October will mark the release of a number of buzzy films that we’ve been tracking on the festival circuit, starting with “Tár” (October 7), a drama about a world-famous conductor that’s poised to land star Cate Blanchett her eighth Oscar nod. This month will also see the launch of “Call Jane” (October 28) from director Phyllis Nagy, the screenwriter behind 2015 Blanchett-starrer “Carol.” Based on true events, the film is set in 1968 Chicago and tells the story of an underground collective dedicated to providing abortions to those in need. “Aftersun” (October 21), Charlotte Wells’ first feature, will also transport audiences back in time, bringing them along to a seaside vacation a divorced dad takes his pre-teen daughter on in the ’90s. After making its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, “Till,” Chinonye Chukwu’s biopic of Mamie Till Mobley, Emmett Till’s mother, will hit theaters October 14. It explores how Till Mobley sought justice for her son following his lynching.
Another title exploring a brutal chapter in American history is “Descendant” (October 21), Margaret Brown’s doc about the search for the last known ship to arrive in the U.S. illegally carrying enslaved Africans. Other noteworthy docs being released this month include “Sell/Buy/Date” (October 14), Tony winner Sarah Jones’ examination of the sex industry, and “Brainwashed (October 21), Nina Menkes’ exploration of the male gaze in cinema.
Thankfully, there are also plenty of genre offerings to look forward to this October. You can start preparing for Halloween with Carlota Pereda’s “Piggy” (October 7), a horror story about a bullied teen girl, and Nyla Innuksuk’s “Slash/Back” (October 21), an alien invasion pic that’s set in a remote Canadian community. The final installment of the “Halloween” franchise is also set to drop. Jamie Lee Curtis will face Michael Myers one last time in “Halloween Ends” (October 14).
These are the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films set to debut in October. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“Acid Test” – Written and Directed by Jenny Waldo (Available on VOD)
Set in 1992, a Latina teen (Juliana DeStefano) enters her senior year with life-long plans to attend Harvard. On a night out with her best friend, she discovers Riot Grrrl, an aggressive feminist punk music, and impulsively drops acid. As she drifts farther and farther from “the plan,” she dives into new experiences, exploring her Mexican heritage, defining herself on her own terms, and rebelling against her father’s control.
“Bonnie” (Documentary) (In Theaters)
A portrait of legendary casting director Bonnie Timmermann. An homage to the craft of acting.
“Piggy” – Written and Directed by Carlota Pereda (In Theaters; Available on VOD October 14)
Sarah (Laura Galán), a teenager whose excess weight makes her the target of incessant bullying, flees a clique of capricious girls who torment her at the town pool, only to stumble upon them being brutally kidnapped by a stranger, who drives off with them in his van. When the police begin asking questions, Sara keeps quiet. Intrigued by the stranger, she’s torn between revealing the truth and protecting the man who saved her.
“Tár” stars Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tár, the groundbreaking conductor of a major German Orchestra. We meet Tár at the height of her career, as she’s preparing both a book launch and much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Over the ensuing weeks her life begins to unravel in a singularly modern way.
“Battleground” (Documentary) – Directed by Cynthia Lowen; Written by Cynthia Lowen and Nancy Novack (In Theaters; Available on VOD October 14)
Three women lead the charge in their single-minded quest to overturn Roe v. Wade, as they face down forces equally determined to safeguard women’s access to safe and legal abortions.
“Losing Ground” (4K Restoration) – Written and Directed by Kathleen Collins (In Theaters)
In celebration of the film’s 40th anniversary, the 4K restoration of “Losing Ground” tells the story of two remarkable people, married and hurtling toward a crossroads in their lives: Sara Rogers (Seret Scott), a Black professor of philosophy, is embarking on an intellectual quest just as her painter husband, Victor (Bill Gunn), sets off on an exploration of joy. Victor decides to rent a country house away from the city, but the couple’s summer idyll becomes complicated by his involvement with a younger model.
