In continuing our fall preview, after highlighting the 25 best films we’ve already seen, today brings a look at the unknown. We’ve narrowed down 25 works with (mostly) 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.
See our list below, and return soon for our final preview: the festival premieres we’re most looking forward to.
25. Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel; Dec. 21)
Along with a good chance of earning the highly-patented title of Best Video Game Movie, Justin Kurzel’s (Snowtown, Macbeth) upcoming, massive-video-game-franchise-
24. Sully (Clint Eastwood; Sept. 9)
To a certain brand of cinephile, that static, silver Warner Bros. logo and thin, melancholy score is like coming home after a long day, regardless of however the final product turns out. Clint Eastwood follows American Sniper — a rather knotty, engrossing, and admirable film, in no small part because much of it’s fairly troubling – with Sully, the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s (a gray-haired Tom Hanks) miraculous landing on the Hudson and the unwanted attention that followed. More than being the first narrative feature shot almost entirely with (digital) IMAX cameras, Sully intrigues for how it might continue the director’s investigation of American exceptionalism’s many complications. And what’s this about the whole story fitting into 96 minutes? That should be something else to behold. – Nick N.
23. Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi; Dec. 25)
Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures tells the true story of a group of brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA during the mission to launch John Glenn into orbit. St. Vincent director Theodore Melfi hasn’t quite impressed us yet, but with this fascinating angle on the space race that clearly hasn’t been given enough of the spotlight yet, hopefully it’s a surprise later this season. Add in a supporting cast of Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell, and this is at least one of the year’s best ensembles. – Jordan R.
22. The Monster (Bryan Bertino; Nov. TBD)
After crafting one of the more effective horror features of the last decade with The Strangers, writer-director Bryan Bertino is back with The Monster. Starring Zoe Kazan and Ella Ballentine, it follows a mother and daughter trapped and tormented in a black forest by a screeching creature. Unfortunately, not a great deal else is yet known about the project, but with A24 backing in, that’s all we need to know to look forward to a hopefully frightful time at the movies. – Jordan R.
21. Miss Sloane (John Madden; Dec. 9)
Despite a deliciously evil supporting turn in Crimson Peak and being an integral part of The Martian‘s large ensemble, it’s been some time since we’ve seen Jessica Chastain in a lead role. Thankfully, that’ll arrive this fall as she stars in Miss Sloane, a new drama from John Madden (who reteams with the actress after The Debt) that follows her as a lobbyist in D.C. attempting to get a background-check bill through the U.S. Senate as she fights for gun control. Considering how prevalent and necessary an issue this is, we can’t imagine a better-timed release. – Jordan R.
20. The Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair; Sept. 23)
She broke out in 12 Years a Slave, but we actually haven’t seen Lupita Nyong’o onscreen since. Yes, she did motion-capture work for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book, but those hoping for a more substantial role from the actress will get as much this year. Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair has adapted Tim Crothers‘ book, based on his own article for ESPN, with Queen of Katwe, which follows the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who emerged from the slums of Kampala, Uganda and became a chess prodigy as a teenager. Shaping up to be an authentic, feel-good drama, it’ll premiere at TIFF soon. – Jordan R.
19. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Edward Zwick; Oct. 21)
While it didn’t reach his outings as Ethan Hunt, Jack Reacher‘s $200 million-plus gross was enough for Paramount to greenlight a sequel. As Christopher McQuarrie has now been put on Mission: Impossible duty (and doing a mighty fine job to boot), director Edward Zwick has stepped in to make the sequel. This time around, the adventure, based on Lee Child‘s 18th book, finds our lead and Cobie Smulders‘ new character on the run. As a major fan of the no-frills ’70s / ’80s vibe in the first film, we hope Zwick continues that here. – Jordan R.
18. A Monster Calls (J.A. Bayona; Dec. 23)
Sometimes you want to go to a movie just to feel something. Sometimes, that thing you want to feel is cathartic sadness. Judging just from its trailer — which has sent this writer’s wife into tears twice — A Monster Calls will be that tear-jerker hit of the fall. The film features a young boy dealing with the death of his mother through the help of a monster (voiced by Liam Neeson) who helps him feel a bit of control in this out-of-control world. The trailer is rife with emotionally fraught moments and beautifully loving bits of dialogue, and if the full movie reaches even a fraction of its emotional impact, audiences can expect to be in for an experience that won’t be easy to shake. – Brian R.
17. One More Time With Feeling (Andrew Dominik; Sept. 8)
Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly) is back this year, although not with a narrative feature. Rather, he’s reunited with Jesse James composer Nick Cave for One More Time With Feeling, a feature on the making of the Bad Seeds‘ sixteenth album, Skeleton Tree. After premiering at the Venice International Film Festival, fans of Cave should note the the film will screen worldwide for only one night, so you’ll want to get tickets sooner rather than later. – Jordan R.
