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Collage image of titles featured in this preview: Napoleon, The Marvels, Priscilla, The Creator, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Rebel Moon Graphic: Pete Volk/Polygon | Image sources: Apple TV Plus; Disney; A24; 20th Century Fox; Netflix

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The biggest new movies to watch out for this fall

This new movie release schedule is jam-packed with enticing releases

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2023 has been a great year in movies so far, and the fall schedule promises even more excitement.

Think back on the first eight months at the movies this year. Barbenheimer happened! Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse blew minds and broke hearts! John Wick: Chapter 4 reminded us franchises can end. (Well, sort of.) Superhero box office domination is… maybe over? (Don’t worry, superhero movie fans, there are still good ones out there if you know where to look.)

The next three months are packed with promising movies, both theatrical releases and straight-to-streaming. Long-running franchises continue, beloved filmmakers return with long-awaited projects, and unexpected new favorites are sure to spring up, Dune delays be damned. (If it means a fair deal for the striking writers and actors, it’s more than worth the wait).

Here are the biggest and most exciting movies slated to come out between now and the end of 2023.


Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia

In select theaters Sept. 1

Celestine the mouse sits on Ernest the Bear’s shoulder, carrying a guitar case. Celestine has her hand on Ernest’s black hat, in a beautiful watercolor-like image from Ernest and Celestine: A Trip to Gibberitia. Image: GKIDS

Genre: Kid-friendly animated adventure
Director: Julien Chheng, Jean-Christophe Roger
Cast: Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner

The sequel to 2012’s sunny, funny French animated feature Ernest & Celestine (based very loosely on a popular series of French picture books) isn’t as innovative and cleverly staged as the original, but it’s still absolutely charming, as grumpy old bear Ernest and young, idealistic, energetic mouse Celestine continue their adventures together in a manic, frantic world that finds their friendship baffling. Directors Julien Chheng (writer-director of the Star Wars: Visions short The Spy Dancer) and Jean-Christophe Roger send the duo off to Ernest’s homeland to repair his beloved violin. (It’s a “Stradibearius.”) There, they find music has been outlawed, for reasons very personal to Ernest.

Much like the first film, this one features a great deal of silly racing around, with Ernest and Celestine running afoul of authority figures who enforce ridiculous rules with unquestioning moral superiority. And much like the first film, it takes place in a watercolor paradise that’s lush and lovely to look at — there’s always something interesting on screen, no matter what else is happening. —Tasha Robinson

The Equalizer 3

In theaters Sept. 1

Denzel Washington holds up a revolver towards another man’s head while smoke floats in the background in The Equalizer 3. Photo: Stefano Montesi/Columbia Pictures

Genre: Action
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, David Denman

Denzel Washington has managed to be both one of the great movie actors to ever grace our screens, and one of the greatest ever action stars. This has been seen most cleanly in his excellent collaborations with the late, great Tony Scott, and more recently in the popcorn-fun Equalizer series.

The third installment sees Denzel’s Robert McCall travel to Italy and face off with the Sicilian Mafia. Antoine Fuqua is back in the director’s chair, and Denzel reunites with former Man on Fire co-star Dakota Fanning in what should be another deadly affair with plenty of satisfying vigilante action. The movie is also shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson, so it’s bound to look great, too. —Pete Volk

King of Killers

In select theaters and on demand Sept. 1

Frank Grillo, wearing a devilish green mask over the bottom half of his face, aims a gun while lying on the ground in King of Killers. Image: Lionsgate

Genre: Action
Director: Kevin Grevioux
Cast: Frank Grillo, Alain Moussi, Georges St. Pierre

A Frank Grillo movie is always an event, especially when he’s squaring off against a fighter as skilled as Canadian martial arts star Alain Moussi. What really makes The King of Killers interesting, though, is who’s making it. Director Kevin Grevioux (best known for co-creating the Underworld movie franchise) adapted this movie from his own comic book, which he published under his own comic imprint. He also co-stars in the movie, and his signature deep voice will be instantly recognizable to any fans of Young Justice, in which he voiced Black Beetle. The movie itself has an interesting premise: The world’s best assassin hires a bunch of the world’s next-best-assassins to see if they can kill him. Bloody mayhem ensues. —PV

The Nun II

In theaters Sept. 8

Genre: Horror
Director: Michael Chaves
Cast: Bonnie Aarons, Taissa Farmiga, Anna Popplewell

The Conjuring universe is already eight movies deep, but its ninth entry, the upcoming The Nun II, still looks impressively scary, if the trailers are to be believed. It’s a sequel to the original Nun movie, which means more hauntings from Valak, the demonic Nun that has proven to be one of the series’ most enduring and frightening monsters.