“Last Flight Home” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Ondi Timoner (In Theaters)
Behind a white picket fence, on an unremarkable suburban street, we discover Eli Timoner, who founded Air Florida, the fastest growing airline in the world in the 1970’s. During his final days, we discover his extraordinary life filled with incredible success and devastating setbacks, and most importantly, an innate goodness which won him the enduring love and support of his family.
“When the Music Changes” – Written and Directed by Lakshmi Devy (In Theaters)
A young beautiful Indian American woman (Lakshmi Devy) finds happiness through her work as a documentarian and spending time with friends in her hometown in India. Trapped in an abusive relationship with her lover, albeit more emotionally than physically, she finds it difficult to accept that it is abuse. An unfortunate incident shakes her to the core, making her think about the relationship and finally take a call regarding her self-respect.
“Pretty Problems” – Directed by Kestrin Pantera; Written by Britt Rentschler, Charlotte Ubben, and Michael Tennant (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Low cash flow + Plan B jobs + a Snooze Alarm Sex Life: Lindsey (Britt Rentschler) and Jack Simpson (Michael Tennant) are officially stuck. But when they get invited to a Sonoma Chateau by affluent strangers, they end up on the most unhinged weekend of their lives.
“Stay the Night” – Written and Directed by Renuka Jeyapalan (In Theaters)
A failed work opportunity prompts chronically single Grace (Andrea Bang) to pursue a one night stand with a stranger (Joe Scarpellino). Turns out he’s an on-the-outs professional athlete in town with a problem of his own. Maybe they can help each other.
“Our American Family” (Documentary) – Directed by Hallee Adelman and Sean King O’Grady (Available on AMC+; Available on Sundance TV October 23)
“Our American Family” provides an honest, unfiltered look at a close-knit Philadelphia family dealing with generational substance abuse. Captured at a pivotal “nothing to lose” moment, for over the course of a year, five family members tired of life with addiction on center stage, each struggling to transcend their crippling histories.
“To Leslie” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a single mother struggling to provide for her son (Owen Teague) wins the lottery, but a few short years later the money is gone. Unwelcome and unwanted by those she wronged, it’s a lonely motel clerk named Sweeney (Marc Maron) who takes a chance when no one else will. With his support, Leslie comes face to face with the consequences of her actions, a life of regret, and a second chance to make a good life for her and her son.
“The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” – Written by Gabrielle Zevin (In Theaters)
Bookstore owner A.J. Fikry’s (Kunal Nayyar) life is not turning out as he expected. As he tries to keep his store afloat, he drinks his sorrows away, ultimately hitting rock bottom when his most prized possession, a series of Edgar Allen Poe poems, are stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, the unexpected arrival gives Fikry a new lease on life, and love, that are greater than he ever imagined.
“Luckiest Girl Alive” – Written by Jessica Knoll (Available on Netflix)
A writer’s (Mila Kunis) perfectly crafted New York City life starts to unravel when a true-crime documentary forces her to confront her harrowing high school history.
“Halloween Ends” (In Theaters)
This is Laurie Strode’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) last stand. After 45 years, the most acclaimed, revered horror franchise in film history reaches its epic, terrifying conclusion as Laurie Strode faces off for the last time against the embodiment of evil, Michael Myers, in a final confrontation unlike any captured on-screen before. Only one of them will survive.
“Till” – Directed by Chinonye Chukwu; Written by Chinonye Chukwu, Keith Beauchamp, and Michael Reilly (In Theaters)
“Till” is a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s (Danielle Deadwyler) relentless pursuit of justice for her 14 year old son, Emmett Till (Jalyn Hall), who, in 1955, was brutally lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world.
