What a difference a year makes. Last fall, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through the movie industry. Studios pushed back some of the season’s biggest premieres to 2021 or indefinitely halted production all together as movie-going audiences sheltered in place. The upheaval resulted in a year of “lost” releases. Except for Tenet ... which really came out last August. Wild.
A year later, conditions are at once both radically different and much the same. The development and subsequent rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine has given some studios the confidence to move forward with their fall premiere plans, though a rise in cases tied to the COVID Delta variant has forced both filmgoers and studios to make the calculated decision of where and how to watch this year’s most anticipated new releases, if at all. But off the theatrical success of Marvel’s Shang-Chi over Labor Day weekend, many studios are prepared to move forward with the release schedule — and lean on streaming like never before.
To that end, here’s a list of what movies are playing in wide release this fall, from theater-only screenings to streaming exclusives and everything in-between. There’s a wealth of exciting new films to watch this season, here’s what you should keep your eyes out for.
The Card Counter
Paul Schrader follows his 2018 spiritual drama First Reformed with a moody vehicle for Oscar Isaac. The actor plays William Tell, an ex-military interrogator-turned-gambler who makes it his personal mission to reform a troubled young man (Tye Sheridan) out for revenge against Major John Gordo (Willem Dafoe). With the backing of La Linda (Tiffany Haddish), Tell and his protege set out on the road with their sights set on winning the World Series of poker in Las Vegas. Having screened out of festivals, early word is that Schrader has once again delivered a gnarly human drama. Vulture critic Alison Wilmore wrote in her review:
William recognizes the puerility of Cirk’s dead-end mission, and without acknowledging the degree it’s also his, dedicates himself to helping the young man move on. The Card Counter takes place in a punishing world of windowless casinos, hotel ballrooms, and highways devoid of scenery — a vision of the America used to justify the actions that now so traumatize William, that is intentionally bereft of poetry until La Linda takes William to a park illuminated by Christmas lights. If it’s not a country worth losing your soul for, it’s also not one that will pay any mind to a life spent wallowing in angst over it, either.
In theaters on Sept. 10
Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars in the Atomic Blonde-meets-Crank revenge action thriller Kate as a preternaturally gifted assassin who is poisoned by her employers and sets out on a 24-hour manhunt to exact revenge on those who betrayed her. As her body rapidly deteriorates under the effects of the poison, Kate forms an unlikely bond with Ani (Miku Patricia Martineau), the teenage daughter of one of her past targets. With nothing left to lose, Kate embarks on one last self-appointed mission of retribution.
Streaming on Netflix on Sept. 10
Saw and Insidious director James Wan returns to the horror genre with Malignant, his latest psychological horror thriller starring Annabelle Wallis (Peaky Blinders). The film follows Madison (Wallis), a young woman inexplicably wracked by debilitating visions and nightmares of people being brutally murdered. Except ... the visions are real. In order to stop the killer and save her own life, Madison delves into the long dormant secrets of her past and face her darkest fears. If this has anywhere close to the energy of Wan’s Insidious, audiences are sure to be in for a horror film that keep their hearts racing and make it just a whee bit harder to fall asleep at night.
In theaters and on HBO Max on Sept. 10
If you’re hungry for a retro-themed horror fantasy in the vein of 2019’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark or Leigh Janiak’s Fear Street trilogy, David Yarovesky’s Nightbooks should sate your appetite. Based on the J. A. White’s children’s book of the same name, the film stars Winsolw Fegley (Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made) as Alex, a precocious young boy with an obsession with scary stories who is abducted by a nefarious witch (Krysten Ritter) and imprisoned in her magical apartment. Forced to tell a scary story every night or face horrific consequences, Alex must team up with his fellow prisoner Yasmin (Lidya Jewett) to escape the witch’s grasp and safely return home.
Streaming on Netflix on Sept. 15
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
In director Jonathan Butterell’s film adaptation of Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s award-winning coming-of-age stage musical, Max Harwood stars as Jamie New, a 16-year-old teenager from a blue collar English town who just doesn’t quite fit in. Spurned by his teachers and ostracized by his peers, Jamie nonetheless remains determined to pursue his dream of become a proud drag queen. With the support of his best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), his mother (Sarah Lancashire), and his mentor Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant), Jamie defies his naysayers and inspires his community across several colorful music numbers in a story about remaining true to yourself even (and especially) when it’s hard.
