Movies are back . Right? After several months absent the usual spectacle that summer blockbuster season brings, it appears as though cinema is slowly, if not prematurely , making its less-than-grand, post-lockdown return. COVID-19 is far from eradicated in the U.S., but American chains and indie theaters alike are beginning to open their doors to limited-capacity audiences, with mask-wearers already queuing up for early screenings of Christopher Nolan's much-delayed time-inversion caper, Tenet. Of course, not every backlogged film is insisting upon a theatrical premiere. Mulan will make its glorious streaming debut on Friday, to the delight of homebound Disney+ subscribers willing to shell out an extra $29.99. Over the months that follow, Netflix will unleash a cavalcade of movies from filmmakers like Charlie Kaufman, Aaron Sorkin, and Ron Howard. Is this the future of big-budget films? It's hard to say. Films like Dune and West Side Story are slated for big, momentous rollouts in theaters this December, when studios and distributors hope quarantine life will be but a distant memory.
Here at Vulture, we're having a hard time imagining what the next four days will look like, let along the next four months, but as we've dutifully done every year before this, we're once again rounding up the movies we're excited to see — preferably safely — this fall. (And by fall, we mean September through the end of the year.) The following dates are bound to change, and we anticipate theatrical strategies will shift as the spread of the virus itself does. But here, in all its uncertain glory, is a list of 38 movies we're anticipating this year:
Christopher Nolan's new movie opened internationally on August 26, a week before it's set to open in select theaters across the U.S., and you know what? Getting spoiled on the details of this highly secretive production about time reversal or whatever is what we deserve for not getting our shit together as a country. In some theaters September 3.
I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Charlie Kaufman published his dense, self-referential first novel, Antkind , in July, and in September he has a new movie, one loosely adapted from Iain Reid's book of the same name. The surreal meet-the-parents saga stars Jessie Buckley — so good in Wild Rose — as a woman heading to the family farm of the boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) she's actually been thinking about breaking up with. Toni Collette and David Thewlis play the unsettling aspiring in-laws. On Netflix September 4.
It's been delayed for so long, and so many times, this live-action remake of the Disney animated classic sometimes feels like it already opened. But it's finally happening! Mulan will be by far the biggest film of the year to go straight to digital. Which is great for families who stand to save some money, and also great for thinkpiece jockeys looking for trends to write about, but maybe not so great for the movie itself: By all accounts, it's a massive, expansive epic, the kind of experience pretty much made for the big screen. Still, it could be really special. That director Niki Caro (an underrated filmmaker, finally getting her shot at a blockbuster) isn't going for the overly reverential, hyper-literal remake route — unlike, say, Jon Favreau with The Lion King or Bill Condon with Beauty & the Beast — is cause for hope. On Disney+ September 4.
The Devil All the Time
Director Antonio Campos's adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock's grisly Southern gothic novel sports a cast to die for: Bill Skarsgard, Robert Pattinson, Sebastian Stan, Tom Holland, Riley Keough, Mia Wasikowska, Haley Bennett, Eliza Scanlen, Jason Clarke, and more. And yes, most of those names are not American, and you know what that means: accents! On Netflix September 16.
It's been nine years since Sean Durkin made a splash with his directorial debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene , a nail-biting portrait of an escapee from a cult in the Catskills that also launched lead actor Elizabeth Olsen's career. His long-awaited follow-up is a chilly, beautifully wrought film about a 1980s family who relocate from the U.S. to the U.K. when patriarch Rory (Jude Law) gets an offer from his old firm that seems like an easy route to riches. But when his equestrian wife, Allison, played by Carrie Coon, and their two children find themselves rattling around a cavernous old country manor that they can't fill or afford, it becomes clear that Rory's grand aspirations have little to do with his loved ones' actual wants or happiness. In theaters September 18.
Did you know Sherlock Holmes had a brilliant younger sister? Well, neither did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But Netflix's new mystery, with rising star Millie Bobby Brown starring as the precocious Enola and Henry Cavill as Sherlock (no, really) and Helena Bonham-Carter (no, really ) as their mom, promises old-fashioned mystery, atmospheric Victoriana, and wholesome teen-movie hijinks — which, frankly, sounds pretty awesome at this particular moment. On Netflix September 23.
After a lengthy feature-filmmaking hiatus, Miranda July has returned with what might be her most powerful movie yet — combining her fondness for gentle absurdism with a dead-end atmosphere that feels both of the moment and, curiously, timeless. In theaters September 25.
