The Fall 2019 movie season (for the purposes of this preview, September to December) will include anticipated sequels, awards season contenders, and the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. Summer 2019 started off strong thanks to Avengers: Endgame hitting theaters in late April, but struggled thereafter, as tentpole after tentpole performed below expectations at the box office. There were still a few hits along the way (John Wick 3, Spider-Man: Far From Home, The Lion King), but in general audiences seemed a bit underwhelmed by what Hollywood had on the menu.
Studios are no doubt hoping for a better turnout over the next four months, beginning with the release of a Stephen King horror sequel the weekend after Labor Day. Things aren't going to slow down from there either, as a whole lot of Oscar hopefuls will be making their debuts on the festival circuit around the same time. After that, October and November will be loaded with even more franchise offerings than usual, in addition to a number of director-driven films aiming to make some noise. Finally, December will round things out with the now-customary assortment of potential crowd-pleasers and prestige releases.
To help narrow things down, we've put together a list of 25 Fall 2019 movies to see (along with some honorable mentions, at the end). Per usual, the films are numbered in the order of their theatrical release date.
25. Dolemite Is My Name (October 4)
Plot Summary: Multi-talented performer Rudy Ray Moore sets out to beat Hollywood at its own game and make a blaxploitation film based on his popular character, Dolemite
The Breakdown: Craig Brewer's biography doesn't have a premiere date at the time of writing (other than "this fall"), but Dolemite Is My Name is among the buzzed-about films set to debut at TIFF in early September. Eddie Murphy stars here and there's already speculation the movie will serve as his long-awaited comeback vehicle; that it's a film about a comedian-actor trying to reinvent himself simply adds a self-reflexive element to the whole thing. With Black Panther's Ruth E. Carter providing the costumes and a cast that includes Wesley Snipes, Keegan-Michael Key, and Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Murphy might just get his groove back after all.
24. Joker (October 4)
Plot Summary: A wannabe stand-up comedian named Arthur Fleck gradually turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City, transforming himself into The Joker.
The Breakdown: Warner Bros. is serious about making Joker - a DC Comics film separate from the Justice League movie continuity - an Oscar contender, as evidenced by their decision to screen it at this year's Toronto and Venice's film festivals ahead of its October launch. Director Todd Phillips is certainly a ways away from his Hangover trilogy days with this Scorseseian crime drama, and star Joaquin Phoenix seems equally determined to leave his mark on the Clown Prince of Crime. Early word is Joker offers an... interesting twist on the Joker mythology, so it's anyone's guess as to how comic book fans (or viewers in general) will respond to this one.
23. Lucy in the Sky (October 4)
Plot Summary: Astronaut Lucy Cola returns to earth after a life-changing space mission and begins to lost touch with reality in a world that now feels too small.
The Breakdown: Legion creator Noah Hawley's feature debut seemed to fall by the wayside in the wake of the Disney-Fox deal being finalized in March, but has since finalized its release date and is on its way to theaters. The film boasts an intriguing premise - one that's (somewhat controversially) inspired by a real-life incident in 2007 involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak - and its trailer suggests the movie will be as visually dazzling and mind-bending as Hawley's television work. Star Natalie Portman has only continued to focus on challenging projects in recent years (like Annihilation and Vox Lux) and that definitely won't change with Lucy in the Sky, by the look of it.
22. Gemini Man (October 11)
Plot Summary: Elite assassin Henry Brogan is preparing to retire when he's suddenly targeted and pursued by his deadliest opponent yet: his younger clone.
The Breakdown: A film more than twenty years in the making, Gemini Man gives Will Smith a chance to really flex his acting muscles by starring opposite, well, himself (or, rather, a digitally-created younger version of himself). It's the latest ambitious offering from director Ang Lee, whose previous "experiments" have always been compelling, even when they're only partly-successful. That should remain the case here, especially since the movie combines a thought provoking sci-fi premise (getting to meet your younger self) with cutting edge visual effects and high frame rate cinematography. Who knows, Lee may yet have another Life of Pi-level hit on his hands.
