Brendan Fraser, Daniel Radcliffe and Jennifer Lawrence’s transformative roles kick off Oscar season

Brendan Fraser delivers a transformative star turn in The Whale. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Brendan Fraser delivers a transformative star turn in The Whale, one of many highly-anticipated fall movies screening at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Top Gun: Maverick brought summer blockbusters back, and now the big film festivals are doing the same thing for the fall movie season. After Venice and Telluride got the ball rolling with some high-profile premieres of highly-anticipated awards contenders — including Don’t Worry Darling and Women Talking — the Toronto International Film Festival enters the frame with its own line-up that’s big on star wattage and Oscar buzz. Yahoo Entertainment will be covering the 2022 edition of the festival, and these are the movies and stories we’re most excited to see unfold.

See Brendan Fraser, Daniel Radcliffe and Jennifer Lawrence as you’ve never seen them before

A six-minute standing ovation can’t lie: Brendan Fraser’s transformative performance in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale is already a leading contender for the Best Actor statue. The former star of The Mummy movies dons elaborate prosthetics to play a 600-pound man in the emotional chamber drama, which also stars Stranger Things favorite Sadie Sink. After launching at Venice, the movie’s road to Oscar night continues at TIFF, where it’s likely that audience applause will bring Fraser to tears… again.

But Fraser isn’t the only big-name star out to change up his screen image. Ex-Hogwarts hero Daniel Radcliffe disappears behind the curly hair and loud Hawaiian shirts favored by beloved musician “Weird Al” Yankovic in the meta-biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, which is kicking off TIFF’s Midnight Madness series. And Jennifer Lawrence de-glams herself for Causeway, a drama about an Afghanistan veteran who is still physically and emotionally recuperating from injuries she sustained on the battlefield. It’s perhaps the most dramatic material that Lawrence has tackled since her breakout star turn in 2010’s Winter’s Bone, which also awarded her her first Oscar nomination. Don’t be surprised if history repeats itself this year.

Don’t worry, darling — there’s more Harry Styles to come this fall

From Shiagate to Spitgate, it’s safe to say that the press rollout for Olivia Wilde’s sophomore feature, Don’t Worry Darling — starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles — hasn’t gone smoothly. But the singer and Marvel Cinematic Universe hero’s other fall movie has managed to fly under the radar. Making its world premiere at TIFF, My Policeman casts Styles as a British copper in ’50s-era England who finds himself attracted to both Emma Corrin’s schoolteacher and David Dawson’s museum curator. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Styles discussed the movie’s sure-to-be closely-watched depiction of heterosexual and queer sex. “So much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it, and it kind of removes the tenderness from it,” Styles noted. “There will be, I would imagine, some people who watch it who were very much alive during this time when it was illegal to be gay, and [director Michael Grandage] wanted to show that it’s tender and loving and sensitive.”

Steven Spielberg and Sam Mendes celebrate cinema and their youths

Sam Mendes offers an ode to the movies in Empire of Light. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Sam Mendes offers an ode to the movies in Empire of Light. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

If there’s a consensus pick for No. 1 most anticipated movie premiering at TIFF, it’s absolutely The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical drama (and likely major Oscar contender) about a boy growing in post-World War II Arizona who recognizes the power of moviemaking. (Spielberg’s parents, here played by Michelle Williams and Paul Dano, famously gave him free reign to make movies all over their home and yard when he was a teenager.) Sam Mendes (American Beauty), meanwhile, goes full Cinema Paradiso with his own look at the intersection of cinema and youth in Empire of Light, which premiered to acclaim at Telluride and now travels to Toronto with early buzz, particularly for costar Olivia Colman.

Women Talking and Catherine Called Birdy lead a strong slate of female-directed features

Acclaimed director Sarah Polley returns behind the camera with Women Talking. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Acclaimed director Sarah Polley returns behind the camera with Women Talking. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

With back-to-back Best Director wins for female directors — Chloé Zhao won in 2021 and Jane Campion this past year — Oscar voters have the historical opportunity to go for the hat trick this awards cycle. And there are certainly plenty of candidates to consider, starting with Sarah Polley, the Canadian actress and auteur behind Stories We Tell and Take This Waltz. After a decade-long hiatus, she’s back behind the camera for Women Talking, an adaptation of Miriam Toews’s acclaimed novel that premiered to rave reviews at Telluride. Expect similarly strong reactions out of Polley’s home and native land, where the movie’s ensemble cast — which includes Frances McDormand and Rooney Mara — will be on hand to celebrate with the Oscar-bound director.

TIFF will be a launching pad for other major female-fronted films as well. Actress Sanaa Lathan debuts her first feature, On the Come Up, on the festival’s opening night. And after premiering Sharp Stick at Sundance earlier this year, Lena Dunham drops her 2022 second feature, Catherine Called Birdy, in Toronto. Starring Game of Thrones favorite, Bella Ramsey, the movie rewinds the clock to Medieval times and follows a year in the life of a young girl of marriageable age. Speaking of Sundance, this year’s big award winner, Nanny, the haunting debut feature from Nikyatu Jusu, is getting a TIFF platform ahead of its theatrical release in November.

Elsewhere in the line-up, veteran directors Mary Harron and Catherine Hardwicke debut their latest works — Daliland and Prisoner’s Daughter respectively — while newcomers Sophie Kargman and Luis De Fillipis announce themselves as talents to watch with their respective debuts, the quirky mystery Susies Searches and the nuanced drama Something You Said Last Night, about a young trans woman’s relationship with her family.

