There's no doubt the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will look a bit different this year, with many Hollywood stars notably absent amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, but that's not impacting the selection of movies to watch during the Toronto festival.
With more than 200 films screening in the city from Sept. 7 to Sept. 17, from big-name directors and actors, to stories featuring Canadian talent and international stars, we know it can get overwhelming to figure out exactly what to see.
Here are some of the most exciting and buzzy movies we'll be watching at TIFF this year:
Dicks: The Musical
Directed by Larry Charles (Borat, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld), Dicks: The Musical has most of us anticipating that it will be comedy gold.
The premise is two businessmen, played by Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp, discover that they're long-lost identical twins and plot a reunion of their divorced parents, played by Megan Mullally and Nathan Lane.
If that plot sounds familiar, Peter Kuplowsky, international programmer of the Midnight Madness programming at TIFF, already likened the story to The Parent Trap. Kuplowsky also calls it a "full-blown movie musical" and "proudly queer as f-ck." That's all we really need to call this a must-see movie at the festival. The film also features Bowen Yang and Megan Thee Stallion.
After his 2017 appearance at TIFF with I, Tonya, director Craig Gillespie is back with Dumb Money, a "David vs. Goliath" story based on the infamous GameStop scandal.
Keith Gill (Paul Dano) believes the GameStop stock has been undervalued and starts sinking his savings into that stock, and posting about it online, encouraging others to do the same.
As the stock starts to blow up from Keith's posts online, it becomes a battle with the wealthy individuals who were set to profit off of GameStop's downfall.
In addition to Dano the cast includes Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, Shailene Woodley, Sebastian Stan and America Ferrera, taking on this perfectly outrageous story for a movie.
Starring Nicolas Cage, writer and director Kristoffer Borgli's Dream Scenario seems like it has the perfect ingredients to be another A24 movie hit.
Cage plays Paul Matthews, a professor who discovers that he shows up in people's dreams. That brings him a lot of attention.
"But when Paul encounters a dreamer whose visions of him differ substantially from the norm, he finds himself grappling with the Faustian bargain of fame as his dream-selves start inexplicably becoming violent within their respective subconsciousnesses," Peter Kuplowsky, international programmer of the Midnight Madness programming at TIFF, teases.
Tony Goldwyn's dramedy Ezra is a story about three adults with conflicting viewpoints on how to raise a child.
Max (Bobby Cannavale) is a stand-up comic and his son Ezra (William A. Fitzgerald) has been diagnosed with autism. A teacher believes Ezra needs to go to a special school. Ezra's mom Jenna (Rose Byrne) is inclined the follow the recommendation, but Max is against it. Max, living with his father Stan (Robert De Niro), makes the questionable decision to take his son on a cross-country road trip.
With this impressive cast also including Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson and Whoopi Goldberg, we can't wait to see how this story unfolds.
Maddie Ziegler has come a long way since Dance Moms, now starring in Canadian director Molly McGlynn's film Fitting In, alongside Schitt's Creek star Emily Hampshire.
It is a semi-autobiographical story of a teenage girl who's hit with the reality of a serious health concern.
Lindy (Ziegler) is living in her grandmother's home with her mom Rita (Hampshire). While the teen is contemplating having sex with her boyfriend Adam (D’Pharoah Woon-A-Tai) for the first time, a physical exam by a gynaecologist reveals she has a reproductive health abnormality, Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome.
TIFF this year will mark the directorial debut for Patricia Arquette with her film Gonzo Girl.
Starring Willem Dafoe and Camila Morrone, the movie is based on Cheryl Della Pietra’s novel about being Hunter S. Thompson’s personal assistant.
Aspiring writer Alley Russo (Morrone) takes on an assistant job for gonzo journalism legend Walker Reade (Dafoe). Set in the '90s, Alley is thrown into this psychedelic drug-fuelled chaotic world, all while trying to write her own story.
Knox Goes Away
Michael Keaton very much leads the charge in Knox Goes Away, both directing and starring in the film.
Knox (Keaton) is a hitman with dementia, losing his memory, but he has to help his estranged son, played by James Marsden, cover up a crime. That's when Knox enlists the help of his friend Xavier (Al Pacino) to keep him in check.
Awkwafina and Sandra Oh playing sisters? Count us in!
Anne (Awkwafina) is the quiet, gameshow obsessed sister, while Jenny (Oh) is the "train-wreck." The sisters need to come together to cover their mother's gambling debt, but when Anne's dog is kidnapped, the two set off on a cross-country road trip to get the money by making Anne a gameshow champion.
Director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Descendants) takes us to a New England prep school in 1971. Professor Hunham (Paul Giamatti) is left with the students who have to stay on campus during the winter holiday.
While being responsible for "babysitting" these teens, Hunham starts to form an interesting bond with one student in particular, 15-year-old troublemaker Angus (Dominic Sessa).
Continuing with the theme of Hollywood actors stepping into the director chair is Poolman, directed by and starring Chris Pine.
Darren (Pine) cleans pools at a Los Angeles low-rise apartment block. He meets June Del Rey (DeWanda Wise) who gives him information to uncover "the greatest water heist," and he wants to protect the city.
Benicio Del Toro, Justin Timberlake, and Alicia Silverstone join forces for Reptile.
