The leaves are changing and pumpkin spice is on tap, which can only mean one thing: fall is upon us — and with it a bevy of movies that could very well influence this year’s Oscar race and end-of-year lists.
In spite of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA/WGA strike, movies are still coming out. But it will be interesting to see how the dual strike affects promotion, box office and this year’s Oscars race. Regardless, there’s something for everyone. Big awards heavy-hitters like “Maestro” and “Saltburn” will be on film buffs most anticipated lists, while blockbusters like “The Creator” and “Saw X” will charm those just looking for a good time at the movies.
Here are the 30 films TheWrap’s film team is excited to see this fall.
“The Equalizer 3” (Sept. 1)
Denzel Washington returns to complete his trilogy as action hero Robert McCall and has us very excited. After leaving behind his past as a government assassin, McCall finds comfort in dispensing justice for the downtrodden. Residing in the southern region of Italy, he swiftly realizes that his recent companions are being manipulated by crime leaders in the area. As the situation escalates into a life-threatening ordeal, McCall steps up as their guardian, confronting the mafia to shield those he now cares for. What does that mean? Bodies. Lots of them, courtesy of McCall’s clever kills. Director Antoine Fuqua also returns. –Umberto Gonzalez
“Perpetrator” (Sept. 1)
Jennifer Reeder is back with another Shudder original, and her latest looks to be every bit the probing, genre-bending and unapologetically idiosyncratic work the “Knives and Skin” and “Signature Move” filmmaker is known for. Reeder’s bold films always splash through me like a glass of some rare, strong spirit so I’m eager to see what strange brew she concocts next. This time, it’s a supernatural-meets-slasher story about a reckless teenager (Kiah McKirnan), sent to live with her estranged aunt (Alicia Silverstone) who experiences a radical metamorphosis on her 18th birthday and targets the eponymous perpetrator hunting girls at her school. –Haleigh Foutch
“The Nun 2” (Sept. 8)
“The Nun” was the weakest chapter in the Conjuring Universe and the highest-grossing, with $366 million worldwide. So why the excitement for a sequel? Well, “Annabelle: Creation” and “Annabelle Comes Home” were both better than the first “Annabelle” spin-off movie. For that matter, “Ouiji: Origin of Evil” had Mike Flanagan in the director’s chair and was a huge improvement. But mostly it’s because “The Nun 2” is cowritten by Akela Cooper. Am I ready for another “Nun” movie? No! But if it’s written by the woman who wrote “Hellfest,” “Malignant” and “M3GAN,” I’ll see any scary story she puts her name on. –Scott Mendelson
“El Conde” (Sept. 8)
“Jackie” and “Spencer” filmmaker Pablo Larraín returns with an unexpected horror-comedy spin on his signature biopics. In “El Conde” (“The Count”), the Chilean filmmaker turns his historical fascination toward infamous dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film imagines him as a literal monster: a vampire who has lived for 250 years and is now, at last, ready to die. But, per the synopsis, “the vultures around him won’t let him go without one last bite.” A historical satire from an awards darling who has a proven passion for recontextualizing history? I’ll be there. “El Conde” debuts on Netflix in September following a world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it’s in a crowded competition for the Golden Lion alongside films from David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Michael Mann and Yorgos Lanthimos. –H.F.
