This year’s biggest release, “Top Gun: Maverick,” spanned a gap. It’s the sequel to a movie that came out 36 years ago. Will the sequel to a movie that came out 13 years ago be even bigger? That would be “Avatar: The Way of Water.” James Cameron returns as director.
The upcoming movie season is big on minding gaps. Fifteen years later, Disney’s “Disenchanted” returns Amy Adams and company from “Enchanted.” “Blonde,” adapted from Joyce Carol Oates’s novel about Marilyn Monroe, is writer-director Andrew Dominik’s first feature in 10 years. “Amsterdam” is David O. Russell’s first in seven years. It’s also been a seven-year gap for Alejandro Iñárritu, whose “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” boasts this fall’s longest title.
Seven years is small change for Todd Field. “Tár” is the first feature he’s directed in 16 years. It’s already generating serious talk about Cate Blanchett, playing an extremely high-powered classical-musical conductor, as a best actress Oscar nominee. (Is Michelle Yeoh still the favorite to win, for “Everything Everywhere All at Once”?) By comparison, Martin McDonagh hasn’t directed a feature in “only” five years. The more relevant figure, though, for his “The Banshees of Inisherin” might be 14 years, since “Banshees” reunites the stars of McDonagh’s “In Bruges” (2008), Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
Fall is traditionally the season for serious movies, awards voters seeming to have short memories (a different sort of gap). So there are only two superhero releases. Dwayne Johnson makes his live-action DC debut, playing the title role in “Black Adam.” The big superhero release is Marvel’s “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” It’s been four years since the first Black Panther movie, speaking of gaps. Want to bet that this one outdoes “Avatar” at the box office? The previous film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, died in 2020; and the sequel begins after the death of his character, King T’Challa.
“Amsterdam,” “Bardo,” “Tár,” and “Banshees” are all awards contenders. So are “Till,” about the murder of teenager Emmett Till in the Jim Crow South; “The Fabelmans,” an autobiographical family drama from Steven Spielberg; and Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking.”
“Women” is based on Miriam Toews’s novel. Other high-profile literary adaptations include “Blonde” (Ana de Armas plays Monroe); Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” written and directed by Noah Baumbach; and a German-language “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
“Front” is a Netflix release. So are “Blonde,” “Bardo,” and “White Noise.” The streaming service may be laying off employees and getting ready to include ads (ugh), but it hasn’t cut back on prestige offerings. Will this be the year it finally wins a best picture Oscar? Its biggest release is the “Knives Out” sequel “Glass Onion,” with Daniel Craig returning as Benoit Blanc, the detective with the most deliciously diverting accent since Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau.
This fall is a big season for possessives. “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical” comes to the screen, as does “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.” It’s also a season for doubling up. Another “Pinocchio,” a live-action version directed by Robert Zemeckis, started streaming on Disney+ on Thursday. And there are dueling musical adaptations of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”: “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol,” on Netflix, and “Spirited,” on Apple TV+, with Ryan Reynolds as Ebenezer What’s-His-Name. God bless both of us, everyone?
The del Toro and “Spirited” are animated features, as are Disney’s “Strange World”; an adaptation of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s much-loved children’s novel, “My Father’s Dragon”; and “Wendell & Wild,”a reunion for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who provide the title characters’ voices. Speaking of gaps, that movie’s director, the stop-motion master Henry Selick — who wrote the script with Peele — released his last film, “Coraline,” 13 years ago.
[Note: Release dates are subject to change. Also, some titles released on streaming services may have limited theatrical runs first.]
SEE HOW THEY RUN Who is murdering members of a theatrical production in ‘50s London? Officers Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan are on the case. Adrien Brody, Ruth Wilson, and David Oyelowo are among the unusual suspects in this mystery-comedy.
THE WOMAN KING Viola Davis stars as a 19th-century general in this based-on-fact story about female warriors in West Africa. Gina Prince-Bythewood (”The Old Guard”) directed. Lashana Lynch and John Boyega costar.
Also opening: “Clerks III,” “Do Revenge,” “God’s Country,” “Goodnight Mommy,” “A Jazzman’s Blues,” “Pearl,” “Saloum,” “The Silent Twins”
CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY Lena Dunham (”Girls”) wrote and directed this adaptation of Karen Cushman’s novel about a 14-year-old girl (Bella Ramsey) in medieval England.
