When you think October, you think Halloween — which means you think horror and, hopefully, a black-and-white thriller involving drunk sea captains, mermaid genitals and Robert Pattinson. But not all of the good stuff this month doesn’t involve blood spatter or jump scares: Spanish and Korean award-winners from high-prestige European festivals; Oscar hopefuls gearing up for a long, rocky awards-circuit season; an iconic comic-book villain gets the moody ’70s antihero treatment; and we get not one but two Will Smiths running and jumping and killing. Plus Hitler! But, like, a funny Hitler! Here are your best moviegoing bets for Oct.
Gemini Man (Oct. 11th)
Ang Lee claims to have worked out all the kinks from the 120 frames-per-second technology he last employed on Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, promising a peerlessly lifelike viewing experience. Which means that audiences can behold Will Smith like never before, though they may think they’re seeing double. The former Fresh Prince plays Henry Brogan, a government assassin ready to hang up his sniper rifle — and with the help of digital de-aging wizardry, he also plays his younger clone assigned to kill the genuine article. Also, Game of Thrones co-runner David Benioff was brought in to work on the screenplay. Cool.
Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18th)
Watch your back, Nazis, because Taika Waititi and the pluckiest little Hitlerjugend you’ve ever seen are coming to town! The director pulls double duty, starring as one Adolf H., imaginary best buddy to a meek young German boy named Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) in 1940s Vienna. The precocious tyke wants to be a good member of the Third Reich forces, but his sensitive soul and peaceable mother (Scarlett Johansson) guide him elsewhere. Also, Mom is hiding a young Jewish woman (Leave No Trace’s Thomasin McKenzie) in the attic, which puts the boy in a middle of a moral dilemma. It’s fell-good, self-proclaimed “anti-hate satire” of the season.
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Joker (Oct. 4th)
It’s a dark character study. It’s a feature-length homage to ’70s Scorsese and a once-scuzzy New York City. It’s a broadside against the grave injustices of modern society. Just don’t call it a superhero movie, whatever you do. A lot of hubbub has already been raised over Todd Phillips’ interpretation of Batman’s most famous nemesis. In this iteration, he’s ground-down everyman Arthur Fleck, an unstable loser on the verge of snapping in volatile and highly public fashion. It’s inspired outrage about causing potential violence in theaters and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. You’re going to love it or hate it. There is no middle ground.
The King (Oct. 11th)
All hail young lord Timothée, he of the boyish face and estimable talents. Mr. Chalamet tackles the Bard in this adaptation that blends several of his historical plays about King Henry V into one epic tapestry. Assisted by his corpulent right-hand man Falstaff (Joel Edgerton) and vexed by his French rival (Robert Pattinson, rocking a Pepé le Pew-caliber accent), the irresponsible Prince Hal reckons with his destiny to lead England through crisis and onto greatness. Director David Michôd brings the massively scaled battle scenes and shifting power dynamics. The actors bring the questionable haircuts.
The Lighthouse (Oct. 18th)
Off the coast of 19th-century Maine, a solitary lighthouse warns passing ships of rocky waters and acts as a beacon for a free-floating madness. Crusty seaman Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and workaday rambler Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson — him again!) are the latest hardy blokes to tend to the landmark, and quicker than you can say “beckoning mermaids and bloodthirsty seafowl,” things go from your run-of-the-mill cabin fever to much, much worse. The second film from Robert Eggers (The Witch) proves that he is indeed a poet of antiqued lunacy. Don’t forget your galoshes, ye yellow-belly scurvy dog.
Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4th)
Following up 2016’s Jackie and last year’s Vox Lux, Natalie Portman completes her Intensive Accent Work Trilogy with her starring turn as a Texan astronaut named Lucy Cola, who returns from her first space voyage feeling a little … different. She can’t connect to her smiley husband (Dan Stevens) and feels restless whenever she’s not at work; worse, she can’t stop thinking about the handsome colleague (Jon Hamm) who might be flirting with her. Yes, Lucy starts to unravel. No, this doesn’t end well. Noah Hawley (TV’s Fargo, Legion) makes his big-screen directorial debut with a story based loosely (very loosely) on the real-life Lisa Novak.
Pain and Glory (Oct. 4th)
Pedro Almodóvar took the Cannes Film Festival by storm (and earned leading man Antonio Banderas a Best Actor prize) with this memoir-ish portrait of an aging artist in repose. The longtime Pedro collaborator portrays Salvador Mallo, a filmmaker who’s reunited with an old star (Asier Etxeandia) during the anniversary screening of an old movie. The experience suddenly has him looking back on his mother (Penelope Cruz), his childhood of foreign desires and his first love in Madrid. Any resemblance to the actual artist behind the camera is 100-percent intentional; it’s all very 8 1/2 and arguably Almodóvar’s best work in years.
Parasite (Oct. 11th)
South Korean auteur Bong Joon Ho (The Host) puts his spin on the home-invasion thriller, with the story of a low-income family gradually tricking their bourgeois counterparts into hiring them as household help one by one. They take over the place when the employers head out for a weekend getaway, at which point the film turns on a dime and mutates into something stranger, smarter, and altogether more grotesque. Suffice it to say that Korea’s most prominent crossover talent (and winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes) has embedded a searing commentary on class warfare inside a twisty, morbidly hilarious, and sleekly photographed piece of work. Do not miss it.
Western Stars (Oct. 25th)
After Bruce Springsteen released his country-and-California-pop–inflected album Western Stars earlier this year, he declared that he wasn’t going to tour behind it. But he still wanted to bring the music to the fans, so he invited documentarian Thom Zimny, a camera crew and a few dozen old friends to the old barn he keeps on his property. Then he assembled a crack band and played the whole damned thing from start to finish (along with a choice cover for an impromptu encore), capturing the whole thing for posterity. For anyone unable to nab a ticket to his celebrated Broadway residency, this will be the closest a fan can get.
Zombieland: Double Tap (Oct. 18th)
A decade out from the zombie apocalypse, things have pretty much chilled out. Surrogate family unit Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) have gotten the hang of less-than-peacefully coexisting alongside flesh-starved ghouls. But their cozy status quo gets disrupted by the arrival of a few new faces, including ditzy Madison (Zoey Deutch), hardscrabble Nevada (Rosario Dawson), and alter egos for Tallahassee and Columbus (Luke Wilson and Thomas Middleditch). For everyone who wanted a sequel to the 2009 undead-shenanigans comedy, your wish has been granted. Don’t forget to aim for the head.