There is no end to the number of movies that are specifically about certain seasons, but they usually take place in the summer or the winter. There are films about holiday seasons, of course — but in terms of movies that center around specific times of the year, the hottest and coldest seasons tend to get the most cinematic love. Spring usually just kind of gets folded into summer on film, and when it comes to the fall, movies most commonly have a Halloween focus.
Still, there are actually a lot more movies than one might realize that pay tribute to autumn. The leaves change color, the air turns colder, and everything smells and tastes like pumpkin spice. Whether they’re movies about going back to school, the beginning of the football season, families getting together for big feasts, or enjoying that crisp autumnal air, these are not just the best movies about the fall, but the best to watch during the fall.
After “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable,” writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was on top of the world and could seemingly do no wrong. The public reaction to “Signs” wasn’t quite as universally positive, but it was still a generally well-received movie. But it was with “The Village” — actually his sixth feature — that the consensus about Shyamalan began to sour a bit, with him receiving some of his first truly bad reviews since he broke on the scene with “The Sixth Sense.”
While “The Village” has its problems, there have been some attempts to reappraise it, with people claiming it’s a better movie than it originally got credit for — audiences just had impossibly high expectations for Shyamalan’s movies at the time that he would never be able to live up to. If nothing else, the movie is a gorgeous tribute to the fall season, with much of the movie taking place outdoors. The reds and oranges of the season are on full display, not only in the flora but also in the costumes of the characters.
John Hughes was one of the definitive filmmakers of coming-of-age movies for Gen Xers, responsible for such 1980s classics as “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” One of his ’80s movies that is sometimes relegated to the B tier is “St. Elmo’s Fire,” which follows a group of friends as they finish school and are faced with having to be adults for the first time in their lives.
But to be the B tier next to those aforementioned movies obviously doesn’t mean “St. Elmo’s Fire” is a bad movie — in fact, it can be argued that it’s Hughes’ most underrated. It lacks some of the youthful energy and sillier elements of his other movies of the era and was unfairly judged for that, but it remains a wonderful snapshot of what it was like during that era to be coming down from the big post-college-graduation summer party, and go into the first fall of adulthood with your friends in tow.
The beats of “Step Mom” are fairly familiar, as it follows a woman (Susan Sarandon) who gets divorced and, amidst a heartbreaking health scare, has to cope with her children bonding with their new stepmother (Julia Roberts) — while finding that hating the new woman isn’t as easy as she would like. It doesn’t break any major creative ground and there are few surprises along the way, but it’s a touching tale nonetheless and the two female leads — plus male lead Ed Harris — do a lot to elevate the material.
Like many family dramedies, “Step Mom” has a very cozy feel to it, largely thanks to how much of the movie takes place in the fall and features characters bundled up in cute outerwear. This is played up heavily in the main poster for the movie, which depicts the two female leads in fall weather attire with plenty of orange coloring permeating the scene.
It goes without saying that Disney’s take on the real-life Native American woman Pocahontas was much brighter, happier, and more kid-friendly than the real story. Glossing over that history with a colorful animated movie filled with cheery songs and anthropomorphic animals would’ve been taken to task today far more than it was back in 1995. But there’s no changing the fact that, when taking the movie for what it is and the era in which it was released, “Pocahontas” is a lovely picture absolutely brimming with the vibes and the colors of autumn.
In addition, the movie’s big song, “Colors of the Wind,” was and remains a beautiful tribute to the fall season — even if the Vanessa Williams-sung version was released and saw the majority of its radio airplay during the summer of 1995. Even apart from the movie, just try listening to “Colors of the Wind” at any time of year and not immediately imagine brisk fall air and sipping a cup of hot cocoa.
Another Julia Roberts movie that leans heavily on its setting in the autumn months, “Mystic Pizza” came at a very different time in her career than “Step Mom.” Roberts was just a small part of an ensemble cast in this coming-of-age movie set around the titular pizza parlor, which also included future superstars like Matt Damon and Vincent D’Onofrio, to name just a few.
There might not be anything inherently fall-like about pizza itself, but a bunch of friends gathering at the local pizza parlor does have the feel of that time of year when it’s getting too cold to be at the beach, and young adults need an indoor spot to serve as the center of their social circle. Small-town ice cream shops and pizza parlors often serve that purpose, and “Mystic Pizza” is a fantastic representation of that small-town hangout during the cooler months of the year.