“A Haunting in Venice” (Sept. 15)
We really gotta give it up for Kenneth Branagh, as he’s crafted an Agatha Christie universe that, in three movies, has kept viewers on the edge of their seats. The 2017 feature “Murder on the Orient Express” was a placid, formulaic murder mystery with an all star cast. But, for me, it was 2022’s “Death on the Nile” that made me pledge my life to this franchise. That wild, wacky, sex-fueled (if sexless) take on Christie’s material gave us memes for days and was just fun. How could Branagh top it? By giving us a somber Gothic haunted house movie that feels like a close cousin of Alejandro Amenbar’s “The Others.” Branagh’s Poirot (and his ‘stache) are on the case again, but now we might have ghosts? We also get Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as a medium, Kelly Reilly (free of “Yellowstone”) and a serious Tina Fey. This feels like a completely unpredictable film, and if it gives me half as much glee as “Death on the Nile,” it’ll be a great time at the movies. –Kristen Lopez
“Dumb Money” (Sept. 22)
Hollywood sure works fast, doesn’t it? It was just two years ago that the GameStop meme stock craze made financial headlines, and already we’re getting a movie about it. Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”) directs this foul-mouthed retelling of the craze that sent the Internet cheering and hedge fund billionaires panicking, with Paul Dano playing the social media savvy financial guru who masterminded it all. How is he introduced? By showing him going out for a jog while billionaires like Steve Cohen start frantically calling each other and “W.A.P.” thumps in the background. –Jeremy Fuster
“Flora and Son” (Sept. 22)
Eve Hewson, daughter of Paul Hewson — aka Bono, lead singer of U2 — stars in her own musical story, “Flora and Son,” from director John Carney (“Once”). Flora (Hewson) pulls the ultimate single person move when she takes up guitar lessons via a Zoom tutor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to impress her young son (Oren Kinlan) who wants nothing to do with her or school. While her guitar teacher lives in Los Angeles and she lives in Dublin, they still manage to form a close connection. Carney’s inspiration came from his own mother and that emotional through line shines through in the trailer. –Dessi Gomez
“Expend4bles” (Sept. 22)
This is less about excitement and more about bemused curiosity. In a sane world, one less dominated by IP and franchises, the commercial failure of “The Expendables 3” would have marked the end of Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham’s older action stars to the rescue series. But once more into the trenches they go, trading out franchise vets like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis for the likes of Megan Fox and Tony Jaa (who was hilarious in “Detective Chinatown 3”). When Keanu Reeves, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel are top-lining A-level action franchises, and 80-year-old Harrison Ford just reprised his role as Indiana Jones, the notion of old(er) action heroes is a lot less noteworthy than it was when “The Expendables” debuted in 2010. Acting as a quasi-apology for the last PG-13 installment, this presumably ultraviolent offering has nothing to prove and no goals beyond offering the shaggy-dog schlock of the now higher profile direct-to-consumer action market with theatrical production values. –S.M.
“Saw X” (Sept. 29)
Fun fact: The first date with the woman I would eventually marry was the opening night of “Saw II” — her choice — and we spent the next five years celebrating the occasion by seeing the next “Saw” sequel. The Jigsaw series went from a grotesque aberration to the definitive horror series of the post-9/11 zeitgeist. Like the franchises that came of age in the 2000s, it eventually became as much about its pinball continuity and marquee characters as the franchise-specific spectacle it happened to offer. Come for the ridiculously gruesome Jigsaw traps, stay for the bonkers and constantly retconning narrative. After two prior attempts — “Jigsaw” in 2017 and “Spiral” in 2021 — to revive the series, this chapter brings back Kevin Greutert, the director of the series-best “Saw VI,” as well as that film’s Tobin Bell-focused narrative and anger at the privatized medical industry. We’ll see if “Saw X” can recapture the of-the-moment relevancy of its still impressive seven-movie run. –S.M.
“The Creator” (Sept. 29)
An original sci-fi film from a major studio hitting theaters? We’ll sign up for that. “Rogue One” director Gareth Edwards brings us a story set in a futuristic war between humanity and artificial intelligence. The film follows Joshua (John David Washington), a special forces soldier tasked with finding the creator of the AI forces threatening humans and destroying a super-weapon capable of laying out humanity for good. But much to Joshua’s shock, that weapon is an android named Alfie, who has been built with the appearance and personality of a young girl. Disney and 20th Century Studios are premiering the film at Fantastic Fest, a film festival that has become a kingmaker for sci-fi and horror box office successes, so “The Creator” might have the makings of a sleeper hit. –J.F.