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Sept. 17
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Nicolas Cage (Mandy, Jiu Jitsu) stars in Japanese provocateur Sio Sono’s neo-noir western action film Prisoners of the Ghostland as Hero, a notorious criminal imprisoned in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town who is hired by a wealthy warlord known as The Governor (Bill Moseley) to rescue his adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) in exchange for his freedom. Fitted with a set of explosive devices fitted to his neck, arms, and ahem other areas, Hero ventures into the dark parallel universe known as the Ghostland and break a terrible curse that imprisons both Bernice and countless others. We caught this wild movie out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, so here’s a taste of what to expect:
Let’s not underestimate Cage. He rises to Sono’s level. Sporting strange sprayed-on Ken-doll makeup and Lee Marvin killer energy, Cage becomes a living action figure. He even has kung-fu grip! In a third-act sequence, Cage (or at least a spot-on body double in armor) goes toe-to-toe with the head samurai, delivering moves that keep up with the kinetic camerawork. If only Sono had found more for Boutella to do, Prisoners of the Ghostland might have achieved instant cult status. With action credits like Kingsman, Atomic Blonde, and Star Trek Beyond to her name, she’s more than capable of executing stunts and choreography. Sono loses her in Cage’s shadow, but again, she can really make that gatling gun sing.
In theaters and on VOD on Sept. 17
The Many Saints of Newark
David Chase’s The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to The Sopranos, follows a young Anthony “Tony” Soprano through his formative years as a young gangster working for his uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). As rival crime families rise up to wrest apart the powerful DiMeo family’s stranglehold over the tumultuous race-torn city, Dickie’s actions and decisions in the face of these challenging times will leave a profound and lasting impression on his young nephew and play an inevitable role in shaping him into the ruthless crime boss he will one day become.
In theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 1
Raw director Julia Ducournau returns with another raucous body horror-thriller in the form of her sophomore feature, Titane. The film stars Agathe Rouselle as a young girl who survives a horrific car crash and has a titanium plate fitted inside her skull. Featuring murder, sex, impregnation by vehicles, and love borne out of deception, with a premise that sounds like head-on collision between David Cronenberg’s Crash and 2012’s The Imposter, Titane won the Palme d’Or during its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this past July and seems all but poised to become this year’s most talked-about film.
In theaters on Oct. 1
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Tom Hardy returns as the down on his luck reporter-turned-symbiote-infused-vigilante Venom in Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Directed by Andy Serkis (yes, that Andy Serkis), the film follows Eddie Brock (Hardy) as he attempts to reinvigorate his career by interviewing the notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). Still struggling to adjust to his life as the human host for the sentient symbiote Venom, Eddie will have to face off against a slobbering new nemesis, Carnage. The film was originally slated to premiere in September, but was delayed to October due to renewed concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
In theaters on Oct. 1
No Time To Die
Daniel Craig returns for his final outing as 007 in director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s No Time to Die, the 25th installment in the James Bond film series. Set five years after the events of 2015’s Spectre, the film follows the now-retired MI6 agent as he is enlisted in the search for a missing scientist named Valdo Obruchev. Bond’s search for answers thrusts him into the crosshairs of a dangerous new nemesis in the form of Lytusifer Safin (Rami Malek), as well as old friends and adversaries alike. Featuring returning performances by Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, as well as new appearances by Lashana Lynch and Ana de Armas, No Time to Die will finally see its long-awaited premiere in theaters this fall after being delayed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In theaters on Oct. 8
Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snaer Gudnason play a childless couple, who discover a mysterious lamb-headed newborn in Valdimar Jóhannsson’s supernatural drama Lamb. Adopting the child and raising it as their own, the couple’s newfound happiness is nevertheless assailed from both within and outside their idyllic Icelandic farm. Like most A24 films, it looks impeccably well-shot and deeply sinister. I am absolutely terrified both for and of that child.
In theaters on Oct. 8
Jamie Lee Curtis reprises her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween Kills, the 12th installment in the long running Halloween horror franchise. Taking place directly after the events of 2018’s Halloween — that movie being a canon-scrubbing sequel to John Carpenter’s original 1978 film — Strode and her family must continue to fend off the relentless murder spree of Michael Myers with the help of the Haddonfield community. Will Michael finally, finally die this time? Probably not, because director David Gordon Green is rounding out his reboot/sequel series with a third movie Halloween Ends, but we bet this one’s a spooky time at the movies anyway.
