Yesterday morning the Toronto International Film Festival launched its finalized 2018 program, which this year clocks in at 343 films!
I was up at the crack of dawn, excited as a little kid on Christmas morning to see what the world’s finest film makers are bringing to Toronto this awards season.
It took me over 12 hours to read through the synopsis for each film, so you don’t have to! I then crafted a master list of my top picks then whittled down 80 promising titles to a shortlist of 30 must-sees. If you’re keen to secure the most coveted TIFF tickets in advance or identify as last minute shopper happy to wait in rush lines…these are your best bets at TIFF18.
30 TIFF 2018 Rush Line Worthy Films
Here is our pick of the crop for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.
Sam Taylor-Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) brings to screen James Frey’s controversial 2003 bestseller about an alcoholic crack addict (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who finds solace in the company of a past crime lord (Billy Bob Thornton) and a former sex worker (Odessa Young), revealing a pathway to renewal and redemption. Don’t tell Oprah.
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut tells the story of a seasoned musician who discovers — and falls in love with — a struggling artist (played by the one and only Lady Gaga), but, even as her career takes off, he fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons. If last years paparazzi premiere of the pop star’s documentary Five Foot Two is any indication…this will be one of TIFF’s hottest tickets.
Based on the bestselling pair of memoirs by father and son David and Nic Sheff, Felix van Groeningen’s film chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. Fresh from his breakout role in Call Me By Your Name, Academy Award nominated Timothée Chalamet is the twink-to-lust-after alongside father figure Steve Carell.
Ali Abbasi’s latest was a huge hit at Cannes and follows the story of a border agent who uses her ability to sense or smell human emotions to catch smugglers — but when one man confounds her detection, she’s forced to confront a new reality.
The teenaged son of a Baptist pastor is forced into a gay-conversion program by his parents, in actor-director Joel Edgerton’s emotive drama starring Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Lucas Hedges. This looks to be the gay tearjerker of the season so pack plenty of Kleenex into your purse and pockets.
A jaded, out-of-work biographer (Melissa McCarthy) resorts to selling forged historical letters on the black market, and grapples with the ethical complications that arise, in Marielle Heller’s charming biopic about bestselling writer Lee Israel.
Nadine Labaki (2011 TIFF People’s Choice Award winner Where Do We Go Now?) explores the lives of children living on the fringes of Lebanese society, in this political and heartbreaking story of a young boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world when they couldn’t properly care for him. Winner of this years Jury Prize at Cannes.
Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Salesman) directs Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in this layered, psychological drama about a family wedding interrupted by a shocking crime and some long-buried secrets.
Palme d’Or–winning documentarian Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine) follows up to Fahrenheit 9/11 by focussing his attention on another significant date, examining the legacy of Trump’s ascension to the US presidency on November 9, 2016. Moore’s latest is a likely contender for best documentary at the Academy Awards and based on America’s current political climate will have politicos lining up at theatres.
The Academy Award–winning team of director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling (La La Land) reunites for this biopic on the adventures and life of Neil Armstrong, from his entry into NASA’s astronaut program in 1961 to his epoch-making walk on the moon eight years later.
Academy award winner Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman) directs Academy Award–winning actor Julianne Moore (Still Alice) in this English-language remake of his 2013 film about a free-spirited, middle-aged divorcee hoping to find love on the dance floor.
Lukas Dhont’s expressive first feature follows a young girl, assigned male at birth, as she struggles to realize her dreams of becoming a ballerina, all the while desperate for her body to reflect her true identity. Winner of this years Caméra d’Or at Cannes.
Award-winning actors Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen star in this engrossing story of a working-class Italian-American bouncer who takes a job chauffeuring an African American classical pianist across the American South in the 1960s.
Master French filmmaker Claire Denis’s long-anticipated English-language debut and provocative sci-fi drama stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and André Benjamin as a group of criminals sent into deep space.
In this captivating true story, a young woman (Kristen Stewart) spends years playing the public role of Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy, an enigmatic and celebrated literary persona created by her sister-in-law (Laura Dern).
Writer, director, and producer Dan Fogelman’s (This Is Us) affecting drama about life, love, and loss, ambitiously set across years and continents, features an impressive ensemble cast, including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Mandy Patinkin, and Antonio Banderas.
French auteur Olivier Assayas probes the promises and pitfalls of art in the age of digital communication, in this comedy about a Parisian publisher (Guillaume Canet) and his successful-actor wife (Juliette Binoche) adapting to the new-media landscape.
Forced into exile by the English after being crowned King of Scotland, legendary warrior Robert the Bruce fights to reclaim the throne, in the latest from David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).
Alfonso Cuarón’s (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and Gravity) cogent and nuanced semi-autobiographical feature chronicles one year in the life of a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City.
Equal parts incisive social critique and nuanced family portrait, the latest from Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda — winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes — follows a small band of marginalized misfits struggling to make ends meet in a merciless urban environment.
Xavier Dolan’s highly anticipated drama about a young man’s calculated reassessment of his infamous, and ultimately disastrous, childhood correspondence with an American television star features an all-star cast, including Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, Jacob Tremblay, and Ben Schnetzer.
A timely commentary in the Black Lives Matter era, George Tillman, Jr.’s adaptation of the novel by Angie Thomas (Chapters Indigo Book of the Year in 2017) follows Starr, a promising student and cherished daughter whose life is upended, then galvanized, when a friend is senselessly shot dead by police.
In the hopes of striking it rich, two scheming cousins (Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård) try to build a thousand-mile-long, four-inch-wide tunnel from Kansas to New Jersey that will give them a one-millisecond edge on transactions at the New York Stock Exchange.
In Iranian-American filmmaker Maryam Keshavarz’s latest, a war correspondent gets taken hostage while on assignment, prompting his mother (Susan Sarandon) — impatient with the government’s lack of concern — to take matters into her own hands.
Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster, and Michael Shannon star in this intimate family drama about a woman who returns home to help her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother, while also grappling with her own past.