Sure, there’s something everyone can enjoy at the multiplex in the summer, but fall is when movie studios truly seem to remember that not every movie needs a superhero in it.
With year-end awards — and adult moviegoers — up for grabs, autumn is when studios roll out the kind of thoughtful fare that might not be able to grab a 13-year-old’s attention. If the studios’ notion of the perfect summer movie is a doomsday scenario that features Scarlett Johansson battling dinosaurs in a tight-fitting catsuit, their notion of the perfect autumn movie is more like this: A drama, based on a true story or a novel that book groups loved, in which average people battle world-shaking events that seem to be out of their control.
You’ll find many true stories, biopics and book adaptations in our guide to fall 2015 movies for adults and, in the cases of Everest and The Walk, two films that are all three. Here are movies coming out between now and Thanksgiving, organized by date:
A Walk in the Woods
Get this: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are older than Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were when they made Grumpy Old Men. And they may be grumpier, too, in a seriocomic film based on the Bill Bryson (Redford) book about his experience walking the Appalachian Trail with a buddy.
We’ve had mean-mommy horror movies (Carrie) and mean-daddy horror movies (Rosemary’s Baby), but where are the vicious grandparents? They’re getting their evil on in the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, where a pair of adorable tots will do just fine as long as they heed grandma and grandpa’s rule that they stay locked in their rooms after bedtime. In other words: The devil couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.
I can barely stand to watch the trailer for this crime drama, not because its subject, Whitey Bulger, is such a notoriously terrible person but because Johnny Depp’s Windex-blue contacts creep me the heck out. There’s already Oscar talk for Depp’s transformation into the Boston mobster/FBI informer, who is now 85 and (spoiler alert) rotting in prison.
If Twitter had been around in 1996, the much-discussed tragedy atop Mt. Everest would have broken it. Several books, including Jon Krakauer’s best-selling Into Thin Air and Anatoli Boukreev’s The Climb, as well as a million magazine articles have tried to parse the tragedy that left eight climbers dead on a crowded trip to the top of the because-it’s-there peak. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin and Jason Clarke, Everest will see what it can add.
Fans of TV’s The Bridge know the territory: Americans and Mexicans trying to fight the drug cartels that operate on the two countries’ border. But it’s even harder to tell who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy in the brutally intenseSicario, with Emily Blunt as an oddly calm FBI agent and Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro as her colleagues.
Internships for older people are a real thing, whether the seasoned employees are taking them to stay active in fields they love or to learn new skills. Both of those goals apply to Robert De Niro’s title character, who signs up to help a reluctant publishing executive (Anne Hathaway) but who, not surprisingly, ends up having a lot to teach his harried boss. Writer/director Nancy Meyers is known for romantic comedies (Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride) but, just so’s you know: There’s no De Niro/Hathaway smooching.
Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Phillipe Petit in a Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) adventure that is said to take a light-hearted-but-vertiginous approach to Petit’s 1974 tightrope walk between the towers of the still-under-construction World Trade Center. Like the Oscar-winning documentary, Man on Wire, this fictionalized version is based on Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds.
Another fall film spawned, in part, by an Oscar-winning documentary, Freeheldwas inspired by the award-winning short film of the same name. Julianne Moore plays Laurel Hester, a police officer who is dying of cancer and fighting what becomes a two-decade-long battle to make sure her life partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page), receives her death benefits. (Freeholders are the New Jersey elected officials who opposed Hester and Andree’s efforts, which took place well before marriage equality became the law of the land.)
He Named Me Malala
Missed the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner’s book, the self-explanatory, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban? Then see this documentary by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), which details the Pakistani teenager’s life before and after the brutal attack that made her perhaps the world’s most famous youngster.
What’s better than one performance by versatile Brit Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dark Knight Rises)? Two Tom Hardys. Here, he plays twin brothers Reginald and Ronald Kray, whose private lives took different paths (for one thing, Ronald was gay) but who jointly ruled the London crime world of the 1950s and ’60s.
The Final Girls
Remember the 1980s, when you couldn’t swing a slaughtered cat without hitting a movie that took place at a summer camp or a sleepover or a vacation home where some maniac was slicing everyone up? Get ready for slasher nostalgia in this horror comedy: A girl whose late mom was a scream queen along the lines of Jamie Lee Curtis gets to do some screaming of her own when she realizes she’s being drawn into the plot of one of her mother’s movies.
We’ve seen a terrible Jobs biopic that starred Ashton Kutcher and a not-great documentary in just the last couple years, but the new film from director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) promises to skip the hagiography to focus on how the legendary innovator struggled to re-invent himself between business setbacks. Jobs is played by Michael Fassbender.
