Struggling to keep up with what’s coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival? We can’t blame you – there are hundreds of films and so much hype it’s hard to know which movies to care about.
Siena Yates attended this year’s festival and is here to give you the lowdown on the films you absolutely cannot miss, from Kiwi star Taika Waititi’s hit Nazi satire, to star-studded ensemble films about everything from strippers to motor racing.
1) JOKER (Oct. 3)
This one practically hypes itself up. Joker was easily one of the most talked-about films at the TIFF and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as DC’s best-known villain is already tipped to score the star the best actor Oscar – something of a coup for a comic book film. But the film is also rustling up controversy. While some are calling it a masterpiece, others are calling it downright dangerous, as a film which ultimately sympathises with a murderous sociopath using gun violence to exact revenge on the society that made an outcast out of him. If nothing else, Joker demands to be seen in order to join the conversation.
2) HUSTLERS (Oct. 10)
Look. No one’s saying this Jennifer Lopez-led film about strippers drugging and extorting wealthy Wall Streeters is going to win an Oscar any time soon, but man is it a good time. As well as J-Lo, it features superstar Constance Wu, Riverdale star Lili Reinhart and some of the hottest names in music – Cardi B, Lizzo and Keke Palmer. And it’s not all just a bunch of stunningly attractive women and a great soundtrack. Hustlers – somewhat surprisingly – tells a beautiful story of friendship, family and female empowerment while throwing in some timely social commentary about the commodification of the female body and the way women are pitted against one another.
3) JUDY (Oct. 17)
Renee Zellweger returns to the silver screen as Judy Garland in this hard-hitting biopic of the legendary star. Judy delves deep into the dark side of Garland’s fame, taking on the sexism and bullying she endured in Hollywood and how it led her depression and drug dependency later in life. It’s set at a time in Garland’s life where, desperate for cash, she performs a series of concerts in London, chronicling her inner struggles as well as her outer success. Zellweger’s performance is sure to take her into next year’s Oscars conversation, not least because she does in fact, sing and dance in the film.
4) JOJO RABBIT (Oct. 24)
Yes, we Kiwis may be biased because this movie was made by our very own Taika Waititi but trust us when we say this film completely lives up to the hype. Jojo Rabbit was one of the most highly anticipated films of the TIFF and one of the first to sell out. It premiered to raucous laughter, many tears and a standing ovation, also scooping the coveted People’s Choice Award. It’s the film everyone will be talking about after its general release in October and should easily see Waititi in the Oscar conversation.
5) FORD V FERRARI (Nov. 14)
You’d be forgiven for thinking this film is one explicitly for petrolheads – but you’d be wrong. Ford v Ferrari tells the story of how Ford first entered the world of motor racing with the Ford GT40, taking on Ferrari for the first time at the 1966 Le Mans 24-Hour race in France. It’s got a killer cast, including Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Jon Bernthal and Tracy Letts; some intense action scenes featuring stunt driving that will put you at the edge of your seat; and a surprising amount of heart. Director James Mangold must be eyeing the Oscars with this one and between the sheer production value, its nostalgic styling and some spectacular performances, his odds are looking good.
6) KNIVES OUT (Nov. 28)
What do you get when you put Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Don Johnson and Jamie Lee Curtis in the same film? A surefire winner, that’s what. Knives Out drew a massive – and fizzing – crowd to its TIFF premiere based on the cast alone (the number of Captain America posters clutched in the hands of adoring fans was enough to make me wonder if I’d missed a major Marvel announcement). The film itself is earning some glowing reviews, as a delightfully fun whodunnit murder mystery in which Craig’s character plays detective in a story so twisty it’ll keep you hooked to the end.
7) MARRIAGE STORY (Dec. 6)
Similarly shrugging off the Hollywood shine, Marriage Story zeroes in on an intimate and brutally heartbreaking tale of divorce, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in performances that have been hailed as “devastating” and almost painfully authentic. It has drama, dark comedy and even the odd musical number and yet another all-star cast that also includes Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever and Mark O’Brien. The best part is that once its done its festival run, it’s being released on Netflix for all to enjoy.
8) JUST MERCY (Jan. 16)
As if having Michael B. Jordan as your lead weren’t enough, Just Mercy also has one of the most compelling stories at the TIFF this year. Based on a true story and the book by Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson, the film follows the establishment of the initiative via one of its first cases. Jamie Foxx stars as Johnny D. McMillian, a black man convicted of killing a white woman with no evidence and whom Stevenson (Jordan) helps to fight the sentence. It may not have the feelgood or Hollywood glam factors the others do but it’s one hell of a story about a real-life hero, worth telling.
9) A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD (Jan. 23)
Can Tom Hanks do any wrong? Not at this year’s TIFF. The beloved superstar and all-round nice guy takes on the story of Fred Rogers and his unlikely relationship with magazine journalist Tom Junod. The film is based on Junod’s Esquire article “Can You Say … Hero?”, which came about after he – grudgingly – took on an assignment to profile the TV icon. Hanks’ performance has been widely lauded and the feelgood nature of the film, its characters and its message is a breath of fresh air in 2019.
10) HOW TO BUILD A GIRL (TBC)
This film may or may not be a contender but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on to wait and see, simply because it stars one of this year’s breakout stars, Beanie Feldstein. Feldstein made a massive impression with the teen comedy Booksmart earlier this year and here she returns as Johanna Morrigan in another coming-of-age flick, this time set in 90s England. The screenplay was co-written by Caitlin Moran and is based on her autobiographical novel of the same name. It also stars Alfie Allen, Michael Sheen, Emma Thompson, Chris O’Dowd. It’s funny, warm and lovable and seems like another sure win for Feldstein.