Saying "so long" to summer isn't entirely sadness-inducing, not with all the unmissable entertainment options queued up over the next few months. Our series of fall previews will guide you to the very best movies, shows, albums, books, video games, and events arriving this season.
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Welcome to the start of Oscar season, when Hollywood stands up straight, adjusts its tie, and prepares to walk the red carpets. Out with the superheroics and alien invasions, and in with the biopics and award-seeking dramas! Almost. Here are the major releases we can't wait to see through the end of the year -- a mix of prestige pictures and sophisticated popcorn movies (including ones involving superheroics and alien invasions).
Release date: September 16th Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Nicolas Cage Director: Oliver Stone (JFK) Reason to be excited: Hero or traitor? In 2013, after leaking classified NSA documents to journalists and exposing the American government's spying practices, Edward Snowden became one of the country's most polarizing figures. Stone, known for conspiratorial takes and piercing visual style, gives Snowden the biopic treatment with Gordon-Levitt, a formidable progressive in his own right, as the lanky spy. Watch the trailer
Release date: September 16th Cast: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles Director: Matt Johnson (The Dirties) Reason to be excited: Hired by the CIA to pose as documentarians and snuff out a NASA mole, a pair of A/V geeks stumble into the assignment of the lifetime when the space agency turns the tables and asks the duo to fake the moon landing. Based on your kooky uncle's favorite conspiracy theory, Operation Avalanche poses as 16mm found footage to fully immerse the audience in a Hollywood caper. Watch the trailer
Release date: September 16th Cast: James Allen McCune, Valorie Curry, Callie Hernandez Director: Adam Wingard (The Guest) Reason to be excited: Until July, this horror movie lurked under the name The Woods, just waiting to pounce. When producers revealed it to be a sequel to 1999's The Blair Witch Project, one of the scariest movies of all time, pounce it did -- audiences who caught Blair Witch at Comic-Con flipped out over the reboot sequel, which follows the brother of one of the original victims, who unwisely goes looking for the legendary... thing. Watch the trailer
The Magnificent Seven
Release date: September 23rd Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Peter Sarsgaard Director: Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) Reason to be excited: 1960's The Magnificent Seven was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's cunning action movie Seven Samurai, so it was inevitable that someone would take the property's reins and ride it into the blockbuster era. Fuqua, who worked with Washington on Training Day, diversifies and empowers his new gang of gunslingers, who once again band together to stop a corrupt industrialist. If Chris Pratt yells "yee-haw!" at any point in Magnificent Seven, he deserves an Oscar. Watch the trailer
Release date: September 23rd Cast: David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, Madina Nalwanga Director: Mira Nair (The Namesake) Reason to be excited: Since breaking out and picking up an Oscar for her work in 12 Years a Slave, Hollywood hasn't found much to do with live-action Lupita Nyong'o, who appeared under digital makeup in The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That changes in September, when she co-stars with Selma's David Oyelowo and newcomer Madina Nalwanga in this ESPN-produced inspirational sports movie about a Ugandan chess prodigy who plays her way to masterdom. Watch the trailer
Release date: September 30th Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez Director: Peter Berg (Battleship) Reason to be excited: This action-packed docudrama, chronicling the catastrophic drilling rig explosion that left 11 dead in the Gulf of Mexico, is actually the first of two Wahlberg-led Berg movies of the fall (following 2013's Lone Survivor). After Wahlberg puts out the marine fire, he'll pop up on land in December's Patriot Day, which adapts the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing into a manhunt procedural. Watch the trailer
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Release date: September 30th Cast: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O'Dowd, Samuel L. Jackson Director: Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) Reason to be excited: If the X-Men were a team of super-powered goth kids who ran around early-20th-century England, they'd be the "children" of this blockbuster, adapted from Ransom Riggs' best-selling novel. It's a dream premise for Burton, whose eyeliner-and-fantasy style clicks in this grand adventure. And Peculiar Children indulges our wildest movie-related desires -- finally, Sam Jackson will chew scenery with literal fangs. Watch the trailer
The Girl on the Train
Release date: October 7th Cast: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans Director: Tate Taylor (The Help) Reason to be excited: Pegged as the "next Gone Girl" by everyone who picked up Paula Hawkins' hit thriller, The Girl on the Train dips into the psychosexual circumstances of a ghastly murder. A whodunnit with Fifty Shades of Grey vibes, the movie should, at the very least, provide the top-notch cast with the opportunity to go batshit crazy. Watch the trailer
Release date: October 7th Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union Director: Nate Parker Reason to be excited: Though bruised by recent controversies, The Birth of a Nation will arrive to theaters as a potent look at the past, channeling present conversations on race into the story of Nat Turner, the preacher who led a slave rebellion through Virginia in 1831. Parker's film aspires to Braveheart's fiery grandeur, and nearly gets there, with unbridled depictions of violence and hope. There will be no other film like it this year. Watch the trailer
The Greasy Strangler
Release date: October 7th Cast: Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex Director: Jim Hosking (ABCs of Death 2) Reason to be excited: If David Cronenberg, John Waters, and Tim Heidecker had a baby, that would be super weird, because how would the biology work? The baby would also look like The Greasy Strangler, a laugh-through-shrieks descent into a depraved shade of the American dream. From micropenis jokes to bizzare wordplay and gallons of greeeease, The Greasy Strangler is a underground cartoon come to life with the grace of a Night of the Living Dead zombie. Watch the trailer
