For those film fans who tire easily of movies chasing youth appeal and catering to the blockbuster mindset, fall can never arrive soon enough. Although we may have already seen some awards-contending films and performances, the lion's share of the year's future Oscar contenders will roll out — as they have for decades — in the last few months of the year.
Hollywood darling Steven Spielberg, for example, has "The Fabelmans" (Nov. 23), a highly personal family drama inspired by his upbringing, arriving from Universal Pictures just in time for Thanksgiving. Spielberg shares screenplay credit with Tony Kushner (the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner who recently adapted "West Side Story" for the director) and oversees a top-shelf cast that includes Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogen as fictionalized versions of Spielberg's parents and uncle; Judd Hirsch and Spielberg's fellow film director David Lynch also play supporting roles.
The reliably interesting writer-director James Gray ("The Lost City of Z," "Ad Astra") has his own semi-autobiographical film this fall from Focus Features: "Armageddon Time" (Oct. 28) stars Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong ("Succession") as versions of Gray's parents, with Anthony Hopkins as a fictionalized grandfather and Jessica Chastain making a brief but impactful appearance as Donald Trump's sister Maryanne.
After its recent premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky's "The Whale" has instant buzz for the leading performance of Brendan Fraser as a morbidly obese shut-in; it arrives Dec. 9 from A24. Fraser will have to compete with Colin Farrell, who's also sparked early awards buzz for his work opposite his "In Bruges" co-star Brendan Gleeson in writer-director Martin McDonagh's latest, "The Banshees of Inisherin," which begins its rollout from Searchlight Pictures in late October (both Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell won Oscars for McDonagh's previous film, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," so don't count out the great Gleeson either).
Also generating heat out of Venice: Cate Blanchett's star turn as a classical composer and orchestra conductor in Focus Features' "TÁR" (Oct. 7), from writer-director Todd Field ("In the Bedroom"); Timothée Chalamet's reunion with "Call Me By Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino for the cannibal-themed drama "Bones & All" (Nov. 23 from MGM); and, to a degree that's beginning to get suspicious, Olivia Wilde's thriller "Don't Worry Darling" (Sept. 23 from Warner). Everyone's talking about the drama surrounding Wilde's sophomore feature, the first of two films this fall to showcase pop star Harry Styles. All press is good press, they say, which may explain why rumors of director and cast in-fighting won't go away. Styles also stars in "My Policeman" (on Prime Video Nov. 4) as a downlow gay cop in 1950s England, where being gay was a crime.
The cinematically adventurous may prefer the toast of this year's Cannes Film Festival, Ruben Östlund's black-comic satire of the uber-rich, "Triangle of Sadness" (Oct. 7 from Neon), which took home the Palme d'Or. Or the latest from Park Chan-wook ("The Handmaiden"), the mystery "Decision to Leave" (Oct. 14 from MUBI); no slouch, Park took home the Best Director prize at this year's Cannes for that one. Sony Pictures Classics is busy touting "The Son" (local date TBD), reuniting writer-director Florian Zeller with Anthony Hopkins two years after Zeller's "The Father" enabled Hopkins to collect the Best Actor Oscar; Hugh Jackman takes the lead this time, supported by Hopkins, Laura Dern and Vanessa Kirby.
David O. Russell has been known to shepherd actors to Oscar gold with films like "American Hustle" and "Silver Linings Playbook"; he returns Oct. 7 with 20th Century Studios' mystery comedy "Amsterdam" and its star-studded ensemble: Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Rami Malek and Taylor Swift, among many others. For audiences of a certain age, Universal has a "star power couple" in Julia Roberts and George Clooney; back in comic mode, they play a formerly married pair plotting to warn their daughter against marriage in "Ticket to Paradise" (Oct. 21).
In the category of heavyweight true stories, Universal is touting "She Said" (Nov. 18) as "Based on the 'New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-Winning Investigation" into Hollywood's Harvey Weinstein scandal, the one that helped launch the #MeToo movement; Carey Mulligan ("Promising Young Woman") and Zoe Kazan ("Ruby Sparks") star. Meanwhile, Roadside Attractions has Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver headlining "Call Jane" (Oct. 28), about the underground collective facilitating abortions in a pre-"Roe v. Wade" America. The tragic tale of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Black boy lynched in 1955 Mississippi powers "Till" (Oct. 14 from United Artists), which centers on his mother Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) and her pursuit of justice.
And then there's that spoiler Netflix, the streamer that continues to make plays for Oscar with an aggressive fall slate of over 40 original films, 22 of which will get telltale theatrical releases that conceivably put them in Oscar play. Netflix has Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik's NC-17-rated "Blonde" (Sept. 28); Noah Baumbach's Don DeLillo adaptation "White Noise" (Dec. 30) with Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig; the latest from Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu, an epic comedy called "Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths)" (Dec. 16). In the more fun-loving category, there's also Rian Johnson's hotly anticipated sequel "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" (Dec. 23) and Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull in the West End/Broadway musical adaptation "Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical" (Dec. 25). Not to be outdone, Apple TV+ has Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell in "Spirited" (date TBA), a modern musical version of "A Christmas Carol."
Lest we kid ourselves, there will also be commercial movies looking to fill cineplexes. Superheroes, you say? But of course. Disney and Marvel have you covered with "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" (Nov. 11), which reunites director Ryan Coogler and actors Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira and Winston Duke; the film will pay tribute to fallen hero T'Challa and the star who played him, Chadwick Boseman, while laying the groundwork for a superheroic successor. There's also Dwayne Johnson's long-gestating star vehicle "Black Adam" (Oct. 21 from Warner), in which he dons a rubber suit as an antiheroic character spun off from the "Shazam" films.
Based on the popular children's books, Sony's live-action "Lyle, Lyle Crocodile" (Oct. 7) is the only film this fall to feature pop star Shawn Mendes as a singing reptile owned by Oscar winner Javier Bardem. On the other side of the spectrum, horror fans will be unable to resist the provocatively titled "Halloween Ends" (Oct. 14), which Universal promises will culminate in a "once and for all" showdown between mass murderer Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis' Laurie Strode.
It wouldn't be fall without a musical biopic, and this season it's all about Whitney Houston in Sony's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" (Dec. 21); Naomi Ackie ("Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker") plays the pop legend with the golden voice and the troubled personal life. For big laughs, there's Billy Eichner in Universal's rom com "Bros" (Sept. 30), which Eichner co-wrote and populated with an almost entirely LGBTQ cast.
The season's big Disney animated feature is the fantastical adventure "Strange World" (Nov. 23), with a voice cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal and Lucy Liu. And how about James Cameron's 13-years-later sequel "Avatar: The Way of Water" (Dec. 16 from 20th Century Studios)? There may be no bigger question this fall than whether or not anyone still cares about the blue-skinned Na'vi, to the tune of a budget around $250 million. As ever, you've got options on screens big and small, but with the change of seasons, they include more for grown-ups. If you like those options, time to get out the vote with your entertainment dollars, or before long it may be nothing but capes and explosions.