“Foe” (Oct. 6)
In one of the most thrilling actor pairings of the year, Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal star in the latest from “Lion” filmmaker Garth Davis. In “Foe,” married couple Junior (Mescal) and Henrietta (Ronan) receive a strange visitor who tells them Junior has been drafted to travel to space at an undisclosed time, saddling them with an uncertain future and testing their marriage in the process. “Foe” is based on the page-turning novel of the same name by Iain Reid, who also penned “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” The two titles share a queasy sense of unsettling mystery and the surreal sense that something is just not right, if you could only put your finger on it. With such a captivating leading duo, “Foe” has the potential to be the high-anxiety psychological puzzler of the year. –H.F.
“Cat Person” (Oct. 6)
Susannah Fogel is one of my favorite directors. From her wacky spy comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me” to her time on the phenomenal series “The Flight Attendant,” Fogel’s work combines genre thrills with themes of friendship and femininity that just hit me. “Cat Person,” based on Kristen Roupenian’s short story, feels like an exciting departure. Emilia Jones plays a college girl who meets an older man (Nicholas Braun) online and the relationship starts to take dark turns. I missed this at Sundance this year, but the vibe feels akin to another feminist horror movie I love, “Fresh,” and that’s saying something. I love a good horror story aimed at the fears we women have but never voice. Fogel never tells a straightforward narrative, so I expect this one to have many a good twist and turns. –K.L.
“Totally Killer” (Oct. 6)
Kiernan Shipka plays Jamie, whose mother (Julie Bowen) is murdered by a vicious serial killer. In order to save her mom, she travels back in time to stop the killer before he strikes. We’re assuming there will be some “Back to the Future”-style hijinks with Jamie bonding with the younger version of her mother (Olivia Holt). The premise bears more than a passing resemblance to the wonderful, woefully underrated “Final Girls” from 2015 (daughter reconnects with her fallen mother when she is transported to the cheesy 1980s slasher movie her mom starred in), with a little “Happy Death Day” thrown in for good measure. But we have faith in the “Totally Killer” team, led by director Nahnatchka Khan (who created “Fresh Off the Boat” and directed the terrific Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe”). “Hocus Pocus 2” screenwriter Jen D’Angelo and producer Jason Blum, the czar of modern horror, are also attached. –Drew Taylor
“Killers of the Flower Moon” (Oct. 6)
“Killers of the Flower Moon” marks the 27th narrative feature film from director Martin Scorsese and his first since 2019’s stunning “The Irishman.” Based on New Yorker writer David Grann’s bestselling (and deeply disturbing) 2017 nonfiction book, “Killers of the Flower Moon” has taken some interesting detours in its path to the big screen. The biggest deviation was when star Leonardo DiCaprio who, like Scorsese, had been attached since 2017, decided that he wanted to change roles — instead of playing the plucky FBI Agent Tom White (now played by Jesse Plemmons), DiCaprio wanted to portray Ernest Buckhart, one of the dastardly white men who conspire to murder Osage natives and take their land. DiCaprio’s swap meant a dramatic fulcrum shift for the movie, with Scorsese and writer Eric Roth revising the entire project. Considering the rapturous response the movie got out of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this summer (The Guardian called it an “epic of creeping, existential horror”), “Killers of the Flower Moon” might be a Scorsese masterpiece that also becomes an Oscar frontrunner. Talk about striking oil. –D.T.
“The Exorcist: Believer” (Oct. 6)
In this exciting new chapter of “The Exorcist” saga, Leslie Odom, Jr. (last seen in “Glass Onion”) plays a father whose young daughter is possessed by a demon along with her best friend. Frustrated and in search of answers, he calls on Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn, returning to the franchise for the first time in 50 years) for help. “The Exorcist: Believer” was directed and cowritten by David Gordon Green, who just finished his new “Halloween” trilogy last year with “Halloween Ends.” (Scott Teems and Danny McBride, who also worked on his “Halloween” trilogy, have also returned.) With “The Exorcist: Believer,” Green has said he’s going for a different sort of horror, one more rooted in the spiritual and philosophical, but his goals are still the same: to scare you silly. “The Exorcist: Believer” is produced by Jason Blum (October is essentially “Jason Blum Month”). And a sequel — “The Exorcist: Deceiver” — has already been given a release date (April 18, 2025). It’s unclear if Green will return for that installment, which was the original plan. But hey, the devil is in the details. –D.T.