“Sell/Buy/Date” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Sarah Jones (In Theaters; Available on VOD November 8)
As a mixed-race Black woman in America, Tony winning performer and comedian Sarah Jones explores her own personal relationship to one of the most misunderstood issues in our current culture: the sex industry, and the surprisingly diverse range of people whose lives it touches. Through interviews and even celebrity cameos, this film poses the question: how can we as a society have a healthy relationship to sex, power, race and our economy, without exploitation or stigma?
“Stars at Noon” – Directed by Claire Denis; Written by Claire Denis, Léa Mysius, and Andrew Litvack (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
A young American journalist (Margaret Qualley) stranded in 1948 Nicaragua falls in love with an elusive Englishman (Joe Alwyn) who appears to be her only way out. However, they become entangled in a hazardous web of lies and intrigues, forcing them to flee the country.
“Cat Daddies” (Documentary) – Directed by Mye Hoang (In Theaters)
A heartwarming and tender portrait of a diverse group of men whose lives have been forever changed by their love of cats, “Cat Daddies” takes us on an inspiring journey all across the United States during the challenging early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when people desperately needed hope and companionship. A refreshing and timely exploration of modern masculinity, “Cat Daddies” shows us how being a “cat person” has no gender, and that the unlikely bond between man and cat is here to stay.
“The Other Tom” – Written and Directed by Laura Santullo and Rodrigo Plá (In Theaters)
Elena (Julia Chávez) is a single mother whose son Tom (Israel Rodríguez) has behavioral issues and is stigmatized at school as a “problem child.” An absent father further complicates their difficult relationship. Tom is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and prescribed psychiatric medication, but a strange accident alerts his mother as to its side effects. When Elena refuses to continue administering the drugs to Tom, Social Services threaten to remove him from her custody.
“Rosaline” — Directed by Karen Maine – October 14 (Available on Hulu)
“Rosaline” is a fresh and comedic twist on Shakespeare’s classic love story “Romeo & Juliet,” told from the perspective of Juliet’s cousin Rosaline (Kaitlyn Dever), who also happens to be Romeo’s recent love interest. Heartbroken when Romeo (Kyle Allen) meets Juliet (Isabela Merced) and begins to pursue her, Rosaline schemes to foil the famous romance and win back her guy.
“Game of Love” – Directed by Elisa Amoruso; Written by Elisa Amoruso, Anita Rivaroli, and Marco Borromei (Available on VOD)
“Game of Love” follows Vivien (Bella Thorne) and Roy (Benjamin Mascolo) as their love story continues and leads them to Roy’s childhood home in Sicily to prepare for the sale of the family estate. During the visit, a mysterious woman arrives and befriends Vivien, much to Roy’s displeasure. Tensions build and lines are crossed as secrets from Roy’s past force the couple to face aspects of their relationship they did not know existed.
“The Accursed” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Elly (Sarah Grey) is asked by a family friend to spend a few days looking after an elderly woman (Meg Foster) living in a remote cabin. The cabin turns out to be anything but relaxing as Elly begins hallucinating in ways that blur reality with her dreams. As the visions take over, Elly realizes that she was lured there by a demonic presence hiding inside of the woman just waiting to break free.
“Decision to Leave” – Written by Seo-kyeong Jeong and Park Chan-wook (In Theaters)
A detective (Park Hae-il) investigating a man’s death in the mountains meets the dead man’s mysterious wife (Tang Wei) in the course of his dogged sleuthing.
“Scrap” (Documentary) — Directed by Stacey Tenenbaum (In Theaters)
“Scrap” is a love letter to the things we use in our daily lives. This cinematic documentary tells the story of people who each have a deep connection to objects that have reached their “end of life.” Together these stories convey a deeper environmental and human message about our relationship to things, the sadness we feel at their eventual loss, and the joy that we can find in giving them a new purpose. By showing discarded goods in a new and engaging way, the film raises awareness about the fate of the things we use and explores how artists, and other creative thinkers, can be part of finding usefulness in the things we discard.
