In movie land, the first crack of fall means one thing: The annual blockbuster onslaught has ended, making way for another race toward the Oscars.
Labor Day marks the proverbial start of awards season. Almost every weekend from now until New Year’s will see at least one prestige-type flick hit theaters, but that’s not to say there aren’t more expensive crowd-pleasers on Hollywood’s roster. We still have two superhero flicks, after all, with “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Justice League” both opening in November. “A Bad Moms Christmas,” “Pitch Perfect 3,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Papers” will also arrive before Christmas.
Despite the summer box office facing its weakest ticket sales in 25 years, the rest of 2017 should be a treasure trove for moviegoing. Many of our finest directors have projects opening, meaning the Oscar derby will indeed be a doozy. I’ve combed the calendar for the most promising theatrical releases. Set aside a big-screen budget ― you’re going to need it.
Directed by Andy Muschietti • Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman
Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis and Nicholas Hamilton
In 1990, the popular miniseries "It" -- based on Stephen King's behemoth of a novel -- dampened clowns' reputations forever. No, really: Professional clowns detest
"It" for giving them a bad rap. Which is understandable, considering Pennywise is a shape-shifting, murderous demon. The original "It" doesn't hold up; by today's standards, it's plodding and tame. So we're all in on this much-hyped reboot, the second feature from the director of the supernatural terror "Mama." Long live the Losers Club.Watch the trailer.
Written by Darren Aronofsky • Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Harris, Kristen Wiig, Domhnall Gleeson and Jovan Adepo
Darren Aronofsky has kept "mother!" shrouded in secrecy. Until its trailer debuted last month, no one knew what the movie was about -- and it's still not totally clear, aside from Jennifer Lawrence not wanting to entertain the mysterious houseguests her husband invites to their country home. The posters mimic
"Rosemary's Baby," signaling a glorious physiological thriller in peak Aronofsky form. We'll take more where "Black Swan" and "Requiem for a Dream" came from any day.Watch the trailer.
Written by Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy • Directed by Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Pilou Asbæk, Joe Cole and Steph DuVall
Kate and Laura Mulleavy are better known as Rodarte, the outre fashion label they launched in 2005. Now, the sisters have directed their first movie, a trippy trance in which Kirsten Dunst -- the first actress ever to wear the Mulleavys' clothes -- plays a redwood townie grieving her mother's death and rendezvousing with a potent marijuana strain. "Woodshock" is an impressionistic enchanted-forest reverie about the "psychology of destruction
," according to the directors.Watch the trailer.
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris • Written by Simon Beaufoy
Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Natalie Morales and Elisabeth ShueWhat to expect:
In 1973, tennis champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs competed in an all-star match dubbed the "Battle of the Sexes." In 2017, the directors of "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Ruby Sparks" will serve us a dramatization of King and Riggs's famous contest, sprinkled with their breezy comedic bent. It marks Emma Stone's first movie since winning the Oscar and becoming Hollywood's highest-paid actress
, as well as Steve Carell's latest chance to showcase his dedication to portraying well-known figures with distinctive gaits (see also: "Foxcatcher," "The Big Short"). Watch the trailer.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve • Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green
Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis, Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi, Ana de Armas and Dave BautistaWhat to expect:
Ridley Scott considered making a sequel to his dystopian sci-fi classic for years, but directing duties landed in the hands of Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival," "Prisoners"). By a Hollywood miracle, the non-nostalgic Harrison Ford agreed to reprise his role as android huntsman Rick Deckard, joining Ryan Gosling as an LAPD agent who discovers a humanity-threatening secret in the year 2049. Villeneuve is a master of tone, and he's collaborated again with ace cinematographer Roger Deakins, a 13-time Oscar nominee who's shot the Coen brothers' films, "Skyfall" and "The Shawshank Redemption."Watch the trailer.
