Fall Movies Guide 2013: The Films You Can't Miss

From Sandra Bullock's Gravity to the next installment of The Hunger Games saga, check out our picks for the season's coolest films

It's time to say so long to summer, with its Iron Man and Man of Steel and bloated-budget movies that spectacularly underperform (we're looking at you, Lone Ranger)... and hello to fall, with its moody dramas, intense thrillers, Oscar hopefuls and, yes, even a couple of edgy blockbusters thrown in for good measure.

From James Gandolfini's last major role in Enough Said (a romantic comedy, no less) and Sandra Bullock's eye-popping space epic Gravity to early Oscar frontrunner 12 Years a Slave and Jennifer Lawrence's return in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, we've got the dirt on which movies deserve your 12 bucks this autumn.

Rush

Rush Preview

Universal Pictures

In Theaters: Sept. 20 (limited), Sept. 27 (wide)
The Buzz: Ron Howard, the director behind Oscar-bait movies like Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind, has another awards contender on his hands with Rush, the true-life tale of the high-octane 1976 Formula 1 racing rivalry between charismatic, womanizing Brit James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and intense, abrasive Austrian driver Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl). Hemsworth, whom you probably know as beefy Norse god Thor, undertook a rigid diet and cardio regimen to shed a hefty amount of that, well, heft just to fit into an F1 car -- but it didn't make him any less attractive to the ladies. The movie documents Hunt's carnal interludes with an assortment of stunning women, including Olivia Wilde and Game of Thrones beauty Natalie Dormer. That's not exactly the kind of stuff we're used to seeing from Howard, and it even took his longtime producing partner by surprise. "Brian Grazer called me up at a certain point and said, 'God, I've never seen you make a movie that was this sexy!" Howard told Vulture. "That's what Formula 1 was like in the '70s!" In other words: Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

 

Thanks for Sharing

Thanks for Sharing Preview

Lionsgate

In Theaters: Sept. 20 (limited)
The Buzz: Sometimes all it takes is one small commonality for wildly different people to form the strongest of bonds. In the case of successful environmental consultant Adam (Mark Ruffalo), long-married business owner Mike (Tim Robbins) and goofy emergency-room doctor Neil (Josh Gad), that common denominator is sex addiction. The dramedy, directed and co-written by The Kids Are All Right scribe Stuart Blumberg, follows these men as they grapple with their demons with help from each other and, of course, the women in their lives. For Mike, it's the wife (Joely Richardson) he tries too hard to control; for Neil, it's fellow recovering sex addict Dede (Pink, in her meatiest film role yet); and for Adam, it's beautiful, successful Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow) -- whose sultry striptease in the trailer could probably help any man cope with anything... except maybe sex addiction.

 

Enough Said

Enough Said Preview

Fox Searchlight Pictures

In Theaters: Sept. 18 (limited)
The Buzz: In the latest romantic comedy from Friends With Money writer-director Nicole Holofcener, TV powerhouses Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini play divorced single parents who meet-cute at a party and get a second crack at love and happiness. The only catch? Dreyfus' masseuse realizes too late that she's dating the much-maligned ex of her new client (Catherine Keener), who likes to spend her massage sessions unceremoniously bashing her former hubby. Sopranos star Gandolfini, who passed away tragically in June at age 51, is earning raves for his last major role and first-ever romantic lead, with Indiewire proclaiming it the acclaimed actor's "best movie role" ever. Dreyfus agrees, pointing out that Gandolfini's character and off-screen persona are a far cry from Tony Soprano -- in a good way. "I think he has a thoughtfulness, a kindness and a powerfulness that is irresistible," Dreyfus told the Huffington Post. Need further incentive to see the movie? As of its Sept. 18 release date, it was sporting a stellar 95% fresh rating on review aggregator RottenTomatoes.com. Enough said.

 

Prisoners

Prisoners Preview

Warner Bros. Pictures

In Theaters: Sept. 20
The Buzz: This film, about a distraught dad (Hugh Jackman) who kidnaps and tortures a suspect (Paul Dano) in the disappearance of his daughter and her friend, is technically a vigilante thriller--but don't expect the feel-good catharsis of watching Kill Bill's Uma Thurman slicing through the Crazy 88s or Taken's Liam Neeson snapping bad guys' necks like No. 2 pencils. Prisoners is a whole lot more complex -- and dark -- than that. "It's about the psychological and emotional journey as well as the whodunit part," Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays the detective searching for the girls, explained to Entertainment Weekly. "What's different about this story is the idea that revenge just begets more revenge, and you become a prisoner of that need to seek revenge. It's still a vigilante story, but all of those other things coexist in it -- which I think attracts a certain type of talent." He's not kidding: The film features four Oscar nominees (Gyllenhaal, Jackman, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis), as well as one Oscar winner (Melissa Leo). So while Prisoners packs plenty of surprises, its strong reviews aren't among them.