Just because a movie’s title references fall or autumn doesn’t mean that it automatically gets a spot on this list. Neither “Sweet November” nor “Autumn in New York” were worthy of inclusion, for example, despite their on-the-nose names, because they just aren’t especially good movies. However, in the case of “Legends of the Fall,” the movie isn’t just perfectly named for this list, it actually deserves to be here.
One of several star vehicles for Brad Pitt in the mid-’90s when he was first proving capable of headlining a film, “Legends of the Fall” is an epic that spans multiple decades of the early 1900s, focusing on life in the wilderness of Montana during that era. Its Academy Award-nominated cinematography captures not only the lush woods and rivers of the region, but features sweeping autumnal vistas in a way that few other movies do.
It probably needs to be addressed right off the bat that the title “Indian Summer” hasn’t aged well, since the term hasn’t either. To describe that period that often occurs sometime in the fall when it gets unseasonably warm for a time, the more politically correct “second summer” is one of the agreed-upon replacements (via SF Gate). But “Indian Summer” is what this 1993 dramedy is called, so it’s what it’s going to be referred to — and since it’s a very heartwarming coming-of-age tale, it was worthy of inclusion, despite its problematic title.
Revisiting a group of friends at different points in their life during same time every year, “Indian Summer” is a sweet little film, the kind that hits different every time you watch it, colored by your own evolving life experiences. It also reminds us just how much we miss Bill Paxton, taken from us far, far too soon.
It makes sense that a family of vampires would put down stakes — pun intended — in the Pacific Northwest, as sunny days are few and far between. While sunlight doesn’t quite have as dangerous of an effect on the vampires of the “Twilight” franchise as it does for most fictional vampires, that pesky sparkle would still give them away in an instant. And one of the side effects of having a movie that takes place in an area where every day is cloudy and chilly is that “Twilight” ends up feeling like a very autumn-specific film.
While all of the movies in the “Twilight” saga largely take place in the same area, the first movie has the strongest fall vibes. Not only does the movie not globetrot to sunny Italy, like later installments, but as a self-contained story about a love triangle between a teen girl, a vampire, and a werewolf, there are just a lot more scenes of people in light jackets being out in the chilly fall air.
It won’t take long before you start to notice that there are a lot of romantic comedies on this list. Autumn just seems to be the perfect time of year to set a movie about two people falling in love — the summer is for partying, but by the winter holidays, you hope to already have someone to snuggle up with. So this leaves the fall season to find that person to cuddle with before you get snowed in until spring.
Reese Witherspoon has done her time in romantic comedies, but her most iconic just might be “Sweet Home Alabama.” It’s the story of Melanie (Witherspoon), who is all set to marry a big city boy named Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) but first has to return home and get her estranged husband Jake (Josh Lucas) to finally sign their divorce papers. Big surprise, it doesn’t happen, and Melanie and Jake realize they are still in love. It’s a predictable but nonetheless satisfying ending to a surprisingly sweet and funny movie: the perfect fall snuggle-watch.
The word “cider” in the title of the film “The Cider House Rules” might automatically invoke those fall feelings — but luckily, it doesn’t end up just being a coincidence, because it’s basically the cinematic version of a popular autumnal beverage. The story of a WWII-era orphanage, the movie not only has plenty of beautiful fall oranges and reds, but plenty of people wearing sweaters and scarves as well.
Despite being released in 1999, “The Cider House Rules” has the look and feel of the era it is set in. The coming-of-age story — a lot of these movies are, which is not a coincidence — follows an orphan (Tobey Maguire) who tries to make a life for himself once he leaves the confines of the group home where he has grown up. It’s a career-making performance for Maguire as well as co-star Charlize Theron, although Michael Caine arguably proves the defining presence in the film as orphanage doctor and abortionist Wilbur Larch.
There might not be anything overtly autumnal about “Waiting to Exhale” on the surface, but the movie’s themes of friendship, camaraderie, and the importance of group bonding definitely give it those late-fall feels. The story of four women struggling with various relationship problems and often finding that the only people they can really rely on in life are each other, the movie was Forest Whitaker’s theatrical directorial debut and is thus far one of only four films he has helmed.