Directed by Sean Baker • Written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Starring Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Bria Vinaite, Caleb Landry Jones and Macon Blair What to expect:
Sean Baker shot his previous movie, 2015's stormy "Tangerine
," on iPhones. He used proper cameras to make "The Florida Project," but both share certain DNA. They star unknowns as low-income vagabonds enduring seedy surroundings and forging realities that most of society would condemn. A frivolous single mother living in an Orlando motel finds unrefined ways to provide for her 6-year-old daughter, who spends her summer days making mischief. It starts as a whimsical treat and ends as a devastating ballad. "Florida" has the added benefit of Willem Dafoe, who is radiant as the motel's stern but compassionate manager. Watch the trailer
Open Road Films
Directed by Reginald Hudlin • Written by Michael Koskoff and Jacob Koskoff
Starring Chadwick Boseman, Sterling K. Brown, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, James Cromwell, Dan Stevens, Jussie Smollett, Sophia Bush and Rozonda ThomasWhat to expect:
Before suiting up to play Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman nailed a one-two biopic punch. First came "42," about Jackie Robinson, and then "Get On Up," centered on James Brown. In "Marshall," Boseman stars as future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, defending a chauffeur whose wealthy white employer accuses him of sexual assault. Watch the trailer
Directed by Simon Curtis • Written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Alex Lawther and Will TilstonWhat to expect:
After returning from World War I, a hardened A.A Milne crafted the story that would become "Winnie-the-Pooh," finding inspiration in his son Christopher Robin's stuffed animals. "My Week with Marilyn" director Simon Curtis has brought the Hundred Acre Wood's origins to life through a sentimental yarn about a reluctant father bonding with his son. Milne seems like the perfect part for Domhnall Gleeson, who's enjoyed a stellar streak since his breakthrough roles in "Never Let Me Go" and "Harry Potter." Watch the trailer
Directed by Robin Campillo • Written by Robin Campillo and Philippe Mangeotand
Starring Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel and Antoine ReinartzWhat to expect:
A smattering of movies have detailed America's response to the AIDS crisis, but "BPM (Beats Per Minute)" shows that France's reflex wasn't any warmer. One of this year's Cannes Film Festival prizewinners, "BPM" treats the epidemic like an invisible war that reached global proportions. Robin Campillo told a complicated queer romance in "Eastern Boys," and now he's helmed a sobering portrait about activism and unity.Watch the trailer
Directed by Todd Haynes • Written by Brian Selznick
Starring Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams and Tom NoonanWhat to expect:
Split across parallel storylines in 1927 and 1977, "Wonderstruck" follows two kids -- one deaf, one orphaned -- as they escape to New York City in search of a better world. After "Velvet Goldmine," "Far From Heaven" and "Carol," every Todd Haynes movie should be an event. This one is based on a novel by Brian Selznick, who wrote the book that inspired "Hugo."Watch the trailer
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos • Written by Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Alicia Silverstone and Bill CampWhat to expect:
With "Dogtooth" and "The Lobster," director Yorgos Lanthimos became contemporary cinema's sharpest satirist. His dark comedies turn society on its head, and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" looks to be Lanthimos' most horrific outing yet. He reunites with Colin Farrell, whose family is coming apart after the arrival of a mysterious boy seeking revenge. Even more exciting: Nicole Kidman's hot streak continues, following standout turns in "Big Little Lies
, " "The Beguiled
" and "Top of the Lake
."Watch the trailer.
Directed by George Clooney • Written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac and Noah JupeWhat to expect:
For his sixth directorial endeavor, George Clooney dusted off an unproduced Coen brothers script from the '80s about a father in 1959 who lashes out after his home is invaded. Turns out there's a lot of violence lurking in picture-perfect suburbia. Clooney has been a longtime Coens pal, ever since he starred in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Now he gets to add his own flair to their small-town satire. That flair includes Julianne Moore crushing pills with a rolling pin like the best '50s housewife. Watch the trailer
Directed by Richard Linklater • Written by Richard Linklater and Darryl Ponicsan
Starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne, Yul Vazquez and Cicely TysonWhat to expect:
It's easy to raise an eyebrow at yet another male buddy movie, but not when Richard Linklater is at the helm. Between "Dazed and Confused," "School of Rock," "Boyhood" and "Everybody Wats Some!!," Linklater has become the father of thoughtful, nuanced stories about men. Here, he's working off a novel by Darryl Ponicsan about three Marine pals who travel to cross-country when one's son is killed in combat.Watch the trailer.
Directed by Greta Gerwig • Written by Greta Gerwig
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Lucas Hedges, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet and Beanie Feldstein
What to expect: Greta Gerwig co-directed 2008's little-seen "Nights and Weekends" with Joe Swanberg, but "Lady Bird" marks her solo directorial debut. The coming-of-age story fits keenly into her wheelhouse. Saoirse Ronan plays a bellicose California teenager who can't wait to leave home for college. We're going to assume she's a sarcastic, fast-talking wisecracker in the vein of "Frances Ha" and "Mistress America." Greta knows her game!
No trailer available.
