As we enter the final months of 2019, and with the festival season bringing with it waves of Oscar hype and talk, what are the films to look out for at this year’s fall fests? We got you covered with this shortlist of the 20 must-see titles playing at this year’s fall festivals. It all starts off this Wednesday with the Venice Film Festival screening its opening night film and the Telluride Film Festival announcing its lineup and screening schedule on Friday. Meanwhile, the Toronto International Film Festival kicks off next Thursday September 5th with a screening of Armando Iannucci’s “The Personal Life of David Copperfield.”
1) The Irishman
Martin Scorsese is back. One of Cinema’s most famous sons has teamed up with Netflix for his latest thriller. Starring none other than Robert De Niro (working with Scorsese for the first time since Casino in 1995), Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, Scorsese’s riskiest project to date is using de-aging technology on its stars for the entirety of the films first half. A ploy that could make or break the film in eyes of audiences and possibly, Academy voters. With its world premiere at the New York Film Festival just a few weeks away, and with a late November theatrical release rumoured before it makes its Netflix bow, The Irishman could potentially set up a Scorsese V Tarantino match up at next February’s Oscars.
Release Date: November 27th
2) Marriage Story
The writer/director of the likes of The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, Frances Ha, and Mistress America, brings us his Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver starring Marriage Story. Detailing a gruelling coast-to-coast divorce that tests the couple, Baumbach’s newest offering has garnered much attention over the past few months, as Netflix looks set to pin its Oscar hopes on Baumbach, along with Scorsese’s The Irishman. There is clearly no shortage of confidence from the studio, as the film is the only feature playing at all the fall festivals, with its world premiere in Venice, to be followed by a showing at Toronto, the centrepiece slot at the New York Film Festival, and likely Telluride.
Festivals: TIFF, Venice, NYFF and Telluride
Release Date: November
Met with a large amount of distain upon its announcement eighteen months ago, but Todd Phillips (The Hangover) origin story of the infamous clown prince of crime is heading up some serious steam as it hurtles towards its October release. Ever since the first trailer drew comparisons with Scorsese’s (a producer on the film) Taxi Driver, excitement and hype has grown and grown. And with its official bow to come at Venice at the end of the month (followed by Toronto) we will find out for certain whether its Oscar buzz is real. Especially the buzz around its star and three-time nominee Joaquin Phoenix.
Festivals: Venice, TIFF
Release Date: October 4th (US and Europe)
4) Uncut Gems
Having brought us one of 2017’s most beloved yet sadly under-seen features in the Robert Pattinson starring Good Time, the Safdie brothers, Benny and Josh, return with another crime thriller in the shape of Uncut Gems. The story follows Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler as he thrives then dives, in the high-stakes world of diamond selling in New York. With a supporting cast of LaKeith Stanfield, Julia Fox, Idina Menzel, and The Weeknd, if this film has any of the stylistic flair that came with Good Time, this Movie could be the surprise hit of festival season, if (as rumoured by our own Jordan Ruimy and Collider) it premieres at Telluride. Adam Sandler for Best Actor anyone…
Festivals: TIFF, Telluride
Release Date: December 13th (US)
5) Jojo Rabbit
How to make a checklist for a widely anticipated comedy drama. Taika Waititi as director, check. A satire on Nazi Germany in which Taika himself will take on the role of Hitler, check. A supporting cast including the likes of Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Scarlett Johansson, Alfie Allen and Stephen Merchant, check. That is exactly what’s on offer with Waititi’s take on Christine Leunen’s novel. Scheduled for a world premiere at Toronto, this is one of the most intriguing films debuting in the latter half of the year.
Release Date: October 18th (US) January 3rd (UK)
6) Motherless Brooklyn
Edward Norton directs his first feature since 2000’s Keeping the Faith with this adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s novel of the same name. Norton himself stars as private detective Lionel Essog, himself afflicted with Tourette’s, as he battles to solve the death of long-time friend and mentor frank Minna, played by Bruce Willis. The hard-hitting crime thriller, containing a stacked supporting cast of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willem Dafoe, and Leslie Mann, has the honour of closing the 17-day New York Film festival.
