TIFF Preview: 15 Films We Can’t Wait to See at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival


Sylvester Stallone appears as himself in 'Sly,' a documentary that chronicles his storied career. The film is making its world premiere at TIFF this year. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF

With striking Hollywood actors largely absent from red carpets at this years Toronto International Film Festival, there has never been a better time to focus squarely on the films. Thats not a hardship given the literally hundreds of features, shorts and documentaries debuting in some capacity (globally, internationally, locally) from Sept. 7 through Sept. 17. 

That kind of choice, of course, can be overwhelming. But there are many obvious standout films worth considering — and destined to dominate streaming services and cinematic release schedules in the months ahead. Within the context of a sprawling film festival like TIFF, its always worth taking a chance on a film that sounds interesting and may be outside of your usual viewing habits. Gems are there to be discovered. That said, read on for the list of films we’re already excited about at TIFF 2023.


See It for the Director 


Wildcat (U.S.)

Ethan Hawke, 52, directs his daughter Maya Hawke in this biopic about American author Flannery OConnor, which promises to be contemplative and thrilling all at once judging by the directors past films notably Blaze. The reliably great Laura Linney, 59, and Steve Zahn, 55, co-star here in one of several films at TIFF 23 helmed by stars typically featured on-screen. 

Maya Hawke is directed by her father, actor Ethan Hawke, in Wildcat. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


The Dead Don’t Hurt (Canada, Mexico, Denmark)

Is there anything 64-year-old Viggo Mortensen cant do? His 2020 directorial debut, Falling, showed the actor was particularly adept at navigating around challenging characters. In his latest, billed as a feminist western,” the Lord of the Rings star seeks redemption in corrupt 19th century Nevada. Vicky Krieps stars as a French-Canadian firecracker opposite her director.  

North Star (U.K.)

For her directorial debut, Kristin Scott Thomas, 63, draws significantly from her own past to tell the story of three sisters and their twice-widowed mother — played, respectively, by Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, Emily Beecham, and Thomas herself — coming to terms with both grief and the looming spectre of patriarchy.  

Gonzo Girl (U.S.)

Also making her directorial debut, Patricia Arquette, 55, adapts Cheryl Della Pietras semi-autobiographical novel documenting her cuckoo term as Hunter S. Thompsons personal assistant. Willem Dafoe, 68, plays the gonzo scribe. 

William Dafoe as gonzo journalist Walker Reade — a character based on Hunter S. Thompson — and Camila Morrone in Gonzo Girl. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


Knox Goes Away (U.S.)

The great Michael Keaton, 71, directs and stars in this noirish crime caper about a hit man with onset dementia hoping to retire but pulled into one last job to save his son. Al Pacino, 83, co-stars, and Keaton nerds will note this is his second go ’round as director-star after 2008s The Merry Gentleman. 

Honourable Mentions: Atom Egoyan, 63, Seven Veils; Richard Linklater, 63, Hit Man; Aki Kaurismäki, 66, Fallen Leaves; Catherine Breillat, 75, Last Summer; and Michael Winterbottom, 61, Shoshana.


See It for the Actors 


The Holdovers (U.S.)

The king of the hangdog expression, Paul Giamatti, 56, reteams with his Sideways director, Alexander Payne, 62, in this brash but sentimental comedy (bound for Netflix) about a 70s-era teacher marooned with a confrontational student at an elite boysschool over the Christmas holidays.

L to R: Dominic Sessa, Paul Giamatti, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in The Holdovers,’which reunites Giamotti with his Sideways director, Alexander Payne. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


Wicked Little Letters (U.K.)

Olivia Colman, 49, reunites with her brilliant The Lost Daughter co-star Jessie Buckley — a film that earned Oscar nominations for both women plus one for their writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal — for this period piece about a small English community scandalized when scathing anonymous letters start turning up in peoples mailboxes. Timothy Spall, 66, co-stars. 

Sly (U.S.)

Legendary tough guy Sylvester Stallone, 77, is expected to attend the Toronto world première of this probing documentary about his career helmed by Thom Zimny, familiar to Bruce Springsteen fans as the director behind Springsteen on Broadway and The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. 

