Chicago International Film Festival Must-Watch Films

From left to right. Richard (Don Johnson), Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Ransom (Chris Evans) Great Nana (K Callan), Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) Walt (Michael Shannon), Jacob (Jaeden Lieberher), Donna (Riki Lindholm), Joni (Toni Collette) and Meg (Katherine Langford) in KNIVES OUT. Photo credit: Claire Folger.

As the 55th Chicago International Film Festival starts up on Wednesday night, Solzy at the Movies brings you the seven films that you have to watch.

The action starts on October 16 with not one but two films.  Motherless Brooklyn opens up the festival.  In a change from recent years, Zombieland: Double Tap opens up the After Dark program.  All in all, there are 132 feature films playing!

Chicago International Film Festival


Knives Out: The Rian Johnson mystery whodunit is a laugh riot that boasts an all-star cast.  I first watched this film in Toronto and believe me, you don’t want to miss it!  Captain America and James Bond?!?  Yes, please!  The festival’s Centerpiece Gala was so popular that they added on a second screening for October 23, 2019.

Special Presentations

Jojo Rabbit:  If you’re a fan of Mel Brooks’ humor or Taika Waititi, this is surely the film for you.  The Holocaust satire took home the big prize in Toronto last month and will certainly be an awards contender, too.  While adults such as Scarlett Johansson and Taika Waititi deliver some memorable performances, it’s the teenagers who still the show.  Both Thomasin McKenzie and Roman Griffin Davis bring much-needed humanity to the satire.

The Report:  Adam Driver can be seen in two films playing the Chicago International Festival and neither film is forgettable.  Annette Bening delivers a very strong performance as Senator Dianne Feinstein, too.  The Report, which follows Daniel J. Jones and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture investigation, marks the feature directorial debut for longtime Steven Soderbergh screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns.  If you haven’t read the 6,700 page document, the film is just as compelling.  It also serves as a stark reminder of our nation’s dark side.

Marriage Story:  Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson (also in Jojo Rabbit) star in Noah Baumbach’s latest feature.  I’m not a child of divorce so I didn’t relate to the film in ways that other people have but don’t let this stop you.  The performances are among the best that I’ve seen this year.  The film is a Netflix release so this may be the only time to catch Marriage Story playing at an AMC theater in Chicago.  It’s also one of the few films to play Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York.

Honey Boy:  Shia LaBeouf draws from his childhood in a personal and cathartic film.  The Even Stevens alumnus doesn’t just write the screenplay but also delivers one of the strongest supporting performances of the year as James Lort.  I first saw the film at Sundance, where I was blown away.  LaBeouf could very well pick up two Oscar nominations for acting and writing.

Ford v Ferrari:  Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael will be on hand for James Mangold’s newest film starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale.  Premiering at Telluride, I caught the Toronto premiere last month.  Bale never ceases to amaze me in his performances.  Damon is also solid in the film, too.  Fox will release the film in November but be sure to catch it early if you can.

After Dark

The Vast of Night:  If there’s a small indie film taking the world by storm, it’s this Twilight Zone-esque feature.  I’ve been on the bandwagon since the world premiere at Slamdance, where I spoke with Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, and Adam Dietrich.  Amazon Studios picked up the Andrew Patterson-directed film prior to its Canadian premiere in Toronto.  There are two screenings in the After Dark program.  You don’t want to miss the Chicago premiere of this film, which features an amazing tracking shot.

On the Radar

There are also a few films with Chicago ties that have my attention: Hala (Minhal Baig), Knives and Skin (Jennifer Reeder), and Once Upon a River (Haroula Rose).  Meanwhile, the world premiere of The Torch is the festival’s closing night selection.

The Chicago International Film Festival runs October 16-27, 2019.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.