A complete guide to the best 2019 fall movies

These little women might be very big Oscar contenders.
These little women might be very big Oscar contenders.
Image: Sony Pictures Releasing
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Autumn is an overwhelming time for movie junkies. It’s when every major Hollywood studio and indie distributor releases many of its best films, in the hopes of capturing the zeitgeist and carrying that momentum into the Oscars early next year. Accordingly, it can be a nightmare to stay on top of just what’s coming out and when. We’re here to help.

Quartz sorted through every film coming out from now until year’s end and grouped them as follows: 10 early frontrunners for the Oscars and other award shows, 10 more major contenders, 10 dark horses that could surprise and enter the conversation, five blockbusters expected to dominate the box office, and 10 more miscellaneous movies for which we couldn’t identify a category, but are still worth being aware of.

Without further adieu, here’s every fall 2019 movie you need to know about, along with their release dates, trailers (if they’re available), and other helpful tidbits:

10 early frontrunners

The Irishman (Nov. 27, Netflix)

  • Oscariness: 10/10
  • Plot: The life story of mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who claimed to have killed labor leader Jimmy Hoffa.
  • Awards pitch: Scorsese. De Niro. Pesci. Pacino. Keitel. The mafia. Advanced de-aging technology. Movies, baby!

Little Women (Dec. 25)

  • Oscariness: 10/10
  • Plot: An adaptation of the classic novel of the same name about four sisters in 1860s New England.
  • Awards pitch: Incredible cast. Greta Gerwig. Period piece. Cool hats. Questionable American accents.

1917 (Dec. 25)

  • Oscariness: 9/10
  • Plot: Two young British soldiers during the First World War trek behind enemy lines to warn allies of an impending ambush.
  • Awards pitch: War!

Marriage Story (Dec. 6, Netflix)

  • Oscariness: 9/10
  • Plot: A couple struggles through a divorce in this “incisive and compassionate portrait of a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.”
  • Awards pitch: Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Family drama. A super Netflix-y title. Oh, and Laura Dern is in it, too.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Nov. 22)

  • Oscariness: 9/10
  • Plot: A journalist follows around beloved TV icon Fred Rogers for an Esquire profile.
  • Awards pitch: Tom Goddamn Hanks playing Mr. Rogers? Are you kidding me? Pencil it in for every category.

Ford v Ferrari (Nov. 15)

  • Oscariness: 9/10
  • Plot: A team of American auto engineers and a British driver build a car to finally beat Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
  • Awards pitch: It all starts with perennial Oscar nominees Christian Bale and Matt Damon, but pretty much this whole thing screams awards contender: It’s your classic ragtag team coming together to execute a plan and defy the odds. And it helps that it’s based on a true story. Your dad is going to love this movie.

The Report (Nov. 15)

  • Oscariness: 9/10
  • Plot: Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) leads an investigation into the CIA’s use of torture in the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
  • Awards pitch: Yep, Adam Driver will be everywhere this awards season. The Report joins recent films like The Post and Spotlight in the always Oscar friendly “digging up secrets and cover-ups” movie genre (even if this one is mostly about government employees, not journalists).

Jojo Rabbit (Oct. 18)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: A Hitler Youth member during World War II discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Also, his imaginary friend is Hitler.
  • Awards pitch: That bizarre premise can really only be realized by one person: director Taika Waititi (What We Do In the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok). The satire of nationalism and fascism is sadly quite relevant still.

Parasite (Oct. 11)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: A dysfunctional, lower-class South Korean family forms a symbiotic relationship with a much wealthier family.
  • Awards pitch: Parasite was one of the biggest winners of the film festival circuit, as countless critics called it one of the best films of the year. The dark comedy-thriller’s themes of class strife and inequality seem like things Oscar voters will respond to.

Ad Astra (Sept. 20)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: In the near future, an astronaut (Brad Pitt) searches the solar system for his missing father, who’s the key to unlocking a mystery that threatens human existence.
  • Awards pitch: Space dads. Dad Astra. Whatever you want to call it, the space thriller is drawing Terrence Malick (and some Stanley Kubrick) comparisons for its meditative and philosophical nature. Space movies have done well at the Oscars recently, and this one’s got Brad Pitt. Director James Gray deserves all the accolades after his magnificent 2016 film The Lost City of Z was snubbed from most major award shows.

10 more contenders

Harriet (Nov. 1)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: The true story of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped from slavery and made 13 trips back to the South to help slaves escape on the Underground Railroad.
  • Awards pitch: It’s about time one of the most inspiring people in American history got her own Oscar-y biopic. The buzz on Cynthia Erivo’s performance as the titular hero is through the roof.

Joker (Oct. 4)

  • Oscariness: 6/10
  • Plot: A failed stand-up comedian turns to a life of crime and becomes the infamous DC Comics villain, Joker.
  • Awards pitch: This movie is already incredible divisive, and probably doesn’t have much of a shot at a best picture nomination. But Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Joker is earning laudits. The actor could be the second person nominated for an Oscar for the role of Joker, after Heath Ledger posthumously won best supporting actor in 2008 for his performance in The Dark Knight.

Waves (Nov. 1)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: The “epic emotional journey” of a suburban African-American family navigating love and loss.
  • Awards pitch: Waves looks like the kind of serious-but-lovingly-crafted drama that Oscar voters typically fall for, led by a performance from Sterling K. Brown that sure looks the part of an awards contender.