Quiz Lady (U.S.)

Canadas own Sandra Oh, 52, meets her electrifying match in Awkwafina, in director Jessica Yus screwball comedy about a pair of estranged sisters forced to pay off their mothers gambling debts and who conspire to do it by cleaning up on a quiz show. The stellar supporting cast includes Jason Schwartzman, Will Ferrell, 56, and Holland Taylor, 80.

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh star in Quiz Lady. The film makes it’s world premiere at TIFF this year. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF



Powerhouses Annette Bening, 65, and Jodie Foster, 60, propel this hair-raising but inspiring true-life story of Diana Nyad who, at the age of 64 in 2013, became the first person to swim from Cuba to the U.S. without a shark cage. That the film comes from acclaimed documentarians Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo, The Rescue) ensures the visuals will be as gripping as the storyline. 

Annette Bening in NYAD,  the true story of the 64-year-old woman who became the first person to swim from Cuba to America without the use of a shark cage. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


Honourable Mentions: Mads Mikkelsen, 57, The Promised Land; Jamie Foxx, 55, and Tommy Lee Jones, 76, The Burial; Anthony Hopkins, 85, and Helena Bonham Carter, 57, One Life; Kate Winslet, 47, Lee; and Nicolas Cage, 59, Dream Scenario.


See It for a Glimpse Behind the Scenes


Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe (Canada)

Mr. Rogers got the cinematic nod in 2019 with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, so its only fitting that Canadas own Ernie Coombs, a.k.a. Mr. Dressup — superstar to legions of CBC-watching children from the ’60s to the ’90s — also gets props in director Robert McCallums documentary, which features commentary from celebrity fans from Michael J. Fox to the Barenaked Ladies. And of course, Casey and Finnegan make an appearance. 

Mr. Dressup
Ernie Coombs as the legendary Mr. Dressup in Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe. And yes, Casey and Finnegan, pictured above with Coombs, also appear in the documentary. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


Sorry/Not Sorry (U.S.)

The 2017 downfall of comedian Louis C.K., 55, amid sexual harassment allegations differed from others swept up in the #MeToo movement because he immediately owned them. And yet, less than a year after the revelations, the comedian was back on stage. Filmmakers Caroline Suh and Cara Mones examine what happened, and how. 

The Pigeon Tunnel (U.K.)

Legendary documentarian Errol Morris, 75, trains his lens on equally legendary author John le Carré is this archival-rich documentary propelled by le Carré’s last interview before his death in 2020 at age 89. In addition to exploring the authors life, Morrisfilm also apparently covers his most famous works including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. A must-see for fans of either artist.

Bye Bye Tiberias (France, Belgium, Qatar, Palestine)

Succession followers know 62-year-old Hiam AbbassEmmy-nominated screen work as Logan Roy’s shrewd, business-savvy second wife Marcia. What they may not know is that, at age 23, she made the difficult decision to uproot herself from her Palestinian village and large family to pursue an acting career in France. Here, she returns to her homeland with her younger of two daughters, filmmaker Lina Soualem, to explore four generations of women and their shared legacy of separation.” 

Hiam Abbass (second from left), in an undated picture from decades ago, is the main subject of Bye Bye Tiberias, which explores four generations of women in her family and the diverging roads their lives took. Photo: Courtesy of TIFF


Songs of Earth (Norway)

Visually sumptuous and enormously contemplative, 53-year-old filmmaker Margreth Olins documentary shadows her 84-year-old father as he explores Norways snowy landscapes, glaciers and fjords, pondering our connections to nature and life itself. Wim Wenders and Liv Ullmann, who know a thing or two about exceptional films, serve as executive producers. 

Honourable Mentions: Copa 71 (produced by Venus and Serena Williams); Silver Dollar Road (directed by I Am Not Your Negros Raoul Peck, 69); The Contestant; Stamped from the Beginning (inspired by American historian Ibram X. Kendis 2017 book and directed by 60-year-old Oscar-winner Roger Ross Williams); and Flipside (directed by This American Life contributor Chris Wilcha).