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Character Mulan fighting in a battle with a sword on a misty purple background Image: Walt Disney Pictures via Polygon

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25 movies to watch out for in fall 2020

There’s something to watch however you watch

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The last six months have seen seismic shifts in the movie-going due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but now theaters are opening once again — notwithstanding legitimate health concerns. While some countries are in relatively good shape to open their doors to a slew of delayed blockbusters, patrons of the U.S. will need to make their own decisions and manage the risk. The business of Hollywood is not waiting for the pandemic to die down.

With chains like AMC and Regal making accommodations and states reeling back the mandates on group gatherings, delayed releases like Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, and Black Widow are finally clear to hit multiplex screens. Meanwhile, streaming services will continue to offer counter-programming — specifically, the Oscar-friendly kind — that can be viewed from the comfort of viewers’ homes. As we’ve stated previously, Polygon will continue to cover weekly theatrical releases only to the extent in which our writers feel comfortable, and will not require anyone to attend a general screening at a movie theater in instances where studios are unable to provide screening options.

As movies play in regions where movies are playing in wide release, though, and drive-ins continue to be a viable moviegoing option, the movie-watching world is moving forward. Here’s what’s on the horizon, and what we can still anticipate as fans of movie-watching.

Tenet (Sept. 4)

Characters run from an exploding building in Tenet Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros.

How do you feel about puzzles? That may be the big question moviegoers need to ask themselves before deciding whether to risk theaters to see Tenet, the latest from Christopher Nolan. Widely described as opaque and confusing to the point of frustration, Tenet centers on a CIA operative (John David Washington) inducted into a secret organization that deals with time-inverting technology. As Polygon’s review puts it, “It’s impossible to understand most of what happens in Tenet by watching the movie … Even if you had a master’s degree in physics, you’d likely struggle to follow the plot.” But some people will enjoy both the struggle to decode the movie, and the big, time-complicated action. —Tasha Robinson

Mulan (Sept. 4)

mulan in her traditional female garb in disney’s mulan Image: Walt Disney Pictures

Disney’s live-action remakes continue with Mulan, though the new version drops the original’s musical aspect and removes the family dragon Mushu from the mix. The story, however, still follows the story of Hua Mulan (played now by Liu Yifei), and now boasts Gong Li as a witch, Jet Li as the Emperor of China, and Donnie Yen as the commander who becomes a mentor for Mulan. Skipping theaters in favor of a new Disney Premier Access rental model on Disney Plus, the movie is both a major blockbuster release and a potentially game-changing experiment. —Karen Han

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Sept. 4, Netflix)

I’m Thinking of Ending Things: David Thewlis as Father, Jessie Buckley as Young Woman, Toni Collette as Mother, Jesse Plemons as Jake at the kitchn table Photo: Mary Cybulski/Netflix

A new Charlie Kaufman movie might just be the crown jewel in Netflix’s 2020 slate. Adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is written, co-produced, and directed by Kaufman, and centers on a woman (Jessie Buckley) whose trip to farm country with her boyfriend (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) becomes increasingly strange and unsettling. —KH

The Devil All the Time (Sept. 16, Netflix)

Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin in The Devil All the Time Photo: Glen Wilson/Netflix

The upcoming Netflix film The Devil All the Time, based on the novel of the same name, features a ridiculously stacked cast, as director Antonio Campos tells a Southern Gothic story that spans generations. Tom Holland stars as Arvin Russell, a young man who takes it upon himself to fight the evil forces converging upon his family. Surrounding him are a suspicious preacher (Robert Pattinson), a corrupt sheriff (Sebastian Stan), and a mysterious couple played by Jason Clarke and Riley Keough. —KH

Antebellum (Sept. 18, VOD)

janelle monae holds a torch at night in antebellum Photo: Matt Kennedy/Lionsgate

Antebellum’s most recent trailer drummed up a lot of excitement: It looked like a time-traveling horror-thriller starring Janelle Monáe as a successful Black author with some connection to another character suffering as a slave on a pre-Civil War plantation. Polygon’s reviewer called it “2020’s worst film,” though, citing its extensive exploitative scenes of torture and suffering, its dim and shallow characters, and an offensive twist. Still, the film is likely to draw attention, given Monáe’s presence. Jena Malone, Eric Lange, Kiersey Clemons, and Gabourey Sidibe co-star. —TR