Directed by Martin McDonagh • Written by Martin McDonagh
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Abbie Cornish, Lucas Hedges, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes and Caleb Landry Jones
What to expect:
All hail Frances McDormand, who appears on screen far too seldom. Here she gets the whole shebang, playing the lead in the latest joint from "In Bruges" and "Seven Psychopaths" director Martin McDonagh. The trailer has her hurling expletives as a mother protesting the lack of arrests in her daughter's murder investigation. Feisty Frances is the best Frances.Watch the trailer.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh • Written by Michael Green
Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Olivia Colman, Leslie Odom Jr., Derek Jacobi and Lucy BoyntonWhat to expect:
It's hard to believe Hollywood hasn't adapted more of Agatha Christie's 66 mystery novels. Leave it to Kenneth Branagh to bring one of his fellow Brit's most famous stories to America. (The last time "Murder on the Orient Express" appeared on the big screen was in a 1974 British production starring Lauren Bacall and Albert Finney.) The cast aboard this titular train crossing Europe is a who's who of potential executioners. Bring on the showdown.Watch the trailer
Directed by Lee Unkrich • Written by Adrian Molina
Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Jaime Camil, Renée Victor and Edward James OlmosWhat to expect:
Pixar's most recent non-sequel, "The Good Dinosaur," was a rare misfire, which puts a heap of pressure on this fantasy based around the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead. Lee Unkrich has directed some of the studio's highlights, including "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story 3," so he's well-equipped to steer this story about ambition and the afterlife. "Coco" follows young Miguel, who dreams of becoming an accomplished musician despite his family's objections. Miguel is inadvertently transported to the Land of the Dead, where he tracks down his ancestors with the help of his cute pup.Watch the trailer.
Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Luca Guadagnino • Written by James Ivory
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira CasarWhat to expect:
Expect peaches. If you've read André Aciman's beautiful 2007 novel, you know what that means. If not, know that you're in for one of the year's best movies
. A sun-kissed sonnet set during a fateful Italian summer, "Call Me By Your Name" is about first love, handsomely captured by "I Am Love" and "A Bigger Splash" maestro Luca Guadagnino. Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet's will-they-won't-they chemistry ripples across the screen in this sensual tour de force, which could become a heavy hitter during Oscar season.Watch the trailer.
Directed by James Franco • Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Starring James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Hannibal Buress, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith and June Diane RaphaelWhat to expect:
After "The Disaster Artist" won raves at South by Southwest in March, A24 slotted its release at the height of the Oscar derby. Fans of the god-awful cult classic "The Room" will be thrilled to know that James Franco is portraying the movie's not-so-illustrious director, Tommy Wiseau, in a comedic biopic about its making. Franco reportedly maintained Wiseau's thick accent behind the camera, too, because Franco's gotta Franco. We don't mind.Watch the trailer.
The Weinstein Co
Directed by Lars Klevberg • Written by Blair Butler
Starring Kathryn Prescott, Katie Stevens, Tyler Young, Samantha Logan and Madelaine PetschWhat to expect:
The horror genre has had its way with the internet, but "Polaroid" makes a villain out of an old-school piece of technology. A teen loner discovers the snapshots she takes result in death for the photos' subjects. It's to Polaroid cameras what "The Ring" was to VCRs. Watch the trailer.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro • Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones and Lauren Lee SmithWhat to expect:
It's a Guillermo del Toro spectacle; you know what to expect. Initial reviews out of the Venice Film Festival herald "The Shape of Water" as a sterling horror show with a touching romance at its core. Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman who discovers a government experiment that leads her toward a surprisingly sentimental relationship with a mutant creature. Del Toro went for a bigger-is-better motif in his previous two projects, "Pacific Rim" and "Crimson Peak," whereas "Water" seems more intimate and reserved. Good luck stifling your excitement until December.Watch the trailer
Directed by Rian Johnson • Written by Rian Johnson
Starring John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro and Kelly Marie TranWhat to expect:
Don't think you'd survive this list without a blockbuster. As Rian Johnson takes the reins from J.J. Abrams, we'll finally learn Rey's lineage and see Laura Dern join the galaxy. Alas, we must also bid farewell to the late Carrie Fisher, who is expected to get a grand goodbye
in the second edition of the franchise's current trilogy. As for that critter you see next to Chewbacca in the above photo? That's something called a Porg, the newest charmer to join the "Star Wars" universe. We'll take four, please.Watch the trailer.
Directed by Alexander Payne • Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Jason Sudeikis, Udo Kier, Laura Dern, Margo Martindale, Niecy Nash, Rolf Lassgård and Neil Patrick HarrisWhat to expect:
Imagine an adult, politicized version of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." In the latest satire from "Election" and "The Descendants" director Alexander Payne, scientists are shrinking humans to combat overpopulation and environmental issues. It's an absurdist premise that will no doubt find biting resonance in a year that's seen fierce debates about who has the right to occupy space in this country. Watch the trailer.
Directed by Michael Gracey • Written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon
Starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Paul Sparks and Diahann CarrollWhat to expect:
"The Greatest Showman" was slated to open last Christmas, but 20th Century Fox pushed it back, avoiding competing with another little musical called "La La Land." Finally, we'll see Hugh Jackman resume the song-and-dance routine that has served him well since starring in Broadway's "The Boy from Oz." Jackman plays circus pioneer P.T. Barnum in this original musical, which feels like a syrupy cousin to "Moulin Rouge!" Watch the trailer
CORRECTION: This article previously misstated the location of the Orient Express; it crossed Europe, not England.