After a murder of a young real estate agent, detective Tom Nichols (Del Toro) tries to solve the case, which includes the victim’s boyfriend, Will (Timberlake), who discovered the body.
Tom recently relocated to Scarborough, Maine with his wife Judy (Silverstone), after living in Philadelphia.
The Queen of My Dreams
This Canadian coming-of-age story from filmmaker Fawzia Mirza features Sex Lives of College Girls star Amrit Kaur and Transplant lead Hamza Haq.
Set in 1999, Muslim queer grad student Azra (Kaur) flies home to Pakistan when her father Hassan (Haq) unexpectedly dies. Her mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha) is quite conservative but through flashbacks, we get a glimpse into Mariam's youth in a Bollywood-inspired story.
The Royal Hotel
Following the 2019 film The Assistant director Kitty Green and actor Julia Garner reunite for The Royal Hotel.
The thriller follows two women, played by Garner and Glass Onion star Jessica Henwick, who are backpacking across Australia when they end up in a mining town. They take on jobs at The Royal Hotel, met with "unruly locals," specifically aggressive men who are a rapidly growing threat to the women.
Set in New Zealand in 1981, the South African national rugby team is New Zealand, met with protest due to the apartheid policy in the country.
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Josh Waak (Julian Dennison) is trying to find his "true voice" after his father dies. His brother is nursing an injury that stunted his rugby career, and their mother Shirley (Minnie Driver) works constantly to provide for her family. Josh's teacher, played by Rhys Darby, recommends that Josh audition for a drama school, which sparks a new passion.
Bria Mack Gets A Life
Bria Mack Gets A Life is a series, not a movie, but the trailer alone is enough to get us incredibly excited about this comedy project from Sasha Leigh Henry.
Making its world premiere at TIFF, the synopsis teases that the show is about "what adulthood is like for a smart young Black woman reluctantly entering the workforce."
After graduating from university Bria (Malaika Hennie-Hamadi) is living with her mom in Brampton, Ont. While she thinks this is her time to relax, that's not the reality.
Next Goal Wins
Taika Waititi's comedy follows the American Samoa soccer team’s effort to try to make it to the World Cup, 12 years after a 31-0 loss in a 2002 qualifying match.
Michael Fassbender play manager Thomas Rongen who arrives to whip the team into shape, starring alongside Elisabeth Moss and Oscar Kightley.
Woman of the Hour
Anna Kendrick's directorial debut looks at the bizarre appearance of Rodney Alcala on The Dating Game, while Alcala was going on a murder spree. Alcala would pretend to be a photographer looking for models to lure women.
Kendrick herself plays Cheryl Bradshaw, an actor who books an appearance on the gameshow where she has a run in with Alcala.
The Boy and the Heron
TIFF is opening with an animated film, for the first time, with the international premiere of The Boy and the Heron from the famed Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away).
The film takes us through a teenage boy's psychological development in a new town, entering a "magical world" with a talking grey heron.
Sylvester Stallone is very much having a moment right now, between Tulsa King and The Family Stallone reality show, and now Netflix is giving us a documentary on the Rocky star, making its world premiere at TIFF.
The film chronicles the star's humble beginnings in New York and his love of movies from a young age, to the massive hit that was Rocky and the personal impact of that success.
Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero
Expected to be a particularly impactful musician documentary, Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero chronicles the star's journey to becoming a music phenomenon, before the age of 25.
From backstage moments to the realities of fame, and how important the "Old Town Road" artist has been to fans, this documentary should be a pop culture hit.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe
Many of us are always waiting for the next documentary that will gives us all those warm, nostalgic feelings, and it doesn't get much more comforting than going right back to childhood with Mr. Dressup.
Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe from Robert McCallum brings us into the life of one of Canada's most beloved entertainers for children, Ernie Coombs.
The film not only includes Coombs' wife and children, but also a number of notable Canadians impacted by Mr. Dressup, including Michael J. Fox, Eric McCormack, Bif Naked, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Barenaked Ladies, Jonathan Torrens and Yannick Bisson.
Activist Layla Staats guides us through personal stories of the unconscionable struggle on First Nations reserves to have access to drinkable water.
Directed by Stevie Salas (Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, The Water Walker) and James Burns (Vice), Boil Alert bring us into this water crisis in different locations including Six Nations of The Grand River, Ont., Neskantaga First Nations, Ont., Church Rock in New Mexico, Grassy Narrows, Ont., and Wet'suwet'en, B.C.
“Lack of awareness is a huge challenge for indigenous people today,” a statement from Salas reads. "That's why co-director James Burns and I (and everybody over at Seeing Red 6Nations) can think of no better place to premiere Boil Alert than at TIFF, not just because of its platform, but because of its long commitment to elevating Native stories that matter."
"And we can think of no more perfect protagonist than Layla Staats. Far from a dyed-in-the-wool activist, she is an everywoman and a symbol for a new generation of indigenous young people re-visiting the lessons of the past as they struggle to imagine a more sustainable future."
Filmmakers Caroline Suh and Cara Mones examine the 2017 Louis C.K. scandal, when the comic admitted to sexual misconduct after multiple women came forward publicly about their personal experiences with him.
Sorry/Not Sorry explores how he got away with his despicable behaviour and his comeback shortly after the scandal, in addition to the impacts on the women who came forward.