Mark Your Calendar: Here Are The Movies You Don't Want To Miss This Fall

Sorry, Darth Vader. No sequels or reboots allowed.
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At last, we can put this infernal summer behind us. In case you haven’t noticed, 2016’s version of the annual blockbuster deluge was, by and large, not great. But it gets better, starting right now. The fall and early winter months are known as bastions of so-called cinematic prestige, largely because the movies released during these months are aiming for Oscar glory.

There will be plenty of time ― far too much time ― to gab about awards season in the months to come. For now, we’ve whittled down the films opening before Christmas in one handy guide, choosing the titles that might make the biggest impact. One rule: Given how many big-budget movies tanked this summer, we aren’t including any sequels, reboots or established franchise properties. (We trust you’ll find your way to the new “Star Wars” movie just fine, and rightfully so.) Think Hollywood is starved for originality? Check out these 25 films, and then we’ll talk. There’s Edward Snowden! Shia LaBeouf’s rattail! A new Christopher Guest joint! Two Amy Adams vehicles! A protective tree monster!

Get thee to a movie theater. Things are about to get good. We hope.

"The Light Between Oceans" (Sept. 2)
Buena Vista
Written and directed by Derek Cianfrance

Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz and Jack Thompson

What to expect: After making 2010's "Blue Valentine" and 2013's "The Place Beyond the Pines," Derek Cianfrance trades leading lad Ryan Gosling for Michael Fassbender, who sparked a real-life romance with his co-star, recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander, on the set of this movie in 2014. Based on M.L. Stedman's debut novel, "The Light Between Oceans" casts Fassbender and Vikander as WWI-era newlyweds who decide to raise a baby that washes ashore near their Australian lighthouse. But when the child's mother (Rachel Weisz) turns up, the picturesque family is threatened. [Trailer]
"Snowden" (Sept. 16)
Open Road Films
Written by Oliver Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald • Directed by Oliver Stone

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto, Melissa Leo, Nicolas Cage, Scott Eastwood, Timothy Olyphant and Rhys Ifans

What to expect: Who better to direct an Edward Snowden biopic than cinema's key political agitator? Oliver Stone has made a trio of Vietnam War films, biopics about JFK, Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, and a 9/11 drama. Before agreeing to make "Snowden," he was plotting a Martin Luther King Jr. project. We'll see what Stone has in store this time around, having met with Snowden, who is on asylum in Russia after exposing the NSA's surveillance tactics three years ago. For added intrigue, Joseph Gordon-Levitt gets another chance to try on an accent of sorts after last year's quickly forgotten "The Walk." [Trailer]
"The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years" (Sept. 16)
Keystone-France via Getty Images
Directed by Ron Howard

What to expect: Imagine 10 years of rabid fans clawing at your every move, crowding outside of your hotels, screaming their heads off everywhere you go. It's enough to drive the most successful musical act wild. That's the story of The Beatles, and it's what forms the tentpole of Ron Howard's new documentary about the tours that ignited the Fab Four's fame and ultimately burned them out. [Trailer]
"Queen of Katwe" (Sept. 23)
Buena Vista
Written by William Wheeler • Directed by Mira Nair

Starring Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo, Madina Nalwanga, Maurice Kirya and Ntare Mwine

What to expect: We heard Lupita Nyngo'o's soothing voice as Maz Kanata in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and Raksha in "The Jungle Book," but "Queen of Katwe" is her first live-action role since winning an Oscar for "12 Years a Slave" in 2014. Here, Nyong'o plays the resilient mother of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. Her casting was a no-brainer: Nyong'o was director Mira Nair's intern on the 2007 film "The Namesake." [Trailer]
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" (Sept. 30)
Fox
Written by Jane Goldman • Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Samuel L. Jackson, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, Kim Dickens and Chris O'Dowd