21. Parasite (October 11)
Plot Summary: The street-smart, but unemployed, Kim family find their way into working for the extremely wealthy Park clan, before a parasitic interloper threatens to ruin everything.
The Breakdown: The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja director Bong Joon-ho is back and picked up the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his latest darkly twisted original project. Parasite (aka. Gisaengchung) itself is described as being something of a bleak comedy, though the early reviews - which have been all but universally enthusiastic - suggest it doesn't fit squarely into any one particular genre box, and is rife with timely social commentary on class and wealth in the modern world. It sounds perfect for the filmmaker's die-hard fans, in other words, and might even bring Joon-ho some long overdue recognition from the Academy.
20. Zombieland: Double Tap (October 18)
Plot Summary: Columbus, Tallahasse, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they encounter fellow survivors and battle evolved zombies.
The Breakdown: Zombieland: Double Tap may've taken ten years to come together, but the chemistry among its main cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, and Abigail Breslin) seems as crackling as ever in the trailers. The gang's back behind the camera too, with Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick aspiring to put their newfound experience to good use here. Admittedly, comedy sequels are a dicey prospect (especially the belated variety) and it's not entirely clear what Double Tap is, y'know, about just yet, but this one may yet justify the decade-long wait it took to become a reality.
19. The Lighthouse (October 18)
Plot Summary: A pair of lighthouse keepers struggle to hold onto their sanity as they work on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.
The Breakdown: Robert Eggers' sophomore feature seems to have a lot in common with his debut on The Witch, especially when it comes to its richly macabre atmosphere and isolated historical horror movie setting. It's already a critical darling too, following its much-applauded unveiling at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe (and their facial hair) further appear to be in top-form here, as does the film's gorgeously black and white 35mm cinematography and general nightmarish mood. In a year that's already been kind to horror fans, The Lighthouse ought to keep the genre's winning streak alive and well.
18. Jojo Rabbit (October 18)
Plot Summary: A Nazi youth (whose best friend is an imaginary Adolf Hitler) discovers his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home during WWII.
The Breakdown: Before he returns to the MCU for Thor: Love & Thunder, Taika Waititi is getting back to his off-beat roots. Adapted from the Christine Leunens novel Caging Skies, Jojo Rabbit looks to be a sharp skewering of Nazi Germany in the vein of Waititi's acclaimed non-franchise efforts like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Boy, with the actor-filmmaker himself bringing the movie's imaginary Hitler to life. And though certain Disney executives are said to be uneasy about the film's satire, Fox Searchlight seems to know what they have on their hands and are premiering the movie on the festival circuit, in the hopes of boosting its awards prospects.
17. The Irishman (November 1)
Plot Summary: Frank Sheeran reflects on his career as a mob hitman, including his involvement with the disappearance of the legendary union boss, Jimmy Hoffa.
The Breakdown: After a decade or so of trying to get the film off the ground, Martin Scorsese is just about ready to unveil The Irishman to the world. In addition to being the latest addition to the director's ever-growing body of work about crime and mobster violence in American history, the movie features a legendary cast led by Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and is said to be a metatextual examination of not only Scorsese, but also his stars' history with the mob genre. Netflix is rumored to be eying a November release date for this one, though it may depend on how the film goes over at the New York Film Festival in September.
16. Terminator: Dark Fate (November 1)
Plot Summary: Sarah Connor joins forces with a soldier from the future to protect a young woman who's being hunted by a time-traveling Terminator.
The Breakdown: Director Tim Miller's Terminator: Dark Fate marks the long-awaited reunion of Terminator 2: Judgement Day stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with James Cameron also involved as a co-writer and producer. The actual movie has been described as a true continuation of Terminator 2 (one that ignores the previous three Terminator films) and will restore the franchise to its R-rated, sci-fi action form after the last two PG-13 entries. Terminator fans have already been burned by the promise of a fresh start for the series twice, but maybe - just maybe - third time will be the charm for this struggling property.
