The biggest festival of its kind in North America has established itself over the years as one of the highlights of the movie-going calendar as well as a guaranteed precursor for awards hype. Things proved to be no different this year as TIFF welcomed exciting premieres – both worldwide and for North America – of much talked about movies across budgets, genres and star power.
But, now the dust has settled, what emerges as the top of the pack? Here are the best and most talked about films from Toronto 2018, including a few surprises that nobody saw coming.
A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper’s reboot of the classic Hollywood story was not the most universally acclaimed film of TIFF but it was easily the most talked about, not to mention the most beloved by those who latched onto it. Coming off the backs of its rapturously received premiere at the Venice Film Festival, A Star Is Born proved to be irresistible to many and cemented Cooper’s status both as an actor and an up-and-coming director. The star of the title, pop diva Lady Gaga, also garnered rave reviews for her first major leading role in a film. Oscar talk was impossible to avoid for A Star is Born, which proved to be just as popular with audiences who literally queued around the block for a chance to see it.
Watch: A Star Is Born Trailer
Days before it premiered to Toronto audiences, Alfonso Cuarón's semi-autobiographical drama Roma won the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival. The Netflix exclusive found similar levels of enthusiasm from TIFF critics, with the black-and-white drama inspired by Cuarón's own childhood becoming a runner-up in the festival's People's Choice Award. Netflix had a number of films screen at TIFF, including Outlaw King starring Chris Pine, but this one was their undisputed champion at the festival and could signal a major breakthrough for the streaming service's path to Hollywood critical legitimacy.
Watch: Roma Trailer
Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 12 Years a Slave had much obvious crowd-pleasing appeal thanks to its heist set-up but the drama, starring Viola Davis and Colin Farrell among others, had much more bubbling beneath the surface. Widows, a remake of a British mini-series written by crime author Lynda LaPlante, had a creative team to die for: Oscar winner McQueen, Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, multiple Oscar-winning and nominated actors, a score by Hans Zimmer, and much more. The twists and turns of this story of a group of widowed women who decide to finish the job that killed their bank robber husbands kept even the most cynical audiences on their toes.
Watch: Widows Trailer
Many had expected an obvious crowd-pleaser like A Star is Born or a clearer critical darling like Roma to take home TIFF’s coveted People’s Choice Award. The award, voted on by audiences who attend the festival, is often taken as something of an Oscar predictor (previous winners have included La La Land, Room, The Imitation Game and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). This year, much to the surprise of many, audiences chose Green Book.
Going into the festival, many critics had preemptively written off the film as a dud. And, in fairness, the trailer had been uninspiring and director Peter Farrelly was better known for gross-out broad comedies like Dumb and Dumber. Green Book, however, proved to be a highly appealing mainstream drama. With Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen in the two lead roles, the film retells a true story of jazz pianist Don Shirley and his tour through the American Deep South with his driver. It seems audiences were hungry for an old-school crowd pleaser.
Watch: Green Book Trailer
If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins, fresh from the triumph of Moonlight, broke ground by making the first film ever to be adapted from the work of legendary writer James Baldwin. While his adaptation of the classic novel If Beale Street Could Talk, about a young black woman trying to prove the innocence of her fiancé who has been falsely accused of rape, was a quiet and elegiac story, it remained highly popular with audiences. It even took home second place in the People's Choice Award.