The summer movie season is for all intents and purposes at an end and most of the year’s biggest releases are already behind us. The fall season is generally a much different beast, as the focus turns to prestige dramas and awards contenders rather than mega-budget blockbusters. Of course, anyone who’s even remotely aware of the 2015 release schedule knows that there is much more than Oscar bait in store for the back end of the year. In fact, if the following 10 films are anything to go by (and there are many more to be excited about beyond the ones we’ve highlighted here), Fall 2015 could be one of the best movie release seasons in years. Grab some popcorn because you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the theater in the coming months!
10. Black Mass (September 18th)
It’s been difficult to take Johnny Depp seriously as an actor for quite some time now, as he has fallen into a pattern of repeating the same flamboyant shtick ever since he struck gold with the Jack Sparrow character in Pirates of the Caribbean back in 2003. Judging by the film’s promotional material, Black Mass looks like a return to form for Depp, who is channeling the Academy Award-nominated actor that he is for the role of notorious Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger. In addition to a scenery-chewing performance from Depp, the film is in capable hands in the form of director Scott Cooper, whose previous major efforts include Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace. Those films, while flawed, signaled Cooper as a talented director to keep an eye on and Black Mass could very well turn out to be his finest picture yet.
9. Steve Jobs (October 3)
Frankly, it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of yet another Steve Jobs biopic, especially after the lackluster 2013 Ashton Kutcher-vehicle Jobs didn’t do the man’s legacy any favors. It’s really too bad that film had to be made first, as Steve Jobs looks to be the definitive dramatic rendition of the late Apple Inc. co-founder’s life. Choosing Michael Fassbender for the title role was an inspired choice, as the versatile actor is almost unrecognizable in the part, and it will be interesting to see how Seth Rogen’s dramatic chops hold up as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Throw in the combined Oscar-winning talent of scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle, and don’t be surprised if Steve Jobs comes up in awards season discussions early next year.
8. The Martian (October 2)
You never really know which Ridley Scott you’re going to get these days, as the veteran director has made some incredible films, but also had his fair share of duds, especially in recent years. When Scott tackles science fiction though, you can’t help but get excited, as the man is responsible for Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982), two of the greatest films in the genre. While Scott’s last sci-fi outing, the 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus, left a lot to be desired, there’s good reason to be optimistic about The Martian. For one, the cast on this thing is ridiculous, with Matt Damon in the starring role and a supporting roster that includes Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and at least half a dozen other talented players. Plus, we’ve yet to see Scott tackle sci-fi that feels so close to our modern day technological reality, so it will be interesting to see how he handles a more grounded space story.
7. Sicario (September 18)
A gripping thriller that made a big splash at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Sicario takes the style and tone of Zero Dark Thirty‘s war on terror narrative and transplants it to the American war on drugs along the US-Mexico border. The film stars Emily Blunt, who seems to be channeling the intensity and strength she brought to her roles in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014) as an FBI agent in way over her head, and she will surely have some help from male co-stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro in carrying the dramatic load. Sicario is being helmed by Prisoners (2013) director Denis Villeneuve and as anyone who’s watched that film can attest, Villeneuve is a director who knows how to do tense drama, meaning that at the very least, Sicario will at least be an intense ride.
6. The Good Dinosaur (November 25)
Pixar’s already having an amazing year thanks to the enormous critical and commercial success of Inside Out and the talented animation studio is looking for a second hit with The Good Dinosaur. Pixar’s never released more than one film in a given year and while The Good Dinosaur‘s delays and rewrites may justifiably raise concern over the studio’s ability to deliver multiple hits so close together, there’s no reason to expect that the consistently-excellent Pixar won’t deliver another touching work that appeals to all ages. While trailers haven’t done the best job in showing what’s actually going on in the film, the story of Arlo the dinosaur and his unlikely friendship with a human has a good chance of being one of the most emotional tales of the year. Get your tissues ready because this one looks like it will be bringing the waterworks!
5. Bridge of Spies (October 16)
Every Spielberg film is an event and the cold war drama Bridge of Spies looks like it will only continue that trend. Starring Tom Hanks as an American lawyer recruited to help save a pilot captured by the Soviet Union, Bridge of Spies has classic Spielberg written all over it and already looks like a rival to his other period drama fare such as Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012). At this point, we’ve been absolutely spoiled with great films from our greatest living director and it’s a safe bet that Bridge of Spies will be featured in awards discussions later this year. After all, Spielberg isn’t in the habit of making flops.
4. Spectre (November 6)
With all the attention focused on a certain series making its return at the end of the year (hint: it’s in the number 1 spot), it’s easy to forget that James Bond is making an appearance on the big screen too with one of his most anticipated films yet, Spectre. Skyfall director Sam Mendes is returning for this one, which will see Daniel Craig’s Bond take on Christoph Waltz’s mysterious villain and the shadowy SPECTRE crime syndicate. From the look of the trailers and other promotional material, Spectre looks like it will try and marry the old school globetrotting feel of the earlier films (the snowy mountain battle has more than a passing resemblance to the classic ski chase of 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) and Craig’s grittier, action-heavy take on the character. If Spectre can find a good balance between the dramatic storytelling of Casino Royale and the impressive action setpeices of Quantam of Solace and Skyfall, this may turn out to be Craig’s best outing yet.
3. The Revenant (December 25)
Even if Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t starring in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s new film, The Revenant would still be one of the year’s most anticipated. Iñárritu directed last year’s Best Picture winner Birdman, so naturally his next directorial effort is generating a lot of buzz and DiCaprio’s presence only helps in that regard. A dramatization of the incredible true story of American frontiersman Hugh Glass, The Revenant looks like a tour de force in every sense of the term; a visually-striking, brutal depiction of one man’s struggle against nature and man alike. When you take into consideration that the production was an Apocalypse Now-level struggle with gruelling shooting schedules and ballooning budgets, all in an effort to make The Revenant as authentic as possible, it’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of seeing what very well could be the film that finally wins Leo an Oscar (if Iñárritu can get Michael Keaton a nomination, he can surely take DiCaprio all the way).
2. The Hateful Eight (December 25)
Quentin Tarantino remains one of the most vibrant and talented directors working today and each one of his films is an event that makes you take a step back and really consider what good filmmaking is all about. Continuing his Western preoccupation that he started with the 2012 revenge fantasy Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight changes things up with a Reservoir Dogs-like approach, trapping its cast of lowlifes and outlaws in a stagecoach passover while they wait out a winter storm. As this is Tarantino, expect plenty of smart and snappy dialogue, double-crosses and plot twists, and some fantastic performances from a great cast that includes Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Samuel L. Jackson.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (December 18)
Could it be anything else? Star Wars: The Force Awakens is easily the most anticipated film in years and is widely expected to shatter box office records when it releases on December 18th. There’s a distinct air of confidence surrounding this film, as if Disney know they’re sitting on something special and that kind of attitude is truly infectious. It also helps that, at least from an outside perspective, this looks like a lovingly-crafted return to the Star Wars film universe that had its brand so badly damaged by the prequel trilogy over a decade ago. Whether we’ll still be singing the praises of a rejuvenated Star Wars when we’re drowning under a never-ending stream of yearly sequels and spin-offs remains to be seen, but as of this moment, The Force Awakens is the best representation of why we watch and enjoy movies.