What to expect: Ransom Riggs' best-selling 2011 novel about a mysterious orphanage was practically ordained to become a Tim Burton movie. Its characters are shape-shifting eccentrics with abnormal physical traits, a misty dwelling and a villainous sect to evade. And Burton could use a career-redefining hit right now, considering his most recent movies include "Big Eyes," "Dark Shadows" and "Alice in Wonderland." With a script from "Kick-Ass" and "The Woman in Black" scribe Jane Goldman, Burton may be in luck. [Trailer]
"American Honey" (Sept. 30)
A24
Written and directed by Andrea Arnold

Starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough, McCaul Lombardi and Arielle Holmes

What to expect: "American Honey" seems like a love-or-hate situation. Journalists who've attended early screenings say they either can't stop thinking about it or never want to think about it again. Drawing comparisons to "Kids" and "Spring Breakers," the Cannes Film Festival prizewinner revolves around an aimless teenager who joins a traveling magazine sales crew and embarks on a lawless escapade across the Midwest. Also on hand: Shia LaBeouf's rattail. [Trailer]
"The Girl on the Train" (Oct. 7)
Universal
Written by Erin Cressida Wilson • Directed by Tate Taylor

Starring Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramírez, Laura Prepon, Haley Bennett, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow

What to expect: Paula Hawkins' thriller was one of 2015's most popular novels. Some called it the next Gone Girl, so of course the film rights were snatched up instantly — before the pulpy book even hit shelves, in fact. The movie shifts the location from London to New York, casting Emily Blunt as the titular divorcée who gets caught up in the disappearance of a woman she's been spying on during her morning subway commutes. [Trailer]
"The Late Bloomer" (Oct. 7)
Momentum Pictures
Written by Kyle Cooper, Austyn Jeffs, Paul A. Japlan, Joe Nussbaum and Mark Torgove • Directed by Kevin Pollack

Starring Johnny Simmons, Maria Bello, J.K. Simmons, Brittany Snow, Jane Lynch, Kumail Nanjiani, Beck Bennett and Paul Wesley

What to expect: Johnny Simmons is steadily emerging as a breakout star, thanks to "Jennifer's Body," "21 Jump Street" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Earlier this year, he headlined the sensitive baseball picture "The Phenom," and now he'll lead the cast of "The Late Bloomer," a comedy based on Ken Baker's Man Made: A Memoir of My Body. Simmons plays a sex therapist who experiences puberty in the span of three weeks at age 27. [Trailer]
"Mascots" (Oct. 13)
Netflix
Written by Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock • Directed by Christopher Guest

Starring Jane Lynch, Parker Posey, Jennifer Coolidge, Zach Woods, Sarah Baker, Fred Willard, John Michael Higgins, Bob Balaban and Ed Begley Jr.

What to expect: The gang is (mostly) back in Christopher Guest's first feature film since 2006's "For Your Consideration." The "Best in Show"–esque antics revolve around the 8th Annual Mascot Association Championships, where people in oversized costumes compete for the coveted Gold Fluffy. The movie premieres on Netflix. You should watch "Waiting for Guffman" first because a) it is uproarious, and b) Guest reprises his role as eccentric regional-theater director Corky St. Clair. [Trailer]
"Moonlight" (Oct. 21)
A24
Written and directed by Barry Jenkins

Starring Naomie Harris, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes and Alex R. Hibbert

What to expect: The first trailer for "Moonlight" is, in short, stunning. Based on a Tarell Alvin McCraney play, it previews a lyrical coming-of-age tale about three chapters in the life of a black inner-city Miami teenager grappling with his sexuality. [Trailer]
"The Handmaiden" (Oct. 21)
Magnolia Pictures
Written by Seo-Kyung Chung and Park Chan-wook • Directed by Park Chan-wook

Starring Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, Kim Tae-ri and Cho Jin-woong