DON’T WORRY DARLING Olivia Wilde, in her first feature since “Booksmart,” directed this thriller about a ‘50s housewife (Florence Pugh) who makes disturbing discoveries about her husband (Harry Styles). Chris Pine and Wilde costar.
MOONAGE DAYDREAM “Press your space face close to mine, love,” David Bowie sings in the song that gives this documentary about him its title. Brett Morgen (”Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck”) directed.
SIDNEY Reginald Hudlin directed this tribute to Sidney Poitier, who died last January. On Apple TV+.
Also opening: “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” “Athena,” “Lou”
BLONDE Ana de Armas wouldn’t seem the most obvious choice to play Marilyn Monroe, but she’s been earning excellent advance notices. Adrien Brody, as Arthur Miller, and Bobby Canavale, as Joe DiMaggio, costar.
BROS A cynical podcaster (Billy Eichner) falls for a handsome lawyer (Luke Macfarlane), and various romantic comedy conventions get turned inside out or upside down.
THE GOOD HOUSE Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline star as a former couple who become a current couple, with serious consequences, in this adaptation of Ann Leary’s novel.
MY IMAGINARY COUNTRY The great Chilean documentarian Patricio Guzmán looks at the demonstrations in his country in 2019-21 that led to the recent election of a new president, 35-year-old progressive Gabriel Boric.
THE GREATEST BEER RUN EVER Peter Farrelly directed and helped write this highly unusual based-on-fact story about a man (Zac Efron) who decides to bring his pals some brew. The catch is it’s 1967, he’s in New York, and they’re fighting in Vietnam. Russell Crowe and Bill Murray costar.
Also opening: “Argentina, 1985,” “God’s Creatures,” “Hocus Pocus 2,” “My Best Friend’s Exorcism,” “Smile”
MR. HARRIGAN’S PHONE John Lee Hancock (”The Little Things”) directed this adaptation of a Stephen King novella in which an old man’s phone seems to have a lethal influence on events. Donald Sutherland plays the title character.
AMSTERDAM What a cast in this comic mystery. There are David O. Russell regulars — Christian Bale, Robert De Niro — and newcomers galore: Margot Robbie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, John David Washington. A murder in ‘30s Hollywood reveals a nefarious plot, a different kind of American hustle.
THE REDEEM TEAM The 1992 US men’s Olympic basketball team was the Dream Team. The 2008 squad was the Redeem Team. Could it take the gold, after the 2004 team had won only a bronze?
Also opening: “Luckiest Girl Alive,” “Significant Other”
ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”) directed this documentary about the acclaimed photographer Nan Goldin, best-known for “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.”
HALLOWEEN ENDS Yes, it’s that “Halloween,” the horror franchise that started in 1978. Is the title more promise or threat? Either way, Jamie Lee Curtis is on hand. It wouldn’t be official otherwise.
TÁR Cate Blanchett plays a conductor/composer who leads the Berlin Philharmonic. Wielding the baton exacts a price. With Noémie Merlant (”Portrait of a Woman on Fire”) as her assistant, and Nina Hoss as her musician wife.
TILL This period drama revisits one of the most shocking crimes of the civil rights era. Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) seeks justice after the murder of her son. Chinonye Chukwu (”Clemency”) directed.
Also opening: “The Curse of Bridge Hollow,” “Stars at Noon”
THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL Paul Feig directed this adaptation of Soman Chainani’s fantasy novel. The high-octane cast includes Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kingsley, and, as narrator (hello again) Cate Blanchett.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson play old friends, Irishmen, who start up a new feud. That premise sounds a bit bald, until you factor in that Martin McDonagh (”Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) directed and wrote the script.
BLACK ADAM No need for special effects: Dwayne Johnson’s muscles are superhero-big already. He plays the title character, who’s antihero as well as superhero. Can super prevail over anti? We’ll find out. Jaume Collet-Serra, who worked with Johnson on “Jungle Cruise,” directed.
MY POLICEMAN In 1950s England, a gay policeman (Harry Styles) marries a schoolteacher (Emma Corin) despite being in love with another man (David Dawson).
RAYMOND AND RAY Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke play half-brothers whose lives take a decisive turn when they meet again at their father’s funeral. Maribel Verdú and Sophie Okonedo costar.
