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The 25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2016

For those who survived arguably the worst summer in film history

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We know, we know. The summer was rough. We all talked endlessly about the flops, the controversies, and if you listen real quiet during a muggy late-August night, you can still hear the last of the people having arguments about Suicide Squad like it’s something to do. For all the good and even great movies that have come out in 2016 (and yeah, they exist), there’s been a general negativity about film, particularly as it relates to where the industry might be headed as it turns its gaze to the global, to the broadest possible audiences.

But like salve on an open wound, here comes “Oscar season” to perk up the collective cultural spirit. While there’s still much debate to be had about all the “good” movies coming out in a massive end-of-year cluster because of the American awards season cycle, it’s still an exciting time of year to be a cinephile. Big names are in play this year, too: Ang Lee, Warren Beatty, Kelly Reichardt, Denis Villeneuve, Kenneth Lonergan. There’s a new Star Wars movie, a new Harry Potter story, and even Disney and Marvel are getting in on the late-year fun. It’s the rare holiday season where we can truly say, without hyperbole, that there’s a little something for everybody.

So as we tuck in for the return of fall sports, the cooling of the air, and the coming of the good movies, allow us to help point you in the right direction during a crowded time of year. Most movies are worth watching for one reason or another, but here are 25 that we find especially promising through the end of 2016.

–Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
Film Editor
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25. Goat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xEHY-IQzbo

Every time any kind of party-fueled criminal incident goes down on an American college campus these days, there’s always at least a brief rush to implicate Greek life organizations as harbingers of sordid behavior, as enablers of everything from binge drinking to rape culture. Those subscribed to that general line of thought will find little to disagree with in Goat, Andrew Neel’s disquieting vision of modern fraternity life as seen through a PTSD-afflicted college freshman (Ben Schnetzer) attempting to rush his older brother’s (Nick Jonas) state school frat. At Sundance, we found the film to be a powerful bridge between a pop-sociological study of young men behaving horribly and a surprisingly affecting thriller about family ties and the limits of blind loyalty. Expect everyone else to have a strong opinion soon enough. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Release Date: September 23rd
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24. Collateral Beauty

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 2.23.08 PM

In an alternate universe somewhere, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s follow-up to Me and Earl and the Dying Girl would be this surreal comedy-drama, and it would have starred Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara. Oh well. Instead, director David Frankel will direct, and he’s working with an even better cast: Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña, and Naomie Harris. Folks, it doesn’t get better than that, and after last year’s miserable Concussion, it’ll be nice to see Mr. Smith in a story that doesn’t find him waving his hands for an Oscar. Instead, he’ll play a New York ad exec who stumbles into a downward spiral of depression, tragedy, romance, and hope. Warner Bros. is feeling so confident with this one, they’re lining it up with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story; in other words, it’s time for Big Willie Style to put on the gloves at the box office again. –Michael Roffman

Release Date: December 16th
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23. The Edge of Seventeen

The second a down-and-out teacher speechifies to his totally awkward teen about “life” and “taking risks,” as seen in the trailer for The Edge of Seventeen, you can pretty much expect a run-of-the-mill high school dramedy. It even boasts a James L. Brooks exec producing credit. “Did this open at Sundance?” one might ask. Then, a second later, when high schooler Nadine Byrd (Hailee Steinfeld) accidentally sends a love text, featuring such pearls as “I want you to put your mouth on my tits,” to her English teacher instead of her crush …. well, the film shifts in tone to that of a wonderfully neurotic and perverse teen moment akin to Molly Ringwald’s panties being hoisted in a boys’ bathroom in Sixteen Candles. In other words, we’ll totally see The Edge of Seventeen. –Blake Goble

Release Date: November 18th
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22. Queen of Katwe