The title song, “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” by the late Whitney Houston, is like an autumn hug in audio form. It’s not only an anthem to friendship, but it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy the way that only sitting around with your friends by candlelight listening to music and drinking wine can. In 2011, star Angela Bassett confirmed that a sequel was in the works and that all four stars — herself, Houston, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon — were on board, but Houston’s death sadly made that impossible. Still, Devine claimed as recently as 2020 that the movie was still coming (per Essence).
You can’t talk about fall movies without talking about football. And there are definitely a few sports films on this list, starting with this Denzel Washington entry based on the inspiring true story of a coach who attempted to integrate a high school football team in Virginia in the early 1970s. Being a Disney production, the movie definitely softens the actual events and glosses over some of the nastier aspects, but it still captures its general essence.
While several professional sports take place in the fall, the season just belongs to football in the U.S. — and “Remember the Titans” is a great movie to watch between NFL or NCAA games. There is very little it does differently than other films in the genre, but that doesn’t make it any less inspiring or the stakes feel any less important. Just because you know how a sports movie’s big game is going to end, doesn’t mean your heart isn’t still beating out of your chest in those final moments before the buzzer.
The idea to bring the beloved children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” to life via a live-action movie was an odd one indeed. But between the involvement of filmmaker Spike Jonze and that first trailer — which has earned its place among the all-time best movie trailers in history — people were a lot more willing to give this unusual concept a chance. Much of the creative success of the movie surely came from the decision to use animatronic suits created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop rather than using CG, which gives the Wild Things a realism, warmth, and even terror that building them digitally wouldn’t have accomplished.
The island that the Wild Things inhabit — as well as the creatures themselves — live entirely in the imagination of young Max. But it’s supposed to be a bittersweet dream, and therefore, the fantastical world that he has built in his mind is pretty but also has a coldness to it. In other words, it seems to be a world that exists in a perpetual state of autumn.
“Dan in Real Life” is the kind of movie that isn’t going to challenge you or push you too far out of your comfort zone, but it also isn’t trying to. It’s just an old-fashioned feel-good movie about a man trying to reconnect with his family as well as find new love. It takes place during the point in Steve Carell‘s career where he was trying to break out of the shadow of Michael Scott and prove he could be more than just a laugh-out-loud-comedy guy — and he demonstrates that very well here.
The movie takes place in Rhode Island, one of the most gorgeous places in the United States, particularly during the fall. It not only provides a suitably cozy backdrop for the happy vibe of the movie, but it also gives everyone an excuse to constantly wear sweaters and flannels — not only the characters on screen, but likely the people watching the movie as well.
Another football movie that’s great to watch in the fall, “Rudy” is also an inspiring true-life story — only this time, it’s more specifically about one person. The film is about Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who fulfilled his dream of playing for the Notre Dame college football team despite a long list of obstacles that stood in his way. While it was one of the first significant adult roles for star Sean Astin, the movie is also noteworthy in that it features early roles for both Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn — and it’s where the two eventual longtime friends and collaborators first met (per Nicki Swift).
One of the things that makes “Rudy” special is that it was actually shot on the Notre Dame campus, which was noteworthy because the school hadn’t allowed a film to be shot there since 1940 (per the University of Notre Dame’s website). It’s a historic, beautiful campus, and it not only lends the movie authenticity, but makes it a visual treat to behold — particularly since so much of it was shot during autumn.
One of the lesser-known movies on this list is the 2002 period drama “Far From Heaven.” But one need only look at trailers and screen grabs to see why it belongs here, as you’d be hard-pressed to find a single frame that isn’t a glorious celebration of fall and all of the season’s most vibrant colors and views.
In addition to being an absolute feast for the senses, “Far From Heaven” is also an excellent and superbly polished period romance that features top-notch performances from an incredible cast that includes the likes of Julianne Moore, Patricia Clarkson, Dennis Quaid, Viola Davis, and many others. Not only did Moore earn a best actress nomination for the film, but so did Edward Lachman for his breathtaking cinematography. Even if romantic melodramas aren’t typically your thing, give “Far From Heaven” a chance, if for no other reason than how sumptuous it all looks.
One of the things that defines the autumn season, especially post-Halloween, is food. Whatever holidays you celebrate in November, there’s probably a pretty good chance that you have at least one or two big gatherings that revolve around sharing a big meal. And one of the most significant aspects of a fall meal is pie. So a movie that is, at least in part, a love letter to the delicious dessert is bound to give people fall vibes no matter what time of year the movie takes place.