You can always count on a Conjuring movie to deliver solid scares (with the exception of the awful first Annabelle movie), but The Nun spinoff series offers something a little extra-dark and extra-mean in this universe. There’s something particularly nasty about the idea of a demon that prefers to take on the form of a blasphemous nun, a fact the series takes full advantage of.

The second Nun movie brings back much of the original’s cast, but the most exciting new addition to the film this time around is actually one of its writers: Akela Cooper. Dedicated James Wan fans might recognize Cooper as the writer of the excellent Malignant and the hilarious M3GAN. This will be Cooper’s first time working in the Conjuring universe, which should be a much scarier opportunity for one of the most fun and exciting screenwriters working in horror right now. —Austen Goslin

A Haunting in Venice

In theaters Sept. 15

Genre: Poirot, but spooky
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Jamie Dornan, Michelle Yeoh

This might be the year’s cleverest sequel, at least as far as its marketing is concerned. In fact, you may not have known it was a sequel at all. In truth, this is the third movie in Kenneth Branagh’s continuing adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot mystery stories. Unlike the last two, this one is more overtly a horror story, and it’s also a little more sparse and less globe-trotting.

This time around Inspector Poirot, who is now retired, heads to Venice to attend a séance as a guest. But, when one of the other participants mysteriously dies, it comes down to Poirot to figure out if this is the work of a spirit or just a guest with a grudge.

As with any murder mystery, one of A Haunting in Venice’s main draws is its cast, which features a very eclectic collection of actors ranging from Tina Fey to Michelle Yeoh, with actors like Kyle Allen, Jamie Dornan, and Emma Laird in between. —AG

Expend4bles

In theaters Sept. 22

Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson aims a gun at the camera in Expend4bles Image: Lionsgate

Genre: Action
Director: Scott Waugh
Cast: Jason Statham, Megan Fox, Sylvester Stallone

One of the loudest and most explosive franchises at the movies returns for the first time in nearly a decade, promising plenty of action and a lot of familiar faces. In Expend4bles, the focus shifts from Sylvester Stallone’s Barney Ross character to Jason Statham’s Lee Christmas, as well as his CIA agent girlfriend Gina (Megan Fox). Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture also return to reprise their roles, but there are plenty of new faces to a franchise getting its second injection of new talent: Martial arts superstars Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais, Bad Boys for Life villain Jacob Scipio, former World’s Strongest Man Eddie Hall, and Andy Garcia, best known for being Andy Garcia. The franchise also changes creative hands, as former stuntman Scott Waugh (Hidden Strike) takes on directing duties.

Expend4bles probably won’t make a lick of sense, but that’s exactly the way we like these movies. —PV

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Streaming on Netflix Sept. 27

Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, and Richard Ayoade stand in a medical room wearing white coats in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Image: Netflix

Genre: Wes Anderson movie
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley

Congratulations, you’ve been good this year. You know how I know? We get two Wes Anderson movies in the same year.

That’s a rarity, although it has happened before, and always a feature paired with a short. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is the short this time (the delightful Asteroid City was the feature). It will be Anderson’s second adaptation of a Roald Dahl story, after Fantastic Mr. Fox, and is the second Dahl Netflix project since the streaming service bought the Roald Dahl Story Company, after Matilda: The Musical. Like all Anderson movies, it’s sure to be a fun, colorful time with a terrific cast. And this one’s only 37 minutes. —PV

Stop Making Sense 40th Anniversary Restoration

In theaters Sept. 29

David Byrne, wearing his signature suit, holds the microphone towards the camera in Stop Making Sense. Image: A24

Genre: Concert movie
Director: Jonathan Demme
Cast: Talking Heads

Just when you thought Stop Making Sense couldn’t get any smoother, we get a rerelease of the film in 4K.

The legendary concert film directed by Jonathan Demme is the blueprint for a reason: It’s an incredible record, both as a soundtrack, and of a band giving it their absolute all on stage. Throughout the show, Talking Heads swell onto the stage, and while we never see the crowd (by Demme’s brilliant design) we feel the energy nonetheless. No number is like the rest, whether it’s frontman David Byrne “playing a tape” or jogging around the stage or ceding to Tom Tom Club or popping up in a big white suit. (Which, he says, was there for a simple artistic purpose: “I wanted my head to appear smaller and the easiest way to do that was to make my body bigger.”)