So there are a few things that might make this movie seem easy to label, sight unseen. Queen of Katwe is a Disney and ESPN-produced “sports drama” that’s “based on a true story.” Immediately, you can imagine a big final match, uplifting music, and smiles for miles from a quality contemporary cast working just below A-grade pay. But here’s the thing, this sport movie’s about chess. Watch your back, Bobby Fischer. The film is debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival and brings a sturdy pedigree with it. Based on Tim Crothers’ hailed 2012 nonfiction book, the film tells the story of real-life prodigy Phiona Mutes (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) and her rough road to chess mastery. The cast features great new faces like Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, is being directed by the great Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay!). Check this one, mates. –Blake Goble

Release Date: September 23rd
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21. The Girl on the Train

Just as the book version of The Girl on the Train followed in the footsteps of its blockbuster predecessor, Gone Girl, so too will the film adaption of the bestselling novel. While Gone Girl was a David Fincher joint, The Girl on the Train may try for a more Hitchcockian vibe as it presents the story of Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), who becomes the witness to a shocking crime and subsequently finds herself entangled in a mystery. Blunt has made quite a name for herself as a versatile actress that really makes each part her own, and in tandem with a cast that includes Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Justin Theroux, and Luke Evans, this could be a book adaption that lives up to its counterpart. –Zack Ruskin

Release Date: October 7th
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20. Certain Women

certain women The 25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2016

Kelly Reichardt’s latest is finally hitting theaters (and probably VOD) this October. Ever heard of Reichardt? If not, get on her IMDB page and rent her stuff immediately. The understated genius behind mild-mannered indie classics like Wendy & Lucy and Old Joy returns to the big screen with a hushed and thoughtful meditation on the lives of several women in modern Montana, with compelling performances from Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams. What are their stories? What do these women have to say about work, marriage, and modern America? A lot. But quietly, and with care. Here’s a film of small moments, subdued but sharp acting, and a stimulating, adult feel. Grown-up stuff. “Real” stuff. And Reichardt’s lo-fi style couldn’t come at a better time. Tired of being rattled by ridiculous epics with explosions as highlights?  Our man Mike Roffman sung Certain Women’s praises back in January, and hopefully audiences will, too. –Blake Goble

Release Date: October 14th
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19. Rules Don’t Apply

Anything’s gotta be better than Town & Country. It’s been 15 years since Warren Beatty has appeared in a film. Eighteen since he’s directed one, excluding a Dick Tracy TV special. Where’d he go? What prompted an almost Howard Hughes-like public disappearance? Funny you should ask. Beatty’s back this fall with his very own spin on the legend of Hughes, and it’s a film arguably over 40 years in the making. Beatty’s apparently been pitching a Hughes film since the early ‘70s, and Paramount announced this as an untitled project way back in 2011. Now, Beatty’s rom-com is arriving with a fabulous cast and a pithy trailer to boot. Beatty’s soft wit seems to still be intact. As for his trademark looks? Better question: At 79, what better role to put yourself in than Hughes in his nutty later years? –Blake Goble

Release Date: November 23rd
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18. Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal animals

If done right, Nocturnal Animals could be the best kind of mind fuck. It’s about a woman who receives a book manuscript from her ex, only to find it illuminating dark truths about their past together. Both the real-life story and the story in the manuscript will unfold onscreen and will undoubtedly begin to dovetail in ways that, to some degree at least, will blur the line between reality and fiction. The cast is top-notch, with Amy Adams and Michael Shannon leading the cast alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s the toast of the Hollywood cultists these days after his striking, unsetting turns in both Nightcrawler and Demolition. Tom Ford, who previously wowed with A Single Man, directs. –Randall Colburn

