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Vulture’s 50 Most Anticipated Films of the Fall

Labor Day weekend is almost here, and with it comes fall — and fall movie season. Starting the weekend immediately after Labor Day, movies are upping their game. Say good-bye to superhero blockbusters and schlock in 3-D, and say hello to Oscar fare. (This weekend: Shark Night 3D; next weekend, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion.) This autumn there will be double doses of Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Kate Winslet, and Jonah Hill, fighting robots, high-profile adaptations, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Thatcher, and Madonna’s take on Wallis Simpson. There’s so much good stuff, we’re genuinely intrigued by 50 films on offer, though not all to the same degree. So herewith, the 50 fall movies we’re most looking forward to, in ranked order.

Related: Vulture’s 5 Least Anticipated Films of the Fall
Check out features on some of Fall’s biggest films in NY Mag’s 2011 Fall Preview.

1. Drive: We’ve seen it. We loved it. We’re obsessed with the soundtrack. Nicolas Winding Refn’s brutal, luscious Ryan Gosling neo-noir is Vulture’s most anticipated movie of the fall, just because we can’t wait to see it again. Just don’t watch the too-revealing trailers, OK?2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: David Fincher follows up The Social Network with this English-language adaptation of the runaway best-seller, starring Daniel Craig and relative newcomer Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. Sure, the book was a big deal on its own, but what’s not to love about the idea of Fincher handed a blockbuster budget to make a hard-R mystery thriller?3. The Muppets: The Muppet brand faded away over the last decade or so, but who better to bring it back than a reverent Jason Segel, who also co-wrote the songs? At the very least, this has to outgross The Smurfs, or else we just don’t know what to do with you, America.4. A Dangerous Method: David Cronenberg directs a kinky period drama starring Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, and Vincent Cassel. Our only concern is that this might be too amazing. Well, that and the fact that the movie might cause us to unexpectedly lust after Carl Jung (Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Mortensen). What would our shrink say?5. Real Steel: It is our big goofball hope, this Hugh Jackman movie about giant rock ‘em sock ‘em robots. Look, here’s how you’ll know whether you’re in or you’re out: One of the fighting robots has a mohawk. Perfect. Perfect! Let’s all go be ten-year-old boys and enjoy the shit out of this thing.
6. Young Adult: Diablo Cody re-teams with Juno director Jason Reitman for a movie starring Charlize Theron as a slightly twisted writer who returns to Minnesota to seduce her ex, who is now married with children. Should satisfy all your wacky slang needs until the next Cody film comes around. 7. The Ides of March: We’d be eager to see a political thriller directed by George Clooney and co-starring Ryan Gosling — who is having quite the fall (see #1) —if we knew nothing else about it, but this one is based on the critically acclaimed play Farragut North, in turn loosely based on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, which means it’s sure to have the x-factor so many wannabe prestige films are missing: a good script. 8. The Descendants: This fall includes not only two high quality doses of Gosling, it includes two high quality doses of Clooney. In his second film of the season, Clooney stars in Alexander Payne’s first movie since 2004’s Sideways, as a father trying to bond with his daughters after their mother has an accident. Set in Hawaii, could possibly do for coconuts what Sideways did for merlot. 9. We Need to Talk About Kevin: Lionel Shriver’s riveting, cool-eyed novel of the same name is the best — and creepiest — dissection of a school shooting yet written. And the movie version, which has already played to raves at Cannes, seems perfectly cast, with Tilda Swinton as the narrator, a complicated mother who is never able to bond with her eventually psychotic son. If it’s a quarter as good as the book, it will still freak you out. 10. Martha Marcy May Marlene: The Sundance hit that turned Elizabeth Olsen from the twin’s little sister into an it girl in her own right, is an eerie, complexly layered film (remember the poster?) about a young woman readjusting to life after being in a  cult. Though not similar plot-wise, it could be this year’s Winter’s Bone, which is to say raw, powerful, star-making, and co-starring John Hawkes.
