The summer is coming to an end and with it comes a number of films to have on your to-watch list. From some highly-anticipated auteur-driven films to dazzling animations to riveting documentaries to horror stand-outs, there’s a wide-ranging array of selections. Check out our picks to see below.

12. Ma Belle, My Beauty (Marion Hill)

A premiere at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Marion Hill’s acclaimed drama Ma Belle, My Beauty explores the nuances of a polyamorous relationship. John Fink said in his review, “In some relationships it’s easier to pick up where you left off, even after years of being apart. Others, such as those at the core of Marion Hill’s impressive, nuanced feature film debut Ma Belle, My Beauty—contain more heartbreak and baggage. Screening in Sundance’s NEXT category, Hill’s picture navigates uncomfortable truths with perspective and lyrical emotional honestly as Lane (Hannah Pepper) re-enters the life of former lover Bertie (Idalla Johnson) at the request of her husband Fred (Lucien Guignard).”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 20)

11. The Night House (David Bruckner)

Before premiering her directorial debut at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the impressive black-and-white drama Passing, Rebecca Hall led a horror feature at last year’s festival that will now finally be arriving this month. The Night House, directed by David Bruckner (who helmed The Ritual and contributed to V/H/S and Southbound) follows Hall’s character who is reeling from the unexpected death of her husband and retreats to their lakeside home, but all is not as it seems. Matt Cipolla said in his Sundance review, “Somewhere between stretches of deep pain are specks of insightful, if unavoidable, humor. It’s a ghost story and a drama, a mystery, and a thriller. It’s not a particularly novel starting point, but The Night House moves slow enough—and has just enough self-awareness—to get by for the first half.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 20)

10. Searching for Mr. Rugoff (Ira Deutchman)

An icon of cinema culture in the 1960s and 1970s, the energetic, imaginative Donald S. Rugoff ran the theater chain and film distribution company Cinema 5, which backed landmark arthouse movies like Putney Swope, The Sorrow and the Pity, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Harlan County U.S.A. His story is now being captured in a new documentary from indie film producer and distributor Ira Deutchman, who worked under Rugoff. John Fink said in his review, “Searching for Mr. Rugoff paints a vibrant picture of a specific era of moviegoing in New York City, in particular uptown, where movie palaces like the Paris, Beckman, Paramount, Sutton, and Cinema 1 & 2 flourished with top-notch film product. His theaters were higher-end when compared to the venues owned by Nick Nicolaou, the exhibitor who starred in Abel Ferrara’s documentary The Projectionist from earlier this year.”

Where to Watch: Theaters and Virtual Cinemas (Aug. 13)

9. Candyman (Nia DaCosta)

It wouldn’t be the late summer without at least a few notable horror films and, along with the aforementioned The Night House, Nia DaCosta’s Candyman sequel will finally arrive after pandemic delays. Starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, and Colman Domingo, as well as the original film’s Tony Todd and Vanessa Estelle Williams, the trailers thus far have heavily (and understandably) displayed producer Jordan Peele’s influence, but here’s hoping DaCosta charts her own distinct path with this frightening-looking slasher.

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 27)

8. Ema (Pablo Larraín)

Before his Kristen Stewart-led Princess Diana drama Spencer arrives later this year, Pablo Larraín’s stylish relationship/dance drama Ema will finally arrive stateside. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Movies have been named after far less interesting forces than the protagonist of Ema. Played with unblinking gravitas by the Chilean television actress Mariana Di Girólamo (a remarkable find), Ema is a contemporary dancer who stalks the neon lit streets of the Chilean port city of Valparaíso in track bottoms, cropped leopard-print tops, and slicked back peroxide blonde hair. She also has a propensity for arson. In the film she leaves her partner Gaston–who is the choreographer of her dance troupe (and also maybe gay)–in order to dance to Reggaeton hits on a rundown tarmac football pitch. The film is utterly infatuated with her.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 13) and VOD (Sept. 14)

7. CODA (Sian Heder)

There isn’t a beat of Siân Heder’s Coda––the major Sundance winner following the coming-of-age of the only hearing girl in a deaf family––that is unexpected, making it all the more impressive just how affecting the experience is. Michael Frank said in his review, “With big warmth and bigger care, Coda overcomes its tropes and somewhat formulaic nature to produce a heartfelt tale of family, wrapped in a coating of love. In that way, it might be the ideal film to start one of the world’s biggest festivals during a seemingly never-ending pandemic, one that splinters families as well as hopes and dreams of child and parent alike.”

