It is always darkest just before dawn. August has often served as Hollywood’s dumping ground for forgettable films that quickly fade into obscurity, and this August has been particularly brutal. Despite the relative box office success of Crazy Rich Asians and the baser thrills of The Meg, you won’t find worse movies this year than Mile 22 and The Happytime Murders. What’s more, not a single movie this August has landed in the top 10 in box office earnings in the month’s history. The good news, at least, is that once September arrives, better blockbusters begin to trickle in—consider last year’s historic debut of Stephen King’s It—and, eventually, so does awards-season bait that could compete against the likes of Black Panther and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at next year’s Oscars.
There are just two weeks to go before this blessed transition, so we might as well start looking ahead. Here is a Fall Movie Anticipation Index to help categorize the most anticipated releases of the coming months—from Bradley Cooper’s whiskey throat in A Star Is Born to the return of Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Myers in Halloween to Ryan Gosling as an astronaut in First Man.
The Sequels, Spinoffs, and Reboots
The Nun (September 7)
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Demián Bichir, Bonnie Aarons, Jonas Bloquet
The latest entrant in Warner Bros.’ eminently profitable Conjuring universe already caused a stir online when YouTube had to ban one of its ads for, essentially, freaking the shit out of people. (List of those recently banned by YouTube: Alex Jones and Valak the Demon Nun.) The Nun looks exceptionally scary on the basis of aesthetics alone—a Romanian abbey in the middle of the forest? No thanks. The eponymous nun remains pure nightmare fuel and makes me wonder whether people will pass out at screenings.
Halloween (October 19)
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Nick Castle, Judy Greer, Will Patton
Since John Carpenter’s original masterpiece, the Halloween franchise has stumbled at nearly every turn, but there’s reason to be optimistic that this upcoming sequel can stick the landing. For starters, Blumhouse—the company behind Get Out, Split, and Sinister—is behind the new revival. Jamie Lee Curtis is returning as Laurie Strode—and, for the purposes of this narrative, the character has been preparing for the inevitable return of Michael Myers, who’s been locked away for decades. (Spoiler: He’s going to get out.) Here’s hoping Curtis, an iconic scream queen, goes out with a bang in what should be her last Halloween film.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web (November 9)
Cast: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
Though it’s a small tragedy that David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo never got a proper sequel with Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, The Girl in the Spider’s Web will at least provide some follow-up to Stieg Larsson’s chilly story. (Picture The Snowman, but good.) Best of all, we’ll get to see the full range of Claire Foy, as she goes from calmly sipping tea and delivering subtle shade as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown to tying up abusive men and tasering their junk while sporting a pixie cut as Lisbeth Salander.
Creed II (November 21)
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu
After Ryan Coogler breathed fresh life into the Rocky franchise with the first Creed, the sequel sees Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed get even more shredded to take on his most challenging opponent yet: the son of Ivan Drago, the boxer who killed Creed’s father in the ring. Given that Coogler’s Creed was one of the best blockbusters of the 21st century, Creed II is laden with massive expectations—made even more challenging to meet now that the talented auteur has stepped back from directorial duties. If the new film can meet the hype, this franchise should at least find meaningful life in a trilogy.
Mary Poppins Returns (December 19)
Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury
Disney’s big swing this Christmas comes from a place of deep nostalgia: the long-awaited sequel to Mary Poppins, which came out more than half a century ago. Replacing Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke—no word on why they aren’t reprising their roles—are Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, respectively. Miranda’s boisterous charm turned Hamilton into the biggest Broadway hit in over a decade, and the consistently talented Blunt is long overdue for an Oscar nomination. If the internet hasn’t convinced the Academy to bury the idea of a popular film category and pretend it never happened, I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie is competing for that award come 2019.
Bumblebee (December 21)
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, John Ortiz, Pamela Adlon
Hear me out: Bumblebee, the first Transformers spinoff, looks great. It also isn’t being directed by Michael Bay; instead, Travis Knight, the filmmaker behind the excellent and surprisingly mature animated movie Kubo and the Two Strings, is at the helm. The stakes of Bumblebee appear to be much smaller; based on the first trailer, it seems to have far fewer Bayian explosions, instead focusing on the bond between a girl and a machine. It’s basically Herbie, if Herbie could also transform into a gigantic robot. Sign me up. I will die on the Bumblebee bandwagon.
