Top 20: Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall/Holiday Movie Season

Fall has begun (at the movies, anyways)! School is back in session, textbook pages are fervently being turned every weekday, the first few tests and essays are already on the horizon, and the weekends can’t get here quick enough! More importantly for us here at Reel Reactions, the beginning of September marks the start of the fall and holiday movie season, which more or less signifies the start of awards season. These are the big movies, folks! These are the ones that grab the big prizes, get all the press, and storm up all the buzz. It’s an exciting period of the year for filmgoers and 2013 is lining it up for sure. In fact, it’s very possible that 2013 will outshine 2012, which was one of the finest years for film in recent memory thanks to The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, and more. Below, we have compiled a list of 20 films being released between September and Christmas that we’ve got our eyes on and that we just can’t wait to see. Beginning with our most anticipated film of this final stretch of 2013, here are Reel Reactions’ most anticipated movies of the fall and holiday season.


12 Years a Slave film poster.jpg1. 12 Years a Slave
Even though the hype for 12 Years a Slave is growing more and more outlandish by the day, there’s no denying the potential this film has to be a major milestone this season.  An acclaimed director – Steve McQueen, hot off two criminally underrated films (Hunger, Shame) – working with an incredible cast of Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, and the underappreciated Chiwetel Ejiofor is already enough of a selling point, but reviews out of the Toronto and Telluride Film Festivals are hailing the film as the next Schindler’s List. Only time will tell if the comparison is warranted but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t buying into the hype already. Regardless of the reviews and the Oscar hysteria, the film looks like an expertly crafted, powerful, and emotional true tale, one with a topic – American slavery – that is often disregarded on the big screen (Tarantino’s Django Unchained dealt with similar themes but in a much pulpier, cartoonish way), and it’s for these reasons that it’s our most anticipated film of the fall.
Release Date: October 18th

Gravity Poster.jpg2. Gravity
Say whatever you want about the overabundance of CGI in movies these days, but there’s no denying its ability to support creative visionaries such as Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men). His first film in seven years, Gravity, follows an astronaut’s desperate attempt to survive in space after a debris storm leaves her stranded from her station. The film reportedly proves just how versatile and supportive CGI technology can be in the hands of truly talented and creative people, and Cuaron spent years building the technology from scratch in order to properly depict a feeling of weightlessness in space. If early reviews are to be believed, Gravity is supposed to be a uniquely immersive experience that single handedly proves the cinematic possibilities that CGI and 3D create for filmmakers; beyond that, the film is supposed to contain a great story about one woman’s (Sandra Bullock) unending will to survive. It just happens to be wrapped up in mind-blowing special effects. What more could you ask for?
Release Date: October 4th

Wolf of Wall Street Teaser.jpg3. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese returns to the big screen this fall with an atypical project that has some atypical casting, but, in very typical Scorsese fashion, everything surrounding the picture looks great. The pic is headed by Leonardo DiCaprio – who was quoted at the Golden Globes touting his performance as Jordan Belfort to be his best work to date – but includes many familiar faces in the support, such as Matthew McConaughey (who will reappear on this list later on), Jonah Hill, The Artist’s Jean Dujardin, and Rob Reiner. The memoir-based dark comedy has more in common with the underrated The King of Comedy than recent hits like Shutter Island or The Departed, though does it boast a script from Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter, which just makes us even more excited. The lack of familiarity that the film’s fantastic first trailer brought to light makes Wolf an interesting property for Scorsese & Co. – I personally like the glimpse of DiCaprio pop-locking while Kanye West’s ‘Black Skinhead’ broods in the background – but there’s little room for doubt in how this one is going to play out. For a more detailed expectation of Wolf, check out our trailer reaction here.
Release Date: November 15th