“Waitress” is as sweet a movie as any of the oven-baked pastries it so lovingly showcases, the story of a small-town waitress who takes emotions from her troubled life and uses them as inspiration for unique types of pie. Sadly, the tragic death of writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly prior to the release of “Waitress” (per the NY Times) ended up giving the movie a more bittersweet vibe, but that just means the movie deserves all the more love and affection.
At least two generations have fond memories of growing up with the film work of Robin Williams, his movies on constant repeat at countless slumber parties and family gatherings. Part of what made him so effective is that he starred in movies for all ages, from carefree kids to serious adults — not to mention teenagers.
Gen Xers in particular probably still get goosebumps when they see the iconic “O Captain” scene from “Dead Poets Society,” as it was a movie that defined their teenage years. Not only is it a wonderful look at how the right teacher can turn around a group of disaffected youths, but “Dead Poets Society” is also a great fall movie given how many scenes are shot outside among the New England foliage. And, spoiler alert, it’s not even the best Robin Williams film set in autumn (more on that later).
The final — and arguably best — football movie on our list is “Friday Night Lights.” Not to be confused with the TV show of the same name that was loosely based on the same book/true story, it follows a high school football team in a town that treats the sport like it’s the most important thing in the world. While putting such high stakes on the shoulders of a group of teenagers is problematic in ways that the movie addresses (and some that it doesn’t), it’s still a wonderfully inspiring story that deserves a watch any time of the year.
One of the best things about sports is that they can bring people together, and this movie is a great demonstration of that. The movie features not just Billy Bob Thornton with a stellar performance as the coach, but it also has a terrific ensemble of young actors, including future “Magnum P.I.” reboot star Jay Hernandez and Amber Heard.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan seem like they made a dozen movies together, although they actually only starred in four. But they have such effortless on-screen chemistry and have made several undeniable classics that it’s not hard to see why people might assume they’ve been cast against one another frequently. Contrarians might say “Joe vs the Volcano” is their best movie. More traditional rom-com lovers would probably vote for “Sleepless in Seattle.” But as far as movies where fall is the primary setting, “You’ve Got Mail” takes the cake.
That’s not to say it’s only deserving of mention here on that seasonal technicality, however. It’s an extremely sweet and charming romantic comedy about two people who start up an online flirtation — back when such a thing felt like a niche novelty to the average moviegoer — not realizing that they run rival businesses in real life. Like any good rom-com, there are countless scenes of the pair walking through beautiful parks and down impossibly clean city streets, with the added bonus of much of it taking place during the fall and having those associated colors spice up the frame.
“Soul Food” has autumn vibes less because of the season itself and more because, like some other films on this list, it revolves around food-based gatherings. The classic 1997 dramedy centers around a family who struggles to maintain their long tradition of getting together and sharing a big meal as various problems begin to drive wedges into the close-knit group.
Outside of the spooky season, few fall traditions are shared by more people than breaking bread with loved ones, and “Soul Food” beautifully encapsulates why that is so important in building and maintaining those bonds. It’s also the perfect movie to put on during such gatherings, or at least afterward, while everyone is recovering from the meal and trying to make a little room for dessert. A sequel has been in the works for some time, and at least as of 2020, it is still confirmed to be in development (per The Hollywood Reporter).
Now we move on to Pennsylvania, another part of the country that is especially breathtaking in the later months of the year. That’s the setting of “Silver Linings Playbook,” one of the most critically acclaimed films by writer/director David O. Russell. It stars Bradley Cooper as Pat, a man struggling with mental health issues who is trying to get back on his feet after a stay at a hospital. He meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who tries to get him out of his shell, all while Pat is also attempting to navigate his complicated relationship with his dad (Robert De Niro).
All three leads are playing a bit against type, but they are all fascinating to watch in their own ways. Chris Tucker also puts in an impressive turn, proving he can handle non-manic, non-slapstick characters very capably. It’s an excellent movie all around, made all the better by its charmingly autumnal backdrop.
Another movie that deserves to be on this list both because of its fall-adjacent title and because it’s actually a great movie is “October Sky.” Based on a true story, the movie is about a young man (Jake Gyllenhaal) who develops a fascination with rockets after Russia launched Sputnik 1 in 1959 and later goes on to become an actual engineer at NASA. Obviously, he spends a lot of time outside, as he tests his various attempts at getting something airborne. And what better background to have for those scenes than fall colors?
