tiff movies

35 must-see movies to add your watch list at TIFF 2021 in Toronto

TIFF returns in 2021 with a hybrid festival, blending in-person and digital screenings to showcase some of the best films in the world. The process for getting tickets may be a bit more complicated than in year's past, but however you manage to make the festival happen this year you're likely to find some cinematic gems to adore.

To help you select from the myriad of titles, here are the must-see films at TIFF 2021 according to this year's slate of programmers.

Cameron Bailey (Artistic Director & Co-Head)
Mulungu Wam (Good Madam)

Residues of apartheid-era domestic servitude confront legacies of colonial land theft in South African auteur Jenna Cato Bass’s daring horror-satire.

Huda's Salon

Hany Abu-Assad’s political and emotional thriller explores a dangerous clash between two women struggling to cope with life under occupation.

Montana Story

Two siblings returning to the family ranch to care for their ailing father must confront painful truths, in Scott McGehee and David Siegel's latest.

Joana Vicente (Executive Director & Co-Head)
The Power of the Dog

Legendary filmmaker Jane Campion returns with a film about two Montana ranch-owning brothers whose relationship is torn apart by the arrival of two new family members.

Based on the cult book by the same name, this is a mesmerizing, revisionist take on the American Western starring Benedict Cumberbatch.


Canadian directors Tahir Rana and Éric Warren use stunning animation to bring to life the incredible and true story of a German-Jewish painter - voiced by Keira Knightly -  who turned to art when faced with the prospect of death. 

Jason Anderson (Programmer, Short Cuts)

Albert Shin is one of Canada's most gifted and exciting filmmakers and his new short shows all the reasons why. Two strangers come to a room in a crummy seaside motel in South Korea.

What they get up to while they're there feels continually surprising not just to viewers but to the characters too.

Egungun (Masquerade)

Director Olive Nwosu  returned to her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria, to make this story of an expat who runs into an important person in her past while attending her mother’s funeral. The result is bold, gorgeous and completely captivating.


I'm always thrilled when Nash Edgerton makes another of his outrageous shorts featuring his alter ego Jack. In Edgerton's latest, Jack finds his perfect match in a new love played by the one and only Rose Byrne. What could go wrong this time? Answer: a lot.

Andréa Picard (Curator, Wavelengths)

Cleverly subverting both the tropes of horror and the social realist narrative, Radu Muntean's film provides a heady mix of suspense, mordant wit and existentialism.

A Night of Knowing Nothing

Payal Kapadia's feature debut won the best documentary award in Cannes for its powerful fusion of fiction and documentary, which elaborates a reflection on contemporary India from a vivid one-way correspondence between two estranged lovers.

Ste. Anne

Rhayne Vermette's film confronts ideas of belonging, reclamation, motherhood, and family with both intimacy and a near-hallucinatory pull toward visual abstraction.

Steve Gravestock (Senior Programmer)
The Worst Person in the World

Renate Reinsve stars as a young woman forging her own way, regardless of social, familial and romantic pressures. This is a film which evokes the insouciant, inventive, and insightful spirit of the early French New Wave, yet still remains very much Joachim Trier's own.

Compartment No. 6

Juho Kuosmanen's tale of two strangers separated by class, education, nationality and language who struggle with their own prejudices to forge an unlikely bond during a days long train trip across Russia.

Learn to Swim

Thyrone Tommy's first feature is a complex, poignant tale of love and loss set in the Toronto jazz scene boasting an amazing cast, great music, artful writing, and direction that's nuanced and audacious.

Ravi Srinivasan (International Programmer)

Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson present a raw and authentic glimpse into a diverse community with a collective refusal to be fractured by individual challenges, and instead be brought together through kindness and solidarity.

Featuring incredible performances by three young actors in their first major roles, this is the hometown underdog you need to get behind! 


In her impressive debut feature film, writer-director Haya Waseem explores the family dynamic in a new light, providing a reminder that immigrants and people of colour adjusting to new life, new goals and new expectations also struggle with mental health.

Dorota Lech (Lead Programmer)
Silent Land

Agnieszka Woszczyńska channels Antonioni and Haneke in her debut feature follows the Italian vacation of a bourgeois Polish couple as it falls perfectly to pieces.

