The 21 Must-See Films of Fall

From a Bill Murray doc to the majesty of Neil Armstrong

September 12, 2018 9:00 am

This summer, we feigned excitement for a movie about Jason Statham fighting a giant shark.


But this season, our interests appear a bit more grounded, as evidenced by our ranking of the The 21 Movies You Must See This Fall.

A few ground rules: These are flicks meant to be seen on the big screen (sorry, Netflix). And we had to be selective, meaning a few potential treasures didn’t get their due (sorry, Widows, Mid90s and — we’ll say it — Aquaman).

But we did find room for a zombie Christmas musical. We never said everything’s an Oscar contender.

The Documentary: The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man
The comic actor has a knack for “just arriving in your life for a few minutes” as filmmaker Tommy Avallone discovers in new documentary, which uncovers the tall tales of Murray’s seemingly random real-life appearances. (Oct. 26)

Alternative: 1! 2! 3! 4! Bad Reputation explores the life and general badassery of rocker Joan Jett (Sept. 28).

The Comedy: The Oath
Arguing politics over Thanksgiving dinner? Not a laugh riot. But when Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz (who also write and directs) have family over the day before all Americans will be forced to sign a loyalty oath … really uncomfortable hilarity ensues. (Oct. 12)

Alternative: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Holmes and Watson. Now we’re having comfortable laughs. (Nov. 9)

The Scare: Halloween
Early word is that indie auteur David Gordon Green’s direct sequel to the John Carpenter horror classic — where Jamie Lee Curtis returns to face off against (her now retconned non-brother) Michael — is full of real scares and even a few nods to the inferior follow-up films. (Oct. 19)

Alternative: In Mandy, an unhinged Nicolas Cage (“I’m … hunting … crazy evil!”) faces off against cultists and supernatural terror. (Sept. 14)

The Soundtrack: Bohemian Rhapsody
Ignore the grumblings about this biopic of the rock band Queen — original director Bryan Singer being fired halfway through, band members being a little too involved with the film’s direction, a general sanitization of Freddie Mercury’s lifestyle, etc. Instead, revel in Rami Malek’s transformation into the iconic singer, fake teeth and all. Plus, the movie climaxes with a recreation of perhaps the greatest live performance of all time. (Nov. 2)

Alternative: Bradley Cooper singing/directing and Lady Gaga acting might not be the expected turn of A Star Is Born, a remake (of a remake of a remake) that apparently has a real shot at a few Oscars … and maybe some Grammys. (Oct. 5)

The Summer Hangover: Venom
Tom Hardy as the Spider-Man-adjacent antihero is the movie we want … if it had maintained its R rating. Instead, we’ll have to hope director Ruben Fleischer can pull off the fun and mayhem of his early hit Zombieland in a PG-13 setting. (Oct. 5)

Alternative: Shane Black’s The Predator is a decided throwback to ‘80s action-film tropes, but with some intentional laughs courtesy of Keegan-MIchael Kay. (Sept. 14)

The Hard to Classify: Anna and the Apocalypse
Christmas zombie musical. Oh, wait, guess it’s pretty simple to classify. The critic who called it “Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land” pretty much nailed it. (Nov. 30)

Alternative: “What kind of music do you dumbasses even play?” “Symphonic post-apocalyptic reindeer-grinding Christ-abusing extreme war pagan fennoscandian metal.” Heavy Trip is the Viking metal road-trip comedy we need right now. (Oct. 5)

The Award Contender (That May Be Terrible): Welcome to Marwen
A fantastical take on the true story of artist Mark Hogencamp (played here by Steve Carell), who recovers from a hate crime and memory loss by creating an art installation of a tiny village. The fantastical part is that the tiny villagers interact and come alive via performance-capture animation. If anyone can pull off this tricky hybrid film, it would be director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Forrest Gump). (Dec. 21)

Alternative: Green Book is the true-life story of a black musician traveling through the Deep South in the pre-Civil Rights era with an Italian-American bouncer. Could be great and give us a little needed historical perspective, but why is Peter Farrelly (There’s Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) directing a provocative drama? (Nov. 21)

The Film You See With the Kids: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Fun fact: Your editor here has never seen or read anything related to Harry Potter. But the rest of the world has, and will most certainly clamor to see the second film in this Potter universe series … which, based on the baby Nifflers alone, might gain the wizardry series a new fan. (Nov. 16)

Alternative: The plot behind Mary Poppins Returns — which includes both a foreclosure and a death — sounds really dour, but Emily Blunt is a treasure and maybe this sequel will put a decent, Christopher Robin-like twist on the beloved original. (Dec. 19)

The Elevated B-Movie: A Simple Favor
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively class up this campy, Gone Girl-ish tale regarding the disappearance of a beautiful woman, as directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters). (Sept. 14)

Alternative: Dario Argento’s creepy ‘70s horror flick Suspiria gets a remake courtesy of Call Me by Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino. Lots of blood, lots of Tilda Swinton, plenty of unsettling dance sequences, a Thom Yorke soundtrack and no primary colors. (Nov. 2)

The History Lesson: First Man
Want to be proud to be an American? This biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) directed by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) should do the trick — if you can ignore the fake news “controversy.” (Oct. 12)

Alternative: Remember the days when having an affair could derail your presidential aspirations? The Front Runner reminds us of the quaint downfall of Gary Hart (played here by Hugh Jackman). (Nov. 21)

And one film left from our summer guide: Under the Silver Lake
David Robert Mitchell’s long-awaited, recently delayed follow-up to the revelatory horror classic It Follows has a paranoid Andrew Garfield frantically searching for the woman he loves around a hostile, oddball Los Angeles. In an earlier interview, Garfield compared the film to The Goonies and David Lynch, so we’re still hopeful. (Moved from June 22 to Dec. 7)

Main photo: First Man/Universal Pictures

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