With the 2013 Toronto Film Festival officially underway (it runs until the 15th), dozens of movies are getting ready for their big debuts and hoping to get some positive feedback — titles like Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and 12 Years a Slave are already garnering pre-awards season buzz. It's no secret that how a movie performs at a credible film festival will directly impact the way they are embraced by the critics, academy and fans. In its 37th year, TIFF has grown into one of the biggest media events, placing alongside Cannes, and many of your favorite films actually made their debut there — from American Beauty to The Wrestler — helping to put this Canadian festival on the map. Photo Courtesy of Dreamworks Pictures
Directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball, American Beauty debuted at TIFF in September 1999, right after it had an official premiere in Los Angeles. The movie went on to rake in eight Oscar nominations, winning five, and became one of the most influential movies ever. Not only was it Mendes' film debut (you know him now as the man behind Skyfall, Revolutionary Road, and Road to Perdition), it was also Alan Ball's breakthrough writing gig (he carried on to pen Six Feet Under and True Blood) — not to mention the stellar cast, including Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
Photo Courtesy of Universal Studios
2004s Ray is a biopic about the iconic Ray Charles, with Jamie Foxx playing the rhythm and blues musician. Foxx, who was previously known for his comedic work, went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. Made with a budget of $40M, the movie eventually made around $75M in the US and $50M internationally.
Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire was truly a powerhouse, praised for its plot, score, editing, cinematography, acting, directing, and...well, just about everything. Who knows what would have happened to this small film if TIFF audiences hadn't fallen in love with it, giving it their People's Choice Award in 2008 — though I'm pretty sure it would have done just fine. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won seven BAFTAs, five Critics' Choice Awards and four Golden Globes. Sure, the film technically premiered at Telluride Film Festival first, but TIFF was considered to be its proper debut. It also succeeded in bringing director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and 127 Hours) to a much wider audience, hailing him as one of the most interesting and talented filmmakers alive. It's worth noting that 127 Hours also had its premiere at TIFF.Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
Much like what Slumdog Millionare did for Danny Boyle, The Wrestler did for the brilliant Darren Aronofsky. While his previous films Pi and Requiem for a Dream were critically hailed as just shy of genius, they weren't exactly movies your grandparents wanted to see. The Wrestler bridged that gap and was the type of flick that got to everyone, with star Mickey Rourke (who won a BAFTA, Golden Globe, an Independent Spirit Award, and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor) breaking hearts all over the world. The Wrestler led up to the release of Black Swan in 2010 (which premiered at TIFF as well).
Photo Courtesy of The Weinstein Company
The King's Speech
While 2010s The King's Speech had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival, its true moment in the spotlight happened at TIFF. Debuting on Colin Firth's 50th birthday (September 10th) and receiving a standing ovation, the British historical drama told the story of stuttering King George VI and his relationship with Lionel Logue, his speech therapist. The movie was embraced warmly and received numerous awards, including seven BAFTAs, four Oscars and a Golden Globe — with Firth winning Best Actor from each. With a budget of of just $15M, King's Speech ended up accruing over $4000M internationally.