The Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing with a bevy of titles competing both for global distribution and awards prestige. The festival has had its share of lumps in the last month, losing their 28-year-sponsor, Bell Telephone, back in August, as well as being enmeshed in the on-going SAG-AFTRA/WGA duel strike. It is that strike that is the most insurmountable goal for the event, as actors and writers are unable to attend and promote their films, though some have with a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement.
And while the movie landscape is looking different, with movies switching release dates (in the wake of both the strike and Taylor Swift’s Eras tour), this year’s TIFF is showcasing what amazing movies are still being made. Here are 25 of the hottest titles to be excited for at this year’s TIFF.
“Dumb Money” (Sony)
Craig Gillespie’s (“I, Tonya”) latest venture tells the story of the GameStop stock scandal of 2021. Paul Dano plays Keith Gill, a stock analyst and YouTuber who crafts an online frenzy of those investing in the failing video game stores, while Seth Rogen plays one of several hedge fund managers rigging the system. The film also includes Sebastian Stan, America Ferrera and Pete Davidson. The film will be released by Sony on September 29.
Easily one of the hottest titles at TIFF now is Richard Linklater’s Hit Man which TheWrap’s Ben Croll said during the film’s Venice run is one of the best films of the year. That being said, it’s surprising that the film, which stars Glen Powell as an investigator who becomes an unlikely assassin, hasn’t been snapped up already. That being said, it’s a title that could very well spark a bidding war considering the massive love for it.
“Hit Man” is a sales title at TIFF.
Ian McKellan’s “The Critic” has prestige drama written all over it. McKellan plays theater critic Jimmy Erksine, whose personal lifestyle puts him in the crosshairs of his editor (Mark Strong). A series of intrigues soon takes place that threatens the lives of numerous people. The film comes from director Anand Tucker of “Girl With a Pearl Earring” fame, with a script by “Closer” scribe Patrick Marber. The talent alone is worth the price of admission.
“The Critic” is a sales title at TIFF.
If you missed Kate Winslet (and didn’t realize it was her under all the CGI in last year’s “Avatar: The Way of Water”) you’re in luck as her new film sounds amazing. “Lee” tells the story of Lee Miller, a female war correspondent whose haunting WWII images defined the 20th-century. She stars opposite Alexander Skarsgard and Andy Samberg in a film directed by former cinematographer Ellen Kuras with a script by Liz Hannah (“The Girl From Plainville” and “The Dropout”).
“Lee” is a sales title at TIFF
Chris Pine transitions from acting to directing with the surreal comedy noir, “Poolman.” Pine plays Darren, the pool cleaner of the title, who becomes embroiled in a Los Angeles-set conspiracy theory that he feels is a matter of life and death. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Annette Bening and Danny DeVito also star. The film sounds similar to the Andrew Garfield feature “Under the Silver Lake” from 2013, though it is being compared to “Chinatown” on the TIFF website which is a bold claim. Either way, it should be seen to find out where it lands on the noir spectrum.
“Poolman” is a sales title at TIFF
Another performer turned director is Kristin Scott Thomas, making her directorial debut with “North Star,” a family drama about three sisters reuniting on the night of their twice-widowed mother’s third marriage. Scarlette Johansson, Sienna Miller and Emily Beecham are the daughters, all of them dealing with the fallout of the mythologized men they’ve known. Scott Thomas also acts in the film as their mother. The film gives off “Certain Women” vibes which is pretty great company to be in.
“North Star” is a sales title at TIFF
“In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon”
Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney returns with a documentary charting one of the greatest songwriters of modern history: Paul Simon. Gibney’s camera follows Simon into the studio as he records his latest album while simultaneously looking back at the songwriter’s career. No doubt Simon will go into detail about his relationship with long-time collaborator Art Garfunkle and their meteoric rise to fame, as well as their side breakup. A documentary for music lovers of all stripes.
