Berlin Hot List: 14 Titles Set to Heat Up the Festival

9:30 PM 2/19/2020

by Scott Roxborough

The European Film Market sees male-driven action movies with Sylvester Stallone and Gerard Butler go up against female empowerment tales from 'Booksmart' director Olivia Wilde and 'The Farewell' star Awkwafina.

Joaquin Phoenix accepts the Actor In A Leading Role award for 'Joker' onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards  -2-  Getty - H 2020
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

  • 'Remote Control'


    John Mathieson

    CAST  Gerard Butler 

    BUZZ The Angel Has Fallen star is back in one-man-against-the-world mode as a war correspondent turned corporate security consultant caught up in a global conspiracy. A no-brainer for the macho action crowd.

  • 'The Good Nurse'


    Tobias Lindholm

    CAST Jessica Chastain, Eddie Redmayne

    BUZZ Riding the true crime wave comes this drama based on "Angel of Death" Charlie Cullen (Redmayne), the British nurse who killed more than 300 patients. Chastain will play the nurse who helped stop his killing spree.

  • 'Little America'


    Rowan Athale

    CAST Sylvester Stallone 

    BUZZ Action remains the number one genre globally and Stallone, hot off Rambo 5, remains an international box office draw. Set in a dystopian future where America is a bankrupt wasteland, Stallone plays a  former Army Ranger hired by an Asian billionaire to find his daughter in Little America, a walled-off ghetto within Hong Kong where ex-pats Americans have fled.

  • 'The Baccarat Machine'

    CAST Awkwafina

    BUZZ The Farewell and Ocean's 8 actress will star as female gambler Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun in what is being positioned as a Hustlers-style tale of female empowerment as Sun teams up with international “King of Poker” Phil Ivey to try and beat the Vegas casinos at their own game.

  • 'The Portable Door'


    Jeffrey Walker

    CAST Christoph Waltz, Guy Pearce

    BUZZ Muppet-makers the Jim Henson Company and Story Bridge Films are making a play for a live-action family audience with this fantasy adventure comedy based on Tom Holt's best-selling novels about a seemingly-ordinary office that is actual a front for magical nastiness. With few fantasy projects on the indie market, The Portable Door could be just the ticket for mainstream distributors.

  • 'Perfect'


    Olivia Wilde

    BUZZ  Hoping to land another I, Tonya-like success, producers have attached Booksmart director Wilde to this biopic on American gymnast Kerri Strug, who came back from a major injury to win gold at the 1996 Olympics. With a script from Borg/McEnroe scribe Ronnie Sandahl.

  • 'All Quiet on the Western Front'


    Edward Berger

    CAST Daniel Brühl

    BUZZ The first-ever German-language adaptation of the landmark World War I novel from German writer Erich Maria Remarque seems ideally timed to benefit from post-1917 interest in the Great War.

  • 'Juniper'


    Matthew Saville

    CAST Charlotte Rampling, Marton Csokas

    BUZZ Rampling, a 2015 Berlinale best actress winner (for 45 Years) returns to the EFM with this darkly comic drama targeting the high-end art house crowd. Rampling plays a feisty alcoholic grandmother who moves in with her son (Marton Csokas) and grandson (newcomer George Ferrier).

  • 'Untitled Mike Leigh'


    Mike Leigh

    BUZZ Prestige distributors worldwide are sure to pounce on the new project from seven-time Oscar nominee Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Peterloo), with the director's name (plot details are still secret) likely enough to secure stacks of international deals. Bleecker Street and eOne have pre-bought U.S. and U.K. rights for the film, respectively.

  • 'The Thicket'


    Elliott Lester

    CAST Peter Dinklage, Noomi Rapace, Charlie Plummer

    BUZZ  A straight-up action thriller with recognizable stars in the form of Prometheus actress Rapace and Game of Thrones' Dinklage, this feature, based on the Joe R. Lansdale novel, could hit the sweet spot with commercial indies worldwide.

  • 'A Hero'


    Asghar Farhadi

    BUZZ New Parasite-fueled interest in foreign-language titles should help sales of Asghar Farhadi's new Iranian drama. The plot is being kept under wraps but the Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman has proven he can deliver cross-over and award-worthy arthouse for the world market.

  • 'Official Competition'


    Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat

    CAST Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz

    BUZZ Pain & Glory's Spanish superstars reteam for this Argentine drama about a filmmaker (Cruz) recruited by a billionaire entrepreneur to re-create an iconic movie, featuring heartthrob Félix Rivero (Banderas). Likely to be a must for art house distribs everywhere.

  • 'Untitled Mike Mills'


    Mike Mills

    CAST Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffmann

    BUZZ In his first project post Joker, Phoenix plays an artist left to take care of his precocious young nephew on a cross-country road trip in the latest from the director of Oscar-nominated features Beginners and 20th Century Woman. Screams awards potential.

  • 'Penguin Bloom'

    CAST Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln

    BUZZ Feel-good, family-friendly films are few and far between at Berlin this year, which could give this children's book adaptation an edge. Watts and Lincoln play Cameron and Sam Bloom, a couple with three children whose lives are disrupted when a near-fatal accident leaves Sam paralyzed from the chest down. But an unexpected ally joins the family in the form of an injured wild magpie chick the Blooms call Penguin. Based on the best-selling photography book Penguin the Magpie by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive.

    This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 20 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.