Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s plane! It’s — wait, actually, it is a plane, and ScreenCrush staffers Matt Singer and E. Oliver Whitney are on it, headed up to Toronto for the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Starting Thursday, they dive into a massive weeklong movie binge, catching as many of the fall’s big movies as they can.

If you want to know what to expect from TIFF (and Matt and Oliver’s coverage of it), they put together this list of ten of their most anticipated titles. When making their picks, they excluded anything already covered in our recent fall movie preview (Sorry mother!) to shine a light on ten new films premiering at TIFF that need to be on your radar. These movies run the gamut from comedy to biopic to horror (or at least gothic romance). In no particular order, they are...

The Death of Stalin
Directed by Armando Iannucci

Courtesy of TIFF

After eviscerating British politics in his series The Thick of It, and turning his caustic glare on Washington D.C. in In the Loop and Veep, master satirist Armando Iannucci now focuses his attention on Russian history. The Death of Stalin applies his signature (read: hilariously vulgar) approach to the aftermath of the Soviet dictator’s demise in 1953. In the midst of the sudden power vacuum, Stalin’s confederates and flunkies, played by a crew of all-star comics including Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Paddy Considine, and Michael Palin, jockey for power and control. We’re sure this story of governmental corruption, greed, and stupidity, will have no modern allegorical overtones whatsoever. — Matt Singer

The Disaster Artist
Directed by James Franco

Warner Bros.

A movie about the making of the best worst film of our time? Sign me up for a midnight screening and don’t forget to bring spoons! The Disaster Artist, based on Greg Sestero’s memoir of the same name, details the behind-the-scenes drama of Tommy Wiseau’s disasterpiece The Room. James Franco directs and stars as Wiseau – and he apparently directed the film in Wiseau’s signature Polish accent – while Dave Franco plays Sestero. And based on the first trailer, the two brothers have the characters’ mannerism down to perfection. The rest of the cast is full of comedy favorites, like Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and tons of celeb cameos. If you need further convincing this is the cinematic event of fall festival season, then this movie is naht for you. — E. Oliver Whitney

The Shape of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Courtesy of TIFF

A new Guillermo del Toro creature feature is enough to prick your ears up and send a shiver down your spine. His latest adds a warm touch of romance to the mix. Del Toro’s first film since Crimson Peak is a Cold War-era fairy tale about a woman (Sally Hawkins) who sparks a romance with a mysterious fish-man (Doug Jones), the subject of top-secret experiments. Hawkins’ janitor Elisa enlists the help of her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and neighbor (Richard Jenkins) to rescue the amphibious creature. Michael Shannon steps into the role of a federal agent and Michael Stuhlbarg plays a passionate scientist. It looks like a magical visual delight and already got plenty of positive buzz out of Venice. — EOW

Directed by Alexander Payne


The title is clever and literal: Matt Damon plays a man who agrees to undergo a new miniaturization technology that shrinks a person down to a height of five inches and is supposed to help ensure the environmental stability of Earth’s future. Miniascule drama and wry comedy ensues in the latest film from director Alexander Payne, his first since 2013’s Nebraska. Reviews from the premiere at the Venice Film Festival called it a “miniature masterpiece” As a longtime Payne fan, I’m expecting big things. — MS

A Fantastic Woman
Directed by Sebastián Lelio

Courtesy of TIFF

If there’s one awards season dark horse that emerges from TIFF, it may be Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman. In his latest film since 2013’s magnificent Gloria, the Chilean filmmaker once again tells a story of a resilient, independent woman. Newcomer Daniela Vega makes her acting debut as Maria, a trans night club singer thrown into grief after the sudden death of her lover (Francisco Reyes). Most notable of all, Lelio had the good sense to cast Vega, a trans woman, in a leading trans role. The film got raves out of Berlin and Telluride, by the looks of the gorgeous first trailer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Vega makes into the awards conversation.  — EOW

I, Tonya
Directed by Craig Gilliespie

Courtesy of TIFF

If the publicity photo above is an indication, Margot Robbie is the spitting image of Tonya Harding, who, in 1994, touched off an international scandal when her rivalry with fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) sparked a violent attack. Truth in this story was truly stranger and more captivating than fiction, so it will be interesting to see how director Craig Gillespie (previously of Lars and the Real Girl and the underrated naval thriller The Finest Hours) brings added dimensions to one of the most well-known sports stories of the 20th century. In all likelihood, everything’s going to rest on Robbie’s performance. If she can bring depth and human dimension to Harding, I, Tonya won’t need to take a baton to the competition to take home some awards this fall. — MS

Lean On Pete
Directed by Andrew Haigh

Courtesy of TIFF

Andrew Haigh’s takes on road movie in this story about a soul-searching teenage boy (Charlie Plummer) who meets a pair of horse trainers (Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny) over a summer. We didn't hear much about the the film until it debuted at Telluride earlier this week (and to generally positive reviews), but Haigh’s name alone bumped this onto our most anticipated list. The British filmmaker made one of the most tender love stories of the decade with 2011’s Weekend, then he captured the aching pain of nostalgia tugging an elderly couple apart in the marvelous 45 Years. A quiet tale about a boy and his horse sounds especially intriguing coming from Haigh. This could turn into an unexpected festival favorite. — EOW

Mary Shelley
Directed by Haifaa Al Mansour

Courtesy of TIFF

Most Frankenstein movies spend some time on the monster’s creator, but not this creator. Instead of Dr. Frankenstein, this new biographical movie from Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker focuses on Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote the original novel of Frankenstein and changed the world forever. Elle Fanning plays the author through her early years, and the trials and tribulations of her marriage to Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth). The fall is always glutted with biopics, but this one looks a little different — in style and director — with a subject that definitely deserves a movie alive with the thrill of creation. — MS

Mom and Dad
Directed by Brian Taylor

Courtesy of TIFF

For 24 hours, a worldwide hysteria turns parents against their children. It’s an eye-catching premise for an exploitation film under any circumstances, but this particular set of circumstances is really exciting. For one thing, Mom and Dad is directed by Brian Taylor, one half of the filmmaking team that gave us the Crank films and Gamer. For another, the dad of the title is played by none other than Nicolas Cage (re-teaming with Taylor after their gonzo Ghost Rider sequel). Anytime I see the words ‘Nicolas Cage’ and ‘hysteria’ this close together, I get excited. It’s unclear whether Mom and Dad will live up to the Neveldine/Taylor projects of old, but a manic Cage trying to kill small children will get our full and undivided attention every time. — MS

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!
Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Courtesy of TIFF

The original Super Size Me launched the career of its congenial director and star, Morgan Spurlock, and made a serious impact on the national conversation around our questionable healthy eating. 13 years later, Spurlock returns with a sequel. The first film had an undeniable hook to grab viewers: Spurlock spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s and used the results of his diet to power his investigation into the world of fast food. This time Spurlock’s the one making the grub; he decides to open his own chicken restaurant to see what it takes to make a positive impact on a giant industry. That’s not quite as grabby a concept as Super Size Me, but Spurlock remains a likable documentarian, and it should be interesting to see what’s changed at Mickey D’s and its competitors in the dozen years since Spurlock exposed some of their less appetizing nutritional facts — or what hasn’t changed at all. — MS