“In Restless Dreams” is a sale title at TIFF
Patricia Arquette makes her directorial debut with a film inspired by Cheryl Della Pietra’s 2015 book about her three-day trial period working for writer Hunter S. Thompson. In this case, “Daisy Jones and the Six” star Camila Morrone plays Alley, a young woman offered the opportunity to work for the wild and audacious author Walker Reade (Willem Dafoe). As the two spend time together it opens Alley up to wanting to tell her own story. With a stacked cast and some fruitful source material this looks like a fun one.
“Gonzo Girl” is a sale title at TIFF
“Woman of the Hour”
Anna Kendrick stars and directs this dark comedy about a woman and the serial killer she met on a dating show. Based on the true life story of serial killer Rodney Alcala, Kendrick plays Cheryl Bradshaw, a fictionalized version of the real woman who was on the 1970s dating show “The Dating Game” with the killer. As TheWrap’s Steve Pond said in his review, “That story is anything but funny, but it’s impossible to put the technicolor inanity and sniggering, juvenile sexuality of ‘The Dating Game’ on screen without drawing some laughs.”
“Woman of the Hour” is a sales title at TIFF
Director and actor Ethan Hawke is a man of many interests, several of which he’s already documented in film (watch “The Last Movie Stars”). His latest looks at author Flannery O’Connor in her younger days, with his daughter Maya Hawke in the title role. Laura Linney, Steve Zahn and Alessandro Nivola also star in this incisive look at the literary process and one of the greatest writers to ever live.
“Wildcat” is a sales title at TIFF
“His Three Daughters”
Another family drama about three daughters, Azazel Jacobs’ “His Three Daughters” follows Natasha Lyonne, Elizabeth Olsen and Carrie Coon as three estranged sisters dealing with their father’s impending death. Jacobs, director of “The French Exit,” returns after a 3 year hiatus with a drama that sounds emotionally resonant with three heavy-hitting lead performances.
“His Three Daughters” is a sales title at TIFF
Television director James Hawes makes his feature film directorial debut with a story that seems reminiscent of “Schindler’s List.” “One Life” tells the story of Sir Nicolas Winton (Anthony Hopkins), who helped save hundreds of Eastern European children from the Nazis in the lead-up to WWII. The story already sounds intense and emotionally charged, but it’s also an opportunity to see Hawes make a film after directing episodes of acclaimed series like “Black Mirror” and “Slow Horses.”
“One Life” is a sales title at TIFF
“The Boy and the Heron”
You can never go wrong with anything Hayao Miyazaki makes, especially when the acclaimed director of features like “Spirited Away” and “Howl’s Moving Castle” has said he’s done making feature films. “The Boy and the Heron” tells the story of Mahito Maki (voiced by Soma Santoki), who moves to the countryside after a family tragedy. Once there, he starts to bond with a heron and the rest is pure Miyazaki. TheWrap’s Tomris Laffly said in her review that, “If this is indeed his final film — this time for real — what a way for Miyazaki to launch into retirement, with a swan song so personal, artful and ultimately timeless.”
GKIDS will release “The Boy and the Heron” on December 8.
“Next Goal Wins”
After dazzling audiences with his dark, satirical film “Jojo Rabbit” in 2019, director Taika Waititi leaves the world of Marvel for another story of underdogs trying to make the most of what they have. “Next Goal Wins” draws on several themes of the sports genre, following the American Samoa soccer team as they attempt to make a comeback 12 years after their infamous 31-0 loss in a 2002 World Cup qualifying match with the help of unorthodox coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender). Waititi is a major draw here but this is also the second feature film starring Fassbender in 2023 (the other being David Fincher’s “The Killer”) so the pairing could yield some magic.
Searchlight Pictures releases “Next Goal Wins” in theaters November 17
Director David Yates of the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” universes turns his eye to the opioid crisis with “Pain Hustlers.” Emily Blunt stars as Liza Drake, a down-on-her-luck single mother who gets the opportunity to become a pharmaceutical drug rep for a struggling company. Alongside a fellow rep, played by Chris Evans, the two start mingling in the shady world of opioids. Yates is an interesting choice for a feature like this but it’s all about the one-two punch of Evans and Blunt. Blunt, especially, looks like she’s aiming for an Oscar-worthy performance.
