The Top 30 Films I Want to See at TIFF 2021 (Toronto International Film Festival)by keithsim | created - 11 months ago | updated - 11 months ago | Public
I'm the managing editor of IMDbPro and the senior film editor for IMDb. I'll be viewing all of these films on TIFF's quite efficient screening service as the pandemic is keeping so many away from Toronto. Here's to hoping that screenings next year take place in the glorious TIFF Lightbox. PS: I did not include Denis Villeneuve's DUNE on this list because, knowing Villeneuve and the source material, that movie has to, has to, has to be seen in a theater. - Keith Simanton
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1. The Power of the Dog (2021)
R | 126 min | Drama, Romance, Western
Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife and her son, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.
Reasons? Campion, of course, with Cumberbatch, Dunst, Plemons. Reviews coming out of Venice have been mixed but a few, from folks I trust, have been stellar and there was that four-minute standing ovation in the Sala Grande, the large, premiere theater. And they're not pushovers in that theater. You have to earn an ovation there.
2. Belfast (2021)
PG-13 | 98 min | Biography, Drama
A young boy and his working-class Belfast family experience the tumultuous late 1960s.
Every few years I'll get some drink and watch HENRY V. Some sobbing is usually involved. I imagine that, if Mr. Branagh manages to not get maudlin in this tale that sounds very autobiographical (named after the city of his birth), more sobbing will be called for. The film reminds me, without having seen it, of Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY. Early reviews from Telluride call BELFAST the first sure-fire Best Picture contender.
3. The Forgiven (III) (2021)
R | 117 min | Drama
The Forgiven takes place over a weekend in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and explores the reverberations of a random accident on the lives of both the local Muslims, and Western visitors to a house party in a grand villa.
Love John Michael McDonagh (THE GUARD, CALVARY) and this cast is a ridiculous assemblage of superb-ness. His brother, Martin, finally had his big hit with THEE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURI in 2017. Will this be John's?
4. The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
PG-13 | 126 min | Biography, Drama, Romance
An intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker.
Having done a senior English paper on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker (as they imploded, long before her redemption) I can't think of better casting for these two lost souls. Can director Showalter (THE BIG SICK) bring the gravitas needed to keep it from devolving into kitsch?
5. Dear Evan Hansen (2021)
PG-13 | 137 min | Drama, Musical
Film adaptation of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical about Evan Hansen, a high school senior with Social Anxiety disorder and his journey of self-discovery and acceptance following the suicide of a fellow classmate.
I love this Tony-winning Best Musical from Pasek and Paull (who did the music for THE GREATEST SHOWMAN). And yes, I admit, I flinched seeing the remarkable Ben Platt looking like a digital botox victim in the trailer. And I'm worried about having Stephen Chbosky at the helm because he seems to be able to make one-half of a great film (WONDER, PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER). But damn all that. I won't care and I'll love it. I hope.
6. Encounter (III) (2021)
R | 108 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Two brothers embark on a journey with their father, who is trying to protect them from an alien threat.
It opened Telluride to reviews that clearly indicated confusion on the part of the critics. What was this film supposed to be? That sounds a lot like the early reviews for SOUND OF METAL and NIGHTCRAWLER, both which transcended the early misgivings, both with the incredible Riz Ahmed.
7. The Worst Person in the World (2021)
R | 128 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
The chronicles of four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is.
Enraptured. That's what the reviews coming out of Cannes felt like. That the reviewers had been enraptured. It also landed Renate Reinsve a win for Best Actress. From director Joachim Trier (OSLO, AUGUST 31st, THELMA).
8. Last Night in Soho (2021)
R | 116 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery
An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.
Writer/director Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, BABY DRIVER) seems out on a limb here but that's usually where he flourishes. I'm a big fan of both Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie (the girl in JOJO RABBIT) and it appears to be the last role for Diana Rigg. Unmissable.
9. One Second (2020)
104 min | Comedy, Drama, History
A movie fan in a remote farmland strikes a relationship with a homeless female vagabond.
