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Dune
Photograph: Chia Bella James

Autumn preview: the 20 movies you need to see

From the long-awaited return of James Bond to ‘Dune’, here are the must-see releases from now until Christmas

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Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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Depending on where you are, summer is ending – or about to begin. Or, if you’re in Britain, neither. Whatever hemisphere you call your own, though, there are plenty of big new films to get excited about over the months ahead. Expect to see big franchise flicks (No Time to Die), cool docs, smaller indies and the kind of unexpected gems that tend to emerge in the run-up to awards season. But what will be this year’s Parasite? And what will kill it at the box office? 

What we do know is that Denis Villeneuve is unleashing the first part of his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, starring Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac and Rebecca Ferguson, while Marvel fans get a major hit of superhero action with Angelina Jolie-powered Eternals

Take your pick from this array of contenders – and mark your diary accordingly.  

Recommended: the world’s 50 most beautiful cinemas.

  • Film
  • Drama

This Sopranos origin story takes everyone’s favourite strip-club-owning waste management specialist right back to his Newark, New Jersey roots. Sopranos showrunner David Chase co-wrote the script, ensuring that it won’t be a cheap cash-in, while James Gandolfini’s son Michael plays the role made famous by his dad, guaranteeing that it won’t be without emotion either. To quote the big man himself: Whadayagunnado? 

In UK cinemas Sep 22 and US theaters Oct 1.

  • Film
  • Documentaries

If you discovered the joys of watching nimble people with ludicrous upper body strength scurry up sheer faces during the Tokyo Olympics sport climbing events, you’re going to love this heart-in-mouth doc. It follows daredevil solo climber Marc-André Leclerc up a variety of massive rock faces across North and South America, making it 2021’s vertigo-inducing answer to Free Solo. See it on the most mountainous screen possible.

In US theaters Sep 10 and UK cinemas Sep 24.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

A movie that’s been put on ice more times than Blofeld himself, No Time to Die is absolutely, definitely coming out in late September. This year. We think. Of course, Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) is back for this one, though main bad-guy duties fall to Rami Malek as mask-wearing supervillain Safin. Our hero is, of course, Daniel Craig’s James Bond, 78.

In UK cinemas Sep 30 and US theaters Oct 8.

  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Ridley Scott knows his way around a historical epic, as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven fans will attest. This thrillingly-cast rape revenge drama has shades of an earlier Scott effort, The Duellists, as it follows a pair of French knights (Matt Damon and Adam Driver) in their attempts to loop each other’s heads off. Jodie Comer is the noblewoman whose assault sparks the animosity and she forms the heart of the story, so expect a period piece with #MeToo resonance. 

In US and UK cinemas Oct 15.

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Halloween Kills
Photograph: Universal

Halloween Kills

There’s been a lot of Halloween movies. Too many? Well, not if you’ve been following the career of David Gordon Green, the talented indie filmmaker entrusted with the newest franchise reboot. It reacquaints Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode with that jabby-stabby maniac, Michael Myers, for another All Hallow Eve’s bloodbath. Excitingly, original director-composer John Carpenter has co-written the score. 

In US and UK cinemas Oct 15.

  • Film
  • Science fiction

In different ways, trying to cram the Frank Herbert sci-fi doorstopper on to the big screen has already defeated Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ridley Scott and David Lynch. Can Sicario’s Dennis Villeneuve condense its massive themes of empire, religion and exploitation successfully? To help, he’s got a deeply dishy cast (Zendaya, Timothée Chalamet, Oscar Isaac et al), huge planetary vistas, giant sandworms and a Hans Zimmer score so epic, it will make your ears fall off. Don’t bet against it, in other words. 

In US and UK cinemas Oct 22.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Wes Anderson welcomes some new faces to his immaculately designed playground in Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux and Elisabeth Moss – alongside some old pals (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton et al) – in this triptych of interlocking tales set at an old French travel mag. You know what to expect: glorious world-building, deadpan wit and a bit where Willem Dafoe does something surprisingly terrifying.

In US and UK cinemas Oct 22.
  • Film
  • Thrillers

Spoiling us for choice this Halloween time is Edgar Wright’s psychological chiller, the perfect film to double bill with Halloween Kills. Most likely to inspire a spooky fancy dress costume is kohl-caked UAL student Thomasin McKenzie, whose trip to the dark side of Soho takes in Anya Taylor-Joy’s aspiring singer, a rapidly fracturing psyche and a few pints off Dean Street (though not in that order). London has rarely been scarier.

In US and UK cinemas Oct 29.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

With the Avengers having some well-deserved downtime, Marvel ushers a new band of heroes on to our screens in the form of extra-terrestrial do-gooders the Eternals. They’re a starry bunch, too, with Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek joined by a newly beefed-up Kumail Nanjiani sporting muscles that look like CGI but aren’t and Brian Tyree Henry playing the MCU’s first openly gay character. It’s directed by Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao so it’s a gift for indie chin-strokers as well as blockbuster stans. 

In US and UK cinemas Nov 5.

