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The 30 best fall movies to get crazy about

Sex! Spaceships! Snowden! The best fall movies offer a bit of everything for casual cinephiles and movie snobs alike.

The Magnificent Seven

Can you smell it? No more stale summer popcorn: The crisp air brings the scent of the smart season—which means the best fall movies, including Academy Award hopefuls and Hollywood’s most prestigious blockbusters. The next three months will supply a trove of quality political dramas from revered directors like Oliver Stone (Snowden) and Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), alongside some creepy new horror movies (Blair Witch), sci-fi stunners (Arrival) and risky indies (Manchester by the Sea). After much pleasurable deliberation, here are the 30 best fall movies to get crazy about.

Best fall movies in September

Sully

Taking on the Miracle on the Hudson, the intuitive heroism of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and the oversight panel that came close to finding him in error, director Clint Eastwood has made a curious movie: slightly underwritten but vibrating with emotions that more cynical filmmakers would be embarrassed by. It’s filled with nightmarish images, but also ones of getting the job done. Sept 9

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Author: The JT LeRoy Story

Documentarian Jeff Feuerzeig (The Devil and Daniel Johnston) turns a controversial literary hoax into a private tale of a desperation, letting us into the nervous, chattering mind of Laura Albert, a Brooklyn-born creative writer who felt compelled to create alternate identities. As a profile, it’s a little too soft on the ethics, yet it supplies a weird window into the need to be wanted. Sept 9

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Command And Control

Eric Schlosser’s 2013 nonfiction book was a terrifying chronicle of “broken arrows,” the military’s designation for accidents involving nuclear bombs—and one 1980 mishap that almost resulted in a mushroom cloud over Arkansas. The doc version goes deep into the Dr. Strangelove–ian folly that, years after the Cold War, we still must maintain, or suffer civilization-ending consequences. Sept 14

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Blair Witch

The secret is out: A brand-new, bloodcurdling Blair Witch lurks in what was formerly titled The Woods over years of development. Brace yourself for another round of found-footage freak-outs, expertly deployed. Its plot was tightly kept hush-hush until recently, but director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) is no slouch. His latest has us giddy with anticipation—shaky cam and all. Sept 16

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Snowden

Snowden is to Citizenfour what The Walk is to Man on Wire—you know, a big-budget retelling of an acclaimed documentary. Plus, both share a risk-taking Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempting a tricky accent. And who better than Oliver Stone, a veteran of high-minded epics and daring political biopics, to do right by the controversial NSA whistle-blower? Sept 16

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The Magnificent Seven

A violent Sergio Leone–esque spin on the iconic John Sturges’ 1960 Western, this remake reunites Training Day director Antoine Fuqua with costars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke for the tale of a group of gunmen tasked with protecting a besieged village. Gear up for some good old-fashioned badassery—this is a rousing piece of Hollywood action-making. Sept 23

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Queen of Katwe

On paper, this one feels designed in a lab bent on creating the most shameless Oscar bait ever: A scrappy Ugandan girl, supported by a hard-working mom, discovers an affinity for the game of chess. It helps immensely that the mom is played by 12 Years a Slave’s hypnotic Lupita Nyong’o, and director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) is due for a rebound. Sept 23

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American Honey

Acutely perceptive British writer-director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) hits the Midwestern road in her Cannes Jury Prize–winning film about a bunch of impulsive thrill-seekers who go wilding. It’s an existential epic starring Sasha Lane (in a breakthrough debut) and Shia LaBeouf, who will whisk you away in his ride. The prospect of seeing LaBeouf as an actor again is intriguing enough. Sept 30

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Deepwater Horizon

History’s worst environmental disaster also resulted in the largest corporate legal settlement in history, over $18 billion in fines agreed to by BP after its actions were deemed reckless. Peter Berg’s movie is not about that criminal culpability but rather, the scary moments of heroism on the oil rig. Mark Wahlberg jumps through balls of fire, while John Malkovich escapes with a sneer. Sept 30