As Byrne put it: “Nothing is better than this.” And now nothing will be better than that (a 4K restoration). —Zosha Millman

The Creator

In theaters Sept. 29

A young android child with a shaved head and partially missing skull places their hand on a piece of machinery in The Creator Image: 20th Century Studios

Genre: Sci-fi action thriller
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: John David Washington, Madeleine Yuna Voyles, Gemma Chan

With the recent announcement that Dune: Part Two will be pushed back to next year, Gareth Edwards’ futuristic action thriller stands as the sole remaining sci-fi movie event of the fall season. Even were it not for that unfortunate eleventh-hour delay, Edwards’ film would be one of the season’s most anticipated by virtue of its originality alone.

In a world where humanity and artificial intelligence are locked in a bitter war for survival, John David Washington stars as Joshua, an ex-special forces officer tasked with a mission that could mean the end of the war: recover a mysterious weapon created by the architect behind the AI. When Joshua discovers that the weapon is none other than an unassuming android built in the form of a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), his mission thrusts him on a journey that will fundamentally reshape his understanding of humanity. The production design of the movie looks amazing, and the premise of an original sci-fi epic that draws inspiration from films like Apocalypse Now and Akira holds a lot of promise. —Toussaint Egan

Saw X

In theaters Sept. 29

Billy the creepy puppet rides a creepy bicycle creepily in Saw X. Photo: Alexandro Bolaños Escamilla/Lionsgate

Genre: Horror
Director: Kevin Greutert
Cast: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Steven Brand

One of horror’s most complicated and influential franchises returns with its 10th (!) entry, returning to the hands of Saw VI and Saw 3D director Kevin Greutert. Tobin Bell also returns as John Kramer/Jigsaw after a brief absence from the franchise in Spiral, and Shawnee Smith is back to reprise her role of Amanda Young from the first three movies.

Set between Saw and Saw II, the movie follows a younger John Kramer, stricken with cancer and hoping for a cure in Mexico. When he finds out the experimental treatment he’s undergoing is a scam, he sets out for bloody vengeance in the way he knows best: Games, but with murder. —PV

The Exorcist: Believer

In theaters Oct. 6

Ellen Burstyn and Leslie Odom Jr. stand next to each other at night in The Exorcist: Believer Photo: Anne Marie Fox/Universal Pictures

Genre: Horror
Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Leslie Odom Jr., Ann Dowd, Ellen Burstyn

Just one year after the conclusion of his Halloween series, David Gordon Green is back in the mines of horror classics with The Exorcist: Believer. Believer is a direct sequel to the original Exorcist film but, unlike his Halloween movies, the rest of the series appears to still be canon here — which is great, because all of those movies are good.

Believer follows a single father named Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) whose daughter Angela begins showing signs of demonic possession; these symptoms also appear at the same time in her friend Katherine. Terrified, Victor seeks out the only person who has experienced these things before, Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) from the original Exorcist.

On the one hand, returning to a horror well years after it was last tapped can be a tricky proposition, and one that almost always misses, especially when the movie drags back members of the original cast. On the other hand, there’s never been a bad Exorcist movie, so there’s still some hope for this one. —AG

Totally Killer

Streaming on Prime Video Oct. 6

Kiernan Shipka crouches in a bathroom stall, holding a bat, as blood is splattered on the walls around her in Totally Killer. Image: Prime Video

Genre: Horror comedy
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Julie Bowen

Totally Killer is about a teenager named Jamie (Kiernan Shipka), whose mom Pam (Julie Bowen) was killed by a serial killer. To stop this tragedy from happening, Jamie travels back in time and teams up with a younger version of Pam (Olivia Holt) to stop the murderer all the way back in 1987.

What all of that means in practice is an excuse for some fun ’80s jokes and a lot of great ’80s slasher references. Adding to the movie’s promise is the fact that it’s directed by Nahnatchka Khan, the director of Always Be My Maybe.

