While the big-studio movies are shoo-ins, there’s a lot of great indie, international, and small-distro fare coming out this fall that we’d love to see—if our dwindling smaller cinemas can book it. So consider this a wish list as much as a preview, ranked in order of the likelihood that these films will even breeze across local screens.  


Ad Astra Sep. 20 

In the tradition of smart, cosmic science fiction like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, and Interstellar, director James Gray’s new movie stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut tasked with finding his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) on the edge of the solar system—basically like a sci-fi Apocalypse Now, we hear. —Glenn McDonald

Joker Oct. 4 

Todd Phillips, the director of The Hangover, won the Venice Film Festival with this neo-Scorsese pastiche about the Joker, which has divided audiences and critics. Nevertheless, there’s already Oscar buzz around Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of the iconic Batman villain. —Neil Morris

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood  Nov. 22 

Since its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, this unconventional biopic by Marielle Heller (Will You Ever Forgive Me?) has receivied glowing reviews for its nuanced portrait of the children’s TV host Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks) and its refusal to exploit easy sentimentality. —Marta Núñez Pouzols

The Irishman Nov. 27 

Speaking of Scorsese, the filmmaker ventures to Netflix with his latest mob movie, a biopic about a hitman (Robert De Niro) and his intersection with union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Erstwhile Scorsese regulars Joe Pesci and Harveny Keitel also return. —NM

Knives Out  Nov. 27 

Ecstatic reviews from the festival circuit suggest a twenty-first-century riff on Agatha Christie, Clue, and psychotic one-percenters; a murder mystery for late-stage capitalism. The all-star cast includes Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer. —GM

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker  Dec. 20

They say this is the final chapter in the Star Wars saga, but we know it’s not. Still, the rumors have it that director J.J. Abrams might revive some past characters for this menace to box-office records. —NM

Bombshell  Dec. 20 

Director Jay Roach, who rose to fame making Austin Powers and Fockers films, earned some dramatic cred with Trumbo. Here, he tackles some really weighty material: the in-house allegations of sexual abuse against FOX News founder Roger Ailes, with stars Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, and John Lithgow.—NM

Uncut Gems  Dec. 13 

The Safdie brothers follow up their breakout hit Good Time with another portrait of New York City that seamlessly combines social realist mise-en-scene with classical Hollywood storytelling. It features the unlikely choice of Adam Sandler as a jeweler with ties to major figures in basketball and hip-hop. This madcap, already acclaimed comedy-crime-drama hybrid is not to be missed.    —Ryan Vu


Monos Sep. 13

Colombian writer-director Alejandro Landes’s magical realist war movie has been blowing minds since its Sundance premiere. Set in an unnamed Latin American country, the film centers on a group of child soldiers and their American hostage (Julianne Nicholson) as they are hunted by the state. Stunning cinematography shot on location in the Colombian rainforest and a score by Mica Levi (Under the Skin) promise a haunting, immersive experience. —RV

Pain and Glory Oct. 4 

Starring Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, and new flamenco darling Rosalía, Pedro Almodóvar’s exercise in auto-fiction has achieved near-unanimous acclaim. Banderas, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for this role, plays an aging gay filmmaker inspired by Almodóvar himself. The Spanish director reflects on his life and his craft in a film that feels stylistically stripped-down yet emotionally intense. —MNP

Parasite Oct. 11 

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, this black comedy from Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer) follows an impoverished family as they gradually attach themselves to a rich suburban clan. Plot twists! Class rage! Metaphors! —GM

The Lighthouse Oct. 18 

From the director of the 2015 art-horror film The Witch comes a claustrophobic thriller with a cast of exactly two. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are lighthouse keepers in a timeless and otherworldly cinematic space of hallucinatory images, monochrome compositions, and sinister sound design. —GM

Frankie Oct. 25 

Frankie (Isabelle Huppert) is a terminally ill French movie star who gathers her family for a vacation in a mountain village in Portugal. Independent filmmaker Ira Sachs (Little Men) exposes the complex, dysfunctional relationships between three generations. In the director’s words, the film portrays “the tension between the petty and deep concerns” that surrounds a life’s ending. —MNP

Harriet Nov. 1 

This anticipated biopic of American hero Harriet Tubman chronicles the abolitionist’s escape from slavery and her subsequent role in the Underground Railroad. Tubman is played by Tony, Grammy, and Emmy winner Cynthia Erivo, who is accompanied on screen by Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe. —MNP

The Report  Nov. 15 

Writer-director (and regular Steven Soderbergh collaborator) Scott Z. Burns crafts this docudrama about a U.S. Senate staffer (Adam Driver) and his arduous investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 use of torture. The film will have a two-week theatrical run before it hits Amazon Prime. —NM

The Lodge Nov. 15 

A young woman (Riley Keough) and her stepchildren are stranded in a winter cabin, haunted by the memory of their birth mother (Alicia Silverstone)—and, perhaps, something worse. Writer/directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy) have a gift for shocking imagery and skin-crawling atmosphere. —RV

Marriage Story Dec. 6 

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are coastal-elite creatives (that’s a noun now, apparently) navigating a complicated divorce. It’s heavy drama, for sure, but it should also be grim fun to watch director Noah Baumbach turn his lacerating style to the modern menace of the divorce-industrial complex. —GM

A Hidden Life Dec. 13 

Terrence Malick is a controversial figure in the film world, but mainly for reasons of style rather than politics. That might change with his unusually pointed biopic of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a devout Catholic and conscientious objector during World War II. Against another rising tide of fascism, Malick has never made his esoteric spiritual concerns seem more urgent. —RV


First Love Sep. 27 

Takashi Miike, the director to blame for terrifying masterpieces Audition and Ichi the Killer, returns with a dark-humored, bizarre, hard-boiled yakuza film that’s said to be the funniest of his career. Full of violence and frenzy, it’s a love story caught up in the bloodshed of a gang war in Tokyo over the course of one night. —MNP

Waves Nov. 1 

Family melodrama is a well-trodden mode, but Waves is already standing out for its sensitive, visually striking portrayal of an African-American family in South Florida caught in a crisis. When high school wrestling star Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) suffers a career-threatening injury, it opens up fault lines between him, his shy sister (Taylor Russell), hod and domineering father (Sterling K. Brown). The ensemble cast is sparking early Oscar buzz. —RV

Queen & Slim Nov. 27 

An exploitation film in the classic sense of being ripped from the headlines, Queen & Slim follows the titular couple (Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya) on their apocalyptic first date, after they kill a cop at a traffic stop gone wrong. Beyonce and Rihanna music video auteur Melina Matsoukas’s debut feature is a Bonnie & Clyde for the Black Lives Matter generation. —RV

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Dec. 6 

Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, Tomboy) continues her insightful exploration of queer identities and desires in her new historical drama. Winner of the Best Screenplay at Cannes, and the first film by a female director to win the Queer Palm, it tells the story of a young painter (Noémie Merlant), who is commissioned to paint the portrait of another young woman in order to improve her chances of finding suitors. —MNP