 

Don Jon

Don Jon Preview

Warner Bros. Pictures

In Theaters: Sept. 27
The Buzz: In his debut as a writer-director, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as eponymous lothario "Don" Jon (yes, a play on "Don Juan"), an iron-pumping, churchgoing, Italian-American from New Jersey. Unlike the characters of Thanks for Sharing, Jon isn't addicted to sex (although he has a lot of it) -- but he is addicted to porn. That's all well and good (we guess?) until he falls for the woman of his dreams (Scarlett Johansson), who's got an obsession of her own: turning her beau into the partner that Hollywood rom-coms have programmed her to expect. "They both have very rigid expectations that they're unwilling to part with," Gordon-Levitt told CBS News of the characters. "And they've learned those expectations from all sorts of places: their upbringing, their friends and family... but also from different kinds of media. And I think we learn a lot from what kind of media we let in to our eyes and our eyeballs. It's worth poking fun at." We couldn't agree more.

 

Gravity

Gravity Preview

Warner Bros. Pictures

In Theaters: Oct. 4
The Buzz: Sure, there's more Sandra Bullock grunting than dialogue in the eye-popping trailer for Gravity, but here are two very good reasons to feel the film's pull: 1) Critics are already praising director Alfonso Cuaron's space-set epic as an Oscar best picture contender and the most visually groundbreaking film since Avatar and 2) Bullock's emotional performance (when not grunting) has set her on a collision course with a second best actress Academy Award nomination (she won for 2009's The Blind Side). The story follows Bullock's medical engineer, who's on a routine space walk with a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) when debris destroys their shuttle and sends Bullock hurtling into the great unknown. Don't feel too bad for Sandra, though; she's got George Clooney floating around in the heavens trying to find her.

 

Runner Runner

Runner Runner Preview

20th Century Fox

In Theaters: Oct. 4
The Buzz: When Princeton grad student Richie (Justin Timberlake) loses his tuition money playing online poker, he's convinced he's been cheated (no chance he's just lousy at Texas Hold-'Em, huh?). So he travels to Costa Rica to confront the operation's mastermind Ivan (Ben Affleck, not looking like a guy named Ivan)... and ends up joining forces with him instead. Because the movie is written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, the same duo behind high-stakes, gambling based thrillers Rounders and Ocean's Thirteen, expect plenty of twists -- the first of which is revealed in the trailer: Ivan isn't a good guy. One bonus to playing the reviled villain is that it probably helped Affleck prepare for the latest role he's been cast in: Crusher of Overly Dramatic Superhero Fans' Dreams, a.k.a. Batman in the Man of Steel sequel.

 

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips Preview

Sony Pictures

In Theaters: Oct. 11
The Buzz: The pirates in this gritty, based-on-a-true-story drama are decidedly not of the swashbuckling, eyeliner-wearing variety; they're gun-toting Somali raiders (all played by Somali-American first-time actors) who, in 2009, hijacked the Maersk Alabama cargo ship in the Indian Ocean and held the crew for ransom -- prompting a deadly faceoff with the U.S. Navy. Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks portrays the titular Capt. Richard Phillips, the ship's blue-collar leader whose heroic actions guided the outcome of the ordeal. With United 93 and The Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass at the helm, expect a movie that is equal parts nail-biting thriller and heady commentary on organized crime, poverty and the effects of economic globalization. One other thing to expect: a probable sixth best actor Academy Award nomination for Hanks.

 

12 Years A Slave

12 Years A Slave Preview

20th Century Fox

In Theaters: Oct. 18
The Buzz: Coming out of this year's Toronto International Film Festival, where it claimed the coveted People's Choice Award for best narrative film, 12 Years a Slave is being widely heralded as the early Oscar frontrunner in all the major categories. The true story of free black man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who, in 1841, was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the Deep South, the film has received rapturous praise for its acting -- in addition to Ejiofor's sure-to-be-nominated performance, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o are garnering strong notices. But pundits are even more impressed with the way director Steve McQueen (Shame) brings the audience into the experience of slavery in a uniquely visceral way by featuring a protagonist who's a free man forced into bondage rather than a born-and-bred slave. As Movies.com critic Erik Davis simply puts it, "This might just be one of the most powerful films you ever watch."

