Fall 2020 Movie Preview: Anticipated Films of the Season
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
In typical 2020 fashion, this autumn will look a little different at the movies but they will still be getting released, whether digitally or in theaters that have reopened. With the Oscars pushed to April 25th, 2021 awards season has also changed. Berlin and Sundance were the only two film festivals to occur this year back in January and February (Parasite winning Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year feels like 10 years ago) and the biggest film festival in the world- Cannes- was canceled in May. Annually, it’s Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York that kick off awards season in the Fall, showcasing global picks, Hollywood blockbusters, and awards contenders. This year, Telluride is canceled, New York is going virtual, Toronto has truncated its lineup for in-person or virtual options, while Venice is going full steam ahead with masks, social distancing and all those guidelines we all know and… yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes at the Lido.
I have compiled a list of the most anticipated films coming out this fall season as well as films premiering at festivals (Venice, Toronto, New York) that don’t have a release date but could this fall after their festival debut. As per usual in 2020, release dates or method of release could change and whether any of these on the list, especially the festival films, come out sometime in the coming months is uncertain. Some of them could come out next year. Either way, here are the films to hopefully catch this fall.
Tenet (Theaters, September 4th)
Christopher Nolan’s new brain defying actioner hits the States this week. First reviews say it’s a bit impenetrable but the set pieces are typical Nolan sights to behold. Coherent plot or not, the hype is dented but still there. Will it save cinema? No, because cinema doesn’t need saving. I think this list is proof of that. It won’t be Dunkirk anyway. Nolan will never top that. Tom Cruise liked it!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix, September 4th)
I impetuously bought Ian Reid’s novel one day just on the title alone and read the book in 3 hours when all I could think about was ending it. I couldn’t put it down. This crazy story is now on the screen thanks to the surreal genius of consciousness Charlie Kaufman. The man behind The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, Synecdoche, New York and Being John Malkovich. Hot off a novel of his own this year (“Antkind”), Kaufman’s film (starring Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette and David Thewlis) is getting rave reviews, with some saying it’s the best of the year so far. Don’t expect this to be an easy watch or to even really know what’s going on. Knowing Kaufman, it’ll probably take some agency from the novel while leaving the thrilling, mind-boggling, and jaw-dropping devices that will most likely proffer Kaufman’s themes of mind vs. body, love, egotism, and loneliness.
Mulan (Disney+, September 4th)
$30 even for Disney+ subscribers. Worth it? We’ll see. So far, none of these live-action remakes have come close to the original animated classics. Taking away the music is obviously a deliberate choice. Will it work?
Gia Coppola is back with her first project since her brilliant 2014 teenage film and debut Palo Alto. Starring Maya Hawke, Andrew Garfield, Nat Wolff, and Jason Schwartzman, Coppola this time is turning her focus to the detritus of social media.
One Night in Miami (Venice, Toronto)
Regina King is one of the best actresses working today. Now she steps behind the camera for her directorial debut about Cassius Clay celebrating with his friends Malcom X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke after Clay’s World Heavyweight Boxing Championship title win on the night of February 25th, 1964. That’s quite an assortment of people and sure to make a very intriguing film.
Martin Eden (Theaters and Virtual Cinemas, September 11th)
This film, based on Jack London’s wonderful 1909 novel that any aspiring writer should read, and set in Italy instead of the Bay Area, comes from Italian filmmaker Pietro Marcello and premiered at Venice last year. Filmed in 16mm, this is still very much a resonant story for our time.
Sibyl (Virtual Cinemas, September 11th)
A Cannes entry last year and one that I’ve been waiting a while for, Sibyl is a psychological thriller about a psychotherapist writing a novel about one of her patient’s life stories.
Pieces of a Woman (Venice, Toronto)
Another addition to the films covering class division, this English-language film from Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó stars Shia Labeouf as a construction worker and Vanessa Kirby as a business woman who fall in love and endure a trying future together.
