Now that the summer is cooling down, we’re entering perhaps the best time of year for cinephiles, with a variety of festivals — some of which will hold premieres of our most-anticipated 2016 features — gearing up. As we do each year, after highlighting the best films offered thus far, we’ve set out to provide a comprehensive preview of the fall titles that should be on your radar, and we’ll first take a look at selections whose quality we can attest to. Ranging from acclaimed debuts at Sundance, Cannes, and more, we’ve rounded up 25 titles that will arrive from September to December (in the U.S.) and are all well worth seeking out.

As a note, these didn’t make the cut, but you can see our reviews at the links: White Girl (9/2), Other People (9/9), London Road (9/9), Goat (9/23), Sand Storm (9/28), Do Not Resist (9/30), The Birth of a Nation (10/7), Desierto (10/14), Little Sister (10/14), Fire at Sea (10/21), In a Vally of Violence (10/21), King Cobra (10/21), Gimme Danger (10/28), Christine (October TBD), Evolution (11/25), Tank 432 (November TBD), and The Eyes of My Mother (12/2).

Klown Forever (Mikkel Nørgaard; Sept. 2)

Klown Forever

Those familiar with the off-kilter comedic duo behind the Danish TV series Klown (or Klovn as it is known in Denmark) — which spurned one of the most hilarious and inappropriate feature films of recent years — will know exactly what type of humor to expect from their sequel Klovn Forever. Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen star essentially as parodies of themselves in this Curb Your Enthusiasm-style comedy, combining mundane issues from their personal lives with some extremely outlandish situations. They push the boundaries of what is considered appropriate with their off kilter brand of humor, falling into categories that are intentionally offensive — such as misogyny and even racism. But therein lies the appeal: in these playful antics, here considered nonchalant, do we as an audience find humor in how outrageous and disrespectful they can be. – Raffi A. (full review)

Cameraperson (Kirsten Johnson; Sept. 9)

cameraperson kirsten johnson

Kirsten Johnson has been a cinematographer and / or camera operator on documentary films for 20 years. This has taken her all over the world and led her to meet all kinds of people. She’s been in Bosnia, interviewing survivors of the genocide. She’s observed Nigerian midwives in action. She watched Edward Snowden deliver his revelations about NSA surveillance practices to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. She has over 60 camerawork-related credits to her name on IMDb, and she’s not slowing down any time soon. Cameraperson is her self-described “memoir,” an album of her life as expressed through her life’s work. Dan S. (full review)

Author: The JT Leroy Story (Jeff Feuerzeig; Sept. 9)

Author The JT Leroy Story

Author: The JT LeRoy Story relives the literary hoax of the early aughts, the truly weird and out of control tale of JT LeRoy. An allegedly gender-fluid HIV positive son of a West Virginia truck stop hooker, he rose to the heights of indie stardom befriending the likes of Courtney Love, Shirley Manson, Lou Reed, Michael Pitt, Billy Corgan and filmmakers Gus Van Saint and Asia Argento (both would “adapt” works by LeRoy). An anonymous experiment originally conducted by Laura Albert, the myth grows out of control when she hires Savannah Knoop, her sister-in-law, as an avatar. The real Laura Albert had been described by media accounts as a Brooklyn housewife, but here director Jeff Feuerzeig dives deeper. – John F. (full review)

Operation Avalanche (Matt Johnson; Sept. 16)

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For all the criticism the found footage genre gets, like many a well-worn structure, there is still room to build. Operation Avalanche, from Matt Johnson and Josh Boles (The Dirties), aims to do just that and succeeds, for the most part. In the late 60s, four young C.I.A. agents convince their superiors to send them undercover at NASA, posing as a documentary film crew. Soon they learn that the mission to the moon is in jeopardy of pushing past 1969, thus faltering on JFK’s famed promise. Led by the ambitious Matt (Johnson), the “film crew” conspires to fake the moon landing. – Dan M. (full review)

Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn; Sept. 23)


Writer/director Stephen Dunn’s feature debut Closet Monster cares little about convention to tell the story of Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup) growing up with a psychological revulsion to his sexual urges, all thanks to an extremely disturbing event witnessed as a child. This prologue glimpse at his youth (played by Jack Fulton) is a mash-up of tough coming-of-age-dramatics and a dark-edged imaginative whimsy that intrigues to draw you closer. It will be divisive with an idyllic world’s caring father (Aaron Abrams‘ Peter) “pushing” dreams into his son’s head via a balloon, a talking hamster named Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), and the horrific teenage assault of a homosexual with a piece of rebar in a cemetery. But this tumultuous roller coaster is worth you sticking around. – Jared M. (full review)

