Jokers, Jedis and Singing Cats: The 50 Best Movies to See This Fall - Rolling Stone
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Fall Movie Preview 2019: Jokers, Jedis and Singing, Dancing Cats

From scary clowns to singing calicos, neurotic supervillains to real-life superheroes — the 50 movies you need to see this fall

Let’s face it: Unless you were a young man who woke up in a world without Beatles or you happened to be a Disney shareholder, it’s been a rough summer movie-wise. Can’t-miss franchises gave us new entries that missed spectacularly; A-list comedies did D-list box office; reboots bored audiences senseless. Sleeper hits were few and far between, and usually had A24 stamped on them. By mid-July, you could already feel moviegoers saying: Thanks for Avengers: Endgame and all, but can the Fall Movie start a little earlier this year, please?

It’s not like you won’t get summer-movie–type fare once the leaves start turning crisp and brown — peruse the 50 movies we’ve highlighted below, all of which drop after Labor Day but before New Year’s Eve, and you’ll find superhero-related blockbusters (Joker), sequels (It: Chapter Two, Frozen 2, Rambo: Last Blood) and a project featuring the words “Star Wars” prominently in the title (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker). Autumn is no longer an all prestige-drama, all the time situation, man can’t live on important-people biopics alone.

But what’s great about the Fall Movie Season circa 2019 is that it’s now possible to get a well-balanced cinematic diet over a four-month period. There’s plenty of what the kids call “Oscarbait” hitting theaters before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31st. There is also Hollywood action movies and romantic comedies, both highbrow and high-concept sci-fi, literary adaptations, animated family fare, biblical sagas, big-budget epics by brand-name auteurs, Broadway musicals, old-school murder mysteries, French cop procedurals, British horror movies, South Korean social satires, and even a few projects filed under “unclassifiable” (lookin’ at you, Jojo Rabbit).

No matter what your particular tastes are, you’ll find something in our Fall Movie Preview that feels tailored just for you. Hopefully, you’ll find a few things outside your normal viewing habits and will seek those out as well. Regardless, these are the 50 films we’re excited about, curious about, invested in and/or 99-percent sure will be the ones generating non stop chatter well into next year. From Jokers to Jellicles — here’s what to check out this season.

(from left) Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) and Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) in Queen & Slim, directed by Melina Matsoukas.

Universal Pictures

‘Queen & Slim’ (Nov. 27)

A man (Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya) and a woman (Jodie Turner-Smith) are on a date. Cops pull them over for driving while being black; after the traffic stop ends with shots fired in self-defense and an officer down, the two become fugitives and are forced to go underground. And quicker than a character can say they they are “the black Bonnie and Clyde,” this couple on the run have also become viral folk heroes of sorts. Bokeem Woodbine, Chloe Sevigny, Indya Moore and Flea costar. Lena Waithe wrote the screenplay; Melina Matsoukas, the visual artist who directed Beyoncé’s “Formation” video, makes her feature-film debut. You want a visually ravishing outlaw story set against the backdrop of today’s racist America? You got it.

‘The Aeronauts’ (Dec. 6)

The Theory of Everything stars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are reunited for this tale of James Glaisher, a 19th century scientist and lover of flight who pioneered hot-air ballooning. The Oscar-winning Redmayne plays the man of means and muttonchops; Jones is his copilot, a composite character partially based on Ameila Earhart who must battle the elements — and something called gravity — alongside the dashing gent. Up, up and away, as the kids say.

A24

‘In Fabric’ (Dec. 6)

British director Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy) drops another nugget of fetish-filled horror, with two stories revolving around a haunted red dress. Yes, you read that correctly: An evening gown, possessed by ill spirits and doing the bidding of a very retail-friendly coven, invades the lives — and psyches — of a middle-class woman (the great Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and a nebbishy young man (Leo Bill). It’s one part homage to the old Amicus anthology movies, one part acid-dipped neo-giallo and one part consumerist satire par excellence.

