Home CELEBS Toronto Film Festival's best movies, ranked

Toronto Film Festival’s best movies, ranked

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TORONTO – Slather the maple syrup on the popcorn and pass the Tim Horton’s: We’re back in Canada and seeing all the movies at the Toronto International Film Festival.

After two pandemic-affected editions, the Toronto fest is again an in-person event, after playing host to six of the past seven best-picture winners, most recently 2021’s “Nomadland.” This year’s lineup includes a new Steven Spielberg movie (semi-autobiographical “The Fabelmans”), a new “Knives Out” mystery with Daniel Craig, the British ensemble drama “My Policeman” – with Harry Styles as a closeted cop – and even a “Weird Al” Yankovic biopic.

As before, we’ll be keeping readers up to date on the coolest stuff we see at the fest (and ranked, of course):

5. ‘The Swimmers’

Emotionally satisfying if not completely cohesive, director Sally El Hosaini’s true-life drama is a harrowing escape thriller before switching to a more conventional underdog sports movie. In war-torn Syria, swimming sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini (Nathalie and Manal Issa) want to escape to Germany for Nathalie’s Olympics dreams, and to keep the family safe. With their cousin (Ahmed Malek), the refugee sisters navigate increasingly dangerous situations through various countries, although with hope comes bigger questions about their identities and place in the world.

4. ‘Triangle of SAcesparksess’

Charlbi Dean and Harris Dickinson play a celebrity model couple invited on a yacht tip for the super-rich that turns into a disaster in the satire "Triangle of Sadness."

Self-obsessed models, Russian oligarchs, polite English arms manufacturers – everybody’s sent up in Ruben Östlund’s deliciously grotesque class satire. Beautiful couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean) are invited on a trip for the super-rich aboard a yacht captained by a gonzo, Marxist-loving American (Woody Harrelson). The ship hits an unruly storm – leading to the most heinous, vomit-drenched dinner you could ever imagine – and then sinks in ridiculous fashion, though that’s actually when the movie really sets sail, turning the tables and showing who really rules.

3. ‘On the Come Up’

Jamila Gray (right) stars as the 16-year-old daughter of a late hip-hop legend in search of her own voice in the drama "On the Come Up."

Sanaa Lathan’s directorial debut, based on the Angie Thomas novel, is a young-adult “8 Mile” with an excellent breakout performance by Jamila Gray. In fictional Garden Heights, Bri (Gray) is a 16-year-old aspiring musician and the daughter of a late hip-hop legend. She finds her voice by finding success in rap battles, with a gift for spitting bars at lyrical foes. But helping her mom (Lathan) pay the bills, she falls under the influence of her dad’s old manager (Method Man). The formulaic plot tries to juggle too many storylines, but Lathan’s assured direction lets Gray shine in the film’s most rousing moments.

2. ‘Weird’

Daniel Radcliffe plays "Weird Al" Yankovic and Quinta Brunson is Oprah Winfrey in "Weird."

You couldn’t dream a more perfect Yankovic biopic: hilarious, ridiculous and, in its madcap way, downright wholesome. With Daniel Radcliffe playing the accordion-playing wonder as broadly as possible, the film plots his real-life rise (and absurdly fictional fall) from childhood to guy who became famous for parodying other people’s songs. Fave Weird Al jams are here (some with bizarre origins) plus fun cameos aplenty. The movie fosters a “be as weird as you want to be” message without being cloying, and to match Radcliffe’s over-the-top Al, Evan Rachel Wood is aces as a delightfully sociopathic Madonna.

‘Weird’:Daniel Radcliffe talks ‘insane’ Al Yankovic biopic, Queen’s ‘inconceivable’ death

1. ‘Louis Armstrong’s Black and Blues’

The legendary jazz icon's musical as well as political sides are explored in the Apple TV+ documentary

This essential documentary goes deep on the life and art of the jazz legend using Armstrong’s own words, via essays (spoken by rapper Nas) and home recordings, as well as music, TV and film appearances. Director Sacha Jenkins looks at his New Orleans childhood and involvement with gangsters yet also fascinatingly discusses his political side. During the civil-rights era, he was seen by Black critics (including actor Ossie Davis) as being too submissive towards whites. And “Blues” reveals the truths he tended to keep more personal than public, although he would put someone like President Dwight D. Eisenhower in their place, if he felt the need.

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