Ever the eternal optimist, even I cannot pretend 2020 is going to be anything less than an unparalleled barrage of stress-inducing political kerfuffles set against the backdrop of a potential recession and dying planet. What I’m saying is, we gotta make the rest of 2019 friggin’ count, y’all.
I would say I have “good news,” but putting that adjective before that noun now probably puts me on some kind of watch list. So, let’s just say that autumn’s bounty be bangin’ this year. Here are the 15 movies you need to see before we all die. Sorry, “before 2020” when “anything can happen” and we’ll “probably all be fine.”
Joker (Oct 4)
If there’s one thing we are all desperately in need of right now, it’s a movie that humanizes an angry, homicidal white dude directed by the guy who did The Hangover. Right? Not bound by the limits of Aquaman’s exposed nips, this is set outside the existing DC Universe and is getting huge praise for Joaquin Phoenix, who seems to be doing something very close to what he does every time he does a thing. Thus ends my ringing endorsement!
Lucy in the Sky (Limited Oct 4)
If you haven’t seen Noah Hawley’s brilliant Legion, which just ended its three-season run on FX, you have missed Jemaine Clement doing a rap battle with Jason Mantzoukas. You also probably don’t realize how excited you should be for his first movie, which stars Natalie Portman as an astronaut who is going bonkers. The cast also includes Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman and Tig Notaro, in case you like people who are awesome.
Parasite (Limited Oct 11)
Writer/director Bong Joon-ho’s latest is described as a black comedy about various economic and social themes. I really don’t care. Considering he has yet to make a single movie that is anything short of nigh-perfect, his name alone demands attendance. Festival reviews for this one essentially claim it cures cancer and gives you a billion dollars.
Zombieland: Double Tap (Oct 18)
Zombieland is one of the most rewatchable, breezy flicks of its kind. Although a sequel may be an exercise in gilding the lily with Twinkies and cannibalism, who isn’t willing to give it a go? The laid-back marketing and nonchalant trailer suggest that maybe more of a good thing will still be good, but too much Jesse Eisenberg has been known to cause alopecia. That was a Lex Luthor joke, please don’t loose the legion of Rogaine upon me.
Jojo Rabbit (Limited Oct 18)
As a general rule, I like everything in life to be 100% Hitler-free. Unless, of course, Taika Waititi is playing Hitler. This wacky comedy features an imaginary fuhrer befriending a young boy and is scaring the schiesse out of Disney, who greenlit multiple Waititi films prior to apparently realizing he has a goofy Nazi movie arriving soon. Maybe that’s why the trailers for the film reiterate that it’s a satire about eleventy billion times. I’m as excited for this as I am fearful for the inevitable dialogue about it.
The Lighthouse (Limited Oct 18)
Everybody but me loved writer/director Robert Eggers’s The VVitch because apparently only I demand that scary movies should be scary. Beyond a muddled message that seemed to justify the binary division of women into either mothers or whores to Satan, my big problem with that movie was that it was boring. His new one is about Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson slowly going nuts at a lighthouse. So clearly no worries about boredom there! This is on the list because it’s probably the most anticipated indie movie of the fall. Mostly because of Pattinson’s sweet mustache.
Doctor Sleep (Oct 30)
Based on Stephen King’s sequel to the book version of The Shining, not the movie version of The Shining, the first trailer for this film featured tons of images from the movie version of The Shining. Confusing? Yes. Exciting? Also yes! Despite director Mike Flanagan’s insistence that this flick is “its own thing,” the idea of watching Ewan McGregor as an older, alcoholic Danny Torrance is as exciting as knowing “redrum” is gonna be a thing again.
Last Christmas (Nov 8)
Hear me out… Even if this is just Paul Feig directing Emilia Clarke in a sincere, irony-free Christmas movie featuring the music of George Michael, I’m in. But knowing Feig and having seen the preview, there is at least a 50% chance something absolutely insane is actually going on here. Is Clarke’s love interest, played by Henry Golding, dead? An angel? Sexy Santa? A time traveler? Absolutely nothing indicates that any of these are true, and I believe all of them.
Frozen 2 (Nov 22)
This is going to go one of two ways. Either we are all gonna walk around singing the lyrical successor to “Let It Go” or we’re going to all be grousing about Disney throwing another brick through our collective cultural consciousness for a cash grab. Probably both? The plot is being kept under wraps but allegedly deals with Elsa and Anna’s parents, which I know is what every boy and girl has been asking about. Look, so long as it’s clever and works as a satisfying social metaphor, I’ll build that effin’ snowman.
Knives Out (Nov 27)
It’s not Clue but it’s also not not Clue… Writer/director Rian Johnson has assembled just a stupidly incredible cast for a bottled whodunit. Daniel Craig with a stupid Southern accent? Gimme. Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette opposite Michael Shannon and Lakeith Stanfield? I want it. Next you’ll tell me it features Chris Evans as a smarmy jerkface and Christopher Plummer as the murder victim? It does?! My beatin’ heart suggests there may be another body soon.
Queen & Slim (Limited Nov 27)
The first time I saw the trailer for this, I forgot how to chew my popcorn. If writer Lena Waithe and director Melina Matsoukas deliver half of what that preview promises, this is going to be one of the best films of the year. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in a first date that winds up with a dead police officer and a life on the lam. Just like all Tinder dates, am I right? I have literally never used that app, but I am so scared for all of you who do. Use the buddy system.
A Hidden Life (Limited Dec 13)
Terrence Malick movies are majestic, lyrical, introspective or pretentious, lethargic and obnoxious, depending on which cinema you prefer to mentally snort. Me? I’m so ready for a poetic look at an Austrian farmer who refuses to join the Nazis in World War II. There is a very good chance we are going to get to watch grass literally grow, and I am there for it!
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec 20)
I am excited to find out if J.J. Abrams and company are going to take a mega-dump on the best Star Wars movie ever (The Last Jedi) or continue the bold reimagining that Rian Johnson undertook. Thankfully, if there is one thing that J.J. Abrams is known for, it is delivering satisfying endings to long-simmering mysteries that please all sci-fi audiences. Whew!
Cats (Dec 20)
I mean, you saw that trailer. You’re gonna watch it, right? It’s both horrifying and inescapable. It is a nightmare with a tractor beam. Their tails go into their butts. It’s what we need to steel ourselves for 2020.
Little Women (Dec 25)
This is one of those movies that gets remade every generation. This version just happens to be from Greta Gerwig and features Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl GD Streep and Laura MF Dern. I don’t want to end this preview on something as cliché as “nothing little about that cast!” so here are a few additional words.