Streets are closed, huge queues regularly form at Downtown cinemas and people are also lining up to take selfies in front of a huge orange TIFF sign – the Toronto International Film Festival is back.

After a couple of years of somewhat reduced service thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, this year’s event promises to be a celebration of films and film making, as the industry attempts to put the pandemic behind and focus on presenting stories to audiences, with TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey describing the watered down festivals as “two long years without the energy we love about TIFF”.

So it’s back to being business as usual, and as plenty of films receive their very first screenings here, much is made of audience reactions.

Click to subscribe to Backstage wherever you get your podcasts

For many, this is where their awards campaigns really start – as studio bosses, stars, and filmmakers gauge the impact of their work for the first time.

Indeed, the last five winners of the festival’s People’s Choice award have gone on to win Oscars – Belfast, Nomadland, Jojo Rabbit, Green Book and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

It seems audiences here know how to pick a winner, and with a real mix of critics, industry figures and members of the public, Toronto is seen as one of the most accessible festivals when it comes to giving film fans who aren’t in the business a sneak peek of the most exciting films from the next few months.

More on Backstage Podcast

With 260 feature films showing, we can’t highlight all of those which ones will soar in to awards winners, critical darlings or box office hits, but here are five movies showing at the festival this year that you’ll almost certainly be hearing about in the months to come.


The first gay romantic-comedy to come from a major studio, Bros is written by, exec-produced, and stars Billy Eichner, and is co-written and directed by Nick Stoller, who is known for feel-good films including Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

It features an almost entirely LGBTQ+ cast – a historical moment for the community and for cinema, this gets its world premiere at TIFF.

The Woman King

This historical drama set in the 19th century about an all-female warrior unit who protect the West African kingdom of Dahomey stars Viola Davis as a general who trains warriors to fight against an enemy who wants to destroy their way of life.

The cast also includes Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, and John Boyega, and will also get it’s world premiere at the festival.

The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg is the latest director to make a semi-autobiographical movie – this time a coming of age tale about a young, aspiring film-maker. The Fabelmans stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Gabriel LaBelle as the lead.

Spielberg not only directs, but also wrote this with his West Side Story collaborator Tony Kushner. This isn’t showing at any of the other big autumn festivals and is arguably the buzziest film at Toronto this year.

The Whale

Darren Aronofsky’s film about an extremely obese man has already premiered at Venice, where it saw a six-minute standing ovation for star Brendan Fraser.

While reviews for the film itself were mixed, Fraser’s awards campaign looks to be underway and will be given a boost when he receives the Tribute Award for Performance at in Toronto.

Weird: The Weird Al Yankovic Story

Admittedly, this might not be one we’re talking about come awards season, but there’s something irresistible about the idea of Daniel Radcliffe playing parody music star Al Yankovic.

Radcliffe has a reputation for taking on projects that are fun or interesting, and this is a satirical look at Weird Al’s life which promises to raise a smile.

Hear more from Toronto International Film Festival on the latest episode of Backstage – the film and TV podcast from Sky News.