The Hill where the Lionesses Roar

Luàna Bajrami's film is set n a remote Kosovan village where three spirited young women feel their dreams stifled. In their quest for independence, nothing can stop them but their new-found freedom is not without consequence and a manhunt for the wild trio is quickly underway.

Anatolian Leopard

Emre Kayis' debut film – a dark comedy about a melancholic zoo director fighting to keep his workplace from privatization in a rapidly changing Turkey – wraps a poignant Kafkaesque scenario in a Kaurismäkian package.

Peter Kuplowsky (International Programmer, Midnight Madness)

Three mercenaries pull a heist during a coup d'etat and find themselves stuck in a mysterious region of Senegal in Jean Luc Herbulot's film. This marks the first time Midnight Madness has hosted a film from West Africa.

Dug Dug

A terrific and infectious debut feature about a moped accident that soon inspires a new religion. Writer/Director Ritwik Pareek shoots the film with such kinetic dynamism, you'll be a believer by the time the credits roll!


Aa military officer tries to expose an exorcist as fraud, but his actions soon enflame a superstitious village into a paranoid mob that suspects him and his lover of demonic possession. Arsalan Armiri crafts an outstanding slow-burn horror thriller that boils into a pitch-black absurdist standoff.

Thom Powers (Senior International Programmer, TIFF Docs)

A young Afro-Latina confronts family dysfunction, diasporic influences, campus code-switching and her own coming of age in this gorgeous debut, shot in 16 mm, from Rebeca Huntt.


Filmmaker Gian Cassini explores the legacy of his father who was a Tijauna hitman, while peeling back generational layers of men driven by violence and the women navigating a culture of machismo.

The Devil's Drivers

With the pacing of a 1970s car chase thriller, directors Mohammed Abugeth and Daniel Carsenty document human smugglers driving Palestinian workers into Israel as they try to outwit the military.

Giovanna Fulvi (Senior Programmer)

Two boys marginalized by society in 14th-century Japan find power through dance and song, in Masaaki Yuasa’s animated tale of friendship and magic.

Drive My Car

Adapted from Haruki Murakami's short story, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film follows two lonely people who find the courage to face the past.

Nataleah Hunter-Young (Associate International Programmer)
Tug of War

A Swahili revolutionary and an Indian-Zanzibari runaway bride find love in the historic alleys of Stone Town. This spell-binding adaptation of Adam Shafi’s award-winning novel comes from York University alum Amil Shivji.


Set in 1940s Palestine, 14-year-old Farha watches from a locked cellar as the world around her crumbles under the bombs of invading Israeli military forces.  A bold period piece starring Karam Taher, based on a true story written and directed by Jordanian filmmaker Darin J. Sallam in her first feature production. 

Neptune Frost

Anisia Uzeyman and Saul Williams direct this musical set in the lush landscapes of Rwanda following an intersex hacker and a coltan miner whose love seeds the revolution, spotlighting an elaborate cast of talented artists from Kigali and Bujumbura.

Diana Cadavid (Associate International Programmer)
The Odd Job Men

Neus Ballús takes us through one work week of two experienced locals and a total newcomer who has to prove he can too be a good odd-job man. The stakes are high and they have to figure out if they'll continue to be at odds with each other, or if they maybe even embrace change.

The Other Tom

Mexican filmmakers Rodrigo Plá and Laura Santullo tell the poignant story of a single mother and her nine year-old son, whose tight but fraught bond is pushed to the limit when the kid is hastily diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed psychiatric medication.

To Kill the Beast

Argentinian director Agustina San Martin makes her feature length directorial debut with a bold piece of tropical gothic that puts young female desire at the center of its loose narrative.

Geoff MacNaughton (Lead Programmer)
The Panthers

An exciting new series from creators Halaifonua Finau and Tom Hern about the formation of the Black Panthers lesser known chapter in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Sort Of

A smart and refreshing comedy that follows Sabi Mehoob, played beautifully by Bilal Baig, a gender-fluid 25-year-old Pakistani-Canadian nanny, whose plans to leave Toronto are disrupted when tragedy strikes.

Lead photo by

Montana Story

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