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50 Films to See This Fall

Written by on August 22, 2019 

Knives Out (Rian Johnson; Nov. 27)

After helming one of the most compelling films in the Star Wars series, before he jumps back into the franchise with his new trilogy, Rian Johnson was thankfully provided the time to deliver a new original film and it’s one of our most-anticipated of the fall. Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer, the first trailer wasn’t a knock-out, but here’s hoping for a Brothers Bloom-esque hard sell . – Jordan R.

Queen & Slim (Melina Matsoukas; Nov. 27)

After quite a major last few years with Get Out, Black Panther, Widows, and Sicario, Daniel Kaluuya is back this fall, leading Queen & Slim, scripted by Lena Waithe and marking Melina Matsoukas’ directorial debut. The Bonnie & Clyde-esque story follows a man (Kaluuya) and woman (newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith) on a first date who get stopped by a cop and kill him in self-defense, then go on the run. With Waithe also producing, she reteams with Matsoukas after directing some episodes of Master of None. Matsoukas–who also helmed some of the biggest music videos of the last few years for Beyoncé, Rihanna, and more–seems well-equipped to deliver one of the stand-outs of the fall. – Jordan R.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma; Dec. 6)

Héloïse bursts into the frame with her shoulders to the camera. She wears a long dress; it billows gently as she walks outside her house in 18th century Brittany and then flaps furiously as the walk turns into a run, her gracious figure thrust toward the cliffs and the ocean rumbling below–until the run stops, and in the time that lasts a hairsbreadth she turns her head back to the camera, smiles. It is the first time the luminous face of Adéle Haenel graces the screen in Céline Sciamma’s devastatingly beautiful Portrait of a Lady on Fire. And in a movie in which turning your head to look back acquires accrues a deeper, tragic meaning, it is a character-defining scene that thrums with the same spell-binding beauty of Denis Lavant’s last dance in Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. – Leonardo G. (full review)

In Fabric (Peter Strickland; Dec. 6)


In Fabric is a film that’s wholly retro, and not just in how writer/director (and emerging remix artist) Peter Strickland embraces ’70s Euro-horror tropes (and even judging by one commercial glimpsed on a television; a little bit of vaporwave). Rather, the director longs for a time before Amazon decimated the retail industry, one when a person’s hopes and desires hinged on a trip to that one certain shop. – Ethan V. (full review)

A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick; Dec. 13)

When Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl) glances skyward and calls for God to show him a sign, to guide him, what does he hear? The rumbling of a thunderstorm hovering atop the Alps surrounding his bucolic hometown of St Radegund; the sound of the wind caressing the wheat fields around the village; the voice of his wife Fani (Valerie Pachner) and their three little girls. And then, once World War II breaks out and jettisons him in a dim-light world of military prisons and court tribunals, it’s the sound of broken limbs and bodies thudding on floors; the echo of air raid sirens; the loud bang of gunshots. In a body of work infused with the question of faith, mankind’s distance and proximity to God has never felt as pressing a concern as it does in A Hidden Life, a period piece homing in on the real-life story of a man who refused to enlist for the Nazis, and paid the ultimate price for his defiance. – Rory O. (full review)

Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie; Dec. 13)

Following up their terrific Good Time (our #1 film of 2017), the brothers Safdie continue to evolve as filmmakers, working with larger budgets and talent while, we expect, maintaining the emotional honesty that has been a cornerstone of their films since The Pleasure of Being Robbed. Reteaming with A24, Uncut Gems is a crime drama starring Adam Sandler as a diamond district store owner whose life is turned upside down following a heist. With an impressive supporting cast including Judd Hirsch, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Eric Bogosian, as well as Kevin Garnett and The Weeknd in their first feature film roles, the Darius Khondji-shot Uncut Gems sounds like another must-see from two of the most exciting filmmakers working in American cinema today. – John F.

1917 (Sam Mendes; Dec. 25)

After spending nearly all of the decade dedicated to the world of Bond, Sam Mendes will close things out with a war film, his first since Jarhead. As the title suggests, 1917 will take on a different era, exploring the journey of soldiers in World War I. Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Andrew Scott, the Roger Deakins-shot film is rumored to be presented in one long take. – Jordan R.

Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton; Dec. 25)

After his break-out directorial debut Short Term 12, which featured some of the greatest early performances from today’s top stars, director Destin Daniel Cretton took a bit of a hit with The Glass Castle but he’s back in a big way. Before joining the Marvel universe with his Shang-Chi film, he’s helmed the biographical drama Just Mercy, which stars Michael B. Jordan as attorney Bryan Stevenson who represented Walter McMillian, a man in jail for murder who is out to prove his innocence. Set for a TIFF world premiere, it hopefully has the same emotional power of the director’s first film. – Jordan R.

Little Women (Greta Gerwig; Dec. 25)

Following her acclaimed solo directorial debut Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig has jumped into studio filmmaking with a new adaptation of Little Women. Starring in this take on the Louisa May Alcott novel is Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Meryl Streep, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper, and Abby Quinn. Following the delightful trailer–which clearly has Gerwig’s touch–we’re curious if this will land at a festival before launching wide on Christmas Day. – Jordan R.

Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu; Dec. 27)

From Escape from Alcatraz to Cool Hand Luke to The Shawshank Redemption, cinema is rich with not only prison films focused on the plight of the prisoner, but also depicting wardens in an evil light. Clemency, winner of the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, flips the script in both ways, both turning the spotlight on a warden and painting her in an empathetic, complicated light. Led by Alfre Woodard, she gives a riveting, emotional performance as the Bernadine Williams, a woman who is stuck between the demands of her grueling job and a disintegrating marriage, and can’t give her all to both. – Jordan R. (full review)

Honorable Mentions

Even with a packed slate of 50 anticipated films, there’s much more to look forward to. We’ll soon share a list of our most-anticipated festival premieres that currently don’t have a U.S. release date (from Olivier Assayas’ Wasp Network to Benedict Andrews’ Seberg to Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow), and there are also some unknowns that haven’t surfaced on any festival lineup yet, such as Todd Haynes’ Dry Run, Dee Rees’ The Last Thing He Wantedand Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy.

We are also holding out that one of our Sundance favorites, Hala, will launch when Apple+ goes live this fall. Netflix will also hopefully release Mati Diop’s Atlantics before the end of the year, but as is accustomed, we may only know a few days before it drops. A handful of films we liked to varying degrees also just missed the cut, including Chained for Life (9/11), Freaks (9/13), The Sound of Silence (9/13), Where’s My Roy Cohn? (9/20), The Day Shall Come (9/27), Greener Grass (10/18), Frankie (10/25), and Little Joe (12/6).

We also have a number of potentially promising studio offerings that we’ll have to see how they shake out, notably Roger Deakins’ first film of the year The Goldfinch (9/13), Hustlers (9/13), Joker (10/4), The Aeronauts (12/6), Bombshell (12/20), and J.J. Abrams’ return to Star Wars with The Rise of Skywalker (12/20). And a few more horror/fantasy films we’re eager to check out, including It: Chapter 2 (9/6), Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell (9/13), the Maika Monroe-led Villains (9/20), Paradise Hills (11/1), Doctor Sleep (11/8), and Black Christmas (12/13).

What films are you most looking forward to this fall?

Continue Reading: Our 20 Most-Anticipated 2019 Fall Festival Premieres

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