 

The Fifth Estate

The Fifth Estate Preview

Walt Disney

In Theaters: Oct. 18
The Buzz: Although it receieved mixed reviews in its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, there's something undeniably intriguing about this true (but unauthorized) story of how Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) worked together to create WikiLeaks, the controversial online platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak top-secret data. The film, partially based on a 2011 memoir by Domscheit-Berg, explores how the two men clashed and ultimately went their separate ways over the ethical questions raised by their work. It goes without saying that Assange himself isn't super-fan No. 1 of the film; he's reportedly labeled it "a massive propaganda attack."

 

All Is Lost

All Is Lost Preview

Lionsgate

In Theaters: Oct. 18
The Buzz: If we told you that Robert Redford has never won an acting Oscar, would you believe us? Well, it's true. That very well might change thanks to All Is Lost, an Old Man and the Sea-esque tale that finds 76-year-old Redford alone aboard a sinking sailboat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. With a lean 30-page script, not a single flashback, very little dialogue and not a EW. "As a performer, he just gave of himself in a way that I'm not sure he ever had fully."

 

The Counselor

The Counselor Preview

20th Century Fox

In Theaters: Oct. 25
The Buzz: Acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy, the man responsible for writing the hauntingly bleak books-turned-movies The Road and No Country for Old Men, delivers his first-ever original screenplay for this Ridley Scott-directed film, about a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who finds himself mingling with some seriously shady characters when he's seduced by the wealth and power of the drug trade. The stellar--and darn good-looking--supporting cast includes Brad Pitt, a crazily coifed Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz as a few of the aforementioned shadowy figures (as well as Penelope Cruz as Fassbender's fiancée). Knowing McCarthy, we wouldn't bet on happy endings for any of them.

 

Diana

Diana Preview

Entertainment One

In Theaters: Nov. 1
The Buzz: Aussie actress Naomi Watts is a spot-on ringer for Diana, Princess of Wales, in this eagerly anticipated biopic. Just don't expect the film to be a sprawling epic that chronicles Diana's full 16 years in the limelight; instead, it focuses on her secret, two-year-long romance with Dr. Hasnat Khan (Lost's Naveen Andrews). Although they split a few months before Diana's tragic death in August 1997, many of her friends say Khan was the true love of her life. Under his influence, Diana took a deeper interest in political affairs, becoming a dedicated humanitarian and stalwart advocate for banning land mines. While any actress would have been nervous about portraying such a well-known figure, Watts' reservations had nothing to do with critical reception. "The biggest reason that made me pause was how the princes [William and Harry] were going to be feel about this," she told the U.K.'s Sunday Times. "There was actually quite an eerie moment in London when I did see Prince William in a restaurant, and I got very nervous, because if I caught his eye I didn't want to interpret a look and think he had a negative feeling about this idea, so I made sure not to look."

 

About Time

About Time Preview

Universal Pictures

In Theaters: Nov. 1
The Buzz: If a time-traveling movie from the writer-director of Love Actually sounds like a bit of a wacky idea, don't worry: The latest from Richard Curtis is (way) more rom-com than science-fiction epic. In the film, Brit actor Domhnall Gleeson (a.k.a. Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter movies) plays Tim, who learns that he has the ability to time travel and uses it to score himself a girlfriend in the lovely Mary (Rachel McAdams). As Tim continues to leverage his gift to achieve every outcome his heart desires, however, he learns that changing the past doesn't come without a price. In fact, Curtis tells EW that the film is decidedly anti-time travel: "The message of this movie is to relish the day, to relish your life." Still, time traveling would be cool.

 

Last Vegas

Last Vegas Preview

CBS Films

In Theaters: Nov. 1
The Buzz: Sure, there will be jokes about this being The Hangover for the sexagenarian set, but who wouldn't want to see what Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline (Oscar winners, all of them!) get up to during a debauched weekend in Las Vegas? The acclaimed thespians play boyhood friends who gather in Sin City for a bachelor party for Douglas' Billy, who's getting hitched to a woman half his age (a fine example of art imitating life, eh?). Expect plenty of old-age jokes, drunken hilarity and some decades-old grudges to boil to the surface. Sounds just like our own Vegas trips.

