Congratulations kids, you made it through another disastrous summer movie season, where Hollywood spends billions on soulless blockbusters and then panics when revenue doesn’t match their investment. The good news is that now that we've made it through to the other side, it’s time for the best the movie business has to offer to hit theaters. So without further ado, here are the movies that are poised to dominate the conversation for the rest of the year.
The long-delayed, long-awaited adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal work is a terrifying piece of ‘80s nostalgia that can probably thank Stranger Things for the major box office it’s about to bank this weekend (the movie even borrows Finn Wolfhard from the Netflix show). It can also thank the Warner Bros. marketing team, for releasing some of the freakiest trailers we’ve seen in a long time, and rightfully focusing on Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise the Clown, whose performance, if early reviews are to be believed, is poised to go down as iconic.
What can be said about Darren Aronofsky’s Jennifer Lawrence-starring mystery box? Almost nothing, because the marketing has been purposefully cryptic, and because it’s probably best not to read the reviews coming out of the movie’s recent premiere at the Venice Film Festival so as not to spoil what promises to be a surprising and divisive film. So let’s all meet back here after we’ve seen it (it comes out on September 15) and discuss.
Last year we got the procedural-style recreation of the Boston Marathon bombing with Patriots Day. This year, director David Gordon Green is focusing on the human toll of this tragedy, by telling the true story of Jeff Bauman, a man who lost both of his legs in the attack. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Bauman, who, before embarking on his long and grueling road to recovery, also helped police identify the bombing suspects from his hospital bed.
Battle of the Sexes
Emma Stone and Steve Carell dramatize the real-life tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and the media circus that led up to it. Riggs was a crass, chauvinistic a-hole who tried to intimidate and humiliate King every chance he got, but, spoiler alert, it didn’t work. And if all of this sounds strangely timely and familiar, that’s because it is.
Tom Ford has set the gold standard for fashion designers attempting to break into the movie world, and now the Rodarte sisters, Laura and Kate Mulleavy, are following in his footsteps. Naturally, they chose their muse (and our September cover star), Kirsten Dunst, to lead this story about a woman, who, while mourning a personal loss, takes a strange, dangerous drug, whose effects lead her down a hallucinatory path.
A sort-of remake of the 1990 sci-fi horror that came out to mixed reviews and ambivalent audiences, but that has since been embraced as a cult classic. It’s only a sort-of remake because while it does feature a new cast of actors—Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, and Kiersey Clemons among them—playing medical students who conduct experiments surrounding near-death experiences, the movie also stars Kiefer Sutherland, who’ll be reprising his role from the original. Technically, that makes this a sequel.
Coming off arguably the biggest disaster of his nearly bulletproof career, Tom Cruise needs a hit badly—or at least a movie that people like. (The surefire hit will come with the next Mission: Impossible movie, which is currently filming.) This true story, about the TWA pilot Barry Seal who ends up smuggling drugs for Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel, only to get recruited by the CIA and DEA as an informant, could be the answer to his problems. Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow) rarely makes a movie that isn’t entertaining, and Cruise himself has proven time and again that he doesn’t need elaborate action set pieces to be a watchable screen presence. The dude can act.
Blade Runner 2049
Ridley Scott recently returned to one sci-fi universe he created with last summer’s Alien: Covenant. But for the sequel to his landmark future-noir thriller, the legendary director handed the reins to the supremely gifted Denis Villeneuve, who looks to have crafted a gorgeous, worthy successor to the original story of the humanoid robots, known as replicants, and the titular police officers who hunt them. Harrison Ford returns in his iconic role of Rick Deckard, and he’s joined by young bloods Ryan Gosling—playing a fellow, trench coat-wearing cop—and Jared Leto, as a villain with a nasty god complex.
