Pop Culture

Toronto Film Festival 2023: 11 movies to add to your watchlist this year

With most of Hollywood’s writers and actors on strike, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) looks a little different this year — but attendees can still catch some of the most buzzed-about movies of 2023.

Though festivalgoers might have to do without the glitz and glam of seeing some of their favourite stars walk the red carpet, TIFF’s selection of movies this year has something for everyone. From dramas that tug at your heartstrings to laugh-out-loud comedies and nail-biting thrillers, the roster is impressive.

Click to play video: 'Businesses concerned over impact of Hollywood strike on TIFF'

Businesses concerned over impact of Hollywood strike on TIFF

This year’s offerings for TIFF, which takes place from Sept. 7 to 17, are diverse — ranging from a dramedy about the GameStop stock flip on Wall Street to a Japanese animated film from Studio Ghibli that opens the festival.

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Stars including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Emily Blunt, Kate Winslet, Jamie Foxx, Michael Keaton and Sir Ian McKellen will all be showing their latest works at the festival this year. A number of high-profile celebs, including Chris Pine and Anna Kendrick, will also be making their directorial debuts at TIFF.

With so many titles to choose from at the festival this year, here are 11 films you won’t want to miss.

The Boy and the Heron

A still from ‘The Boy and the Heron.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Takuya Kimura

TIFF 2023’s opening film is perhaps one of the most anticipated works at the festival this year. The Boy and the Heron, the latest from legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli, is going to tear your heart apart, then piece it back together again. Based on Genzaburo Yoshino’s novel How Do You Live?, the animated film follows young Mahito Maki as he moves to the countryside after a family tragedy. The Oscar-winning studio also produced the much-beloved films Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and My Neighbour Totoro. 

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Dumb Money

Paul Dano and Pete Davidson in a still from ‘Dumb Money.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley, Seth Rogen

Inspired by the real-life tug-of-war between independent retail investors on Reddit and hedge fund giants on Wall Street, Dumb Money sees Paul Dano and Seth Rogen battle it out over GameStop stock. When hedge fund managers like Gabe Plotkin (Rogen) bet billions against the company’s bricks-and-mortar business, Keith Gill (Dano) wages a war that sees stocks surge. Dumb Money is anything but dumb — and its sharp humour is guaranteed to get a laugh out of even the most financially illiterate. If you liked The Big Short, this is the flick for you.

Woman of the Hour

A still from ‘Woman of the Hour.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Tony Hale, Daniel Zovatto, Nicolette Robinson

Anna Kendrick is making her directorial debut with Woman of the Hour. Based on Rodney Alcala’s murder spree in the 1970s, this film unpacks gender dynamics that are still relevant today. The movie revolves around Alcala’s infamous TV appearance on The Dating Game, where the secret killer interviewed prospective dates concealed from view. Dark, gritty and real, Woman of the Hour is a Canadian-produced film that will keep audiences gripped from start to finish.

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Quiz Lady

Sandra Oh and Awkwafina in a still from ‘Quiz Lady.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Awkwafina, Sandra Oh, Jason Schwartzman, Holland Taylor, Tony Hale, Jon (Dumbfoundead) Park, Will Ferrell

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh team up as a sisterly duo in Quiz Lady. Anne (Awkwafina) is a game show junkie who never misses her favourite TV program, Quiz Show. After Anne’s chunky pug is kidnapped, she and her sister Jenny (Oh) team up to rescue the pooch using Anne’s greatest power: her ultimate trivia knowledge. Quiz Lady is a tale of family strain and reconnection that’s as charming as it is odd.

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe

Ernie Coombs in a still from ‘Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Judith Lawrence, Chris Coombs, Cathie LeFort, Nina Keogh, Susan Marcus, Jim Parker, Stu Gilchrist, Bruce McCulloch

It doesn’t get much more classically Canadian than Mr. Dressup. In this documentary, audiences get an inside look at Ernie Coombs, the iconic Canadian children’s television personality. For nearly 30 years, Coombs encouraged children to be true to themselves — and subsequently became one of the CBC’s most beloved personalities. Through archival footage, interviews and behind-the-scenes video, Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe pairs nostalgia with important messaging about raising compassionate children.

