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27 movies to see this fall

Say hello to a much cooler film season—here are 27 picks to set your cinema-lovin’ heart ablaze this fall

By Joshua Rothkopf and Keith Uhlich |

Bring on the long coats and scarves, the chill in our cheeks and, of course, the smart fall movies. Much-buzzed new films from David Fincher (Gone Girl), Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman) have us primed as awards season approaches. Don’t limit yourself to the multiplex. Try a foreign film like the slyly funny Force Majeure, or sink your teeth into an authoritative documentary, such as Frederick Wiseman’s absorbing National Gallery. It’s safe to turn on your brain again.

RECOMMENDED: Your guide to fall in Chicago


<em>Last Days in Vietnam</em>

Filmmaker Rory Kennedy returns to the chaotic final weeks before the 1975 fall of Saigon, when American diplomats and CIA agents had to weigh the moral decision of whether to obey government orders and flee, or help the South Vietnamese to safety. (Sept 5)

<em>The Drop</em>

Tom Hardy (a strapping Mad Max in next summer’s Fury Road) plays a quiet Brooklyn schnook who unwittingly finds himself involved in a robbery with deep ramifications. For a final time, we’re reminded of the genius of James Gandolfini, whose strengths are tapped for a seething supporting role. (Sept 12)


<em>The Skeleton Twins</em>

Former SNL-ers Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig take a sincere shot at family drama, playing estranged suicidal siblings in this Sundance sensation. Both actors impress us with chops we haven’t seen—and sure, they cut loose in a riotous lip-synch that will have you humming Starship’s “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now” against your better judgment. (Sept 12)

<em>The Guest</em>

Fine, Dan Stevens had to go his own way, choosing to leave Downton Abbey just when we were warming to his character. (How could you do that to Lady Mary?) But fans won’t expect where the model-handsome actor has landed: as the mysterious antihero at the center of a delightfully John Carpenter-esque horror flick about a shady war veteran returning to the suburbs. (Sept 17)


<em>20,000 Days on Earth</em>

An eventful (and intentionally staged) day in the life of Nick Cave is the meat of this unusually witty biographical profile—a reinvention of the form that deserves association with the intense, restless music of its subject. We’re there just to watch Cave wrestle with his demons in a therapist’s office. (Sept 17)

Photograph: Mark Fellman


Kevin Smith’s previous feature, 2011’s Red State, was a promising turn to horror for the comedically inclined auteur of Clerks and its slacker ilk. Now he’s back with a deliciously oddball concept (man gets trapped by psycho who wants to turn him into a walrus) and a cast (Justin Long, Michael Parks) that seems more than able to sell it. (Sept 19)

Photograph: Atsushi Nishijima

<em>A Walk Among the Tombstones</em>

The last time writer Lawrence Block’s alcoholic P.I. Matt Scudder graced movie screens was in the form of Jeff Bridges in 1986’s sleazy thriller 8 Million Ways to Die. This time, a grizzled-looking Liam Neeson plays the tortured lawman, who lends his investigative services to a drug kingpin whose wife has been kidnapped. (Sept 19)

<em>The Zero Theorem</em>

Director Terry Gilliam’s brand of craziness is always welcome to us, and his latest looks like a particularly deep dive into the kooky end. Django Unchained’s Christoph Waltz stars as a computer hacker searching for the meaning of human existence in a colorfully dystopian future only the maker of Brazil could concoct. (Sept 19)


<em>The Two Faces of January</em>

Thank you, fall, for reminding us what our brains are for (those things we usually check at the multiplex door during summer). Based on a twisty mystery by author Patricia Highsmith, this Greece-set thriller stars Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and, stepping out of Inside Llewyn Daviss gloom, Oscar Isaac. (Sept 26)

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


Last summer’s The Conjuring was the most shocking of things: a truly scary horror movie, one that owed its thrills to real meat-and-potatoes craft, not CGI. Nothing is known about this inevitable origin tale about the creepy doll, and Conjuring director James Wan is only producing this time. Still, we’ve got nightmarish hopes. (Oct 3)


Photograph: Merrick Morton

<em>Gone Girl</em>

Anticipation is at a fever pitch for David Fincher’s gloomy-looking adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling mystery, starring Rosamund Pike as a chipper, well-to-do wife who suddenly disappears and Ben Affleck as the aloof spouse who might be responsible. Fincher is an expert with suspense (return to Zodiac, people), and this project seems perfect for him. (Oct 3)

Photograph: Teddy Smith

<em>Left Behind</em>

Time to fire up the Cage rage: Why do we always get hopeful when we hear that Nicolas Cage is starring in a cheesy thriller? Adding to our glee: This one takes place after millions of everyday people vanish in the Rapture, leaving our pilot hero to wail in solace—and presumably uncork some killer monologues. (Oct 3)

Photograph: Claire Folger

<em>The Judge</em>

The opening-night selection of the Toronto International Film Festival sounds like a showcase for powerhouse acting just this side of awards solicitation. Robert Downey Jr. plays a hot-shot attorney called back home after his father, a revered small-town judge (Robert Duvall), is accused of murder. (Oct 10)