11. 50/50: Seth Rogen makes another cancer dramedy, though this one could be a crowd-pleaser where Funny People was not. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s cueball cancer patient is the selling point here, but we’re also kind of excited to see Anna Kendrick in something again.12. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: This veddy, veddy British espionage thriller is being tipped for Oscar glory, and pundits are already buzzing about Gary Oldman’s lead performance. Still, even if it’s simply a well-made John le Carre adaptation, what’s to be mad about?13. Take Shelter: Michael Shannon is simply staggering in this Sundance drama about an ordinary family man driven to the brink by apocalyptic visions. The Best Actor field is going to be crowded this year, but can they please make some room for him?14. J. Edgar: Leonardo DiCaprio gets good results from going period, and Clint Eastwood’s decade-spanning drama about the man who founded the FBI has a juicy gay subplot that finds J. Edgar Hoover grappling with — then kissing — his right-hand man Clyde Tolson (played by Social Network breakout Armie Hammer). Let’s hope they pull off the ambitious old-age makeup, since so many scenes feature Hoover and Tolson in their sixties and beyond.15. The Artist: The Weinsteins picked up this Cannes hit, a black-and-white, silent tribute to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Could this be this year’s heartwarming Oscar contender, in the vein of The King’s Speech? At the very least, expect major accolades for French actor Jean Dujardin, who plays the dashing, Errol Flynn-like lead.
16. The Iron Lady: Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher. That’s all you — and the Oscars —  need to know. 17. Contagion: Stephen Soderbergh’s answer to Outbreak features a top flight cast (Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard), multiple narratives, and a frightfully accurate, bird-driven, apocalyptic epidemic. If jumping out of your skin every time you see a pigeon seems a high price to pay for a good scare, well, consider, you will also get to Gwyneth Paltrow make this face. 18. Moneyball: The movie most likely to scratch your Social Network itch is another Aaron Sorkin screenplay that turns wonky, data crunching subjects into quip-spewing heroes. This one’s based on Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and stars a pre-slimmed down Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt as Billy Bean, the manager of the Oakland Athletics, who, with limited funds and a new perspective on how to measure a player’s quality put together a winning team.  Predicted dialogue: “Batting average isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? VORP.”19. Wanderlust: David Wain directs Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd (reuniting once again, after 1998’s The Object of My Affection) as a New York couple who end up on a commune, a setting the director of Wet Hot American Summer should be able make hilarious (it’s summer camp for grown ups, right?). As with Wet Hot the supporting cast looks great and ridiculous: Justin Theroux, Alan Alda, Lauren Ambrose, Kathryn Hahn, Ken Marino, Ray Liotta, Reba McEntire, and, uh, Melissa Joan Hart. 20. What’s Your Number?: Anna Faris takes another whack at the big time she so richly deserves, with this romantic comedy about a woman who re-visits all her exes because she doesn’t want to up, as the French so accurately put it in their poster for this film, her “Sex Number.” Chris Evans co-stars as the new guy, one assumes, she will eventually up her number for.
21. We Bought a Zoo: Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson star in this adaptation of a true-life tale about a family that moves into a dilapidated zoo and attempts to fix it up. Cameron Crowe hasn’t made a narrative picture since his 2005 flop Elizabethtown, so we’re curious to see how time has treated him since. 22. My Week With Marilyn: Can Michelle Williams pull off Marilyn Monroe? The Blue Valentine star has a tough task ahead of her in this drama about Monroe at the peak of her fame, but we’ve heard encouraging early buzz that she nailed it. 23. W.E.: Madonna directs a drama about Wallis Simpson, the American bon vivant so enticing that King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry her. One concern: The Material Girl has added modern-day segments starring an unlucky-in-love Abbie Cornish that she’ll intercut with the Simpson storyline in the style of Julie & Julia.24. Hugo: Martin Scorsese makes a bid for family-friendly territory with this 3D fantasy. We felt like the trailer could go either way, but how can you not get excited about a Scorsese movie starring Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Jude Law, regardless of the subject matter?25. The Skin I Live In: Antonio Banderas finally reteams with the director who launched his career, Pedro Almodovar. This creepy drama, which casts Banderas as a plastic surgeon with a beautiful woman held captive in the basement, may give the actor another career jolt.