15. Harriet (November 1)
Plot Summary: Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in the U.S. South and leads hundreds of enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
The Breakdown: Harriet Tubman gets her long-overdue biopic with the upcoming Harriet, a historical drama anchored by Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale's breakout star Cynthia Erivo. The movie isn't hurting for talent on either side of the camera, with Kasi Lemmons (of Eve's Bayou and Talk to Me fame) directing a cast that includes Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monáe, and Clarke Peters in supporting roles alongside Erivo. Biographies of this nature admittedly have a bad habit of being "important" more than great, but Harriet has a good deal working in its favor and may yet stand apart from the rest of the Oscar-baiting crowd this fall.
14. Honey Boy (November 8)
Plot Summary: A struggling child actor attempts to mend his relationship with his hard-drinking, law-breaking father.
The Breakdown: Shia LaBeouf plays his own father (okay, a partly fictionalized version of him) in the upcoming Honey Boy, an autobiographical drama written by LaBeouf (as part of his rehabilitation program) and directed by Alma Har'el (making her non-documentary feature debut). It looks and sounds like an engrossing work of meta-storytelling so far, with early reviews from its Sundance Film Festival premiere praising the movie as a truly unique form of therapy by way of cinema. And with LaBeouf coming off his acclaimed performance in The Peanut Butter Falcon, it appears the actor will finish 2019 on an even stronger note than he started it.
13. Doctor Sleep (November 8)
Plot Summary: 40 years after his terrifying stay at the Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance helps a teenager who's targeted by a dangerous cult for her own "shining" abilities.
The Breakdown: IT Chapter Two's not the only anticipated Stephen King horror feature on the horizon, thanks to this adaptation of the author's 2013 followup book to The Shining. The film is being written and directed by Mike Flanagan, who's currently on a hot streak thanks to his efforts on acclaimed projects like Gerald's Game (another King adaptation) and The Haunting of Hill House series. Judging by the marketing, Doctor Sleep has the makings of an engaging continuation of Flanagan's ongoing exploration of trauma and grief through the horror genre. That it also salutes Stanley Kubrick's Shining movie is just icing on the cake in some ways.
12. Last Christmas (November 8)
Plot Summary: Kate is a young woman with a habit of making poor life decisions when she meets Tom, a charming fellow who seems too good to be real.
The Breakdown: The idea of Paul Feig directing Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in a dramatic rom-com cowritten by Emma Thompson sounds great on paper, and Last Christmas seems mostly promising in action too. There's also something very personal about the film, be it Clarke's storyline (which parallels her real life in powerful ways) or the way the movie portrays London around the winter holidays and incorporates the late George Michael's music to explore heavy issues like homelessness and broken families. Keeping this in mind: if Tom really is the ghost of Kate's organ donor then, well, all bets are off.
11. The Good Liar (November 15)
Plot Summary: Seasoned conman Roy Courtnay unexpectedly finds himself falling for his latest wealthy target, Betty McLeish, after meeting her in person.
The Breakdown: Ian McKellen and filmmaker Bill Condon have made for a winning combination in the past (see also: Gods and Monsters, Mr. Holmes), and are reuniting yet again - after McKellen played a small role in Condon and Disney's Beauty and the Beast retelling - for the dramatic conman thriller The Good Liar. The movie pits McKellen against Helen Mirren in what's shaping up to be an absorbingly tense and twisty adaptation of Nicholas Searle's novel, with two screen titans going head to head with one another. Fingers crossed, this adult-geared genre film will offer a nice change of pace from November's tentpoles and Oscar contenders alike.
10. Charlie's Angels (November 15)
Plot Summary: After blowing the whistle on dangerous technology, a systems engineers is recruited by the Townsend Agency (which now operates worldwide).