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  • Film
  • Science fiction

A legacy sequel in the truest sense, Afterlife isn’t just a passing-of-the-protons to a new generation – it’s a Ghostbusters sequel helmed by original director Ivan Rtieman’s son, Jason, with most of the surviving original cast returning. And while the Stranger Things vibes are strong in the trailer (Finn Wolfhard will do that), there’s still a chance that the younger Reitman can overcome the urge to marinate the affair in nostalgia and instead cover it in a glaze of glorious slime and sardonic wit. 

In US cinemas Nov 11 and UK theaters Nov 12.

King Richard

And the Oscar for most obvious Oscar play goes to… Will Smith in the #inspo trailer for this film about Richard ‘dad of Serena and Venus’ Williams. And yes, it does seem almost impressive that they’ve managed to make the story of two of the greatest ever female athletes about a man, although reserve judgment: Smith has real chops when he’s given a role that stretches him, and the tennis scenes look a lot more realistic than Wimbledon. New gongs, please. 

In US and UK cinemas Nov 19.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma returns with a tender family story about a young girl who finds solace with a new friend when her mum disappears. The twist? The girl shares the same name as her missing mother – Marion – and a whole lot more besides. Visual poetry and emotional eloquence are hallmarks of Sciamma’s work and while this one clocks in at just a little over 60 minutes, deep feeling will course through every one of them.

In UK cinemas Nov 19.

Drive My Car
Photograph: Modern Films

Drive My Car

A Cannes breakout hit, this Japanese gem is adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story. There’s something intrinsically cinematic about the master Japanese storyteller’s work and its myster moods and jazzy atmospheres, and as Lee Chang-dong’s Burning proved not too long ago, his short stories offer filmmakers the raw materials in a way that his novels perhaps don’t. This one sees a widower actor hiring a young chauffeur to take him around Tokyo, sharing his fraught life story as they go. 

In UK cinemas Nov 19.

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  • Film
  • Drama

Stephen Graham is mesmerising in everything he does – this is not news. But the Brit really stretches himself in a frantic culinary drama that’s all shot in one take in a London restaurant kitchen and was filmed in just two days. And that’s actual one take, not the 1917 or Birdman-style kind that’s actually stitched together with invisible edits. So the pressure will be sky high on- and off-screen in this one. Amid the chopping, swearing, yelling and snorting, it should be a heck of a showcase for the Liverpudlian actor. 

In UK cinemas Nov 19.

  • Film
  • Animation

Lin-Manuel Miranda returns to Disney songwriting duties for the first time since Moana, but will he reclaim the Oscar ‘How Far I’ll Go’ was denied by La La Land? Only time will tell, but from the looks of things the Mouse House is on track to score another comfort-hit after stepping outside its lane with Raya and the Last Dragon: The tale of a giftless normie growing up in a holistic version of Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters looks like it pops with colour, cuteness and Miranda’s signature show-stoppers. 

In US and UK cinemas Nov 24.

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The Power of the Dog
Photograph: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX � 2021

The Power of the Dog

Somehow, it’s been 12 years since Jane Campion made a movie – leaving aside two seasons of her taut feminist thriller The Lake. Thankfully the wait is over, with this well-stocked western based on Thomas Savage’s novel likely to be another immaculate period piece to sit alongside Bright Star and The Piano. It’s the story of two brothers (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) who take ownership of a Montana ranch only to fall out over Kirsten Dunst’s local widow. Look out for Cumberbatch as a proper wrong ’un.

In UK cinemas in November. On Netflix worldwide Dec 1.

  • Film
  • Drama

The original was the biggest grossing movie of 1961 and won ten Oscars. It’s been a while since a musical topped the box-office charts but Steven Spielberg’s redo of already hotly tipped to play well with Academy voters. Instead of Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, it’s Rachel Zegler and Ansel Elgort, but the swooning Romeo and Juliet riffs, Rita Moreno is back, and famous Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim tunes remain. All together now: Mariaaaaaaaa!

In US and UK cinemas Dec 10.

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  • Film
  • Action and adventure

Marvel is poised to rip open the fabric of space and time with Tom Holland’s third headline run as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. No Way Home will unleash long-dead villains from long-since-rebooted movies – Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, and Jamie Foxx’s Electro are confirmed to return, perhaps heralding the cinematic Sinister Six – and possibly resurrect Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire in the process. Throw Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange into the mix, and it’s possible Holland could get lost in the fireworks (and stunt casting) in his own movie. But if they pull it off, we could be looking at a live-action Spider-verse. Which is to say: Give us live-action Spider-Ham, you cowards.  

In US and UK cinemas Dec 15

Spencer
Photograph: STX

Spencer

Kristen Stewart plays the latest female icon essayed by Pablo ‘Jackie’ Larrain. She’s playing Princess Di in a film that’s bound to get the UK tabloids in a tizzy and should get plenty of attention in the US too, especially if its festival bow is a success. It’s a recreation of the icy last days of Diana’s marriage to Charles (Jack Farthing), over a Christmas at the Queen’s country pile. One thing is guaranteed: it will be better than the catastrophically awful Diana.

In UK and US cinemas later this year.

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