I will never forgive America and its idiotic pandemic response for depriving us of the August release of this, a Gerard Butler disaster movie in which he plays an estranged husband and father trying to save his family while an extinction-level comet heads towards the planet and all hell breaks loose. (It's now opening in September, supposedly, but Europe's already gotten it.) With his roles in the Has Fallen movies (which are really disaster flicks at heart) and the lovably dopey Geostorm , Butler has become our premier disaster-film action star. But this one looks to capitalize on his actual acting ability, which bodes well. I think. In theaters September 25.
Dream Horse Feels Good Man The Owners
Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President
Cuties The Social Dilemma
All In: The Fight for Democracy
The Babysitter: Killer Queen
The Broken Hearts Gallery I Am Woman Rent-A-Pal
Buoyancy Our Time Machine Sibyl Space Dogs
This Is Paris
The Secrets We Keep
Antebellum No Escape Blackbird Lost Girls and Love Hotels
Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Ava The Artist's Wife Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals
Boys in the Band
Aspiring horror novelist Fred (debut writer-director Josh Ruben) finds himself telling competing scary stories with an established author named Fanny (Aya Cash) when the two hole up in a cabin during a power outage. What's essentially a two-hander showcasing the talents of its leads becomes a film about deflating genre machismo when Fred starts to realize he's outclassed by his companion. On Shudder October 1.
Wonder Woman 1984
This was supposed to be the big superhero movie of the summer, and it will now have to settle for being the big superhero movie of the fall. Patty Jenkins knocked it out of the park with the first Wonder Woman , which managed to be surprisingly intimate and rousing while also kicking serious ass. And Gal Gadot made the beloved comic-book hero feel like an actual flesh-and-blood person (albeit a largely indestructible and ageless semi-human one). This second entry has Diana traveling to 1984, with all the stylistic extravagance that implies. In theaters October 2.
Dick Johnson Is Dead
Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson made her directorial debut with 2016's Cameraperson , a memoir in the form of a meditation on what it means to be the person behind the camera. Her new documentary is even more personal, because it's about her relationship with her father, Dick Johnson, who moves into her New York apartment after he's diagnosed with dementia. It's a film about preemptive mourning, and it makes use of an ingenious, boldly morbid device — together, Johnson and her dad stage and enact possible ways he could pass, some absurd and some horrifyingly realistic, a litany of filial fears brought to life that becomes a way for the two to spend time together. On Netflix October 2.
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Radha Blank's directorial debut, which she also wrote, produced, and stars in, has a broad comedy hook: Her character, who's also named Radha and who's also a struggling playwright, decides to take up rapping on the cusp of 40. But The Forty-Year-Old Version , which is shot in black-and-white and harkens back to an earlier era in indie film, is less a fish-out-of-water story than one about running up against the gatekeepers of artistic prestige and the resources that come with it. Blank's film satirizes the New York theater scene, and, in particular, the narrow range of art it demands from creators of color and elevates as important. On Netflix October 9.
When it comes to the work of Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. His first film, 2012's Antiviral , was a body horror–inflected thriller about a world in which the pathogens that have infected celebrities become hot commodities sold to their most devoted fans. Possessor is a similar nightmare about sci-fi corporate intrigue that stars Andrea Riseborough as an agent who specializes in taking over and using other people's bodies to commit assassinations, though the technology she utilizes is starting to cause strain to her sense of self. In theaters October 9.
Garrett Bradley's documentary might have been the best film at this year's Sundance. (Remember Sundance?) It tells the story of Fox Rich, a Louisiana woman raising her six children while also fighting for her husband's release from prison for an attempted robbery they were both involved in, many years ago. Bradley's subject filmed herself over two decades, and the picture cuts between her life today and her life over the years in an intoxicating, heartbreaking dance that blends styles, moods, and perspectives. But it is also joyous: Time is as much about the wonders of life as it is about the agony of waiting. In theaters October 9 before hitting Prime Video.
The War with Grandpa
A young boy attempts to prank-battle his grandfather, who is played by Robert De Niro. To be fair, this could go one of two ways: True, we might get the paycheck-cashing, phoning-it-in De Niro of Meet the Fockers and whatever the hell that other sequel to Meet the Parents was called. But it's also possible that we'll get the raucous, raunchy, deliriously unhinged De Niro of Dirty Grandpa . To be clear, this would be a good thing. To be extra-clear, we are being serious. In theaters October 9.
