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25 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at Toronto Film Festival 2016

From big Oscar hopefuls to rock docs and WTF midnight-madness flicks, the must-see movies of TIFF 2016

25 Movies We Can't Wait to See at Toronto Film Festival 2016

From big Oscar hopefuls to rock docs, foreign-language epics to WTF midnight-madness flicks — the 25 must-see movies of Toronto Film Festival 2016.

Courtesy of TIFF (3)

It's that time of year, when the festival axis of Venice, Telluride and Toronto officially kick off the prestige-film season and the steady building drumbeat of the awards circuit starts to grow deafening. But while the Italian fest has the international glamor and the Colorado mountain town's get-together has the cachet of a secret-club meeting at a cinema speakeasy, the Canadian event is the one we always keep an eye on. This is the festival in which you not only get to see what will undoubtedly be causing chatter among the Gold Derby set over the next few months; it's also where you can catch up with earlier Cannes-and-beyond favorites, discover hidden documentary gems, and sample a genuine round-the-world offering of foreign-language treats. All this, and a documentary about the complete and utter history of our universe. Directed by Terrence Malick. In IMAX.

We've parsed the Toronto International Film Festival's lineup, and singled out 25 things we're dying to check out once the 41st edition of the fest kicks off on September 8th. Here are the Oscar-hopeful biopics, the batshit-crazy midnight movies, the stranger-than-fiction tales, the world-cinema treasures, and a few genuinely unclassifiable flicks that are on our must-see list. Let the viewing begin. 

Into the Inferno TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

‘Into the Inferno’

Want to go volcano-spelunking with Werner Herzog? That's the premise of his new documentary/film essay, "co-created" with noted volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer. (Oddly enough, this is one of two projects he has at the fest involving these large, gassy ruptures; see also his narrative feature Salt and Fire.) The pair dive deep into some of the largest active lava-furnaces on the planet in this new project, but this is no gnarly rework of Planet Earth. Because this is Herzog we’re talking about, his press soundbite states that "what we are really chasing is the magical side, the demons, the new gods." You had us at "volcanoes." CB

Jackie TIFF Movie

Courtesy of TIFF


Chilean director Pablo Larrain (No) heads to Toronto with not one but two biopics: Neruda, his take on the famous poet starring Gael García Bernal; and this look at former First Lady Jackie Onassis Kennedy as she endures the President's assassination and the immediate political aftermath. The cast is littered with stars, including Peter Sarsgaard (as RFK), Greta Gerwig, John Hurt and Bill Crudup, but it's Natalie Portman's portrayal of the woman in the pillbox hat that's been attracting the loudest buzz. DF

Justin Timberlake Tennessee TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

‘Justin Timberlake + the Tennesee Kids’

Jonathan Demme gave the world the greatest concert film of all time with Stop Making Sense and has done right by Neil Young in a trilogy of documentaries — now he's trained his camera on pop-music monarch Justin Timberlake. The director was at the Las Vegas blowout performance that concluded the star's 20/20 Experience world tour in January 2015, capturing both the show and the backstage action. The finest living chronicler of musicians doing what they do best, working with the one of the most charismatic pop star in the game? That's music to anyone's ears. CB

'La La Land' TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

‘La La Land’

People have already started going ga-ga over Damien Chazelle's throwback musical, in which Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone engage in some serious Ginger-and-Fred hoofing and everyone breaks into lavish, MGM-style numbers in vibrant, eye-popping color. Whether or not the director's follow-up to the Oscar-winning Whiplash resurrects the genre, we can't wait to see this movie — and we're 100-percent positive that somewhere out there, Arthur Freed is positively beaming. DF

Loving TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF


Richard and Mildred Loving didn't want much more than to be left alone and allowed to build marital bliss in their beloved home state of Virginia. But through the late Fifties and Sixties, their interracial union embroiled them in a landmark legal case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and changed  anti-miscegenation laws forever. Jeff Nichols (Midnight Special) tells the tale of their struggle in a less-tolerant time with understated tenderness; Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga play the history-making couple. CB