Sometimes a slasher only needs to be as good as its premise and its cast to make it worth watching, and that’s exactly where Totally Killer is at. Sure, it could end up being excellent, but at the very least it seems like it’s going to be a pretty good time. —AG

Cat Person

In theaters Oct. 6

Emilia Jones and Geraldine Viswanathan huddle together and look at a phone screen in Cat Person. Image: Studio Canal

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: Susanna Fogel
Cast: Emilia Jones, Nicholas Braun, Isabella Rossellini, Hope Davis

In 2017, Kristen Roupenian’s New Yorker short story Cat Person became a viral sensation, sparking months of conversation about gender relationships, communication, and consent. The film adaptation, starring CODA lead Emilia Jones and Succession’s Nicholas Braun, doesn’t seem likely to take off in the same way (responses after its Sundance debut were pretty mixed), but the film’s first trailer does suggest a much more thriller-oriented approach that could take those conversations in a very different direction.

The story, about a 20-year-old college student who lets ego, imagination, and naïveté draw her into a brief relationship with a 30-something man she doesn’t even like much (and who, in the story and the trailer’s most memorable image, is an absolutely horrible kisser) digs into questions about who’s responsible for bad communication and bad sex. But it also touches on how different genders relate to the world, particularly in the getting-to-know-you phase of an initially casual relationship. —TR

Killers of the Flower Moon

In theaters Oct. 20

Leonardo DiCaprio sits next to Lily Gladstone at a table with food in Killers of the Flower Moon. Image: Apple Studios

Genre: Crime Western
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro

Martin Scorsese puts his two acting muses, De Niro and DiCaprio, together in a feature for the first time — but many of the notices from its Cannes premiere suggested the standout performance actually comes from Lily Gladstone in this epic, three-and-a-half-hour tale of American violence and greed in the wide-open spaces of 1920s Oklahoma.

Gladstone plays Mollie, a member of the wealthy Osage tribe, whose land is rich in oil. DiCaprio’s Ernest Burkhart is sent to claim her hand in marriage (and the rights to her oil) by his uncle William Hale (De Niro), a rapacious cattle baron. Meanwhile, unexplained deaths among the Osage begin piling up, and Jesse Plemons’ federal investigator is sent to find answers.

Based on David Grann’s nonfiction book, Killers of the Flower Moon looks to be Scorsese mounting another spirited attack on the rot at the heart of American society, but in a thrillingly new setting for him — apart from anything else, it’s his first Western. The no-expense-spared location shoot in Oklahoma was bankrolled by Apple, which is partnering with Paramount to give the movie a full-scale theatrical release. —Oli Welsh

Five Nights at Freddy’s

In theaters and on Peacock Oct. 27

Genre: Horror
Director: Emma Tammi
Cast: Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Lail, Matthew Lillard

Based on the ridiculously popular video game franchise, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror movie set in an abandoned Chuck E. Cheese-like restaurant. There are old games, abandoned dining areas, and most importantly, a band of animatronic creatures that look horrifying now that they’re defunct.

The action starts when a down-on-his-luck dad (Josh Hutcherson of The Hunger Games) accepts a job as a nighttime security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, the haunted-seeming restaurant in question. One night he takes his daughter there, and things get weird. There are possessed dolls, haunted kids, and murderous robots, which sound like they make for a fantastic combination.

The movie is co-written by Scott Cawthorn, the creator of Five Nights at Freddy’s, and directed by Emma Tammi (The Wind). The movie also stars Matthew Lillard, of Scooby-Doo and Scream fame. —AG

Priscilla

In theaters Oct. 27

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi embrace and ready for a kiss in their wedding garb as Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Image: A24

Genre: Biopic
Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Jacob Elordi

Sofia Coppola brings us a more intimate companion piece to last year’s flamboyant Baz Luhrmann biopic Elvis — this time telling the story of Elvis Presley’s marriage from the perspective of his wife, Priscilla, as based on her autobiography Elvis and Me. Cailee Spaeny (Devs, Mare of Easttown) plays Priscilla, while Jacob Elordi follows Austin Butler as a young heartthrob actor hoping some of Elvis’ iconic cool (not to mention his speaking voice) will rub off on him. Based on the trailer, it looks like Priscilla could be a 20th-century take on Marie Antoinette, deploying the hazy cool of Coppola’s imagery for a female-gaze reframing of a woman defined, whether she wanted to be or not, by her relationship to a famous man. —OW

The Killer

Streaming on Netflix Nov. 10

Michael Fassbender looks out a window with a mini telescope, like the kind you’d put on a rifle, in The Killer. Image: Netflix

Genre: Assassin thriller
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Charles Parnell, Tilda Swinton

Every new David Fincher movie is a cause for celebration, but it’s not often that he reteams with the writer of Seven for a thriller about an assassin. But that’s exactly what’s happening with The Killer.