Festivals: TIFF, Telluride, NYFF
Release Date: November 1st (US) November 29th (UK)
7) A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
If there is any role that could land Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination since 2001, surely, it’s portraying beloved children’s tv presenter Fred Rogers. Directed by Can You Ever Forgive Me’s Marielle Heller (herself overlooked at last year’s Oscars) the film centres on the friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, re-named Lloyd Vogel and being played by Matthew Rhys. The film will have its world premiere at Toronto ahead of its mid-December release.
Release Date: December 22nd
8) Ad Astra
The Immigrant (2013) and The Lost City of Z (2016) director James Grey brings us this much buzzed about Sci-Fi thriller. Originally scheduled for release in May, it is thought that Disney and Fox executives are enamored with the outcome of the film and decided to give it an awards run. Starring none other than Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, an astronaut who travels to the outer reaches of the Solar system in an attempt to find his father, the great Tommy Lee Jones, the film also boasts Liv Tyler’s return to mainstream Hollywood, whilst director Grey has promised the film will deliver ‘the most realistic depiction of Space travel ever seen on screen’.
Release Date: September 18th (Europe) September 20th (US)
9) First Cow
Kelly Reichardt, bless her maverick soul, is one of the great American filmmakers of the last ten years, what with an impressive track record that speaks for itself ("Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff," "Certain Woman" “Night Moves”) and a distinctive/austere style that strips down the cliches to get to the bare bones of the story. With "First Cow," an adaptation of Jonathan Raymond’s novel “The Half-Life,” Reichardt is returning to the old West for a film that is rumored to be a spiritual sequel to 'Meek’. In Oregon in the 1820s, a cook and a refugee pair up for a journey that will take them to China and back again. That’s all we know. The cast is mostly unknown, with shooting having wrapped last January.
Festivals: Telluride and NYFF
Release Date: TBA
10) Ford V Ferrari
Certainly, one of the most buzzed about films of the year as far as awards season goes. James Mangold’s follow up to Logan is littered with Oscar potential. Telling the true story of how car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver ken Miles (Christian Bale) built a car for Ford worthy of challenging Ferrari at Le Mans’ famous all-night race. It remains to be seen where two of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters will land category wise, but with the film debuting at Toronto and with a run time of over two and a half hours, those at Disney/Fox must have high hopes for Ford V Ferrari. If only they had kept the films original title in Europe.
Festivals: Telluride, TIFF
Release Date: November 15th (US and Europe)
At the start of October, Rupert Goold brings us a Renee Zellweger starring Judy Garland Biopic. Playing the great actress, singer and dancer thirty years after she starred in the Wizard of Oz, the film will follow Garland (Zellweger) as she performs sold-out London shows at The Talk of the Town Nightclub, reminisces with friends, and begins a romance with the man who would become her fifth husband. Not a straight biopic, think of it maybe as Danny Boyle’s fantastic behind the scenes biopic ‘Steve Jobs’ but with more song and dance.
Festivals: TIFF, Telluride
Release Date: September 27th
12) The Laundromat
The team of screenwriter Scott Z.Burns and director (the ever-brilliant) Steven Soderbergh may well have an incredibly heavy hitter on their hands with this Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman led drama on the infamous Panama Papers. With a not too shabby supporting cast either, boasting the likes of Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer and Antonio Banderas, the film will have its world premiere in Venice on September 1st before hitting Netflix before the end of the year.
Release Date: TBA
13) The Aeronauts
Wild Rose, War and peace, and Peaky Blinders director, Tom Harper teams up with former Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne and his screen partner from The Theory of Everything (and lead actress nominee) Felicity Jones for this true story action adventure of pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) and scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne) as they fight for survival whilst trying to make discoveries in a hot air balloon. The film according to @MrRuimy is likely to land at Telluride, and Amazon will hope it is a big player come the new year.
Festivals: Telluride and TIFF
Release Date: December 6th
14) The Two Popes
Oscar nominee for best director for 2002’s City of God, Brazilian Fernando Meirelles brings us what could well be a religious epic as screen legends Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins face-off as Popes Francis and Benedict respectively, as they battle to accommodate the ever-changing demands of the modern world. Not yet screened and currently still in post-production, the film should be ready for its bow at Toronto, however a wider release date is, as of yet, unknown.