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Release date: Friday September 30 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Is anyone really waiting with baited breath for a new Tim Burton movie? This one’s got a couple things in its favor: It stars the mighty Eva Green, a walking special effect in herself, born to the role of a semifrightening teacher and protector of kids with special powers. Plus, the overall vibe seems forged in same off-kilter strangeness that made us fall in love with Burton in the first place (Beetlejuice, etc.). Sept 30

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Best fall movies in October

The Birth of a Nation

The film itself deserves consideration, even if its Oscar chances are all but kaput. Nate Parker’s rapturous and rousing historical drama premiered to a lengthy standing ovation at Sundance; it’s still a massive accomplishment for its writer-director-star. And in bringing the Nat Turner–led slave rebellion of 1831 to screen, the film fumes with timely fury. Oct 7

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The Girl on the Train

A new Gone Girl (we hope), this thriller has a literary pedigree, a well-telegraphed twist (no spoilers here) and a fascinating actor in the central role, Emily Blunt, whom we’d love to see kicked to the top of the Oscar conversation. The less we say about the plot, the better, but director Tate Taylor’s previous film was the extremely underrated Get on Up, which bodes well. Oct 7

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Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey

Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey

You might ask yourself: What does director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) really know about planetary science and evolution? Did he go to school for it? Is an IMAX documentary really in his wheelhouse? Don’t ask that. Ask instead: Can I afford to miss a movie that looks this breathtakingly beautiful? Or one that’s narrated by Cate Blanchett? Oct 7

Mascots

Mascots

We can’t remain calm: There’s a new mockumentary coming from the one-and-only Christopher Guest (Best in ShowWaiting for Guffman). Guest’s first feature in a decade is a chronicle of a national competition for those folks who zip themselves up into costumes at sporting events and go nuts. Naturally, this requires a certain intensity: Parker Posey returns, as does Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Jennifer Coolidge and the whole Guest troupe. Oct 13

American Pastoral

American Pastoral

Is this the year of Philip Roth adaptations or what? After Indignation comes Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, in which he tries his hand at Roth’s Pulitzer-winning novel. The trailer for the postwar drama looks like a million bucks and hints at sharp performances from stars McGregor, Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly, playing troubled members of a crumbling family on the outs. Oct 21

Moonlight

Moonlight

Buzz is steadily building for indie filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ second feature (after 2008’s complex, satisfying Medicine for Melancholy), which will be touring the fall festivals. It’s set in Miami, but don’t expect Scarface. Rather, the drama follows a quiet African American boy, tough but vulnerable in his crack-ridden neighborhood. Over the years, he grows up. Count us in. Oct 21

Inferno

Tom Hanks’s museum-prone mystery hero Robert Langdon is back, seven years after Angels & Demons—even if his hairline continues to withdraw faster than his prior female costars. This time, his counterpart, a doctor, is played by Felicity Jones (star of the forthcoming Rogue One). They’re on the trail of some sinister plotters; no doubt hidden clues and plenty of mansplaining is involved. Oct 28

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Rings

Call it a mark of our attachment to the frightening 2002’s Naomi Watts–starring original (itself a remake) that we’re ready for another go-around with the cursed VHS tape. This sequel doesn’t have major stars—or any stars, really—and it’s been delayed a zillion times. Still, that girl with the stringy black hair comes out of the television nicely. Oct 28

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Best fall movies in November

Doctor Strange

The Marvel Cinematic Universe opens wide to welcome tart, thorny Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), just in time for those getting tired of Robert Downey Jr’s shtick. Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange—yes, we know, just go with it. He’s a brilliant brain surgeon who is also a superhero after discovering Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. Same thing happened to us after we discovered Swinton. Nov 4