Liam Neeson's middle-aged action hero phase continues apace with this new movie from director/co-writer Mark Williams, which casts the Irish actor as Tom Carter, a former Marine turned expert thief who finds love and attempts to go clean by turning himself in. Then there are crooked cops played by Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos, and there's a frame-up, and … Look, all that really matters is that Neeson's nickname in the movie is, hilariously, the "In and Out Bandit," and that midway through the trailer he growls, with admirable commitment, "I'm coming for you." In theaters October 9 In theaters October 9.
In the years since the first Candyman came out, the highrises of the Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, in which the film was set, were all demolished. This sequel to that 1992 horror favorite from Little Woods director Nia DaCosta and her producer/co-writer Jordan Peele folds these changes into its story seamlessly, centering on an artist named Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who, with his gallerist girlfriend Brianna (Teyonah Parris), moves into a luxury condo built on the now-gentrified site where Cabrini-Green once stood. When Anthony takes inspiration from an old urban legend he hears from one of the area's original residents, he unknowingly awakens the murderous spirit — played by Tony Todd, reprising his role as the titular character, because even in three-decade-later follow-ups, some performances are too good not to keep. In theaters October 16.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
The events around what happened with the seven (really, eight) anti-war demonstrators brought to trial for things like conspiracy and incitement after the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention are the stuff of modern American legend. Is Aaron Sorkin really the best person to bring this story to the screen? (There was a fantastic animated documentary about the trial by Brett Morgen, made in 2007, called Chicago 7 .) Sorkin can be sanctimonious, to be sure, but hear us out. The world could use a good courtroom drama these days; they've been on the downswing ever since John Grisham became uncool and Matthew McConaughey went Oscar-chasing. And who better than Sorkin — who, after all, wrote A Few Good Men , one of the better examples of the subgenre — to bring it back? On Netflix October 16.
Luca Marinelli, who played one half of the swoony immortal couple in The Old Guard , plays the title character in Pietro Marcello's lush period drama, which transports Jack London's 1909 novel to Naples. Martin, a sailor who falls for an aristocratic beauty and dreams of winning her by becoming a writer, finds that upper crust acceptance is not what he hoped for when he becomes a successful author who rails against socialism and is more miserable than ever. In theaters and virtual cinemas on October 16.
Over the Moon
Glen Keane was one of the legendary animators of the Disney Renaissance (he was responsible for characters like Ariel, the Beast, Pocahontas, and Aladdin), and has since won a Best Animated Short Oscar, which he shared with the late Kobe Bryant, for Dear Basketball . Now, he's been given Netflix money to make this ambitious musical about a young girl building a rocket ship. The streamer has been making serious inroads into animation in recent years (see also: last year's Oscar-nominated Klaus and I Lost My Body ). Giving Keane the chance to make his first feature film is certainly a statement. On Netflix October 23.
On the Rocks
Sofia Coppola says she set out to make something lighter with her seventh film, a New York City–set father-daughter adventure starring Rashida Jones as a writer worried her husband is having an affair, and Bill Murray as her playboy dad, who insists on helping her investigate. But whatever Coppola's intentions, On the Rocks has been given an added layer of melancholy she couldn't have planned for, courtesy of the pandemic. The film tours around a bustling Manhattan, stopping by crowded gatherings that haven't been happening and bars and restaurants that have been outdoor-only for months. Then again, given Coppola's melancholic tendencies, maybe a touch of mourning for the city will fit in with this story of two people coming together over a cross-generational divide. In theaters and on Apple TV+ in October.
A refugee couple from South Sudan is placed by a British nonprofit into a rundown home — and they soon discover that they're being haunted by a menacing spirit. Horror movies have always "spoken to the moment," but in recent years, it seems like we've been inundated with films that attempt to do so overtly. To its credit, Remi Weekes's well-acted chiller, which premiered at Sundance, doesn't forget that it's supposed to scare us as well — as a genre piece, it's genuinely terrifying. On Netflix in October.
The Antenna A Call to Spy Death of Me Save Yourselves!
After We Collided
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet On Netflix October 4
Books of Blood
Love and Monsters
Connected Death on the Nile Those Who Wish Me Dead The Place of No Words
Make the Devil Take You Too
Come Play Fatale
Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) may be dead, but thanks to the power of timelines and the imperatives of a giant media conglomerate, she lives on in her own solo adventure, set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland ( Somersault ) directs, while Florence Pugh makes her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Natasha's fellow Red Room trainee and possible successor Yelena Belova. In theaters November 6.
