In continuing our fall preview, after highlighting the 30 best films we’ve already seen, today brings a look at the unknown. We’ve narrowed down 20 films with confirmed release dates that are coming over the next four months and have us intrigued. While some won’t show up until late December, a good amount will first premiere over the next few weeks at various film festivals, so check back for our reviews.
To note, we’re still curious about a number of titles that didn’t make the cut. Pan, Creed, The Night Before, In the Heart of the Sea and Krampus deserve honorable mentions. Black Mass, Everest, Joy and The Danish Girl show promise, but as their respective directors failed to impress with previous features, we’re a bit wary. Then there’s a handful of dramas (Truth, Stonewall, Truth, Burnt, The 33, Snowden, The Secret in Their Eyes, I Saw the Light, About Ray, Freeheld) that we’re not sure are capable of rising above the standard Oscar bait. Lastly, there’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which everyone will be buying a ticket for regardless, so we thought it would be best not to waste the space.
Check out our 20 most-anticipated films below and return soon for our final preview: the festival premieres we’re most looking forward to.
20. Our Brand is Crisis (David Gordon Green; October 30th)
Based on Rachel Boynton‘s documentary chronicling the involvement of James Carville‘s political consulting firm in the 2002 Bolivian presidential election, Our Brand Is Crisis marks a major step for director David Gordon Green, who’s had a string of eclectic choices throughout his career. It’s produced by George Clooney and starring Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton, and while we’re still unsure if this will be standard awards fare or something far more dynamic, consider us intrigued. All will be revealed soon, as it heads to TIFF for a premiere ahead of an October release. – Jordan R.
19. Bone Tomahawk (S. Craig Zahler; October 23rd)
With Furious 7 and a top pick on this list (spoilers!), it’s shaping up to be the year of Kurt Russell. His next project is looking to fly a bit more under the radar. Bone Tomahawk, which sees the actor return to the western, follows a quartet of men who set out to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers. Having come from the relatively unproven writer-director Craig Zahler, this has the makings of one of the fall’s sleeper surprises. Set to premiere at Fantastic Fest, it also stars Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, and Lili Simmons. – Jordan R.
18. By The Sea (Angelina Jolie; November 13th)
Angelina Jolie will assuredly get personal with her latest film, By the Sea, which she co-stars in and co-produces with her husband Brad Pitt, and is based on her original script. Curiously, this project emerged in May 2014 while her WWII drama Unbroken was getting primed to eventually bore audiences the following winter. But, unlike her two previous films, this one has the pull of featuring Jolie directing herself in a story about a couple trying to save their marriage, with the potential for a very intimate portrayal of enduring pain — something she expressed in previous projects, but without immediacy. Not for nothing, the film is also shot with mostly natural light by cinematographer Christian Berger (a regular Haneke collaborator) in the nation of Malta. – Nick A.
17. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy; November 6th)
Less than a year after the release of his fairy tale nightmare The Cobbler, writer-director Tom McCarthy returns to the silver screen with a much more promising drama, this concerning The Boston Globe’s investigation into sex abuse within the city’s archdiocese. Along with McCarthy’s name (whose failure with The Cobbler was bafflingly uncharacteristic), it boasts the likes of Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery, Liev Schreiber, and Stanley Tucci. Distributor Open Road’s October opening is very curious for awards-favorable attributes, especially with this time of year’s particular love for a gripping true story. – Nick A.
16. The Walk (Robert Zemeckis; September 30th)
2012’s uniformly excellent Flight — well, “uniformly excellent” if we’re discounting music cues — showed that Robert Zemeckis hasn’t lost an ounce of his talent; if anything, the director seemed awakened from years and years in the motion-capture realm, more alive to the possibilities of the camera than ever before. The Walk may very well prove to be a special-effects showcase first and narrative / character piece second — his long history of toying with new tools is one thing; the IMAX 3D presentation confirms it’s being sold on this angle — and, boy, does Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s French accent raise some questions, but a formally muscular heist movie that climaxes with high-wire work? This is exactly what the Oscar-season rush could use. – Nick N.
15. Trumbo (Jay Roach; November 6th)
Dalton Trumbo is a fascinating Hollywood fixture whose significance was almost lost in Hollywood history during the Red Scare, a victim of McCarthyism at its most ferocious and indignant. Director Jay Roach (HBO’s Recount, Game Change, and even The Campaign) throws his political weight behind this biopic about the writer, with a post-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston getting a rare time at the center of a story (where he probably won’t scream a quarter as much as he did in Argo and Godzilla). The film will also feature the likes of Elle Fanning, Alan Tudyk, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Louis C.K., and Michael Stuhlbarg. – Nick A.
