We are nearly one month into my favorite time of the year for movies – the fall film season. Each year from September through December, most of the year’s heaviest hitters start making their way to the big screen in hopes of garnering an abundance of buzz for the Academy Awards – and indeed, Oscars success is generally tied to a fall release. In fact, the last Best Picture winner that wasn’t released theatrically during the fall film season was The Hurt Locker in June 2009. Which films will steal the show this fall? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, here is my list of the films I am most looking forward to seeing over the course of the next few months!
No. 1 – First Man (October 12)
First Man is a biographical drama that follows the story of Apollo 11’s famed mission to the Moon in 1969. I am incredibly excited to see First Man due to the two men behind the direction and screenplay of the film – Damien Chazelle and Josh Singer, respectively. Chazelle’s first two films (Whiplash and La La Land) have been some of the very best made in the past few years (in fact, Whiplash was my favorite film of 2014), and I have been patiently awaiting his next directorial endeavor. This time, instead of penning his own screenplay, which he did for his first two films, Chazelle has employed a script by Singer, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Spotlight and was nominated for a Golden Globe last year for The Post. Starring Ryan Gosling in the lead role as Neil Armstrong and The Crown’s Claire Foy as his wife, this film looks set to attract some serious Oscar buzz this fall.
No. 2 – If Beale Street Could Talk (December 14)
If Beale Street Could Talk, based on the 1974 novel of the same name, is a drama set in Harlem during the 1970s and follows an African-American family’s enduring spirit of love and humanity as they navigate a racially charged era in American history. This film is Barry Jenkins’s follow-up effort to his Best Picture-winning drama Moonlight, and although the trailer does not give too much away, it is evident that Jenkins looks to passionately pull at the heartstrings of moviegoers everywhere once more – I cannot wait to see what he has in store this time.
No. 3 – Bad Times at the El Royale (October 12)
Bad Times at the El Royale is a thriller that follows seven strangers whose lives and dark secrets intersect at a rundown hotel in Lake Tahoe. Bad Times is immediately intriguing due to its ensemble cast, which features the likes of Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris “Thor” Hemsworth. But aside from this stellar group of actors, I am personally looking forward to this film due to its writer/producer/director, Drew Goddard. The 43-year-old filmmaker has previously penned the scripts for Cloverfield, World War Z, and The Martian, but it was his directorial debut in 2012 with The Cabin in the Woods (Goddard also wrote the screenplay) that has me looking forward to Bad Times the most – the trailer reeks of Cabin-like imagery and obscurities (which is definitely a good thing), and I can’t wait to see if Goddard can capture that same rousing energy again.
No. 4 – Hold the Dark (September 28 – Netflix)
Hold the Dark is a thriller set against the backdrop of the Alaskan tundra, and it follows the aftermath of the mysterious death of a young boy by a pack of wolves. From an acting standpoint, this film brings together some of my current favorites in the game – Jeffrey Wright (Westworld), Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road), and Alexander Skarsgård (Big Little Lies). However, the factor that weighs most heavily in terms of my anticipation for the film is its director and writer – Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair, respectively. Saulnier wrote and directed two of my favorite films from the past few years (Blue Ruin in 2014 and Green Room in 2016, both of which featured Blair as an actor), and Blair wrote and directed one of my favorite movies from last year, I don’t feel at home in this world anymore. All three of those films were thrilling and unique, and I expect nothing less from Hold the Dark.
No. 5 – The Favourite (November 23)
The Favourite is a drama (set in England in the early 18th century) that follows the struggle between Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) as they jockey for the attention and adoration of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman, aka the new QEII in The Crown). The Favourite is the newest film by the inimitable Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. If you haven’t seen any of Lanthimos’s films yet, go watch the trailer for The Favourite – it will absolutely give you a taste of this man’s distinctive style. Lanthimos broke out among American audiences in 2015 with his film The Lobster – although the first act of that movie had me hooked, he simply couldn’t keep that momentum going for me throughout the entire film. No matter – Lanthimos returned last year with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was thrilling, compelling, and darkly hilarious for its entire two-hour runtime. Because of my deep appreciation for that film, I am very much optimistic that his newest endeavor will be a great achievement.
No. 6 – Widows (November 16)
Widows is a thriller that tells the story of a group of women who attempt a heist after their criminal husbands are killed. The uber-talented British filmmaker Steve McQueen is back with his first feature film since 12 Years a Slave, the Best Picture winner that I named my favorite film of 2013. McQueen is such a unique storyteller, and if the critical success of his complete filmography (Hunger, Shame, and 12 Years a Slave) gives us any indication, Widows is sure to be a fantastic piece of cinema. Oscar winner Viola Davis also stars as the lead, which is another reason this film is likely to impress.
