Stars will be born and reborn this fall as the blockbuster dog days fade into the shimmer of awards season.
Fall’s big film festivals begin around Labor Day, jump-starting a derby that will chug its way through early 2019. But popcorn crowd-pleasers still emerge amid the prestige, whether it’s Michael Myers returning home after 40 years, Michael B. Jordan donning his “Creed” suit or Tiffany Haddish serving up not one, not two, but three star-studded comedies.
Here’s a handpicked sampling of what’s on tap at the movies from September through December, grouped according to unifying traits.
Which dashing gentleman is right for you? Last year’s heartthrob of choice, Timothée Chalamet, is back to threaten this year’s heartthrob of choice, Henry Golding ― unless 2016′s heartthrob of choice, Mahershala Ali, has anything to say about it. The heartthrob hunt is on.
Sometimes heartthrobs make us weep, as Chalamet is likely to do as a meth addict opposite Steve Carell in the father-son drama “Beautiful Boy” (Oct. 12). Other times, they charm us, as Ali surely will in the 1960s-set “Green Book” (Nov. 22), a reverse “Driving Miss Daisy” with fellow heartthrob Viggo Mortensen chauffeuring Ali’s classical pianist during a tour of the South.
But Golding, hot off “Crazy Rich Asians,” is a major threat, co-headlining funnyman Paul Feig’s first thriller, “A Simple Favor” (Sept. 14), alongside Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. And then there’s the OG heartthrob, Matthew McConaughey, who will smolder his way through two crime escapades: the drug-kingpin saga “White Boy Rick” (Sept. 14) and the sensual noir “Serenity” (Oct. 19, pictured above).
Beyond “Hereditary” and the Omarose Manigault Newman news cycle, summer wasn’t nearly scary enough. Here comes fall to the rescue, first with the latest installment in the three-decades-long “Predator” franchise. Sporting an illustrious article in its title, “The Predator” (Sept. 14) places “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black at the head of the series, which finds a young boy (Jacob Tremblay) inadvertently calling the titular hunters back to Earth.
About a month later, another iconic hunter will return to multiplexes: Michael Myers, supreme boogeyman. “Halloween” (Oct. 19) raises Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from the dead to confront the masked madman who murdered her friends 40 years ago. Right before the real Halloween, “Call Me by Your Name” maestro Luca Guadagnino’s much-anticipated remake of the Italian horror gem “Suspiria” (Oct. 26) turns Tilda Swinton into an enigmatic witch and Dakota Johnson into the dance student under her tutelage. Capping it off, “Overlord” (Nov. 9) renders World War II even more of a nightmare, chronicling bloody brutes born out of a Nazi experiment gone hellishly wrong.
Song and Dance
And now for a musical interlude or four.
Which do you prefer: pop stars acting or actors pop-starring? Well, you’ll get both. Lady Gaga finds herself stuck in another romance gone bad when she joins first-time director Bradley Cooper in his rocker remake of the classic Judy Garland-Barbra Streisand vehicle “A Star Is Born” (Oct. 5). Then Rami Malek gets to pretend to be an arena idol in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Nov. 2), a biopic about Queen and late frontman Freddie Mercury.
Fifty-four years after Julie Andrews rode an umbrella into the Banks’ medicine-fearing home, Emily Blunt takes over in the sequel “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 19), directed by “Chicago” and “Into the Woods” honcho Rob Marshall. And then there’s “Bodied” (Nov. 2), a feisty opera about competitive rap battles from Joseph Kahn, who directed such famous music videos as Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine,” Eminem’s “Without Me,” Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.”
Who wants one celebrity when you can have half a dozen or more?
In “The Old Man & the Gun” (Sept. 28), Robert Redford goes out with a bang, playing a career criminal in his final movie before retirement. He’s joined by Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Casey Affleck, Elisabeth Moss, Tom Waits and “BlacKkKlsansman” breakout John David Washington. Not enough for you? Try on the sleek-looking thriller “Bad Times at El Royale” (Oct. 12) for size. Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Jim O’Heir and Nick Offerman check into the titular hotel straddling the California-Nevada border, where secrets are currency.
The crime spree continues with “The Sisters Brothers” (Sept. 21), a meditative travelogue about two hitmen (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly) hunting down a prospector (Jake Gyllenhaal) and opportunistic chemist (Riz Amed) at the height of the Gold Rush.
Already headlining the Oscar race are “Widows” (Nov. 16) and “The Front Runner” (Nov. 7). Both movies’ rosters are too stacked to list in full, so know that the former has Steve McQueen directing Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo (fall’s ensemble queen) as they step in to finish their late husbands’ botched heist. In “The Front Runner,” Jason Reitman shepherds the real story of Gary Hart’s scandalous presidential bid, with Hugh Jackman playing the Colorado senator and Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, Alfred Molina, Kaitlyn Dever, Mike Judge and Alex Karpovsky providing supporting assists.
