The summer is coming to a close and, sadly, the threat of COVID to movie theaters and its audiences has only somewhat abated. There were a few beautiful weeks there when it seemed like all was well and that maybe a combination of vaccines, masks and compassion for fellow humans might allow us to safely enjoy some big-budget silliness or arthouse emotion on the big screen. Your personal situation will assuredly vary, but it’s bittersweet however you fall that studios are finally rolling out movies they’d delayed—sometimes for years, like poor 007—only for many to avoid seeing them big and bold. But boy, there are some movies on the way in fall 2021 that look incredible. And, thankfully, many will be available to stream.
Our selections were made from films premiering to regular folks in the U.S., ranging from October to November—though we’ve made an exception for one especially horny December movie that’s already been playing festivals. There are certainly some big movies that aren’t here and some little ones you’ll probably scratch your head at. There are also probably some that are terrible! But that’s the fun in being excited for them: You just don’t know for sure until you see them.
These 24 movies span genres, platforms and intended audiences—and they’re our picks for what we’re anticipating most this fall:
The Many Saints of Newark
Director: Alan Taylor
Release Date: October 1
The long-awaited prequel film and first new piece of Sopranos media in 14 years, The Many Saints of Newark will take a look at Tony Soprano’s adolescence as he’s grandfathered into a life in the New Jersey mafia. Starring Michael Gandolfini—tasked with filling in his late father James’ inimitable shoes as the Soprano patriarch—the film is set in 1967, following teenaged Anthony Soprano as he grows up during a fraught time in his hometown of Newark. Anthony comes of age as rival gangsters rise up against one another, and he finds himself increasingly influenced by his mobster uncle, Dickie Moltisanti. The prequel features an impressive cast portraying classic characters from the lauded HBO series, including Corey Stoll as Junior Soprano, Billy Magnussen as Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtier and Vera Farmiga as Tony’s mom, Livia Soprano. Alessandro Nivola will be portraying Dickie Moltinsanti—the father of Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperioli in the series—and Jon Bernthal will play Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano, Tony’s father. The cast also includes Ray Liotta and Leslie Odom Jr. The trailer comes off as bombastic and violent—a far cry from the restrained qualities of the award-winning show, and it will be interesting to see how drastically director Alan Taylor (who helmed a number of Sopranos episodes, and won an Emmy for one) veers off from the the tone of the source material. The film was co-written by Sopranos creator David Chase alongside another Sopranos writer, Lawrence Konner.—Brianna Zigler
Director: Julia Ducournau
Release Date: October 1
French director Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to her highly acclaimed 2016 feature debut Raw—a deliciously nasty and subversive horror film—Titane already won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and is generating buzz at alarming rates. Starring Agathe Rousselle and Vincent Lindon, there’s a lot of…let’s say “compelling” imagery that’s already been going around in association with this film. As our ex-intern Brianna Zigler looked up, the title literally means “a metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys, often used in medical prostheses due to its pronounced biocompatibility.” Who knows exactly what that means (some festivalgoers and critics know, but we’ll be running our review later this month and won’t be ruining any surprises), but with enough returning collaborators from Raw and history-making Cannes accolades, Titane’s already won our ticket money.
Director: Jennifer Reeder, Simon Barrett, Chloe Okuno, Ryan Prows, Timo Tjahjanto
Release Date: October 6
While the V/H/S series of horror anthologies had a bit of a stumble that put the franchise on hiatus, it was still a vital and exciting proving ground for indie darlings to introduce themselves. Dropping some recognizable directors into this ‘90s-based edition, the second themed entry after Viral will link its segments together narratively a la Southbound (another refreshing and fun anthology). I’m a sucker for a horror anthology, which is a perfect buffet for an October movie night with friends, and this is one of two exciting ones on the way this fall.
No Time to Die
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Release Date: October 8
No Time to Die is a movie that’s been delayed so long that it’s been around for multiple years’ worth of “most anticipated” lists. In honor of its toddler-aged trip to the theater, here’s what we wrote about Daniel Craig’s last James Bond movie…in 2019 when the first trailer came out.
Director: Valdimar Jóhannsson
Release Date: October 8
As we make our way through farm animals (hey, Pig!), cinema has its sights set next on Lamb, the newest folk horror distributed by A24. It looks to be a strangely quirky, cute and unquestionably creepy-looking film about a lamb that’s born with a human body. Starring Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, the Icelandic-language supernatural horror tells the story of María and Ingvar—a grieving couple living on a farm in rural Iceland, who discover a freak of nature has been born in their sheep barn. The film premiered at Cannes Film Festival to mostly positive critical response, but little has been revealed in reviews since then. So, the half-lighthearted trailer (which features “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys) and undeniably funny sight gag of a lamb with a small person’s body leads one to believe this first look is an intentional misdirection. The film is the feature debut of Icelandic filmmaker Valdimar Jóhannsson, from a script co-written by Jóhannsson alongside Icelandic artist Sjón.—Brianna Zigler
Release Date: October 14
A two-hour Shudder anthology weaving six horror stories from Black creators, all produced by the same folks that gave us the lovely Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. Hard not to be intrigued by that, and easy to get excited for. With writing talents including Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, Ezra C. Daniels, Al Letson, and Shernold Edwards, Horror Noire will do what horror anthologies do best: Introduce a built-in genre audience to fresh talent.