Voyage of Time
Release date: October 7th Narrated by: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett Director: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) Reason to be excited: Two versions of this existential nature documentary will hit theaters in 2016: a 90-minute version narrated by Blanchett, and a 40-minute "IMAX Experience" with voiceover by Brad Pitt. Who do you prefer to soothe your soul as picturesque galaxies dissolve into strands of DNA? This year, you get to choose. Watch the trailer
Release date: October 14th Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal Director: Gavin O'Connor (Warrior) Reason to be excited: We assume Ben Affleck signed up for The Accountant, which tracks a mathematics savant who also shows sick sniper skillz as he unspools corporate mystery, was very jealous of his boy Matt Damon's Bourne franchise and wanted a piece of the brainy-thriller action. If The Accountant actually has the brains, it could live up to those in-spirit predecessors. Watch the trailer
Release date: October 14th Cast: Gael García Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan Director: Jonás Cuarón Reason to be excited: The directorial debut of Cuarón, who wrote Gravity with his dad, Alfonso, emits even more heat this election season. Desierto tracks a group of America-bound Mexicans who encounter a sadistic vigilante at the border. Without any line of defense, the escapade becomes more "shooting fish in a barrel" than "game of cat and mouse." Bernal stands in the face of jingoism to reconnect with his son, making for a poignant, terrifying watch. Watch the trailer
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
Release date: October 21st Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge Director: Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) Reason to be excited: Cruise rarely does sequels, so resuming his role as the pulpy, low-key bruiser is a positive sign. This time, Reacher's sticking his nose in the military's business, as agents on the top investigate him for a 16-year-old murder. Punches will be thrown, cars will be driven, fun will be had. Watch the trailer
Release date: October 28th Cast: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Aimee Teegarden, Vincent D'Onofrio Director: F. Javier Gutiérrez (Before the Fall) Reason to be excited: Rings seems to exist for an audience that wouldn't understand a VHS tape, but will vie for vinidication by making its damp, sulking villain even more powerful. If a glossy Hollywood take on this well-worn premise doesn't intrigue you, prepare for the horror-streaming service Shudder to release Sadako vs. Kayako, which pits The Ring girl against The Grudge girl. Yes, really. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 4th Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton Director: Scott Derrickson (Sinister) Reason to be excited: The next installment of Marvel's never-ending mega-franchise introduces a new character to the Avengersverse: Doctor Strange, a neurosurgeon reborn as a mystical magic-wielder. Doctor Strange should feature another villain who'd fit right in at Cirque du Soleil, and impending doom for the world as we know it, but with Cumberbatch's wry sensibility and prismatic special effects, there's reason to think this could be a breezy superhero twist. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 4th Cast: Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving Director: Mel Gibson (Braveheart) Reason to be excited: Praised at its early festival appearances, Gibson's World War II movie tells the true story of US Army medic Desmond T. Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to bear arms, yet still braved the Battle of Okinawa and saved a reported 75 lives. Knowing Gibson's past work, don't expect Hacksaw to flinch on the heroism or the carnage. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 11th Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg Director: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) Reason to be excited: Based on Ted Chiang's award-winning novella "Story of Your Life," early looks of Arrival promise a tender, considered take on Earth's first encounter with alien life. Still, Adams fills a very Roland Emmerich-esque role: a linguist hired by the US Army to make contact and, potentially, save the planet. Watch the trailer
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Release date: November 11th Cast: Joe Alwyn, Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund, Vin Diesel, Steve Martin Director: Ang Lee (Life of Pi) Reason to be excited: Catapulted from Victory Tour to on-the-ground combat in Iraq, Halftime Walk depicts two sides of wartime employment, and the emotional ripple-effect of both. Lee shot his movie in 120 frames-per-second 3D, creating a hyper-real look that eclipses even the high-frame displays of televised football games. Watch the trailer
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Release date: November 18 Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell Director: David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) Reason to be excited: J.K. Rowling wrote this spinoff of the original Harry Potter movies herself, in hopes of preserving the tone while transplanting the action to 1920s New York City. With Oscar-winner Redmayne as the wizarding world's preeminent magizoologist, and Yates, who directed many of the original series' best installments, behind the camera, there's reason to buy into this blockbuster's hype. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 18th Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, Lucas Hedges Director: Kenneth Lonergan (Margaret) Reason to be excited: This seaside story of grief is jagged and intrusive, winding up all the anxieties of everyday life around Affleck's blue-collar Massachusettsian. Teasing why everyone in Manchester-by-the-Sea is so tortured would spoil the stroll, but the movie doesn't miss a step. Giving himself a solid three hours, Lonergan looks at a mournful situation from every angle -- it's the funniest gut-punch you'll experience this year. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 18th Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Laura Linney, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Michael Shannon Director: Tom Ford (A Single Man) Reason to be excited: Seven years after his directorial debut, A Single Man, fashion designer Tom Ford steps back behind the camera to construct a relationship thriller that rings of Cormac McCarthy. Only Ford could put together a movie that looks stylish and gritty as hell.