While not a major box office success, “October Sky” quickly became a favorite among the locals of the various Tennessee towns it was filmed in, to the point that they created an annual October Sky Festival dedicated to both the movie and the true story itself.
If we have to explain to you why “Mean Girls” is a fall movie, then you definitely can’t sit with us. Any fan of the movie knows that October 3rd is “Mean Girls Day” (per Today), as it is famously the date when Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett) asks Cady (Lindsay Lohan) what day it is. Clearly, that proved he was in love with her … duh. While a movie having its unofficial real-life holiday take place in the fall would’ve been more than enough to qualify it as a fall movie, there’s plenty more to earn “Mean Girls” that distinction.
A pivotal portion of the movie takes place during Halloween, and continues on right through to the ill-fated Christmas pageant and beyond. Truth be told, the entire movie essentially follows the whole school year. But so much of it takes place in the fall, when Cady first starts going to North Shore High School and ends up meeting both the “Plastics” and the “Art Freaks” — and, like so many teenagers, quickly loses track of which one she’s supposed to love and which she’s supposed to hate.
All of Wes Anderson‘s movies have strong color palettes, and several of them definitely lean heavily into the colors of autumn. But if any one of his movies could be pinpointed as essentially one big love letter to the hues of falls, it’s his wonderful stop-motion classic “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” The entire movie is awash in orange, whether it’s the fur on the animals, the leaves on the trees, or the sky that seems to be at perpetual sunset.
As for the story, it is based on a Roald Dahl novel, revolving around the thieving fox the movie is named for (played by George Clooney) and how his deeds eventually come to negatively affect his family and friends. Anderson brings many of his common collaborators along to voice the cast of characters, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson, even playing a character (Stan Weasel) himself. His quirky filmmaking style proved a natural fit for this type of movie, and the later — and also great — “Isle of Dogs” only further hammered that home.
These is one reason and one reason only that the 2002 martial arts epic “Hero” is on this list — the iconic leaves fight scene that takes place between Ziyi Zhang and Maggie Cheung. The two masterful performers battle in a forest dense with yellow leaves, which swirl around the women as they kick, slash, and fly in breathtaking slow motion. It’s one of many brilliant set pieces in the historical drama about the Warring States period of Chinese history, but it’s easily the most iconic — which is saying something, considering it doesn’t feature star Jet Li.
Amidst the beautiful orange leaves are the eye-poppingly red outfits worn by the actors, a color combination that makes the whole scene look like fire. Most stunning of all is the end when, after one of the warriors finally falls, the leaves all magically turn from autumn orange to blood red. It’s just one of many examples of the movie’s incredible use of color to help tell the story, one that becomes instantly unforgettable.
Given that the first few installments of “Harry Potter” were essentially following an entire school year, autumn looms large over the franchise, as most of the films start — and take place heavily in — that season. Beyond that are the iconic scarves worn by Harry and company, which are the very colors of fall itself. But not unlike “Twilight,” it’s the first movie — “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” — that is the most prominent celebration of the season.
Because it’s the first movie, and Harry goes off to Hogwarts for the first time, it has a powerful “back to school” atmosphere throughout. On top of that, Quidditch plays a large part in the original movie, and it feels like exactly the kind of sport that would be most at home in the fall months. It isn’t hard to imagine “Monday Night Quidditch” sports programming, is it?
The cable-knit sweater worn by Chris Evans in the mystery comedy “Knives Out” is the stuff that fall movies are made of. But that isn’t the only reason the film is such a great watch for the season. Everyone is in their fanciest sweaters, coats, and jackets as they mingle both in the mansion of murdered novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Daniel Craig, clearly having the time of his life and savoring every word he speaks in his ridiculous accent, plays the detective looking to solve the crime. And, despite having just named three major stars, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this movie’s stellar ensemble.
Also along for the ride are Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Don Johnson, Frank Oz, Ana de Armas, all delivering that trademark Rian Johnson banter like pros. “Knives Out” has become one of the most acclaimed original movies of the last few years, and the fact that it’s said to be the start of an entire franchise is reason to be excited indeed.
Every Studio Ghibli movie is beautiful and sets a nearly impossible bar for other animation studios to meet. But they don’t all take place during the fall or properly utilize the amazing colors that such a setting offers. “Spirited Away” does, however, and remains one of the most gorgeous animated films of all time as a result.
