Summer is behind us, and the fall movie season is showing signs of comparative maturity.
It’s a time for serious drama as the studios gear up for a tough Oscar campaign. There are stories of survival in outer space in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” and on the open sea in “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford.
There are the true-life ordeals of a pre-Civil War black man in “12 Years a Slave” and a 21st-century victim of Somali pirates in “Captain Phillips.”
There are adaptations of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations.”
But it’s not all dark material. There are plenty of comedies this fall, a few kids’ films, some intriguing documentaries and plenty of action.
From now to the end of the year, there are 98 movies coming your way — so there’s sure to be something for every taste.
Read on to see what’s coming between now and Thanksgiving (release dates are tentative) and what’s in store for the hectic Oscar season of December:
Survival is at the center of two of this fall’s biggest dramas. In Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” (Oct. 4), Sandra Bullock and George Clooney portray astronauts who are stranded in space when a disaster hits the space shuttle. And Robert Redford carries a movie all by himself in J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” (Oct. 18) as a man trying to make it alone at sea.
South African icon Nelson Mandela’s life is depicted (by “Pacific Rim’s” Idris Elba) in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (November TBD). The fact-based “12 Years a Slave” (October TBD) shows an earlier battle for freedom, of a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in pre-Civil War America who is kidnapped and sold into slavery.
Real-life drama comes in: “Captain Phillips” (Oct. 11), with Tom Hanks as a cargo-ship captain dealing with Somali pirates; “The Fifth Estate” (Oct. 18), a look at the beginnings of WikiLeaks with Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange; “Blue Caprice” (TBD), a spare drama inspired by the D.C. “Beltway Sniper” case; “Parkland” (Oct. 4), which looks at ordinary people in Dallas on the day John F. Kennedy was shot; “Dallas Buyers Club” (Nov. 15), starring Matthew McConaughey as a Texas electrician fighting the system to help HIV sufferers in the mid-’80s; and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (Nov. 15), with Martin Scorsese directing Leonardo DiCaprio in a tale of a high-living stockbroker.
Great literature goes on screen in “Romeo & Juliet” (Oct. 11), with Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers; a new “Great Expectations” (TBD), starring Helena Bonham Carter as the jilted Miss Havisham; Langston Hughes’ musical play “Black Nativity” (Nov. 27) boasts a cast that includes Oscar winners Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker; and Daniel Radcliffe plays a college-age Alan Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings” (October TBD).
In “The Book Thief” (Nov. 15), an adaptation of Markus Zusak’s novel, a German girl (Sophie Nélisse) encounters a Jewish refugee (Ben Schnetzer) in her foster parents’ basement during World War II. The aftermath of that war and the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann factor into the biographical drama “Hannah Arendt” (September TBD).
Sexual taboos are shattered in two movies that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Robin Wright and Naomi Watts play best friends who begin affairs with each other’s adult sons in “Adore” (TBD), originally titled “Two Mothers.” And a lesbian housewife (Robin Weigert) takes a turn in the sex trade in “Concussion” (TBD). Meanwhile, the French lesbian drama “Blue Is the Warmest Color” (Nov. 8), the Palme D’Or winner at Cannes, also arrives this fall.
A Christian singer (AJ Michalka) is tempted by crossover success in “Grace Unplugged” (Oct. 4), and a young man (Logan Bartholemew) learns life lessons in his grandfather’s journal in the inspirational “The Ultimate Life” (Sept. 6). A different kind of musical drama arrives, in a b-boy dance competition, in the 3-D “Battle of the Year” (Sept. 20).
Two views of women in the Muslim world: In “The Patience Stone” (Oct. 25), a young Afghan wife reveals all to her paralyzed husband; and in “Wadjda” (Oct. 4), a young Saudi girl defies gender stereotypes when she tries to enter a Koran recitation contest so she can buy a bicycle.
Crime and punishment are at odds in “Prisoners” (Sept. 20), with Hugh Jackman as a father who turns vigilante when his daughter is abducted, and “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” (September TBD), a moody drama starring Rooney Mara as a young mother torn between her fugitive husband (Casey Affleck) and a kind-hearted lawman (Ben Foster).
Brie Larson supervises a foster-care facility, dealing with the troubled teens there, in “Short Term 12” (Sept. 20), while two inner-city kids fend for themselves in “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” (October TBD).
Last, Billy Bob Thornton returns as star, director and co-writer in “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” (TBD), which brings two families — one from Alabama, one from England — together awkwardly in 1969.