American Honey (Andrea Arnold; Sept. 30)

American Honey

European directors have often faltered when crossing the Atlantic. Billy Wilder and Wim Wenders found things to say where Paolo Sorrentino could not. American Honey is certainly the former. Based on a 2007 article from the New York Times, it’s a backwater American road movie directed by an Englishwoman, Andrea Arnold, and shot by Irishman Robbie Ryan. We spot a few cowboys and gas stations and even the Grand Canyon, but it’s nothing to do with any of that. It’s about America (duh) but it’s also about friendship and money and learning to look out for yourself, and that primal connection young people make between music and identity. It’s visually astonishing and often devastating, too. This might be the freshest film about young people in America since Larry Clark’s Kids from 1995. – Rory O. (full review)

Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari; Oct. 7)

Under the Shadow 1

Cinema is often a space for abstract, subconscious expressions that require airing. Under The Shadow is an inspired psychological thriller from Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari that effectively delivers the thrills expected, and more. Here, the horror is both personal and natural. It’s a theme found amongst a few world cinema selections at Sundance this year, notably the cancer drama A Good Wife, which also uses the landscape of the war torn Bosnia as an emotional theme. – John F. (full review)

Newtown (Kim A. Snyder; Oct. 7)

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When the worst horror imaginable happens to your community, how do you emotionally rebuild? How do you embrace your neighbor, knowing the pain that’s seared into their soul? How does one come to a place of resolution, if ever? With Newtown, director Kim A. Snyder takes a humanistic approach in exploring this recovery in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in United States history, which left 26 people, including 20 children, dead. – Jordan R. (full review)

The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking; Oct. 7)

The Greasy Strangler

If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it? By the same token, if a midnight movie premieres on VOD or screens at an empty AMC multiplex at 2PM, is it still a midnight movie? Is one required to be drunk, stoned, or half asleep to enjoy The Greasy Strangler? I’d say no, but being with the right audience and in the right state of mind certainly helps. From its title you sort of know what you’re getting into and director Jim Hosking delivers the goods. Uproariously and often disturbingly funny, the concept, like Yoga Hosers, sounds like it was conceived at random. – John F. (full review)

Tower (Keith Maitland; Oct. 12)

Tower 2

Utilizing an engaging mix of newly filmed footage rotoscoped à la Waking Life, archival materials, and interviews, Tower employs a verbatim style to capture the harrowing events of August 1, 1966, in which a sniper opened fire at the University of Texas, killing 16 and wounding 32 others. Almost never referring to the shooter by name, director Keith Maitland captures the terror of the day told through newsreel footage and animated sections, following several key figures of the drama, including a young pregnant undergrad Claire Wilson, her unborn baby, and her boyfriend, Tom Eckman, who were the first to lose their lives that day. – John F. (full review)

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt; Oct. 14)

Certain Women 10

The cinema of Kelly Reichardt lives in quiet, tender observations with deeply rooted characters and location. Even when adding a thriller element as with her last feature, the overlooked Night Moves, her style is never compromised. Her latest feature, Certain Women, is a loosely connected three-part drama adapted from the short stories of Maile Meloy. It’s perhaps the purest distillation of her sensibilities yet as she patiently explores the longing for human connection in a world where men too often get prioritized. – Jordan R. full review)

Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-qiang (Kevin Macdonald; Oct. 14)

Sky Ladder 2

Using gunpowder and sky as his canvas, Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s extraordinary statements on environmentalism, capitalism and humanity do require a large screen to absorb. An intimate yet occasionally grand biography of Cai, director Kevin MacDonald finds a slight balance between the past and present, crafting a film that’s part documentation of the work and part documentation of the artist. While the film never quite finds the correct balance, it’s constantly engaging, providing an entry into Cai’s work for the unfamiliar. – John F. (full review)

The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook; Oct. 21)

