Fall movie preview: Big sequels, top stars, wicked clowns

20 top movies to look forward to in the coming months

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

The Joker and Pennywise walk into a theater. 

It sounds like a set-up for a joke, but it's actually a preview of what's to come in theaters this fall, a season that will see evil clowns, Terminators, Angels and even Hitler strolling into your local multiplex. 

Joaquin Phoenix in "Joker."

There will also be plenty of Oscar fare, as Labor Day marks the time when the movies get serious about awards.

It's also looking like the one time of year that's not stacked with superheroes, so enjoy it while you can. (Unless you consider Rambo a superhero, in which case you're on your own.) 

Here are 20 of the hottest, most anticipated movies coming to theaters between now and Thanksgiving.

Note: As always, dates are subject to change.    

"It Chapter Two" — Everyone's favorite psycho clown is back in the sequel to the 2017 smash, which grossed $700 million worldwide. This time the "Loser's Club" is all grown up, but as most adults know, clowns are terrifying at any age. (Sept. 6)

"Hustlers" — Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer and Lizzo are a group of New York strippers whose practice of grifting Wall Street power players is upset by the financial crisis of the late 2000s in this pole-dancing comic drama. (Sept. 13) 

"Ad Astra" — Brad Pitt is an astronaut who heads to the outer reaches of the universe to find his long lost father in this sci-fi adventure that also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga and Liv Tyler. (Sept. 20) 

"Downton Abbey" — Six seasons and now a movie. The period drama heads to the big screen and all your faves are back, including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern and Maggie Smith. This is like "Avengers: Endgame" for PBS fans. (Sept. 20) 

"Rambo: Last Blood" — Sylvester Stallone returns for a fifth time as John Rambo, 37 years after "First Blood" first hit screens. Can anything stop him? This time he's going up against a Mexican drug cartel, but our money's on Rambo. (Sept. 20) 

"Judy" — Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger is screen legend Judy Garland in this biopic, which takes place at the end of her life, when she appeared in London for a five-week run of concerts. Finn Wittrock and Jessie Buckley co-star. (Sept. 27) 

"Joker" — Ha! Ha! Ha? Joaquin Phoenix dons the clown makeup of the iconic Batman villain in this standalone film from "Hangover" director Todd Phillips, who based the film in part on Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy." Who's laughing now? (Oct. 4) 

"Lucy in the Sky" — It's not another Beatles movie. Natalie Portman is an astronaut whose life on Earth falls apart when her romantic partner begins an affair with someone else in this drama loosely based on the real life story of astronaut Lisa Nowak. (Oct. 4) 

"El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" — What happened to Jesse Pinkman after the "Breaking Bad" finale? That's the question this Netflix film from "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan will answer, as Aaron Paul returns to his Emmy-winning role. (Oct. 11) 

"Gemini Man" — In Will Smith's latest adventure, he stars as a hitman targeted by himself, or at least a cloned younger version of himself. Let the meta-commentary about Hollywood's de-aging technology commence. Ang Lee directs. (Oct. 11) 

"The Lighthouse" — Willem Dafoe — on a roll after racking up two Oscar nominations in two years — stars with Robert Pattinson in this black-and-white horror film about two lonely lighthouse keepers from "The Witch" director Robert Eggers. (Oct. 18) 

"Jojo Rabbit" — A comedy about Hitler, you say? Writer-director Taika Waititi delivers this sure-to-be-controversial WWII-set black comedy about a boy who escapes reality with the aid of his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself). (Oct. 18) 

"Maleficent: Mistress of Evil" — Angelina Jolie returns in the sequel to the 2014 hit, in which she plays the evil fairy with two massive black horns protruding from her head. Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor also star. (Oct. 18)

"The Irishman" — Robert De Niro reunites with Martin Scorsese for the first time since "Casino" in this story about mob hitman Frank Sheeran, who was involved in Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance. Also starring Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. (Nov. 1)  

"Terminator: Dark Fate" — Of course Arnold Schwarzenegger is back. The news here is James Cameron, Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong are all back for the first time since "T2," giving this the feel of a direct sequel to the groundbreaking 1991 hit. (Nov. 1) 

"Doctor Sleep" — Here's Danny! Ewan McGregor is a grown-up version of the boy from "The Shining" in this adaptation of Stephen King's "Shining" sequel. Mike Flanagan ("Hush") has the unenviable task of following the late Stanley Kubrick. (Nov. 8) 

"Charlie's Angels" —  Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska take on the roles popularized by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu or Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, depending on your era. (Nov. 15) 

"Ford v Ferrari" — Matt Damon and Christian Bale star in this drama about Ford's quest to compete with the Ferrari racing team in Frances's 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1966. "Walk the Line's" James Mangold directs. (Nov. 15) 

"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" — Tom Hanks is children's television host Mr. Rogers in the can't-miss casting of a lifetime. He could whistle the show's theme song for two hours and still probably win an Oscar. (Nov. 22)  

"Frozen 2" — Disney continues its steamroll through 2019 with this sequel to the 2013 blockbuster, which made "Let It Go" inescapable in every home with a child. Brace yourself: winter is coming. (Nov. 22)