Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions; Nicola Dove/DANJAQ/MGM
As the pandemic summer turns to the pandemic fall, we still face serious questions about the safest and sanest way to watch movies. That's the hard news. The good news is that movies aren't giving up — this fall is full of great new films from great directors, young and established, and featuring great actors, young and established. Bookmark this list of the 20 best releases this season, handpicked by our critics.
The Devil All The Time (Sept. 16)
Robert Pattinson (Twilight) plays a mysterious preacher in a Gothic saga about a troubled family in small-town Ohio, from World War II to the Vietnam era. With Spider-Man's Tom Holland as a nice Christian boy gone wrong and Jason Clarke, 51, and Elvis Presley's granddaughter Riley Keough as the killers you don't want to pick you up while hitchhiking.
Antebellum (Sept. 18)
In a twisty sci-fi horror movie that sounds like M. Night Shyamalan wrote it (but he didn't), Janelle Monáe plays two roles: an enslaved Louisiana woman on a violently horrific Civil War plantation and a modern Black women's rights leader with a hit book, Shedding the Coping Persona.
Blackbird (Sept. 18)
A mom dying of ALS (Susan Sarandon, 73) has one last get-together at their beach place with husband Sam Neill, 72, kids Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska, and son-in-law Rainn Wilson (The Office). Extreme emotions ensue. From Roger Michell (Notting Hill, My Cousin Rachel).
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The Nest (Sept. 18)
1980s finance wizard Jude Law drags his family to a big, centuries-old manor in England, where his marriage to Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Leftovers) goes horrifically pear-shaped.
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life (Sept. 23)
Ken Burns’ eminent documentarian brother Ric Burns interviewed celebrity neurologist Oliver Sacks (played by Robin Williams in Awakenings) after his terminal cancer diagnosis, and also his family, friends and famous colleagues (Jonathan Miller, Temple Grandin, Paul Theroux). His wild, unlikely life shed fascinating new light on the human mind, and so will this film.
Ava (Sept. 24)
Jessica Chastain plays a recovering addict and assassin working for John Malkovich, 66, who battles his former top assassin, Colin Firth, while Chastain battles nightclub owner Joan Chen. But her toughest opponent may be her mother (Geena Davis, 64). From Tate Taylor (The Help).
Kajillionaire (Sept. 25)
Grifters Debra Winger, 65, and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), 73, raised their daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) right, teaching her the con-artist game. But when they recruit a new protegee (Gina Rodriguez), things go awry. Not your run-of-the-mill grifter picture, it's by indie cinema's Queen of Quirk, Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know).
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The Glorias (Sept. 30)
Remember that 2007 movie I'm Not There, where six actors play Bob Dylan? In Julie Taymor's movie, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore play feminist Gloria Steinem at different ages during her America-changing life.
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On the Rocks (Oct. 2)
Director Sofia Coppola reunites with her Lost in Translation star Bill Murray, 69, for an intergenerational comic drama. Rashida Jones suspects her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating, so her bad-boy playboy daddy (Murray) helps her sleuth out the truth.
Hubie Halloween (Oct. 7)
Adam Sandler's Murder Mystery was Netflix's all-time number one overnight hit last year. So he's back in the merry-mayhem biz, playing deli worker Hubie Dubois, mocked for loving his town's renowned Halloween parade. But when murder occurs on All Hallows’ Eve, he turns detective. Costars include Oscar nominee June Squibb (Nebraska), Shaquille O'Neal, and SNL veterans Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Kenan Thompson, Melissa Villaseñor, Colin Quinn, Mikey Day and Rob Schneider.
The War With Grandpa (Oct. 9)
Robert De Niro, 77, battles his grandson (Oakes Fegley) over a bedroom. Whose side are his friends and family (Uma Thurman, Christopher Walken, Cheech Marin, Jane Seymour) on?
Honest Thief (Oct. 9)
The “In-and-Out Bandit” (Liam Neeson, 68) quits robbing banks so he can start a new life with his new squeeze (Kate Walsh). But when he gives his stolen $9 million to the FBI so he can get a reduced sentence, two rogue agents confiscate it and frame him for a murder. Wild guess: Liam's response won't be to forgive and forget.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Oct. 16)
The West Wing auteur Aaron Sorkin dramatizes the notorious 1969 trial of the Chicago Seven, Yippie demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic National Convention riot. All rise for the stellar grownup cast: Frank Langella as Judge Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman (no relation), William Hurt as John Mitchell, Michael Keaton as Ramsey Clark, plus Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance and more big names.
Death on the Nile (Oct. 23)
Murder on the Orient Express's Kenneth Branagh, 59, returns as Agatha Christie's sleuth Poirot. On an Egyptian vacation, he meets a honeymooning heiress whose best friend seems overly sweet on her husband. Death strikes and he finds out whodunit. Inspired by Christie's own Nile cruise with her archaeologist husband, it's closer to the emotional bone than most Christie stories. “It's a very dark, very sexy, unsettling kind of film,” Branagh has said.
Deep Water (Nov. 13)
In an adaptation of a creepy novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train), Ben Affleck and his wife Ana de Armas play sexual mind games on each other — and people around them start dropping dead. By Fatal Attraction director Adrian Lyne.
The Comeback Trail (Nov. 13)
Washed-up old drunk cowboy actor Duke Montana (Tommy Lee Jones, 73) gets cast in a movie by shady producers Robert De Niro and Zach Braff, who need to pay off a debt to mobster Morgan Freeman, 83. So they take out a big insurance policy on Jones and give him increasingly dangerous stunts to do. But it turns out old Duke ain't so washed up after all.
No Time to Die (Nov. 20)
In Daniel Craig's last James Bond romp, 007 retires to Jamaica, but wouldn't you know it? A scientist gets kidnapped, so he's forced to go rescue him, and deal with Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Léa Seydoux and his Knives Out costar Ana de Armas.
Wonder Woman 1984 (Dec. 25)
Director Patty Jenkins’ first movie starring Gal Gadot as everyone's favorite kinkily clad Amazonian princess lassoed $822 million from moviegoers, so she's back — this time in the 1980s, when hair and shoulder pads lived large. Kristen Wiig is her dastardly enemy, and Chris Pine her love interest, even though his character (spoiler!) died in the first film in 1918. Aren't movies magical?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Sept. 9, 2020. It has been updated with the latest announced release dates.