“Anatomy of a Fall” (Oct. 13)
How nail-biting can a courtroom drama get? Justine Triet tries to answer that question with her Palme D’Or-winning thriller starring Sandra Hüller as a writer with a very bitter marriage on the verge of collapsing. A day after a huge fight with her husband, she wakes up to find him dead outside their winter chalet, and now she is suspected of murdering him. But whether she’s actually innocent is something that Triet plays with, withholding information from the audience and making the outcome more and more uncertain as the trial develops. –J.F.
“The Persian Version” (Oct. 13)
Director Maryam Keshavarz’s film looks like an extremely charming family drama, in the vein of “Joy Ride” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” It tells the story of a large Iranian-American family who come together and, no surprise, uncover a bevy of family secrets. The film delighted audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — one of several I, personally, missed this year — but it’s probably for the best, as it looks like a crowdpleaser on the big screen. –K.L.
“Dear David” (Oct. 13)
Remember that super creepy viral Twitter thread from 2017? Yeah, they made a movie out of it. Look, I get that that sounds like the type of movie “SNL” would parody, but there are a few curiosity factors at play here for the adventurous horror fan. First, director John McPhail’s previous film was the delightful zombie Christmas teen musical “Anna and the Apocalypse,” which also sounded kind of ridiculous on paper and turned out to be a total treat. And then there’s the fact that “Dear David” initially went viral because it was a genuinely unnerving, well-spun horror tale. Perhaps that won’t clear the jump in mediums, but Syfy’s underseen gem “Channel Zero” proved that Creepypasta can be even more terrifying on the screen. –H.F.
“The Holdovers” (Oct. 27)
Nearly 20 years after they took a trip to Napa together to make “Sideways,” Alexander Payne and Paul Giamatti are reuniting for a movie that looks and feels like a throwback. Set in the ’70s and complete with the film grain of that decade, “The Holdovers” stars Giamatti as the most hated history teacher at a boarding school who must learn to give up his curmudgeonly ways when he is tasked with watching after a particularly rebellious student with a bitter past. –J.F.
“Priscilla” (Oct. 27)
Anytime Sofia Coppola makes a movie, it instantly enters my most anticipated list. From “The Virgin Suicides” to “The Bling Ring,” she understands the nuances of being a young woman judged by society. And she has her work cut out for her with “Priscilla,” a story of one of the most judged women in modern day: Priscilla Presley. Based on Presley’s memoir, the film looks at the young girl, played by Cailee Spaeny, and her eventual marriage to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). There have been several Elvis biopics, but none have looked at Priscilla Presley’s life with any real significance. Even the 1980s made-for-TV version of Priscilla’s book, “Elvis and Me,” was limited in its scope (no movie has dealt with the fact that she was just 14 when she met the then-24-year-old Elvis). So it’ll be interesting to see if Coppola looks at the power dynamics in the relationship, especially with a modern eye. And the fact that the Presley estate didn’t allow any of the King’s music to be used should give Coppola, known for her amazing soundtracks, the opportunity to play around with songs. After Barbiecore, let’s make Coppolacore a thing! –K.L.