All of the powers of legendary director, Zhang Yimou (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, HOUSE OF THE FLYING DAGGERS), appear to be on display here. Near the end of China's Cultural Revolution a man escapes a labor camp for a glimpse of his beloved daughter. She has been immortalized onscreen in a propaganda newsreel as a model worker for the very political system which enslaves him.
10. Spencer (2021)
R | 117 min | Biography, Drama
Diana Spencer, struggling with mental-health problems during her Christmas holidays with the Royal Family at their Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, decides to end her decade-long marriage to Prince Charles.
I'll admit, I'm hoping director Larrain, who made the impressive still-life that was JACKIE, gooses this movie up a bit. Makes it move. Injects some passion instead of restraint. Regardless I'm sure it will be a signature tour de force by Stewart, who has, to our collective shame, never been nominated for an Oscar (or even a lousy Globe! not that she probably laments that). Let's fix that.
11. A Hero (I) (2021)
PG-13 | 127 min | Drama
Rahim is in prison because of a debt he was unable to repay. During a two-day leave, he tries to convince his creditor to withdraw his complaint against the payment of part of the sum. But things don't go as planned.
I adore Asghar Farhadi. A SEPARATION was one of my favorite films of the first 20 years of the new millennium. Plus the guy won the Grand Prix at Cannes, so there's that.
12. The Middle Man (2021)
95 min | Comedy, Drama
Frank Farrelli takes on the job as a middle man in the God-forsaken town of Karmack, USA, a community in a depression so deep that they need a middle man to professionally communicate more of the bad news.
Director Bent Hamer did FACTOTUM, a film based on the book by Charles Bukowski starring Matt Dillon. While FACTOTUM is no BARFLY it's still a terrific movie about a shambling mess of man, a terrific drunk, who is also quite gifted as a writer. Hamer is quite gifted as a director.
13. Becoming Cousteau (2021)
PG-13 | 94 min | Documentary, Adventure, Biography
A look at the life, passions, achievements and tragedies surrounding the famous explorer and environmentalist Jacques Cousteau, featuring an archive of his newly restored footage.
Liz Garbus has been nominated twice for an Oscar, for 1998's THE FARM: ANGOLA, USA, and 2015's WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE. She's a thoughtful and fluid filmmaker and she's looking into the life of a man I didn't fully appreciate at the time.
14. Titane (2021)
R | 108 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Following a series of unexplained crimes, a father is reunited with the son who has been missing for 10 years.
Not often you see the winner of the Palme d'Or in the Midnight Madness section. This is also, a must.
15. Montana Story (2021)
R | 114 min | Drama
Two estranged siblings return home to the sprawling ranch they once knew and loved, confronting a deep and bitter family legacy against a mythic American backdrop.
McGehee and Siegel, a well-regarded duo who attract undeniable talent came closest to breaking out from beyond the festival circuit with WHAT MAISE KNEW. Perhaps this will be their true breakout. Plus Richardson and Teague are pretty great.
16. The Survivor (2021)
R | 129 min | Biography, Drama, Sport
After World War II, Harry Haft is a boxer who fought against his peers in concentration camps. Haunted by memories, he tries to use fighting legends as a way to find his love.
Is there a more talented actor out there than Ben Foster? Happy to debate. Plus, I'd love to see Barry Levinson have one more ride around the crazy pole of a popular movie.
17. Jagged (2021)
TV-MA | 99 min | Documentary, Biography, Music
Documentary centers on the life and work of Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette while making her breakout album 'Jagged Little Pill'
Director Alison Klayman directed Ai Weiwei's NEVER SORRY plus I'm a sucker for music docs.
18. Listening to Kenny G (2021)
97 min | Documentary, Music
An examination of the most popular instrumentalist of all time, Kenny G, and why he is polarizing to so many.
The plot synopsis on this has me intrigued with a question I often ask myself: "what makes music good or bad?" Penny Lane directed HAIL SATAN, btw.
19. I'm Your Man (2021)
R | 108 min | Comedy, Drama, Romance
In order to obtain research funds for her studies, a scientist accepts an offer to participate in an extraordinary experiment: for three weeks, she is to live with a humanoid robot, created to make her happy.