14. The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn; November 25th)
This summer’s Inside Out proved that Pixar haven’t lost their magic touch. The question remains, however, if they can extend that level of quality to their upcoming projects. Before an onslaught of sequels, we’ll get another original work with The Good Dinosaur. Following an Apatosaurus named Arlo and his family in an alternate world, one where they were never destroyed by asteroids, it has a nearly wordless trailer hinting at a potentially intriguing execution that will hopefully carry over to the full film. – Jordan R.
13. Suffragette (Sarah Gavron; October 23rd)
While the deeply enjoyable Far From the Madding Crowd isn’t likely to put Carey Mulligan in any awards contention, we imagine things will prove different with the forthcoming Suffragette. Directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and given a prime October release date from Focus Features, the first preview sold a vital, emotionally rich drama. Mulligan leads, playing a foot soldier of the early feminist movement who quickly turns to violence to solve the issue, and its promising cast also includes Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, Romola Garai, Brendan Gleeson, and Ben Whishaw. – Jordan R.
12. Spectre (Sam Mendes; November 6th)
Sam Mendes, whose Oscar-friendly work I’ve never much taken to (save the oddball Jarhead), found a perfect outlet in Skyfall, which allowed him to foreground a skill for directing actors against a strongly conceived and, on the part of Roger Deakins, immaculately lensed spy tale. Trailers and the like give the impression that Spectre, its follow-up, follows closely behind in terms of scope and mood. Even if it wasn’t following up one of the franchise’s best entries, another Bond film that allows Daniel Craig to explore this character — which he’s already done as well as anyone who’s stepped into 007’s shoes — while cavorting around the globe, photographed by Hoyte van Hoytema, terrorized by Christoph Waltz, and seduced by Monica Bellucci and Léa Seydoux (oh, my!) on a secret mission is worth paying attention to. – Nick N.
11. Room (Lenny Abrahamson; October 16th)
After taking on the creative process with the Michael Fassbender-led Frank, director Lenny Abrahamson will head down a darker turn. Based on the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue, Room stars Brie Larson as a woman held captive with her child, inspired by the disturbing true story of Elisabeth Fritzl, an Austrian woman who finally escaped 24 years of captivity in 2008. Set for an October release from A24, following a TIFF debut, its first trailer sells quite the emotional-looking drama — hopefully with another fantastic leading performance from Larson, who greatly impressed in Short Term 12 just a few years back. – Jordan R.
10. Legend (Brian Helgeland; October 2nd)
The only thing better than one Tom Hardy performance is double the amount in the same film. Coming from writer-director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), Legend follows Hardy taking on the dual roles of twins Ron and Reggie Kray and their reign of crime in the 1960s, as told in John Pearson’s book The Profession of Violence. Also featuring Emily Browning, David Thewlis, Christopher Eccleston, Chazz Palminteri, Tara Fitzgerald, and Taron Egerton, it looks like an intense, well-shot drama and one of the fall’s must-sees. – Jordan R.
9. Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones; December 4th)
The book Hitchcock/Truffaut compiled an extensive conversation between two great auteurs. It has been something of a bible to me, and the impact of these two great artists meeting is also held in reverence by filmmakers around the world, from Jonathan Demme to Olivier Assayas. Kent Jones, equal parts film historian and filmmaker, has created a documentary that utilizes the audio recordings of the Hitchcock/Truffaut interviews and the plethora of visual material both directors generated. The best film documentaries continue the dialogue surrounding an artist and their work, tapping into that initial excitement of discovery. We’re eager to see what Jones and his roster of notable experts, including Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson, add to the mythos of cinematic treasures such as Vertigo, Psycho, Shadow of a Doubt, and many more. – Zade C.
8. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle; October 9th)
Steve Jobs boasts a prestigious group of collaborators playing to their respective strengths. There’s director Danny Boyle, who, in 127 Hours, succeeded in creating a visceral portrait of one man. There’s the film’s star, Michael Fassbender who seems like a perfect choice to capture Jobs’ unique blend of ego and brilliance. Finally, there’s the film’s screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, whose most celebrated film work came with 2010’s The Social Network. The drama, on paper, would seem like a return to the major themes and worlds of that wordy Sorkin-Facebook drama. How will these three distinct artists work together? Individually, it’s easy to speculate on their potential for Oscars. We’re hoping, however, that Boyle, Fassbender, and Sorkin have created a biopic as revolutionary as its titular character. – Zade C.