Pick your dystopian future filled with warrior teens: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Nov. 22) is the second installment of Suzanne Collins’ saga of the fierce Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), while the long-awaited adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s 1984 science-fiction tale “Ender’s Game” (Nov. 1) hits the screen, with Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) as a lad gifted with fighting capabilities.
The hunky Chris Hemsworth pulls double duty this fall. He returns as Marvel’s Norse thunder god in “Thor: The Dark World” (Nov. 8), and he plays ’70s Formula 1 racer James Hunt in Ron Howard’s fast-car thriller “Rush” (Sept. 27).
Pre-Halloween horror is highlighted by “Carrie” (Oct. 18), a remake of Stephen King’s classic starring Chloë Grace Moretz (“Kick-Ass”) as the psychokinetic prom date. The Lambert family is still haunted in “Insidious: Chapter 2” (Sept. 13). The creepy “We Are What We Are” (Oct. 18) feeds the audience’s appetite for families with dark secrets. And supernatural researchers investigate the disappearance of a rancher’s son in the Utah-made “Skinwalker Ranch” (Oct. 30).
Spike Lee directs “Oldboy” (Nov. 27), remaking a Korean classic about a man (played in the new version by James Brolin) out for revenge on the people who held him hostage for 20 years. Another kidnapping scenario plays out in the Utah-made “The Saratov Approach” (Oct. 9), in which two Mormon missionaries are abducted in Russia.
Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”) directs author Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay in “The Counselor” (Oct. 25), starring Michael Fassbender as a lawyer with some particularly nasty clients. Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer lead “The Family” (Sept. 13), a Mafia clan hiding out in France. Justin Timberlake plays a college kid drawn into the life of a high-rolling online gaming tycoon (Ben Affleck) in the thriller “Runner Runner” (Oct. 4).
If you want things violent, Vin Diesel obliges in the sci-fi slasher “Riddick” (Sept. 6), and Robert Rodriguez brings back Danny Trejo’s super-bad ex-Federale in “Machete Kills” (Oct. 11). Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger fight and team up in the prison thriller “Escape Plan” (Oct. 18). And “Metallica Through the Never” (Sept. 27) melds a roadie’s apocalyptic adventures with the heavy-metal band’s concert performances.
“Notting Hill” director Richard Curtis delves in time travel in the romantic comedy “About Time” (Nov. 1), as a young man (Domnhall Gleeson) decides his family’s time-traveling gift is best spent wooing the perfect girlfriend (Rachel McAdams).
Romance blooms between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, in one of his final roles, in “Enough Said” (TBD), while a flight attendant (Paula Patton) flies cross-country to reconsider her ex-boyfriends in “Baggage Claim” (Sept. 27).
Believe it or not, there are two comedies this fall centering on a sex addict. “Don Jon” (Sept. 27) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who wrote and directed) as a Joisey Lothario trying to win the girl (played by Scarlett Johansson). And Mark Ruffalo is among the 12-steppers in “Thanks for Sharing” (Sept. 20) who must come clean to a new girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Old friends reunite for Christmas in “The Best Man Holiday” (Nov. 15), a sequel to Malcolm D. Lee’s 1999 hit starring Taye Diggs and Terrence Howard. And really old friends (Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline) throw a bachelor party in Sin City in “Last Vegas” (Nov. 1).
Two from Sundance: A massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) suddenly comes down with an aversion to physical contact in “Touchy Feely” (September TBD), and two road-crew workers (Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch) deal with boredom and isolation in “Prince Avalanche” (Sept. 6).
Two French comedies: A klutzy secretary (Déborah François) becomes a competitive speed-typist in the colorful “Populaire” (September TBD), while Catherine Frot plays Danièle Delpeuch, who broke through the glass ceiling to become personal chef to French President François Mitterand, in “Haute Cuisine” (October TBD).
Vince Vaughn discovers he has more than 500 children, thanks to a mix-up at a sperm bank, in “Delivery Man” (Nov. 22). A newly married couple (Jess Weixler, Justin Long) attend a last-minute funeral in “Best Man Down” (November TBD).
Horror and comedy mix in “Bad Milo!” (October TBD), about a guy (Ken Marino) whose inner demons turn real, and “Hell Baby” (Sept. 6), an exorcism spoof written and directed by “Reno 911!” creators Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon. Meanwhile, Johnny Knoxville’s Halloween costume is an old man pulling pranks in “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” (Oct. 25).
After a summer overloaded with computer-animated mediocrity, Hollywood eases off a bit in the fall with three new titles: “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” (Sept. 27), a sequel in which inventor Flint (voice of Bill Hader) discovers an island of food-animal hybrids; “Free Birds” (Nov. 1), in which two turkeys go back in time to rewrite the menu of the first Thanksgiving; and “Frozen” (Nov. 27), a Disney adventure of a young woman (voiced by Kristen Bell) fighting to keep her evil sister (voiced by Idina Menzel) from freezing the kingdom.