<em>Kill the Messenger</em>

What would you do if you discovered that the CIA was responsible for arming the Nicaraguan Contras and importing tons of crack cocaine? San Francisco journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) followed this true story to its bitter end. A potential Oscar magnet, the dramatization looks to be a primo fix for all viewers tired of fake superheroics. (Oct 10)

Photograph: Daniel McFadden


Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) steps up considerably in the role of an intense drumming student who shuts out the world. Yet the film’s ace is J.K. Simmons as a jazz instructor whose unsympathetic ferocity takes your breath away. The movie will have you talking about perfectionism for days, mainly because it feels close to perfect itself. (Oct 10)

Photograph: Alison Rosa


In ’80s movies like Night Shift, Beetlejuice and the original Batman, Michael Keaton embodied the spirit of a generation—then he disappeared. Now he’s back, in an ideal rebound comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel) about a moody ex-celeb who mounts a tell-all on Broadway. Adding to our anticipation: Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is rumored to have constructed the film into what appears to be a single shot. (Oct 17)

Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) gets his new orders from Lieutenant Parker (Xavier Samuel) in Columbia Pictures' FURY.
Photograph: Giles Keyte


Back to the front, Pitt! After sparkling up the screen in Inglourious Basterds, one half of Brangelina plays a tank officer sent on a dangerous mission behind enemy WWII lines. It’s a much more somber-sounding affair than Quentin would ever dare, and we’re ready to see Pitt stretch after 12 Years a Slave. (Oct 17)

Force Majeure

<em>Force Majeure</em>

It doesn’t sound funny—a family man on a ski vacation suffers a meltdown after an avalanche shakes his poise—but Ruben Östlund’s psychological drama builds, subtly, to a hilarious takedown of masculinity. This is pure filmmaking, controlled and acute, and a real conversation-starter. (Oct 24)

Photograph: Atsushi Nishijima

<em>St. Vincent</em>

Oh, Bill Murray, how we love your bachelor-party–crashing ways and rumpled off-camera charm. Of course, when you do act, that’s funny, too—and this comedy, about a soused veteran who forms an uneasy bond with a new neighbor kid—sounds delightfully Rushmore-ish. Please don’t let us be wrong. (Oct 24)

<em>White Bird in a Blizzard</em>

Set in an atmospherically evoked 1988, this missing-mother psychodrama, starring Shailene Woodley as an intrepid teen, is a return to Mysterious Skin territory for Sundance vet Gregg Araki. As ever, Eva Green steals the show, playing a parent gone over the edge. (Oct 24)


Photograph: Doane Gregory


Daniel Radcliffe embraces the demon inside in Alexandre Aja’s horror movie, in which the former Harry Potter plays a young man who sprouts a pair of devil horns after he’s accused of murdering his girlfriend. His grief quickly gives way to glee when he discovers he enjoys being bad; somebody clearly took lessons from Lord Voldemort. (Oct 31)

<em>National Gallery</em>

In his most recent study, legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman goes behind the scenes at the eponymous London museum to explore its numerous works of art and the wide variety of people who keep it running. Nonfiction cinema doesn’t get much juicier. (Nov 5)

Photograph: Melinda Sue Gordon


The ominous trailer is freaking us out, and we’ll follow Matthew McConaughey wherever he goes. Little is known about Christopher Nolan’s ultrasecret sci-fi thinker, apart from the bare minimum: Earth is dying, and we need to send astronauts out to find a nonterrestrial solution. So in other words, get ready for a laugh riot. (Nov 7)

<em>The Theory of Everything</em>

Stephen Hawking: genius, cosmos-cracker, symbol of resilience…romantic fool? Directed by Man on Wire’s James Marsh, this biopic tells a more personal story, set during the astrophysicist’s Cambridge years before his calamitous physical decline. Eddie Redmayne dons the Coke-bottle glasses; Felicity Jones charms his heart. (Nov 7)

Dumb and Dumber To
Photograph: Hopper Stone

<em>Dumb and Dumber To</em>

Has it really been 20 years since Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels first hit the road in 1994’s celebration of all things stoopid? We’re happy to welcome the idiotic duo back into our lives—and even more excited to check in with the writing-directing Farrelly brothers, a pair of consistently crazy talents. (Nov 14)

Photograph: Scott Garfield


Some will be lining up just to see Channing Tatum rolling around with dudes in a wrestling singlet. But this sports drama has a serious pedigree: It’s directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball) and explores the sacrifices made by young athletes who want to go all the way. Adding to the buzz is a potentially Oscar-bound Steve Carell, unrecognizable as a ruthless sponsor. (Nov 14)

Photograph: Murray Close

<em>The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1</em>

Of course, it’s only the first half; we’ll have to wait until next November to see how the postapocalyptic saga concludes. But there’s real reason to be excited: Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen is as tough and complex as any of the actor’s awarded turns. Go for her—along with another bitter taste of Philip Seymour Hoffman. (Nov 21)