7. The Martian (Ridley Scott; October 2nd)
There is just nothing quite as cinematic as space travel. The concept brings up back to a time of adventure stories, when shelter was a matter of life or death, when help was always far away, and when aid wasn’t available at the end of a quick text. The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, is a kind of Robinson Crusoe for the space-faring set, and thus through premise alone is worthy of a great deal of anticipation. Given that the source material is a darkly humorous and endlessly inventive novel by Andy Weir, and that the star of this film is the winning and charismatic Matt Damon, it’s no stretch to say we’re as close as modern Hollywood can get to a sure thing. – Brian R.
6. Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro; October 16th)
At the very least, it will look pretty. I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, but just remember that this is being directed by Guillermo del Toro, so I mean it’ll be really pretty. Following the bombast of Pacific Rim, it is heartening to see del Toro move back towards a more personal story, one which will hopefully swing more towards the Pan’s Labyrinth side of things. As evidenced in that film, no one respects bizarre fiction and otherworldly creation as much as del Toro, so this Gothic romance has the potential to be something of a masterpiece. With a cadre of gifted actors (Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Tom Hiddleston) helping to bring his story to life, Crimson Peak should be utterly unlike anything else you will see this year. An opulent telling of an oft-maligned genre story with a legitimately A-list cast. And, hey, even if the characters are as one-dimensional as a Jaeger pilot, it will still look pretty. – Brian R.
5. The Revenant (Alejandro González Iñárritu; December 25th)
This movie, a story of betrayal and vengeance set in frontier country, was previously under development with John Hillcoat set to direct. This was fantastic news. One could be forgiven for being less than enthusiastic about the new director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, when he was first announced, but following his work on Birdman and that stellar trailer, it’s hard to doubt him now. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a man left for dead by his compatriots following a bear attack who miraculously survives his wounds and sets out to strike back at those who abandoned him. It’s an old-style western story starring one of our most passionate and, frankly, unpredictable actors, and directed by a man now proven hungry and ambitious beyond what one might have imagined. What’s not to love? – Brian R.
4. In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman; November 4th)
His Kickstarter campaign may not have had Zach Braff-levels of success, but fear not: Frederick Wiseman’s newest documentary will still be coming our way this fall. After back-to-back masterpieces these last two years with his detailed At Berkeley and National Gallery, the legendary director’s latest explores the specific New York City neighborhood, hopefully with the same level of introspection and breadth. After showings at Venice, TIFF, and NYFF, it’ll arrive in a limited theatrical release this November. – Jordan R.
3. Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg; October 16th)
Firmly entrenched in the Old Master stage of his career, Spielberg, America cinema’s preeminent historical storyteller, continues his run of epics with a career first: The Cold War. That decades-long conflict offers an almost endless amount of territories to explore, so consider me curious that he took interest in the legal battle to return a captured American pilot. Considerably adding to that interest is the screenwriting input of Joel and Ethan Coen — hopefully making more of an appearance than in their forgettable Gambit and Unbroken gigs. Some old-fashioned thrills and a peek behind the Iron Curtain will do just fine, but another Spielberg-Hanks pairing (to say nothing of the Spielberg-Kaminski union) has us expecting more than mere dramatization. – Nick N.
2. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga; October 16th)
Cary Fukunaga’s work on the first season of True Detective generated the largest following and critical acclaim of the young director’s career. For his next project, the story of a boy drawn into Africa’s horrific culture of child soldiers, Fukunaga has partnered with Netflix. The streaming service has enlisted notable directors (e.g. David Fincher and the Wachowskis) and celebrated showrunners (e.g. Jenji Kohan) to create great television, but perhaps Fukunaga, with Beasts of No Nation, is at the cusp of Netflix’s emergence as a curator of great movies. Its relevant subject matter and behind-the-camera talent are not the only enticing elements here, however. Idris Elba stars as a warlord named “Commandant,” and, based on the film’s harrowing trailer, it should be a welcomed switch from Elba’s insubstantial Marvel appearances to more serious work. – Zade C.
1. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino; December 25th)
If you, like myself, believe Quentin Tarantino is the best American director of his generation, his making a closed-quarters, 70mm-shot — and, just as curiously, 2.78-composed — Ennio Morricone-scored western thriller that mixes some of his oldest collaborators with a couple of enticing additions (Jennifer Jason Leigh and not-found-anywhere-in-marketing-materials Channing Tatum) is, for want of a more expressive term, attention-grabbing. Last year’s leaked screenplay was a wonderful piece of work — comic in the pitch-black sense, suggestive of an entire little world outside its cabin setting, and featuring a brilliant subversion of his flashback structure — that only faltered in its conclusion. Now that he’s supposedly changed that ending entirely and taken time to tighten it all up, the sky’s the limit. – Nick N.
See our complete fall 2015 preview.
What’s your most-anticipated film of the fall?