Adapted from an acclaimed French graphic novel series, The Killer stars Michael Fassbender as an assassin who finds himself on the wrong side of his employers and the rest of the world after a failed mission. Rather than becoming the kind of action blockbuster that might sound like, however, it seems the story will turn inward, with the hitman hiding out and slowly losing his mind as the solitude and paranoia get to him.

That’s all the plot description we have for now, but even that sounds like a paranoid thriller that’s right in Fincher’s sweet spot for thorny, complicated, and fascinating movies.

Along with Fassbender, the film also stars Charles Parnell (Top Gun: Maverick), Arliss Howard (Full Metal Jacket), and Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer). This will be Fincher’s first film since 2020’s Mank, which he also made for Netflix. —AG

The Marvels

In theaters Nov. 10

Captain Marvel is surprised in Kamala Khan’s bedroom in The Marvels Image: Marvel Studios

Genre: Superhero
Director: Nia DaCosta
Cast: Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, Teyonah Parris

The next MCU film brings together the heroes Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, and Spectrum for a sci-fi adventure with a healthy side of physical comedy, as the three find their powers entangled in a way that causes them to switch places with each other whenever they’re used.

It’s the sort of fun, easy-to-parse premise that’s become all too rare in the MCU, and one that favors hijinks over spectacle — although there will probably be plenty of that too. The movie comes from Candyman remake director Nia DaCosta, the youngest filmmaker to ever helm a Marvel movie. —Joshua Rivera

Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain

Streaming on Peacock Nov. 17

The comedy trio Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy wear backpacks and look surprised and frightened in the woods in Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain. Photo: Anne Marie Fox/Universal Studios

Genre: Comedy
Director: Paul Briganti
Cast: Ben Marshall, John Higgins, Martin Herlihy

The hilarious comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy have breathed new life into Saturday Night Live since joining the cast after an impressive run of viral internet comedy. Now they take their talents to the big screen (or at least screens that can show Peacock).

The trio play childhood friends on the search for a treasure in what promises to be a madcap adventure with guest stars like John Goodman, Conan O’Brien, and Bowen Yang. —PV

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

In theaters Nov. 17

A blonde Tom Blyth , wearing a red suit jacket as Coriolanus Snow, leans into Rachel Zegler, wearing a beige vest next to a fence, in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Photo: Murray Close/Lionsgate

Genre: Dystopian sci-fi action
Director: Francis Lawrence
Cast: Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler, Peter Dinklage, Hunter Schafer, Viola Davis

Despite all the initial hullabaloo when The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes was announced, it seems like the fandom has remembered Suzanne Collins is actually good at what she does, and that a story about a bad guy doesn’t mean he’s actually secretly good. It’s a solid book, and given that some of the key filmmakers from the first four movies (director Francis Lawrence and producer Nina Jacobson) return for this movie adaptation, the film is likely to be quite good, too.

Say what you want about the original Hunger Games movie series’ marketing, all four films were actually remarkably solid adaptations of the books. This book is admittedly a little weirder and less cinematic, especially in the last act, when it departs from the Games and heads into more thought-filled, angsty territory. Collins isn’t as skilled at depicting her characters’ internal thoughts, but if there is one big thing the original film adaptations improved on, it was getting rid of Katniss’ sometimes grating internal monologue. The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes movie could likely do the very same thing and smooth over some of the final act bumps into a satisfying villain origin story. —Petrana Radulovic

Wish

In theaters Nov. 22

A young girl and her baby goat sit in a tree and look up at the stars Image: Walt Disney Animation

Genre: Animated fantasy musical
Directors: Chris Buck, Fawn Veerasunthorn
Cast: Ariana DeBose, Chris Pine, Alan Tudyk

For the first time in, well, forever, Disney is trying something new with its animation style. Wish is more stylized than Disney’s previous CG films, with more painterly shading and backgrounds. We’ve only seen a brief teaser trailer, but it has a subtle glow to it that we haven’t really seen in Disney movies before. It’s no Spider-Verse or Puss in Boots, but it’s finally something different from Frozen.