“Three Wishes for Cinderella” – Directed by Cecilie A. Mosli; Written by Anna Bache-Wiig, Kamilla Krogsveen, Karsten Fullu, and Siv Rajendram Eliassen (Available on VOD)
In this retelling of the classic fairy tale, an outdoor-loving Cinderella (Astrid S) catches the eye of a beloved prince (Cengiz Al) – but human nature keeps them apart.
“The Good Nurse” – Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns (In Theaters; Available on Netflix October 26)
Suspicious that her colleague is responsible for a series of mysterious patient deaths, a nurse (Jessica Chastain) risks her own life to uncover the truth in this gripping thriller based on true events.
“The School for Good and Evil” (Available on Netflix)
Best friends Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) find their bond put to the test when they’re whisked away to a magical school for future fairy-tale heroes and villains.
“V/H/S/99” (Anthology) – Directed by Maggie Levin, Vanessa Winter, Joseph Winter, Johannes Roberts, Flying Lotus, and Tyler MacIntyre (Available on Shudder)
“V/H/S/99” harkens back to the final punk rock analog days of VHS, while taking one giant leap forward into the hellish new millennium. In “V/H/S/99,” a thirsty teenager’s home video leads to a series of horrifying revelations.
“The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Kathlyn Horan (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
“The Return of Tanya Tucker” follows Tanya’s richly creative, utterly captivating, bumpy ride back to the top as Brandi Carlile encourages her to push past her fears to create a new sound and reach a new audience. The writing, the experimenting, and refining of this new music mixes with all that came before – using rare archival footage and photographs to delve into Tanya’s history, beginning in a single wide trailer in Seminole, Texas.
“Aftersun” – Written and Directed by Charlotte Wells (In Theaters)
Sophie (Frankie Corio) reflects on the shared joy and private melancholy of a holiday she took with her father 20 years earlier. Memories real and imagined fill the gaps between miniDV footage as she tries to reconcile the father she knew with the man she didn’t.
“Descendant” (Documentary) – Directed by Margaret Brown; Written by Margaret Brown and Kern Jackson (In Theaters and Available on Netflix)
Documentary filmmaker Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths”, “The Great Invisible”) returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama to document the search for and historic discovery of The Clotilda, the last known ship to arrive in the United States, illegally carrying enslaved Africans. After a century of secrecy and speculation, the 2019 discovery of the ship turns attention toward the descendant community of Africatown and presents a moving portrait of a community actively grappling with and fighting to preserve their heritage while examining what justice looks like today.
“Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power” (Documentary) – Directed by Nina Menkes (In Theaters)
“Brainwashed” is based on director Nina Menkes’s cinematic presentation, “Sex and Power,” the Visual Language of Cinema, that uses film clips by A-list directors from the 1940s through to the present, to show how the visual grammar of cinema contributes to conditions that create discriminatory hiring practice, pay inequity and a pervasive environment of sexual harassment in the film industry and beyond.
“Slash/Back” – Directed by Nyla Innuksuk; Written by Nyla Innuksuk and Ryan Cavan (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Set in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, “Slash/Back” opens as the village wakes up to a typical summer day. No School, no cool boys (well, except one), and 24-hour sunlight. But for Maika (Tasiana Shirley) and her ragtag friends, the usual summer is suddenly not in the cards when they discover an alien invasion threatening their hometown. These teenagers have been underestimated their whole lives but, using makeshift weapons and their horror movie knowledge, they show the aliens you don’t f*** with the girls from Pang.
“Voodoo Macbeth” – Directed by Hannah Bang, Tiffany Kontoyiannis-Guillen, Zoë Alyce Salnave, Sabina Vajraca, Dagmawi Abebe, Víctor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, and Ernesto Sandoval; Written by Jennifer Frazin, Morgan Milender, Molly Miller, Erica Sutherlin, Agazi Desta, Amri Rigby, Joel David Santner, and Chris Tarricone (In Theaters)
With FDR’s New Deal providing funding for the Federal Theatre Project’s Negro Unit, director Rose McClendon (Inger Tudor) convinces co-director John Houseman (Daniel Kuhlman) to help her bring Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to the Harlem community at the Lafayette Theater – with an all-Black cast. They choose for their groundbreaking production a gifted but untested 21-year-old director by the name of Orson Welles (Jewell Wilson Bridges), whose reimagined Haitian vision for the Scottish play is as daring and fresh as the cast and crew themselves.
