What to See at the 2018 New York Film Festival

Brian Sloan

The New York Film Festival—back for its 56th year—presents the best in world cinema at Lincoln Center. This edition has 30 films in the main slate; sidebar programs bring the total number of movies to more than 100 over the course of two weeks.

On September 28, the festival opens with the US premiere of a bizarre, darkly comedic period piece getting raves on the festival circuit: The Favourite, starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. This year’s centerpiece feature is Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón’s highly anticipated Netflix movie, Roma. The fest wraps on October 14 with a new look at artist Vincent van Gogh’s life, At Eternity’s Gate, from artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel.

The festival’s sidebars offer some special treats for movie lovers, such as the premiere of an unfinished Orson Welles film; a restoration of noir classic Detour; and the Spotlight on Documentary series, which includes timely political features on Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon and Watergate.

Below are select highlights of this year’s main lineup. For a complete schedule of films and special festival events, visit filmlinc.org.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Courtesy, New York Film Festival & Netflix

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
The Coen Brothers’ latest feature started out as a Netflix series but became a short film anthology. Set in the Wild West, the stories feature a cast of colorful frontier characters played by Tyne Daly, Tom Waits and Liam Neeson.

Cold War. Courtesy, New York Film Festival. Photo: Lukasz Bak

Cold War (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Pawlikowski’s follow-up to Ida, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 2014, is shot in the same beautiful black and white as its predecessor. It’s a sweeping romance set in 1950s and ’60s Europe, both in front of and behind the Iron Curtain.

Her Smell. Courtesy, New York Film Festival. Photo: Don Stahl

Her Smell(dir. Alex Ross Perry)
Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men) stars as a hard-partying, 1990s punk rocker falling apart as she struggles with fame, family and herself. This is the third film on which Moss and Perry have collaborated, and looks to be a devastating portrait of addiction in the music industry.

High Life. Courtesy, New York Film Festival. Photo: Claire Denis

High Life (dir. Claire Denis)
French auteur Claire Denis goes high concept with her latest film, which sends death row inmates on a dangerous mission to harness the energy of a black hole. There will probably be more psychology than sci-fi in this moody, disturbing trip to the edge of the galaxy, with movie stars Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche along for the ride.

If Beale Street Could Talk. Courtesy, Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures

If Beale Street Could Talk (dir. Barry Jenkins)
Moonlight, the surprise Oscar winner for Best Picture of 2016, was a New York Film Festival selection months before its victory. Barry Jenkins returns to Lincoln Center to showcase his latest, an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel set in 1970s Harlem.

Monrovia, Indiana. Courtesy, New York Film Festival & Zipporah Films, Inc

Monrovia, Indiana(dir. Frederick Wiseman)
For more than 50 years, Frederick Wiseman has been making thoughtful documentaries examining American society with an unvarnished cinema verité approach. The 88-year-old filmmaker’s newest project focuses on a small Midwestern town to create a complex portrait of life in the heartland.

Private Life. Courtesy, Netflix. Photo: Jojo Whilden

Private Life (dir. Tamara Jenkins)
There’s already awards-season buzz surrounding Kathryn Hahn (Transparent) and Paul Giamatti (Billions) for this intimate story about building a family in midlife. Directed by Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) and inspired by her own experiences, the film follows a couple’s trying, humorous journey toward parenthood with the help of a surrogate.


Sorry Angel. Courtesy, New York Film Festival. Photo: Jean Louis Fernandez

Sorry Angel (dir. Christophe Honoré)
This deeply romantic story about love in a time of danger—1990s Paris in the midst of the AIDS crisis—premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where the word was that it’s Honoré’s best effort since his 2007 breakout film, Love Songs.