For movie lovers autumn officially marks the beginning of Oscar season. While this year’s fall movie releases look pretty paltry for heavy hitters and especially for women in strong roles, we’ve cherry picked some fall films to put on your collective radar.
Using The New York Times Fall Movie Preview as a resource we’ve compiled a list of films that feature strong female or queer characters, respected actresses, and documentaries and features about or directed by women.
From the biting and rather hilarious Bachelorette (already out) to the lesbian-themed werewolf flick Jack and Diane to Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow’s latest Oscar bait, break out the bucket of popcorn and settle in to fall movies.
Bachelorette - Already Released
Hailed as the indie Bridesmaids Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher comprise a band of dysfunctional, mean-girl bridesmaids who collectively wreck the bride's -- a girl they tormented in high school -- special day. Rebel Wilson plays the bride. Booze, drugs, sex and strippers abound.
Hello I Must Be Going – Already Released
LGBT ally Melanie Lynskey –- who’s appeared in queer themed fare including Heavenly Creatures, But I’m a Cheerleader andThe L Word -- stars in this romantic comedy about a divorcee forced to move back to her parents home in Connecticut where she ends up having an affair with a 19-year-old. Blythe Danner plays her mom, which is pretty much worth the price of admission in and of itself.
Francine - Already Released
An Oscar winner for The Fighter, and the woman who played Helena’s ex girlfriend on The L Word, Melissa Leo plays an ex-convict attempting to assimilate back into society. She becomes increasingly isolated from humanity when she begins working with animals. WARNING: This is not the feel-good film of the year, but Leo, so compelling to watch when she's digging deep --as in Frozen River -- will no doubt bring on the pathos.
The Master - Out Today
Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly anticipated The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix, is loosely based on Scientology L. Ron Hubbard’s life. The movie offers up its share of fairly reprehensible male archetypes but look for the ever-watchable Amy Adams and Laura Dern to costar.
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Resident Evil: Retribution – Out Today
Another installment in the Resident Evil series with Milla Jovovich leading a ragtag bunch of humans against a zombie-breeding corporation. Michelle Rodriguez costars in her prototypical role as gun-toting badass. Milla and Michelle in 3-D. Need we say more?
About Cherry – Sept. 21
It’s the old small-town girl in the big city story when a young woman (Ashley Hinshaw) moves to San Francisco and gets sucked into the porn industry. The always-welcome Heather Graham – with a nod and wink to her starmaking role as porn star Rollergirl in Boogie Nights -- plays a lesbian and a lesbian porn director who mentors the young adult film starlet. Graham's played gay in at least two other films - Gray Matters and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.
Backwards – Sept. 21
Off the buzz of the London Olympics comes the inspirational film about an Olympic rower who returns to her old high school to teach the women’s rowing team. Sarah Megan Thomas, wrote and stars in the film that costars James Van Der Beek, Margaret Colin and Alexandra Metz.
House at the End of the Street – Sept. 21
The it girl of the moment – or the next several years with those Hunger Games films she’s got slated – Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue (CSI, Leaving Las Vegas) star in this horror flick about a mother and daughter who move into a house where gruesome murders occurred years before. And just in time for Halloween season!
17 Girls – Sept 21
Based on the disturbing true story of small-town American teen girls who made a pact to get pregnant at the same time. French filmmakers Delphine and Muriel Coulin direct the film that stars Louise Grinberg, Juliette Darche, Roxane Duran and Esther Garrel.
Bringing Up Bobby – Sept 28
Famke Janssen, of X-Men and Nip/Tuck fame, directs Milla Jovovich in a story about an Eastern European con artist who, with her son, attempts to start a new life. The film costars Maria Cross and Bill Pullman.
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Won’t Back Down – Sept. 28
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star as moms who work against city politics to set out to change the education system that’s keeping kids down. Rosie Perez, Holly Hunter and Marianne Jean-Baptiste costar. Now, that’s a heavy-hitting female-led cast.
Pitch Perfect – Oct. 5
Glee clubs are big business in Hollywood thanks to that little Ryan Murphy show. Pitch Perfect stars Anna Kendrick (Camp, Up in the Air), Anna Camp (The Good Wife, True Blood, House of Lies) , Rebel Wilson (Bachelorette) and Brittany Snow as college women engaged in a battle of the sexes with the rival guys’ show choir. If that’s not enough to watch – singer Ester Dean plays a lesbian character in the glee club.
Sister – Oct. 5
Ursula Meier directs Léa Seydoux (Farewell My Queen, Midnight in Paris) in a story about a woman whose younger brother provides for her by hustling tourists at a Swiss Resort. Gillian Anderson costars.