“The Marvels” (Nov. 10)
The 2019 film “Captain Marvel” had its flaws, but seeing Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers hold her own as a Marvel hero on par with Captain America was fantastic, and it’s been way too long since Danvers got more than a few stray minutes of screen time in other Marvel movies and TV shows. “The Marvels” brings together three elements I love about the MCU: Larson’s Danvers, Teyonah Parris’ Monica Rambeau (who was one of several highlights in “WandaVision”) and Iman Vellani’s darling Kamala Khan. The first trailer, tuned to the Beastie Boys’ “Intergalactic” set this up as a nostalgic buddy movie, but what I noticed is that it’s taking two characters who are kinda loners — Monica and Carol — and pairing them up with Kamala’s super fan. And, sure, there will be space hijinks. Also, seeing Nia DaCosta get a chance to helm a Marvel movie is worth the price of admission alone. –K.L.
“The Killer” (Nov. 10)
It’s weird to be this excited about a movie that nobody really knows anything about, but here we are. The facts are these: “The Killer” is the first new David Fincher film since 2020’s Oscar-nominated “Mank.” It was written by his frequent collaborator Andrew Kevin Walker, who wrote “Seven” and worked, uncredited, on several other Fincher projects. (He also plays the unhelpful neighbor in “Panic Room.”) Walker’s script is based on a French comic book series written by Matz and drawn by Luc Jacamon, with Michael Fassbender playing an international assassin. Tilda Swinton (who last worked with Fincher on “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Charles Parnell, Arliss Howard and Sala Baker also star. The score was composed by Fincher regulars Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and the movie was shot by cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt, who Fincher started working with on his Netflix series “Mindhunter.” We’ll know more soon, as “The Killer” is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday. We can’t bloody wait. –D.T.
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” (Nov. 17)
There’s nothing like a Panem prequel to transport us right back to 2013 when Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy entered the cinematic world with the help of Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth. Sadly, this trio won’t be represented since “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” focuses on the backstory of one President Coriolanus Snow (before he became president) as he rose in the ranks of the Capitol’s political system by mentoring young Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler) from District 12 in the first ever Hunger Games. Created by Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage), the first of many traditional reaping ceremonies yields Baird as the predecessor to Katniss Everdeen’s rebellion against Panem. Viola Davis lurks in the shadows as Dr. Volumnia Gaul, head game-maker, and Jason Schwartzman will conjure a bit of Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman as his ancestor Lucky, the first-ever announcer of the games. Other big names to look forward to in this return to dystopia include Hunter Schafer (“Euphoria”), Ashley Liao (“Love in Taipei,” “Physical”) and Burn Gorman (“The Dark Knight Rises”). –D.G.
“The Trolls Band Together” (Nov. 17)
“Trolls World Tour” was among a handful of recent tentpoles that, alongside “Thor: Ragnorak,” “Strange World” and “Frozen II,” argued that civilizations based upon original sin couldn’t thrive no matter how good the current population might be. It, like “Frozen II,” chickened out in the end, acknowledging the Trolls’ history of stealing music from other cultures, but still allowing its world to thrive. The reason I’m curious about “Trolls Band Together” is because it’s a theatrical sequel to a film that redefined the very notion of theatrical motion pictures. Set to be released in April 2020, Universal used the first “Trolls” sequel to launch their PVOD plans, offering the film to quarantined families for $20 while also in the few theaters still open for business in the earliest days of COVID. Once a franchise becomes defined by at-home availability, will audiences still show up in theaters for the next one or, once it pops up on PVOD, will it thrive when it’s not the only new film for families to watch? –S.M.
“Next Goal Wins” (Nov. 17)
Taika Waititi makes a triumphant return to the Toronto Film Festival to premiere his based-on-a-true-story sports movie, “Next Goal Wins.” Michael Fassbender plays Thomas Rongen, coach of the American Samoa national football team, who attempts to rally his admittedly weak team to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The movie is based on the 2014 documentary of the same name. I’m excited for Waititi’s return to TIFF because not only is he out to change the world with comedy, but his Oscar-winning feature “Jojo Rabbit” also premiered at TIFF and won the festival’s People’s Choice Award in 2019, so maybe he will score another winning comedic goal with this movie. –U.G.
