The COVID crisis continues to play havoc with the movie business, but autumn is still the season for the year’s best movies. Here’s a sampling of upcoming films to watch for, both in theaters and on streaming platforms. Heads up, though. Distribution plans and release dates are changing constantly.

Titane | Oct. 1 in theaters

French auteur Julia Ducournau (Raw) won the main prize at Cannes Film Festival with this wigged-out body horror extravaganza, said to be one of the most shocking films ever. Like, ever ever. It concerns a female serial killer, her curious erotic fixation, and the one human-machine convergence theory that no one saw coming.

Dune | Oct. 22 in theaters

Maybe the year’s most anticipated film—among us nerdcore types, anyway—Dune is the latest attempt to film author Frank Herbert’s thinky, highly allegorical sci-fi masterpiece. Early festival reviews have been ecstatic, crediting director Denis Villeneuve with finally matching the original novel’s wild ambition.

The French Dispatch | Oct. 22 in theaters

Wes Anderson returns with a triptych of stories, highly stylized in the usual Wes Anderson way. Inspired by The New Yorker magazine, the film concerns expat American journalists in a fictional French town and stars pretty much everyone in Hollywood, evidently.

Passing | Oct. 27 in theaters; Nov. 11 on Netflix

The directorial debut of the brilliant British actress Rebecca Hall, Passing is based on the 1929 Nella Larsen novel about mixed-race friends in Harlem. Hall comes from a multiracial background herself, and her work here earned fabulous reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.

Last Night in Soho | Oct. 29 in theaters

Filmmaker Edgar Wright can do it all, from top-shelf comedy (Shaun of the Dead) to operatic action (Baby Driver). He’s a cinematic technician with serious skills, and his new story sounds pleasantly bonkers: a London fashion student somehow flashes back into 1960s Soho and gets involved in a murder mystery, unmoored in time.

The Harder They Fall  |  Nov. 3 on Netflix

Finally! The full-bore Black cowboy picture that old Hollywood never quite had the guts to make. Jay-Z produces and provides music, and the cast is just stacked: Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield, and old pro Delroy Lindo.

King Richard  | Nov. 19 in theaters and HBO Max

Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, the hard-driving father of tennis superstars Serena and Venus. The film tracks the Williams family from Compton to their incredible reign on the international athletics stage. Early reviews suggest that director Reinaldo Marcus Green is going to be a Big Deal.

Licorice Pizza | Nov. 26 in theaters

Probably the most mysterious film of the fall season, Licorice Pizza is reportedly the name of the new one from revered director Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia). Details are scarce, but we know it’s set in 1970s California and stars Bradley Cooper and Cooper Hoffman—son of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Power of the Dog | Dec. 1 on Netflix

Old-school arthouse types will be pleased to hear that filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano) is back with this Netflix original, set on a 1920s Montana ranch. Expect some Big Sky drama with pedigreed actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Jesse Plemons. Sometimes you can tell a good movie just from the cast.

Nightmare Alley | Dec. 3 in theaters

This noirish psychological thriller from director Guillermo del Toro stars Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett as sinister grifters in the sleazy 1940s world of bottom-end carnivals. It’s del Toro’s first straight noir—no supernatural elements, just shady people.

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