The story itself seems very in line with Disney’s pedigree: A fairy tale about a young woman named Asha (Ariana DeBose) who finds a magic wishing star (allegedly the wishing star seen in many Disney movies). Chris Pine stars as the ruler of the land, who appears to be the villain in this movie (for everyone crying about Disney villains disappearing, this one’s for you). Disney does know how to do a fairytale musical, and Wish already promises some big musical moments that’ll get stuck in your head for weeks after. Whether or not it leans too hard on Easter eggs is still to be determined, but the fact that Disney is finally experimenting more with style has me intrigued. —PR

Napoleon

In theaters Nov. 22

Joaquin Phoenix rides a horse as Napoleon, with his sword held high, as other figures in period-appropriate garb charge forward with him, some holding swords and others holding French flags. Image: Apple Studios

Genre: Historical epic
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Vanessa Kirby, Matthew Needham

The quest to bring the epic story of Napoleon Bonaparte to the big screen is a daunting undertaking for any director — in fact, it was the white whale for Stanley Kubrick — but Ridley Scott has managed to finish his historical epic and we should all feel lucky to get to see it.

Scott’s Napoleon stars Joaquin Phoenix as the legendary general and later emperor of France. The film will chart Bonaparte’s rise from nothing to ruler of the whole country, complete with plenty of massive colonial-era battles. The trailer already looks incredible, with massive fields full of hundreds and hundreds of soldiers. That kind of epic battle is something Scott excels at, but he’s never gotten the chance to let them be the centerpiece of his movie until now.

Napoleon is being co-produced by Apple and Sony Pictures, but don’t worry, it’s still getting a real theatrical release. The movie will arrive in theaters on Nov. 22 before making its way to Apple’s streaming service sometime after that — to prove just how committed it is to a theatrical run, Apple hasn’t even announced a streaming date yet. —AG

Godzilla Minus One

In theaters Dec. 1

Genre: Godzilla!
Director: Takashi Yamazaki
Cast: Not yet known

Hollywood’s Godzilla franchise gets its next entry in 2024, but Toho’s long-running series from Japan gets it latest entry this year, the fifth in the Reiwa era that started with the masterpiece Shin Godzilla. Set during the late 1940s, the movie sees Godzilla appear at just about the worst time possible, wreaking havoc on an already struggling country. We don’t know much else, but a new Godzilla entry is always an event. —PV

Poor Things

In theaters Dec. 8

Genre: Victorian Gothic sci-fi
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe

Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek surrealist director of The Favorite and The Lobster, returns with this Frankenstein-adjacent story of Bella (Emma Stone), a young woman seemingly brought to life by a mad doctor (a disfigured Willem Dafoe). It’s adapted from a 1992 novel by Scottish author and illustrator Alasdair Gray, which hilariously and poignantly parodies the Victorian Gothic style while twisting it into something distinctly modern, socialist, and sexy.

In what looks to be his most visually ambitious film to date, Lanthimos adds a layer of ornate, fanciful Art Nouveau sci-fi to this heady mix, while Stone lays it all out there in an apparently slapstick performance as a reanimated corpse with an appetite for life that shames the living. Mark Ruffalo plays the dissolute dandy who thinks to exploit her, but gets more than he bargained for. —OW

The Zone of Interest

In theaters Dec. 8

A woman leans over some flowers to let the baby she’s holding touch them in The Zone of Interest. Image: A24

Genre: War drama
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Cast: Christian Friedel, Sandra Hüller, Freya Kreutzkam

There’s no two ways about it: This movie’s going to be a real fucking bummer. But it’s also probably going to be one of the best movies of the year, so just keep both of those things in mind before we get into this.

The Zone of Interest is about Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), the man in charge of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and his wife (Sandra Hüller), as they try their best to make an idyllic life at their home next to the camp.

That may sound like a strikingly mundane approach to a horrific subject, but that’s exactly what director Jonathan Glazer is going for: Underlining the true horror of the Holocaust by showcasing the indifference of the people behind it. It is, undoubtedly, a difficult subject and a complicated, nuanced way to look at it. It’s one of humanity’s greatest horrors looked at through the coldest possible lens from one of our great living directors.

The film premiered during the Cannes film festival earlier this year, where it won the Grand Prix. This is Glazer’s first feature film since 2014’s spectacular and haunting Under the Skin, and will reteam him with composer Mica Levi (Jackie), whose score is sure to add to the otherworldly dread of The Zone of Interest’s subject and themes. —AG

Leave the World Behind

Streaming on Netflix Dec. 8

Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, and Myha’la Herrold all look concerned about something off screen in Leave the World Behind. Photo: Jojo Whilden/Netflix

Genre: Psychological thriller
Director: Sam Esmail
Cast: Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, Ethan Hawke

One of the most unlikely partnerships in showbiz is between Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail and Julia Roberts; after they worked together on the first season of Homecoming, he produced her Watergate drama Gaslit, and now she’s the star and he’s the writer-director of this sophisticated-sounding Netflix thriller.

