Snowden Director: Oliver Stone Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto Synopsis: This biographical drama documents Edward Snowden's controversial leakage of numerous government files in June 2013. "Snowden" is an adaptation of the 2014 novel "The Snowden Files" by Luke Harding. Why It's Important: Oliver Stone is known for his engaging and thrilling historical films, and "Snowden" is no exception. This is a return to his political wheelhouse after the disappointing crime-thriller Savages. Release Date: September 16th
Blair Witch Director: Adam Wingard Cast: James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid Synopsis: A direct sequel to the 1999 classic "The Blair Witch Project," this film is set again in the ominous Black Hills Forest in Maryland. This time, the film follows a group of friends in search of one of the characters from the original film. Why It's Important: Adam Wingard has garnered a reputation for his engaging take on modern horror, with films such as "You're Next" (2011), and "The Guest" (2014). Unlike the original film and its 2000 sequel, "Blair Witch" is not found footage. Therefore, it will be exciting to see how Wingard tackles a familiar premise in a different format. Release Date: September 16th
American Honey Director: Andrea Arnold Cast: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough Synopsis: A young teenage runaway joins a group of magazine salespeople on a trip across the midwest. Why It's Important: The film's fascinating premise and mostly unknown cast and Arnold's previous successes with "Fish Tank" (2009) and "Red Road" (2006) give this film much promise. Release Date: September 30th
The Birth of a Nation Director: Nate Parker Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Gabrielle Union, Jackie Earle Haley Synopsis: "The Birth of a Nation" follows the 1831 American slave rebellion by the enslaved Nat Turner, an act that resulted in the death of over 200 slaves, including Nat Turner. Why It's Important: In his directorial debut, Nate Parker presents this film as an important historical rebranding of the portrayal of slavery through the film's title and subject matter. It exploded at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where a bidding war resulted in its purchase by distributor Fox Searchlight for $17 million. Release Date: October 7th
The Handmaiden Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Min-hee Kim, Kim Tae-ri Synopsis: Set in Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s, the film accounts a con man who hires a pick-pocketer named as a maid for a wealthy Japanese heiress in a plan to swindle the heiress out of her money. Complications ensues when the maid falls in love with the heiress. Why It's Important: The film is directed by Chan-Wook Park, who is well-known for his thrilling and twisted films such as Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005). Interestingly, the film is a reimagining of the novel "Fingersmith" (2002), which was set in Victorian England. Release Date: October 21st
Moonlight Director: Barry Jenkins Cast: Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Andre Holland Synopsis: The film spans three distinct periods in the life of a young black male, focusing on the struggles of his dysfunctional family, his faith, and his sexuality while navigating 1980s Miami. Why It's Important: Barry Jenkins successfully grappled with race relations in his previous film "Medicine for Melancholy," so this film should be no exception. Also, stories about African-American teenagers exploring their sexuality are especially rare, making this even more of a standout film. The reviews from Toronto have called it a masterpiece, and it continues producer/distributor A24's unique choices in the industry. Release Date: October 21st
A Monster Calls Director: Juan Antonio Bayona Cast: Lewis Macdougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson Synopsis: A young boy immerses himself in the imaginings of a tree-monster and other fairy-tale creatures to cope with school bullies and the impending death of his terminally-ill single mother. Why It's Important: What is most intriguing is the choice of director for this film adaptation of the critically-acclaimed book of the same name. Juan Antonio Bayona is mostly known for his gripping 2007 horror film "The Orphanage." Though this film is a family drama, it will be fascinating to observe Bayona's horror influences on this film focusing on death and loneliness. Release Date: October 21st
Doctor Strange Director: Scott Derrickson Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton Synopsis: A neurosurgeon with a destroyed career sets out to repair his hands only to find himself protecting the world from inter-dimensional threats. Why It's Important: Doctor Strange is an interesting litmus test of sorts for a number of parties involved in the film. For Marvel, it is a foray into a mystical world that doesn’t have a big audience outside of hardcore comic-book fans. For Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill, it is a chance to pitch for the big leagues after working in the low-budget horror space. And for Benedict Cumberbatch, it is a return to a franchise film that isn’t Star Trek Into Darkness. However, Marvel has surmounted bigger challenges before, with the stories of a ragtag group of space outlaws and a man who can talk to ants, which means that this film should be another home run for the studio. Release Date: November 4th
Arrival Director: Denis Villeneuve Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker Synopsis: A linguist (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications after mysterious pods land on Earth. Why It's Important: After making the transition to Hollywood in 2012 with Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve has crafted a unique niche for himself in the industry with arthouse fare that has managed to be highly commercial as well. His latest film finds him in a sandbox similar to his more high-profile upcoming production, Blade Runner 2. Coming off its Toronto premiere, Arrival is tipped to be this year’s Interstellar: a smart and challenging sci-fi film with a ton of heart, buoyed by an amazing cast. Release Date: November 11th