No. 7 – A Star Is Born (October 5)
A Star Is Born is a musical drama about a country musician (Bradley Cooper) who discovers and falls in love with a young singer (Lady Gaga). This iteration of A Star Is Born (which marks Cooper’s directorial debut) is the third remake to the original 1937 film (it was remade with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954 and with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976). Truthfully, the trailers for this film that have been playing repeatedly on TV lately have me hooked – I love the sound of the music, I love the apparent chemistry between the two leads, and I love the style in which it is shot. And I am already buying into the hype surrounding Lady Gaga’s performance, simply based on what I can see from the trailer. No one would doubt that Lady Gaga is a standout performer in general, not just as a singer, and I look forward to seeing her acting talents on the big screen in what has already been characterized by many in the industry as an early Best Picture darling.
No. 8 – Outlaw King (November 9 – Netflix)
Outlaw King is an epic historical film about Robert the Bruce, one of the most famous Scottish warriors and eventual King of Scotland. David Mackenzie directed this film, which is the very reason that it is on my list. Mackenzie’s previous two films both ranked in the top 4 on my year-end lists (I ranked Starred Up as my No. 4 film in 2014 and Hell or High Water as my No. 2 film in 2016) – based on that track record, I am obviously looking forward to his newest film. I will admit that a couple of weeks ago, this film was trending toward the top of my most anticipated list – however, early critical reviews have not been jaw-dropping, which is why its position has slipped a bit here. Regardless of those early reviews, I am still confident that Mackenzie will bring a quality picture to the big Netflix screen – his cast of Chris Pine (fantastic in Hell or High Water), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (wonderful in everything he touches), and Florence Pugh (a vision in last year’s Lady Macbeth) will surely add some definite firepower.
No. 9 – Welcome to Marwen (December 21)
Welcome to Marwen is a dramatic film inspired by the true-life story of Mark Hogancamp, a victim of a brutal assault, who undertakes an enormous effort to build a miniature World War II village in his backyard in an effort to cope with the trauma he has endured. Yes, this movie features a great cast, including Steve Carrell as Hogancamp. Yes, the film is directed by Robert Zemeckis, who always seems to turn in quality work, year after year. And yes, the film’s mixture of live-action and animation looks incredibly unique and charming. But for me, my anticipation for this film stems solely from my profound reverence for the 2010 documentary that it is based on, Marwencol. When I first saw Marwencol, I was enthralled by Mark’s story and utterly fascinated by his artistry and imagination. Marwencol is definitely one of my all-time favorites, and I hope that Zemeckis’s film provides a great companion piece to the documentary.
No. 10 – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (November 16 – Netflix)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a western anthology film by the Coen brothers that features six separate chapters, each with its own cast. I won’t lie – I have generally fallen out of love with the Coen brothers. In terms of their directorial efforts, I really haven’t enjoyed many of their films from the past decade, outside of A Serious Man in 2009. However, I continue to hold out hope that these cinematic visionaries can again replicate the success of their past hits (e.g., Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men). The trailer here has me genuinely intrigued by what the Coen brothers can do with the anthology concept, and given their established résumé in the business, I am willing to keep giving them chances.
Creed II (November 21) – The sequel to Creed is set to follow Adonis Creed as he prepares for his next big fight – a bout against the son of Ivan Drago, the man that killed Adonis’s father in the ring so many decades ago. I am always down for more from the Rocky universe, and I expect Michael B. Jordan to dominate the screen again in Round 2. Trailer: https://youtu.be/cPNVNqn4T9I
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (November 16) – The sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will follow Newt Scamander as he looks to take down Gellert Grindelwald, one of the wizarding world’s most powerful dark wizards. The previews for this film have already revealed a return to Hogwarts, Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore, and the origin of Nagini – all of that is plenty to overcome the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I am very optimistic about this film, as I will always put my faith in J.K. Rowling and David Yates. Trailer: https://youtu.be/vvFybpmyB9E
Mary, Queen of Scots (December 7) – This historical drama tells the story of the “Rising of the North,” an infamous conflict that pitted two half-sisters, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, against one another in an epic struggle for power in England. This film has a lot going for it. First, Beau Willimon (creator of the Netflix hit House of Cards) wrote the script. Second, and most importantly, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie star as Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I, respectively. Trailer: https://youtu.be/riSROsdT-f0
Under the Silver Lake (December 7) – This is a neo-noir film that follows Sam (Andrew Garfield) as he searches the seamy depths of Los Angeles to solve the disappearance of Sarah (Riley Keough), a mysterious woman he met at an apartment swimming pool. This movie is director David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up effort to 2014’s It Follows, an incredible film that re-wrote the rules of horror flicks. Based on my love for It Follows, I have a lot of confidence in Under the Silver Lake’s potential. Trailer: https://youtu.be/mwgUesU1pz4
UPDATE: Sadly, it was announced on November 1 that Under the Silver Lake would be pushed back to an April 18, 2019 release, which does not bode well for the movie’s potential success.
Vice (December 25) – This biopic follows the political rise of former Vice President Dick Cheney. I expect big things from this movie. Adam McKay – the comedic genius behind Anchorman, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys – directs, but it is his directorial work on The Big Short that has me most pumped for this movie. Christian Bale completely transformed his body (again – see The Machinist, American Hustle) to play Cheney, and one of my favorite actresses of all time (Amy Adams) is set to play Lynne Cheney. Trailer: https://youtu.be/ec8WA6XRzZI