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty poster.jpg4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This one was a pop fly that came soaring out of left field and knocked us all unconscious when it made itself known over the summer. Nothing but positive early whispers, some stills, a couple posters, and a teaser trailer for this ambitious remake, both starring and directed by Ben Stiller, are currently circulating, but all the viral content has been nothing short of stunning. Backed by Of Monsters and Men’s lovely ‘Dirty Paws,’ the nearly dialogue-less first trailer shows a real change of direction for Stiller, showcasing a visual style, tone, and ingenuity that illuminates true growth and maturation for the actor-filmmaker. With Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott, and Sean Penn (!!!) backing Stiller up, as well as a Forrest Gump-like vibe resonating from all the promotional material, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is just waiting in the wings to surprise moviegoers on Christmas Day. Rarely would a film starring and directed by Ben Stiller ever be shrouded in this much awards press and early anticipation, but this could very well be the surprise cinematic punch of the holiday season.
Release Date: December 25th

Anchorman 2 Teaser Poster.jpg5. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 
Have you seen Anchorman!?! If you haven’t, I just feel sorry for you because you’ve missed out on one of the funniest movies of the past twenty or so years; let’s face it though, you have. Packed to the brim with ridiculous haircuts, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes, and hilarious cameos, the original Anchorman catapulted Will Farrell, Steve Carell, and Paul Rudd to superstardom. Now, almost a decade later, everyone’s come back together to grace us with the sequel we’ve all been waiting for. While Anchorman 2 certainly has big shoes to fill and could very well turn out to be a total disappointment, it’s impossible not to be hopeful and excited about the return of the Channel 4 News Team. Thankfully the trailer was hysterical so there’s hope that lightening really does strike the same place twice.
Release Date: December 20th

Inside Llewyn Davis Poster.jpg6. Inside Llewyn Davis
It’s hard to just dismiss a new Coen Brothers effort. Ever since their renaissance back in 2007 when No Country For Old Men was devoured by the Academy and the Fargo filmmakers were finally the household names they deserved to be, Joel and Ethan Coen stormed into multiplexes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, securing their place back in the public domain of renowned filmmakers. Taking a surely much needed break after the release of their Oscar tent pole, True Grit, the brothers have zeroed in on the rise of folk music and with their classic attention to detail, unique dialogue, love for pop culture, and one-of-a-kind directorial voice, they’ve crafted the unofficial musical biopic/love letter to the folk genre. Utilizing the talents of astonishing singers like Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, as well as Coen regular John Goodman, Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham, Girls standout Adam Driver, and the ultra-talented Oscar Issac in the lead, Inside Llewyn Davis is poised to be another Coen standard, which means high, high grades and lots of awards love…and maybe a Billboard charted soundtrack, overseen by T-Bone Burnett and Marcus Mumford. Click over to our trailer reaction here.
Release Date: December 20th

7Her2013Poster.jpg. Her
Spike Jonze was one of the most original filmmakers to emerge from the end of the 1990s when his debut, Being John Malkovich, became a surprise Oscar heavyweight and nabbed him a Best Director nomination right out of the gate. Over ten years later, Jonze has picked his projects carefully, with this fall’s Her only being his fourth directorial effort to date. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson, Jonze has flipped the man vs. machine theme and instead has crafted a love story that could only be possible in a technologically abundant world like our own. The stunning first trailer made an Internet splash and if all follows accordingly, Jonze could be finding a ticket to Oscar night in the next few months. Also, Her could be another tour de force for lead Phoenix, who came rollicking back into acting exactly one year ago with his mesmerizing performance in The Master. With so much to look forward to this fall, Her might be the independent gem that brings some surprising gravitas to the fall season.
Release Date: December 18th

8. American Hustle
David O. Russell is like clockwork. Last year he was up for two Oscars as both writer and director of the charming Silver Linings Playbook, and by that point he was already prepping this new period piece ensemble film. Bringing in the best parts of The Fighter – Christian Bale and Amy Adams – and the best parts of Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper – plus the always reliable Jeremy Renner and a ‘based on a true story’ premise placed in the 1970s, American Hustle has a lot of prestige packed within it. The teaser trailer promised the swift direction and breakneck pace that O. Russell excels at, plus a montage that feels more like Goodfellas than Silver Linings Playbook or O. Russell’s quirky and light I Heart Huckabees. Though Silver Linings Playbook had a dark bluntness about it, American Hustle looks to be the director’s darkest flick yet. It has yet to screen at any film festivals but early word should be making its way around the block over the next few weeks.
Release Date: December 13th