Leave the World Behind is adapted from Rumaan Alam’s 2020 novel about a well-to-do Manhattan couple (Roberts, Ethan Hawke) enjoying a break in a luxury Long Island Airbnb when the house’s owners (Mahershala Ali, Myha’la Herrold) turn up in a panic, reporting that the whole Eastern seaboard is suffering from a mysterious blackout. With no TV, internet, or cell service, both couples must figure out who to trust and what to believe as they face a threat to the fundamentals of their privileged world. This has all the makings of a classic thriller from Roberts’ early-’90s, Sleeping with the Enemy heyday: suspense, suspicion, lavish real estate porn, and — most importantly — no cellphones. —OW

Anyone But You

In theaters Dec. 15

Genre: Romantic comedy
Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Glen Powell, Sydney Sweeney, Alexandra Shipp

The rom-com genre, even though it thrives on streaming, is overdue a theatrical renaissance. If any film can do it, it’s likely to be Anyone But You, about which little is known — but everything we do know is promising.

The director, Will Gluck, made Friends with Benefits as well as the classic high-school comedy Easy A (and two Peter Rabbit films, but never mind about that). The stars, Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney, are about as hot as young movie stars get (in every sense), and the tabloids have been revelling in rumors of their onscreen (and offscreen) chemistry before even a second of footage of the film has been released. The premise is simple but effective, as all rom-com premises must be: Two people who despise one another pretend to be dates at a destination wedding. And, like so many great rom-coms, it’s actually based on a Shakespeare play — in this case, Much Ado About Nothing. —OW

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

Streaming on Netflix Dec. 15

Two chickens in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget look surprised as a little chicken leg pops out of an egg. Image: Netflix

Genre: Comedy
Director: Sam Fell
Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey

A whopping 23 years after Aardman Animation’s breakout feature Chicken Run hit theaters, the leading purveyors of claymation are back with a sequel on Netflix. While the casting of Mel Gibson back in 2000 could have come home to roost, Aardman didn’t hesitate to find a new set of vocals for their hero chicken: The new movie now stars Zachary Levi as Rocky Rhodes, Thandiwe Newton as Ginger, and The Last of Us Bella Ramsey as their daughter, all of whom are setting their sights on a bird sanctuary that could finally be post-farmlife paradise.

Set for a flashy premiere at the BFI London Film Festival this fall, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget should give Aardman the perpetual boost it deserves in the eyes of casual animation-watchers; while the studio has never towered over the industry like its CG counterparts at Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, or Illumination, its work has maintained a spirit of independence and cheeky British humour. Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep films are genuine delights and its stop-motion entry in the recent season of Star Wars: Visions showed promise for an undervalued craft. Every Aardman project is an event, making this Chicken Run sequel the claymation equivalent of a new Star Wars. —Matt Patches

Maestro

Streaming on Netflix Dec. 20

Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein smoking a cigarette in Maestro Image: Netflix

Genre: Biographical drama
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer

After the trailer for Bradley Cooper’s directorial follow-up to A Star is Born dropped, the internet immediately mired itself in a tedious controversy about the prosthetic nose Cooper wears to play the great composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein; meanwhile, comparisons were quickly drawn to Tár in terms of subject matter and Oppenheimer in terms of visual form, two films which make for pretty intimidating company.

Forget about all that and watch the trailer again: This is clearly Cooper returning to a kind of sweeping, romantic drama that’s not so much unfashionable as classical, with the strongest possible costar (Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s partner Felicia Montealegre) and a powerful musical component. This time, the latter is not Lady Gaga’s soaring voice, but Bernstein’s swooning interpretations of the works Gustav Mahler. You simply don’t get more achingly romantic than those recordings, and with that backing, Cooper can hardly lose. —OW

Rebel Moon

Streaming on Netflix Dec. 22

A blue-grey-skinned woman with vast, spreading horns like an ox and her head and shoulders covered in small, fine chains and other jewelry stares directly into the camera in a promo image for Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon Photo: Clay Enos/Netflix

Genre: Space opera/Sci-fi epic
Director: Zack Snyder
Cast: Sofia Boutella, Djimon Hounsou, Charlie Hunnam

Zack Snyder has been unfairly maligned throughout his career, mostly for the sins that he inspired, whether from overly passionate members of his fanbase or less talented imitators. But just because other people can’t do his style doesn’t make it bad, and he seems poised to prove that once and for all with Rebel Moon. Netflix’s massive sci-fi epic looks bold, original, ambitious, and full of heart — a misunderstood hallmark of Snyder’s best work.