Wuthering Heights – Oct. 5
British director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) offers up a Wuthering Heights like we’ve never seen before. Stark and cool, Arnold’s Wuthering Heights won the award for best cinematography at the Venice International Film Festival.
Smashed – Oct. 12
Death Proof actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives a tour de force performance as an alcoholic who alienates her husband (Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul) when she gets sober. The terrific supporting cast includes Megan Mullalley and her husband Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Oscar winner for The Help Octavia Spencer and Mary Kay Place (Citizen Ruth, My So Called Life).
That’s What She Said – Oct. 19
True Blood's Carrie Preston directs this comedy, adapted from the play by Kellie Overbey, about the adventures of a Manhattanite –the very fierce and funny Anne Heche and a nymphomanicac (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat) and a love junkie (Marcia Debonis). The film screened at Los Angeles’ LGBT film festival Outfest this summer.
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Yogawoman – October 19
Yoga, once only a male-only activity has become ubiquitous. And women have been at the forefront of the yoga revolution with a proliferation of female teachers and practitioners. Saraswati Clere and Kate Clere McIntyre direct the documentary that examines the relationship between women and yoga.
Cloud Atlas – Oct. 26
Lana, who is trans, and Andy Wachowski, the directing siblings who gave the world Bound, and Run Lola Run director Tom Tykver offer up the epic of the century that transcends time and place. The cast includes Academy Award winner Halle Berry, To Hanks, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.
Sassypants- Oct. 26
Awkward's Ashley Rickards plays a teen struggling to come of age in her over-protective mom's (Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn) household. Things don't get much easier for her when she up and escapes to her gay dad's house, although she does befriend his much younger boyfriend, The Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment, like you've never seen him. Out director Coley Sohn helmed the movie that made the LGBT film fest rounds this summer.
Jack and Diane – Nov. 2
The lesbian werewolf flick it seemed would never get made after several actresses who were attached (Ellen Page, Allison Pill, Olivia Thirlby to name a few), moved on to other projects. Thankfully the film has come to fruition starring Juno Temple, Riley Keough and Kylie Minogue.
Vamps – November 2
Director Amy Heckerling and Alicia Silverstone reunite in this horror-comedy film, which casts the Clueless actress and Krysten Ritter as socialite vampires looking for love in New York. Reigning over the vampire court is Signourney Weaver, who plays an undead queen thirsty for blood. Apologies, but the trailer is not online yet!
Coming Up Roses – November 9
Borrowing a line from the musical Gypsy, Coming Up Roses portrays the relationship of a stage mother (Bernadette Peters) and her daughter (Rachel Brosnahan) as they brave life’s hardships with moments of song. Directed by Lisa Albright, Roses also features Tony nominee Peter Friedman of Ragtime fame. Again, apologies - no trailer yet.
Anna Karenina – November 16
Keira Knightley plays the titular Anna Karenina, a 19th-century Russian aristocrat swept into a torrid affair with the dashing Count Vronsky. Joe Wright, director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, crafts a visually decadent adaptation of this Tolstoy classic, which also stars Jude Law as Anna’s elder husband.
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Les Miserables - Dec. 14
Anne Hathaway, Samantha Barks, Amanda Seyfried, and Helena Bonham Carter are the leading ladies of this much-anticipated musical adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel, which follows Jean Valjean’s (Hugh Jackman) flight through the class-rebellious powder keg of 19th-century France. The revolution is set to classic tunes like “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own.”
Zero Dark Thirty – Dec. 19
From The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, the first and only woman, so far, to win a Best Directing Oscar, comes the film about the Navy Seal raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez and Mark Strong star.
The Loving Story – December 10
Loving v. Virginia is one of the greatest love stories to ever to come before the Supreme Court—and now, it’s given the cinematic spotlight it deserves. Director Nancy Bureski captures the turbulence of the Civil Rights era through the romance of Mildred and Richard Loving, the mixed race couple that challenged Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law and won.
On the Road - Dec. 21
Kristen Stewart of The Runaways and Twilight fame stars as Marylou in this international film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s cult classic novel. The film follows struggling writer Sal and his friend Dean, who are the epitome of the Beat Generation, as they travel across the United States trying to find inspiration. Stewart yet again plays a high school-aged girl, this time as Dean’s young bride. Kristen Dunst, Amy Adams and Elisabeth Moss also make appearances.
West of Memphis – Dec. 25
The anti-feel-good Christmas film, in this documentary director Amy Berg tells the story of the West Memphis Three, who were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys and spent 18 years in prison protesting their innocence until they were let go.
Blurbs by Tracy E. Gilchrist, Daniel Reynolds and Lauren Jow.