Fall may mean the end of warm weather, vacations, and free summer concerts, but it’s not all bad. Cineasts know that this time of year is often the best for film, as studios push Oscar contenders, Sundance favorites make their way to limited release, and cold nights have us trading drinks outdoors for the cozy comforts of our local cinema. As indieWIRE’s new fall preview shows, this season in particular brings an embarrassment of movie riches. We’ve whittled their excellent list down to 12 September-December films we absolutely need to see in the theater. Watch the trailers and let us know what you’re most excited to see.
12. Let Me In (dir. Matt Reeves) In theaters: October 1 Fans of 2008’s Let the Right One In, the dark and majestic Swedish vampire film (itself adapted from a novel of the same name) are right to be skeptical about an English-language remake from the director of Cloverfield. To be honest, we were ready to skip it until we saw the trailer — which suggests that Reeves is taking his cues from the original. While it may turn out to be more of a thriller than its cold, restrained, note-perfect inspiration, we’ve seen enough to know we’ll have to check this one out in the theater.
11. I Love You Phillip Morris (dir. Glenn Ficarra and John Recqua) In theaters: December 3 Nope, it’s not about cigarettes — it’s a gay con-man flick based on a true story, featuring Jim Carrey as said con and Ewan McGregor as the love of his life! Aside from the obvious enticements, we’re looking forward to Phillip Morris because we’ve been hearing about it forever and are happy to see it finally get a release date.
10. I’m Still Here (dir. Casey Affleck) Yes, folks, it’s the movie we’ve been waiting for since its star either had a meltdown or did some fantastic performance art on Letterman: the Joaquin Phoenix hip hop “documentary.” If we weren’t already convinced that it was more premeditated than Affleck and Phoenix are letting on, the trailer below would have put us over the edge. That being said, we’re still curious enough to check it out.
9. 127 Hours (dir. Danny Boyle) In theaters: November 5 We love James Franco. We love Danny Boyle. So what’s there not to love about a Boyle-directed thriller starring Franco as a real-life adventurer who had to do the unthinkable to save his own life?
8. Tiny Furniture (dir. Lena Dunham) In theaters: November 12 Sex (or the lack thereof), unemployment, and YouTube. These are the building blocks of many 20-somethings’ lives these days, and Dunham’s low-budget, autobiographical account of her own post-college slump looks mighty familiar. Judging by the trailer for this buzzy SXSW hit, we think she may have nailed the aimlessness, frustration, and ennui of a generation locked out of the job market. The dialogue, in particular, is sounding spot on.
7. Carlos (dir. Olivier Assayas) In theaters: October 15 (multi-platform release) If you acquaint yourself with just one European director this year, let it be Olivier Assayas. His most recent film, the family drama Summer Hours, was an international hit with critics and fans alike — and stranger, earlier efforts (Irma Vep, Demonlover) are cult classics. But Carlos may be Assayas’s most ambitious work to date: a five-and-a-half-hour miniseries about the terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Unfortunately, the trailer below is in French. Good thing it speaks the international language of action.
6. The Tempest (Julie Taymor) In theaters: December 10 Sure, she may be directing Bono’s Spider-Man musical, and Across the Universe might have been a bit silly for our tastes. But let’s remember the Julie Taymor of 1998’s strange, violent, and gripping Titus. This is why we can’t wait for her take on The Tempest — perhaps our favorite Shakespeare play and one that will certainly be richer for Taymor’s lush aesthetic. If that wasn’t reason enough to see it, how about Helen Mirren playing Prosepera, a female version of the play’s protagonist?
5. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet) In theaters: December 25 This Christmas, French animator Sylvain Chomet will be leaving one hell of a present under our tree: He’s bringing us his first film since 2003’s wonderful Triplets of Belleville. Based on a never-produced script by one of the funniest filmmakers of all time, Jacques Tati, it tells the tale of a faltering illusionist who travels to the middle of nowhere and finds a young girl who believes he really is magic. Luckily for Belleville fans, Chomet’s elegant animation style is back in full force.
4. Never Let Me Go (dir. Mark Romanek) In theaters: September 15 Undoubtedly the lit-nerd film of the season, this adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel is also creating all kinds of awards buzz. Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield star as doomed students at boarding school in a timeless, dystopian Britain. We know the story is a rich and fascinating one, the casting is fantastic, and we’re loving the familiar-but-strange art direction, too.
3. Somewhere (dir. Sofia Coppola) In theaters: December 24 Coppola returns with her first movie since 2006’s widely derided (but also occasionally defended) Marie Antoinette. In what looks to be a lower key affair than the latter, we find Stephen Dorff — remember him?! — as a debaucherous dad suddenly charged with the care of his daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning). Although the trailer doesn’t give much away, the cinematography is gorgeous, indieWIRE says Somewhere may be inspired by Coppola’s relationship with her own father… and to tell you the truth, we kind of liked Marie Antoinette.
2. Black Swan (dir. Darren Aronofsky) In theaters: December 1 Critics are already raving about Black Swan, Aronofsky’s dance thriller, starring Natalie Portman as a New York City Ballet dancer and Mila Kunis as her dark double. It’s clear the psychodrama here is turned up to 11. Think Persona, with supernatural embellishments. We would not miss this one for the world.
1. HOWL (dir. Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein) In theaters: September 24 The film that stars James Franco as Allen Ginsberg (and Jon Hamm as his obscenity trailer lawyer) has been building hype since before Sundance. If anyone deserves an excellent biopic, it’s Ginsberg. Franco’s performance is earning raves. And the brief glimpse of the animated portion, which sets the stage for the poem “Howl” itself, has surely left us wanting more. We’re buying these tickets the minute they go on sale.