All is Lost poster.jpg9.  All is Lost
The next one-man-show on our list, All is Lost follows Robert Redford as an unnamed man who must face his own morality when he’s shipwrecked in the middle of the sea.  While a quick synopsis may elicit some comparisons to last years Life of Pi, there are no tigers or carnivorous islands in this film, only Redford and a sinking boat. Redford hasn’t acted outside of a film he’s directed in almost a decade, so that alone speaks volumes about the film. Not to mention the Oscar buzz that’s surrounding his performance, which could lead to his first nomination in forty years. Even if the story isn’t as flashy as something like Gravity, the potential for harrowing drama is ripe thanks to the talent involved with this film (director J.C. Chandor directed and received a screenwriting nomination for his mesmerizing debut Margin Call), and it will certainly be one of the most interesting films of the fall.
Release Date: October 18th

1The Counselor Poster.jpg0. The Counselor 
Ridley Scott may be one of the most infuriating directors working today. Not because he makes horrible movies but because he is wildly inconsistent. For every Blade Runner and American Gangster we get middle-of-the-road fare like Body of Lies and Robin Hood.  Worst of all, it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the excitement that always surrounds his newest release, which often leads to major disappointments (i.e. Prometheus). So it should come as no surprise that we couldn’t help but get caught up in the hype surrounding his newest film, The Counselor. Regardless of Scott’s involvement, our anticipation for this movie is through the roof. Michael Fassbender is one of the most consistent actors working today and he’s surrounded by the likes of Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, a sultry Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt (their second collaboration of the year after 12 Years a Slave). Not to mention it’s famed author Cormac McCarthy’s first ever-original screenplay; his previous novels, No Country For Old Men and The Road, were adapted to great reception and even some Oscar love. Despite Scott’s past few misfires we remain cautiously optimistic that this will be a winner in every regard and a return to form for Ridley Scott.
Release Date: October 25th

Captain Phillips Poster.jpg11. Captain Philips
While many viewers know Paul Greengrass best for his Bourne movies, many tend to forget his innovative and heartbreaking work on United 93. His Bourne movies are definitely fun, well-made thrillers, but it wasn’t until United 93 that Greengrass proved he’s a director to be reckoned with. He took what could’ve easily been manipulative post-9/11 propaganda and turned it into a film packed to the brim with emotion and heroism.  Now, three years after his misfire Green Zone, Greengrass returns to based-on-real-life filmmaking with Captain Philips. While initial trailers were worryingly bland and simple, reactions from the festival circuit are all around fantastic, highly praising Tom Hanks’ performance and newcomer Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the Somalian pirates.  Only time will tell if Captain Phillips will rise to the heights of United 93, but with Greengrass back telling topical stories with a cast that includes the likes of Tom Hanks, it’s hard not to be intrigued.
Release Date: October 11th

Out of the Furnace Poster.jpg12. Out of the Furnace
Out of the Furnace still isn’t collecting the anticipation we believe it deserves, but maybe that’s all for the better so it comes in swinging on December 6th. Featuring a killer ensemble and directed by the film’s co-writer, Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), this is going to be the gritty, dirty revenge thriller that Dead Man Down attempted to be. With sticky photography, calling back the urban images of The Deer Hunter, and knowing the skill Cooper has with his actors – he did direct Jeff Bridges to his first career Oscar win – this along with The Counselor, American Hustle, and Prisoners (also on this list) may possess the ability to revive the ensemble thriller once and for all. Plus, how does the blaring solemnity of Pearl Jam’s Release pounding in the background of a trailer for a film about avenging one’s missing brother not excite absolutely everybody?
Release Date: December 6th

