15 Movies That Looked Great At The Toronto International Film Festival

best movies TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival, a well respected festival with a history of giving the world its first taste of the award winning films of the year. It’s the initial start of award season. Notable films to have had their world or North American premiere at Toronto include The King’s Speech, Moneyball, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, and Dallas Buyers Club, just to name a few from the past several years.

Some of these films have been generating press from the second they were announced, some were more under the radar and the festival itself has brought them to the world’s attention. If the past several People’s Choice Award winners (Imitation Game, 12 Years A Slave, Silver Linings Playbook) from the festival can show, these could be big films to watch for the award season.


15. Freeheld


Based on the documentary short film of the same name, Freeheld is about police officer Laurel Hester’s fight against the Ocean County, New Jersey Board of Chosen Freeholders to allow her pension benefits to be transferred to her domestic partner after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Freeheld stars Julianne Moore as Hester, and Ellen Page as her girlfriend, Stacie. Premiering on September 13th at TIFF, the film, as well as its two leads had some hype behind it.

Based on initial reviews from the festival, it has lived up to that hype. Julianne Moore, fresh off her Oscar win last year for Still Alice, is receiving Oscar buzz again, as is her co-star Ellen Page. Written by the screenwriter of Philadelphia, Ron Nyswaner, who could get some buzz as well, Freeheld will be released limitedly on October 2nd and have a wider release of October 16th.


14. The Meddler

The Meddler

This is the film that could bring Susan Sarandon back to the awards race. Having already won an Oscar in 1996 for Dead Man Walking and receiving four nominations, she is no first timer, but Sarandon could be in the mix again this year. In The Meddler she plays a widow who follows her daughter from New York City to Los Angeles in hopes of starting a new life. Her daughter is played by Rose Byrne, with JK Simmons, Lucy Punch, and Cecily Strong, among others in supporting roles.

Written and Directed by Lorene Scafaria, this Sony Pictures Classics film does not yet have a release date for this year, but Sony Pictures Classics has picked up the distribution rights. Watch out for this one in the upcoming award season, especially for Saradon.


13. About Ray

About Ray

Teenager Ray, formerly Ramona realizes and pursues his true gender identity as male. His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts), lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) and absent father Craig (Tate Donovan) must learn to accept him for who he is.

There has been some controversy of the casting of cisgender actress Elle Fanning in the role of Ray. Director Gaby Dellal stated that Ray is a character who has not yet transitioned during the story, saying, “The part is a girl and she is a girl who is presenting in a very ineffectual way as a boy”.

Controversy aside, About Ray, written by Dellai and Nikole Beckwith, should at least start a dialogue about transitioning and understanding your child’s gender identity. It premiered as a Special Presentation at TIFF on September 12th. It was supposed to be released in theaters by The Weinstein Company on September 18th, but it was pulled from the schedul in the last minute.


12. Heart of a Dog

Heart of a Dog

Heart of a Dog competed in the main competition section at the Venice Film Festival after premiering at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4th. It was commissioned by Arte who focuses on her remembrances of her late beloved piano-playing and finger-painting dog Lolabelle. The scenes range from realistic footage of the animal’s life to imagined scenes of Lolabelle’s passage through the bardo.

It also includes other reflections on life and death including Anderson’s experiences in life in downtown New York after 9/11. The film was directed by Laurie Anderson and was featured in the Docs section at the Toronto International Film Festival. It received critical acclaim at each festival and has generated some award buzz.


11. Beast of No Nation

Beast of No Nation

This could be a huge stepping stone for Netflix. The film will be released simultaneously on their streaming service and in theaters on October 16th. Beast of No Nation, which is based on the novel of the same name by Uzodinma Iweala, and stars Idris Elba, Ama K. Abebrese, Abraham Attah, Grace Nortey, David Dontoh and Opeyemi Fagbohungbe. It first premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Marcello Mastroianni Award.

The award buzz is on for Idris Elba and his performance, but don’t forget director Cory Fukunaga, the man behind the amazing first season of True Detective.

Although the film will be released on Netflix and in theaters on the same day, it’s a violation of the traditional 90-day release window of exclusivity to theatres, AMC Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, Cinemark, and Regal Entertainment—four of the largest theatre chains in the United States—announced that they would boycott Beasts of No Nation, effectively downgrading it to a limited release at smaller and independent theatres.


10. Youth


In Paolo Sorrentino’s follow-up to his Academy Award winning film The Great Beauty, his second English language piece, Youth follows a retired orchestra conductor who is on holiday with his daughter and film director best friend in the Alps when he receives an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II to perform for Prince Philip’s birthday.

It stars Michael Caine as the conductor. The cast includes Jane Fonda, Paul Dano, Harvey Keitel, and Rachel Weisz. Youth premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme D’or. It was also shown as a Special Presentation at TIFF. On Metacritic, the film has received a score of 78 out of 100 based on 9 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. If the reviews stay positive and the hype continues to build, Sorrentino could have another invitation to the Oscars.


9. Truth


Truth is an American political biological drama written and directed by James Vanderbilt. It is the directorial debut of Vanderbilt. It is based on Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, The President And The Privilege Of Power about the Killian documents controversy. The film stars Robert Redford as news reporter Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes.

The film focuses on Rather’s last days at CBS News in 2004, when broadcasting what immediately became highly-controversial news alleging President George W. Bush, who was running for re-election, had relied on preferential treatment in order to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War. The film will be released widely on October 16th and had already received critical acclaim from its showing at the Toronto International Film Festival.