The Velvet Underground
Director: Todd Haynes
Release Date: October 15
It was high time The Velvet Underground got a flashy legacy-examining documentary of their own, and there’re few working directors better suited to bringing it to audiences than Todd Haynes. Haynes’ fascination with sexuality, gender and the contradictions of rock stars already resulted in the fantastic glam rock pseudo-biopic Velvet Goldmine, but now he’s turning his sights on a real band, its real members and their real impact in The Velvet Underground—which dropped its first trailer. After premiering at Cannes to universal praise, The Velvet Underground looks to bring its blend of archival footage and new interviews with band members to theaters and to Apple TV+. This’ll be just the latest high-profile music doc to join the service, which has already carved a niche for itself in that space. According to the official synopsis, “the film features in-depth interviews with the key players of that time combined with a treasure trove of never-before-seen performances and a rich collection of recordings, Warhol films, and other experimental art that creates an immersive experience into what founding member John Cale describes as the band’s creative ethos: ‘how to be elegant and how to be brutal.’”
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Release Date: October 15
The latest from Mia Hansen-Løve is an ambitious reality-blurring drama about art and inspiration, and maybe about if places can hold bits of magic. With a great cast—Mia Wasikowska, Vicky Krieps, Tim Roth, and recent fest superstar Anders Danielsen Lie—and a hell of a lot to live up to (invoking Bergman is a gamble), Bergman Island seems like a fascinating risk worth taking. Inevitably there will be relationship tension, artistic grasping and fantasies of what a happy, fulfilling life could be.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Release Date: October 22
Dune is cool and if you don’t agree, then I’m sorry: There’s nothing I can do for you. Sure, Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic might be overly ambitious—especially as it plans to split the bulging plot straight down the middle. But it can’t be more ambitious than David Lynch’s take, and even that one (despite its many haters, who are all well within their rights) is a fascinating piece of work. Even if Timothée Chalamet doesn’t have the chops or the world is simply too impenetrable for the casual moviegoer, Villeneuve will almost certainly find an angle on Arrakis worth exploring. No matter what, things will get spicy.
The French Dispatch
Director: Wes Anderson
Release Date: October 22
Everyone you could ever imagine is in Wes Anderson’s pastiche on the romanticized American correspondent living an adventure off in Europe, and I can’t imagine how there’s room for them all. But Anderson’s pretty much always been able to arrange his cast just as meticulously as his frames and his set decor, so The French Dispatch’s long-coming comic antics should be exactly as stuffed with controlled chaos as should be expected from the auteur. And maybe there’ll be some nice things said about journalism and its transformation to boot.
Director: Rebecca Hall
Release Date: October 27
Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut, Passing got a lot of talk after its Sundance premiere and then saw its hype ebb a bit. But as it nears a release, first in theaters and then on Netflix, plan to hear a lot about this movie and its subject matter. Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga, André Holland—there’s a lot of talent leading this movie, and their ability to tackle a drama surrounding race and social acceptance isn’t in question. How it’s all pulled off, how it affects general audiences, and what conversations it starts—making it clear that Nella Larsen’s ‘20s novel has never stopped being relevant—well, that’s all part of the excitement.
Last Night in Soho
Director: Edgar Wright
Release Date: October 29
While writer/director Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver wasn’t quite up to his impressive standard, his string of parodies and Scott Pilgrim have earned him a free pass for a misstep or two. No need to worry: His latest looks just as excitingly stylish as his previous effort, with Anya Taylor-Joy (who’s just been piling success upon success) leading the way. Taylor-Joy’s ripe for a juicy leading role after dominating the small screen thanks to Queen’s Gambit, and Wright’s ripe to remind us why he’s such an exciting directorial draw in the first place. And did we mention there’s time travel back to ‘60s London? Drown us in stylish psychological horror, please.
Director: Scott Cooper
Release Date: October 29
Scott Cooper’s exciting, Guillermo del Toro-produced first foray into horror is another long-delayed member of this list that’s hard to believe is actually coming out. With Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons leading the way, this supernatural creature feature (which could be a misdirection, but you have to keep hopes high even in the face of year-long distribution delays) has the potential to apply Cooper’s grounded sense of drama and community to something utterly nightmarish.