Prisoners2013Poster.jpg13. Prisoners
If we had sat down to write this list a month ago, Prisoners would still have gotten a spot, though we would have touched on our skepticism regarding the flick’s first trailer which, as many argued, gave away a lot of plot. However, the early reviews out of both the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival put to rest all accusations. Clocking in at two hours and forty minutes, Prisoners is the stateside debut for French filmmaker Denis Villenueve, who last graced the screen with the remarkable Incendies in 2010. With a laundry list of actors and actresses rounding out a cast led by what is apparently an unstoppable and ferocious Hugh Jackman, Prisoners is going to be a slow-burn, onion-like thriller. Emotional, gritty, tragic, and quite possibly anticlimactic, Prisoners is going to torture moviegoers when it hits theaters at the end of September…torture them in the best way possible.
Release Date: September 20th

Kill Your Darlings poster.jpg14. Kill Your Darlings
It’s really interesting how a crusade as influential and significant as the Beat movement can have such an everlasting effect on literature while basically leaving film untouched.  Sure there are classics like Rebel Without a Cause, but outside of the 1950s, the Beat movement has never been quite as prevalent on film as it has been in literature. Well that all stands to change this fall with Kill Your Darlings, a film about the volatile friendships between Alan Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs and the brutal murder that brought them all together. The concept alone is intriguing enough to make this list, but what really elevates our anticipation is the incredible cast first-time director John Krokidas has assembled for this tale. Daniel Radcliffe makes another step out of Harry Potter’s shadow as he takes on the central role of Ginsberg while Dane Dehaan is slowly but surely proving to be one of the best young actors working today after fantastic work in great films like Chronicle and The Place Beyond the Pines. This isn’t even mentioning the consistently great Jack Huston, Ben Foster, and Elizabeth Olsen, who round out the supporting ensemble. With a cast this great, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Beat movement catch on with a whole new generation.
Release Date: October 16th

Dallas Buyers Club poster.jpg15. Dallas Buyers Club
2012 was the beginning of the ‘McConaissance’ – when Killer Joe and Bernie raised the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey actually act?” The truth started to take form after McConaughey became a major player in the Oscar race with numerous claiming, and hoping, that he would score a nod for his scene-stealing performance in Magic Mike. When that didn’t pan out, 2013 began, and it’s looking to be an even better year than last. Mud crushed it with critics and audiences alike back in May and The Wolf of Wall Street will feature McConaughey playing second fiddle to Leonardo DiCaprio, but Dallas Buyers Club is a feast for the born-again actor. First, it’s inspired by the wildly true story about a boozing and sex-driven cowboy who began to sell alternate treatments for HIV and AIDS following his own terminal diagnosis. Second, early reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival trickled in just a few days ago praising McConaughey’s very physical performance and singer/actor Jared Leto, who plays a transvestite member of the eponymous ‘club.’ Though the story and the first trailer carries a lot of weight in promoting the film to the public, for anyone following the career trajectory of Matthew McConaughey as of late, Dallas Buyers Club should be a must-see this fall.
Release Date: November 1st

Don Jon Poster.jpg16. Don Jon
How many people watched Third Rock From the Sun during the 90s and thought little Tommy Solomon would one day grow up to direct his own movie? Very few I would assume.  Nevertheless, here we are on the eve of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon.  While the prospect of Gordon-Levitt directing may have been dumbfounded back in the 90s, today it seems like a logical and inspired next step after putting out consistently great performances in a myriad of good movies over the past two decades.  Best of all, he’s working with a concept that is ripe with potential for fantastic storytelling and big laughs. The idea that romantic comedies are basically porn for women is a fresh and intriguing concept that, if executed well, could be incredibly insightful while simultaneously hilarious. If that alone doesn’t get you excited than maybe the cast will. Gordon-Levitt, who also stars in the film, surrounds himself with the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza, who hasn’t been on the big screen in almost a decade! If the trailers are indicative of the final film’s quality, then we’re looking at the first of many great films from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Release Date: September 27th