The story centers around a ten-year-old Chichiro whose parents are magically turned into pigs, forcing her to look for answers in a bizarre and magical world. Every moment of this movie is a visual feast, but especially in the scenes where Chichiro is in wooded areas and among fields of flowers. The debate of which is the actual best Studio Ghibli film will rage on indefinitely and never have a clear consensus, but it’s very easy to make the case that “Spirited Away” is by far the most visually arresting.
“Lost in Translation” ends up being a movie that speaks to two seemingly different generations, but shows that they actually have much more to learn from each other than either might realize. Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte represents elder millennials, who were just entering adulthood in the early 2000s and weren’t sure what to do in a world that didn’t feel like it was built for them. And Bill Murray’s Bob is the baby boomer who feels past his prime, unsure of where he fits in — but who still wants to find a way to connect to someone else.
The two meet on the streets of Japan during the country’s cool, rainy autumn season, reflecting the ennui they both feel. They are able to come together, knowing their connection to each other is only temporary, but that it will impact both of their separate lives going forward. It’s a beautiful film for any generation, as everyone gets to a point where they need to be reminded that human connection is essential.
One of the perhaps less “fun” things often associated with the fall is election season, particularly every four years, when it’s time to vote on the president of the United States. But elections come in all shapes and sizes, from the so-called leader of the free world all the way down to deciding who should be a high school class president. Of course, to someone like Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the latter is just as important and she will not abide anyone who isn’t willing to take it as deadly serious as she does.
That is the premise behind the brilliantly dark comedy “Election,” co-starring Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick in performances that are among the best of their careers. There isn’t anything especially autumnal about the movie other than its general premise, but fall and elections do go hand in hand, and there is no better movie to represent the cross-section of those two things.
The title of “ultimate adventure movie” is a tough one to definitively award, but it’s not hard to declare “The Goonies” as a top contender for the kid version of this genre. One of the brilliant things about the film, and the reason it connects with so many audiences, is that has a variety of different preteen and teenager characters, allowing moviegoers to find someone to whom they can especially relate. All of the young actors are top-notch, bringing empathy and humor to the proceedings, and making them all incredibly easy to root for.
While much of “The Goonies” takes place underground, it’s still evident that it’s the fall, and that helps to permeate a sense of dread over the whole tale. It feels like its the last hurrah of summer, one final adventure before the kids are all forced to go their separate ways as the school year begins and their small community dissolves.
Robin Williams is back in “Good Will Hunting,” a movie involving education and autumn, once again attempting to inspire a disaffected youth. This time it’s Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who is found out to be a genuine mathematical genius, but lacks the ambition or belief in himself to fulfill his potential. Enter Williams as Dr. Maguire, a therapist who works with Will as part of a court-ordered probation and helps him to heal from past trauma so he can move forward with his life.
It all sounds like sappy melodramatic pap, but “Good Will Hunting” is actually an incredible movie that avoids tired clichés. It earned Williams a much-deserved Academy Award, as well as awards for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for their screenplay. One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is the park bench pep talk that Dr. Maguire gives to Will, with the autumn leaves swirling around them as the former finally gets the latter to realize that he’s about to make one of the biggest mistakes of his life — and sets him about fixing it.
Filmmaker Eric Rohmer wanted to make sure that all four seasons got their own movie, and set about creating the ambitious “Tales of Four Seasons” meta franchise. Following “A Tale of Springtime,” “A Tale of Winter,” and “Summer’s Tale,” Rohmer concluded the project with “Autumn Tale,” often considered the best of the four films. As gimmicky as such an endeavor might seem, each movie brilliantly walks the line between playing into the season it is based on while never completely relying on it, and “Autumn Tale” is the perfect culmination of his efforts.
Aside from featuring some of the most gorgeous images of the colors of autumn ever put on screen, “Autumn Tale” is a story about an owner of a French vineyard who has been unlucky in love since becoming a widow. When her friends put out a personal ad without her knowledge, shenanigans ensue as one of her friends poses as her to vet a potential suitor. It’s the stuff of classic wild comedies, but it works, and is as funny as it is touching and visually beautiful.