The Nest (Sept. 18)

Jude Law and Carrie Coon look in a mirror while dressing up in fancy clothes in THe Nest Image: IFC Films

When a family makes the move from America to England, their isolated new home begins to expose the cracks in their relationships. As it turns out, they can’t really afford the house, but patriarch Rory (Jude Law) is determined to make it work, even as his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) begins to reach the end of her rope when it comes to giving him virtual carte blanche to chase his ambitions. Their children struggle with the change, too, especially as their father’s work has demanded they move multiple times in the past several years to pursue wealth. —KH

three figures at a bus stop Photo: Matt Kennedy

Enola Holmes (Sept. 23, Netflix)

millie bobby brown as enola, with a bow and arrow Image: Netflix

Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown stars in Enola Holmes as the mischievous younger sister of Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft Holmes (Sam Claflin). When their mother (Helena Bonham Carter) goes missing, Enola takes action, ignoring the rules that her brothers try to set for her, and playing the game her own way. Rather than staying in the finishing school her brothers send her to, she sets out to find their mother herself, showing off her smarts and martial arts skills as she goes. —KH

Kajillionaire (Sept. 25)

three figures at a bus stop Photo: Matt Kennedy

Polygon caught Kajillionaire at Sundance 2020, and it’s easily Miranda July’s most accessible, approachable, and funny film — but it’s still weird and idiosyncratic as heck. Evan Rachel Wood stars as the adult daughter of two petty con artists (Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger) who live via tiny scams like stealing other people’s mail. They’re all equal partners in crime, until she meets a woman (Gina Rodriguez) who wants in on their scams, and accidentally upends their practiced but ridiculous lifestyle. The director of Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future is all about high levels of quirk, but Kajillionaire adds on a lot of big, relatable, colorful emotions and a pretty hilarious heist plot. —TR

The Glorias (Sept. 30, Amazon Prime Video and VOD)

Alicia Vikander and Janelle Monáe in THE GLORIAS Photo: LD Entertainment / Roadside Attractions

From visionary filmmaker Julie Taymor (Frida, Across the Universe, Broadway’s The Lion King) comes this biopic based on Gloria Steinem’s book My Life on the Road. The film tracks Steinem’s rise to prominence, from early years in India to the founding of Ms. magazine and assuming her role as a pivotal voice in the women’s rights movement in the 1960s. Played by four generations of women (Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Keira Armstrong) the film finds the influential figure crossing paths with Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe), Flo Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), Dolores Huerta (Monica Sanchez) and Wilma Mankiller (Kimberly Guerrero). —MP

The Boys in the Band (Sept. 30, Netflix)

Jim Parsons as Michael, Robin De Jesus as Emory, Michael Benjamin Washington as Bernard and Andrew Rannells as Larry in The Boys in the Band Photo: Scott Everett White/Netflix

Based on the hit Broadway play of the same name, The Boys in the Band follows a group of nine gay men who gather for a birthday party in New York City. The trailer for the film is almost styled like a horror movie: A few drinks in, the men decide to play a game in which they each call people they’ve loved to tell them they’re true feelings. Considering the film comes from American Horror Story and Scream Queens producer Ryan Murphy, it could very well be high drama of that level. But also considering that it’s directed by Joe Mantello, who helmed the play, along with Wicked and Angels in America, and sports Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchinson, and Tuc Watkins in the cast, it may be more of a trailer thing selling us on a deeper drama. —MP

Wonder Woman 1984 (Oct. 2)

wonder woman in eagle armor from wonder woman 1984 Photo: Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures

The Wonder Woman sequel finds Diana, as its title promises, in 1984, battling big shoulder-pads as well as businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and friend-turned-enemy(-turned-actual-cat-person) Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). The jump forward in time also somehow reunites Diana with her beau Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who has somehow escaped the clutches of death, even though he heroically exploded at the end of the first Wonder Woman. —KH

