Marriage Story, Knives Out, Waves, The Irishman, and more: It’s a big month at the movies.
The November movie schedule is crowded with pleasures: There’s a tiny indie, several huge franchise blockbusters, documentaries, comedies, biopics, and a lot more. There’s a hotly anticipated movie about Mr. Rogers and a Christmas-y romcom. Some of this month’s movies are en route to the Oscars; others just want to make you laugh a lot. But it’s an exciting lineup nonetheless.
So when you’re planning your November movie viewing, be sure to save room for these 16 standouts.
Light From Light (November 1)
It’s extraordinarily tricky to describe Light from Light, which is both about ghosts and occasionally creepy while definitely not being a horror film. Instead, it’s a slow and moving drama about loss, grief, and love.
Directed by Paul Harrill, Light from Light is the story of Shelia (Marin Ireland), a single mom and skeptic who lives in Tennessee — who, oddly enough, is a ghost hunter, even though she’s not really sure how to feel about the supernatural. She meets Richard (Jim Gaffigan), who thinks his late wife’s spirit may still be in in his house, and agrees to help him figure out what’s going on. It’s an extraordinary and thought-provoking film for skeptics and believers alike.
How to watch it: Light from Light opens in select theaters on November 1.
Terminator: Dark Fate (November 1)
Terminator: Dark Fate is the sixth movie in the franchise, and a direct sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. This one essentially writes out post-T2 history and returns to basics, bringing back both Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, plus additional new cast members and a Skynet-free storyline. If you’ve never seen any other Terminator movie, this one will still make some sense. But it’s also a Terminator movie for people who are nostalgic for the old Terminator films, the ones with the famous lines (“I’ll be back”) and famous sunglasses. (Those are Gargoyles ANSI Classics, if you were wondering.)
And in the hands of Deadpool director Tim Miller, Dark Fate by-and-large pulls off recapturing the goofy fun of the original, though with a twist. It evokes the earliest Terminator films, but Dark Fate doesn’t want to just rewrite Terminator’s future — it wants to re-evaluate the series’ past, too.
How to watch it: Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters on November 1.
American Dharma (November 1)
In American Dharma, documentarian Errol Morris sat down for an extended conversation with former Breitbart chair and White House adviser Steve Bannon about his ideological views, his interpretation of history, and his involvement in Donald Trump’s presidency, the alt-right, and the reemergence of militant white nationalism in America.
The result isn’t exactly satisfying; if you go into American Dharma hoping for a systematic and explicit confrontation or dismantling of Bannon’s often disturbing views, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, Morris is interested in revealing his subject as a farce: a deluded figure with fantasies of grandeur and little substance beneath the grandiose clichés — a grown man desperately play-acting at being the tragic hero he saw in the movies.
How to watch it: American Dharma opens in select cities on November 1.
The Irishman (November 1 in theaters, November 27 on Netflix)
Time telescopes in Martin Scorsese’s latest movie, shifting back and forth through decades as old, wistful Frank (Robert De Niro) narrates the tale of his life as a hitman for crime syndicate boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and then for Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino, who has somehow never worked with Scorsese before now). This means the film rightfully will be compared to earlier Scorsese movies, like 1973’s Mean Streets and 1990’s Goodfellas, and not just because of the subject matter; in The Irishman, the director reunites with some of his longest-running collaborators from those films, including De Niro, Pesci, and Harvey Keitel.
Like those two movies — and all of Scorsese’s work, really — The Irishman is about guilt, sin, and redemption. But with its lengthy runtime, this one has space to lean in two different tonal directions. The Irishman has both the frenetic swagger of his mob movies and the more contemplative gut wrench of his most spiritual films, like 1988’s The Last Temptation of Christ and his most recent film, 2016’s Silence. And the movie has the maturity of an older man’s perspective, an eye cast backward on a full life. It is lively and wry and very funny, but at times it also feels like a confession, a plea for grace, not just from its protagonist but from the filmmaker himself.
How to watch it: The Irishman opens in select theaters on November 1 before its Netflix premiere on November 27.
Marriage Story (November 6 in theaters, December 6 on Netflix)
Noah Baumbach is America’s foremost chronicler of rough-hewn and disintegrating family units, and in Marriage Story, he pries open one divorce to find the beating heart inside. It’s a showcase for stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as much as it is a triumph for Baumbach, recalling the wry humor and perfect pitch of Woody Allen’s best work, albeit with a touch less self-obsession (even though the couple seems at least partly, and probably inevitably, modeled on Baumbach’s divorce from Jennifer Jason Leigh in 2013).
Marriage Story sees the end of a marriage as cause for both mourning and bittersweet comedy. The relationship is changing but not ending. And the evolution is something to behold. Getting a story like this right requires a sense of the comical and the absurd along with the devastating — and Marriage Story delivers.
