and bigotry she encounters from her racist father-in-law (Jonathan Banks) against a black sharecropping family on their property (Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige). But hope soon arrives in her husband’s handsome younger brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and his pal Ronsel (Jason Mitchell), two World War II veterans who work on the farm and challenge its racist system. Mudbound was one of the best films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and will be released by Netflix (but it’s worth seeing on the big screen).
WONDER (Nov. 17)
Between Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, and Woody Allen’s upcoming Wonder Wheel, it’s a big year for films with “wonder” in the title. Add this heartstring-tugging drama, directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), about a young kid with a facial deformity (Room’s Jacob Tremblay) who struggles to fit in at an unforgiving new school, Beecher Prep. The film stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as the child’s understanding parents, as well as Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs as teachers sympathetic to his plight.
COCO (Nov. 22)
This Pixar 3D animated feature marks the long-awaited return of filmmaker Lee Unkrich, who last directed the excellent Toy Story 3. Inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos, this Mexico-set film follows Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy who becomes wrapped up in a centuries-old mystery that leads him on a journey of self-discovery. The film, which also features the voice talents of Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Renee Victor (an all-Latino cast), is another example of Disney’s renewed commitment to diversity, following The Princess and the Frog, Up, and Moana.
MOLLY’S GAME (Nov. 22)
Marking the feature directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, the award-winning screenwriter of The Social Network and The West Wing, this based-on-a-true-story drama centers on Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a retired world-class skier who runs an exclusive—and illegal—high-stakes poker game attracting Hollywood celebrities and superstar athletes (as well as the attention of the FBI). The film also stars Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Chris O’Dowd, Graham Greene, and Michael Cera.
DARKEST HOUR (Nov. 22)
Filmmaker Joe Wright (Atonement) is on the comeback trail after the disastrous fairy tale film Pan. First came his excellent episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, “Nosedive,” and now this war drama focusing on British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman under heavy prosthetics) leading the charge against Adolf Hitler and the Germans in the early days of World War II. The film, which also stars Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI, John Hurt as Neville Chamberlain, Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine Churchill, and Lily James as Elizabeth Nel, may be Gary Oldman’s best shot at winning the Oscar. Too bad it comes on the heels of John Lithgow’s brilliant turn as Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (Nov. 22)
The latest star-studded film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel (after the 1974 movie) is directed by Kenneth Branagh from a screenplay by Heroes scribe Michael Green, who’s become a hot commodity of late, co-writing the screenplays for Logan, Alien: Covenant, and Blade Runner: 2049. While onboard the long-distance train The Orient Express, a crotchety American man (Johnny Depp) is murdered, leading private detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) to investigate. It turns out that the man had quite a few enemies onboard. The film also stars Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Lucy Boynton, Tom Bateman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (Nov. 24)
Perhaps the most critically lauded film out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival was this coming of age drama from celebrated director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash). It tells the story of Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a Jewish teenager staying at his father’s Italian villa in the summer of 1983, and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a twenty-something Academic staying at their scenic abode. A passionate love affair soon develops between them, one that teaches Elio plenty about love, loss, and everything in between. Guadagnino’s film, written by James Ivory, is also said to boast an Oscar-worthy turn from Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio’s kind and considerate father.