In theaters on Oct. 15
The Last Duel
Good Will Hunting duo Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have written another movie ... and wisely hired Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking) to help them grapple with a challenging subject matter. Set in 14th-century France, The Last Duel follows the story of Marguerite de Thibouville (Jodie Comer), wife of knight Jean de Carrouges (Damon). After accusing de Carrouges’s best friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of rape, the two men engage in trial by combat in the last legally sanctioned duel in France’s history. Directed by Ridley Scott with beautiful cinematography courtesy of Dariusz Wolski and supporting performances by Affleck and Alex Lawther as Count Pierre d’Alençon and King Charles VI respectively, The Last Duel by all appearances looks like a historical drama destined for award buzz.
In theaters on Oct. 15
Set thousands of years in the future, Denis Villenueve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s celebrated sci-fi epic Dune stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, son and heir to the powerful Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac), who is haunted by strange and vivid dreams related to some great, yet unknown destiny. Assuming stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis, colloquially known as Dune, the Atreides must contend with not only the challenges of their dangerous new terrain but the treachery of the Harkonnens, their centuries-long adversaries and Dune’s former stewards led by the villainous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård). Can Villeneuve’s film succeed where David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s efforts fell short and deliver an adaptation worthy of its source material? We got an early look at the film out of the Venice Film Festival and signs point to yes.
In theaters and streaming on HBO Max on Oct. 15
The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson’s latest film is a self-described “A love letter to journalists,” inspired by the director’s love of The New Yorker and following the stories of American newspaper outpost based in the in the fictional French city of “Ennui-sur-Blasé.” Featuring performances by Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, Liev Schrieber, Timothée Chalamet, Frances McDormand, Léa Seydoux, Bill Murray, and many more, The French Dispatch (alternatively titled The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) sounds as be as offbeat, hilarious, and whimsically idiosyncratic as any of Anderson’s films at his best.
In theaters on Oct. 22
Last Night in Soho
Thomasin McKenzie (Old) stars in Edgar Wright’s psychological horror thriller Last Night in Soho as Eloise, an aspiring fashion designer who finds herself miraculously transported to the 1960s where she vicariously inhabits the life of a dazzling lounge singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). It’s not long before Eloise’s lucid escapades morph into insidious sojourns into a dark and terrifying world of waking nightmares.
In theaters on Oct. 29
Black Mass director Scott Cooper’s supernatural horror thriller Antlers stars Keri Russell and Jesse Plemons as Julia and Paul Meadows, a school teacher and sheriff of a small town in Oregon, who become embroiled in a desperate fight to protect a young child (Jeremy T. Thomas) who is secretly harboring a malevolent, ancestral creature inside his house. It looks terrifying, and Guillermo del Toro’s name as a producer goes a long way.
In theaters on Oct. 29
The Harder They Fall
Starring an ensemble cast including Regina King, Delroy Linkdo, Idris Elba, LaKeith Stanfield and more, and produced by none other than Jay-Z, Jeymes Samuel’s (aka The Bullitts) feature length debut The Harder They Fall is a contemporary Black Western worth getting excited for. When outlaw Nat Love (Jonathan Majors) discovers his longtime nemesis Rufus Black (Elba) has escaped from prison, he’ll have to reunite his old gang in order enact revenge on Rufus and his cohorts. Expect a whole lot of shootouts, anachronisms, and impeccably sleek-looking leather dusters.
Streaming on Netflix on Nov. 3
Chloe Zhao’s Eternals introduces longtime MCU fans to its titular cast of interstellar guardians ( not to be confused of with the Guardians of the Galaxy, of course). Set after the events of Avengers: Endgame, an immortal alien race who have been living on Earth secretly for thousands of years rise up to defend the planet against a grave threat in the form of their immortal enemies, the Deviants. Starring Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lia McHugh, Brian Tyree Henry, Lauren Ridloff, Don Lee, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie, the film is sure to have major consequence in the lead up to Spider-Man: No Way Home and next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
In theaters on Nov. 5
Though science fiction isn’t something for which he’s particular well known for, Tom Hanks proved his skills as a dramatic performer could translate to the genre through his work on 2012’s Cloud Atlas. Finch, the feature debut of Game of Thrones director and soon-to-be House of the Dragon showrunner Miguel Sapochnik, sees Hanks once again dipping his toes back into sci-fi, this time as one of the last surviving men on the planet who invents a robot companion named Jeff (Caleb Landry Jones) before embarking on a journey across the country. There’s no footage released as of yet, but the look of Hanks’ funky shirt and his robot pal it seems like it’ll be fun, weird, and soul-stirring adventure.