Clive Barker’s Books of Blood (Oct. 7, Hulu)

Clive Barker’s Books of Blood poster on Hulu Image: Hulu

Who’s ready for a spooooooooky Halloooooooweeeeeen taaaaaaale? Based on Clive Barker’s horror anthology of the same name, this new horror movie, to quote Hulu’s vague but evocative description, “takes audiences on a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three uncanny tales tangled in space and time.” Directed by longtime Star Trek mastermind Brannon Braga, the film touts everyone from Seth MacFarlane to Barker himself as a producer. —MP

The Forty-Year-Old Version (Oct. 9)

RADHA BLANK (WRITER, DIRECTOR) as RADHA, OSWIN BENJAMIN in The 40-Year-Old Version Photo: Jeong Park / NETFLIX

Writer-director-star Radha Blank takes a risk in putting herself at center stage in The Forty-Year-Old Version, a film where the story can only function if the audiences find her character (also named Radha) charismatic and charming. Screen-Radha is a prickly, often self-absorbed and selfish New York playwright whose career is stagnating after a promising start, leading her to try to reinvent herself as a local rapper and voice of the streets. The story works because of her force of personality — when she does finally perform, she’s electric. But Blank never gives in to the temptation to flatter herself — a lot of the movie’s appeal is in how prickly, compromised, complicated, and rich her character is. —TR

Candyman (Oct. 16)

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as the new Candyman Image: Universal Pictures

A direct sequel to the 1992 horror film of the same name (but not a sequel to the two less-than-stellar sequels that followed), Candyman comes from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, and he wrote the script himself. The original film isn’t just pure fantasy-horror: it focuses on segregation and class differences in urban Chicago. (The short story it is based upon had similar themes, but was set in Liverpool.) Tony Todd returns to the role of Candyman in this sequel, with Watchmen’s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II joining as a grown-up version of Anthony McCoy, the kidnapped infant from the original film. —KH

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Oct. 16)

SACHA BARON COHEN as Abbie Hoffman, JEREMY STRONG as Jerry Rubin in THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Molly’s Game) has been trying to get this movie made for eons, and at one point, Steven Spielberg even considered directing. Now the docudrama, about the anti-Vietnam War protesters who were charged with conspiracy in 1969, finds Sorkin writing and directing, and with an all-star cast to boot. If the Oscars actually happen this year, they should probably make room for Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne ,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jeremy Strong, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Frank Langella, William Hurt, and Michael Keaton, who all show up in this sprawling look at relevant American history. —MP

American Utopia (Oct. 17)

david byrne and company in american utopia Image: HBO

Spike Lee directs the film version of David Byrne’s album-turned-Broadway-show American Utopia, which sees Byrne and a group of 11 musicians cycle through songs from both the album of the same name and Byrne’s previous work. The show also features monologues from Byrne, who uses music as a way of sending a message of love, optimism, and the importance of social justice. In a year where concerts have all but disappeared, American Utopia brings the concert to you. —KH

Rebecca (Oct. 21)

Lily James as Mrs. de Winter, Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers in the Rebecca remake for Netflix Photo: Kerry Brown / Netflix

Alfred Hitchcock made a pretty damn good version of author Daphne du Maurier’s creepy romance in 1940, which makes us immediately question the new version. But here’s the thing: Stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, and Kristin Scott Thomas are working under the eye of one Ben Wheatley, who has experimented whose films range from experimental (A Field in England) to kinetic (Free Fire) to downright masterpieces (Kill List). This could work. —MP

Death on the Nile (Oct. 23)

Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot in Death on the Nile Photo: Rob Youngson/20th Century Studios

Kenneth Branagh directs, produces, and stars in this Agatha Christie adaptation, a follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express (also directed by, produced by, and starring Branagh). We stan a king. Or rather, a detective. Or maybe we just stan his impressive, theatrical mustache. This new movie stars Gal Gadot, Letitia Wright, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, and Rose Leslie, and will be the third adaptation of this specific Christie novel, wherein the magnificent Hercule Poirot must solve a murder while vacationing in Egypt. —KH