Mascots TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF


A new Christopher Guest comedy is always a sight for sore eyes; one about the cutthroat, take-no-prisoners world of professional sports mascots vying for an annual trophy sounds like a gift from the gods. The Best in Show maker's latest mockumentary puts Jane Lynch, Ed Begley Jr., Parker Posey and Fred Willard in the fluffy-suited hot seat and lets them improvise their way through the usual cringe-comic exchanges — only this time, they'll be wearing oversized heads and dancing on the 50-yard line. Yes! DF

'My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea'

Courtesy of TIFF

‘My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea’

Graphic novelist Dash Shaw tells the torrid tale of two high-school newspaper friends who engage in a war of mudslinging — until actual mudslides start occurring due to a massive earthquake and their entire campus begins to, y'know, sink into the sea. (See title.) A who's who of names lend their voices to the delightfully crude animated disaster movie (Maya Rudolph, Reggie Watts, Susan Sarandon, Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham), in which Irwin Allen and John Hughes finally meet on common, if not stable, ground. We've got a very good feeling about this one. DF

'Nocturnal Animals'

Courtesy of TIFF

‘Nocturnal Animals’

Fashion titan Tom Ford made his behind-the-camera debut with the stylish A Single Man (2009); after a seven-year breather, he's back, and putting Amy Adams through her paces as an art gallery owner who sees veiled threats in the violent new novel from her ex-husband (Armie Hammer). The more she obsesses, the more the events of the book happen to play out onscreen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the lead character from the story within the story; Laura Linney, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fill out the ensemble in this sleek-looking thriller. CB

Personal Shopper TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

‘Personal Shopper’

Kristen Stewart gets cyberbullied by a ghost over the course of a 20-minute text-message exchange displayed onscreen — and yes, you’re damn right that it’s compelling cinema. Reuniting with her Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas, Stewart is a marvel as a prima donna's whipping girl tasked with flitting from boutique to boutique. Mostly, she tries to contact the restless spirit of her deceased brother, and realizes she couldn't possibly fathom the forces she’s dealing with until it’s too late. It's profound, unclassifiable and completely haunting. CB


Courtesy of TIFF


Actress/writer/director/you-name-it Alice Lowe helped turn Ben Wheatley's pitch-black comedy Sightseers into a genuinely cracked love story; we can only imagine what she's going to do with the story of a pregnant woman who feels her baby is communicating with her. The in-utero messages, however, involve a lot of how-to tips on committing homicides, which … well, let's just say Mom really wants to bond with her offspring. The fact that Lowe filmed this while actually expectant only adds a gleefully sick edge to the proceedings. Moms-to-be, the gauntlet has been thrown down. DF

The Promise Movie TIFF

Courtesy of TIFF

‘The Promise’

Oh right, the Oscarbait stuff — so how about Oscar Isaac as a medical student, Christian Bale as a seen-it-all journalist and rising international star Charlotte Le Bon as the dancer/artist who comes between them? And World War I is starting to cause strife, upheaval and history-changing class struggles in Europe, where the three of them are located? And also, director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) turns the whole thing into an old-school Doctor Zhivago-style epic, the sort of big-screen romance that people say "Oh, they don't make them like they used to" about. Yeah, that'll do, folks. That'll do. DF

Quiet Passion

Courtesy of TIFF

‘A Quiet Passion’

Imagine Oscar Wilde wrote an epigram-filled biopic of Emily Dickinson — that's the feeling you get watching Terence Davies' extraordinary recounting of the poet's life and work, with Cynthia Nixon adding backbone and a bruised humanity to the person behind the timeless verse. (Apparently, the woman who wrote "This world is not conclusion" was a Miranda; who knew?) The highlight of this year's Berlin Film Festival, the Brit writer-director's period piece has both a beating heart and a tart tongue — the phrase "must-see" was made for movies like this. DF


Courtesy of TIFF


Viva Walter Hil!! The venerable tough-guy director of The Warriors, 48 Hours and Southern Comfort returns with a genuinely WTF story about a surgeon (Sigourney Weaver) who takes revenge upon the hitman who offed her brother. The method in which she prepares that dish served cold, you ask? She gives the male killer a gender-reassignment makeover. Cue Michelle Rodriguez with a gun, bloody chaos and carnage. We have no idea about the sort of thorny political issues this premise will bring up. We do know, however, that Hill's reputation as a peerless pulp-action director precedes him, and that we'll undoubtedly be in for a helluva ride. DF