Talk about an odd quirk of scheduling: No less than three actors will get settled in the director’s chair this month, including Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) Jonah Hill (Mid90s) and Paul Dano (Wildlife). Elsewhere, Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet go toe to toe in an unsparing addiction drama; Ryan Gosling shoots for the stars in a reunion with his La La Land director Damien Chazell; and Tom Hardy gets in the Marvel game via a fan-favorite supervillain. Plus South Korea ships out one of the year’s flat-out best slow-burn thrillers. Here’s what you’ll be seeing a theater near you this October.
Bad Times at the El Royale (Oct. 12th)
Drew Goddard threw the horror genre for a loop with The Cabin in the Woods in 2012; now he draws from the tradition of pulp paperbacks for this mystery unfolding at a kitschy hotel on the California-Nevada border. A blues singer (Cynthia Erivo), a salesman (Jon Hamm), a suspicious priest (Jeff Bridges), a femme fatale (Dakota Johnson), her ingenue sister (Cailee Spaeny), a hunky cult leader (Chris Evans) and their chipper concierge (Lewis Pullman) have hunkered down for the night. They’re all apparently part of a larger game … and God(dard) only knows what it is.
Beautiful Boy (Oct. 12th)
Both journalist David Sheff and his boy Nic wrote memoirs about the latter’s years spent struggling with addiction to methamphetamines and a wide array of other substances. This father and son drama cherrypicks selections from both books and fuses their respective takes into one agonizing chronicle of the needle and the damage done. rehab, relapses and paternal angst. Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell provide two different shades of desperation; Amy Ryan and Maura Tierney fill out the cast in a harrowing drama that wears its big, vulnerable heart right on its sleeve.
Burning (Oct. 26th)
Films from Lee Chang-dong are like comets: slow, majestic and rare enough that when one comes around, people stop and take notice. The veteran South Korean filmmaker’s first move in eight years took Cannes by storm; now, everyone can see what the fuss is about. This adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story about a rudderless youth (Yoo Ah-in) who falls for a flirty former classmate (Jeon Jong-seo) — only to watch her moon over the wealthy, suave rival (The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun). After she disappears, the young man wonders whether this might be a garden-variety ghosting … or something more sinister. Welcome to the slow-burn thriller of the year.
First Man (Oct. 12th)
Hollywood’s new golden boy Damien Chazelle (La La Land ) returns in grand fashion with another titanically ambitious showcase for the talents of Ryan Gosling. In this technically elaborate retelling of America’s race to the moon, the former Mouseketeer plays Neil Armstrong as a stoic man with a single-minded drive to go where no man has gone before (hint: look up in the night sky), often at the cost of his relationship with his long-suffering wife (Claire Foy) and children. That nerve-shredding launch sequence is enough to make your palms sweaty for weeks; don’t even get us started on the one-small-step-for-man sequence.
Halloween (Oct. 19th)
When director David Gordon Green and longtime collaborator Danny McBride took the reins of the notorious slasher franchise, they went right to work clearing house. This sequel erases all memory of the installments following John Carpenter’s 1978 original and rejoins a middle-aged Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she grapples with post-traumatic stress four decades later. Naturally, Michael Myers once again rears his expressionless head and starts going after teen babysitters with butcher knives — but really, he’s gunning for one woman in particular, and she’s ready to keep their date with destiny. There will be blood. Lots of it.
The Hate U Give (Oct. 5th)
As a black girl from a rough neighborhood trying to blend in at an elite, predominantly white prep school, Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) straddles the line between two worlds. But seeing a cop murder her unarmed friend (Algee Smith) makes Starr’s routine of quiet code-switching impossible, and she soon finds her voice as the leader of a justice-seeking social movement. Angie Thomas’s original novel ripped its story of tragedy and resilience right from the headlines, and Stenberg — an activist in her own right — approaches this role as a combination of creative expression and public service, speaking truth to power in cineplexes everywhere.
Mid90s (Oct. 19th)
Everyone who went through grade school in the Clinton years remembers the burnout kids, the ones never seen without their skateboards and cheap cigarettes. In his first go as director, Jonah Hill imagines rich interior lives for these pint-size dirtbags, setting a coming-of-age story among the junior punks of SoCal. Young Stevie (Sunny Suljic), restless at home with his abusive brother (Lucas Hedges) and harried single mom (Katherine Waterston), finds a precious sense of belonging with a local clique of small-time skaters. But for pre-teens, it’s not always easy to tell who your real friends are and who’s just keeping you around for the time being. Consider this the gnarlier alternative to Eighth Grade.
A Star Is Born (Oct. 5th)
Lady Gaga — perhaps you’ve heard of her? — adds “full-fledged movie star” to her expansive résumé in the umpteenth remake of this ageless rise-and-fall epic. She’s an ingenue with a world-class set of pipes waiting for her big break; that chance at stardom arrives in the form of Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, pulling quadruple duty as writer, director and producer), a grizzled rock star drinking and pill-popping himself to an early grave. The love that blossoms between them gives him a reason to live, but whether it’ll be enough is another question. These two may want to start clearing space in their trophy cases now.
Venom (Oct. 5th)
Enough with the superhero movies already! Time for a change-up: a movie about the guy who fights the superheroes! The uncontrollable Venom, the codename appended to the unholy union of human Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and a symbiotic organism from an alien planet, was a constant foe of Peter Parker’s in the comics; you may remember him from his big-screen appearance in Spider-Man 3. The webslinger is apparently nowhere to be found in this solo supervillain joint, however, as Brock comes to grips with newfound powers and the aggressive new roommate squatting in his brain. Venom may be a Marvel invention, but from the looks of the trailer, director Ruben Fleischer has set a course for the grittier territory of Suicide Squad.
Wildlife (Oct. 19th)
Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan co-penned this adaptation of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel for the former’s directorial debut, about a nuclear family unit in Sixties Montana the breaks down when Dad (Jake Gyllenhaal) leaves to fight a forest fire. His wife (Carey Mulligan) and teenage son (Ed Oxenbould) are left to fend for themselves; she then starts to get friendly with a well-to-do man in town (Bill Camp), which does a number on Junior’s innocence. Stellar performances all around, and you’ll probably hear Muliigan’s name come up a lot as the awards-season drums start beating in earnest.