​26. In the Land of Blood and Honey: We’d be intrigued by Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut just because it’s Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut (and original screenplay), but early word on the Bosnian-set love story is that it’s better than just a vanity project. Is there nothing she can’t do? We’ll find out. 27.  Margaret: A Kenneth Lonergan movie starring Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Anna Paquin? We were interested six years ago, when this movie was first scheduled to come out.  More than half a decade later, it hardly matters if this is a quality project that stalled because of Lonergan’s unwillingness to turn in a less than a three-hour cut, or because it’s just not that good: we just want to remember what Matt Damon looked like in 2005.28. Warrior: Two brothers face off in this season’s take on families who use their fists, professionally speaking. In a “twist” this movie’s tortured, dueling brothers (Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton) are mixed martial artists, not boxers. Warrior is as straightforward as can be, but it works like gangbusters, anchored by a charismatic, career-amping turn from Hardy.29. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name, about an extremely precocious young boy whose father died on 9/11, gets turned into a movie, directed by Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) and co-starring Tom Hanks as the ill-fated father, with Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, James Gandolfini, and Jeffrey Wright. This A-list line up may just be able to tamp down some of Foer’s quirkier writer-ly tics, and better show-off its heartbreaking core. 30. Melancholia: Lars von Trier directs Kristen Dunst as a depressed bride who is getting married (to Alexander Skarsgard) as a newly discovered planet, Melancholia, dangerously approaches earth. Von Trier did his best to obscure the movie itself with his bad Cannes Nazi jokes, but he couldn’t quite succeed: Dunst has never been better.
31. Like Crazy: Anton Yelchin and up-and-comer Felicity Jones toppling as star-crossed, long-distance lovers in this mumblecore romance, which was well-received at Sundance. And yep, that’s the suddenly white-hot Jennifer Lawrence popping up briefly to make this relationship a tricky love triangle.32. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part One): Two things elevate this Twilight installment to we-actually-want-to-see-this territory: the presence of director Bill Condon, and the wackadoo vampire-birthing sequence that climaxes the movie. What will Bella’s wedding dress look like? How will her sex scene with Edward go? Who cares: Give us baby.33. War Horse: The Broadway play about a boy and his pet horse searching for each other during World War I was a magical hit thanks to its fantastically manipulated horse puppet. Will Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation be able to get that spirit of imagination across with a real equine?34. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol: For sheer tentpole thrills, let’s hope this fourth installment can deliver with Pixar genius Brad Bird at the helm of his live-action debut. Adding Jeremy Renner and Josh Holloway to the M:I team is a pretty good start.35. Coriolanus: Ralph Fiennes makes his directorial debut on this Shakespeare adaptation, but we’ve heard the real action comes from Vanessa Redgrave, who’s a surefire Oscar contender as his mother. Plus, we’re Jessica Chastain completists around here, so we feel obligated to go and support what may be her hundredth movie role of the year.