The Mountain Between Us
Every now and then, Hollywood loves to put out an old-school survival tale, usually involving a catastrophe and the resulting struggle to survive against Mother Nature’s cruel indifference. Last year that tragedy was at the paws of a gargantuan bear. This year, it’s a more traditional plane crash, and the survivors are a journalist and a doctor, played by Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, who have the difficult challenge of surviving in a harsh landscape while also falling in love.
The Florida Project
Sean Baker made his last movie, Tangerine, on an iPhone. Even more surprising is that Tangerine was actually really good. His follow-up, The Florida Project, might actually be even better. Set on the outer edges of Orlando, Baker tells the story of a little girl’s adventures in and around the motel she lives in with her mother, and the complicated and compassionate adults around her, including the motel manager played by Willem Dafoe. Baker, a true maverick, cast non-professionals as his child actors, and the lead, Brooklynn Prince, is revelatory.
The Meyerowitz Stories
No one captures the interaction between the psyche and the physical quite like Noah Baumbach, and he's at it again with this Cannes hit and Netflix acquisition. Adam Sandler—going the much-welcome dramatic route—and Ben Stiller star as brothers who must contend with the outsized shadow of their father, played by Dustin Hoffman. Sandler has been getting raves for his performance as a sad sack who's struggling to cope with his life’s failures, which leaves us to wonder why he doesn’t give up the comedy thing entirely and just play it straight. (Oh right, money.)
Throughout his sparkling career, Todd Haynes has made moves that were unapologetically adult. With Wonderstruck, however, the director of such gems as Carol and Far from Heaven has adapted Brian Selznick’s children’s novel of the same name, about two children, one in 1927 and one in 1977, who both run away from home in search of other people. To play Rose, the child from the 1927 story line, Haynes plucked deaf actress Millicent Simmonds from obscurity, and word on the street is that she kills it.
Best buds George Clooney and Matt Damon team up once again for this satirical crime thriller written by the Coen brothers. Clooney directs Damon in one of those stories where a cookie cutter, sunny surface is masking a dark underbelly of crime, corruption, and killer instincts. Julianne Moore co-stars as twin sisters, and Oscar Isaac shows up as an insurance fraud investigator. There will be blood.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Just like his last movie wasn’t about an actual lobster (well, not really), Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest isn’t about the murder of a deer. Instead, it’s about a cardiac surgeon (Colin Farrell, reuniting with his The Lobster director), who befriends a 16-year-old boy (Dunkirk’s Barry Keoghan) and brings him into his family as a kind of surrogate son. That’s when things take a dark, creepy turn. In what direction, we’re not exactly sure—trying to avoid spoilers for this one—but the movie’s intensely unnerving trailer hints at some deeply disturbing shit going down.
The Thor movies have traditionally been some of the weaker entries into the Marvel canon, so for the third entry, the Marvel powers that be wanted to shake things up. So they hired Taika Waititi, the childlike, crackerjack Kiwi director behind such imaginative movies as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. And from what we’ve seen so far, Waititi has infused the franchise with humor, imagination, and a pop art color palette that gives it the potential to be one of Marvel’s best movies yet. And Cate Blanchett as the supervillain Hela looks terrifying.
Roman J. Israel, Esq
One of our favorite movies of the last five years was Nightcrawler, the one where a bug-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal chases down crime scenes all over Los Angeles. Now, writer and director Dan Gilroy is back with this follow-up, another exploration of L.A.’s seedier side, which stars Denzel Washington as the titular activist lawyer who reluctantly teams up with a hotshot lawyer played by Colin Farrell, who in turn challenges the ethics and morality that have so far defined Israel's career.
Murder on the Orient Express
There are all-star casts, and then there’s the cast of Murder on the Orient Express. Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Leslie Odom Jr. all play passengers on the titular train, suspected of murdering a fellow passenger played by Johnny Depp. The one doing the suspecting? That’d be Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s legendary detective, played here by the movie’s director Kenneth Branagh.