The Handmaiden 1

Park Chan-wook has often iterated his conviction that vengeance is a topic ripe for infinite cinematic treatments. Following the conclusion of his trilogy dedicated to the subject – Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance – he largely moved on. (Although Stoker did use elements of revenge to drive the narrative along, it didn’t constitute the film’s central preoccupation.) But now he’s back and his thematic ambition is greater than ever. In The Handmaiden, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, the target of his heroines’ vengeance is none other than the patriarchy. Those familiar with Park’s earlier work will know that he’s hardly the most subtle of filmmakers, and his approach to gender politics here is risible, even self-contradictory. His customary prowess as a stylist and knack for constructing and navigating intricate plots, on the other hand, is once again put to good use. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho; Oct. 21)

Aquarius 2

The staggeringly accomplished debut feature by Brazilian critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonça Filho, Neighboring Sounds, announced the arrival of a remarkable new talent in international cinema. Clearly recognizable as the work of the same director, Mendonça’s equally assertive follow-up, Aquarius, establishes his authorial voice as well as his place as one of the most eloquent filmic commentators on the contemporary state of Brazilian society. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Eagle Huntress (Otto Bell; Oct. 28)

The Eagle Huntress

For seven generations, the men of Nurgaiv’s family have mastered the art of eagle hunting, a tradition in western Mongolia that goes back some 2,000 years. For the Kazakh people of the Altai region, it is a practice that is not only crucial to their survival in the remote area, but also a badge of honor and expertise in the long-held tradition. Inspired by her father, Nurgaiv’s daughter Aisholpan has taken an avid interest in the craft with hopes of tearing down the boundaries of cultural sexism and becoming the titular, first-ever The Eagle Huntress. In capturing her passion, her family’s encouragement, and the societal roadblocks ahead of her to overcome, director Otto Bell has created an empowering, gorgeously shot documentary. – Jordan R. (full review)

Loving (Jeff Nichols; Nov. 4)

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Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton deliver remarkably nuanced performances in Loving, a late ’50s- / early ‘60s-set true life story of a mixed-race couple whose illegal marriage became a landmark case in the United States Supreme Court. Having tried his hand at the coming-of-age drama (Mud) and both small- and large-scale science fiction (Take Shelter and Midnight Special, respectively), the increasingly prolific Jeff Nichols branches out once more here to the awards season period drama. This heartwarming and wonderfully refined film might not do a whole lot of things we haven’t seen before in the civil rights-era picture, but it does the familiar stuff with enormous care and control. – Rory O. (full review)

Elle (Paul Verhoeven; Nov. 11)


It takes all of zero seconds for the first rape to occur in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle. The film opens on a black screen and to the sounds of breaking glass and stifled struggle. When it then cuts to a cute kitty spectating the off-screen assault, we know we’re in Verhoeven territory. The ensuing countershot reveals Michèle (Isabelle Huppert), her blouse ripped open, pinned to the floor by a black-clad man with his face hidden inside a ski mask. Funny Games-like, this is our warning: run for the door now or keep watching and be implicated. Unlike Haneke, however, Verhoeven renders what follows irresistibly enjoyable, and the resulting implication is all the more severe. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Notes on Blindness (Peter Middleton and James Spinney; Nov. 16)

Notes on Blindness

Notes on Blindness is the kind of documentary that aims to be formally distinct — something I wish was standard for the art. The film does more than simply tell an interesting true story which the filmmakers stumbled upon. It uses that story as a jumping-off point to explore actual ideas — in this case, dealing with the loss of a sense, and how the experience of lacking this sense can be expressed cinematically. – Dan S. (full review)

Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan; Nov. 18)

Manchester by the Sea

With his unassuming, quietly affecting films leaving such a distinctly indelible impact long after the credits roll, we may only have three films from Kenneth Lonergan across sixteen years, but they provide a lifetime’s worth of human experience. His latest, Manchester By the Sea, finds him in the quaint northeastern Massachusetts town as he immaculately constructs a layered, non-linear exploration of the ripple effects of loss and grief. – Jordan R. (full review)

Things to Come (Mia Hansen-Løve; Dec. 2)

Things to Come 3

The twists and turns of fate and the ways in which individuals react to them constitute the central preoccupations of Mia Hansen-Løve’s cinema. Her exceptional second feature, Father of My Children, observed a film producer’s escalating desperation in the face of snowballing debt, and then considered the impact of his unexpected suicide on the family he left behind. Her disappointing follow-ups, Goodbye First Love and Eden, charted the progressive dissolution of its protagonists’ idealism over a period of several years – a teenage couple’s fanciful notions of love and a DJ’s chimeric aspirations of success, respectively. Considering the largely universal relatability of the former and the fact that the latter represented a fictionalization of her own brother’s / co-writer’s path as a DJ, the tremendous accomplishment of Things to Come, which centers on the emotional tribulations of a woman in late middle-age, suggests that the 35-year-old writer-director is a lot more adept at crafting stories that depart from her direct experiences. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi; Dec. 9)