36. Carnage:  Roman Polanski’s first film since he was released from house arrest is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s Tony-winning play God of Carnage. It co-stars Jodie Foster (whose affection for wildly misbehaving men seems to know no bounds), Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly as two sets of Brooklyn parents who face off, increasingly inappropriately, over an altercation between their sons. There will be projectile vomiting.  37. The Sitter: In his second movie of the fall, an as-yet unslimmed-down Jonah Hill goes the raunch comedy route, playing a babysitter who brings his charges into the city because he wants to get laid (by Ari Graynor, so you can’t really blame him). His contribution to the big men with tiny children genre (see: Kindergarden Cop, Mr. Mom, Big Daddy) is likely to contain more curse words than all previous entries combined. 38. In Time: Justin Timberlake gets even more serious about this acting thing, in the high-concept sci-fi action movie about a world where time is literally money, and everyone is programmed to die at 27, unless they can find some scratch. Amanda Seyfried co-stars (and so does Mad Men’s Pete), in a highly stylized thriller that should definitively answer the question of whether Olivia Wilde playing Timberlake’s mother (no one ages) ever stops being creepy. 39. Footloose: For those who think a remake of the Kevin Bacon original is sacrilege, well, real talk: it wasn’t that great, and the dancing could be improved upon. The new version appears to have almost Step Up level choreography, and in the hands of director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) will easily be a whole lot cooler than the original. If nothing else, new leading man Kenny Wormald’s Boston-accented “This is ahhhhr time” speech, is likely to go down in the annals of ridiculous, if rousing, movie pep talks.40. Tower Heist: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy team up to rob a Bernie Madoff knock off in Brett Ratner’s latest action comedy. Promising elements include: the supporting cast (Matthew Broderick, Alan Alda, Gabourey Sidibe, Tea Leoni); Ratner is finally working with Murphy, the guy long time Ratner-collaborator Chris Tucker was always riffing on; and the Murphy-Stiller dynamic, which seems to have Stiller playing the non-antic straight man.
41. The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn: We’d rather see War Horse, but we won’t neglect Spielberg’s other big movie this fall, a motion-captured adaptation of the classic comic-book hero. Still, despite Spielberg’s hard sell at Comic-Con, we’re not quite convinced that the uncanny valley of mo-cap was the right stylistic choice for this property. Consider this movie December’s biggest question mark.42. A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas: Because we’ve got to finish out the trilogy, right? At the very least, it’s got a Neil Patrick Harris musical number, and those rarely disappoint.43. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: The first installment in the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law series felt like a self-conscious franchise starter, but this one eschewed the usual names and cast Noomi Rapace as the female lead and Mad Men actor Jared Harris as Sherlock’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty. Might it improve on the original?44. Restless: Gus Van Sant’s indie drama about two teenage funeral crashers received fairly mixed reactions at Cannes, but lead actress Mia Wasikowska always intrigues, and we’re curious about Henry Hopper, scion of the late Dennis. Plus, it’s Van Sant — even his misfires give you something to talk about.45. Abduction: Look, the poster for this thing has Taylor Lautner sliding down the side of a glass skyscraper, gun in hand. That’s pure ridiculous cheese, and hopefully the movie is fun enough to know it.
46. The Rum Diary: Johnny Depp basically reprises his role as Hunter S. Thompson in this adaptation of Thompson’s zany novel set in Puerto Rico, and co-starring Amber Heard.  Results seem appropriately, and enticingly, gonzo. 47. Dream House: This time-hopping horror movie about a haunted house whose previous residents have been brutally murdered — possibly by the protagonist (Daniel Craig)— looks genuinely scary, if you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re not, this is the movie that Craig and his now wife, Rachel Weisz, got together on, so you can check out their chemistry while peeking through your fingers.  48. I Don’t Know How She Does It: Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a working mother overwhelmed by life and love in the latest film from the screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada (who also wrote this fall’s We Bought a Zoo). Should satisfy basic rom-com and Sex and the City needs in one go. 49. The Big Year: Ready for the high stakes world of competitive bird watching?! No, really. Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson play bird watchers at a high stakes contest in the movie most likely to feature a cameo from Jonathan Franzen. (That probably won’t happen, but it’s a real missed opportunity.) 50. New Year’s Eve: This overstuffed follow up to Valentine’s Day co-stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lea Michelle, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Halle Berry and on and on and on, but the only reason we’re interested at all is to take a look at the chemistry between Hilary Swank and Ludacris.
Vulture’s 50 Most Anticipated Films of the Fall