Netflix; Stéphanie Branchu
Joe McGovern
September 30, 2016 at 06:03 PM EDT

With temperatures going down and sweaters and hoodies coming out, the end of September in New York City marks the beginning of the fall season. All the more reason to head inside for a few hours at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which hosts the city’s premiere movie event, the New York Film Festival.

2016’s edition — the fest’s 54th — features another characteristically strong lineup of bold, risky mainstream and arthouse fare. Opening Friday with Ava DuVurnay’s blazing, lucid 13th, the festival runs through Oct. 15 and features more than two dozen main-selection titles, with last-minute additions coming almost every day and a promise from the festival director of more surprises to come.

Here are our 10 picks of the not-to-be-missed titles and events from this year’s event. Tickets and more information can be found at the NYFF homepage.


Directed by Ava DuVernay

In limited release and streaming on Netflix beginning Oct. 7

For the first time, NYFF’s gala opening night world premiere selection is a documentary — and also the first fest-starter ever directed by an African-American woman. On both counts, it was a very smart choice. Selma director Ava DuVernay’s dazzling film is a lucid, brutal examination of mass incarceration in America which resonates deeply in today’s world. In just 100 crisp, mesmerizing minutes, she chronicles the slime trail of bigotry, greed, and stupidity which has resulted the United States imprisoning more people (disproportionately black men) per capita than anywhere in the world. Read EW’s review here.

The Lost City of Z

Directed by James Gray

In theaters 2017

NYFF favorite James Gray (Little Odessa, Two Lovers, We Own the Night, The Immigrant) directs this adaptation of David Grann’s 2009 book about British explorer Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) and his disappearance in 1935 while trying to discover a secret city in the Amazonian forest. Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller and Spider-Man’s Tom Holland also star in the movie, which is having its world premiere at the festival’s Closing Night selection before opening theatrically next year.

Twentieth Century Women

Directed by Mike Mills

In theaters Dec. 23

Mike Mills directed Christopher Plummer to a richly deserved and long overdue Oscar in 2012’s Beginners —and he might do the same for Annette Bening, who is radiant as a bohemian single mother in 1979 Santa Barbara in this centerpiece selection. Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, and newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann (as Bening’s teenage son) also star.


Directed by Paul Verhoeven

In theaters Nov. 11

This French rape-revenge provocation piece focuses on a victimized videogame developer (Isabelle Huppert) and marks an incredible return to moviemaking for the 78-year-old naughty boy Paul Verhoeven (RoboCopBasic Instinct). Verhoeven will be the subject of a full career retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in November, and Huppert, who won unanimous raves when the film debuted in Cannes, also stars in Mia Hansen-Løve’s main draw entry Things to Come.


Directed by Barry Jenkins

In theaters Oct. 21

Since premiering in Telluride and Toronto, the buzz has been rhapsodic for this indie about three stages in the life of a Miami man. Read more about the film here and here — and expect very limited seats at all the NYFF screenings.

Jackie and Neruda

Directed by Pablo Larrain

​In theaters Dec. 2 (Jackie) and Dec. 16 (Neruda)

Unique, unconventional biopics of two very different (but maybe not so different) people highlight this year’s lineup: American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) and beloved Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (Gael Garcia Bernal). The neat twist? They’re both directed by the same person, Pablo Larrain, a brilliant, outside-the-box stylist whose fascinating 2012 drama No earned an Oscar nomination. Expect many more of those to come.

Adam Driver

The Girls and Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor stars as a poet bus driver in Jim Jarmusch’s elegiac drama Paterson — and as a special treat for festivalgoers, the actor, 32, will appear in conversation with festival director Kent Jones on Oct. 2 for “An Evening with Adam Driver.”

Kristen Stewart

Kristen Stewart makes Driver look like a slouch. The 26-year-old, whose reputation as one of America’s most serious actresses has grown exponentially in recent years, appears in three movies: The dark, semi-supernatural thriller Personal Shopper, Ang Lee’s Iraq satire Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and Kelly Reichart’s delicate Certain Women. She will also appear in conversation with fest director Jones for “An Evening with Kristen Stewart” on Oct. 5.


Hamilton’s America

Directed by Alex Horwitz

Premieres Oct. 21 on PBS

For those who still can’t get tickets to the hottest show on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda takes audiences inside the making of his groundbreaking musical Hamilton. Interviews and fully staged Broadway performance clips are included.

Toni Erdmann

Directed by Maren Ade

In theaters Dec. 25

The sensation of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Maren Ade’s German comedy is about a workaholic woman (Sandra Hüller) whose prankster father(Peter Simonischek) shows drops into her life in disguise. Though quite lengthy for a comedy (nearly three hours), the experience is endlessly surprising and unexpectedly moving, not least of all during a sequence around the two-thirds mark where Hüller belts out a lose-yourself rendition of Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.”

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