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Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson is back behind the camera with his most Mel movie yet: a gory WWII battlefield drama marked by issues of faith and sacrifice. Hacksaw Ridge is based on the real-life story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a fiercely religious conscientious objector who nonetheless managed to save an estimated 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa. It’s sincere, raw and provocative material, perfectly suited to Gibson’s directorial strengths, which are often overlooked. Nov 4

Loving

Their names were actually Richard and Mildred Loving—a real-life married couple with the misfortune of living in ’50s-era Virginia, where interracial unions were considered criminal. As played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, their story comes to sympathetic life, dramatized by director Jeff Nichols (already having a stellar year with Midnight Special). Nov 4

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Release date: Friday November 4 2016

Arrival

French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) has become one of the most exciting directors working today. His alien invasion flick, which boasts a superb cast that includes Amy Adams and Forest Whitaker, promises to be visually stylish, compulsively watchable and a real thinker. Relentless tension meets Christopher Nolan–level smarts. Just the way we like our extraterrestrial fare. Nov 11

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Release date: Friday November 11 2016

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Ang Lee’s latest drama, a 3-D war film, was shot at an especially high frame rate—which we’re sure has a purpose other than making everything look like a high-grade soap opera. (Remember The Hobbit?) Still, Lee has impeccable taste and we’re ready to follow where he leads. A swanky world premiere at the New York Film Festival is a huge vote of confidence. Nov 11

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Elle

Is it a rape-revenge thriller? A lighthearted comedy? A pervy sexual psychodrama? All of the above, actually. Elle’s reaction out of Cannes sure left a mark—as to be expected from Basic Instinct and Showgirls director Paul Verhoeven’s first feature-length film in a decade. It stars Isabelle Huppert, one of cinema’s greatest actors, as a successful game designer out to settle a score. Nov 11

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The Eyes of My Mother

Indie creepiness comes in a nail-biting black-and-white package in this gorgeously realized horror film loaded with surprises. Many of the old genre elements are there: an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere; the cracked family that lives there; the unlucky folks who accidentally end up on the doorstep. If you call yourself a devotee of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you’ve got plans now. Nov 18

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Potterverse rolls on in this massively anticipated addition to the mythology. It’s set in the New York City of 1926 and stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a creature collector and figure of expertise. He’s the narrator and he must do battle with Samantha Morton’s fierce “Second-Salemer” witch-hunter, Mary Lou. We wish him all the best with that. Nov 18

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Manchester by the Sea

Kenneth Lonergan, the auteur behind the exceptional You Can Count on Me and the beautifully messy Margaret, has delivered his best film to date with a devastating, elegantly crafted familial story of grief. Leave it to the outstanding Casey Affleck and a scene-stealing Michelle Williams to shatter your heart in this film’s gradually swelling sea of emotions. Friendly advice: Bring tissues. Nov 18

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Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford doesn’t just make clothes—he made an Oscar-nominated film, 2009’s A Single Man. Ford’s second effort shows him seriously upping his cast’s profile: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Isla Fisher costar in a nerve-shredding drama based on Austin Wright’s 1993 book Tony and Susan, about a divorced couple whose separation gets menacing when one of them publishes a dark novel. Nov 18

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Release date: Friday December 9 2016
Allied

Allied

Honestly, nobody knows much about this one, except the bare minimum: It’s got romantic WWII spies, sultry Casablanca locations and German goons. But look at these actors. Just look at them. If the sight of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard doesn’t get you off your couch and down to the theater, we suggest you do more reading. Nov 23

Rules Don’t Apply

Rules Don’t Apply

Alongside Hail, Caesar! and Café Society, consider your annual dose of mandatory Hollywood nostalgia fully administered with Warren Beatty’s splashy return as a filmmaker. Set in the 1950s, Rules Don’t Apply is a ravishing, playful package that contains an aspiring-starlet tale, a doomed love triangle and the eccentric billionaire-filmmaker Howard Hughes (played by Beatty himself). Nov 23

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