The forty-second year of the top-notch, star-studded Toronto International Film Festival is here, officially kicking off fall film festival season! To celebrate, we are marathoning a few of our favorite movies that have screened at the festival in years past. We highly suggest you do the same! This list includes essential, often early must-see films from both emerging and prolific filmmakers like Xavier Dolan, Hal Hartley, Kelly Reichardt, and Bennett Miller; many of whom took home awards in more than one category. If you can’t make it to the cosmopolitan metropolis in the Great White North for this star-studded Canadian festival, Fandor is here for you.

Top 5 From the Playlist


1. Trees Lounge

Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut Trees Lounge is a portrait of Tommy (Buscemi), a Long Island everyman drowning his sorrows in alcohol at the local dive. Unemployed after exhausting his prospects, Tommy takes a job as the ice cream man...but isn’t quite suited to that job either. With his pregnant ex, Theresa, dating the boss who fired him, Rob (Anthony LaPaglia), he finds himself spending more and more time with Theresa’s seventeen-year-old niece Debbie (Chloë Sevigny) which (as one might expect) only leads to more harmful, escapist behavior.

2. Laurence Anyways

A moving and vivid drama by Canadian director Xavier Dolan, the gorgeously shot Laurence Anyways won Best Canadian Feature at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Dolan captures couple Laurence and Fred’s relationship as it evolves while Laurence transitions from man to woman. It is set in the 90s (offering plenty of back-on-trend sartorial inspiration) and features both an epiphanic score and memorable, masterful performances by Melvil Poupaud as Laurence and Suzanne Clément, whose portrayal of Fred garnered her the impressive Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress at Cannes.

3. Monsieur Lazhar

Winner of multiple Genie awards and Best Canadian feature at TIFF, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Monsieur Lazhar combines all the heart-wrenching elements of the most remarkable dramas: After a teacher takes her own life, an Algerian substitute takes over a Montreal middle school classroom, helping the students heal their tragic loss. Break out the box of tissues! These child actors, to say nothing of Mohamed Felad as Bachir Lazhar are about to break your heart.

4. I am a Good Person / I am a Bad Person

Director Ingrid Veninger took home the Jay Scott Prize at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival for this Canadian drama. It follows the tumultuous mother-daughter relationship between filmmaker Ruby White (Veninger) and her eighteen-year-old daughter Sara (Hallie Switzer, Veninger’s real-life daughter), as they travel Europe promoting Ruby’s film. Events along the way prompt both women to make big decisions that will forever change their lives.

5. Nostalgia For the Light

Chilean director Patricio Guzmán traveled to the desiccated Atacama Desert to shoot this political documentary, which juxtaposes the quest of the astronomers study the stars from its mountains with that of the surviving relatives of political prisoners searching for the bodies, buried by Pinochet and the Chilean army, of their loved ones. Gorgeous images of space, taken using the world’s largest telescopes, are intermixed with the somber interviews of women desperate for answers. Nostalgia for the Light was the winner of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival Second Audience Award.

Watch Now: TIFF can be 24/7/365 if you keep watching our whole TIFF Favorites on Fandor playlist! Keep up with fall festival season with movies that have played at Venice and Telluride!

We’re always curating cool collections of handpicked movies with just about any theme you can think of! Check out our recent Staff Picks: Director’s Lens, which celebrates the unmistakeable style of our favorite auteurs, and Script to Screen, which is filled to the brim with award-winning scripts.