Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures; Nicola Dove/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures; Fabio Lovino/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures
En español | Things are looking up in movieland: While last year's COVID-19 theater shutdowns delayed big movies for 18 months or more, this season will bring an exciting flurry of films. Whether you choose to head to the cineplex with safety measures and masks or wait for them to stream online, you won't be able to resist many of our critics’ handpicked preview choices. Start popping that popcorn now. Fall is coming!
COMING IN SEPTEMBER
The Card Counter (Sept. 10)
Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader's career renaissance continues with the tale of gambler Oscar Isaac and protegee Tiffany Haddish, out to get even with his nemesis, colonel Willem Dafoe.
Check it out: The Card Counter
The Duke (Sept. 17)
In 1961, a 60-year-old London cabdriver stole a Goya painting from the National Gallery and tried to ransom it in return for more government investment in older citizens’ care. Secretly, he did it to save his marriage. “It's sweet and endearing,” says Dame Helen Mirren, 76, who plays the wife of the cabbie (Jim Broadbent, 72). “The whole story took me by surprise,” she says. “You would want to take it with a pinch of salt if it wasn't all true."
Check it out: The Duke
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The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Sept. 17)
Jessica Chastain stars as makeup abuser Tammy Faye Bakker, with Andrew Garfield as her criminal husband and fellow televangelist.
Check it out: The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Dear Evan Hansen (Sept. 24)
The smash Broadway musical about a student (Ben Platt) struggling to cope with another student's suicide costars Julianne Moore and Kaitlyn Dever.
Check it out: Dear Evan Hansen
East of the Mountains (Sept. 24)
In an adaptation of Snow Falling on Cedars author David Guterson's best seller, Tom Skerritt (Alien, M*A*S*H, Top Gun) gets his first lead role, as a dying surgeon returning to his Washington state desert home for one last adventure.
Check it out: East of the Mountains
COMING IN OCTOBER
Mass (Oct. 8)
Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton play parents of a school shooting victim who meet the killer's parents (Reed Birney and The Handmaid's Tale's Ann Dowd).
Check it out: Mass
No Time to Die (Oct. 8)
In the fifth and final Bond film for Daniel Craig, 007 has quit the spy biz for a quiet life in Jamaica (where Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels). “After five years of retirement,” says director Cary Fukunaga, “he's sort of a wounded animal struggling with his role as a double-0.” But he unretires when a scientist gets kidnapped and the smarter-than-Spectre bad guy Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) threatens millions. In the first 007 flick since the #MeToo movement, cowriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) made sure Bond girls Lashana Lynch, Léa Seydoux and Ana de Armas weren't cast as a cold lady-killer's arm candy. “The important thing is that the film treats the women properly,” Waller-Bridge says.
Check it out: No Time to Die
The Last Duel (Oct. 15)
In another unlikely fact-based tale, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who together wrote Good Will Hunting in their early 20s, reteam to write the tale of France's last legal duel, in 1386, between a knight (Damon) and his former friend, a squire (Adam Driver) he accused of raping his wife (Jodie Comer). They figured whoever was lying would die, as God's judgment. Affleck plays the knight's enemy, Count Pierre d'Alençon.
Check it out: The Last Duel
Dune (Oct. 22)
In an adaptation of the classic novel, Javier Bardem plays an utterly tough tribal leader on a desert planet who helps the Luke Skywalker-ish young Paul Atriedes (Timothée Chalamet) battle the planet's cruel ruler Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (a scary-looking Stellan Skarsgard). It's got better buzz than the 1984 Dune movie, but Bardem's a fan of that one, too. “I loved it! It was big and weird, and those sandworms!”
Check it out: Dune
The French Dispatch (Oct. 22)
An American magazine editor in France (Bill Murray) gets his articles (some inspired by real ones in The New Yorker) enacted by the ensemble cast of the year: Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Anjelica Huston, Liev Schreiber, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Elisabeth Moss and more.
Check it out: The French Dispatch
COMING IN NOVEMBER
Passing (Nov. 10)
Actress turned writer-director Rebecca Hall adapts Nella Larsen's acclaimed 1929 novel about a Black woman (Tessa Thompson) in 1920s Harlem whose friend (Ruth Negga) passes as white.
Check it out: Passing
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Nov. 11)
When Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman's son Jason Reitman (Juno) directs a sequel to the 1984 wraith-chaser comedy, who's he gonna call? Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts, reprising their old roles and rescuing a newcomer (Paul Rudd).
Check it out: Ghostbusters: Afterlife
Belfast (Nov. 12)
In her sixth collaboration with Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench plays the wry, spry granny of a child in war-torn 1960s Belfast, Ireland. It's based on writer-director Branagh's own life. “It's my most personal film, partly set in the past and partly in the present,” says Branagh, “a look at people and a place in tumult through the eyes of a 9-year-old movie-mad kid."
Check it out: Belfast
House of Gucci (Nov. 24)
In a starry adaptation of the best seller The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed, fashionista Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver) gets shot by a hit man hired by his ex-wife (Lady Gaga). Also starring Jared Leto, Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.
Check it out: House of Gucci
National Champions (Nov. 24)
Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk) plays a college football quarterback who calls a bold play: a players strike just before the big game of the season. Also starring J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man), Kristin Chenoweth and Timothy Olyphant.
Check it out: National Champions
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.