Release Date: November 18th
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17. The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook has been delivering aesthetic and narrative feasts to arthouse audiences for a long time now, but it was Snowpiercer two years ago that finally gave the bold filmmaker and producer a God’s-honest hit beyond the realm of cult fandom. It then feels only appropriate that the auteur would follow it up with something characteristically strange, sexy, and (we’re assuming) sadistic. Adapted from the Welsh novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden centers around a young pickpocket, who conspires to infiltrate the home of an aging heiress as her maid and rob her blind, only to be swept up in a more complicated web of intrigue and eroticism. Like any of the filmmaker’s work, whether you care for The Handmaiden or not, odds are it’ll stick with you long after the credits roll. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Release Date: October 21st
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16. In a Valley of Violence

Ever have a secret you’re just dying to share? Ti West’s latest genre experiment, In a Valley of Violence, is one of them. The Western action comedy has popped up at various film festivals throughout the year — namely, South by Southwest and the Chicago Film Critics — but it doesn’t gallop into theaters until October. It’s admittedly a strange month to watch Ethan Hawke and John Travolta duke it out as cowboys, but consider it a nice, lighthearted snack between all the gory horror. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of chills and thrills in this one; after all, it’s Ti West we’re talking about. Just know it’s a different side to the filmmaker, one that clearly proves he can knock out simple, unpretentious popcorn fare with aplomb. Yeehaw! –Michael Roffman

Release Date: October 21st
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15. Passengers

Passengers

What happens when Hollywood’s two hottest box office stars get together? Well, this year it’s Passengers. Yep, in-demand hunk Chris Pratt and award-winning fox Jennifer Lawrence will collide in this sci-fi drama from The Imitation Game director Morten Tydum. Written by Jon Spaihts (Prometheus), the story takes place aboard Starship Avalon, a transport vehicle containing 5,259 souls on a 120-year voyage to a distant colony planet dubbed “Homestead II”. Thanks to some jerkstore malfunction, two unlucky folks — ahem, you know who — are woken up and stranded on the ship … some 90 years from the destination. Let’s just say, these passengers are going to have plenty of time to get to know each other. Here’s hoping they’re less Sam and Diane and more Homer and Marge. Or maybe Jerry and Elaine? Dave and HAL? We’ll see. –Michael Roffman

Release Date: December 23rd
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14. Loving

Jeff Nichols’ gradual ascension from indie darling to daring studio director has been fun to watch, particularly after his unconventional sci-fi thriller Midnight Special. Always trying on new things, Nichols puts on his Oscar-bait hat for Loving, a period drama about the Loving v. Virginia court case that contested restrictions on interracial marriage. Midnight Special’s Joel Edgerton takes the lead this time (as Nichols’ muse Michael Shannon takes a supporting role), and Ruth Negga plays Loving’s wife. We’ll even get a dramatic performance out of Nick Kroll! Judging from the trailer, Loving looks to elevate the conventional beats of the historical romantic drama with some solid filmmaking and performances. –Clint Worthington

Release Date: November 4th
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13. Moana

Would you look at the incredible cast and crew attached to Disney’s latest animated feature, Moana? For starters, this is a Ron Clements and John Musker joint. Unfamiliar with those names? That’s okay, but Clements and Musker might just be the revivalist godfathers of Disney animation. The duo directed The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and most recently, The Princess and the Frog. Moana is being steered by Disney greats, not like, the guy who made Chicken Little.

Also, the music? Well, have you heard of Hamilton? Yep, Lin-Manuel Miranda is working on the soundtrack for Moana, alongside Samoan musician Opetaia Foa’I and composer Mark Mancina. Very cool. Here’s to hoping Miranda doesn’t throw away his shot, as it were. And last but not least, you know Dwayne Johnson? The Rock? Well, he’s in this, likely ready to scream in that braggadocios style of his, proving that his testosterone-fueled presence isn’t just for action junkies. It’s for the kids, too. –Blake Goble