TICKET TO PARADISE In this romantic comedy, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as a divorced couple who join forces in Bali to keep their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) from making a bad marriage.
Also opening: “Aftersun,” “Descendant”
THE GOOD NURSE Jessica Chastain stars in this based-on-fact drama about an ICU nurse who comes to suspect that a new colleague (Eddie Redmayne) is not as he seems.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT Daniel Brühl and Felix Kammerer star in this German adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s celebrated antiwar novel, set in the trenches of World War I.
LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S BLACK & BLUES Sacha Jenkins (”Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James”) directed this Apple TV+ documentary about the founding father of jazz -- and pretty all of 20th-century popular music.
WENDELL & WILD A pair of demon siblings (voices of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele) want to return to the living — and they have a plan. Vocal talent includes Angela Bassett, James Hong, and Ving Rhames.
Also opening: “The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile,” “Run Sweetheart Run”
ARMAGEDDON TIME The writer-director James Gray (”The Immigrant,” “Ad Astra”) has made this drama inspired by his boyhood growing up in Queens, N.Y. Banks Repeta plays the Gray stand-in. Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong, Anthony Hopkins, and Jessica Chastain star.
BARDO, FALSE CHRONICLE OF A HANDFUL OF TRUTHS Alejandro Iñárritu makes his “8 1⁄2,” sort of. It’s a comic epic (just under three hours long) about a Mexican documentary filmmaker going through a personal crisis, both professional and emotional.
CAUSEWAY In this intimate drama, Jennifer Lawrence plays a soldier who suffered a serious wound in Afghanistan and is now struggling to find a new life in New Orleans. Brian Tyree Henry costars.
ENOLA HOLMES 2 Millie Bobby Brown returns as Sherlock Holmes’s kid sister. She’s an even better detective than he is. With Henry Cavill, as Sherlock, David Thewlis, and Helena Bonham Carter.
THE ESTATE In this dark comedy, Toni Collette and Anna Faris play sisters scheming to inherit the wealth of their elderly aunt (Kathleen Turner). The problem is the rest of the family has the same idea.
GOOD NIGHT OPPY Ryan White (”Good Ol’ Freda,” “Ask Dr. Ruth”) directed this documentary about Opportunity, the Mars Exploration Rover, and how it spent 15 years exploring the Red Planet.
BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER With the nation weakened by the death of King T’Challa, it faces invasion. Returning from the first movie are Letitia Wright Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Danai Gurira, Florence Kasumba, Angela Bassett, and Martin Freeman.
THE FABELMANS Steven Spielberg directed and collaborated on the script (with Tony Kushner) for this autobiographical story of a boy in postwar Arizona falling in love with film. Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, and Seth Rogen star. Gabriel LaBelle plays the young hero.
IS THAT BLACK ENOUGH FOR YOU?!? Critic Elvis Mitchell makes his directorial debut with this Netflix essay-documentary about Black filmmaking in the ‘70s — not just Blaxploitation, but also the work of Charles Burnett, Ivan Dixon, and others.
SALVATORE: SHOEMAKER OF DREAMS Luca Guadagnino (see Nov. 23) directed this documentary about Salvatore Ferragamo. Michael Stuhlbarg narrates.
Also opening: “Capturing the Killer Nurse,” “Falling for Christmas”
THE MENU Comedy mixes with horror as Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult play a couple who travel to a distant island to eat at a very exclusive restaurant presided over by chef Ralph Fiennes. Not a good idea.
SLUMBERLAND Jason Momoa stars in this live-action version of the classic comic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland.” Francis Lawrence (the three most recent “Hunger Games” movies) directed.
THE SON Florian Zeller’s “The Father” won Anthony Hopkins a best actor Oscar in 2021. “The Son” is a prequel. Hopkins returns, now in a subsidiary role, with a cast headed by Hugh Jackman, Laura Dern, and Vanessa Kirby.
Also opening: “Christmas With You,” “In Her Hands,” “The Inspection,” “The People We Hate at the Wedding”
BONES & ALL Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell star as a young couple on the run with a taste for cannibalism. (That title looks different now, doesn’t it?) Luca Guadagnino (”Suspiria,” “Call Me By Your Name”) directed.