How to watch it: Marriage Story opens in select theaters on November 6 before its Netflix premiere on December 6.
Honey Boy (November 8)
Honey Boy has the kind of premise that could very rapidly eat its own tail or become unconscionably sentimental. If the film were strictly fictional, it probably wouldn’t work at all, because it would feel strenuously contrived in order to garner sympathy. But all of it is based on fact, drawn from writer and star Shia LaBeouf’s successful career as a child actor, during which he played lead roles on the 2000-2003 Disney Channel show Even Stevens and in the 2003 movie Holes.
LaBeouf mostly wrote the screenplay while he was in rehab following a 2017 arrest, a similar situation to how we meet the author-insert character Otis (played at 22 by Lucas Hedges and 12 by Noah Jupe). LaBeouf, meanwhile, plays his father, who is by turns tender and abusive, in an extraordinary, courageous performance, directed by Alma Har’el in her first fiction feature. Imagine trying to understand a person who caused you so much pain that you developed PTSD by playing them with warmth, humor, and depth on screen. That kind of lacerating love is difficult to fathom.
How to watch it: Honey Boy opens in theaters on November 8. No date is set for its Amazon Prime premiere date.
Last Christmas (November 8)
In her first post-Game of Thrones appearance, Emilia Clarke unites with Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding for a holiday romantic comedy. And with a screenplay co-written by Emma Thompson and Bryony Kimmings and directed by Paul Feig, it’s wrapped up in a very promising package.
Last Christmas is about an unlucky young Londoner who ends up working as a department store elf during the holidays, where she meets a guy. And that’s when things start to change for her. Will someone eventually give away their heart? (Probably.)
How to watch it: Last Christmas opens in theaters on November 8.
Waves (November 15)
Waves centers on a seemingly ordinary family: high school senior Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a track and field star with a bright future, who’s pushed relentlessly to succeed by his caring, stern father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown). Tyler’s younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell) lives in his shadow; both are loved by their stepmother Catherine (Renée Elise Goldsberry). But the family’s lives are thrown into turmoil after Tyler suffers a debilitating injury and a shocking revelation, and his anger starts manifesting in self-destructive ways. After a horrifying incident at a party, everything spirals out of control, and the story pivots in an unexpected way.
American cinema is rife with movies about family dysfunction and heartache, but because there can only be so much plot packed into a feature-length movie, too often those movies come off as slick or insincere. Waves earns its grace-filled ending by asking us to live alongside a trial by fire. It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean it: You walk out with a weary, cleansed soul.
How to watch it: Waves opens in theaters on November 15.
Atlantics (November 15 in theaters, November 29 on Netflix)
Mati Diop, the first black woman in Cannes history to have a film in the festival’s main competition, tells the story of Ada (Mame Bineta Sane), a Senegalese girl living in a poor village that’s been exploited by a wealthy developer. One of the developer’s workers is Soulemaine (Traore), and Soulemaine and Ada are in love. But she’s already promised to the aloof, wealthy Omar.
Then Soulemaine and a number of other young men disappear in the night, and mysterious fires are lit around town. That’s when things start getting really weird. It’s an extraordinary feature debut for Diop — who came away from Cannes with the Grand Prix, essentially second place to the top prize of the Palme d’Or — and an unforgettable tale of the poor struggling to assert their right to what’s theirs.
How to watch it: Atlantics opens in select theaters on November 15 before its Netflix release on November 29.
The Report (November 15)
One of the buzziest films from Sundance this year was The Report, in which Adam Driver plays Daniel J. Jones, the Senate staffer who investigated the CIA’s use of torture following 9/11. Scott Z. Burns (who wrote The Informant and Contagion) directs the film, which also stars Annette Bening, Ted Levine, Michael C. Hall, Tim Blake Nelson, Corey Stoll, Maura Tierney, and Jon Hamm.
The Report movie keenly understands the public importance of battles over words — the ways they’re used by the powerful to obscure reality and advance agendas. (In the title cards, for example, the full name of the movie is rendered as The Torture Report — and then the word “torture” is crossed out.) The person who wields the power to redact, The Report reminds us, ultimately can alter a whole world’s perception of the truth. And in that case, even the facts don’t really matter.
How to watch it: The Report opens in select theaters on November 15 before its Amazon Prime release on November 29.
Charlie’s Angels (November 15)
Do we need another Charlie’s Angels? Soon we’ll know for sure — but the answer looks promising. Elizabeth Banks directs a new reboot of the much-rebooted franchise from the 1970s, starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Banks, Patrick Stewart, and Djimon Hounsou.