The Devil All the Time (Netflix, September 16th)
Violence and religion go hand in hand in Antonio Campos’ new film (see Christine on Netflix right now to know what you’re dealing with) and with an insanely good cast, including Tom Holland, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Eliza Scanlen, Jason Clarke, and Bill Skarsgard, it’s sure to be a doozy.
Antebellum (Digital On Demand, September 18th)
This one will be talked about. A modern Black woman is thrust back into the horrifying life of antebellum slavery. An interesting premise for sure, and one that will hopefully have a deeper, thoughtful examination of our nation’s dark history than jump-scares and twists.
Tragic Jungle (Venice, New York)
Official synopsis: “1920, on the border between Mexico and Belize. Deep in the Mayan jungle, a lawless territory where myths abound, a group of Mexican gum workers cross paths with Agnes, a mysterious young Belizean woman. Her presence incites tension among the men, arousing their fantasies and desires. Filled with new vigor, they face their destiny, without knowing that they have woken up Xtabay, a legendary being that lurks in the heart of the jungle.” From Mexican filmmaker Yulene Olaizola, this sounds like something else entirely.
Kajillionaire (Theaters, September 18th)
I haven’t seen any of Miranda July’s films but I’ve heard good things. Anything that looks quirky and with Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld) is worth seeing.
The Nest (Theaters, September 18th; Digital On Demand November 17th)
This Sundance 2020 film stars Jude Law and Carrie Coon. That’s enough incentive for me.
Misbehaviour (Theaters and Digital, September 25th)
TV director Phillipa Lowthorpe, known for directing episodes of The Crown and Call the Midwife, makes her feature debut about the feminist protest of the 1970 Miss World Competition. Lesley Manville, Jessie Buckley, Keira Knightley, and Keeley Hawes star.
76 Days (Toronto)
Two Chinese journalists have already put together a documentation of the COVID-19 outbreak from the epicenter where it all started: Wuhan. This is the first of what is sure to be many COVID-19 documentaries.
This looks very Portrait of a Lady on Fire-esque except with science instead of art. Hopefully it’s half as beautiful and perfect as that film was. With Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, and another period setting, it’s sure to be close.
Concrete Cowboy (Toronto)
Idris Elba stars in this film about urban horseback riding in Philadelphia. Real life thing, fictional story. I was in the minute I saw a picture of Idris Elba on a horse.
MLK/FBI (Toronto, New York)
Editor Sam Pollard’s historical documentary centers on J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI surveillance of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. and the “threat” they believed him to be. This will be an important watch and if you’re looking for other relevant films to check out during this pivotal time check out I Am Not Your Negro (On Netflix), The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (On Amazon Prime), Les Miserable (No, not the musical; this is a 2020 Oscar Foreign-Language nominee on Amazon Prime about cops and African immigrants outside of Paris), and Within Our Gates (the oldest known surviving film directed by an African American in 1920; 100 years later and still gut-punchingly relevant; also on Amazon Prime). Also, just watch any old interview with James Baldwin on YouTube and listen.
A Call to Spy (Theaters and Digital, October 2nd)
This IFC Films release is about a group of female spies recruited by Winston Churchill during World War II.
Save Yourselves! (Digital On Demand, October 6th)
In this sci-fi comedy, a young couple decides to ditch their phones and the internet for a trip to upstate New York, hoping the digital detox will rectify their relationship and remedy their souls. Little do they know, thanks to lack of instant news, the world is suddenly under threat.
Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix, October 2nd)
For any fans of Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson, her new documentary hitting Netflix about her dying father, is sure to be another powerful showcase.
Wonder Woman 1984 (Theaters, October 2nd)
Will it be better than the first one? That’s a tough barrier to overcome, being that the first entry is one of the best superhero movies ever made.
Time (Theaters, October 9th)
Beloved at Sundance this year, Time is a nonfiction piece about a woman raising six children while fighting to get her husband out of jail.
Shithouse (Theaters and Digital, October 16th)
This SXSW Jury Prize winner written, directed, and edited by its 22-year old star is a low-budget coming-of-age film about a freshman in college struggling with his departure from home. Then he meets a girl and things change. Sounds trite, but with rave reviews, it’s apparently got a lot of fresh elements going for it.