‘Little Joe’ (Dec. 6)

Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner’s unnerving horror film about a plant breeder (Into the Badlands‘ Emily Beechum) and the mysterious gift she brings home for her son has already earned comparisons to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Shining and the work of David Cronenberg; Beechum’s Best Actress win at Cannes pretty much cements the need-to-see-this-ASAP deal. It seems this new hybrid she’s been working on has some…narcotic aspects that cause those who come into contact with it to achieve a euphoric state. Which leads to addiction, worshipping their vegetative savior, defending their newfound sense of peace and, of course, worse.

Valerie Pachner and August Diehl in the film A HIDDEN LIFE. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Valerie Pachner and August Diehl in the film A HIDDEN LIFE. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

‘A Hidden Life’ (Dec. 13)

The phrase “return to form” was being thrown around a lot this past spring when Terrence Malick premiered his latest at Cannes, which is great news for folks who’ve been hoping he’d return to a slightly sturdier form of storytelling à la Days of Heaven. But that doesn’t suggest that the famously iconoclastic filmmaker has abandoned his ethereal style or the spiritual concerns that have dominated his post-“comeback” years, either. In tackling the story of real-life Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), a devoted Christian who refuses to enlist in Hitler’s army during WWII, Malick has apparently found the perfect blend of narrative and free-form naturalism through which to examine his hero’s crisis of conscience. The man is a major artist. And this could well be the defining movie of his career. Attention must be paid.

Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart

‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ (Dec. 13)

Because what, you thought there wouldn’t be a sequel to Sony’s insanely successful reboot of the board-game-run-amuck blockbuster? Part 2 more or less picks up where the 2017 franchise extension left off, with Alex Wolff repairing the computerized version of Jumanji and getting sucked back into the virtual jungle. His friends, along with his grandfather (Danny DeVito), go in after him. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan return; Danny Glover and Awkwafina join in on the fun. If you like adventures and have ever wanted to hear the Rock talk like he’s a squat, 74-year-old from Asbury Park, this is the movie for you.

A24

‘Uncut Gems’ (Dec. 13)

Yes, he’s been filling up Netflix queues with some questionable comedies — but it bears repeating that, when Adam Sandler gets the right material and the right filmmakers to guide him, the man is a first-rate actor. (See: Punch Drunk Love, of course, but also the vastly underrated The Meyerowitz Stories.) And this gritty-looking story of a New York jeweler trying to sell a number of diamonds, and other precious stones, in the rough at an auction looks like just the ticket. Josh and Benny Safdie, the brothers who gave the world a beautifully scuzzy Robert Pattinson in Good Times, have been attempting to get this project off the ground for years; we’re so glad this finally came together with Sandler in the lead.

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Bombshell

Hilary B Gayle

‘Bombshell’ (Dec. 20)

We’ve already had a small-screen miniseries devoted to the rise and fall of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes this year; now comes the big-screen feature-film version. John Lithgow takes on the role of conservative media’s groper-in-chief and thenman who would be kingmaker; Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson (!); an almost unrecognizable Charlize Theron is a dead ringer for Megyn Kelly (!!!); and Margot Robbie is a composite of every poor young blonde employee who had to endure being pawed, bullied and/or made complicit regarding the feeding of Ailes’ appetites. Before you start yelling “wait, this is directed by the guy who made Austin Powers?”, remember that Jay Roach also did Game Change, that surprisingly strong HBO drama about Sarah Palin starring Julianne Moore.