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Knox Goes Away

Michael Keaton in a still from ‘Knox Goes Away.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Michael Keaton, Al Pacino, Marcia Gay Harden, James Marsden, Suzy Nakamura, John Hoogenakker, Joanna Kulig, Ray Mckinnon, Lela Loren

If you’re looking to watch something at TIFF that will make your heart race, Knox Goes Away is for you. Directed by and starring Micheal Keaton, this film follows John Knox (Keaton), a hitman diagnosed with a fast-moving form of dementia. As part of his last hit, Knox, with the help of his friend Xavier (Al Pacino), must help his son Miles (James Marsden) cover up a gruesome crime. This film is sure to be unlike any movie about dementia you’ve ever seen.

Close to You

Elliot Page in a still from ‘Close to You.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Elliot Page, Hillary Baack

Elliot Page is coming home. In this Ontario-set film, Page plays Sam, a man who has not been back to see his family since his gender transition. When Sam bumps into his childhood friend Katherine (Hillary Baack) on the train ride to Cobourg, Ont., Sam is forced to confront what his homecoming means, for better or for worse. Powerful, emotionally observant and an all-too-familiar tale for so many young trans people, Close to You is an inspiring story about turning a new page.

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Concrete Utopia

A still from ‘Concrete Utopia.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Park Bo-young, Park Seo-jun

It’s no secret that Korean cinema is growing in popularity — and anticipation for Concrete Utopia is high. In this post-apocalyptic film, residents of what was once Seoul must come together to restore order. But when the world has ended, who can you trust? After outsiders flood their still-standing apartment building looking for food and shelter, Min-seong (Parasite’s Park Seo-jun), Myeong-hwa (Park Bo-young) and the other residents are ordered to defend their property no matter the cost. Though Concrete Utopia may seem far-flung, its social commentary will leave audiences drawing parallels to our world long after the credits have rolled.


Chris Pine in a still from ‘Poolman.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Chris Pine, Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, DeWanda Wise, Jennifer Jason Leigh

Chris Pine is making his directorial debut with this noir comedy about conspiracy, social justice and hometown pride. Darren (Pine), a pool cleaner from Los Angeles, has hit rock bottom and he doesn’t see an out — that is, until a femme fatale named June Del Rey (Wise) presents him with information he can use to save his beloved Los Angeles from itself. With the help of his Pilates instructor girlfriend Susan (Leigh), his therapist Dianne (Bening) and her washed-up director husband Jack (DeVito), the ragtag crew might just uncover a conspiracy more dangerous than they ever expected.

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Dicks: The Musical

Megan Mullally, Nathan Lane, Aaron Jackson and Josh Sharp in a still from ‘Dicks: The Musical.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Megan Mullally, Megan Thee Stallion, Bowen Yang, Nathan Lane, Aaron Jackson, Josh Sharp

If the title Dicks: The Musical hasn’t already reeled you in, maybe seeing Megan Thee Stallion rap about how she “out-alphas the alphas” will. Dicks: The Musical is a Parent Trap-inspired absurdist, queer comedy about two robot brush salesmen who discover they are identical twins separated at birth. In an attempt to reunite their parents, played by Mullally and Lane, the brothers switch lives to try and create the nuclear family they’ve always dreamed of. All of this, naturally, is done through song.

The Royal Hotel

Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner in a still from ‘The Royal Hotel.’.

Courtesy of TIFF

Starring: Jessica Henwick, Julia Garner, Hugo Weaving, Bree Bain, Toby Wallace

In this thriller, Hanna (Garner) and Liv (Henwick) are backpacking across Australia, and they’re flat-out broke. To pay for their return trip home, the women take work at The Royal Hotel, a bar in the Outback. Working at The Royal Hotel is dangerous, mostly because of the business’s aggressive, male clientele. How long will Hanna and Liv have to work to save up enough dough — and how long will they last before the threat to their safety becomes too much? The Royal Hotel uses suspense, tension and drama to highlight real-world gender issues affecting women on an international scale.

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These are just a handful of the powerful films sure to resonate at TIFF — check out the official website for ticket information and the full roster of movies.

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