Grab your popcorn: the 20 best films to watch out for this autumn

Nancy Durrant,Rachel McGrath,Charlotte Osullivan,Katie Rosseinsky and Jessie Thompson
·6-min read

At last! After months of peering at a TV screen every evening, finally, with the release of Christopher Nolan’s tent-pole movie Tenet the dam has broken and the studios are cranking up for an autumn of big-screen fun. From superheroine tales to super-spy capers and some true festival gems, we pick the 20 movies to pick up your pot of popcorn for this season.

The Lady in the Portrait

Charles de Meaux, Sept 4

De Meaux’s tale of a Jesuit painter (Melvil Poupaud) trying to capture the beauty of the Empress (Fan Bingbing, gorgeous) in China’s 18th-century imperial court is a sumptuous visual treat, fitting for a picture about a picture and its impact. Absorb and adore.

The New Mutants

Josh Boone, Sept 4

Photo By Claire Folger
Photo By Claire Folger

Thanks to wrangling between Fox, Marvel Studios and Disney, this X-Men spin-off has been pushed and pulled in a gazillion directions. Will Boone’s thriller offer straight-up horror, intrepid emos or both? Either way, we can’t wait to see Maisie Williams as super-cool, proudly non-straight wolf-girl Rahne Sinclair.

The King’s Man

Matthew Vaughn, release now delayed until Feb 2021

A prequel set in the First World War with a demented Rasputin as the villain might not seem like the natural next step for the ultra-violent Kingsman movies, but 2020 has served us bigger curveballs. Ralph Fiennes steps into Colin Firth’s dress shoes as the stiff-upper-lipped mentor to Harris Dickinson’s aspiring spy.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Dean Parisot, Sept 16

Patti Perret/Most Excellent Productions, LLC
Patti Perret/Most Excellent Productions, LLC

The hard-of-thinking heroes are back. And now they have daughters! The plot sees Ted and Bill (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) cannibalising their own futures, so they can save the world through song. There’s no time like the future and (with sweet Keanu on board) nothing as awesome as cannibalising the past.

Rocks

Sarah Gavron, Sept 18

The gorgeous coming-of-age story of black British teenager Rocks (star-in-the making Bukky Bakray) and her east London schoolmates is an ode to female friendship that will make your heart sing. Teenagers have had a tough year — this is a vibrant tribute to them.

Six Minutes to Midnight

Andy Goddard, Sept 25

(IFC Films )IFC Films
(IFC Films )IFC Films

Eddie Izzard stars as a tutor for the daughters of high-ranking Nazis in this WW2 thriller. The comedian co-wrote the script (his first ever big screen effort) and Judi Dench plays his boss, the watchful headmistress.

Wonder Woman 1984

Patty Jenkins, Dec 16

More time-warping, as DC’s Amazonian do-gooder leaps from the 1920s to the 1980s and watches her friend Barb (Kristen Wiig) turn into super-villain Cheetah. Every outfit, in the trailer, is good for a giggle. The same goes for every line delivered by our heroine’s somehow-returning BF, Trevor (Chris Pine). This is feel-good fare, designed to make you feel wonderful.

Eternal Beauty

Craig Roberts, Oct 2

Sally Hawkins puts in a loving, layered performance as Jane, a paranoid schizophrenic with a mostly horrible family who embarks on a tentative romance with another troubled soul (David Thewlis). The supporting cast (Alice Lowe, Billie Piper, Penelope Wilton, you get the idea) is knockout.

Death on the Nile

Kenneth Branagh, release now delayed until Dec 18

An outrageously broad French accent, a random assortment of A-listers (and, ahem, Russell Brand) and a murder to solve. It can only mean one thing: Branagh and his ridiculous moustache are back at the helm of a glossy new Christie adaptation that’s probably best enjoyed with tongue firmly in cheek.

The Secret Garden

Marc Munden, Oct 23

Being sent to live with your taciturn uncle in the bleak Yorkshire moors and then discovering that only nature can save you feels like some kind of metaphor for 2020, so it’s a good time for this update of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel to finally arrive in cinemas.

Cordelia

Adrian Shergold, Oct 23

The events of this anxiety-inducing British horror film take place over the course of one weekend in London as its protagonist (Antonia Campbell-Hughes, opposite Johnny Flynn) sees her life unravel when her twin temporarily leaves the home they share.

Saint Maud

Rose Glass, Oct 9

This is one of the best British debuts of all time, an alt-horror drama about a pinched and pious nurse, Maud (Morfydd Clark; breath-taking), whose search for redemption brings her into conflict with manipulative dying dancer, Amanda (Jennifer Ehle; wily). If you like surprises, your prayers have been answered.

Black Widow

Cate Shortland, release now delayed until May 2021

Marvel have finally given Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow her own movie. Scarlett Johansson looks wickedly at home alongside Rachel Weisz, David Harbour and Florence Pugh (as Natasha’s Russian mum, dad and little sis). Black comedy plus butt-kicking. Yes!

Shirley

Josephine Decker, Oct 30

Elisabeth Moss stars as novelist Shirley Jackson in this new biographical drama. Decker shuns a traditional telling of the troubled author’s life in favour of a horror-tinged depiction which takes its styling cues from her own fabulous fictional works.

Mogul Mowgli

Bassam Tariq, Oct 30

From Four Lions to a galaxy far, far away, you can always rely on Riz Ahmed to give a magnetic performance. Mogul Mowgli, which he co-wrote, is his passion project and sees Ahmed (also a musician) play a rapper attempting to reconnect with his family after he is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

No Time To Die

Cary Fukunaga, Nov 12

No Time To Die has been delayed until April 2021
No Time To Die has been delayed until April 2021

Phoebe Waller-Bridge punched up the script. Billie Eilish wrote the theme song. Daniel Craig’s last go at playing 007 feels a bit like old news but may yet make our jaws drop.

Soul

Pete Docter, Dec 25

Yeehaa! Pixar’s latest is neither a sequel or a prequel and boasts deliriously abstract, Inside Out-y animation. Docter’s adventure takes us to The Great Before, a place where human souls are prepared for planet Earth. It’s a matter of (pre) life and death that middle-aged hero Joe (Jamie Foxx) gets home in one piece. Exclusive to Disney+

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway

Will Gluck, Dec 11

Much-loved (as well as positively loathed, in some quarters), Gluck’s live-action/CGI hybrid bunny-themed hit now has a sequel. Apparently, Peter’s about to discover life in the big city. The voice cast, as ever, is incredible, with Elizabeth Debicki returning as Mopsy.

West Side Story

Steven Spielberg, release now delayed until 2021

Don’t come to this production looking for A-list stars. Tony and Maria are played by Ansel Elgort (quite famous) and Rachel Zegler (not famous at all). Then again, Zegler is Colombian-American. And has a stunning voice. A lot’s changed since Natalie Wood (Russian-American; no song-bird) snagged the part.

Blithe Spirit

Edward Hall, Dec 25

Noël Coward’s naughty little play gets a revamp with Dan Stevens in the role of desperate crime novelist Charles and Judi Dench as the surprisingly potent medium Madame Arcati. Dench is hilarious in the trailer. And let’s face it, after Cats and Artemis Fowl, she deserves a hit.