What to expect: Arguably South Korea's most celebrated filmmaker, Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy," "Stoker") is earning the best reviews of his career for "The Handmaiden." The sleek, demented feminist paean involves a count who recruits a pickpocket to steal an erratic heiress' fortune in 1930s Korea. The whole scheme gets flipped upside down with a series of outré twists where no one is quite what they seem. [Trailer]
"Loving" (Nov. 4)
Focus Features
Written and directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, Will Dalton, Terri Abney, Alano Miller and Chris Greene

What to expect: Jeff Nichols is establishing himself as one of Hollywood's more respected directors, tackling stories about the apocalypse ("Take Shelter"), a fugitive on the lam ("Mud") and a supernaturally gifted preteen ("Midnight Special"). His next effort, "Loving," is another small look at a big topic, tracing the courtship of a 1950s couple who inspired the Supreme Court case that overturned bans on interracial marriage. The film earned a standing ovation and instant Oscar chatter at Cannes in May. [Trailer]
"Almost Christmas" (Nov. 11)
Universal
Written and directed by David E. Talbert

Starring Gabrielle Union, Danny Glover, Mo'Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Omar Epps, Romany Malco, J.B. Smoove, Kimberly Elise and Jessie T. Usher

What to expect: This "Family Stone"-ish lark peeks in on a dysfunctional family's first Thanksgiving without their matriarch. The clan's widower, played by Danny Glover, just wants peace. We all know he's not getting it. [Trailer]
"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (Nov. 11)
TriStar
Written by Jean-Christophe Castelli • Directed by Ang Lee

Starring Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Vin Diesel, Garrett Hedlund, Steve Martin, Chris Tucker, Tim Blake Nelson and Makenzie Leigh

What to expect: Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk was one of 2012's most acclaimed novels, chronicling an Iraq War hero contending with PTSD as America insists upon celebrating his service. The ambitious project offers another way for "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi" director Ang Lee to push boundaries. Lee shot the film at 120 frames per second, compared to the standard 24, giving the flashback-centric story a heightened gloss. [Trailer]
"Arrival" (Nov. 11)
Paramount
Written by Eric Heisserer • Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlberg and Tzi Ma

What to expect: Prepare for the year of Amy Adams. In the first of two Oscar-luring performances, she plays a linguist investigating mysterious spacecraft that have appeared across the globe. Everything about "Arrival" spells sci-fi prestige: It's based on Ted Chiang's award-winning short story "Story of Your Life," and directed by "Prisoners" and "Sicario" mastermind Denis Villeneuve. [Trailer]
"Shut In" (Nov. 11)
EuropaCorp
Written by Christina Hodson • Directed by Farren Blackburn

Starring Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, Oliver Platt and Charlie Heaton

What to expect: What will 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay do with his career after proving himself in "Room" last year? Tremblay's next movie is "Shut In," in which he does everything in his power not to be trapped inside another room, or so it seems on the surface. It's a thriller about a child psychologist trying to save a young boy who disappears from her home during an unruly winter storm in rural New England. [Trailer]
"Nocturnal Animals" (Nov. 18)
Focus Features
Written and directed by Tom Ford

Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon, Laura Linney and Karl Glusman

What to expect: Amy Adams' second big moment of 2016 will arrive one week after her first. Expect to see her don fine threads in "Nocturnal Animals," Tom Ford's directorial follow-up to 2008's "A Single Man." Adams plays an art-gallery owner who sees her ex-husband's new novel about terrorizing hoodlums as a revenge threat. [No trailer available]
"Manchester by the Sea" (Nov. 18)
Roadside Attractions
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick, Gretchen Mol and Tate Donovan

What to expect: Sundance favorite "Manchester by the Sea" will rip your heart out in all the best ways. Casey Affleck plays a gruff Massachusettsian forced to care for his nephew after his brother dies. As evidenced in "You Can Count On Me" and "Margaret," Kenneth Lonergan is a master at depicting the complexities of relationships, and this movie may be his magnum opus. Pay keen attention to a staggering scene between Affleck and Michelle Williams toward the film's end — you may see bits of it showcased at the Oscars next year. [Trailer]
"Moana" (Nov. 23)
Disney
Written by Jared Bush, Ron Clements, John Musker, Pamela Ribon and Taika Waititi • Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

