It comes as no surprise that the entertainment industry was one of the hardest–hit industries throughout the COVID–19 pandemic. Worldwide shutdowns and theater closures forced filmmakers and studios to delay countless releases. While many utilized streaming services in their release models amidst the pandemic, others held out on releasing films until theatrical releases could be reintroduced to the general public.

Despite growing concerns over the Delta variant, a consistent movie release schedule has returned, and studios are pouring out new films for moviegoers to watch. With so many new releases just this fall alone, there’s a lot to navigate. Some of the best upcoming releases might even be ones that you've never heard of. From star–studded blockbusters to foreign–language indie films making waves at worldwide festivals, here are my picks of the most highly anticipated films of Fall 2021.

Candyman (In Theaters 8/27)

There’s a lot of promise behind Candyman (2021). This isn’t the first time that the urban legend of ‘The Candyman’ has been adapted for the big screen, but this is the first time that such an adaptation comes from the genius mind of Jordan Peele. Through his early horror films Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), Peele has proven that despite coming from a comedy background, he is capable of creating terrifying films that resonate on a deeper level than mere scare factor. 

This film follows visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul–Mateen II), who has just moved to the infamous Cabrini–Green Chicago neighborhood, now gentrified beyond recognition. With his art career on the brink of plateau, Anthony develops a peculiar infatuation with the gruesome tragedy behind Cabrini’s Candyman urban legend—a story told to him by Cabrini–Green old–timer (Colman Domingo).

The film is being directed by rising filmmaker Nia DaCosta, who also co–wrote the screenplay with Peele and Win Rosenfeld. While Peele isn’t sitting in the director seat for his third film, early trailers show that DaCosta preserved Peele’s style of horror filmmaking, while also mixing in her own touches to give the film a more supernatural feel. Additionally, the film features a strong cast, including Tony Todd—the same actor who portrayed Candyman in the 1992 film. It is also exciting to see Colman Domingo—who has recently become a favorite actor through his performances in Zola (2021) and HBO’s Euphoria (2019)—in a supporting role. 

Candyman is likely to be the horror film everyone is talking about this Halloween season. Luckily, you won’t have to wait until the jack–o–lanterns are out to see it. Candyman is set to hit theaters Friday, Aug. 27.

Titane (In Theaters 10/1)

Foreign–language films are not always surefire hits at the United States box office, but after the worldwide success of Parasite (2019), Titane (2021) has the potential to cause a similar ripple effect. Titane is an upcoming French body–horror thriller, written and directed by Julia Ducournau. BBC Culture labeled Ducournau’s latest project as “the most shocking film of 2021,” as the film supposedly spares no grotesque detail or uncomfortable moment in its propulsive storytelling. 

The film stars Agathe Rousselle, who plays a serial killer dancer with a titanium head implant and an intimate attraction to automobiles following a childhood car accident. Her debut film performance in Titane has garnered massive critical acclaim, with some even hinting at Rousselle as an early contender for Best Actress accolades come awards season. Her raw talent, shaped by Ducournau’s directorial vision, creates a powerful and controversial film that tackles gender, sexuality, and the body.

Though it has yet to be released worldwide, Titane has already found massive critical success from its film festival run. The film won the coveted Palme d’Or prize at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, making Julia Ducournau the second–ever female director to win the festival’s top prize. This piece of extreme cinema will continue to make its festival run before debuting in U.S. theaters on Oct 1.

Dune (In Theaters / HBO Max 10/22)

Denis Villeneuve has yet to make a bad film, and after directing gorgeous science–fiction pictures like Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017), he's the perfect match for a Dune reboot. Based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel of the same name, Dune (2021) is the first entry of a two–part series inspired by the original story. This film is led by Timothée Chalamet, who plays a young prince named Paul Atredis that must journey to one of the most dangerous planets to ensure the safety of his family and population. 

The film’s trailer displays several trademarks of Villeneuve’s directorial style, most notably the attention to detail he implores within the worldbuilding of his films. Villeneuve often introduces his settings using wide establishing shots, complemented with towering visuals that scale up the spectacle of his films. Dune’s trailer delivers on these with beautiful visuals of massive deserts and towering sandworms, setting a massive precedent for the scale of this sci–fi epic. If Villeneuve in the director seat isn’t enough excitement for this film, the star–studded cast surely is. In addition to Chalamet in the lead, the film also stars Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, Josh Brolin, and Jason Momoa, among others. 

Fans have experienced an emotional roller coaster waiting for Dune, with the film suffering several release delays over the past year due to the pandemic. However, the wait will soon be over once Dune is released in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on October 22nd.

Last Night in SoHo (In Theaters 10/29)

This is the one I’m really waiting for. Since her award–winning performance in The Queen’s Gambit, Anya Taylor–Joy has become one of the most sought–after talents in Hollywood. Taylor–Joy’s next starring role will be in Last Night in SoHo, a psychological thriller directed by Edgar Wright. The film follows an aspiring fashion designer (Thomasin McKenzie) who is miraculously able to enter the 1960s, encountering a mysterious singer who inspires her in the present day. However, not everything is what it seems, and the lines separating '60s London from the contemporary world soon begin to blur in a dark fashion.

Psychological horror is surely something new for Edgar Wright. While he dipped his feet into the genre with the horror–comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004), Wright has never directed a full–fledged horror film. He's known for stylish comedies like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) or rhythmic action flicks like his most recent film Baby Driver (2017). Wright himself admits that Last Night in SoHo will have a very different tone than his previous films. The film draws inspiration from 1960s and '70s psychological thrillers, containing stylistic elements reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. Despite Wright’s inexperience in outright horror, this film looks chilling and beautiful. Ambient red light fills the frames, and the chaotic nature of the trailer implies that the leads will be in for a wild ride through time and their own minds. 

I have high hopes for this film, and really hope that Wright can deliver on his promises. Last Night in SoHo is set to make its worldwide debut at the Venice Film Festival, and will hit US theaters October 29th. 

The upcoming fall has a whirlwind of fresh films in store for viewers, and it only gets better from there. There are tons of other highly–anticipated releases, but these four films have already drummed up a large amount of hype from early marketing campaigns and the festival circuits. As a fan of psychological thrillers, I'm personally most excited for Last Night in SoHo, but each of these films brings something new to the table.