The guaranteed wonder for kids this fall is an IMAX 3-D revision of Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” (Sept. 20).
Alex Gibney started his documentary on Lance Armstrong before the cyclist finally came clean about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, so you have to think the title “The Armstrong Lie” (November TBD) is just one of many revisions.
Reportedly the most fascinating piece of film now playing anywhere, “The Act of Killing” (Sept. 13) allows Indonesian death-squad leaders to re-enact their killings in the form of Hollywood musicals and gangster movies.
Two former Cabinet members go under the microscope: Errol Morris interviews former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the Iraq war in “The Unknown Known” (TBD), while “Inequality for All” (TBD) trumpets the warnings of former Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich about the damage done by wage disparity on America’s economy and democracy. Meanwhile, “Anita” (TBD) gives Anita Hill, the law professor who accused then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, a chance to speak for herself.
“Salinger” (Sept. 13) purports to reveal secrets of reclusive author J.D. Salinger. Music fills “Muscle Shoals” (October TBD), a look at the legendary Alabama recording studio and the backup musicians called “The Swampers.”
“The Summit” (Oct. 11), a hit at Sundance, examines the life of Irish mountain climber Ger McDonald and his 2008 death on Nepal’s K2. And 7-year-old golfers compete in an international tourney in “The Short Game” (TBD).
One of the early favorites for Oscar glory this December is “American Hustle” (Dec. 13), whose director, David O. Russell, has shepherded Oscar-winning performances in “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” This one is a ’70s crime drama, inspired by the Abscam investigation of political corruption, starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams as con artists who get in deep with an unstable FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner also star.
More Oscars may circle “August: Osage County” (Dec. 25), an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family. The cast includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Sam Shepard.
The Coen Brothers imagine the ’60s folk-music scene around Greenwich Village in “Inside Llewyn Davis” (Dec. 20), with Oscar Isaac as a luckless musician, and Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake as other singing characters.
Director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) imagines a technological romance in “Her” (Jan. 10), with Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely writer who starts falling for his computer’s operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
George Clooney directs and stars in “The Monuments Men” (Dec. 18), a true-life adventure of Allied forces racing to save masterpieces looted by the Nazis. Clooney’s cast includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Bill Murray and “The Artist” star Jean Dujardin.
Two biopics have Hollywood stars playing real royalty: In “Diana” (Dec. 27), Naomi Watts portrays the former Princess of Wales; and in “Grace of Monaco” (December TBD), Nicole Kidman plays the former Grace Kelly.
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars as Charles Dickens in “The Invisible Woman” (January TBD), a drama that re-creates the author’s late-in-life romance with a much-younger woman (Felicity Jones).
Other true-life stories: Judi Dench stars as “Philomena” (January TBD), an Irish woman seeking the son she was forced to give up for adoption decades earlier; and Mark Wahlberg is the “Lone Survivor” (Jan. 10), a Navy SEAL caught in a 2005 Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.
A lonely single mom (Kate Winslet) encounters a fugitive in Jason Reitman’s adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s “Labor Day” (Dec. 25). An ex-con (Christian Bale) seeks revenge for his brother’s death in “Out of the Furnace” (December TBD).
Director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “About Schmidt”) returns with the black-and-white “Nebraska” (Dec. 20), in which an estranged father (Bruce Dern) and son (Will Forte) travel from Montana to Nebraska to collect lottery winnings. And Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (an Oscar winner for “A Separation”) is back with “The Past” (January TBD), starring Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”) as a Frenchwoman seeking divorce from her Iranian husband.
Fantasy and reality collide for a mild-mannered man with a big imagination in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (Dec. 25), an adaptation of the James Thurber classic starring and directed by Ben Stiller. And another collision in Fantasyland, between “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and impresario Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), plays out in “Saving Mr. Banks” (Dec. 13).
Bilbo Baggins continues his journey in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” (Dec. 13), while Keanu Reeves joins forces with rogue warriors in 18th-century Japan in “47 Ronin” (Dec. 25). Going for a more modern setting, Chris Pine stars as “Jack Ryan” (Dec. 25), a reboot of Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst.
Will Ferrell and pals return for more broadcast-news antics in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (Dec. 20). Tyler Perry gets out the big dress again for “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” (Dec. 13). And Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro tie on the boxing gloves again for the comedy “Grudge Match” (Dec. 25).
Last, giant creatures roam the Earth in the computer-animated “Walking With Dinosaurs” (Dec. 20).