Release Date: November 23rd
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12. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Ang Lee is, if nothing else, a stalwart explorer of the human condition, no matter how sprawling and presentational he has to get in the process. That’s what we seem to be getting from Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, an adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel about a young US soldier’s disillusionment with the Iraq War and his country’s treatment of the military. Shades of Life of Pi’s magical realism abound in the trailer, complete with an eerie children’s chorus version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” and the kind of big, bold emotions Lee’s known for. If Billy Lynn manages to avoid patriotic schmaltz and ask some of the book’s honest questions about American values and its place in war, Lee might have another hit on his hands. –Clint Worthington

Release Date: November 11th
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11. Blair Witch

With Blair Witch, we have Adam Wingard, one of modern horror’s best directors, providing a proper sequel (book of what?) to one of this generation’s best horror movies (and it is, buddy). Factor in the film’s hush-hush production (only a few Lionsgate officials knew what was up) and a downright stomach-churning trailer and you’ve got a recipe for fever-pitch anticipation. Wingard and company were likely trying to capture at least an ounce of the obfuscation that accompanied the original Blair Witch Project with this approach, and it’s paid off in that much of what’s in the film remains a mystery to even the most rabid horror fans. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. –Randall Colburn

Release Date: September 16th
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10. The Accountant

Did you hate Batman v. Superman, but like Ben Affleck’s turn as Batman? The Accountant might just push your Batfleck buttons while offering a movie worthy of his talents. Playing Christian Wolff (you read that right), an accounting savant who also applies the same fastidiousness to his secret job as a hitman, Affleck’s tic-laden performance was the highlight of its first trailer, and he’s backed by a great supporting cast, including Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, and Jon Bernthal. Director Gavin O’Connor has a few solid films under his belt with Miracle and Warrior, but we’ll see if The Accountant’s numbers add up. –Clint Worthington

Release Date: October 14th
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09. Hacksaw Ridge

“From the director of Braveheart,” boasts the trailer for this inspirational war epic, wisely neglecting to mention that the director of Braveheart was noted anti-Semite and Timothy Dalton-hater Mel Gibson. But, hey, most in film criticism would agree that, when separated from his personal views, Gibson is a damn good director. Andrew Garfield stars in this based-on-true-events story as Desmond T. Doss, a World War II soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor without ever having picked up a gun. The trailer is packed to the gills with war epic cliches — a Florence Nightingale type, a crass drill sergeant, an emphasis on the brotherhood of soldiers — but the content is thematically resonant in a culture that’s currently divided over the necessity of firearms. –Randall Colburn

Release Date: November 4th
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08. Doctor Strange

By the time Doctor Strange hits theaters, it’ll have been over two years since Marvel Studios put out an original (read: non-sequel) property in Guardians of the Galaxy. And with Doctor Strange, the MCU is looking to get weirder and riskier than it has in quite some time. The early footage from the film definitely invokes Inception’s world-bending theatrics by more than just a step or two, but Scott Derrickson (the latest reputable low/mid-budget filmmaker to graduate to a studio tentpole) looks to be taking full advantage of Marvel’s infinite coffers in service of bringing the character’s astral plane-jumping heroics to life. And just consider this cast, on a Marvel movie: Benedict Cumberbatch as the good doctor, alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Rachel McAdams, and Mads Mikkelsen. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Release Date: November 4th
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07. Under the Shadow

Under the Shadow’s been freaking out the festival circuit since it premiered at Sundance, so it’s heartening that this scrappy Persian horror film is getting beamed into homes around the world via Netflix. But Iranian-born writer/director Babak Anvari has more up his sleeve than scares with his debut film, setting the film’s central horrors within the war-torn milieu of Tehran in the ‘80s. The mythic djinn rests at the heart of this movie, and Anvari’s clever riffing on the legend allows it to toe the line between literal and imagined, which adds further resonance to the film’s central juxtaposition. –Randall Colburn

Release Date: October 7th
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06. Moonlight

