‘Nightmare Alley’: trailer, release date and everything we know about the Bradley Cooper movie

Nightmare Alley Cate Blanchett
Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett in 'Nightmare Alley' (Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

Despite being a fantastic title, Nightmare Alley doesn’t immediately conjure up audience recognition like other upcoming 2021 movies, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Matrix Resurrections or West Side Story; but with those involved in the film it is likely to grab people’s attention.

Nightmare Alley is the latest film from Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, with the backing of Searchlight Pictures. Throw in the all-star ensemble and Nightmare Alley will be one of the more intriguing options available to movie lovers for the rest of 2021.

Here is everything that we know about Nightmare Alley.

What is the plot  of ‘Nightmare Alley’?

Nightmare Alley is a remake of a 1947 movie of the same name starring Tyron Power and Joan Blondell. The story tracks the rise and fall of Stanton Carlisle, a mentalist who starts his career as a carny before moving on to bigger things, only to have it all come crumbling down.

It is certainly not one of the most recognizable film noirs, but it’s little surprise that a film historian like del Toro has such a passion for it that he is remaking it.

Here is the official synopsis for del Toro’s Nightmare Alley from Searchlight Pictures:

“An ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.”

Who is in the ‘Nightmare Alley’ cast?

The ensemble for Nightmare Alley is quite the impressive one, headlined by Bradley Cooper. Cooper will take on the role of Stanton Carlisle that was originally played by Tyrone Power. Sharing top billing with Cooper is Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter, the psychiatrist that Carlisle eventually pairs up with.

Things get no less star-studded in the supporting cast, with Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, Toni Collette, David Strathairn, Tim Blake Nelson and Richard Jenkins as part of the film.

Here is the full cast and their characters:

  • Bradley Cooper - Stanton Stan” Carlisle 
  • Cate Blanchette - Lilith Ritter 
  • Willem Dafoe - Clem Hoatley 
  • Rooney Mara - Molly 
  • Ron Perlman - Bruno 
  • Mary Steenburgen - Miss Harrington 
  • Toni Collette - Zeena Krumbien 
  • David Strathairn - Pete Krumbein 
  • Tim Blake Nelson - Carny Boss 
  • Richard Jenkins - Ezra Grindle 
  • Holt McCallany - Anderson 
  • Lara Jean Chorostecki - Louise 
  • Jim Beaver - Sheriff Jedediah Judd 
  • David Hewlett - Dr. Elrood 
  • Dian Bachar - Fee Fee the Birdgirl 
  • Drew Nelson - Humprhies 
  • Paul Anderson - Unknown character  
  • Clifton Collins Jr. - Unknown character 

Who is ‘Nightmare Alley’ director Guillermo del Toro?

If you are not immediately familiar with director Guillermo del Toro, you likely are at least aware of some of his films, which are some of the more imaginative and impressively made movies of the last 20 years.

Breaking into Hollywood with Blade II and Hellboy, del Toro took off with the fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth before going on to make the blockbuster Pacific Rim and the horror film Crimson Peak.

His last film was The Shape of Water, the director’s loving tribute to the classic movie monster from The Creature of the Black Lagoon, which won Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars.

Nightmare Alley, which he wrote as well as directed, is the first film in four years from del Toro. 

When is the ‘Nightmare Alley’ release date?

Nightmare Alley was released exclusively in movie theaters on Dec. 17, 2021, in the U.S. (and is still playing on the big screen). Just a little more than a month later, the Guillermo del Toro movie is finally getting its U.K. release, as Nightmare Alley is set to hit U.K. theaters on Jan. 21. 

However, Nightmare Alley will also be available to stream from viewers home in the very near future. The Wrap has reported that Nightmare Alley is getting a Feb. 1 streaming release on both Hulu and HBO Max. A subscription will of course be needed to watch the movie on either service.

'Nightmare Alley' reviews

The critics have just about all had their say, including What to Watch's own review of Nightmare Alley. The overall consensus is that director Guillermo del Toro has another finely crafted story of the strange on his hands, highlighted by the performances of his all-star cast. Nightmare Alley earned an 81% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes, while the site Metacritic has scored it at a 69; both highly respectable scores.

Is there a ‘Nightmare Alley’ trailer?

The first trailer for Nightmare Alley was released on Sept. 16, which you can watch below, but we know also have what is being called the final trailer for the movie just about a month before its release that gives us a little more insight into Bradley Cooper's character (second trailer below).

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.