Netflix will release “Pain Hustlers” on October 27
“The Movie Teller”
It’s been four years since director Lone Scherfig graced us with a film, and seven since she debuted her criminally underseen masterpiece “Their Finest.” Her latest seems similar to that latter film, a period piece with shades of “Cinema Paradiso” in it. “The Movie Teller” follows Maria (Berenice Bejo of “The Artist”) who wants something more with her life. Maria dreams of leaving her family to pursue her own dreams, but her daughter’s love for the movies soon enchants the entire town. The film sounds heartwarming as can be and, again, it’s always worth seeing a period piece from the director of “An Education.”
Director Thom Zimny, who helmed the Bruce Springsteen documentary “Western Stars” in 2019 is back with a look at another icon, this time actor and director Sylvester Stallone. “Sly” looks at every facet of the actor’s life, from his humble beginnings in New York City, his struggles to make it as an actor, his success with the “Rocky” franchise and how he’s maintained his life of stardom. This seems to be continuing the appreciation for Stallone in the wake of his television series, “Tulsa King.” If you’re a fan of Hollywood docs you’ll want to seek this one out.
“Sly” will Netflix on November 3
Actor Colman Domingo has always been amazing but this seems to be his year with not one, but two films starring him premiering at TIFF. The one one everyone’s lips is “Rustin,” the story of gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and his fight to organize the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin is a figure not known in American history but he’s getting the big-screen treatment courtesy of director George C. Wolfe who helmed the 2020 film “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
Netflix will release “Rustin” on November 17
Director Alexander Payne’s first feature in six years, “The Holdovers” reteams him with “Sideways” star Paul Giamatti. The story follows a disliked university professor (Giamatti) and his relationship with an equally rebellious student. As TheWrap’s Tomris Laffly said in her review, “Payne’s ‘The Holdovers’ feels like a warm and loving nod to an era in the ‘80s and ‘90s where inspirational academia-themed movies like ‘Dead Poets Society’ and ‘With Honors’ were numerous and most welcome.”
Focus Features will release “The Holdovers” in theaters on November 10
“The Royal Hotel”
After her fabulous debut with 2019’s “The Assistant,” director Kitty Green returns with another exploration of women being plunked in a man’s world. “Ozark” star Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick (“Glass Onion”) star as two young women who end up bartending in a shady bar in the middle of the Australia. The two think of it as a way of making quick cash only to become increasingly unnerved by the clientele. The first trailer looked all manner of unnerving and TheWrap’s Tomris Laffly said in her review that “The massive relief of an ending Green gifts her audience is as fun and explosive as it gets—once the rightful female rage is ignited, beware!”
Neon will release “The Royal Hotel” in theaters on October 6
It’s always amazing to see a TV writer make their debut in the film world and that’s the case with Cord Jefferson. A writer on the likes of “The Good Place” and “Watchmen,” Jefferson takes on adapting Percival Everett’s acclaimed novel “Erasure.” “American Fiction” tells the story of Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), an author and professor of English literature. He struggles to get buzz going for his latest novel while dealing with personal family drama. If you haven’t read “Erasure” yet, you should. Further more, this is an opportunity for Wright to continue to showcase the amazing work he’s been doing for years, albeit here in a leading role. TheWrap’s Steve Pond praised the film in his review saying, “It’s one of the festival’s funniest movies, a jazzy riff that seems undeniably, effortlessly funny from the barbed classroom scene that opens the film to the Altmanesque finale.”
MGM will release “American Fiction” in theaters on November 17
After her Tony-award nominated turn on-stage with “The Heiress,” actress Jessica Chastain is set to give an equally affecting performance in Michel Franco’s “Memory.” Chastain plays Silvia, a worker at a New York public home for adults with mental health problems. Her life is altered when she meets Saul (Peter Sarsgaard), a strange and unusual man whose intentions are unknown. Sarsgaard most recently won the Best Actor award at this year’s Venice Film Festival for his performance in this. TheWrap’s Ben Croll was effusive about the film, saying his review that “Franco has put together an unforgiven filmography of broken characters cut by a jagged world. With ‘Memory,’ he begins with that premise — then with startling optimism, asks: What comes next?”
“Memory” is a sales title at TIFF