Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy “The Lobster”
By Lucy Spicer
It’s official: Tomorrow is the first day of fall. As we cross into the last quarter of the calendar, it’s time to welcome cooler temperatures, a new school year, and the prospect of holiday celebrations.
It’s also the time to frequent movie theaters so you can catch all the films sneaking onto screens before next year’s award season.
But before you start making your awards predictions, get cozy with the following filmmakers’ earlier works — they all have connections to the Sundance Institute.
BEFORE YOU SEE EL CONDE…
Filmed in black and white, director Pablo Larraín’s dark comedy-horror film imagines real-life Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a 250-year-old vampire living in the present day. As Pinochet slogs through his gory quotidian rituals, his middle-aged children decide to ensure his finances (and their inheritance) are in order. Releases September 8.
… WATCH NO
The consequences of Augusto Pinochet’s rule receive a more realistic depiction in No, which screened in the Spotlight section at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. In Larraín’s historical drama, Gael García Bernal portrays an adman who takes an unusual approach to the “No” campaign seeking to oust Pinochet from rule in the 1988 Chilean national plebiscite. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE A HAUNTING IN VENICE…
Director Kenneth Branagh returns as the famous detective Hercule Poirot in a murder mystery based on Agatha Christie’s novel Hallowe’en Party. A despondent Poirot has his work cut out for him when novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) brings him to a séance that culminates in a participant’s unexpected death. Releases September 15.
… WATCH A MIDWINTER’S TALE
Down-on-his-luck writer and actor Joe Harper (Michael Maloney) thinks a Christmas-season production of Hamlet may be the solution to his professional woes. But a general lack of funds and little notice for auditions result in an oddball cast of only six actors to play 24 characters. Shakespearean shenanigans ensue. Brannagh’s laugh-out-loud spoof of all things theater screened at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE STOP MAKING SENSE…
The late great director Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, his 1984 film spotlighting a live performance by Talking Heads, is largely considered one of the best concert films ever made. The beloved feature is making a highly anticipated return to the big screen, remastered in 4K in time for its 40th anniversary. Releases September 22.
… WATCH NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD
Filmed shortly after Neil Young underwent surgery for a cerebral aneurysm, Neil Young: Heart of Gold comprises a live performance of songs from the 2005 album Prairie Wind, acoustic songs from across Young’s career, and interviews with Young and his bandmates. Demme’s heartfelt documentary premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE DICKS: THE MUSICAL…
If you think Dicks: The Musical is a crass title for a film, wait till you hear what it’s based on (an off-Broadway two-person show titled Fucking Identical Twins by Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson). In short, the film is an outrageous, raunchy, campy riff off of The Parent Trap, with Sharp and Jackson playing the twins/business rivals. Director Larry Charles’ musical comedy also stars Nathan Lane, Megan Mullally, and Megan Thee Stallion. Releases October 6.
… WATCH MASKED AND ANONYMOUS
At the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, Charles premiered another film starring a musician — Bob Dylan, who also co-wrote the feature with Charles under pseudonyms. The film’s setting isn’t clear; what is clear is that society is in decline, and rock star Jack Fate (Dylan) is released from prison to perform at a vague benefit concert doomed to futility. John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, and Luke Wilson round out the cast. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER…
Two girls get dropped off at school. They’re found three days later, bearing scratches and thinking they’d only been gone a few hours. When it becomes clear that the girls brought something malevolent back with them, it’s time to call in someone who’s seen this before: Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn, reprising her role from The Exorcist in 1973). David Gordon Green directs this first installment in a new sequel trilogy for the legendary horror franchise. Releases October 6.
… WATCH ALL THE REAL GIRLS
Supported by Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, Green’s second feature was awarded both the Special Jury Prize for Acting and the Special Jury Prize for Emotional Truth at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. Paul (Paul Schneider) is 22, unambitious, and a charming womanizer. When his best friend’s sister Noel (Zooey Deschanel) returns from boarding school to their small North Carolina town, the two enter a romance that will change Paul’s life. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON…
Based on the nonfiction book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by journalist David Grann, director and co-writer Martin Scorsese’s epic crime western revolves around a series of murders of Osage Native Americans in the 1920s after oil was discovered on their land. Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone lead the cast. Releases October 20.
… WATCH BOXCAR BERTHA
Scorsese’s second feature was first released in 1972 and screened at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival in the Highlights section. Featuring Barbara Hershey in the title role, the crime drama is set during the Great Depression, when Bertha inadvertently finds herself part of a gang pulling train and bank robberies. David Carradine, John Carradine, Barry Primus, and Bernie Casey also star. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE NYAD…
In their narrative feature directorial debut, documentarians Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi tell the remarkable true story of long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s determination to become — at age 64 — the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Based on Nyad’s autobiography, Find a Way, the film stars Annette Bening in the titular role. Releases October 20.