Streaming on Apple TV Plus on Nov. 5
Kristen Stewart is a far way away nowadays from her days as a Twilight starlet, having proven her chops as a dramatic actress with engrossing performances in films like 2016’s Personal Shopper and 2020’s Underwater. With Pablo Larraín’s biographical drama Spencer, Stewart takes on her most challenging and multifaceted role yet as Princess Diana in the midst of her impending divorce from Prince Charles. The cinematography in the film’s trailer, courtesy of Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Claire Mathon, looks sumptuous and bathed in an ethereal glow of washed out hues, and Stewart’s resemblance to the late Princess of Wales in her heyday is uncanny. If Larraín’s work on 2016’s Jackie is any indication, Stewart could very well be set for a Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
In theaters on Nov. 5
Rebecca Hall’s adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing stars Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga as Irene and Clare, two childhood friends from a mixed-race background who reunite in adulthood. While Irene openly identifies as a black woman, Clare as manage to live a life “passing” as a white woman in an attempt to circumvent the institutional prejudices of her time. Larsen’s novel is acclaimed for its nuanced portrayal of social malleability of race as a form of both performance and innate identity. Hall, miraculously, captures it with surgical precision and immaculate black and white photography. Passing was the big surprise of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and shouldn’t be missed when it slips on to streaming later this year.
Streaming on Netflix on Nov. 10
When you’re (once again) trying to reboot the Ghostbusters movie franchise, who ya gonna call? Jason Reitman apparently, that’s who! Set 30 years after the events of Ghostbusters 2, Ghostbusters: Afterlife stars Carrie Coon as Callie, a single mother and daughter of the late Dr. Egon Spengler. After moving to her family’s decrepit farmhouse in Oklahoma, her daughter Phoebe (I, Tonya’s Mckenna Grace) and son Trevor (Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard) discover their grandfather’s legacy and set out to resolve a paranormal disturbance that threatens to endanger the entire world.
In theaters on Nov. 11
Dwayne Johnson stars in yet another high-octane action thriller as a law enforcer working alongside a former (?) criminal to take down a mutual adversary, but this time wholly unrelated to the Fast and Furious franchise! Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Red Notice follows FBI Agent John Hartley on his mission to track down and apprehend Sarah Black (Gal Gadot) and Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds), two notorious criminals that vie to compete across several high-profile heists across the globe. The tone of the trailer feels similiar in the vein of The Hitman’s Bodyguard meets the aforementioned Hobbes & Shaw, with Reynolds playing the comic relief foil to Johnson’s more steely by-the-books persona. This looks like a blast, especially with Gadot serving up some serious Carmen Sandiego vibes.
Streaming on Netflix on Nov. 12
You know what it feels like to not feel special? Encanto’s Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) sure does. Set in a fantastical version of Colombia, Lilo & Stitch director Byron Howard and Zootopia co-director Jared Bush’s musical fantasy comedy centers on the Madrigals, a family in which each member is gifted with a dazzling magical ability like super strength, shapeshifting, or the power to conjure rainbows — all except for Mirabel, the sole “ordinary” member of the family. Obviously, what makes a person “special” is more or less a subject of perception, and Mirabel’s journey to find her place among her siblings will most likely yield a powerful message that what makes one exceptional is not always what is seen on the outside. With original music by Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda and gorgeous visuals, Encanto looks like a dazzling feel-good animated film for the whole family.
In theaters on Nov. 24
House of Gucci
Ridley Scott’s second feature film of 2021 — the filmmaker is 83, by the way — centers on the life and death of Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver), the Italian businessman and namesake of the international fashion house Gucci. Playing opposite of Driver is Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) in the role of Gucci’s ex-wife (and the chief conspirator behind his murder) Patrizia Reggiani. Jared Leto looks ridiculous as Maurizio’s cousin Paolo Gucci, and the picturesque villas and neon-lit nightclubs look appropriately luxurious and decadent. If the trailer is any indication, fans of Lady Gaga and similar fare like 2018’s The Assassination of Giani Versace are sure to love this one.
In theaters on Nov. 24
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City
Director Johannes Roberts’ (47 Meters Down) reboot of the Resident Evil film franchise draws more explicitly from the source material of Capcom’s long-running horror series than Paul W. S. Anderson’s 7-film saga. Based on the first two installments in the videogame franchise (and inspired by John Carpenter’s Assult on Precint 13), Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City follows the origin stories of Claire (Kaya Scodelario) and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen), and Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia) as they attempt to survive in the aftermath of a horrific zombie infestation brought about by the machinations of the mysterious Umbrella Corporation.
In theaters on Nov. 24