Director Francis Lee proved himself a master of the queer pastoral with 2017's God's Own Country . In Ammonite , he tackles the 19th-century romance between a paleontologist played by Kate Winslet and a married geologist played by Saoirse Ronan. Forbidden love, class, fossils, rock formations, the desolate English coastline, moody skies (presumably) — this one's got everything, and we will be extremely upset if it doesn't deliver. In theaters November 13.
In this adaptation of the 1957 Patricia Highsmith novel, Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck play Melinda and Vic Van Allen, unhappy marrieds whose loveless relationship is held together only by an arrangement permitting Melinda to have affairs in order to avoid a divorce. But while the prospect of seeing America's favorite pandemic couple sharing the screen and suspect each other of murder has its appeal, what's really exciting about Deep Water is that it's the first film from director Adrian Lyne, the one-time king of sexy, scoldy dramas about infidelity — Fatal Attraction ! Indecent Proposal ! — since Unfaithful in 2002. Could the return of Lyne, after an 18-year absence from Hollywood, also lead to a resurgence in the erotic thriller, a subgenre that faded out alongside VHS? Here's hoping. In theaters November 13.
It's been some years since we got a nuanced and well-observed film about male friendship, which is just one reason why The Climb — a hit at last year's Cannes, and originally slated to open this past spring — feels like such a breath of fresh air. Through a series of sometimes-hilarious, often cringeworthy vignettes that occur over the years, director Michael Angelo Covino fashions an insightful, moving comedy-drama about two best friends and the ways in which their relationship changes over the years. It's a great film about love, jealousy, pain, toxicity, and forgiveness. In theaters November 13.
No Time to Die
This new James Bond movie will be Daniel Craig's last go-round as the superspy … though he's said as much and then changed his mind before, so grain of salt, etc. Maybe it's fitting that No Time to Die starts with Bond having left MI6 for a peaceful retirement in Jamaica, only to be called back by his CIA ally Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) to help find a missing scientist. Léa Seydoux and Christoph Waltz will be reprising their roles from Spectre , while Ana de Armas takes a turn as a Bond girl and Rami Malek plays the villain. Beasts of No Nation 's Cary Joji Fukunaga directed this installment, but what's really intriguing is that Phoebe Waller-Bridge is one of the screenwriters. In theaters November 20.
Pixar's suburban fantasy Onward had its release cut short by the pandemic in March. But Soul , which was always slated for fall, was clearly the 2020 title the company was going to put most of its energy behind anyway. The first film from the animation giant to have a Black main character, Soul follows a music teacher (Jamie Foxx) who's about to fulfill his dream of playing jazz onstage when an accident forces him into an out-of-body experience, sending him to the place where souls prepare to be born into bodies. The film sounds like it falls somewhere between the afterlife adventures of Coco and the interior explorations of Inside Out — fertile terrain for the animation giant, both in terms of emotional journeys and stylistic freedom. In theaters November 20.
The lesbian cinematic event of the holiday season is without question this romantic comedy from Clea DuVall, which stars Kristen Stewart as Abby, a woman who's meeting her girlfriend Harper's (Mackenzie Davis) parents for the first time at their annual Christmas gathering. Abby intends to pop the question, a plan that's derailed by the fact that Harper isn't actually out to her family — whose members are played by, among others, Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber. In theaters on November 25.
Let Him Go Stillwater
I Am Greta
Clifford the Big Red Dog
Billie Monsoon The Comeback Trail
Chloé Zhao directed the best film of 2018 — the tender, lyrical The Rider , about a reservation rodeo star trying to figure out what his future looks like in the wake of an injury. And barring (entirely plausible) further disasters, the next six months are set to be huge for the filmmaker, with a Marvel movie, The Eternals, set for early 2021 and Nomadland , starring Frances McDormand, making the abbreviated festival rounds before heading to theaters this fall. Nomadland , based on Jessica Bruder's book of the same name, explores the itinerant lives of people who've left economically devastated communities to travel from place to place in search of work. Zhao's first two features were made with entirely nonprofessional actors, and while this new film is centered on a well-known name, it keeps a connection with that approach with supporting characters who are played by real modern-day nomads. In theaters December 4.
Frank Herbert's science-fiction classic has, in the past, foiled the likes of Alejandro Jodorowsky (whose planned ten-hour movie never made it into production), Ridley Scott (who dropped out after seven months of working on scripts), and David Lynch (who disowned the 1984 box-office flop he directed). Denis Villeneuve, who's coming off Blade Runner 2049 , seems to have at least managed to shoot his take on the intergenerational space opera, the first of a planned two-part adaptation, which puts him on solid ground, historically speaking. Dune 2020 has a lot going for it in terms of cast, with an ensemble that includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Momoa, Zendaya, and (presumably) a few massive sandworms. And early stills promise that this new take on the sprawling saga of the desert planet Arrakis will have an intergalactic goth vibe that's plenty appealing. In theaters December 18.