Rush movie poster.jpg17. Rush
Unfortunately it’s been half a decade since Ron Howard made a truly great film, Frost/Nixon, so it’s hard to get our hopes up seeing as we’ve been hurt before. However, if early reviews are to be believed, Howard’s new film, Rush, is a return to form thanks to a solid screenplay, inspired direction, and a number of strong performances. Most intriguing though is the fact that the film was independently financed, a rarity for films of this scope. According to Howard, the studios were uninterested in something as untested as Formula 1 racing on the big screen. They’re also seemingly uninterested in mid-budget filmmaking, so Howard took it upon himself to finance the $50 million dollar budget through a series of bonds and contingencies. If the film ends up being successful, it could be a huge step forward for independent movies and could lead to more original films entering the marketplace, which could only be a good thing.
Release Date: September 27th

18. Foxcatcher
It might be considered a risky move to blindly anticipate a film to the point of placing it on a list like this before a first trailer is even released, but we’ve been tracking this film since its announcement and every new detail is getting us more excited for the trailer’s release than that of the actual film. Starring an odd trifecta of gifted actors in their own respect – Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum – and directed by Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), the film’s biggest tease is its grim true story about a paranoid schizophrenic man who killed Olympic Wrestling champion Dave Schultz. Per Miller’s tendency to cast actors against type (remember Jonah Hill in Moneyball?), The Office star, Steve Carell, will be playing the murderous character, Jon du Pont. The first few stills have showed Carell in his layers of makeup, but no footage has surfaced seeing the comic actor in action. In fact, the film doesn’t even make its premiere for a few more weeks. Depending on how the early reactions and eventual trailer shape up to be, the prognosticators may be calling for much love in the direction of Foxcatcher come the end of 2013.
Release Date: December 20th

Oldboy 2013 film poster.jpg19. Oldboy
Much of the anticipation leaning toward Spike Lee’s remake – starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sharlto Copley – derives from how it will conclusively measure up to Park Chan-wook’s seismic international classic. Lifting the original’s plotline – and based on the first redband trailer, a number of Chan-wook’s set pieces and designs – Josh Brolin personifies the character originated by Choi Min-sik; a man emerging into the real world following fifteen years of imprisonment against his will and for a reason unknown. The chilling trailer showed off Lee’s affinity for violence as well as some stark cinematography and what will hopefully be a compelling and brutal performance from Josh Brolin. Though Copley goes unseen, his voice wafts through the trailer, each creepy sentence providing an eerie sting. After enjoying his violent work in Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium this summer, we’re looking forward to another villainous turnout from Copley. If nothing of value comes from the Oldboy remake, it will undoubtedly be an interesting final presentation.
Release Date: November 27th

The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug Teaser Poster.jpg20. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Yes, we know that many considered the first Hobbit film to be a disappointment; we know that it wasn’t as good as the Lord of the Rings films and that the book didn’t need to be split into three different movies. We get it, it’s “hip” right now to hate on The Hobbit but that’s not stopping us from getting excited about the upcoming sequel. Sure the first one had its problems, but all in all it was an entertaining experience that truly captured the adventurous spirit of the book. Martin Freeman was a great Bilbo, Ian McKellen was as great as ever as Gandalf, and Richard Armitrage nailed it as Thorin. A return to these characters is about as much as we could ask for, and best of all, Desolation of Smaug covers the best parts of the book, namely anything involving the nefarious titular dragon. Even better is the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch, of Star Trek Into Darkness and BBC’s Sherlock fame, is not only voicing the famous, greedy dragon but is also performing as the beast thanks to motion capture technology a la Andy Serkis’ Gollum. So all you haters just keep on hating because we here at Reel Reactions are ready for another journey to Middle Earth.
Release Date: December 13th

What’s your most anticipated film coming out this fall and holiday season?

Article by Mike Murphy & James Hausman


4 thoughts on “Top 20: Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall/Holiday Movie Season

  1. I found myself nodding along with every choice to both the “Best of 2013 Summer Movie Season” choices and this list as well. Hobbit aside(I really didn’t enjoy that first one), I absolutely want to see each and every one of these, with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity being the top two in my mind, almost interchangeably.

  2. Pingback: “The Counselor”: How Did ‘Most Anticipated’ Become A ‘Catastrophic Mess’? | Reel Reactions

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