12 Can’t Miss World Premieres at This Year’s Toronto Film Festival


romanisraelTIFFSony / TIFF

Although festival season has already begun, it’s going to switch into high gear this coming Thursday when the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kicks off eleven days full of movies and events. There’s only so much time in the day vs. the number of movies that can be seen, so I’ve decided to break things down to offer 12 movies I feel can’t be missed.

Before we start, the first thing I did was removed any movie that will already have played at another festival like Cannes, Venice and Telluride, which meant I couldn’t include things like Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, my two most anticipated movies of TIFF.

I also decided that including movies already opening in September made no sense since films like Darren Aronofsky’s mother! and Mike White’s Brad’s Status will already be in theaters before the end of the fest. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Stronger will open shortly after on Sept. 22, and Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House starring Liam Neeson opens a week after that. I’ve also seen two of those, but I’m under embargo and can’t say more, and I’ve seen a few other movies I also can’t talk openly about just yet.

With those stipulations, this is the list of 12 films I came up with that are worth trying to catch at TIFF, in no particular order.

Roman Israel Esq (Sony) – Okay, I lied, because as soon as I heard that Dan Gilroy’s new movie with Denzel Washington was added to TIFF line-up, I knew it was the only real “can’t miss” of the festival. Like some of the other movies on this list, it won’t be released until November so Toronto may be the first and only time to see it for a few months. Gilroy got an Oscar nomination for his previous movie Nightcrawler, which premiered at TIFF as well, and there’s a good chance his follow-up will be just as good.

Molly’s Game (STXFilms) – Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin teams with Jessica Chastain for the true story of a woman who got rich hosting underground poker games for millionaires. There is a reason why Sorkin is such a respected screenwriting, and with this one, he makes his directorial debut. Idris Elba co-stars.

The Death of Stalin – Armando Iannucci is a household name in the UK, but here in the States he’s really only known for the HBO show Veep. His feature film debut In the Loop was just as funny, and he’s now veering into the politics of historic Russia for similar laughs. It stars Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, Steve Buscemi and more.


I, Tonya – Another movie going to TIFF in hopes of getting distribution is this portrait of infamous figure skater Tonya Harding, played here by Margot Robbie. It’s directed by Craig Gillespie of Lars and the Real Girl and co-stars Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney.

Outside In (The Orchard) – Lynn Shelton’s new movie was picked up for distribution just last week, as she reteams with Mark Duplass (from Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister) for this romantic drama co-starring Edie Falco.

The Upside (The Weinstein Co.) – Been looking forward to this one a long time, as it’s the English language remake of the French hit The Intouchables, teaming Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart as a quadriplegic billionaire and the ex-con he takes on as his caretaker. Also starring Julianne Moore and directed by Neil Burger, it’s schedule to open next March.

The Current War (The Weinstein Co.) – Probably the movie that’s the closest to an Oscar hopeful for the Weinsteins is this biopic starring Tom Hiddleston as inventor Thomas Edison and his competitive feud with Michael Shannon’s George Westinghouse to see whose electrical theories will power the world. It also stars Tom Holland and Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla.

Kings – The English language debut from Deniz Gamze Ergüven, whose previous film Mustang received an Oscar nomination. It takes place in 1992 days before the L.A. riots and co-stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig.

I Kill Giants – Based on Joe Kelly’s graphic novel, this coming-of-age story is the directorial debut from Danish director Anders Walter about a teen girl (Madison Wolfe from Joy) who escapes from her life into a fantasy world of magic and monsters.


Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! – Morgan Spurlock’s follow-up to his 2004 Oscar-nominated doc about McDonalds, this one following the filmmaker’s attempt to open his own mock fast food chain called “Holy Chicken!” in Columbus, Ohio.

Woman Walks Ahead – Another movie starring Jessica Chastain as a real person – possibly doubling her chances at an Oscar nomination — this time playing 19th Century Brooklyn artist Catherine Weldon who became a confidante to the Sioux Chief Sitting Bull. It’s directed by Susanna White (Our Kind of Traitor) from a script by Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Locke)

Breathe (Bleecker Street/Participant Media) – Andy Serkis finally makes his directorial debut with this story of a man paralyzed by polio, played by Andrew Garfield, with Claire Foy from The Crown playing his wife. It opens in October, but it should be worth checking out early.

Honorable Mention: Chappaquiddick – Filmmaker John Curran (We Don’t Live Here Anymore) directs this retelling of the 1069 fatal car crash that nearly derailed the political of Ted Kennedy, played by Jason Clarke. Kate Mara plays Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in the crash.

Other movies that look good but will have already played Telluride and/or Venice before their TIFF premieres include Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, Paul McGuigan’s Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and the “Midnight Madness” offering Brawl in Cell Block 99, starring Vince Vaughn.

You can expect that either Jeff Sneider or I or both of us will be writing something about all the above as we survey all that TIFF has to offer.

The Tracking Board’s  will begin on Thursday, Sept. 7.

  | East Coast Editor

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