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Director: Ang Lee Cast: Amy Adams, Garrett Hedlund, Joe Alwyn, Vin Diesel Synopsis: 19-year-old Billy Lynn is brought home for a victory tour after a harrowing Iraq battle. Through flashbacks the film shows what really happened to his squad - contrasting the realities of war with America's perceptions. Why It's Important: Billy Lynn is Ang Lee’s first film since his Oscar-winning effort, Life of Pi, and it shows Lee pushing Hollywood forward into a technological future it might not be ready for. At 120fps 4K 3D, it promises to deliver an experience never before seen in a movie theater. And it looks like Lee has another winner on his hands; an 11-minute sequence blew audiences away in April. His ability to deliver strong emotions on the biggest scale is what makes this film a must-see this fall. Release Date: November 11th
Loving Director: Jeff Nichols Cast: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll Synopsis: Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple, become the forefront of the legal fight to make interracial marriages legal. Why It's Important: Jeff Nichols is back with his second feature of the year after the underrated Midnight Special; Loving is coming off rave reviews from Cannes and praise for the sensitive touch Nichols has brought to this true story. With its central performances held up as Oscar-worthy, we think there’s a lot to be excited about for this modest drama. Release Date: November 11th
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them Director: David Yates Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogel, Ezra Miller Synopsis: A magizoologist (Eddie Redmayne) makes a brief stop in 1926 New York but is waylaid by a Muggle, a misplaced magical case and the escape of some fantastic beasts. Why It's Important: This film marks a return for audiences to the cinematic wizarding world of the Harry Potter series since its conclusion in 2011, and it’s coming back in a big way. The screenplay has been written by J.K. Rowling herself, who has said that this is the first in a trilogy of its own. David Yates, director of the final four Harry Potter films, returns as well, and brings a line-up of fresh faces to a studio franchise, including indie darling Katherine Waterston, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, and the future Flash Ezra Miller. The trailers for the film promise a fun ride that harkens back to the Harry Potter world without feeling like an entire retread of it. Release Date: November 18th
Manchester By The Sea Director: Kenneth Lonergan Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler Synopsis: When his older brother dies unexpectedly, Lee (Casey Affleck) is made legal guardian of his late brother's teenage son and is forced to move back to his hometown in Massachusetts. There, he is confronted with memories from his past, including those of his ex-wife (Michelle Williams) and the North Shore community. Why It's Important: Director and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan is mostly known for writing the screenplay for the family drama You Can Count On Me and Gangs of New York both of which gained lots of spotlight and were nominated for many Academy Awards. Release Date: November 18th
Allied Director: Robert Zemeckis Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode Synopsis: In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa (Brad Pitt) encounters a female French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Why It's Important: Written by the super-hot British scribe Steven Knight, who previously wrote the Tom-Hardy-in-a-car film Locke and created the TV show Peaky Blinders, Allied looks like a modern Casablanca with its electrifying lead pair. Robert Zemeckis is also known for his deft hand when it comes to period pieces, and the film’s first trailer looks like he’s got the tone right for the film. Release Date: November 23rd
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham
Synopsis: A young Indian man (Dev Patel), separated from his family as a child and adopted by an Australian couple, sets out to find his parents using Google Earth, 25 years later.
Why It's Important: After premiering in this year’s Toronto Film Festival to strong reviews, Lion is being hailed as this year’s feel-good film, along the lines of The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire. With the backing of film studio executive Harvey Weinstein, its broad appeal and a cast that includes Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman, Lion looks poised to be a big player in this year's Oscar race.
Release Date: November 25th
Director: Tom Ford
Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher
Synopsis: A woman (Amy Adams) receives a copy of her ex-husband's (Armie Hammer) new novel and gets sucked into its fictional world, which forces her to confront her own demons. Based on the acclaimed novel "Tony & Susan" by Austin Wright.
Why It's Important: After winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, Tom Ford’s sophomore film Nocturnal Animals has become another strong contender for being one of the best films of the year. With an exhaustingly gorgeous cast comprised of Adams, Gyllenhaal, Hammer, Michael Shannon, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and lensed by veteran cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, this film has the prestige talent to fill multiple films, which makes this an upcoming exquisite delight for us.
