It was a bleak summer for movies by most standards. Disney raked in nearly $4 billion on repackaged classics, while ill-conceived reboots—from Men in Black to Hellboy—fell flat on their faces. The wonderful Booksmart made headlines for not making money, and Quentin Tarantino was about the only Hollywood stalwart left standing.
Now, it's on to autumn, with (we hope) better movies and more challenges for an embattled industry. Scorsese and Soderbergh will play the Netflix release game, and vibrant newer voices like Lena Waithe and Taika Waititi aim to shake up the Oscars conversation. The season more or less begins this weekend, as the late-summer dregs give way to polished biopics, prestigious science fiction, the American debut of the Palme d'Or winner, and the return of a horror blockbuster to kick it all off.
It Chapter Two, Sept. 6
The first "chapter" rode a renewed interest in Stephen King and '80s kids on bicycles to a windfall. Now, the Losers Club has grown up to be Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and James McAvoy.
Joker, Oct. 4
Our most overwrought comics character receiving a Taxi Driver-toned origin story is "film bro" catnip. The most twisted thing would be if Joaquin Phoenix's Joker was actually any good.
Jojo Rabbit, Oct. 18
Taika Waititi's Hitler Youth satire has reportedly rankled some Disney execs who accuse the film of—I don't know—having a directorial voice. Following Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it's a must-see.
The Irishman, Nov. 1
Now to test the patience of would-be Joker fans with an actual Scorsese movie. Tipping the scales at three hours and 30 minutes, The Irishman digitally de-ages all of Marty's favorite 70-year-olds (De Niro, Pacino, Pesci), and will stream on Netflix just four weeks after it hits theaters.
Fishing for Trophies
Harriet, Nov. 1
Tony winner and Widows standout Cynthia Erivo makes a bid for Best Actress as Harriet Tubman. Maybe slap a $20 bill so hard on the concessions counter Andrew Jackson's face falls off it.
Motherless Brooklyn, Nov. 1
Edward Norton directs himself as a private detective with Tourette's syndrome in this adaptation of Jonathan Lethem's novel. It's likely to be either cringy Oscar bait or a career achievement.
Ford v Ferrari, Nov. 15
An acid test for what's left of the original blockbuster market, Matt Damon and Christian Bale square off in a two-hander about building and driving frighteningly fast cars while Henry Ford's grandson screams at them.
Queen & Slim, Nov. 27
A contemporary Bonnie-and-Clyde story, this Lena Waithe-penned drama positions Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith as lovers on the lam after a racially motivated traffic stop turns deadly.
Indies to Watch
Parasite, Oct. 11
Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Snowpiercer) adds to a mounting legacy of thrilling class commentary with his 2019 Cannes Palme d'Or winner.
The Lighthouse, Oct. 18
Robert Eggers' follow-up to The Witch, starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, is incredibly hard to classify: Shot in black-and-white, with an old-timey 1.19-to-1 aspect ratio, it looks to be some sort of bizarre intersection of True West, Fear and Loathing and The Old Man and the Sea.
Honey Boy, Nov. 8
Shia LaBeouf's decade of abrasive but fascinating choices may come full circle as he plays, essentially, his own father to a self-destructing young movie star (Lucas Hedges).
Dark Waters, Nov. 22
Though it doesn't immediately appear up Todd Haynes' alley, the Portland director's latest is a little-guy drama with Oscar aspirations: Marc Ruffalo plays environmental lawyer Robert Bilott taking on chemical giant DuPont.
Ad Astra, Sept. 20
Saddled with production delays and Fox's sale to Disney, this Brad Pitt-helmed space adventure may prove to be dark, heady, terrific and unsuccessful. Looks like Interstellar for the unsentimental.
Gemini Man, Oct. 11
Not to be outdone by Scorsese, Ang Lee de-ages Will Smith in this Looper-esque saga of battling clones. Post-Genie, Smith is also battling himself for 2019's Best Performance in the Uncanny Valley.
Last Christmas, Nov. 8
Hold a little hope in your heart for a high-concept, early-November Christmas movie starring Queen Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and the impossible hottie from Crazy Rich Asians (Henry Golding).
Knives Out, Nov. 27
Two years ago, Rian Johnson gave us the world's most Star Wars movie. (It's great, you goons.) Now he's madcap riffing on Agatha Christie with a cast of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Toni Collette and every other living actor.