Viola Davis becomes an action hero in The Woman King

Viola Davis goes full action hero in The Woman King. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Viola Davis goes full action hero in The Woman King. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Viola Davis has been calling the shots behind secret missions in the DCEU as (The) Suicide Squad’s intimidating Task Force X commander Amanda Waller over two movies and a tv show (The Peacemaker). Now she’s coming to the frontlines as General Nanisca, the woman who leads the all-female group of warriors known as the Agojie (the real-life inspiration for Black Panther’s Dora Milaje) to battle to protect their West African kingdom. The Woman King premieres Friday at TIFF, just one week before it bows in theaters nationwide.

Benoit Blanc is back in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Daniel Craig (far right) cracks another star-powered case in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Daniel Craig (far right) cracks another star-powered case in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

It’s only fitting that writer-director Rian Johnson returns to TIFF for a sequel to his brilliant 2019 whodunit Knives Out. That film premiered to instant accolades in Toronto three years ago, and went on to earn Johnson an Oscar nomination, not to mention a deal with Netflix to make two more sequels for a whopping $469 million. And while Daniel Craig just said goodbye to James Bond, he’s just getting started with Benoit Blanc, the smooth-talking southern sleuth this time in Greece looking at suspects including Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn and Dave Bautista.

A Key & Peele reunion and other cool team-ups

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele reunite in Henry Selick's latest stop motion film, Wendell & Wild. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele reunite in Henry Selick’s latest stop motion film, Wendell & Wild. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

A Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele reunion is buzz-worthy enough. But pair the Key & Peele team with stop-motion legend, Henry Selick, and you’ve got a team-up worth of the Avengers or the Justice League. That’s the story behind Wendell & Wild, Selick’s first film since 2009’s Coraline, which features the duo as demon brothers trying to infiltrate the Land of the Living. Besides Key and Peele, TIFF will also host the reunion of Irish comedy duo Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who re-team with their In Bruges writer/director Martin McDonagh for the dark comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, which is currently the leader in the festival applause sweepstakes after a 13-minute standing ovation at Venice.

Besides reunions, there are also some promising first-time pairings to keep an eye on. For example, Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke play half-brothers in Raymond & Ray, who try to overcome years of estrangement when their father dies. And Hugh Jackman and Laura Dern make an extremely believable — and extremely attractive — married couple in The Son, director Florian Zeller’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning drama, The Father. But maybe the pairing that has us the most excited is Nicolas Cage and the Old West in Gabe Polsky’s adaptation of the classic John Edward Williams novel, Butcher’s Crossing. It’s one of two Westerns that the actor has coming up this year, and we’re expecting him to sit tall in the saddle.

Peter Farrelly follows Green Book with The Great American Beer Run

Zac Efron stars in Peter Farrelly's first film since the Oscar-winning Green Book, The Greatest Beer Run Ever. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Zac Efron stars in Peter Farrelly’s first film since the Oscar-winning Green Book, The Great American Beer Run. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Say what you will about Green Book (and we know Film Twitter has said it all), the story had a pretty happy ending for Peter Farrelly, the Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary co-director who leaned into drama for the first time – and won two Oscars as a result, including Best Picture. Farrelly returns to TIFF, site of Green Book’s world premiere (where it won the audience award and kicked off its Oscar run), for another reality-based period piece, The Great American Beer Run, following a Marine corps veteran (Zac Efron) in 1967 who sneaks into Vietnam to deliver brews to his bros in combat. Could we see Zac Efron at the Oscars next year?

No joke — a Batman parody will be the toast of Midnight Madness

Gotham City gets a late night satire in The People's Joker. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Gotham City gets a late night satire in The People’s Joker. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker was the talk of the festival at the 2019 TIFF. Flash-forward three years later, and Midnight Madness premiere, The People’s Joker, promises to hold up a funhouse mirror to the Clown Prince of Crime. Directed by Vera Drew, the cult movie-in-the-making unfolds on a popular Gotham City sketch comedy series where aspiring Jokers and Harley Quinns poke fun at the ruling power structure and a certain grim and gritty Dark Knight. Other Midnight Madness offerings include Ti West’s Pearl, a prequel to his recent hit, X; V/H/S 99, the latest installment in the ongoing horror anthology franchise; and Leonor Will Never Die, a meta hall of mirrors about a filmmaker who lives out her own action movie after a bizarre accident.

Reginald Hudlin’s Sidney Poitier doc headlines non-fiction offerings

Sidney Poitier is celebrated in Reginald Hudlin's new documentary, Sidney. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Sidney Poitier is celebrated in Reginald Hudlin’s new documentary, Sidney. (Photo: Courtesy of TIFF)

Toronto has a whole film festival called Hot Docs, but TIFF always has plenty of them, too. This year that starts with Sidney, a look at the life and times of game-changing Oscar winner Sidney Poitier from director Reginald Hudlin (House Party, Marshall). Speaking of legends, Sacha Jenkins sets his sights on a founding father of jazz with the fest’s opening night film, Louis Armstong’s Black and Blues. Also worth looking out for: Amazon’s Good Night Oppy (think a real-life WALL-E), the edgily titled eco activist story How to Blow Up a Pipeline, and Patrick and the Whale, which looks like the best man-befriends-sea creature story since My Octopus Teacher.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 8-18 in Toronto.