West Side Story
Steven Spielberg has never actually made a musical, but it's always been clear that he really wants to make a musical. (See, for example, the grand musical sequences in 1941 and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom .) So, at long last, he's made a musical. And not just any musical. This Broadway warhorse, now sporting a screenplay by Tony Kushner and choreography by Justin Peck of the New York City Ballet, has all the great Spielbergian themes — family, belonging, ambition — as well as the potential for political relevance. Of course, we'll have to wait and see if it actually opens. In theaters December 18.
News of the World
Based on Paulette Jiles's moving novel about a "news reader" in post-Civil War America transporting a former child captive of the Kiowa, Paul Greengrass's Tom Hanks–starring Western could be the kind of epic that tackles America's complex history of race, violence, colonization, expansion, and integration. Or it could be … well, the opposite. Greengrass likes topical material, and his track record with it has veered between ham-handed didacticism and artful resonance. Let's remain optimistic. In theaters December 25.
Ramin Bahrani was once one of the most promising voices in American independent cinema, making intimate, hyperrealist character studies that also managed to immerse us in the subcultures they depicted. His last feature was the indifferently received Fahrenheit 451 , but this adaptation of Aravind Adiga's best-seller about the rise of a man born in an impoverished Indian village may well play to the director's strengths. On Netflix in December.
The Empty Man The Last Vermeer
Monsters of Man
Coming 2 America The Father
The Croods 2
The Truffle Hunters
Escape Room 2
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom The Prom
Sister of the Groom Love, Weddings and Other Disasters Farewell Amor The Capote Tapes
Dates Not Yet Announced
J.D. Vance's memoir about the Appalachian values that colored his family's life in ways both good and bad became a hot item several years ago, and now it gets the prestige pic treatment, directed by Ron Howard and starring Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Freida Pinto, and Haley Bennett. Could Howard get his mojo back after several high-profile flops? And with both Amy Adams and Glenn Close in the cast — two actresses who have become known for all the Oscars they haven't won — this could be in the awards conversation in a major way. Unless it's really good, in which case they'll probably lose again. On Netflix this fall.
David Fincher's film about the life of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz has an endearingly personal kick: It was written many years ago by the director's late father, and Fincher has been trying to get it made for decades. Add to that the fact that Mankiewicz was partly responsible for one of the greatest turning points of film history — the Orson Welles–directed Kane continues to exert its influence over cinema to this day — and the fact that Fincher appears to have shot his picture in the high style of classic Hollywood expressionism, and this is one of awards season's most intriguing titles. On Netflix this fall.
The Sound of Metal
Riz Ahmed plays a heavy metal drummer who … that's it, that's all we need to know. In theaters this fall.
Let Them All Talk
Steven Soderbergh retired from filmmaking in 2013 and returned to it four years later, and his output even since has felt incredibly limber — he's made a NASCAR heist movie, shot two very different films on an iPhone, and made a fourth-wall-breaking satire about the Panama Papers that ended with Meryl Streep pulling off her costume to deliver a statement about campaign-finance reform. His latest, Let Them All Talk, was shot in part on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner as it crossed the Atlantic from New York to the U.K. The film, which was written by Deborah Eisenberg, finds him reuniting with Streep, who plays a famous author who has opted to take a cruise with some old friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest) who may be nursing some old hurts. Lucas Hedges plays Streep's nephew, while Gemma Chan's a literary agent he gets involved with. On HBO Max this fall.
Malcolm and Marie
When the pandemic started, you just knew that somebody was going to wind up quarantining with some supremely talented people and get a great lockdown movie out of it. Will we be really upset if that "somebody" turns out to be Sam Levinson, creator of Euphoria and director of the over-the-top wannabe meme-fest Assassination Nation ? Starring John David Washington and Zendaya, this drama, seemingly made in record time, will certainly get people talking, but it remains to be seen what they will actually say about it. Out on some platform this year.
The Life Ahead Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey The Christmas Chronicles 2 Operation Christmas Drop The Princess Switch: Switched Again The Swarm The Midnight Sky On Netflix this year
Music On-Gaku: Our Sound Stardust Two of Us
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