9 Movies We're Excited to See at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

Wondering what to see at TIFF? We've got you covered.

Originally conceived as the Festival of Festivals, the Toronto International Film Festival, now in its 40th year, is bigger and better than ever. Second only to Cannes, it's the singular destination for international premieres and boasts a healthy marketplace to boot. This year, its lineup spans festival darlings from Cannes (Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann, Jim Jarmusch's Paterson, Andrea Arnold's American Honey) to Sundance (Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation, Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women, Kenneth Longeran's Manchester by the Sea) and Berlinale (Mia Hansen-Love's Things to Come).

But most of all, TIFF is known for its strong premiere programming in the "Discovery," "Next Wave," "Vanguard," and "Contemporary World Cinema" sections. This year, the topics range from Misery-like horror, radicalized Islamists, pyromania, migrant life, meditations on silent turtles, life with a deformity, and so much more. We're looking forward to seeing which boundaries TIFF can push this year. Below, we've selected some of our most-anticipated movies.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea, dir. Dash Shaw

Arrival, dir. Denis Villeneuve

Credit: TIFF
What's there to say that hasn't already been said about Denis Villeneuve's highly-anticipated sci-fi? The director has been skirting the boundaries of the genre since his breakout doppelganger tale Enemy hit theaters in 2013. He can certainly abandon the subtleties of surrealism now, however, as Arrival promises to be a no-holds-barred lead-up to his sequel to one of the most beloved sci-fi films of all time: Blade Runner. Arrival is already getting rave reviews and promises to be a much-needed breath of fresh air in a tired and action-laden genre. Sci-fi that prioritizes the mysteries of the universe (Jonathan Glazer's Under The Skin) over space combat (The Avengers, Star Trek) deserves to be taken seriously. If Canada's golden boy isn't a household name by opening weekend of this release, then something other than an impending alien invasion is wrong with the world. —Jon Fusco

Barry, dir. Vikram Gandhi

Credit: TIFF
Barry may have been beaten to the theaters by Southside With You, the first fictional film about young Barack Obama, but we are even more excited about this TIFF premiere. Unlike Southside, which focused on Barack and Michelle’s first date, Barry shows us the president’s junior year at Columbia University in 1981. What really makes this film stand out is the team behind it. Director Vikram Gandhi has a background primarily in news and docs, having been a video journalist at VICE, for one, which bodes well for his ability to make a fictionalized tale feel visceral and real. And we’ve long been fans of writer Adam Mansbach, who may be most famous for the best-selling picture book Go the F**k to Sleep, but was also in the same Sundance Screenwriters Lab class as breakouts Ryan Coogler, David Lowery, and Marielle Heller. —Liz Nord

The Bad Batch, dir. Ana Lily Amirpour

Credit: TIFF
After her striking and self-assured feature debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the film world held its breath to see what Ana Lily Amirpour would cook up next. With "the first Iranian vampire western,"  she had proven her delectable disregard for genre convention, her bold sense of style, and her concern for socio-political overtones. Now, with the Annapurna-backed Bad Batch, Amirpour sets out to confirm her place in the realm of bold new auteurs. Suki Waterhouse stars in the dystopian film as an American woman who is deported from the US into the lawless Mexican desert; it's unclearly why, but she's been selected to be part of the "bad batch," a group of inferior citizenry. In the desert wasteland teeming with cannibals and other savagery, she must fend for her life—and, as it turns out, she's quite good at it. Jim Carrey makes a silent and nearly camouflaged cameo; Keanu Reeves's is not so silent. Early reviews dubbed the film part Mad Max, part Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Needless to say, we're excited. —Emily Buder

Katie Says Goodbye, dir. Wayne Roberts

Credit: TIFF
After taking on Executive Producer roles for the Sundance standout The Eyes of My Mother, Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin, and Josh Mond of Borderline Films fame are back to present another exciting debut feature from an up-and-coming director. Wayne Roberts has been sitting on the script since film school, but now, with the encouragement of Durkin, he’s been given an opportunity to make a name for himself. Katie Says Goodbye centers around a waitress by day, prostitute by night who is working to get the hell out of New Mexico and start a new life in San Francisco. It’s got all the trademark bleak realities of a Borderline feature blended into a coming-of-age road trip tale. Here, Olivia Cooke is a given the chance to deliver a more dynamic performance than the one-trick-pony dying girl of the sour teen flick Me, Earl and the Dying Girl—Jon Fusco

India in a Day, dir. Richie Mehta

Credit: TIFF
As a publication by and for filmmakers, we’re always intrigued when a director takes on a risky proposition. Richie Mehta has done that with India in a Day, an 89-minute documentary composed of  footage shot by millions of people in India—with millions of different types of cameras—on one single day. It will likely be refreshing to see a portrait of India that encompasses something in between the poverty often depicted in docs from that region and the melodramatic glamor of Bollywood. Mehta is not the first to approach the concept of a crowdsourced film, but if an international premiere at TIFF and the backing of both Google and Executive Producer Ridley Scott are any indication, he may be the first to have created a truly successful model. —Liz Nord

Boys in the Trees, dir. Nicholas Verso

Credit: TIFF

For 15 years, we've been eagerly awaiting the next Donnie Darko. It never came. Could our dry spell finally have reached an end? Australian premiere Boys in the Trees certainly has all of the makings: it's a haunting coming-of-age drama set on Halloween night, following a group of teenagers as they descend into the catacombs of fears and nightmares, real and imagined. Throughout the course of that one night, the boys trade their suburban ennui for a taste of mortality, but eventually come face to face with the monster that lurks in the shadows: real life. Even if Boys in the Trees doesn't hold a candle to Donnie Darko, we feel confident that Nicholas Verso's vision, evidenced in his award-winning short, will thoroughly chill. —Emily Buder

Mascots, dir. Christopher Guest

Credit: TIFF
It may feel weird to see a movie premiere at TIFF that will be available to watch at home a month later, but Christopher Guest is back and once again we have none other than Netflix to thank. It's been 10 years since his last feature, For Your Consideration—way, way too long. Joining him are the usual suspects (Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, Jane Lynch, etc.) as well as some great new faces from the improv comedy world (Silicon Valley's Zach Woods and Louie's Sarah Baker, among others). Guest himself will be reprising the role of director Corky St. Clair from Waiting For Guffman for this one, which should be enough to get people excited. These are the best names in improv, and it's great to see them back on the horse. —Jon Fusco

In Between, dir. Maysaloun Hamoud

Credit: TIFF
One of the best things about attending and covering film festivals is the opportunity to see lesser-known directors on the rise or to be exposed to less-predominant perspectives. Though the mainstream Israeli film and television industry is well-known for turning out high-quality content, these stories are not typically made by and about Arab-Israelis. Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut feature is an exception. Focused on the lives of three Arab-Israeli girlfriends who live together in vibrant Tel Aviv, In Between explores a theme relevant to any modern society and particularly dominant in the Middle East: how to reconcile tradition with contemporary urban life. —Liz Nord

See all of our coverage of TIFF 2016.

Your Comment


I'd recommend Without Name to anyone. Admittedly I worked on it, but it's an impressively atmospheric film made on a modest budget.

September 7, 2016 at 5:00PM, Edited September 7, 5:00PM

Richard L
Camera assistant, DIT, DOP

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September 8, 2016 at 7:01AM


I am waiting for Arrival. Villeneuve has something, I can't put my finger on, that draws me

September 19, 2016 at 5:35AM, Edited September 19, 5:35AM

Abi Stricker

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