The Harder They Fall
Director: Jeymes Samuel
Release Date: November 3
Netflix’s upcoming neo-Western The Harder They Fall boasts an impressive cast of Black actors. The film stars Jonathan Majors as outlaw Nat Love, who discovers that his archnemesis Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) is set to be released from prison. So, Nat rounds up his gang—Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz), Jim Beckwourth (R.J. Cyler) and Bill Pickett (Edi Gathegi)—to find Buck and get revenge. Buck has his own crew, however—with “Treacherous” Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Cherokee Bill (LaKeith Stanfield)—and the two gangs, of course, must go head to head. The cast also features Delroy Lindo, Damon Wayans Jr., Deon Cole and Danielle Deadwyler. From a script co-written by Boaz Yakin (Now You See Me) and director Jeymes Samuel (the British singer-songwriter and music producer), The Harder Fall was co-produced by Samuel alongside Jay-Z, James Lassiter and Lawrence Bender.—Brianna Zigler
Director: Chloé Zhao
Release Date: November 5
We saw what filmmaker Chloé Zhao could do with The Rider and Nomadland, the latter of which was our pick for the best film of 2020. Now she’s got a superhero film coming out of the Marvel machine. It’s not so much that we’re anticipating this being extremely good, but as being extremely fascinating. How does a filmmaker like that operate in the MCU? The Mouse House’s spandex division has recruited indie filmmakers before, but few with the chops of Zhao. With a diverse cast and a weird group of characters (more Jack Kirby strangeness than straightforward crime-fighting), maybe Zhao can change everything we know about superhero movies. Maybe.
Director: Pablo Larraín
Release Date: November 5
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s Princess Diana biopic, Spencer, is finally on the way to the public. Starring Kristen Stewart as the late British Royal, the film takes a look at the later years of her life in her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales (Jack Farthing). The official synopsis from distributor Neon reads as follows: “The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles has long since grown cold. Though rumors of affairs and a divorce abound, peace is ordained for the Christmas festivities at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate. There’s eating and drinking, shooting and hunting. Diana knows the game. But this year, things will be profoundly different.” The teaser features a haunting array of brief shots from the film while a moody rendition of “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed plays in the background, and one moment at the end fleetingly shows off Stewart’s interpretation of Diana’s voice. Spencer features a supporting cast including Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Sean Harris, Richard Sammel, John Keogh, Amy Manson and Niklas Kohrt. The script was penned by Eastern Promises and Locked Down scribe Steven Knight, with a score composed by Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread, There Will Be Blood). Spencer follows Larraín’s most recent film, the Spanish-language Ema, which released in the United States this month after a delay due to COVID-19, and he served as the director for all eight episodes of the horror miniseries Lisey’s Story this summer. It is also not the filmmaker’s first try at a biopic, having directed Natalie Portman in Jackie, his take on the life of Jackie Kennedy immediately following the death of her husband.—Brianna Zigler
A Cop Movie
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Release Date: November 5
An intriguing documentary about the Mexican police from Alonso Ruizpalacios, A Cop Movie’s flashy style and unconventional approach open up one of the most frequent subjects of non-fiction film to something…new? As wild as that sounds for a movie about law enforcement, just a glimpse at the trailer and a look at how this film busted through expectations at Berlin will assure you that this isn’t some lazy true-crime or half-assed dramatization. What impact its playful energy has on its overall ideology could send it flying over either side of the razor’s edge, but that’s a gamble that’s utterly compelling to me.