Every movie roundup should be rife with quirky workplace comedies, but Jennifer Lopez will have to carry autumn’s torch via “Second Act” (Nov. 21), in which she plays a Costco nine-to-fiver who suddenly gets to “Working Girl” her way through a private finance firm. Real-life BFF Leah Remini plays Lopez’s onscreen BFF, and man-of-the-moment Milo Ventimiglia shows up as her supportive significant other.
Fans of Nicolas Cage, Michael Moore and Hilary Swank are in for treats, too, with the rowdy supernatural thrill ride “Mandy” (Sept. 14), the anti-Trump documentary “Fahrenheit 11/9” (Sept. 21) and the family dramedy “What They Had” (Oct. 19).
Bring on the auteurs, the ladies and gents whose fingerprints give films their zest.
All eyes are on Barry Jenkins, who will follow up “Moonlight” with the James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk” (Nov. 30). “Enough Said” saint Nicole Holofcener returns with her first directorial feature since 2013, casting Ben Mendelsohn as a new retiree drifting through a midlife crisis in “The Land of Steady Habits” (Sept. 14).
Meanwhile, “La La Land” chieftain Damien Chazelle gives the story of Neil Armstrong a vérité treatment in “First Man” (Oct. 12), with Ryan Gosling playing the Apollo 11 moon man. The unpredictable Greek humorist Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster,” “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) gets a touch more mainstream with “The Favourite” (Nov. 23), a regal 18th-century farce starring Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz.
And then there’s “ROMA” (Dec. 14), a portrait of middle-class life in Mexico helmed by the stately Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity,” “Children of Men”).
Best Actress Contenders
So many seasoned actresses are giving exciting performances this winter that it’s hard to name just five Oscar hopefuls. Consider this less of a formal prognostication and more of a Hollywood who’s who.
Melissa McCarthy goes dramatic in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (Oct. 19), a biopic about a struggling journalist who starts concocting fabrications when her career falters. Saoirse Ronan leaves “Lady Bird” behind for a royal affair, playing the titular monarch in “Mary Queen of Scots” (Dec. 7). Felicity Jones steps into the shoes of American royalty, playing a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a feminist crusade in “On the Basis of Sex” (Dec. 25).
Nicole Kidman deglams as an LAPD detective working through a gang-related case that has haunted her for years in “Destroyer” (Dec. 25). And Kathryn Hahn brings her effervescent verve to the dramedy “Private Life” (Oct. 5), a Netflix original in which she and Paul Giamatti play New York artists struggling to get pregnant.
Choose Your Own Tiffany Haddish Adventure
After “Girls Trip” and Groupon made Tiffany Haddish 2017′s breakout sensation, everyone wanted a piece of her. Naturally, that resulted in a succession of comedies that will let Haddish flex her deft physical humor multiple times over.
First up is “Night School” (Sept. 28), in which she plays a GED teacher instructing a classroom of rabble-rousers played by the likes of Kevin Hart and Ben Schwartz. Then comes “The Oath” (Oct. 12), Ike Barinholtz’s directorial debut about a family trying to make it through Thanksgiving without their political divides turning perilous. Finally, there’s “Nobody’s Fool” (Nov. 2), a Tyler Perry project in which Haddish reunites with her sister (Tika Sumpter) and mother (Whoopi Goldberg) after getting out of jail.
Choose Your Own Lucas Hedges Adventure
Lucas Hedges scored an Oscar nomination for “Manchester by the Sea,” the role that made him a star. Now he has three opportunities to repeat.
Two of them let him play house with Hollywood royalty: “Ben Is Back” (Dec. 7), in which Hedges is Julia Roberts’ prodigal son, and “Boy Erased” (Nov. 2), in which he’s the offspring of an evangelical Nicole Kidman, who sends him to conversion therapy after discovering he’s gay.
Hedges goes in a different direction for Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, “Mid90s” (Oct. 19), which finds the 21-year-old actor playing the punkish older brother of a 13-year-old skateboarder seeking refuge from his distressed home life.
The Sagas Continue
Fall won’t be without its big-budget behemoths, including the requisite superhero slug-outs (Marvel’s “Venom” and DC’s “Aquaman”) and Transformers adjunct (“Bumblebee”).
But the most exciting franchise installments are “Creed II” (Nov. 21), in which Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) trains to defeat the son of the boxer who killed his father years earlier, and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” (Nov. 16), the second entry in the “Harry Potter” prequel streak. Jude Law (yay) joins the troupe as a young Albus Dumbledore, while Johnny Depp (nay) shows up as a young Gellert Grindelwald.
Unfortunately, the make-out potential is slim.