Release date: November 23rd Cast: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Lizzy Caplan, Matthew Goode Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) Reason to be excited: In the year's boldest answer to "they don't make 'em like they used to," Pitt stars as spy Maxx Pitt, who, in 1942 North Africa, encounters French Resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) on a mission behind enemy lines. There's love, there's war, there's probably backstabbing, and there are two famous people reminding us why we occasionally fall hard for movie stars. Zemeckis, a born-and-bred Hollywood tailor, should give this one the old-school push it needs to work. Watch the trailer
Bad Santa 2
Release date: November 23rd Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks Director: Mark Waters (Mean Girls) Reason to be excited: What do 13 years do to a Bad Santa? Nothing, apparently. Thornton's Willie T. Stokes looks as awful as ever in this highly anticipated sequel, which swaps the original's director, the off-kilter Terry Zwigoff, for Waters. If Bad Santa 2 has a modicum of the fire emitted from "The Plastics," we'll be OK. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 23rd Cast: Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement Directors: Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin) Reason to be excited: We don't blame your gut instinct for damning Disney animated features as "kids stuff," but after Frozen and Zootopia, maybe the Mouse House deserves a little trust? Moana spins a magical adventure out of Oceanic iconography, throwing in original songs by Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda for good measure. Watch the trailer
Release date: November 25th Cast: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman Director: Garth Davis (Top of the Lake) Reason to be excited: Based on a true story, Lion stars Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley, who, 25 years after being separated from his mother in India, tracks her down using Google Earth. Take that, luddites! Watch the trailer
La La Land
Release date: December 2nd Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J. K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock Director: Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) Reason to be excited: A throwback to whimsical musicals like Singin' in the Rain and Umbrellas of Cherbourg, La La Land takes a magical-realism approach to romance in the City of Angels. An excuse to get Stone and Gosling ballroom dancing in a planetarium is a good excuse in our books, and La La Land could turn out to be something even more. Watch the trailer
Release date: December 16th Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) Reason to be excited: The title of this new Star Wars prequel is a bit of a double entendre: "Rogue One" alludes to the band of mercenaries assembled by the Rebellion to steal the Death Star plans, but plays into the fact that it's the first Star Wars movie to "go rogue" from the Skywalker "Episode" timeline. Set just before the events of the original 1977 movie, Rogue One stages a war movie inside a universe we all know and love. Watch the trailer
Release date: December 21st Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael K. Williams Director: Justin Kurzel (MacBeth) Reason to be excited: While adapted from a billion-dollar video-game property, Assassin's Creed is something of a passion project for Fassbender, who produced the film and hired his artful MacBeth director to make his blockbuster debut. Merging sci-fi time travel with Crusades-era sword-swinging, Assassin's Creed is one of the grander experiments of the holiday season. Watch the trailer
Release date: December 21st Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne Director: Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) Reason to be excited: There's very little out there on Passengers, a sci-fi movie about a spaceship's120-year journey to an off-world colony. When Pratt and Lawrence's "hibernation pods" open 90 years early... well, something dramatic happens. Probably! We'll be honest: the promise of this pair in a two-hander is enough for us to buy in blind.
A Monster Calls
Release date: December 23rd Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson, Lewis MacDougall Director: J. A. Bayona (The Impossible) Reason to be excited: Bumped from its original October release date to an awards-friendly holiday spot, this Spielbergian drama finds a boy dealing with his mother's terminal cancer by conjuring -- or encountering? -- a Groot-ish monster, voiced by Neeson. Watch the trailer
Release date: December 25th Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Édgar Ramírez, Bryce Dallas Howard Director: Stephen Gaghan (Syriana) Reason to be excited: McConaughey went fat, bald, and slovenly for his role in this dramatic thriller, described asTreasure of the Sierra Madre with a Wolf of Wall Street twist. Gaghan's been quietly working on the movie for a number of years, so we're crossing our fingers it's... gold. Watch the trailer
Release date: December 25th Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Stephen Henderson Director: Denzel Washington (Antwone Fisher) Reason to be excited: Washington's directorial career is hit or miss, but bringing playwright August Wilson's poetic examination of race and class to the big screen sounds as exhilarating as any Michael Bay movie. Washington and Davis played the roles on Broadway in 2010 and picked up Tonys for their performances. Expect them to find some Oscar love, too.
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Matt Patches is a senior editor at Thrillist. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, and Vulture. Find him on Twitter @misterpatches.