The 10-day Toronto International Film Festival, fondly known as TIFF, has grown from a subcultural gathering for Canadian cinephiles to one of the largest and most internationally renowned film festivals on the circuit. With a projected 500,000 attendees and over 300 films being screened this year, TIFF is a reliable pit stop for Oscar hopefuls and buzz-generator for international indie gems. This year, TIFF programmers cut the lineup by 20%; as a result, the lineup is more refined—and edgier—than ever. The selected films represent a world embroiled in complex issues, from the migration crisis to the definition of modern masculinity to the geopolitical and interpersonal conflicts in which all of us are implicated in some way or another.

Below, we've selected nine movies we can't wait to see.


Director: Joachim Trier

Section: Special Presentations

Thelma_01'Thelma'Credit: TIFF 2017

Perhaps the best-known name in Norwegian cinema, Joachim Trier is a master of ambiguity. His RepriseLouder than Bombs and Oslo, August 31st explored the sinuous threads of human relationships and moral obligation, and his TIFF entry Thelma is poised to do the same—but with much more audacity. Venturing into the realm of the supernatural, Trier's new film is being regarded as a modern riff on Carrie: a young girl (Eili Harboe) discovers she has terrifying powers when she attempts to extricate herself from her controlling, religious family and begins a relationship with a woman. Judging from the trailer, Thelma possesses the arresting imagery Trier is known for, but takes it up a notch with some jaw-dropping VFX—all while remaining true to his intimate filmmaking approach. This movie will have people talking. —Emily Buder


Director: Darren Aronofsky

Section: Special Presentations

Jennifer-lawrence-mother'mother!'Credit: TIFF 2017

Darren Aronofsky is taking us back to his Black Swan days with this one. The director has a special knack for films that creep under your skin and stick with you as nightmares for weeks to come. He knows how to take our darkest psychoses and translate them onto film. Even after its international premiere at Venice last week, few details of the plot have emerged, but it looks like mother! has all the basic covered—you know, cults, angry mobs, stalkers, demons, pregnancy. That sort of stuff. —Jon Fusco

The Shape of Water

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Section: Special Presentations

Shape1'The Shape of Water'Credit: TIFF 2017

The latest from modern King of Creatures Guillermo del Toro completes the “holy trifecta” of fall festivals, coming into TIFF after lauded screenings at Venice and Telluride earlier this month. This could indicate more Oscar nods for the director, who was nominated for Best Original Screenplay with Pan’s Labyrinth in 2007. And it’s not just the first slate of critics and festival-goers who are loving the film; del Toro himself told the LA Times that this is his favorite film so far. It’s a Cold War fairytale about a lonely janitor at a US government laboratory who falls in love with an amphibious creature captured by the facility. The movie’s bad guy is played by Michael Shannon, which piques our interest since he seems like some kind of mythical creature himself, given how many great films he's in each year (including The Current War, also at TIFF this year). Del Toro also revealed to the LA Times that, unlike his past films which mainly emerged from his childhood, "here, I’m talking about me with adult concerns. Cinema. Love. The idea of otherness being seen as the enemy. What I feel as an immigrant." Only he could make a monster movie with such depth. —Liz Nord

Lady Bird

Director: Greta Gerwig

Section: Special Presentations / Next Wave

Lady-bird-telluride-review-saoirse-ronan_0'Lady Bird'Credit: TIFF 2017

With Mistress America and Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig has already proven a witty and incisive scribe. Now, she tries her hand at directing with the semi-autobiographical Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan as a rebellious teenager with big ambitions that can only be matched by the dream of New York City. Gerwig has thrown a complex character into the machinations of the coming-of-age tensions she's deftly navigated in previous films. Early reviews from Telluride are overwhelmingly positive, comparing the film to The 400 Blows and heralding Ronan's performance as her best yet. —Emily Buder


Director: George Clooney

Section: Special Presentations

Suburbicon-matt-damon'Suburbicon'Credit: TIFF 2017

Suburbicon is going to be a blast. The Coen brothers wrote the script, George Clooney is directing, Oscar-winning DP Robert Elswit shot it, and Matt Damon plays the lead in what appears to be the film equivalent of a rock-and-roll supergroup. The whole thing is pretty much a giant family reunion, and these guys probably had a ton of fun making it. And when your cast and crew are having fun on set (even those of us who are multi-millionaire Hollywood behemoths) the result is pretty much always positive. Don't believe us? Just watch the trailer. —Jon Fusco

My Days of Mercy

Director: Tali Shalom-Ezer

Section: Gala Presentations

My-days-of-mercy-movie'My Days of Mercy'Credit: TIFF 2017

Israeli director Tali Shalom Ezer's celebrated Sundance 2015 feature Princess dealt with underage sexuality, and her latest effort seems that it will simmer with a similar sexual tension. This time, it features anti-death-penalty activists played by Ellen Page and Amy Seimetz. While protesting a state execution, they encounter a woman (played by Kate Mara) who is there to support what she sees as justice being served. Despite being on opposite sides of a hotly contested political issue, Page and Mara’s characters begin a passionate relationship. We’re assuming that it’s the backing of powerhouse producers Christine Vachon and David Hinojosa of Killer Films that helped get a high-profile cast of indie favorites on board. Since nothing Killer touches is bad, we love the cast, and the issue couldn’t be more timely, we have high hopes for this film. —Liz Nord

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director: Martin McDonagh

Section: Special Presentations

Three-billboards-outside-ebbing-missouri'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'Credit: TIFF 2017

Yes, this is a film site, but we'd be remiss to omit the fact that one of the world's greatest living playwrights has a new film premiering at TIFF—and it's going to be awesome. Martin McDonagh is the man responsible for The Pillowman and The Beauty Queen of Leanne, and if you've ever read either of those plays, then you know that they're only a stone's throw away in tone from his debut feature In Bruges. McDonagh's filmmaking is just as brutal and unapologetic as his scripts and characters. The presence of Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson in this cast makes it a pretty safe bet that Billboards will continue the trend. —Jon Fusco

Woman Walks Ahead

Director: Susanna White

Section: Gala Presentations

Womanwalksahead_01'Woman Walks Ahead'Credit: TIFF 2017

One TIFF premiere contains many of my favorite things: a female director, Jessica Chastain, Sam Rockwell, a sympathetic Native American story, horses, and the American frontier. Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead is based on the true story of Catherine Weldon, a 19th-century artist who traveled to the Dakota Territory to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull and became so deeply invested in his tribe’s plight that she became the confidante, interpreter, and advisor to the Sioux chief. TIFF calls it “an essential alternative take on change in the Old West, one centering on a heroic woman and a great leader who refused to fade quietly into history.” We're looking forward to seeing how White represents the complex dichotomy between Wheldon and Sitting Bull's perspectives and life experience. Besides, we're sure the film will feature stunning, Cormac McCarthy-worthy imagery; it's a frontier story, after all. —Emily Buder

One of Us

Directors: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

Section: TIFF Docs

One_of_us_01'One of Us'Credit: TIFF 2017

Master documentarians Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady return to the territory that garnered them an Oscar nomination in 2007: extreme religious sects in America. In One of Us, we travel far from the rural Evangelical Christian summer camps of Jesus Camp to a wholly different world. The duo’s latest effort takes place in New York City, and breaks into the insular world of Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community, focusing on three young people attempting to leave the sect, despite threats of retaliation. Though this film’s topic seems very specific, we imagine that the theme of breaking away from the constrictions that you were born into might feel very universal. Ewing and Grady have consistently produced powerful work, and in this case, we are as eager to see the film as we are to learn about how two secular women got access to shoot inside a notoriously closed community. —Liz Nord