“The Fire That Took Her” (Documentary) – Directed by Patricia E. Gillespie (In Theaters)
Mother-of-two Judy Malinowski was doused in gasoline and set on fire by her crazed ex-boyfriend. She would go on to become the first person to testify at the trial for her own murder. “The Fire That Took Her” goes inside the landmark case to ask a timely question: How much must women suffer in order to be believed?
“The Pez Outlaw” (Documentary) – Directed by Amy Bandlien Storkel and Bryan Storkel (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Steve Glew, a small-town Michigan man, boards a plane for Eastern Europe soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His mission is to locate a secret factory that holds the key to the most desired and valuable Pez dispensers. Steve becomes the hero of his own adventure, smuggling the rarest of goods into the U.S. and making millions in the process. It was all magical, until his arch-nemesis, The Pezident decided to destroy him.
“Sinphony” (Anthology) – Directed by Haley Bishop, Kimberley Elizabeth, Nichole Carlson, Steven Keller, Jason Wilkinson, Michael Galvan, Mark Pritchard, Sebastien Bazile, Wes Driver, Baraka Noel, and Jason Ragosta; Written by Haley Bishop, Kimberley Elizabeth, Nichole Carlson, Wes Driver, Sebastien Bazile, Greg Greene, Steven Keller, Baraka Noel, Jason Ragosta (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
International filmmakers each explore a character dealing with tragedy caused by a supernatural entity.
“Call Jane” – Directed by Phyllis Nagy; Written by Hayley Schore and Roshan Sethi (In Theaters)
Chicago, 1968. When Joy’s (Elizabeth Banks) pregnancy leads to a life-threatening heart condition, she must navigate an all-male medical establishment unwilling to terminate her pregnancy in order to save her life. Her journey for a solution leads her to Virginia (Sigourney Weaver), an independent visionary fiercely committed to women’s health, and Gwen (Wunmi Mosaku), an activist who dreams of a day when all women will have access to abortion, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Peaceful” – Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot; Written by Emmanuelle Bercot and Marcia Romano (In Theaters)
Benoît Magimel is Benjamin, a passionate theater teacher in his late thirties who just found out he has terminal cancer. Reluctantly leaning on the support of his loving mother Crystal (Catherine Deneuve) and his compassionate doctor (Gabriel Sara), he slowly learns to accept the inevitable journey of death.
“Run Sweetheart Run” – Directed by Shana Feste; Written by Shana Feste, Kellee Terrell, and Keith Josef Adkins (Available on Prime Video)
After what begins as dinner with a client, a single mom (Ella Balinska) finds herself hunted by a monstrous and seemingly unstoppable assailant (Pilou Asbæk) in this terrifying dark thriller.
“All Quiet on the Western Front” – Written by Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell, and Edward Berger (Available on Netflix)
When 17-year-old Paul (Felix Kammerer) joins the Western Front in World War I, his initial excitement is soon shattered by the grim reality of life in the trenches.
“Prey for the Devil” (In Theaters)
A nun (Virginia Madsen) prepares to perform an exorcism and comes face to face with a demonic force with mysterious ties to her past.
“Appetite for Sin” (Available on VOD)
“Appetite For Sin” is a horror feature film about the story of women vampires walking among the living in Los Angeles. The lead Vampire Sarah Hase (Missy Sahagun), is searching for Vampire Killer Jeffery Nelson (Ricky Herrera). Sarah, who is also an undercover FBI agent, wants to catch him in the act and have him rot in a cell for eternity.