 

Thor: The Dark World

Thor Preview

Walt Disney

In Theaters: Nov. 8
The Buzz: Liked 2011's Thor, but thought that it perhaps lacked a bit of edge? This sequel aims to remedy that, with Game of Thrones go-to director Alan Taylor taking over helming duties from Kenneth Branagh and bringing some of the dirt and grime of Westeros with him. This time around, dreamy Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings human love interest Jane (Natalie Portman) to Asgard to protect her from Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), a masked villain threatening to plunge all Nine Realms -- including Earth -- into darkness. To defeat his enemy, Thor must enlist the help of his diabolical brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who we last saw getting Hulk-smashed at the end of The Avengers. Don't expect Loki to aid his sibling willingly, however. Footage screened at Comic-Con appeared to show the ne'er-do-well lopping off his bro's right hand (yes, his hammer hand). How very... Game of Thrones of him.

 

The Book Thief

The Book Thief Preview

20th Century Fox

In Theaters: Nov. 15
The Buzz: Based on Marcus Zusak's 2006 New York Times best-selling novel of the same name, The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl, Liesel (newcomer Sophie Nelisse), sent to live with foster parents (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in WWII Germany. She finds solace and sparks hope by stealing the books Nazis so pointlessly enjoyed burning back then and sharing them with others, including the Jewish refugee hiding in her family's basement. Like the novel, the film will be narrated by Death--a "wry, likable and witty fellow," as director Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) describes him to EW-- although the role has yet to be cast. Anyone feel right for the part?

 

The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street

Paramount Pictures

In Theaters: Nov. 15
The Buzz: The latest collaboration between legendary director Martin Scorsese and acting powerhouse Leonardo DiCaprio had us hooked from the moment we saw Leo's stellar '90s-era dance moves showcased in the trailer. Of course, there's a lot more bite to Wolf than that. The film documents the real-life rise and fall of Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), a crooked stockbroker who made millions upon millions through securities fraud in the '90s -- and it appears that Scorsese had a ball capturing that early-'90s Wall Street excess: ginormous yachts, lavish, cocaine-fueled pool parties, professional dwarf-tossings in the office (seriously, that's in the trailer too), and playing garbage-can basketball with rolled-up hundred dollar bills. Dwarf-launchings aside, DiCaprio sees Belfort as somewhat of a spiritual companion to his bootlegging tycoon in The Great Gatsby and his loathsome slave owner in Django Unchained. As the actor told Entertainment Weekly, "They're all deeply American stories about wealth and the ways in which these men try to hold on to and achieve that wealth."

 

Delivery Man

Delivery Man Preview

Walt Disney Pictures

In Theaters: Nov. 22
The Buzz: Following the disappointment of summer's The Internship, Vince Vaughn looks to bounce back with director Ken Scott's American remake of his own well-received 2011 French Canadian film Starbuck. In the high-concept dramedy, Vaughn plays underachieving meat-truck driver Dave Wozniak, who discovers that anonymous sperm donations he made 20+ years earlier resulted in him fathering 533 children -- 142 of whom are now suing to discover his identity. In debt and on thin ice with his pregnant girlfriend (Cobie Smulders), Wozniak struggles with whether to reveal himself as the father... while inserting himself into the lives of some of his biological kids, naturally. From the looks of the trailer, the film has a subtler, more emotional tone than most of Vaughn's recent roles -- and the actor agrees. "I feel like it's a very powerful, great story," Vaughn told Movies.com. "I think people into the first one will be interested in seeing this New York version of it. I think people who haven't seen the first one will love the concept and ultimately really love what the DNA of the movie is about." Fingers crossed that it delivers.

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

 Catching Fire Preview

Lionsgate

In Theaters: Nov. 22
The Buzz: Perhaps the most anticipated movie of the season, the adaptation of the second book in Suzanne Collins' beloved trilogy finds heroine Katniss Everdeen (now-Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson) headed back into the Hunger Games arena when the epically sleazy President Snow (Donald Sutherland), bent on snuffing out the "Girl on Fire," announces an all-star edition of the fight-to-the-death competition. A bevy of fresh faces join the franchise as Katniss and Peeta's opponents, including Snow White and the Huntsman's Sam Clafin as trident-wielding Finnick Odair and Jenna Malone as spirited District 7 tribute Joanna Mason. Also onboard is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee. Perhaps the biggest new face, however, is one that you won't see onscreen: that of Francis Lawrence, who replaces Gary Ross in the director's chair. Despite the behind-the-scenes switcheroo, Jennifer Lawrence isn't worried about the result. ''Francis is really passionate about the book,'' she told Entertainment Weekly. ''It didn't seem like he was just excited to make a huge movie.''

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