Candyman (Theaters, October 16th)
Look in the mirror and say “Candyman” five times. A sequel of sorts to the 1992 cult horror film of the same name. Jordan Peele produced and co-wrote the screenplay with director Nia DaCosta. One of the best slasher films ever, a modern take will hopefully be just as thrilling and knowing Peele, he’ll not only up the horror but the smart social commentary as well.
French Exit (New York)
The Closing Night film of the New York Film Festival, French Exit stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges as a mother and son who sail from New York to Paris.
Rebecca (Netflix, October 21st)
The famous novel by Daphne du Maurier, once a Hitchcock classic, now a Netflix movie. But with Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High-Rise) behind the camera it could at least be better than the bland photo stills Netflix has released. Plus, Lily James and Armie Hammer are always fun to watch.
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Theaters, October 23rd)
Taylor Sheridan, the man behind the hit TV show Yellowstone, films Sicario, Wind River and Hell or High Water, and one my personally favorite writer-directors working today, sets his focus on Big Sky country. Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, and Tyler Perry lead this film about a young witness to murder on the run in Montana. Sheridan’s eye for the morbid in the underrepresented modern west continues.
Connected (Theaters, October 23rd)
After the astounding Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, Phil Lord and Chris Miller are hoping to revolutionize animation even further with this comedy film about a father and daughter fighting robots.
Fatale (Theaters, October 30th)
This psychological thriller stars Hilary Swank as a deceitful woman exploiting a one-night stand with a married man.
Black Widow (Theaters, November 6th)
Come for Scarlett Johannson, stay for Florence Pugh.
Deep Water (Theaters, November 6th)
The talent on this: adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s suspense novel by Zach Helm and Euphoria showrunner Sam Levinson, starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas. A sexy adult thriller/drama with starpower; there aren’t many movies like this anymore.
The Climb (Theaters, November 13th)
A buddy comedy from last year’s edition of Cannes about two biker friends over the course of several years.
Soul (Theaters, November 20th)
Pixar’s second release after this summer’s Onward and they’re turning to jazz. Jamie Foxx is a New York teacher who plays piano at a jazz club with a fantastical spin. Tina Fey also stars.
No Time to Die (Theaters, November 20th)
Feels like forever ago when this was the first film in March to be delayed. Daniel Craig’s last foray as 007, Cary Fukunaga directing. Should be better than Spectre, but will it top Skyfall?
Voyagers (Theaters, November 25th)
Colin Farrell, Tye Sheridan, Lily-Rose Depp and Fionn Whitehead round out this sci-fi film about a group of young people on a space mission to find a new home.
Nomadland (Theaters, December 4th)
Not many filmmakers have captured the American West like Chloe Zhao. From the powerful poeticism of Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015) to the heavy cowboy drama The Rider (2017), she continues her journey through the same landscape, this time with the formidable Frances McDormand. She stars as a woman traveling the west in an old RV. This is Zhao’s last effort before she’s swept into the factory assembly line that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (The Eternals, set for 2021). So enjoy it.
The Father (Theaters, December 18th)
This Sundance darling is set for Oscar gold. Anthony Hopkins plays a domineering father at odds with his daughter played by Olivia Colman.
West Side Story (Theaters, December 18th)
Steven Spielberg helms a contemporary take on the classic 1961 musical film, this time with actual Latinx actors portraying the Puerto Rican characters. With Spielberg and authenticity, this sounds like it could surpass the original.
Dune (Theaters, December 18th)
The most anticipated movie of the year. Master filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, Enemy, Prisoners, Sicario) brings the impossible task of adapting Frank Herbert’s masterpiece sci-fi novel to screen. Timothee Chalamet, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Charlotte Rampling and Oscar Isaac make up the impressive ensemble. With Hans Zimmer composing the score, this is bound to be an experience like no other and a holiday season blockbuster to remember.
News of the World (Theaters, December 25th)
Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93) puts Tom Hanks in the Old West as a lonely man traveling through Texas to deliver a young orphan girl to her relatives. Could be another Oscar nom for the COVID surviving actor.