Universal Pictures

‘Cats’ (Dec. 20)

The trailer for this long-awaited movie of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway behemoth caused a lot of fur to fly when it hit the internet last month, and it does not get any less disturbing the more you watch it. But listen, in a fall season dominated by jokers and jedis, why not bring on the Jellicles? Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, James Corden, Judi Dench (finally!), Jennifer Hudson and Rebel Wilson all strap on the kitty ears and sing about being all alone in the moonlight, etc. Whether director Tom Hopper, no stranger to bringing ginourmous song-and-dance spectacles to the screen (Les Miserables), can channel the spirit of the beloved theatrical production is anyone’s guess, but this is shaping up to be the year-end, big-budget felinecentric megamusical movie to beat. Let the meow-mory live again.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:  THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Lucasfilm Ltd

‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ (Dec. 20)

What do we know about the upcoming ninth episode (and 11th Star Wars movie): It is the final entry in the “Skywalker Saga”; it will definitely feature Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac; Billy Dee Williams (yes) is back as Lando Calrissian (yesss!); you’re going to get droids and Wookiees and light sabers and firefights; The Force Awakens‘ J.J. Abrams is once again in the director’s seat; and … well, that’s really it. “No one is ever really gone,” says a voice in the teaser, and in the age of endless franchise moviemaking, that has never been more true. May the Force be with you, etc.

JAKE GILES NETTER

‘Just Mercy’ (Dec. 25)

Michael B. Jordan takes one potential step closer to becoming “Oscar nominee Michael B. Jordan” with this true-life tale of lawyer/social activist Bryan Stevenson, who ensures that Alabama’s courts keeps up the “…and justice for all” part. Naturally, he comes up against a case involving an innocent man convicted of murder that will test both his resolve and our nation’s legal system. Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) directs the adaptation of Stevenson’s memoirs. Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. costar.

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh in Columbia Pictures’ LITTLE WOMEN.

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh in Columbia Pictures’ LITTLE WOMEN. Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures

‘Little Women’ (Dec. 25)

Yes, the Louisa May Alcott novel about the March sisters — Meg, Amy, Jo and Beth, for those playing along at home — has been turned into a movie almost half a dozen times over the last 80-plus years. And yes, the fact that Greta Gerwig is following up her stunning directorial debut Lady Bird by putting her own stamp on this literary classic is indeed a reason to celebrate. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Midsommar‘s Florence Pugh and Sharp Objects’ breakout star Eliza Scanlen are the plucky, resilient and rebellious young heroines; Timothée Chalamet is a dashing (and dancing) Theodore Laurence; and hell, let’s throw in Laura Dern and Meryl Streep for some extra firepower as well. You do not have to be a bookworm to feel like this is a Christmas present worth unwrapping.

Francois Duhamel / Universal Pic

‘1917’ (Dec. 25)

World War I was a living hell, one that senselessly turned young men from several continents into cannon fodder (we’ve seen Paths of Glory several times, so we totally know what’s up). Which is why, when the military brass discovers that a planned mission will inadvertently send troops into an ambush, they have to stop the senseless slaughter. Two soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) must slip past enemy lines and inform the battalion to stay put. Should they fail, hundreds will die, include the brother of one of the messengers. Director Sam Mendes has supposedly choreographed a single-shot siege scene that is mind-blowing. Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth show up to make things extra Britishy, while Richard Madden drops by to add extra handsomeness.

Paul Sarkis/Neon Pictures

‘Clemency’ (Dec. 27)

A capital-punishment story that doubles as a devastating character study, writer-director Chinonye Chukwu’s award-winning drama watches as a veteran prison warden (Alfre Woodard) and a death-row prisoner (an incredible Aldis Hodge) both deal with his upcoming date of execution. You expect this to turn into a typical social-issue handwringer — instead, the movie keeps skewing more towards how ending a person’s life takes a moral toll on all of those involved. And without saying too much, there’s a nearly five-minute unbroken shot of Woodard’s face near the end that will absolutely leave you shattered.

THE LAUNDROMAT

Claudette Barius/Netflix

‘The Laundromat’ (Fall 2019)

Remember the Panama Papers leak? Steven Soderbergh does — and he’s enlisted Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas to help tell the tale of a widow, a vast network of not-so-legal tax dealings, and some financial no-goodniks pulling strings for the rich, the famous and the infamous. We’re so glad this man decided that whole retirement thing was a bad idea.

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