Warner Bros. answer to Marvel's Avengers juggernaut is this hasty team-up of DC superheroes, some of whom we’ve not yet met (is that you, Cyborg?). In the wake of the twin disasters that were Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, hopes for this movie had hit rock bottom. Then along came a certain Amazonian princess to save not only the world but potentially this entire franchise.
No one knows their way behind a script better than Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network and Moneyball, but can he direct? We’re about to find out with this, his directorial debut, an adaptation of Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. Jessica Chastain plays Molly, who, as the book title suggests, was the eventual target of an FBI investigation after running an underground poker empire for some very rich and famous men. Idris Elba co-stars.
After succumbing to a case of sequel-itis with the back-to-back releases of Finding Dory and Cars 3, it’s a treat to get a completely original story from the wizards at Pixar, this one about a boy and his dog who venture into a fantastical world, inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, on a search for his family’s secrets.
Rooney Mara stars as the famous follower of Jesus of Nazareth, who is said to have witnessed both his crucifixion and his resurrection. You can assume at least the former will be depicted in the film because here’s a photo of Mara smoking a cigarette on set while Jesus—played by Joaquin Phoenix—is nailed to the cross. This is also the movie where Mara and Phoenix fell in love because nothing brings two people together like the birth of Christianity.
Call Me by Your Name
If you haven’t yet heard of this movie, then you’re just not paying attention. Maybe the most talked about film at Sundance, this lush love story from Luca Guadagnino stars Timothée Chalamet (in a breakout role) as a young man who, while spending the summer in Italy with his family, falls for an older academic played by Armie Hammer. We haven’t seen it yet, but everyone else who has absolutely flipped for it, and we’re pretty sure we (and you) will too.
The Disaster Artist
James Franco has had a spotty career as a director, but after a raucous SXSW premiere, it looks like he’s finally found his sweet spot with this dramatization of the making of The Room, widely considered to be the worst movie ever made. Franco stars as the eccentric Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, directed, and starred in The Room (Franco reportedly directed the movie in character), and he’s joined by friends and collaborators like Seth Rogen, his brother Dave, Zac Efron, sister-in-law Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, and Josh Hutcherson.
All the Money in the World
One of two competing projects about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III (the other is an FX drama being spearheaded by Danny Boyle), this Ridley Scott-directed thriller examines the aftermath and media circus surrounding what happened when the tycoon J. Paul Getty (Kevin Spacey), at the time the richest man in the world, refused to pay the $17 million ransom to free his grandson, played here by the next-big-thing Charlie Plummer. (What happened was they cut off the boy’s ear and sent it to his grandfather in the mail.) Michelle Williams stars as the younger Getty’s mother, and Mark Wahlberg plays a negotiator brought in to help secure Getty’s release.
The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro’s latest monster fantasia enchanted audiences at both the Venice and Telluride film festivals (it plays at TIFF this week), and based on that spellbinding trailer, it’s hard not to see why. The always terrific Sally Hawkins plays a mute employee of a secret government facility, who discovers and befriends a nautical creature being held captive there and experimented on. Michael Shannon plays the sinister government official keeping them apart, but the real star here is del Toro himself, that rare filmmaker who can work within sci-fi and horror frameworks while managing to create deeply emotional story arcs at the same time.
Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers that has never made a bad movie. Rarer still is that he’s only made great ones. Go down the list—Election, Sideways, About Schmidt, The Descendants, Nebraska—modern classics, all of them. They are also all rooted in a recognizable reality. Not his latest, which stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who decide to undergo an experimental treatment that shrinks them down to 5 inches tall, after which they move into a miniature community, as a way of supposedly living a better life. It’s Payne’s first foray into high-concept genre territory, and we can’t wait to see it.
Pitch Perfect 3
The improbably super-popular franchise returns with a third and presumably final installment that sees the Bellas, now adrift in their post-college lives, reunite for one last belter, competing in an overseas USO tour against a dangerous new foe that uses—gasp!—instruments.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Never heard of this one, sorry!