16. The 13th (Ava DuVernay; Oct. 7)
For the first time ever, a non-fiction film will open the New York Film Festival, and the rest of us will thankfully be able to see it fairly soon after. Ava DuVernay‘s timely follow-up to Selma chronicles the history of racial inequality in the United States as it pertains to the prison system. It’ll arrive on Netflix and in limited theaters shortly after its premiere, where we imagine it will be a vital watch, particularly during this election year. – Jordan R.
15. Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson; Nov. 4)
At first glance, it seems ironic that a war movie about a soldier who refuses to kill is being helmed by Mel Gibson, someone who’s established himself as a creator of violent action cinema both in front of and behind the camera. Upon closer inspection, however, it becomes clear how the biographical Hacksaw Ridge aligns with Gibson’s directorial fascinations. The movie, like The Passion of the Christ, foregrounds one character’s faith-based commitment to nonviolence, and like both Passion and Braveheart, it appears to show how maintaining one’s principles in times of crisis can have tremendous and lasting impacts on the world. Of course, mawkishness is always a risk with films such as these, but with the supremely expressive Andrew Garfield playing the soldier and Gibson’s knack for shooting combat scenes guiding the film, Hacksaw Ridge radiates with promise. – Jonah J.
14. Fences (Denzel Washington; Dec. 25)
Coming together fairly quickly this year, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis have reprised roles that earned them Tony’s by leading a film adaptation of the Broadway play Fences. Washington directed the script from playwright August Wilson, which follows a former baseball player, now a garbageman in Pittsburgh, and the complicated relationships with his wife, son, and friends. If Washington and company can make the leap from stage to screen effectively, there’s little doubt this will be one of the year’s finest dramas. – Jordan R.
13. Gold (Stephen Gaghan; Dec. 25)
Syriana helmer Stephen Gaghan is finally back in the director’s chair with Gold. Led by Matthew McConaughey and Edgar Ramirez, the compelling story follows a geologist and prospector who venture into the Indonesian jungle where they start mining and a scandal erupts. The Weinstein Company curiously isn’t bringing this one to TIFF, but hopefully we see the first trailer soon for the film shot by none other than Robert Elswit and also starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, and Toby Kebbell. – Jordan R.
12. Rules Don’t Apply (Warren Beatty; Nov. 23)
Warren Beatty is finally returning to the director’s chair for the first time since 1998 with Rules Don’t Apply, a romantic period piece that the legendary talent also penned. He has assembled quite a cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Haley Bennett, Taissa Farmiga, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening, Lousie Linton, Oliver Platt, and Beatty in his first acting gig since 2001. The rub? An aspiring actress and her driver become entangled with the eccentric billionaire they both work for — who happens to be Howard Hughes. The trailer was a bit underwhelming, but let’s hope the legend continues his directorial streak here. – Mike M.
11. American Pastoral (Ewan McGregor; Oct. 21)
To the untrained eye, American Pastoral has all the makings of an at-best-admirable, more-likely-than-not-disposable awards drama, its status as such only complicated by the curiosity that comes with Ewan McGregor making his directorial debut. If you know what he’s debuting with, however, the story changes: a many-headed, Pulitzer-winning masterpiece by perhaps our greatest living author – ripe material for a film, maybe, but more likely something that doesn’t fit into 126 minutes. Where will McGregor’s efforts fall? I really don’t know, and it’s largely for this reason that I can’t wait to find out. – Nick N.
10. Allied (Robert Zemeckis; Nov. 23)
While it’s unfortunate that Robert Zemeckis‘ thrilling drama The Walk didn’t get its due last year, we thankfully won’t have to wait long for his next feature, which stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. The Steven Knight-scripted picture concerns a pair of killers whose mutual infatuation and eventual marriage — one that started on a mission to assassinate a Nazi — comes crumbling down when she’s revealed to be a German agent who he must kill. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl ends up being a part of the Third Reich — a story as old as World War II itself. – Jordan R.
9. Mascots (Christopher Guest; Oct. 13)
Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman director Christopher Guest is finally back to feature filmmaking for the first time in a decade with his new, Netflix-distributed comedy Mascots. Set in the world of competitive mascots, it will first premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and features Parker Posey, Bob Balaban, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Ed Begley Jr., and Fred Willard. Guest already directed one of the century’s best comedies, and this has the makings of being another. – Jordan R.
8. Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk (Ang Lee; Nov. 11)
One of the most promising films of the fall — and not just because it has the eclectic cast including Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, and Steve Martin — is Ang Lee‘s latest drama, which might push the boundaries of cinematic technology. The story of a teenage soldier who survives a battle in Iraq and is brought home for a victory lap before returning has been shot at 120 frames per second in 4K and native 3D, giving it unprecedented clarity for a feature film. After setting it for an NYFF premiere, Kent Jones said, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk astonished me, and it moved me deeply—in the grandest way, as a story of America in the years after the invasion of Iraq, and on the most intimate person-to-person wavelength.” – Jordan R.