The Breakdown: Charlie's Angels is headed back to the big screen after a sixteen-year break, with Elizabeth Banks directing a cast led by Aladdin's Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, and Ella Balinska as one of several teams of Angels now running around the globe. It's technically a continuation of the films from the 2000s and not a hard reboot, but the marketing suggests it's going for more of an empowering, but still playful tone (with less objectifying of the Angels) than its predecessors. Sony's efforts to take the Men in Black international with, er, Men in Black: International didn't pan out this year, so hopefully things will go better for their Angels.
9. Ford v. Ferrari (November 15)
Plot Summary: Automative designer Carroll Shelby and his driver, Ken Miles, try to build a racing car for Ford that can finally defeat the Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
The Breakdown: James Mangold's anticipated followup to Logan, Ford v. Ferrari brings an exciting real-life racing story to the big screen, with Matt Damon and Christian Bale (fresh off transforming into Dick Cheney) leading the charge. The movie's taking a leaf out of Logan's book and grounding its story as much as possible, both in terms of the character drama and racing (which is largely practical - save for the necessary CGI, of course). Fox and Disney are banking on this and Ad Astra being their best bets at the next Oscars, so it'll be interesting to see how this "David vs. Goliath vs. Goliath" drama fares in its own race.
8. Frozen II (November 22)
Plot Summary: Elsa, together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven, sets out on a dangerous journey to protect her kingdom and discover why she was born with magical powers.
The Breakdown: Six years after "Let It Go" took over the world, Elsa and the rest of the gang are back for Frozen II. Directed by Frozen duo Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the animated sequel looks more like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild set in the Frozen universe than another whimsical musical romp. It's fitting, though; those who saw the first movie as kids are ready for something a little darker and more mature this time, but with all the cheery songs and good-natured humor moviegoers associate with Disney's brand of storytelling. And though fans aren't counting on it, the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend drum will continue to beat until November arrives.
7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (November 22)
Plot Summary: Journalist Lloyd Vogel begrudgingly agrees to write a profile piece about Fred Rogers, only to find his perspective on life transformed.
The Breakdown: Hot off directing the Oscar-nominated Can You Ever Forgive Me?, director Marielle Heller is back with what looks like another thoughtful and otherwise endearing memoir. Tom Hanks has already done a good job of channeling the real Mister Rogers' contemplative and generous manner in the film's marketing, and the actual movie has the makings of an emotionally-moving character study about what it truly means to "be a man" (among other things). The Academy infamously snubbed the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? this year, but they won't repeat their mistake if A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is as great as it sounds.
6. Knives Out (November 27)
Plot Summary: When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey inexplicably dies just after his 85th birthday, Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate.
The Breakdown: Thanks to Bond 25 being delayed, Daniel Craig was able to star in Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson's upcoming Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. He wasn't the only A-list actor who did, either; Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, and many more play key roles in the movie's whodunnit narrative. Judging by the trailer, Knives Out gives them plenty of razor-sharp dialogue to chew on, while at the same time recalling Johnson's efforts on his breakout hit, Brick, in the best way possible. It's no wonder this one's headed to TIFF, well ahead of its release.
5. Queen & Slim (November 27)
Plot Summary: After shooting a police officer in self-defense, a couple on their first date are forced to go on the run together.
The Breakdown: Director Melina Matsoukas (Insecure, Master of None, "Formation") and writer Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi) team up for this romance drama-thriller, with Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya starring opposite big screen newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith, Bookem Woodbine, and Pose's Indya Moore. Combined with the film's Thelma and Louise-esque premise and extremely relevant themes about police violence and black trauma, Queen & Slim could end up making a real splash when it debuts over the Thanksgiving frame. It also, quite literally, looks different other upcoming movies, with lyrical visuals reminiscent of Matsoukas' most famous music videos to date.