… WATCH MERU
Winner of the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, Meru documents two attempts by a climbing team — comprising Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, and co-director Jimmy Chin — to ascend the treacherous “Shark’s Fin” route of Meru Peak in the Garhwal Himalayas. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE HOLDOVERS…
Set in the 1970s, director Alexander Payne’s new comedy-drama finds unpopular Barton Academy teacher Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) in charge of supervising the “holdovers”: students who can’t go home for the winter break. One student in particular, Angus (Dominic Sessa), is giving him extra trouble, but in time — and with help from Mary (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the school’s head cook — the two may discover they have more in common than previously thought. Releases October 27.
… WATCH CITIZEN RUTH
Payne made his feature directorial debut with this black comedy that premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. The film stars Laura Dern as Ruth, a young woman with a drug addiction, four children who have been removed from her custody, and a bevy of misdemeanors. When Ruth finds herself pregnant once more and up against felony charges, she becomes the unwitting face of the tug of war between the right and the left on the subject of abortion rights. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE PRISCILLA…
Writer-director Sofia Coppola draws from Priscilla Presley and Sandra Harmon’s book Elvis and Me to tell the story of Priscilla Presley (portrayed by Cailee Spaeny) and her life with Elvis (Jacob Elordi). Releases November 3.
… WATCH THE VIRGIN SUICIDES
Based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel of the same name, Coppola’s feature directorial debut is a portrait of five repressed teenage sisters viewed through the eyes of the suburban neighborhood boys who are enamored with them. Years after the girls’ tragic fate in 1975, the Lisbon sisters continue to fascinate and mystify. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE RUSTIN…
Director George C. Wolfe shines a light on civil rights activist Bayard Rustin in his biographical drama Rustin. Colman Domingo portrays Rustin, a social leader and advisor who advocated for civil rights, gay rights, and nonviolence and helped Martin Luther King Jr. organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Releases November 3.
… WATCH LACKAWANNA BLUES
Based on the autobiographical play of the same name by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Wolfe’s feature directorial debut recounts Santiago-Hudson’s experiences growing up in a boarding house in Lackawanna, New York. Run by Rachel “Nanny” Crosby (who also essentially raised Santiago-Hudson), the boarding house welcomed an eclectic stream of residents who collectively influenced the young boy’s life. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE MARVELS…
In the latest installment of Phase of Five of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, three extraordinary individuals — Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), and Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) — must team up to solve a dangerously inconvenient problem: They keep switching places every time they use their superpowers. Directed by Nia DaCosta, the youngest filmmaker to date to direct a Marvel feature. Releases November 10.
… WATCH LITTLE WOODS
Supported by Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, Producers Program, and Catalyst Forum, DaCosta’s feature directorial debut finds Ollie (Tessa Thompson) with just a handful of days left on her probation. Though there’s a possible new job on the horizon, Ollie’s plans are derailed when her sister Deb (Lily James) unexpectedly appears. Deb is pregnant and needs help to save their late mother’s house from foreclosure. Ollie can come up with the money quickly, but it means one last foray into her old way of life. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE MAY DECEMBER…
Director Todd Haynes and frequent collaborator Julianne Moore team up once more for May December, a twisty drama in which a Hollywood actress (Natalie Portman) goes to stay with the real-life woman she’ll soon portray in an independent film — Gracie Atherton-Yoo (Moore), who became tabloid fodder 20 years ago when her relationship with then 13-year-old Joe Yoo was publicized. Releases November 17.
… WATCH SAFE
Written and directed by Haynes, Safe premiered at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and follows Carol White (Julianne Moore), an affluent California housewife whose routine existence is rocked when she suddenly begins exhibiting alarming physical symptoms in response to her normal environment. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE NEXT GOAL WINS…
Based on the 2014 documentary of the same name, this comedic biopic directed by Taika Waititi features Michael Fassbender as Thomas Rongen, a Dutch-American soccer coach whose career takes a turn when he finds himself in charge of the American Samoa national team — famous for enduring the worst loss (31–0) in the history of the sport. Releases November 17.
… WATCH HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) has moved through multiple foster homes, but this latest one, helmed by kind Bella and grumpy Hec, might be different. When a sudden tragedy befalls the household and Ricky is told he’ll be moving house once more, he and Hec escape into the bush, prompting a national manhunt. Written and directed by Waititi (based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump), this heartfelt comedy-drama premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THANKSGIVING…
In the 2007 film Grindhouse, there’s a trailer for a fake slasher movie called Thanksgiving. Created by director Eli Roth, the holiday horror story is getting its own spot on the big screen 15 years later. Bring your appetite for gore. Releases November 17.