Release Date: December 9th
Rogue One Director: Gareth Edwards Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen Synopsis: In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. Why It's Important: As the first film set in the Star Wars universe that doesn’t continue the primary story of the series (you know, the one with a Skywalker, a Solo, and a Chewie), there’s a lot riding on Rogue One for Disney and Lucasfilm. That burden has carried over into its production, where extensive reshoots of the film’s third act were made to make it more family-friendly for Disney’s audiences. Production troubles aside, Rogue One features some of the hottest rising stars in Hollywood, including Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna, and will feature the return of an old Star Wars foe, Darth Vader, making this a film we’re really looking forward to. Release Date: December 16th
La La Land Director: Damien Chazelle Cast: Rylan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons Synopsis: An ambitious jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) fall in love in the classic old-fashioned Hollywood style. Why It's Important: After premiering in this year’s Venice Film Festival, where Emma Stone won the Best Actress prize, and subsequently playing at Toronto as well, there is no film which has swept the critics off their feet as cleanly as La La Land has, making this one of the hottest films of the fall. Produced by Penn alum Fred Berger, La La Land also stars John Legend (another Penn connection!) and Rosemarie DeWitt. This might just be the film that brings the musical genre back in a big way to the cinema. Release Date: December 16th
Assassin's Creed Director: Justin Kurzel Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons Synopsis: An adaptation of the popular video game, "Assassin's Creed" follows a criminal (Michael Fassbender) who is forced to participate in the ominous Animus Project. For this Project, he relives the memories of an assassin, his ancestor, who lived during the Spanish Inquisition. As the simulation continues, he learns more about his family history and his role in defending the Assassins in present day. Why It's Important: "Assassin's Creed" sports an all-star cast, including Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons. Director Justin Kurzel is most well-known for his critically-acclaimed film adaptation of "Macbeth" in 2015, which was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival. Release Date: December 21st
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
Synopsis: A spacecraft is transporting thousands of people to a distant colony planet that has a malfunction in one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger (Chris Pratt) is awakened 90 years before anyone else. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone, he eventually decides to wake up a second passenger (Jennifer Lawrence).
Why It's Important: Passengers has been a long-gestating Hollywood project, written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus) 10 years ago as a spec script which landed on the 2007 Black List. It cycled through various iterations of its cast and crew, including a version that included Keanu Reeves and Emily Blunt as its lead. With Pratt, Lawrence and Tyldum, Spaihts probably ended up with the best adaptation of his script, and we can’t wait to see how this original sci-fi romance will move us when it lands in December.
Release Date: December 21st
Julieta Director: Pedro Almodovar Cast: Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao Synopsis: Julieta, a middle-aged woman in 1980s Madrid, decides to put her life back together after her husband passes away and her teenage daughter runs away. Why It's Important: Pedro Almodovar is no stranger to the spotlight. He has produced twenty films in his career, many of which are important contributions to Spanish cinema - this film is no exception. Like many of his films, "Julieta" deals with themes of family, trust, and betrayal in an effective and cogent way.. Release Date: December 21st
Director: Maren Ade
Cast: Peter Simonischek, Sandra Hüller, Lucy Russell
Synopsis: A reluctant woman (Sandra Hüller) must spend time with her estranged father (Peter Simonischek) when he comes for a surprise visit and begins to pull a few too many pranks on her.
Why It's Important: Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann is as crowd-pleasing as La La Land, with rave reviews out of Cannes and the winner of the FIPRESCI award at the festival. The film’s idiosyncratic tone and comic timing have already earned “Best of Year” plaudits from the critical community, and it’s Germany’s submission to the Oscars this year.
Release Date: December 25th
Gold Director: Stephen Gaghan Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard Synopsis: Official Synopsis: GOLD stars Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey as Kenny Wells, a failing businessman and modern-day prospector desperate for a lucky break. As a last ditch effort, Wells teams up with an equally luckless geologist, played by Edgar Ramirez, to execute a grandiose plan: find gold deep in the uncharted jungle of Indonesia. Why It's Important: Stephen Gaghan, the writer of the modern political ensemble films Traffic and Syriana, returns to directing with a film that looks like a hybrid of The Treasure of Sierra Madre meets The Wolf of Wall Street. With a McConaughey performance that looks truly bonkers, and the involvement of DP Robert Elswit and composer Daniel Pemberton, Gold is slated to be slick and raucous romp underpinned by bold ideas about American capitalism. Release Date: December 25th
Fences Director: Denzel Washingotn Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo Synopsis: In his directorial debut, Denzel Washington plays a retired baseball player in 1950s Pittsburgh who causes tension in his family when he brings home his child from an affair and denies his son from becoming a basketball player. Why It's Important: "Fences" has a lot going for it in terms of its source material. The film is an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning 1983 play of the same name by famed African-American playwright August Wilson. Wilson will also serve as the screenwriter of the film. Release Date: December 25th
Paterson Director: Jim Jarmusch Cast: Synopsis: In this comedy-drama, "Paterson" follows the life of a bus driver (Adam Driver) and his prolific poetry. Why It's Important: Director Jim Jarmusch has made a significant impact in the indie film scene for decades. His films often contemplate on the complexities of the mudane, and "Paterson" is no exception. If you want to see an intriguing film that does not hold itself to the restraints of traditional narrative structure, definitely consider checking this one out. Release Date: December 28th