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Release Date: November 5
A robot, a dog and a man on an adventure. It sounds a little bit like a vague description of Adventure Time. Ok, let’s roll with that, but Finn the human is replaced by Tom Hanks—and the post-apocalypse is a lot more obvious. Helmed by Game of Thrones staple Miguel Sapochnik, Finch used to be called BIOS (a way better title) and has had a long road to Apple TV+. But with a stellar lead and the always interesting Caleb Landry Jones doing mo-cap for its robot, there’re at least a few reasons to look forward to this original sci-fi story beyond it being…an original sci-fi story.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Release Date: November 12
A first trailer has landed on the web for Belfast, which prolific actor-director Kenneth Branagh has called the “most personal” film of his career. Sporting some crisp, black-and-white cinematography, an impressive cast and an utter fascination with the beautiful faces of its characters, the trailer is immediately engrossing, although it can’t help but remind one of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma in style. Still, we imagine Branagh wouldn’t mind the comparison too much if it means a Best Picture nomination for Belfast as well. The film is based fairly intently on Branagh’s own experiences in Ireland as a young boy. The director was born in Belfast to working class Protestant parents, but his family moved when he was nine to England to escape the Troubles, the 30-year period of violence and semi-civil war that engulfed Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since that point, Branagh has often returned to Belfast, and still considers the city his original home. He was made a Freeman of the city in Jan. 2018. The story of Belfast looks to capture many of these points, including the wide-eyed innocence of a young boy who loves his home, counterpointed against a mother and father facing a difficult decision in order to keep their family safe. Belfast introduces child actor Jude Hill as POV character Buddy, with parents played by Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, and grandparents played by Dame Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds. The trailer has an oddly upbeat tone, set to Love Affair’s “Everlasting Love”—in fact, Dornan almost looks to be reenacting the video for the song at one point—which makes us wonder whether the studio is trying to project a warmer tone for the film than the Troubles-infused story would otherwise project. Branagh is one of Hollywood’s most eclectic directors, returning now to a personal project after years of bouncing around between Hollywood blockbusters in a variety of styles, such as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Thor and Disney’s Cinderella. Hopefully, his personal attachment to this project yields enchanting results.—Jim Vorel
The Power of the Dog
Director: Jane Campion,
Release Date: November 17
Jane Campion’s return to feature film after a decade-plus interlude—during which she directed a couple short films and created the BBC Two series Top of the Lake and its sequel Top of the Lake: China Girl—commences with The Power of the Dog, which released its first trailer courtesy of Netflix. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as fearsome rancher Phil Burbank, the film is set in 1925 “when [Phil’s] brother brings home a new wife and her son,” and “Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love,” according to the official synopsis. Jesse Plemons stars as Phil’s brother George, while Kirsten Dunst stars as George’s wife Rose and Kodi Smit-McPhee plays her son Peter. The supporting cast is filled out by Thomasin McKenzie, Frances Conroy, Keith Carradine, Peter Carroll and Adam Beach. The minute-long teaser gives us a brief glimpse at the film through a series of unsettling imagery and little dialogue, over which Phil’s menacing whistle hangs. If the trailer is any indication, The Power of the Dog will be a tense, atmospheric affair, something which Campion is all too familiar with. The highly anticipated film will also feature an original score by Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s frequent collaborator. Positioned as a serious awards contender, The Power of the Dog is planned for a limited theatrical release starting November 17 before Netflix releases it to stream on its platform December 1.—Brianna Zigler
House of Gucci
Director: Ridley Scott
Release Date: November 24
The second high-profile drama from director Ridley Scott this year, House of Gucci follows The Last Duel with even more accents and way, way more fashion. Starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver as Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci, the film looks to have all the camp that a murderous plot between the mega-rich should. Its period setting, outrageous costumes and deeply hidden Jared Leto (Why? Why was he cast if they just wanted a bald old guy?!) only add to the fun…which could be genuine or irony-laden, or potentially both. However you take Gaga’s line-reading of “Bravo” will probably inform your stance on the film, but a swing like this can’t help but be exciting.
The Summit of the Gods
Director: Patrick Imbert
Release Date: November 24
Coming to Netflix after a brief stint at theaters, the lone animated film on this list adapts a mountain-climbing manga by Jiro Taniguchi that touches on the legend of Everest and the titan that was George Mallory. While the trailer is still all in French without subtitles, the film got raves at Cannes and looks like a crisp and unique blend of traditional anime and French animation (a la I Lost My Body).
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Release Date: November 26
The trailer for PTA’s newest has only dropped in repertory movie theaters in 35mm, which is only fitting for a story about a kid becoming an actor in the ‘70s. The record-referring title only recently got announced too, so there’s plenty of last-minute mystery surrounding the movie that sees Anderson muses (John C. Reilly) and newbies (Skyler Gisondo, Benny Safdie, Bradley Cooper) compose an enticing cast. But nobody’s involvement is more intriguing and bittersweet than that of its lead, Cooper Hoffman—son of the late Anderson regular Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Release Date: December 3
Cannes you believe it? After skipping the prestigious festival last year (well, everything—including the festival—skipped the festival because of COVID last year), the new film from Paul Verhoeven finally screened to audiences—and those well-versed in Shudder’s offerings may see some familiar imagery. Verhoeven’s newest since 2016’s Elle, Benedetta’s lesbian nuns and tense 15th century setting might be giving genre fans The Devils vibes. And that would be awesome. There’s no real hint of a “possession,” though the trailer’s church leaders do give knowing, cynical glances when discussions of miracles arise, but the tone still feels more like a psychological thriller than a romance. Perhaps that comes with the territory as Benedetta starts seducing the locals after joining a Tuscany convent mid-plague. Oh, and things are as horny as you might expect. Starring Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling, Daphné Patakia and Lambert Wilson, Benedetta’s romantic/religious intensity comes based on Judith C. Brown’s book Immodest Acts—itself based on real events. It’s hard to overstate Verhoeven’s love of pushing boundaries and this latest film looks like it’ll keep his controversial streak alive—all while generating more steam than an old riverboat.