Bradley Cooper Wants an Oscar
A Star Is Born (October 5)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
I’ve already convinced myself that A Star Is Born, a remake of a remake starring and directed by Bradley Cooper, is either going to be a huge critical and commercial hit or a spectacular failure. There will be no in-between. This movie is such a bizarre and fascinating collection of talents, including but not limited to: Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott (because it’s a country drama), and [squints] Dave Chappelle? One thing’s for certain: A Star Is Born ought to be memorable … if only because this image of Bradley Cooper leering out of a car window will haunt me forever:
Other People Would Also Like to Win Oscars
Widows (November 16)
Cast: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya, Brian Tyree Henry
The latest film from Academy Award winner Steve McQueen is like an Oscars version of The Avengers: The director has rounded up Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Brian Tyree Henry, Daniel Kaluuya, Garret Dillahunt, Liam Neeson, Jon Bernthal, and even the great thespian Carrie Coon for what seems like a fascinating inverse of the heist-movie formula. What happens when a group of, well, widows tries to plan a big heist after the deaths of their criminal husbands? One thing is for sure: Casting Liam Neeson to play an action-hero type only to immediately kill him off is a boss move by McQueen.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (November 16)
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan
What do the Coen brothers have in mind with The Ballad of Buster Scruggs? Considering that the Netflix project was initially pegged as an anthology series, it’s hard to tell; perhaps the movie will coalesce as a series of weird Western vignettes. Whatever the case, the Coens’ pedigree makes this a can’t-miss film, especially since it’s their first time back on the frontier since 2010’s True Grit.
If Beale Street Could Talk (November 30)
Cast: KiKi Layne, Stephan James, Colman Domingo, Pedro Pascal, Dave Franco, Diego Luna
An adaption of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk looks like another stunning portrait of African American life from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins—the focus moving from Florida to the streets of Harlem. The movie will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, at which point we’ll be able to better gauge how this film compares to Jenkins’s Best Picture winner.
Mary Queen of Scots (December 7)
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Joe Alwyn, Guy Pearce
After both actresses were nominated for Oscars last year, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan are combining forces. Ronan plays the TITULAR ROLE of Mary, Queen of Scots, with Robbie’s Queen Elizabeth I serving as her friend turned heated rival. It’s like Game of Thrones meets The Crown. Robbie and Ronan seem primed for Oscar nods come February.
Movies Specifically About Boys
Beautiful Boy (October 12)
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan
[Grabs megaphone.] Timmy Season is back. Beautiful Boy pairs Chalamet with Steve Carell in a true story about a son with a meth addiction and a father desperately trying to help and repair their broken relationship. Get the tissues ready.
Boy Erased (November 2)
Cast: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton
Based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, Boy Erased is a weighty, resonant story about gay conversion therapy that has the all the looks of an Oscar winner. Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges will portray a character based on Conley on the big screen, as the young actor continues to build a résumé of award-winning projects rivaled by only fellow talented boy Chalamet.
The Non-Boy-Related Bio-dramas
First Man (October 12)
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke
Damien Chazelle had Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sing and dance at an observatory in La La Land, and now he’s shooting Gosling into space. Because First Man is a true story about Neil Armstrong, we know how it’s going to play out, but the arduous journey to get to the moon is compelling in and of itself. First Man has one of the best trailers of the year, and feels like a shoo-in for the upcoming Best Picture discussion.
Bohemian Rhapsody (November 2)
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Aidan Gillen, Tom Hollander
Art imitates life in 20th Century Fox’s Queen biopic, as the behind-the-scenes drama involving director Bryan Singer that nearly derailed Bohemian Rhapsody mirrors one of the band’s notoriously spectacular spats. But with Singer out of the picture and Rami Malek, at the very least, looking like a dead ringer for Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody could be the musical drama that takes over the fall—especially if A Star Is Born fails to make much of an impact.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (October 19)
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Jane Curtin, Tim Cummings
Melissa McCarthy hasn’t come close to Oscars relevance since her supporting-actress nod for 2011’s Bridesmaids, but Can You Ever Forgive Me?—in which she plays noted forger Lee Israel—is her best bet to break that seven-year spell. (Lord knows The Happytime Murders isn’t going to do it.) Her screen partner is Richard E. Grant. That combo is not something I’d ever considered before, but now I can’t stop thinking about it. Can it be October yet?