I eagerly await the film that finally leverages all of the skills that Dan Stevens possesses.
20. The Guilty (2021)
R | 90 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller
A demoted police officer assigned to a call dispatch desk is conflicted when he receives an emergency phone call from a kidnapped woman.
It will be hard, even for talents like Fuqua, Pizzolatto, and Gyllenhaal, to match the one-man-act, force of nature that director Gustav Möller and Jakob Cedergren brought to bear in the original 2018 GUILTY from Denmark.
21. Wolf (II) (2021)
R | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller
A high-concept arthouse drama about a boy who believes he is a wolf.
George MacKay, one of our finest, most electric young actors (CAPTAIN FANTASTIC, 1917) is in it.
22. Mothering Sunday (I) (2021)
R | 104 min | Drama, Romance
A maid living in post-World War I England secretly plans to meet with the man she loves before he leaves to marry another woman.
Sony Pictures Classics has this so it already has the "need to check it out" stamp. O'Connor and Young sound like a magnetic pair.
23. Silent Night (I) (2021)
92 min | Comedy, Drama, Horror
Nell, Simon, and their son Art are ready to welcome friends and family for what promises to be a perfect Christmas gathering. Perfect except for one thing: everyone is going to die.
Well, this sounds irresistible. On Christmas Eve friends and family head to the home of Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) to celebrate. But, in a twist either delicious or grotesque, everyone knows they're going to die. A poisonous gas cloud is descending on the UK and no one will be spared. Ho-ho-ho. As a fan of SEEKING A FRIEND AT THE END OF THE WORLD I'm wondering what drew Knightley to slightly familiar ground. And I have to assume it's because it's damn original.
24. Benediction (2021)
PG-13 | 137 min | Biography, Drama, War
Legendary 20th Century war poet Siegfried Sassoon's life-long quest for personal salvation through his experiences with family, war, his writing, and destructive relationships goes unresolved, never realizing it can only come from within.
Okay, okay, I'll admit that I often find the films of Terence Davies to be a bit...um, stuffy, but I think I could use stuffy in these crazed times.
25. The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)
PG-13 | 111 min | Biography, Drama, History
English artist Louis Wain rises to prominence at the end of the 19th century for his surreal cat paintings that seemed to reflect his declining sanity.
A "dazzling, career-best performance" The TIFF guide called it Louis Wain, "dazzling, career-best performance?" Well, I'm put my BIG EYES reservations aside.
26. Learn to Swim (2021)
90 min | Romance, Drama, Music
Two contemporary jazz musicians develop a stormy and tragic romance.
This is the feature debut of the director Tommy but its two leads, Thomas Antony Olaj and Emma Ferreira, are two of TIFF's Rising Stars (which recognizes, often quite accurately, talent on the rise whose names you'll know several years from now).
27. The Falls (2021)
129 min | Drama
While quarantining, the relationship between a mother and daughter takes an unexpected turn.
Director Chung Mong-hong made A SUN, a film that seemingly was only discovered domestically once it hit Netflix, landing in the Oscar Short List for Best International Features (though it didn't make the final five).
28. The Good House (2021)
114 min | Comedy, Drama
Life for New England realtor Hildy Good begins to unravel when she hooks up with an old flame of hers from New York. Based on Ann Leary's 'The Good House.'
Who doesn't want to see Weaver and Kline in a autumnal feature? And will I be able to NOT imagine that this is really THE ICE STORM sequel?
29. Flee (2021)
PG-13 | 89 min | Documentary, Animation, Biography
FLEE tells the extraordinary true story of a man, Amin, on the verge of marriage which compels him to reveal his hidden past for the first time.
Not new but TIFF will be my chance to catch up on this well-reviewed Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner.
30. The Starling (2021)
PG-13 | 102 min | Comedy, Drama
After Lilly suffers a loss, a combative Starling takes nest beside her quiet home. The feisty bird taunts and attacks the grief-stricken Lilly. On her journey to expel the Starling, she rediscovers her will to live and capacity for love.
This is the kind of film that critics hate and audiences love (check out the trailer if you have lingering doubts about that assertion). And I'm going to give it a chance.