4. Jumanji: The Next Level (December 13)
Plot Summary: When Spencer vanishes into the world of Jumanji, his friends follow him and discover the game's changed since last they played.
The Breakdown: 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a surprise smash-hit crowd pleaser, so it's fair to say expectations are higher for Jumanji: The Next Level. Fortunately, the sequel's got a few tricks up its sleeves - like having Danny DeVito "play" Dwayne Johnson in the Jumanji game - to help it mix things up and try to match its predecessor's smooth blend of humor, heart, and inventiveness. The film, like its predecessor, will have to battle both a Star Wars movie and a much-discussed musical at the box office, but if all goes to plan it'll leave audiences eager and ready to enjoy Jumanji: The Final Boss (or whatever it's called) next.
3. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (December 20)
Plot Summary: The Skywalker Saga draws to a close as Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron fight back against Kylo Ren and the forces of the First Order.
The Breakdown: J.J. Abrams' The Rise of Skywalker is more than just the conclusion to the Star Wars sequel trilogy he helped kick-off four years ago (though, frankly, that would be enough on its own). It's also the final chapter in the story of the Skywalker clan, and needs to leave audiences clamoring for more when the galaxy far, far away returns three years from now for its first ever post-Skywalker narrative. Fortunately, the movie is already on its way to satisfying all three of these challenges, and is keeping fans busy as ever with their speculation in the meantime (especially where it concerns Palpatine's unexpected return from the grave).
2. Cats (December 20)
Plot Summary: Members of the Jellicle cat tribe try to decide one night which of them will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
The Breakdown: Anyone who thought Tom Hooper's adaptation of the Les Misérables musical was a bit peculiar is in for a shock when they see what he's come up with next. Cats, of course, is based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's whimsically weird Broadway smash hit, and the big screen version is already confounding people with its use of "digital fur technology" and giant sets to turn actors like Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, and more into strangely humanoid, yet (sorta) realistically-sized felines. Between all that and the film's actual story (a Christ allegory), Cats is guaranteed to keep people talking - for good or bad - when it arrives.
1. Little Women (December 25)
Plot Summary: Sisters Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March come of age and strive to live life on their own terms in post-Civil War 1860s New England.
The Breakdown: Greta Gerwig's sophomore feature reunites the actor-filmmaker with her Lady Bird stars Saorise Ronan and Timothée Chalamet for another coming of age story (this time, of course, in a 19th century setting). Louisa May Alcott's classic novel has already been adapted for the big screen many times over, but Gerwig's Little Women has the makings of a meaningful - and maybe even Oscar contending - addition to that larger tradition, between its great cast, beautiful costumes, and picturesque cinematography. And if all that wasn't enough, it even reunites Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, hot off their run together on Big Little Lies.
- Abominable (September 27) - DreamWorks' latest will be the third animated movie about yetis to hit theaters in the past year, but the imagery in the movie's trailer alone was gorgeous enough to grab our attention.
- Judy (September 27) - Renée Zellweger's Judy Garland biopic has the makings of a mournful examination of the showbiz icon. So long as it avoids the familiar Oscar bait cliches, it could be something special.
- The Current War (October 25) - Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's historical drama didn't go over so well at TIFF 2017, but it's since been heavily re-edited and even boasts a brand-new score. Is there hope for this one yet?
- Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (October 11) - Disney's live-action sequels have a lackluster track record so far. But with Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor onboard, could this be the exception to that rule?
- 21 Bridges (November 22) - STX has pushed this film back twice now, but the Russo Brothers-produced cop thriller (with Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, starring) reads as decent on-paper.
- A Hidden Life (December 13) - Terrence Malick's latest offering is earning the auteur his best reviews since Tree of Life. Will this true story-inspired WWII drama finally put him back in the Oscar race?
- 1917 (December 25) - Dunkirk wannabe or the next great historical war drama? Either way, director Sam Mendes' first non-James Bond movie in a decade is one to keep an eye on near the end of this year.