… WATCH KNOCK KNOCK
Evan (Keanu Reeves), a successful architect and happily married husband and father, has it all figured out. He’s alone at his home one stormy weekend when two stranded young women (Ana de Armas and Lorenza Izzo) knock on his door asking for help. Evan kindly lets them inside, oblivious to the catastrophe soon to follow. Roth’s psychological horror-thriller premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE SALTBURN…
It’s the mid-2000s, and scholarship student Oliver (Barry Keoghan) is having trouble fitting in at Oxford University. But then he finds favor with the aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). When Felix invites Oliver to his family estate, Saltburn, for the summer, Oliver begins to weave himself into the Cattons’ wealthy lifestyle. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell. Releases November 24.
… WATCH PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
By day, medical-school dropout Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a directionless barista who lives with her parents. By night, she’s a woman on a mission — to call out all the “nice guys” who take advantage of women who can’t consent. Cassie’s focus switched to revenge after the death of her best friend, and she’s not one to sweep anything under the rug. Writer-director Fennell’s feature debut premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE BIKERIDERS…
Writer-director Jeff Nichols was inspired by Danny Lyon’s 1967 photo book of the same name to make a film about the evolution of a motorcycle club called the Vandals. Front and center are magnetic Benny (Austin Butler); his down-to-earth wife, Kathy (Jodie Comer); and leader Johnny (Tom Hardy). As the club grows over the years, Kathy and Johnny find themselves competing for Benny’s attention. Releases December 1.
… WATCH MUD
Screened in the Spotlight section of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Nichols’ coming-of-age film Mud follows teenage boys Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) and their unlikely friendship with charismatic vagrant Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Mud is lying low in an abandoned boat on a small Mississippi River island, waiting for his girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). As the boys help to orchestrate a reunion, they discover a murkier side of their community. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE POOR THINGS…
Set in a whimsical steampunk world and based on the 1992 novel of the same name, Poor Things follows Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) — a woman whose dead body was reanimated by scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) — as she explores society around her in a search for self-liberation. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Releases December 8.
… WATCH THE LOBSTER
Coupledom is law, and David (Colin Farrell) is newly single. In order to find a mate, David goes to a resort where residents have 45 days to enter a relationship or else be transformed into an animal of their choice — in David’s case, a lobster. This absurdist dark comedy, which screened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, is Lanthimos’ first English-language film. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE ZONE OF INTEREST…
Loosely based on Martin Amis’ 2014 novel of the same name, The Zone of Interest, written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, depicts the shockingly sheltered domestic life attempted by Rudolf Höss — commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, portrayed by Christian Friedel — and his family in their bucolic house and garden just outside of the camp. Releases December 8.
… WATCH SEXY BEAST
In Glazer’s feature directorial debut, Ray Winstone plays formidable ex-criminal Gary “Gal” Dove, happily retired in Spain with his wife and friends. Their peace is disturbed when Don (Ben Kingsley) shows up and demands Gal’s participation in a London bank heist for crime boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane). Gal is reluctant to accept the job, but Don proves to be difficult to ignore. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE AQUAMAN AND THE LOST KINGDOM…
Director James Wan follows up his 2018 film Aquaman with a sequel that finds titular superhero (played by Jason Momoa) adjusting to his new life as a family man — and the new king of the underwater realm of Atlantis. Life gets even more complicated when Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) acquires a powerful trident that could cause global destruction. Releases December 20.
… WATCH SAW
“I want to play a game.” This simple sentence uttered by a criminal mastermind launched a sprawling franchise that’s still growing today. Directed and co-written by Wan in his feature debut, the Saw that started it all features Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell (the film’s co-writer) as two men who wake up in chains and must follow clues from a sadistic captor in order to attempt their escape. The groundbreaking horror-thriller premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Check viewing options here.
BEFORE YOU SEE THE IRON CLAW…
Writer-director Sean Durkin’s third feature-length film will focus on the Von Erich family, famous for producing many professional wrestlers and popularizing the iron claw wrestling hold, and infamous for the tragic “Von Erich curse.” Starring Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, and Lily James. Releases December 22.
… WATCH MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
Supported by Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program and winner of the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Durkin’s feature debut centers on 22-year-old Martha (Elizabeth Olson), who has just escaped from a cult in the Catskill Mountains and is now staying with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband (Hugh Dancy). As Martha tries to readjust to life outside of the cult, her traumatic past has her questioning the difference between nightmares and reality. Check viewing options here.