The Two Popes (Nov. 27)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce) square off over the future of the Catholic church.
  • Awards pitch: It’s the papal odd couple! The buzz around this one is that Hopkins and Pryce both act their faces off, and that the film is a fascinating imagining (even if it takes several liberties) of private meetings between the old pope and his eventual successor.

The Lighthouse (Oct. 18)

  • Oscariness: 7/10
  • Plot: Two lighthouse keepers on a New England island in the 1890s absolutely lose their shit.
  • Awards pitch: Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are both very “in” right now—stick them both in the same lighthouse, make it black-and-white and mess with the aspect ratio, and you might have yourself an awards contender. Director Robert Eggers, last seen directing one of the best horror films of the decade in The Witch, is nothing if not inventive.

A Hidden Life (Dec. 13)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: The true story of Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter, who refused to fight for the Nazis during World War II.
  • Awards pitch: Terrence Malick films have been hit-or-miss with Academy voters, but this one has some of the ingredients for a hit: inspirational story, World War II period setting, and nostalgia (it marks the final performances of Michael Nyqvist and Bruno Ganz, who both died after filming).

Pain and Glory (Oct. 4)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: Director Pedro Almodovar’s latest is a semi-autobiographical story about a Spanish film director (Antonio Banderas) in decline.
  • Awards pitch: Almodovar is a two-time Oscar winner, while Banderas took home the Cannes Film Festival award for best actor for the role earlier this year. And it should go without saying, but the Academy loves movies about people who make movies.

Hustlers (Sept. 13)

  • Oscariness: 7/10
  • Plot: The true story of a group of strippers in New York City who hustle some of their wealthy, Wall Street clients during the 2000s financial crisis.
  • Awards pitch: Hustlers and star Jennifer Lopez got rave reviews out of the fall film festival circuit. The Ocean’s 11 meets The Big Short vibe, coupled with the diverse all-women main cast (and director), seems like the kind of movie the Oscars are long overdue in honoring.

Dolemite is My Name (Oct. 25, Netflix)

  • Oscariness: 7/10
  • Plot: Eddie Murphy stars as comedian and actor Rudy Ray Moore, best known as the character Dolemite in 1970s blaxploitation films and stand-up routines.
  • Awards pitch: Murphy is back in the spotlight after taking some time away from the game, and the role of Dolemite seems tailored to his specific charisma and comedic skills. Don’t be surprised if Murphy is back in the awards hunt in February.

Judy (Sept. 27)

  • Oscariness: 8/10
  • Plot: Judy Garland performs a series of sold-out concerts in London in the late 1960s as her health deteriorates.
  • Awards pitch: You can pretty much write Renée Zellweger’s name into the acting categories at the major award shows.

10 dark horses

Uncut Gems (Dec. 13)

uncut gems
Image: A24

This thriller by the Safdie Brothers (Good Time) takes us to midtown Manhattan’s jewelry district as a store owner (Adam Sandler!) tries to figure out how to pay off his debts.

The Goldfinch (Sept. 13)

The adaptation of the novel of the same name by Donna Tartt was supposed to be a major Oscars contender—until it got destroyed by critics when it screened at the fall film festivals. It could sneak its way into some of the technical categories (cinematography legend Roger Deakins did shoot the movie, after all), but its best picture chances are cooked.

The King (Nov. 1, Netflix)

Timothee Chalamet plays King Henry V in this adaptation of the Shakespeare play.

Just Mercy (Dec. 25)

Just Mercy is the true story of attorney Bryan Stevenson’s attempt to overturn the conviction of Walter McMillian, a man wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of a white woman.

The Laundromat (Oct. 18, Netflix)

Hey, look, it’s Antonio Banderas again! Director Steven Soderbergh takes on the Panama Papers scandal in this dramedy that also stars Meryl Streep.

Queen and Slim (Nov. 27)

A young black couple go on the run after being pulled over by a white cop, directed by acclaimed music video director Melina Matsoukas.

Dark Waters (Nov. 22)

actor mark ruffalo
Image: AP Photo

Todd Haynes (Carol) directs this movie based on the true story of a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo, above) investigating the connection between chemical company DuPont and a series of strange deaths.

Bombshell (Dec. 20)

The Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal at Fox News gets the Hollywood treatment. Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron star as the former Fox anchors Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, respectively.

Honey Boy (Nov. 8)

Shia LaBeouf stars in this movie based on his tumultuous childhood; LaBeouf plays a version of his father, while Lucas Hedges plays a younger version of LaBeouf, who wrote the script as part of his rehab program.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Dec. 6)

In the 18th century, a female painter is commissioned to paint the portrait of a young woman. The film won both the Queer Palm and the award for best screenplay at this year’s Cannes Film Festival awards in May.

5 potential blockbusters

Rambo: Last Blood (Sept. 20)

Cats (Dec. 20)

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (Oct. 18)

Frozen 2 (Nov. 22)

10 more

Knives Out (Nov. 27)

The Good Liar (Nov. 15)

Gemini Man (Oct. 11)

Doctor Sleep (Nov. 8)

Lucy in the Sky (Oct. 4)

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (Sept. 20, Netflix)

Spies in Disguise (Dec. 25)

Terminator: Dark Fate (Nov. 1)

Charlie’s Angels (Nov. 15)

Bonus: 10 great films from earlier this year to catch up on

  • The Farewell
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Booksmart
  • Rocketman
  • Midsommar
  • Us
  • The Art of Self-Defense
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco
  • Under the Silver Lake
  • Ready Or Not