DEVOTION Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell star as Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War in this based-on-fact drama.
NANNY Writer-director Nikyatu Jusu makes her feature debut in this film about a Senegalese immigrant working as a nanny in Manhattan. Combining horror and social commentary, it won the grand jury prize at Sundance this year.
STRANGE WORLD In this Disney animated feature, a family of explorers encounters unexpected difficulties on another planet. Doing the vocal honors are Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, and Dennis Quaid.
Also opening: “The Swimmers”
DISENCHANTED Fifteen years after the fairy-tale-meets-reality doings of “Enchanted,” Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, and Idina Menzel return for this sequel.
Also opening: “The Noel Diary”
WHITE NOISE Noah Baumbach (”Marriage Story”) who wrote and directed, brings to the screen Don DeLillo’s darkly comic 1985 novel about an “airborne toxic event.” Adam Driver, Greta Gerwig, and Don Cheadle star.
MY FATHER’S DRAGON In this animated version of Ruth Stiles Gannett’s novel, Elmer Elevator runs away from home to rescue a dragon. Complications ensue. Jacob Trembly provides the voice of Elmer. Nora Twomey (”The Secrets of Kells”) directed.
SCROOGE: A CHRISTMAS CAROL This animated remake of the 1970 musical “Scrooge” features the voices of Luke Evans, Jessie Buckley, Olivia Colman, Jonathan Pryce, and Johnny Flynn.
EMPIRE OF LIGHT Sam Mendes (”American Beauty,” “1917″) wrote and directed this story of three people who work at an old movie palace in an English seaside resort 40 years ago. Olivia Colman, Colin Firth, and Micheal Ward star.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO The horror-fantasy master offers a darker version of the famous tale, drawing more on Carlo Collodi’s original tale than the famous Disney version.
THE WHALE Brendan Fraser, in a much-touted comeback role, plays an obese man seeking to reconcile with his daughter. Darren Aronofsky (”Black Swan”) directed.
Also opening: “Something From Tiffany’s,” “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies”
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) now lives on Pandora, as part of the Na’vi. Then the planet comes under attack. Returning from “Avatar” are Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang. New recruits include Michelle Yeoh (what a year it’s been for her), Kate Winslet, and Edie Falco.
SPIRITED A live-action musical version of “A Christmas Carol,” with Ryan Reynolds as Scrooge. Will Ferrell and Octavia Spencer costar.
THE WONDER Sebastián Lelio (”Gloria,” “A Fantastic Woman“) directed this psychological drama, an adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2016 novel about a British nurse (Florence Pugh) assigned to oversee a fasting girl.
THE ETERNAL DAUGHTER Joanna Hogg (the two “Souvenir” films) wrote and directed this drama about a middle-aged woman (Tilda Swinton) who must confront ghosts from her past.
PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH It’s eight lives down and one to go for everyone’s favorite sword-wielding animated feline. Antonio Banderas returns as Puss. Other voice talent includes Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, and Olivia Colman.
Also opening: “Wildcat”
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY Daniel Craig returns as super sleuth Benoit Blanc. Rian Johnson again directed and did the script. A starry cast features Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, and Janelle Monáe.
LIVING Director Oliver Hermanus sets the bar very high here, remaking Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic, “Ikiru.” At least he has some formidable help: Bill Nighy stars, and Nobel Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro wrote the screenplay.
THE PALE BLUE EYE Scott Cooper directed and did the adaptation of Louis Bayard’s 2006 novel. Harry Melling plays a young Edgar Allan Poe in this period mystery. Christian Bale, Gillian Anderson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Robert Duvall costar.
BABYLON Writer-director Damien Chazelle visits a past incarnation of La-La Land in this look at Hollywood as the silents gave way to talkies. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, and Olivia Wilde head an impressive cast.
ROALD DAHL’S MATILDA THE MUSICAL The Broadway hit comes to the screen. Emma Thompson, Lashana Lynch, and Andrea Riseborough star, with newcomer Alisha Weir in the title role.
WOMEN TALKING Sarah Polley directed and did the adaptation of Miriam Toews’s novel about eight Mennonite women confronting terrible doings in their colony. Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand, and Ben Whishaw head a very strong cast.
Mark Feeney can be reached at email@example.com.