Where to Watch: Theaters and Apple TV+ (Aug. 13)

6. The Viewing Booth (Ra’anan Alexandrowicz)

First premiering back in 2019, one of the most acclaimed documentaries of the last few years is now finally arriving this month. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “[Ra’anan Alexandrowicz] began it as an exercise to see how different people view the same non-fiction footage through their own personal lens of identity. He found seven students with an interest in Israel that were willing to be filmed while screening a selection of YouTube videos he hand-picked as representative of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians where it concerns the occupied territories. Twenty were uploaded by sources with obvious pro-Israeli military ties and twenty others were uploaded by organizations like B’Tselem in pursuit of documenting human rights violations taking place in Jerusalem. How would these co-eds react to each? How would they be impacted by the content? Could their positions be shifted?”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 6) and BBC Reel (Aug. 18)

5. Isabella (Matías Piñeiro)

Matías Piñeiro’s beautifully crafted filmography gets another playful, warm expansion with Isabella, which arrives this month following stops at Berlinale and NYFF. Carlos Aguilar said in his review, “Women from Shakespeare’s oeuvre find themselves reincarnated in modern-day South America through the recent works of Argentine director Matías Piñeiro (Hermia & HelenaThe Princess of France, Viola), which operate with non-linear structures concentrated on the intersection between the professional and intimate lives of actresses or aspiring artists. His unassumingly sumptuous new feature Isabella–which channels the central sister-brother dilemma in the British author’s Measure for Measure–examines two women’s unexpressed self-doubt, their aversion to risk, and conflicted career aspirations in an initially puzzling but ultimately rewarding fragmented narrative.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 27)

4. Cryptozoo (Dash Shaw)

If one is looking for some originality in their animation offerings, look no further than the latest hypnotic, bizarre creation from Dash Shaw. Juan Barquin said in their Sundance review, “The current state of American animated cinema is more than a little disappointing; Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, and more regurgitate the same formula and offer nothing new but a juxtaposition of cartoon designs and hyper-realistic imagery; animation for adults is all too rare. When something like Dash Shaw and Jane Samborski’s Cryptozoo comes along, it’s easy to recognize as one of the most gorgeous works of American animation in ages.”

Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (August 20)

3. Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (Hideaki Anno)

Already proving to be a hit in Japan following a release earlier this year, the final film in the Rebuild of Evangelion series is finally arriving stateside this month. Directed by Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time clocks in at an epic 2.5-plus hours and we’ll have much more soon from resident Evangelion expert Eli Friedberg. In the meantime, for a primer, read his feature on the first film in the series here.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (Aug. 13)

2. Days (Tsai Ming-liang)

While the wait for Tsai Ming-liang’s first feature in quite some time has been a long one––with Berlinale audiences last year being one of the few to get the opportunity to see it in theaters––Grasshopper Film has thankfully waited until cinemas here have reopened before rolling out the masterful Days. The meditative minimalist drama is an immensely affecting look at the lives of two men (played by Tsai regular Lee Kang-sheng and newcomer Kang Anong Houngheuangsy) as they go about their daily lives and eventually form a tender connection. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Like much of the director’s work, Days shifts between loneliness and tenderness; the spiritual and the physical. His decision to forego the subtitles heightens that disparity; it also feels in keeping with the film’s Babelian allusions–something the director accentuates further with a cacophonous sound design (both in rural and urban settings).”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 13)

1. Annette (Leos Carax)

It’s no surprise our most-anticipated of the year (and last year) is our top pick to see this month. Leos Carax’s long-awaited return with the Sparks-penned and -scored Annette has proven to be as divisive as one might expect, and we’re thankful the Cannes Best Director-winning musical concoction will get a big screen run before arriving on Amazon. Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Held over from last year, Annette was chosen to reopen Cannes as the first big premiere to grace the festival after suffering its longest hiatus since the Second World War. That kind of billing and hype almost demanded a sugar rush, yet Carax has delivered something gloriously gnarled and uncomfortable: a bludgeoning rock opera that takes aim at the entertainment industry and the dregs of toxic masculinity; that flourishes just as it drips with self-loathing; and that gestures toward such far-flung places as Dadaism, A Star is Born, Pinocchio, and even the director’s own life.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (Aug. 6) and Amazon Prime (Aug. 20)

Honorable Mentions

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