TIFF 2017: 13 movies with major buzz coming to Toronto

Indomitable women, sharp social commentary plus a surprise entry from the Louis C.K.: there are a host of promising, much anticipated films slated for this year's Toronto International Film Festival — with hopes of eventually landing at a cinema near you.

Annual festival gets underway Thursday with tennis drama Borg/McEnroe

Sally Hawkins is earning rave reviews for her role in Guillermo del Toro's latest otherworldly fairytale, The Shape of Water, which some have called his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth. (TIFF)

Indomitable women, sharp social commentary, plus a surprise entry from the Louis C.K.: there are a host of promising, much anticipated films slated for this year's Toronto International Film Festival — with hopes of eventually landing at a cinema near you.

Here are 13 of the top movies building major buzz heading into this year's fest.

The Shape of Water

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The Toronto International Film Festival's artistic director names his No.1 must-see this year. 0:31

None other than TIFF's artistic director himself named Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water as his single, must-see pic of this year's festival. Many a reviewer who took in the film's premiere in Venice have likened the unusual romance — starring the superb Sally Hawkins — to his indelible, spine-tingling fable Pan's Labyrinth. 


Matt Damon, right foreground, headlines a star-studded cast in Alexander Payne’s sci-fi social satire about a man who chooses to shrink himself — literally — to simplify his life. (TIFF)

Big ideas can explode from a miniaturized package, with Alexander Payne's social satire exploring wider implications of a neat sci-fi conceit: shrinking humans and objects down to 1/12 their normal size ("get small") to deal with overpopulation. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star.


Director Darren Aronofsky definitely knows how to mess with viewer's heads and his latest — a mysterious, psychological horror story revolving around Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence (the pair are also dating) and co-starring Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer — looks to be a truly disturbing mind-blower. 


George Clooney's behind-the-camera efforts typically offer brainy entertainment. His latest, in which flawed suburbanites make some very bad decisions, draws from a real-life story as it explores the dark, violent and racist underbelly of a supposedly peaceful, post-war American town. Further points in its favour: it's based on an unproduced script from Clooney's past collaborators Joel and Ethan Coen, while the talented cast includes Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac.

Lady Bird

A rebellious young woman, portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, seen at right here with Laurie Metcalf, navigates the pressures and constraints of Catholic school and life in Sacremento in Greta Gerwig's solo directorial debut. (TIFF)

After bringing to life dozens of complex roles and increasingly adding her stamp onto productions as a writer and producer as well, indie film darling Greta Gerwig makes her solo directorial debut with this much anticipated dramedy starring Saoirse Ronan as a rebellious high schooler looking to college as a means of escaping her family.

Mary Shelley

Elle Fanning, second left, stars as Mary Shelley in this chronicle of her tempestuous marriage to poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth, second right) and the fateful night at a Swiss chateau that inspired her most famous creation, Frankenstein. (TIFF)

What might otherwise be written off as a standard period bio-pic project about Frankenstein's author has intrigued cinema-watchers instead, thanks to a female-centric production starring Elle Fanning, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour. Her acclaimed drama Wadjda, which she wrote and helmed, was the first feature filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia, instantly made her that country's first female filmmaker and ended up being the country's first Oscar foreign-language film submission to boot.


Music video director and filmmaker Joseph Kahn's latest movie is a satirical exploration of the artistically brutal sport of battle rapping, based on a script by Toronto rapper Alex (Kid Twist) Larsen and produced by Eminem. (TIFF)

Though perhaps best known these days as Taylor Swift's go-to music video director, Joseph Kahn has re-teamed with previous collaborator Eminem for his latest. Described as a sharp satire about a grad student diving into the battle rap community, the film also has several Canuck connections, including Victoria-born actor Calum Worthy and the movie's Toronto-born screenwriter — and former battle rap champion — Alex (Kid Twist) Larsen.

Molly's Game

What more can we say? It's about the secretive, sexy world of high-stakes poker. It stars the commanding Jessica Chastain and always-magnetic Idris Elba. It's Aaron Sorkin making his directorial debut. Sold.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Frances McDormand stars as a frustrated and grieving mother who antagonizes the local police force to call attention to its stalled search for her daughter’s killer, in this latest work from British playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh. (TIFF)

British writer and filmmaker Martin McDonagh, known for his darkly comic portraits, returns with this new film starring the crackling, awe-inspiring Frances McDormand as a mother fed up with the local police force's inability to solve her daughter's killing. The stellar cast also features Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish and Peter Dinklage.

Battle of the Sexes 

Recent Oscar-winner Emma Stone reteams with actor Steve Carrell, who played her dad in Crazy. Stupid. Love, for what looks to be a terrifically entertaining and timely tale about sports, gender parity and sexuality, revolving around the real-life 1973 match between tennis icon Billie-Jean King and retired player Bobby Riggs. Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who worked with Carrell on Little Miss Sunshine, along with writer Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) definitely know their way around heart-tugging crowd-pleasers. 

Long Time Running

Long Time Running documents The Tragically Hip's Man Machine Poem tour, which followed frontman Gord Downie's diagnosis of terminal cancer. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Who better to capture The Tragically Hip's poignant Man Machine Poem tour in the summer of 2016 — which followed frontman Gord Downie's diagnosis of terminal brain cancer — than accomplished, award-winning Canadian documentary makers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier? 

Call Me By Your Name 

Italian director Luca Guadagnino's film exploring first love blossoming across a hazy summer on the Riviera emerged as a must-see at the Sundance and Berlin festivals earlier this year, winning over critics and drawing comparisons to Moonlight and Carol as another powerful and evocative tale of same-sex love.

I Love You Daddy

Louis C.K. surprised fans with his latest film I Love You, Daddy, a secret project that only came to light in August. (TIFF)

To those fans eagerly awaiting more of Louis C.K.'s  hit series Louie, perhaps this might tide you over for a while? Here's what little we know: that the boundary-pushing funnyman shot his first film in 16 years completely in secret, with a star-studded cast, including Chloe Grace Moretz, John Malkovich, Rose Byrne and regular collaborator Pamela Aldon, and in black and white. The plot is said to revolve around a TV producer (Louis C.K. himself) and his relationship with his daughter (Moretz). 

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 7-17, 2017.