New DC and Marvel movies, a little film called The Last Jedi, and a lot of Oscar hopefuls.
Summer is over, and with it we’re kicking the fall movie season into high gear. For film buffs it’s a great time of year, when not only do some of the year’s biggest blockbusters come out, but also more high-minded fare vying for awards recognition. To help you sort through it all, we’ve put together fifteen of the top films to be paying attention to this season.
Judging only by the trailers, this long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece definitely looks beautiful. Arrival and Sicario director Denis Villeneuve takes the reigns for Blade Runner 2049, with Ryan Gosling starring and Harrison Ford returning to the role of Deckard. Details of the plot are scarce, but word from early screenings is extremely positive, so get your body ready—and make sure you go to the bathroom before the movie starts, as it’s almost three hours long.
In case you’re looking for something smaller than Blade Runner, opening in limited release the same weekend is The Florida Project, and it’s easily one of the best films of 2017. Greg the Bunny creator and Tangerine director Sean Baker follows up his shot-on-an-iPhone indie hit with this lush 35mm film about a strip of low-cost motels near Disney World in Orlando, and the young kids who live there. It’s a raucous, hilarious, devastating movie, with incredible performances from its young cast, and features Willem Dafoe’s best work in years.
What is there to say, really, about a new Marvel movie? Either you’re in on the franchise or you’re not. But in the case of Thor: Ragnarok, there are a few elements that might attract even the most Marvel-agnostic among us. First is the fact that the film is shifting tone right into comedy, with the trailer giving a great hint of the humor to come. But perhaps the biggest draw is director Taika Waititi, the New Zealand director behind the hilarious What We Do in the Shadows and the heartwarming Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Oh, and of course there’s Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, who’s basically the co-star of the movie. What more do you want?
The Audience Choice-winner at the Toronto International Film Festival also marks the return of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths director Martin McDonagh, and what a wonderful return it is. Frances McDormand stars as a woman whose daughter was brutally raped and murdered, who decides to plaster three billboards with a message to police who have failed to solve the case, causing the town to virtually explode. McDormand is excellent in the film, as is Sam Rockwell, neither of whom have been given this great a chance to shine in several years.
There’s a lot riding on Justice League. Never mind its own troubled production, with Joss Whedon taking over directing duties from Zack Snyder. This is the film that has to prove Wonder Woman wasn’t just a welcome fluke in the DC Extended Universe of films. The trailers have been mildly promising, but given how much the film has likely changed over the last few months of shooting, it’s a real gamble whether all the setup will pay off for WB in their big superhero crossover event.
Pixar has had a difficult time of late. Cars 3 wasn’t the success they’d hoped for. Finding Dory was well-received and made plenty of money, but didn’t exactly set the world on fire. And does anyone even remember The Good Dinosaur? With Coco, Pixar hopes that their original foray into Latin culture and Day of the Dead mythology will bring audiences rushing back. From the looks of it, this might be a hit for the animation studio, and one that will once again have kids enamored and their parents sobbing in the aisles.
Joe Wright’s new film about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s first month in office, contending with the Nazi invasion of Europe and the evacuation of Dunkirk, looks to be a big Oscar contender. If not for the film itself, which is at best a standard Oscar-style period biopic in the vein of The King’s Speech, then for Gary Oldman’s genuinely electric turn as Churchill. The only real problem for Darkest Hour is that it got beaten to the punch by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.
An Aaron Sorkin film is always a big event, but this time things are a little different. No, it’s not that Molly’s Game, which stars Jessica Chastain, tells the true story of the woman who ran the world’s most high-stakes poker game for years. The big deal here is that for the first time on the big screen Sorkin is directing it himself. Early word from film festivals is that for Sorkin fans, this is as entertaining a film as he’s ever made. And for Sorkin haters? Well, you’ve got to see it to hate on it, so he’s got you buying a ticket either way.
This year’s most sumptuous drama. Directed by A Bigger Splash’s Luca Gaudagnino from a script by James Ivory (yes, that James Ivory), and based on the novel by André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name tells the story of a teenager, Elio, who has a romantic affair with his father’s 24-year-old student Oliver over one gorgeous summer in Italy. Timothée Chalamet stars as Elio, and Armie Hammer is Oliver, and the two are outrageously good in the film. It’s the kind of film that will leave you crying and feeling great about life and love all at the same time.
One of the year’s funniest films just happens to be about one of the worst films ever made. The Disaster Artist tells the story of the making of Tommy Wiseau’s infamously terrible The Room. James Franco directs and stars as the mysterious, strangely accented and wildly eccentric Wiseau, with brother Dave Franco starring as Wiseau’s friend and The Room co-star Greg Sestero. The Disaster Artist had the midnight audience at TIFF rolling on the floor, and most agree that this is probably James Franco’s best and funniest acting work in a very long time.
A film about Tonya Harding, starring Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan, and directed by Lars and the Real Girl’s Craig Gillespie sounds like something that should not have worked. But throw in a the delightful Allison Janney, a faux-documentary style, and Rashomon-like conflicting perspectives, and you’ve got yourself a crowd-pleasing hit. Festival audiences got a huge kick out of the film, coming away with perhaps a much more sympathetic view of Harding than anyone could have predicted.
Guillermo del Toro is back with a new dark fairy tale, this time about a mute woman who falls for a sea creature being held in a secret military facility. Sally Hawkins stars in the fantasy romance, with Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins filling out the human cast. Frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones (not to be confused with Twin Peaks: The Return’s Dougie Jones) stars as the merman. The film is imaginative, with beautiful production and cinematography, and a story that will send your heart aflutter.
Rian Johnson is following up his first three films—Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper—with another small indie film you may have heard about. It’s called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it stars up-and-comer Daisy Ridley as a young girl with special gifts, teaming up with legendary actor Mark Hamill to learn how to master her abilities so she can help her friends survive a difficult period in their lives. This small character drama also features John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, and the late Carrie Fisher in one of her final performances.
Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in Steven Spielberg’s new film about The Washington Post and the legal 1970s battle to protect the right to publish the infamous Pentagon Papers. Hanks plays legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee, and Streep is the paper’s publisher Kay Graham. Spielberg only started shooting the film late in the spring, and it’s all set to come out in time for Christmas—and Oscar season, of course. The last time he pulled a move that fast was in 2005 with Munich, and that film is a masterpiece, so cross your fingers and hope that magic strikes again.
Few things get a movie fan more excited than the prospect of new Paul Thomas Anderson film, especially one starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Not much is known about the film, except its release date. Even the title hasn’t been officially announced, though it is believed to be called Phantom Thread. The film is reportedly set in the world of 1950s British fashion, and apparently Day-Lewis spent a lot of time learning the fashion designing ropes. Oh, and the actor has said the film will be his last before retiring from acting. Who knows if he’s serious, but in case he is, you definitely won’t want to miss it on the big screen.