10 Films to Look Out for from the Toronto International Film Festival

Get ready for a knockout fall, moviegoers.
September 20, 2018
12 mins read

Trying to follow a film festival, especially one as large and drawn-out as the Toronto International Film Festival, is always difficult. As all the cool kids of film descend on one city and bask in screening after screening, gleefully tweeting about their experiences, it can feel difficult to parse out which films are actually going to be worth a $10 movie ticket once they make it to wide release.

But now that several hype trains have left the station and the dust has settled on the 10-day festival, which wrapped up Sept. 15, here are 10 movies shown at the Toronto Film Festival that should not be missed.

1. Roma

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white love letter to the Mexico City of his youth, has already won the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and is geared up to sweep awards season in the foreign-language and directing categories. It’s easily the most prestigious movie to open with the Netflix logo, and will surely bring up a lot of think pieces about the changing landscape of movie distribution.


But more attention will be paid to the gorgeous depiction of 1970s Mexico and the central performance of first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, who was the star of the Toronto film festival despite needing a translator to talk to English-speaking media outlets. Although it is scheduled for showings at several other festivals, it will be available in theaters on Dec. 14.

2. A Star is Born

Yes it looks cheesy and yes it’s definitely the movie that your mom will make you watch over Thanksgiving break and yes the Instagram ads are annoying and yes I will throw all of my money at this movie.

Critics seem to have come out generally positive on this one despite its high probability of being an absolute cheesefest, saying that Lady Gaga’s performance and Bradley Cooper’s writing and direction make this thrice-remade film still manage to feel fresh and new. It’ll debut in theaters on Oct. 5.

3. Widows

“Widows” promises to be everything that “Ocean’s 8” tried and failed to be. Helmed by “12 Years A Slave” director Steve McQueen, co-written by “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn and featuring the acting talents of (take a deep breath here) Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Brian Tyree Henry, and Daniel Kaluuya, “Widows” is a stylish heist movie with some solid social commentary at its core.

Three women’s husbands are caught up in a robbery gone wrong, and decide to finish the job after they are widowed. They get caught up in a web of political intrigue and work through their tense, grim relationship with each other. It looks like one of the rare genre movies that gets both widespread commercial success and critical acclaim, and critics at the Toronto film festival are already calling it the big movie of fall 2018. Catch it in theaters Nov. 16.

4. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy takes a turn for the serious in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The movie is based on the real-life story of literary forger Lee Israel, who started penning fake letters from dead celebrities when her writing career faltered, with McCarthy in the lead role.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” manages to actually showcase McCarthy’s talent for playing unlikeable, extreme characters while still tethering her performance to some honest human truths, a feat that few of her recent projects have managed to do. The film will debut in theaters on Oct. 19.

5. If Beale Street Could Talk

Barry Jenkin’s 2016 film “Moonlight” is widely considered one of the most essential movies of the decade, a rapturous portrait of love, intimacy and the ways that these human drives can be complicated by the outside world.

His follow-up, an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel of the same name, takes up many similar themes, following a young black couple in 1970s New York who are torn apart when the husband is accused of a crime he did not commit. The movie weaves together themes of love, race and injustice, providing an almost-perfect thematic sequel to “Moonlight.” It opens in theaters Nov. 30.

6. The Sisters Brothers

“The Sisters Brothers” is a goofy, gruesome revisionist Western starring John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix as outlaw brothers hot on the trail of a prospector and alleged thief, played by Riz Ahmed. A big-city detective, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is also on the prospector’s tail, and mayhem ensues as they make their way through 1850s Oregon.

Although it is full of shoot-em-up scenes and gags, the film is anchored by Reilly’s heartwarming performance and the film’s commentary on American masculinity. It’s scheduled for wide release on Sept. 20.

7. First Man

Damien Chazelle has made a career out of smashing through some of the great American myths — of the tortured artist in “Whiplash, the anointed ingenue in “La La Land” and now the noble space hero in “First Man.

Starring Chazelle favorite Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, the film follows the first man on the moon from his early days in NASA to that iconic small step for man. But it contextualizes Armstrong’s journey with his personal, lesser-known struggles as he copes with the death of his young daughter, who died of a brain tumor in 1962. Gosling delivers an intense performance that, paired with the film’s claustrophobic portrayal of space travel, will have this movie on every Oscar voter’s lips. Expect it on Oct. 12.

8. Halloween

1978’s “Halloween” created the modern slasher genre, featuring Jamie Lee Curtis as the prototypical scream queen running from the otherworldly killer Michael Myers. It was an incredible film, but like most great horror movies, it also begat a lot of bad sequels.

2018’s “Halloween” tries to wipe away those lesser additions to the franchise, recasting Curtis as Laurie, now a grandmother who has lived in fear of Michael Myers’ return for years. When Myers escapes one last time, it is up to Laurie, her daughter and granddaughter to fight him off, and the film uses these three women to explore the themes of trauma and fear while also remaining aware of its fun, schlocky status: the choice to premiere in the “Midnight Madness” category of the Toronto film festival, as well as calling in “Pineapple Express” writer Danny McBride to contribute to the screenplay show that this is a fun horror flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It’ll be released Oct. 19, just in time to plan your Halloween viewing.

9. Beautiful Boy

If “A Star is Born” is the movie that your mom is a little bit too excited to see, “Beautiful Boy” will be the one that makes you call her, only crying a little bit, and tell her you’re sorry for judging her movie choice and also thank you for all the times she put bandaids on your knee and snuck notes into your lunchbox.

It’s a family drama starring Timothee Chalamet as a bright young man caught in the grip of methamphetamine addiction and Steve Carell as his loving, frustrated father. Based on David Sheff’s memoir “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction,” and Nic Sheff’s “Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines,” the movie has enough substance to keep it out of Lifetime movie territory, but the star-studded cast brings an emotional intensity that may require a few tissues.

It’s released in theaters Oct. 12; schedule your crying sessions and calls home accordingly.

10. Climax

This movie looks insane in the best way possible. The plot is deceptively simple: 20 young dancers are cast in a troupe that plans to tour France and the United States, and meet in a scummy basement rehearsal space to rehearse. They practice, they drink sangria and then things start to go haywire.

Seeing the “Vice Studios” logo at the beginning of the trailer makes a lot of sense here; it features deranged dance numbers shot on steadicam as the dancers descend into a hellish state of drug-fueled debauchery, and falls neatly into director Gaspar Noe’s ouvre of over-the-top psycho horror. Though it has already been released in France, the U.S. release is to be determined.

Kylie Harrington, University of Southern California

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Kylie Harrington

University of Southern California

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