Shameless IP Adaptations
The Predator (September 14)
Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, Sterling K. Brown
If anyone could revitalize the Predator franchise, it’s director Shane Black, who starred in the original film. Unfortunately, The Predator has been forced into multiple reshoots—reshoots aren’t necessarily a bad sign, but multiple reshoots are a different story—and the trailers haven’t swung the pendulum toward either pure horror or action. Really, the only prevailing feeling is sheer perplexity over Jacob Tremblay being featured so prominently. Although, if Tremblay kills the Predator, I’ll rescind all criticism.
Venom (October 5)
Cast: Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Michelle Williams, Jenny Slate
I’m not sure what’s more confusing: Tom Hardy doing a jumbled New Yorker accent even though the film is based in San Francisco, or the recent reports that suggest Venom will be given a PG-13 rating. If Venom had anything going for it, it was the assurance that the alien symbiote would rack up a gory body count rivaling that of Deadpool. However, if the PG-13 rumors ring true, Venom is another missed opportunity for a comic book film that could’ve used an edgier spin.
The … Original Blockbuster?
Overlord (November 9)
Cast: Wyatt Russell, Jovan Adepo, Jacob Anderson, Pilou Asbæk
Overlord is an explosive World War II drama with a fictitious spin: American soldiers uncover some depraved Nazi experiments on humans that might be turning them into super-soldiers, zombies, or something in between. It looks like a bloody romp, but more importantly: Overlord is … not based on any existing property (though credit to Call of Duty for making Nazi zombies mainstream); J.J. Abrams confirmed it is not part of the Cloverfield universe, as was initially rumored. With impressive-seeming production value and no big IP to lean on, Overlord is an inherent gamble in 2018. But at its core, Overlord combines the creepy aesthetics of psychological horror movies with explosions: two very good things. I want Overlord to be good, if only because wholly original blockbusters not directed by Christopher Nolan are an increasingly rare commodity.
The Weird Prestige Films
Suspiria (November 2)
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Chloë Grace Moretz
I was already stoked to hear that Luca Guadagnino was remaking Dario Argento’s horror masterpiece Suspiria—especially off the heels of Call Me by Your Name—and a cast led by Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, and Chloë Grace Moretz only heightens that anticipation. If nothing else, the new Suspiria might have the best trailer of the year so far.
The Favourite (November 23)
Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult
A period piece that’s super weird and esoteric? That’s what happens when you combine the royal politics of Queen Anne with the enigmatic Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). You’d know if you’ve seen a Lanthimos movie — if only for his trademark stitled, alien-like dialogue. (I can’t get enough of it.) Will the auteur’s style clash with the 18th-century setting of The Favourite? Perhaps, but it’s just as likely that it’ll be yet another reason to appreciate the enormous talents of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone.
Bad Times at the El Royale (October 12)
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Chris Hemsworth
Television has embraced mystery-box dramas—but what about a mystery-box motion film? That’s the basic conceit of Bad Times at the El Royale, from writer-director Drew Goddard, the mind behind the meta, labyrinthine plotting of The Cabin in the Woods, as well as Cloverfield. This movie should be more than meets the eye—though I don’t understand why the trailer barely relies on its main selling point: shirtless Chris Hemsworth.
The Passion Projects
Mid90s (October 19)
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston
Jonah Hill makes his feature-film directorial debut with a love letter to ’90s skating culture—a sentence that would’ve sounded unreal a decade ago, off the heels of Superbad. Mid90s doesn’t look promising only because A24 is attached (though that helps!); it looks like it was stuck in a time capsule for two decades, with Hill embracing a grainy, VHS-like resolution and Movietone aspect ratio. As for Sunny Suljic, who was last seen getting poisoned in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the young actor’s arrow is pointing up.
Roma (Late 2018)
Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Daniela Demesa, Enoc Leaño
When The Ringer’s Sean Fennessey spoke with some people around the industry, they considered Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix film debut, Roma, one of the most spectacular cinematic experiences of the decade. The stirring trailer, entirely in black and white, chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City—an intimate tale that Cuarón says calls back to his youth and the women who shaped him. Keep an eye on your Netflix queue for Roma, or, better yet, check it out when it gets a limited theatrical release later this year.