Like the greatest sci-fi universes, Rebel Moon takes an expansive, fantastical original universe that’s rich in lore and history, and brings it to life around a plot from a classic all-time great movie (Seven Samurai). In a universe controlled by a fascist government called Mother World, a former member of its military gathers a ragtag band of fighters to protect a planet that’s being threatened by Mother World’s rule.

Rebel Moon’s world already looks incredible from the trailers, pulling in griffins and four-armed fantasy ogres with spaceships, lightsabers, laser guns, and imperial space witches. But it seems the heart of Snyder’s new world is its band of misfit heroes and their desire to defend this planet, both for its people and for their own personal reasons. —AG

The Iron Claw

In theaters Dec. 22

Zac Efron delivers a flying kick in a wrestling ring in The Iron Claw, very high above the ground with his hair flying. Image: A24

Genre: Sports family drama
Director: Sean Durkin
Cast: Jeremy Allen White, Zac Efron, Lily James

The prospect of The Iron Claw is very different to people who know the story behind it and those that don’t. If you are unaware, it looks like an uplifting sports drama with an incredibly exciting cast. If you are aware (and I’m being vague to avoid the spoilerphobic among us), it sure has a compelling cast.

The Von Erichs are among the most famous familial dynasties wrestling has ever seen, and A24 has pulled together a remarkable group of actors to play them: In addition to White and Efron, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the always excellent Holt McCallany as patriarch Fritz. Just, uh, don’t go Wikipedia hunting if you don’t want to know more. —PV

Ferrari

In theaters Dec. 25

Genre: Racecar biopic
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, Penélope Cruz

The great Michael Mann hasn’t made a movie since 2015’s Blackhat, which was initially received pretty poorly, especially for one of the most influential, exciting, and acclaimed directors of all time. However, since then, Blackhat has enjoyed an ongoing cultural boom with more and more people (correctly) recognizing its greatness. Seemingly in return for our correct reflections on culture, Mann has returned with a new film: an Enzo Ferrari biopic starring Adam Driver. Alongside Driver, Ferrari will also star Shailene Woodley, Penélope Cruz, Jack O’Connell, and Patrick Dempsey.

On its face, that description is plenty to sell just how great this movie already seems. Driver is among the most talented actors of his generation, and great actors teaming with Mann is almost always a recipe for success. But even more exciting than that, it’s a movie that’s sure to be full of racing, and with Mann’s commitment to technical brilliance, those sequences are almost certainly going to look amazing. —AG

The Color Purple

In theaters Dec. 25

Genre: Musical
Director: Blitz Bazawule
Cast: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo

Back in 1985, it took a filmmaker of Steven Spielberg’s clout to get an adaptation of Alice Walker’s Southern period drama The Color Purple to the screen — big-budget mainstream movies centering entirely on Black communities just weren’t common back then, let alone big-budget mainstream movies that dealt positively with queerness, an element Spielberg has said he regrets downplaying in the adaptation. Now he’s producing a movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical version, starring Fantasia Barrino as Celie (the role she played in the Broadway production) and live-action Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey as her sister Nettie.

The film’s first trailer showcases a much more Broadway-appropriate approach to the story, with clear fantasy elements designed to allow an expanded version of the setting. The story, mostly set from the 1910s to the 1930s in rural Georgia, follows Celie from childhood to adulthood as she faces the difficulties of escaping a life of subservience and abuse, and discovers her own identity. —TR

The Boy and the Heron

In theaters in 2023

Genre: Fantasy
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Takuya Kimura

Studio Ghibli fans have been waiting a decade now to see what Japan’s most famous animation writer-director would come up with after The Wind Rises, and the answer to that question wound up being pretty surprising. Miyazaki’s How Do You Live?, releasing internationally as The Boy and the Heron, was loosely inspired by one of his favorite childhood novels, but it leaves the plot of that book behind in favor of a much wilder and more surreal fantasy about a boy entering a magical world to look for his supposedly dead birth mother.

It’s one of Miyazaki’s most colorful and beautiful films, but it comes with an elegiac theme about decay and change — possibly the 82-year-old director reflecting on his own morality, though he’s also openly iterating on a series of Japanese myths. Expect to see a lot of discussion about the meanings and symbolism of this one — and a lot of celebration of the movie’s gorgeous imagery. —TR

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