“May December” (Nov. 17)
You can never go wrong with a Todd Haynes movie! His films combine all manner of queer camp to Old Hollywood history. They’re lush and beautiful, as well as back-bitingly funny. His latest seems tailor-made for those who love Haynes at his messiest. “May December” tells the story of a couple who married under scandalous circumstances and what happens when an actress invades their life in order to tell their tale for the big screen. The level of meta-humor in the synopsis alone sounds fun, but the cast is just mind-blowing: Julianne Moore plays the woman at the center of the film, a former teacher who married her student, while Natalie Portman plays the actress. These two playing opposite each other sounds like a recipe for fantasticness. Add in Haynes’ ability to look at the underbelly of America in a colorful, sumptuous way… Perfection! –K.L.
“Wish” (Nov. 22)
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 62nd animated feature is also the crown jewel for Disney’s 100-year anniversary, a new fairy tale that has deep connections to the studio’s storied past. In “Wish,” Oscar winner Ariana DeBose plays Asha, a 17-year-old girl who discovers that her kingdom’s leader, the charismatic King Magnifico (Chris Pine) is actually a villain. This sets her on a quest to make a wish on the wishing star to save her kingdom. Alan Tudyk plays a talking goat named Valentino. “Wish” is directed by “Frozen” filmmaker Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn (in her directorial debut), and it is cowritten by Buck’s frequent creative partner Jennifer Lee. The songs are by Julia Michaels and the score is by David Metzger, a longtime Disney Animation collaborator who orchestrated the scores for classics like “Tarzan” and “Frozen.” And the movie is rendered in a painterly style that combines the best of traditional hand-drawn animation with cutting-edge computer animation for a one-of-a-kind feeling. Perhaps most excitingly, the movie is preceded by “Once Upon a Studio,” a celebration of Disney Animation that is one of the most exciting, emotional things they have ever done. (To say any more would be criminal.) Together, the short and film will be a truly spectacular event, celebrating everything that makes Disney animated features so special while also boldly stepping into a new era. –D.T.
“Napoleon” (Nov. 22)
The latest historical epic from Ridley Scott stars Joaquin Phoenix as the French military leader and emperor, Napoleon, and Vanessa Kirby as Empress Joséphine (in a role originally earmarked for Jodie Comer). The marketing materials suggest that Scott is using the relationship between Napoleon and Joséphine as a prism for the rest of the story — the elaborately staged battle sequences, historical reenactments and palace intrigue. At least from the trailer, you get shades of 2021’s “The Last Duel,” which wasn’t just a late-career triumph but is arguably one of Scott’s very best films ever. This really does look like it should be seen on the biggest screen possible. –D.T.
“Maestro” (Nov. 22)
Leonard Bernstein was a musical icon, composing countless scores for stage and screen, becoming the first American conductor of a major symphony orchestra and introducing an entire generation of children to classical masterpieces. So when it was announced that Bradley Cooper would play Bernstein in a Netflix biopic he’s also directing, it immediately shot to the top of every cinephile’s must-see list. What’s interesting, though, is that the film’s trailer and poster aren’t giving top billing to Cooper. That goes to his costar, Carey Mulligan, who plays Bernstein’s wife and artistic collaborator Felicia Montealegre, a television and stage star in her own right. Could Cooper be making a film about Bernstein through the perspective of the artist who knew him best? –J.F.
“Saltburn” (Nov. 24)
Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” was my favorite film of 2020, so I’ve been eager to consume the wacky darkness of her sophomore feature. Not much is known about “Saltburn” right now, short of it deals with a young man, played by Barry Keoghan, who ingratiates himself into a wealthy English family. Oh, and that Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” leading lady, Carey Mulligan, is in it. Sign me up! If the script is half as wicked as “PYW,” it’ll be an all-timer. Not to mention I’m ready for the, no doubt, divisive discourse about Fennell’s exploration of wealth, if the discussion about feminism with her previous film is any indication. –K.L.