Festivals: Telluride, TIFF and Venice
Release Date: TBA
15) Lucy In the Sky
For a long time now, it has looked like Noah Hawley (Fargo, Legion) and his sci-fi, drama Lucy in the Sky would become victims of the Disney/Fox merger. Having originally been a Fox Searchlight production, the film has not had a release date for much of the year, with many rumors suggesting its Festival premiere would come with an announcement. However, it appears to be the other way round, as the Natalie Portman staring loosely based true story of NASA’s Lisa Nowak and her trials and tribulations once she returned to Earth, has scored an early October release date, meaning although possibly sill a contender, Disney and Fox seem to be leaning much heavier on their other contender, Jojo Rabbit. Portman is joined by Dan Stevens, John Hamm, and Zaziebeetz.
Release Date: October 4th
It does look as though Roman Polanski’s “J’accuse” will be causing a major stir at the Venice Film Festival. The film, Polanski’s first post-MeToo statement, is about Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish solider wrongly accused of spying for the Germans in Paris in the 1890s. The film is set to have many parallels to today’s world, especially having to do with Polanski’s own personal life, as Dreyfus was a victim of smear-campaigning and had his life ruined by the untruthful allegations. A timely topic, to say the least. However, due to the heated divisiveness filmmakers like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski seem to have in America, we will likely not see “J’accuse” screening in Toronto, New York and/or Telluride.
Release Date: TBA
17) Knives Out
One of cinema’s most gifted original minds can finally shed the skin of the ridiculous backlash he faced for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as Rian Johnson assembles arguably the cast of the year to take on his original ‘who done it’. LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out, Sorry, to Bother You) and Daniel Craig appear as detectives investigating the death of a wealthy patriarch (Christopher Plummer), whilst the family of the deceased including; Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Colette, and Don Johnson are all under investigation. The trailer looked sharp, fun, and mysterious. And whilst the film has gone relatively under the radar up to now, expect its bow at Toronto in September to make waves ahead of its November release.
Release Date: 27th November
18) Little Women
Greta Gerwig’s much anticipated follow up to Lady Bird, her adaptation of the famous story of four sisters growing up in post-civil war America, seems to have had quite a tumultuous post-production. Our own Jordan Ruimy posted back in July that a few lucky people had seen a first cut of Sony’s supposed major awards player, and that overall response was good, if for a few complaints about the ‘first half of the films drastically different tone from the second half’. It was also widely believed that the film, boasting Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet and many more, would debut at one of the fall festivals, however that is now highly unlikely. Still scheduled for a very late December release date, it is possible Gerwig and Sony will settle for nothing less than perfection for a Movie still near the top of many Best Picture prediction lists.
Release Date: December 27th
19) Just Mercy
Having just agreed to helm Marvel’s next colossal cultural event Shang Chi:Legend of the Ten Rings, Destin Daniel Cretton of Short Term 12 fame, has this hard-hitting true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson’s bid to exonerate a man falsely imprisoned of murder. With Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillan (the man imprisoned), Cretton has also called upon Short Term 12 alum, and Oscar winner, Brie Larson for a supporting role, for a film that will make its bow at Toronto in September.
Release date: December 25th
Widely known in American history and now soon by the rest of the world. Harriet is the story of Harriet Tubman, played in the film by last year’s breakout star Cynthia Erivo. Tubman, after escaping slavery herself, led hundreds to safety on an underground railroad. Hopefully the films world premiere at Toronto, and subsequent November 1st release will shine an even brighter light on a true hero of human history.
Release Date: TBA
21) WASP Network
Any time French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (“Personal Shopper” “Demonlover”) has a new movie out then attention must be paid. The latest statement from the globe-trotting director is titled “Wasp Network” and centers on the true story of Cuban spies in American territory during the 1990s. During that time, Anti-Castro groups based in Florida carried out military attacks on Cuba and the Cuban government struck back with the Wasp Network to infiltrate those organizations. Assayas wrote the screenplay, which is based on Fernando Morais’ book, “The Last Soldiers on the Cold War: The Story of the Cuban Five,” published by Companhia Das Letras.
Festivals: TIFF, Venice, NYFF
Pablo Larrain has made a name for himself these last few years (“Jackie,” “No,” “Neruda”), so much so that it was surprising not to see his latest “Ema” appear at Cannes this past May, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. But then came the announcement from Venice that Larrain’s latest would be competing for the coveted Golden Lion (won last year by Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma.”) Gael Garcia Bernal stars in a movie dealing with a couple and the dire aftermath of an adoption gone awry
Festivals: TIFF, Venice