The Salesman 5

Excessively schematic plotting is a recurring weakness of writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s work. Films like About Elly and The Past suffered from contrived narratives, though the emotions they were able to generate – in the characters, as well as the viewer – were powerful enough that they largely compensated for the overdetermined nature of the films’ trajectories. This isn’t the case with the The Salesman, sadly. Uncharacteristically inert, the film plods its way to a strained finale that erodes much of the strength of its potentially compelling themes. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Neruda (Pablo Larraín; Dec. 16)


Pablo Larraín is not finished wrestling with his nation’s psyche. His first three films, Tony Manero, Post Mortem, and No, formed a loose triptych that confronted the trauma of the Augusto Pinochet years from different angles. His fourth, The Club, was a blistering attack against the contemporary institution of the Catholic Church in Chile, which accused it of deep-seated corruption and of collusion with the Pinochet regime. With Neruda he returns to the past, back to 1948, the year the eminent poet and Communist senator Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) went into hiding after the Chilean president outlawed Communism in the country. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar; Dec. 21)

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A woman recalls the pivotal moments of her adult life in Julieta, the latest film from Pedro Almodóvar and his fifth to screen in competition here in Cannes. It’s adapted from a series of short stories of Canadian Nobel prize-winning author Alice Munro and marks a return to the female-centric dramas with which the director made his name, having recently tried his hand at musical (I’m So Excited) and psychological horror (The Skin I Live In). It’s charmingly self-aware in its use of kitsch and melodrama — almost to the point of self-parody — and, while small in scope, it’s also one of his lusher and leaner offerings. – Rory O. (full review)

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach; Dec. 23)

I Daniel Blake 3

It’s been two years since Ken Loach took Jimmy’s Hall — a rather muted film by his standards, rumored at the time to be his swansong — to the Competition here at Cannes. It was a fine piece of work, although somehow quite nostalgic and uncharacteristically resigned. There was a lingering sense that the passion might have gone, but the great social realist has returned to the Croisette this year with fire in the belly and injustice on the mind. I, Daniel Blake is his most urgent and perhaps finest film in years. It follows a man of a certain age as he attempts to scale a mountain of welfare bureaucracy in order to be granted the necessary benefits to get by. It’s often warm and quite funny, but is, at heart, a damning critique of the Tory government in Britain and their belt-tightening austerity measures, as well as a rallying cry for those who fall through the cracks. – Rory O. (full review)

Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade; Dec. 25)

Toni Erdmann 3

Maren Ade has kept us waiting. It’s been seven years since her superb second feature Everyone Else premiered at the Berlinale, taking home the Jury Prize, and she’s spent the interim collaborating on the production of other people’s films (e.g. Miguel Gomes’) rather than releasing one of her own. Now that her new directorial effort is finally here, it validates all the eager anticipation, as Toni Erdmann is one of the most stirring cinematic experiences to come around in a long time. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Paterson (Jim Jarmusch; Dec. 28)

Paterson 6

In his Village Voice review of Jim Jarmusch’s criminally under-appreciated The Limits of Control, J. Hoberman described the director as “a full-blown talent [who] erupts once a decade: Stranger than Paradise in the ’80s, Dead Man in the ’90s and The Limits of Control [in the ’00s].” Jarmusch has now validated Hoberman’s estimation with a fresh new masterpiece for our present decade: Paterson. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit; Dec. TBD)

THE RED TURTLE - still 7

Motion, love for the Gaia, and lush orchestral music provide the backbone of Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle, a dialogue-free, feature-length animation about a man stranded on a desert island, co-produced by the legendary Studio Ghibli, their first-ever such production to be made off Japanese soil. The story goes that producer Vincent Maraval from Wild Bunch showed De Wit’s Oscar-winning short animation Father and Daughter to Hayao Miyazaki in 2007. The legendary animator much admired the film, calling it “very Japanese,” and asked Maraval to locate De Wit. They sent the Dutchman an email, and so The Red Turtle came into being. – Rory O. (full review)

Our 25 Most-Anticipated Fall 2016 Films


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