The New York Film Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, with a full slate of programming from Sept. 28 – Oct. 14. Although the festival, run by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, does not give out prizes, it does present a wide range of screenings, from an avant-garde series to world and national premieres of big-name movies. Even if you can’t make it to the live events—like a conversation with director Ang Lee—you can still keep an eye out for news and reviews from some of the festival’s most exciting films.
We’ve narrowed down the slate to ten films worth knowing about, presented in no particular order. Keep an eye on TIME Entertainment for full festival coverage from Richard Corliss.
1. Life of Pi
The much-anticipated adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning novel will make its world premiere at the NYFF. The movie, directed by Ang Lee, tells the story of an Indian boy who ends up stranded in a lifeboat with a tiger when the boat carrying his family and their menagerie sinks. Despite most of the novel’s action taking place in a small boat, there should be plenty of fantasy elements to make good use of the film’s 3D presentation. (The movie will be in theaters Nov. 21.)
This coming-of-age tale sounds at first like 2009′s An Education: it stars Elle Fanning and Alice Englert as two London teenagers in 1962, complete with the sexual revolution. But this time their friendship (and its destruction) is also set within the context of the nuclear fears of the time. Christina Hendricks and Annette Bening also star.
The NYFF will be the North American premiere of this French comedy (Camille redouble in its native tongue). The movie, directed by Noémie Lvovsky, is a twist on Peggy Sue Got Married: a woman in the middle of a divorce is taken back to her high-school days in the ’80s, where her soon-to-be-ex-husband is still just a classmate.
(Venice Film Festival: TIME’s Complete 2012 Coverage)
4. Frances Ha
Get ready, mumblecore folks: Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha stars Greta Gerwig—and was also co-written by the actress, the genre’s muse. The movie’s even in black and white. Gerwig plays a recent college grad struggling to transition to the real world; according to Indiewire, the Girls-esque elements (including co-star Adam Driver) have drawn positive comparisons to the HBO show.
Amour, directed by Michael Haneke of Austria, took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. It’s been making the festival rounds since May but this is its first one in the U.S. The movie takes on the topic of an elderly couple (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva) dealing with the aftermath when one of them suffers a stroke.
(MORE: TIME’s review of Amour at Cannes)
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace star in this movie about a businesswoman who mistreats her assistant—but The Devil Wears Prada this ain’t. Directed by Brian De Palma, this tale of workplace revenge is a sexy thriller, a remake of the 2010 French film Crime d’amour (Love Crime).
The festival’s closing night will see the world premiere of Flight, from Robert Zemeckis. Denzel Washington stars as a pilot who manages a Miracle-on-the-Hudson-like emergency landing, but whose personal behavior makes him a far more complicated hero than “Sully” Sullenberger was. John Goodman, Don Cheadle and Melissa Leo appear alongside Washington.
This Italian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which will receive its North American premiere at the NYFF, won the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival. It’s a docudrama starring real high-security prisoners at an Italian jail who are performing the Shakespearian history, telling the story of the production while also providing insight into the inmates’ lives.
This film, from the Philippines, stars Eddie Garcia, winner of a lifetime achievement award from the Filipino Acadamy of Movie Arts and Sciences. It’s a dramedy in Tagalog about a man and his dog living in a small town; Bwakaw is the name of the dog but the canine actor is called Princess. The main character came out of the closet as an elderly man and is resigned to being alone for the rest of his life—until something (no spoilers!) convinces him to change that fate.
(Toronto International Film Festival: TIME’s complete 2012 coverage)
10. Not Fade Away
This new movie, from David Chase of Sopranos fame (who has never before directed a film), features James Gandolfini in New Jersey—but the group showcased is not the mob. Instead, it’s a rock band in the mid-’60s, a bunch of friends trying to make it big. The NYFF presentation will be the movie’s world premiere, and the soundtrack (all-important for a rock movie) is produced by Steven Van Zandt.