In this new installment, there are multiple teams of Angels globally and they’re called out to protect the world against a dangerous new technology. It’s a pretty conventional plot setup for an action flick, but with the Angels in the mix, there will be a lot of ass-kicking.
How to watch it: Charlie’s Angels opens in theaters on November 15.
Dark Waters (November 22)
In director Todd Haynes’ Dark Waters, Mark Ruffalo plays Rob Bilott, the real-life attorney who discovered and then relentlessly pursued a case against chemical giant DuPont, which had been knowingly poisoning an entire West Virginia town. Bilott’s story was told in a New York Times article, but the film does what an article can’t do as well — it shows the immense, decades-long toil that Bilott engaged in before he saw any fruit.
That toll was not just mental and emotional but physical, and it wore on his wife as well (played by Anne Hathaway). In Haynes’s hands, Dark Waters has gravitas and the ability to infuriate its audience with the near-impossibility of confronting an industry giant on behalf of the ordinary man.
How to watch it: Dark Waters opens in theaters on November 22.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (November 22)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not a biopic about Fred Rogers. Instead of a retelling of the beloved children’s TV host’s life, it’s is a delightfully weird drama, framed and shot deliberately to feel like a grown-up episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Tom Hanks is game as Rogers, but it’s Matthew Rhys who stars here. Rhys is Lloyd Vogel, a version of real-life Esquire journalist Tom Junod, who was sent in 1998 to write a few hundred words about Rogers for a puff piece and wound up with a cover story and a changed life.
Those suspicious of sentimentality (and that’s me, too) may find this premise to be too maudlin for words. But watching A Beautiful Day, I became a believer — not just in the tale, but also in director Marielle Heller, whose 2018 film Can You Ever Forgive Me? was an unsentimental and yet compassionate tale of a prickly person changed (at least a little) by a friendship. This film invites us into Rogers’ philosophy that adults would be better people if they tried to remember what it was like to be children. It gently coaxes the audience to filter some very adult emotions through the familiar characters and songs and stories of Rogers’ world. The result is unexpected and unlike any film of its kind, and a testimony to Rogers’ enduring influence, too.
How to watch it: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens in theaters on November 22.
The Two Popes (November 27, on Netflix December 20)
Fernando Meirelles (City of God) directs this biographical comedy-drama about Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and his successor, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), the eventual Pope Francis. The movie takes place at a turning point in the Roman Catholic Church’s history, as Bergoglio requests permission from Benedict to retire from the church with which he’s become frustrated.
It’s a surprisingly sensitive and often funny take on the promise and perils of leadership, but The Two Popes also operates as an introduction to an early conflict in the life of now-Pope Francis and how it shaped him. It’s not afraid to pose some hard questions to its characters about abuse in the church as well as belief and doubt — and also cheekily dramatize the men’s great love of football.
How to watch it: The Two Popes opens in theaters on November 27 before its Netflix premieres on December 20.
Knives Out (November 27)
One of the most purely entertaining films of the year, Knives Out (from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson) uses the familiar Agatha Christie-style whodunnit template to tell a twisty murder tale with a bite. Knives Out concerns the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a massively successful, wealthy mystery writer, and the patriarch to a family in which nearly everyone seems to have had some reason to want him dead, even if it’s just to get their inheritance. (Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Riki Lindhome play the various family members.) One detective (Lakeith Stanfield) is leading the investigation, but another (Daniel Craig) is lurking around in no official capacity, and nobody — not even he, really — knows why. Meanwhile, a young woman named Marta (Ana de Armas), who cared for Harlan, may know more than she wishes.
It’s best to go into Knives Out as unspoiled as possible, since the breakneck pace of the story is what makes it so fun. But the film isn’t just a whodunnit. Agatha Christie’s stories often hinge on class distinctions and played on English fears of foreigners; Knives Out, set in patrician Massachusetts, takes aim at xenophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and the clueless privilege of the very rich in a way that’s clearly intended to echo contemporary rhetoric. It’s a romping, wicked delight.
How to watch it: Knives Out opens in theaters on November 27.
Queen & Slim (November 27)
Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star in Queen & Slim as a couple whose combative first date takes a turn when they’re pulled over by a cop and, in the altercation that follows, accidentally kill the officer. The pair is forced into a journey neither one of them ever wanted to take while trying to outrun a world that’s stacked against them — and becoming a symbol for a country in turmoil.
Lena Waithe (The Chi) wrote the screenplay for Queen & Slim, a modern-day take on the story of Bonnie and Clyde directed by Melina Matsoukas. Chloë Sevigny, Flea, Bokeem Woodbine, and Indya Moore also star.
How to watch it: Queen & Slim opens in theaters on November 27.
Author: Alissa Wilkinson