7. Moonlight (Barry Jenkins; Oct. 21)
While there are a number of features we’ve been looking forward to all year long (and beyond) that will be premiering on the fall festival circuit, it’s genuinely thrilling when an up-and-coming voice gets their chance in the spotlight. If we were putting money down, we’d bet (based on the stunning first trailer) that the sleeper drama of the fall is Barry Jenkins‘ Moonlight, which is a three-part story spanning three time periods for a gay African-American man growing up in Miami. Set for a Toronto International Film Festival premiere, New York Film Festival screening, and October release by A24, this seems rather likely to be one of the fall’s essential dramas. – Jordan R.
6. 20th Century Women (Mike Mills; Dec. 21)
Mike Mills‘ Beginners marked something of a real surprise for yours truly, its blend of unusual conceits with specific emotional registers doing a good deal to match my own way of seeing the world and understanding those who I share it with. I’m thus left to wonder if his follow-up, 20th Century Women, will live up to that effect – or if it’ll even try. Heightening the anticipation is that little’s known about the project, outside its ’70s setting and who its ensemble cast comprises. (Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann.) The latter is promising and the former, like all else, remains up in the air, but if 20th Century Women ends up carrying even a trace of Beginners‘ impact, we – or perhaps just I – will be handed a stirring experience. – Nick N.
5. La La Land (Damien Chazelle; Dec. 2)
What was the last original musical you were excited for? Damien Chazelle seeks to overcome the apathy surrounding the genre in this original film centered on a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress. The final sequence of Whiplash was a good indication of how skillfully Chazelle can handle theatrical and musical sequences. Equally important: the young writer-director has attracted Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in lead roles, ensuring the film will be plenty charismatic — as evidenced in the first trailers. – Zade C.
4. Arrival (Denis Villeneuve; Nov. 11)
We critics often bemoan the lack of films made for adults nowadays. Stories that exist to serve as thoughtful entertainment, or at least mature entertainment — primarily for people out of high school — don’t really exist anymore. How lucky are we, then, that Denis Villeneuve is on his way with this hard science-fiction film to save the day. Centered on a linguist (Amy Adams) racing around the clock to decipher an alien language and discern their intent, Arrival promises to be a cerebral, emotionally and intellectually rigorous time at the movies. Thank God. – Brian R.
3. Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford; Nov. 18)
A Single Man was a film that seemed unheralded in its time and forgotten too soon. A movie whose beauty and style somehow managed to play up rather than drown out its emotional core, Tom Ford‘s directorial debut should have been the start of a fruitful directing career. It’s instead taken seven years for the fashion designer to bring us another picture. Still, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams being but two names in a photogenic and talented cast, one can only hope that Nocturnal Animals manages the same stylistic and emotional triumphs as Ford’s first effort. – Brian R.
2. Silence (Martin Scorsese; TBD)
Silence is coming out, right? The promise of a fall release means, at least to me, that Martin Scorsese‘s years-in-the-making (or decades) drama has never seemed quite so far off, and so the prospect of a properly executed passion project has never exactly felt this fine. Excitement always hangs in the air for another of the man’s projects; rarely is it accompanied by certain mystery. It’ll be comforting to know Scorsese’s conquered one of his long-desired dreams – as long as everything goes according to plan. – Nick N.
1. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (Terrence Malick; Oct. 7)
The quality and, until recently, sparseness of Terrence Malick’s directorial output has mythologized the filmmaker to the point where every new film of his is something of an event. Voyage of Time is no exception. That said, it does have the rarefied status of being Malick’s dream project, a vision forty-plus years in the making that aims to explore the past, present, and future of the universe and humanity’s place within it. In other words, Voyage of Time seems destined to be the ultimate Malick film, upping the ante in scope from his previous pictures. Where The Tree of Life framed a single midwestern family against the creation of the universe, Malick’s new film appears to cast the entire human race in the role of insignificant blip and chart the cosmos’ conclusion, in addition to their inception. To call this film ambitious would be the understatement of the century. – Jonah J.
We’re still curious when it comes to a number of titles that didn’t make the cut. The Light Between Oceans, Bleed For This, Blair Witch, Moana, Lion, and Blue Jay deserve honorable mentions. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will hopefully be a return to form for Tim Burton, while we hope The Magnificent Seven, Snowden, The Accountant, Morgan, Passengers, The Girl on the Train, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and Doctor Strange end up being better than expected.
Fans of Peter Berg–Mark Wahlberg collaborations will also be pleased to learn not one, but two arrive in the span of a few months with Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day. At the top of the blockbuster machine, there’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which everyone will be buying a ticket for regardless, so we thought it would be best not to waste the space. Lastly, it’s been suggested that Ben Affleck‘s Live By Night will sneak in by the end of the year, but we’re waiting on confirmation from WB on that one.