Bad Hair (Oct. 23)

Yaani King Mondschein, Elle Lorraine, and Lena Waithe stare offscreen in Bad Hair by Justin Simien Photo: Sundance Institute

Dear White People’s writer-director Justin Simien makes it clear that he’s just listening to his own internal music when he creates oddities like Bad Hair, a throwback horror movie about an evil, bloodsucking weave. Partially indebted to period horror like Rosemary’s Baby, partly indebted to Korean horror movies like The Wig, and very much about the politics of assimilation, racial image, and fashion, Bad Hair is somewhere between an instant camp classic and a surprisingly emotional statement about Black identity. Starring Elle Lorraine, Lena Waithe, Vanessa Williams, Kelly Rowland, and Laverne Cox. —TR

On the Rocks (Oct. TBD)

on the rocks: bill murray sips a martini while rashida jones lays on a table Photo: A24/Apple

The latest film from Lost in Translation and The Beguiled director Sofia Coppola stars Rashida Jones and Bill Murray as a daughter and father trailing Jones’ character’s husband, who may or may not be cheating on her. They run all over New York City and drink martinis. I don’t know if anything else happens, but honestly, in these quarantine times, that’s enough. —MP

Black Widow (Nov. 6)

Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow looks cool posing in front of some smoke in a field, in a teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ Black Widow. Image: Marvel Studios/Disney

A decade after her debut in Iron Man 2, Natasha Romanoff finally gets a solo movie. Set in the time between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow sees Natasha confronting her past, in Budapest, of course. She reunites with her old Black Widow program colleagues — Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Red Guardian (David Harbour), and Melina (Rachel Weisz) — and must reckon with her dark past. The burning question we have, though, is this: After Natasha was killed off to make Hawkeye sad in Endgame, will Black Widow be too little, too late? —KH

No Time to Die (Nov. 20)

blofeld and james bond stand in a prison in norway in no time to die Photo: Nicola Dove/MGM

Daniel Craig’s final (final, for real this time) outing as James Bond is No Time to Die, directed by True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga and co-starring Rami Malek as the latest Bond big-bad. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Jeffrey Wright, Léa Seydoux, and Christoph Waltz are also back to help see Craig off, putting a bow on the constant misery that’s plagued the double-oh agent ever since his career kicked off in Casino Royale. —KH

Soul (Nov. 20)

a soul hurtling through time and space in Pixar’s Soul Image: Pixar

Pixar’s Soul, which was originally set for the summer but then bumped to the fall, is a “metaphysical comedy” that will explore what it means to be human. In the vein of Inside Out, Soul gives emotions and feelings to … well, souls. Joe, a jazz musician and middle-school music teacher, books his first big gig — and in his excitement, he falls through a pothole, and his soul is separated from his body. He finds himself in the You Seminar, a place where souls are created and nurtured before landing on earth. Jamie Foxx voices Joe, with Tina Fey as 22, a soul trapped inside the You Seminar. —KH

Mank (TBD)

Gary Oldman in Mank Image: Netflix

We don’t know much about Mank. But by all accounts, the latest film from David Fincher, a biopic about Citizen Kane writer Herman J. Mankiewicz’s battle with Orson Welles over screenplay credit, is arriving in 2020. Let’s start the slow chant: Mank! Mank! Mank! MANK! MANK! MANK! —MP

The French Dispatch (TBD)

Bill Murray and other cast in The French Dispatch. Image: Searchlight Pictures

Wes Anderson’s latest work is a “love letter to journalists,” set in a fictional 20th-century French city and centering on an outpost of an American newspaper known as The French Dispatch. The film reportedly features three storylines, with Frances McDormand leading the cast as Fabian Nürnberger. Other details are scarce, though the film is also set to feature Bill Murray, Timothée Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright, among numerous others. When the movie finds a new release date — which is expected before the year’s end — we’ll also get appearances from other Anderson standards (Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, etc.), as well as a fair amount of symmetry. —KH


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