Yet another Roald Dahl classic turned into an equally strong movie is “Matilda.” The young Matilda discovers she has telekinetic powers, which aid her in getting revenge on the cruel adults in her life — namely, her parents and the principal at her school. Mara Wilson is endlessly charming in the title role, and all of the adult actors — Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Pam Ferris, and Paul Reubens — relish chewing the scenery as over-the-top depictions of adults, clearly meant for us to see them the way young Matilda does.
“Matilda” is a perfect fall family movie not only because it is the time of year that much of the action takes place, but it’s just the kind of funny and heartwarming film that household members of all ages will enjoy watching together when the weather gets too cold to do much else besides huddle around and watch movies. It remains the last directorial effort by DeVito to be universally praised by critics and audiences alike.
The only Wes Anderson movie to make this list aside from “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Rushmore” was the director’s breakthrough movie and the one that truly marked him as a filmmaker to watch. It stars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, and Brian Cox in a story about a quirky and mature-beyond-his-years — at least he thinks so — 15-year-old named Max (Schwartzman). Max ends up getting in over his head with schemes involving and directed at several adults, largely in an effort to earn the affections of a teacher at his school, Rosemary Cross (Williams).
“Rushmore” partially follows Max and company during the early months of the school year, and really nails the feeling of a private school in the fall. Of course, it’s also just a really funny movie, and the one that is most often credited for starting the so-called “second career” of Bill Murray, in which he returned to prominence as a film actor and would go on to do some of his best work.
John Hughes was starting to make more movies with largely adult casts towards the end of the ’80s — before he would go all-in on slapstick family comedies in the ’90s, with the likes of “Home Alone” and “Beethoven” — and one of the best of these movies remains 1987’s “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Starring the dream comedy duo of Steve Martin and John Candy, each at the height of their fame and stardom, the movie is a road trip classic about two men trying to get home for Thanksgiving — and having absolutely everything that can go wrong, go wrong.
Almost everyone has some nightmare story about traveling for the holidays and missing this plane or being late for that bus, and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is the most hilariously exaggerated version of such stories. Martin and Candy are electric together, and it is yet another reminder that we lost Candy far too soon.
Filmmaker David Lynch is most commonly associated with darker, psychologically challenging art films like “Eraserhead,” Mulholland Drive,” “The Elephant Man,” and “Inland Empire.” So you’d be forgiven for having actually seen the 1999 road drama “The Straight Story” and having no clue that he directed it. It’s not only his only G-rated movie, but it’s a Disney movie to boot, making it an anomaly in Lynch’s resume for sure.
All that being said, don’t go thinking “The Straight Story” is some unremarkable cash-grab studio picture. It’s actually an excellent film based on the real-life story of Alvin Straight, who had only a lawn mower with which to travel nearly 250 miles across multiple states to visit his sick brother. As Straight (played in the movie by Oscar-nominated actor Richard Farnsworth) makes the remarkable journey through the Midwest, the audience is treated to the beauty of America’s heartland in autumn, arguably the time of year when it is at its most beautiful.
A seminal family movie, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” taking place in the fall ends up having two important side effects. First, it allows for part of it to take place during Halloween, making it easy for the alien to be hidden among the costumed trick-or-treaters. But most importantly, it results in one of the most iconic images in the history of film — the bicycle chase where the gang of kids is running from the authorities, decked out in hoodies and jackets, with E.T. using his powers to float the group high above the city for a magical aerial ride.
Few kids who saw “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and then jumped on their bikes afterward didn’t imagine that they were flying through the clouds, yet another example of the kind of magic and wonder that movies can elicit in both children and also adults who are still children at heart.
Some people say the ultimate romantic comedy is “Annie Hall.” It’s a fair position to take, but if there’s any other single movie that comes closest to not only challenging that throne but claiming it, it’s “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s the kind of movie that has been referenced, spoofed, and parodied so much that it’s easy to feel like you’ve seen the movie even if you haven’t — surely, many of the people who have quipped some version of “I’ll have what she’s having” don’t even know where the line comes from. But such is the impact of an undeniable all-time great movie.
While “When Harry Met Sally” takes place over a long span of time, eventually culminating in the climatic New Years’ Eve scene, it’s in the autumn months that Harry and Sally spend the bulk of their time together. It’s among the falling leaves in Central Park and down the chilly autumn streets of New York City that so much of the movie’s legendary banter between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan takes place. Whether or not it’s the ultimate rom-com, it definitely feels like the ultimate fall movie.