Starring Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement and Alan Tudyk

What to expect:
Disney will introduce its first Polynesian princess in "Moana," the story of a navigator who sails to a mythical island alongside the demigod Māui. We have high hopes for this seafaring adventure: It's directed by the same duo who made "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Hercules" and "The Princess and the Frog." [Trailer]
"Rules Don't Apply" (Nov. 23)
Fox
Written and directed by Warren Beatty

Starring Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Haley Bennett, Taissa Farmiga, Alec Baldwin, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Annette Bening, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen and Ed Harris

What to expect: "Rules Don't Apply" is 40 years in the making. Warren Beaty first began developing a Howard Hughes biopic in 1976, but he instead shifted his focus to "Heaven Can Wait" and "Reds." In 2011, having not appeared in a movie since 2001's "Town & Country," Beatty returned to the project, working off a fresh plot and courting an A-list ensemble. This fictionalized snippet of Hughes' biography focuses on a forbidden romance between two of his young employees. Beatty plays Hughes, placing him once again in lothario territory. [Trailer]
"La La Land" (Dec. 2)
Lionsgate
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, J.K. Simmons, John Legend, Finn Wittrock and Rosemarie DeWitt

What to expect: The first reviews out of the Telluride Film Festival have hailed "La La Land" as a dazzling throwback to classic Hollywood musicals like "Singin' in the Rain." That means the film might just live up to its sumptuous trailer, which teases a quiet Los Angeles romance between a jazz pianist and an aspiring actress. Damien Chazelle marched "Whiplash" to a Best Picture nomination two years ago, and his directorial follow-up, which reunites Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling on the big screen, could follow suit. [Trailer]
"Office Christmas Party" (Dec. 9)
Paramount
Written by Justin Malen and Laura Solon • Directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Starring T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Olivia Munn, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Chung, Jillian Bell, Courtney B. Vance, Randall Park and Rob Corddry

What to expect: The title tells you basically all you need to know about this comedy. This year's "The Night Before" is about a holiday blowout gone awry. A tech CEO hopes to salvage his business by luring a coveted client with a rowdy Yuletide bash. Antics ensue, of course. [Trailer]
"Miss Sloane" (Dec. 9)
EuropaCorp
Written by Jonathan Perera • Directed by Joh Madden

Starring Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow

What to expect: No offense to "The Huntsman: Winter's War," but 2016 wouldn't be complete without a prestige performance from Jessica Chastain. In "Miss Sloane," she plays a lobbyist fighting to pass gun-control legislation. Depressingly, it's not based on a true story. [No trailer available]
"Passengers" (Dec. 21)
Sony
Written by Jon Spaihts • Directed by Morten Tyldum

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Sheen and Aurora Perrineau

What to expect: It's entirely possible that "Passengers" will be a bloated blockbuster dressed up in esteemed clothing. But the premise sure is promising. Grade-A movie stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence play astronauts on a 120-year voyage to a distant planet. Their spacecraft malfunctions, and they are awakened with 90 years left until they arrive. What will they do? Fall in love, of course. [No trailer available]
"A Monster Calls" (Dec. 23)
Focus Features
Written by Patrick Ness • Directed by J.A. Bayona

Starring Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell

What to expect: Earlier this week, the release of "A Monster Calls" was pushed from October to December. That could be interpreted as a vote of confidence for its awards potential, considering the Oscar derby will have hit full throttle by that point. Either way, the adaptation of the 2011 young-adult fantasy novel -- think "Where the Wild Things Are" meets "The BFG" meets "One True Thing" -- looks like a dreamy pivot for director J.A. Bayona, who made 2007's "The Orphanage" and will helm the "Jurassic World" sequel. [Trailer]

All release dates are subject to change.

Best Movies of 2016 So Far