It’s been eight years since Barry Jenkins wowed audiences with his breakthrough indie drama, Medicine for Melancholy. Now, he’s ready to make one hell of a beautiful comeback with Moonlight, a coming-of-age drama set over three time periods. Based on a play by Tarell McCraney, the story follows Chiron (Trevante Rhodes), a young man who battles a deteriorating home life and wrestles with his dawning sexuality amid a riotous period in Miami history. The first trailer surfaced earlier this month, offering a breathtaking sneak peek at the gripping story and hinting that Jenkins hasn’t missed a beat in his time away. We’re expecting to hear big things and plenty of awards chatter when this one pops up at both the Toronto Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. The rest of us will have to wait until late October. –Michael Roffman

Release Date: October 21st
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05. Arrival

After sifting through thrillers and dramas for most of his career, Sicario director Denis Villeneuve will next bring us two highly anticipated sci-fi spectacles: this November’s Arrival and next year’s Blade Runner sequel. The first finds Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner racing to save the world from a mysterious invasion by extraterrestrials, who either want to Netflix and chill or blow us to smithereens. Whatever they wind up doing to planet Earth, it’s going to be the chase that leaves everyone at the edge of their seat, and given Villenueve’s nail-biting resume, we expect to do just that. Fun fact: If you ignore the trailer and refuse to read anything else about the film, you might actually enjoy being surprised. –Michael Roffman

Release Date: November 11th
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04. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

If you were disappointed to learn that Harry Potter & the Cursed Child was not in fact book eight but rather the script of a play you will likely never get a chance to see, then the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is likely to fill the Hogwarts-shaped hole in your heart. Directed by David Yates (who helmed the final four films of the official Harry Potter series), the movie stars Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a questionably named Ministry of Magic employee who must stop an outbreak of magical creatures from wreaking havoc on the muggle world. Perhaps the two most tantalizing aspects of this film are that it will feature a plot that is fresh to even the most devoted Potter fans and that it features a perfectly cast Colin Farrell as the Auror charged with hunting down Newt. –Zack Ruskin

Release Date: November 18th
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03. Manchester By the Sea

The last time Kenneth Lonergan tried to make a movie, Margaret’s release was delayed for four years after the film’s final cut wound up adrift in a wasteland of litigation. Luckily, it took significantly less time for the playwright/filmmaker to return with Manchester by the Sea, the elliptically told story of Lee (Casey Affleck, in a career-best turn), a temperamental building super who returns to his Northeast hometown after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler) to execute the will and look after his family, especially his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). There, Lee is forced to confront a life he left behind and an ignominy that may or may not exist solely in his own mind. We’re just one of many outlets who’ve been banging this particular drum since the film’s Sundance debut, and soon enough audiences will come to understand exactly why. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Release Date: November 18th
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02. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Now that Star Wars has reclaimed its god-tier status in the pop culture consciousness with The Force Awakens, Gareth Edwards’ follow-up should answer the question of whether or not Disney’s investment in a whole host of spin-off movies in addition to episodes 7-9 will bear fruit. So far, everything looks good – a (Wo)Man on a Mission movie starring Felicity Jones as a badass Rebel spy stealing the Death Star plans is an exciting way to explore the universe, and what we’ve seen shows Edwards playing with scale in a way we haven’t seen in quite a long time. Let’s hope the Force is with us this time. –Clint Worthington

Release Date: December 16th
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01. La La Land

No pressure on Damien Chazelle or anything. He’s just expected to follow the massive success of his debut feature Whiplash with something equally deserving of Oscar nominations and near-uniform critical praise. But like many filmmakers with that one “breakout hit” chip to cash in, Chazelle seems to be taking the opportunity to do something new and old alike. Not much is known so far about La La Land, Chazelle’s stylish, modern-day Hollywood musical, but the film’s early images and teasers have suggested a film as comfortable with the raw emotional range of Whiplash as it is with a sleekness of style that screams “getting real money to do this now.” And with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone at the helm, this is the kind of late-year offering that audiences will probably flock to in droves. That is, if it’s as good as people are expecting. But again, no pressure. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Release Date: December 2nd

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