Beasts of No Nation
A favorite with book clubs, Nigerian-American Uzodinma Iweala’s novel is about a boy whose childhood ends abruptly when he’s forced to become a soldier. The film version stars Idris Elba. (The first theatrical release from Netflix, it will appear in theaters before it hits the streaming service.)
Bridge of Spies
This one pretty much has it all: Frequent collaborators Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks working on the kind of classy entertainment at which they both excel. An unbelievable true story that has faded from memory (a lawyer, played by Tom Hanks, works for the release of pilot Francis Gary Powers, whose plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960). A supporting cast that includes two-time Tony winner Mark Rylance and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan. And timing, what with recent events in Russia perhaps heading us toward another Cold War.
It’s by Pan’s Labyrinth filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro and with that title, there will be blood. But the trailer promises good, old-fashioned Gothic horror, complete with haunted houses, buried secrets and revenge. Mia Wasikowska plays a young woman whose visit to a stately manor unearths the kind of otherworldly problems that House Hunters Renovation can’t do much about.
Fast living cost a chef (Bradley Cooper) his superstar status, so he licks his wounds and tries to start over in a field dominated by young dynamos who haven’t already annoyed most of their peers. Emma Thompson fans, this is your second chance this fall to see her in a juicy supporting role (she’s also in A Walk in the Woods).
If you were sorry to see Lady Sybil, on Downtown Abbey vanish while campaigning for British women’s right to vote, this will fill in the rest of the story. It stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep, but maybe the best casting news is a quartet of gifted supporting actors who made their marks on PBS series: Lisa Dillon (Cranford), Ann-Marie Duff (The Virgin Queen), Romola Garai (Emma) and Natalie Press (Bleak House).
Our Brand Is Crisis
Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton star as political marketers in a South America-set dark comedy that suggests there’s not much difference between selling breakfasters on a new orange juice and voters on an unscrupulous presidential candidate. Anyone old enough to remember great dark comedies of the ’70s such as Network knows this can be fertile territory and the film is in the promising hands of director David Gordon Green, whose last movie was the oddball Al Pacino/Holly Hunter romance, Manglehorn.
Surprisingly, the first of acclaimed novelist Colm Toibin’s novels to become a feature film (he also wrote The Master, Nora Webster and The Testament of Mary),Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan as an Irishwoman who comes to Brooklyn in the 1950s and makes a life for herself until events in Ireland force her to determine which place really feels like home.
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams play the latter-day Woodwards and Bernsteins who broke open allegations of the sexual abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church, reporting for the Boston Globe in 2002. It’s written and directed by Tom McCarthy, whose movies have often focused on characters looking to shake things up in the middle of their careers (Win Win, The Visitor, The Station Agent).
Bryan Cranston plays screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (who also wrote the classic anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun). Persona non grata after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, Trumbo defied the Hollywood blacklist by writing screenplays under other names. The two Oscars he won in the 1950s, for The Brave One and Roman Holiday, didn’t get the correct name engraved on them until 1993, 17 years after Trumbo’s death. Helen Mirren stars as vicious gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
By the Sea
Like Our Brand is Crisis, there’s a ’70s vibe to this pervy romance starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt, who also wrote and directed. The ennui-filled trailer has a similar feel to psychosexual melodramas such as Don’t Look Now, with the Pitts as a ’70s couple whose marriage appears to be falling apart in the midst of too much drinking, drugging and highly theatrical bickering.
When 33 Chilean miners survived an accident that left them stranded underground for more than two months in 2010, two things were assured: Big meals for everyone and a based-on-the-true-story movie drama. It’s here and stars Antonio Banderas.
A decade known for repressed feelings, the 1950s are especially tricky for Carol (Cate Blanchett). She is beginning to realize she’s a lesbian when she meets a department store clerk (Rooney Mara) who is even more confused about her own feelings. The movie is based on The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith, whose works have already produced two great thrillers about ambiguous sexuality: Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Secret in Their Eyes
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman are a pair of FBI agents and a district attorney, struggling to solve a series of cold-case murders that hits even closer to home when one of their children becomes a victim. If that plot sounds vaguely familiar, you must have seen the very-differently-titled The Secret in Their Eyes, the Argentine drama that won the foreign-film Oscar in 2010 and is the basis of this remake.
‘Fess up: You mostly just look at The New Yorker for the cartoons, right? This documentary profiles several of the magazine’s top cartoonists, including Roz Chast, whose 2014 graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a must-read about the relationships between adults and their parents. The “semi-serious” part? They believe their profession is dying.
Who was it that said every generation gets the Rocky movie it deserves? Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky has finally hung up his gloves but he finds new purpose when agreeing to help train the son of his old opponent, Apollo Creed, in pursuit of a boxing championship. No word yet on whether raw egg yolks or the Philadelphia Museum of Art figure in Adonis Creed’s training regimen.
Read more from Next Avenue:
Also on HuffPost: