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14th November 2023

The top 10 films to watch this autumn

It’s autumn and time to get cosy in front of the small screen. If you’re struggling with what to watch this year, this is your list to consult
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The top 10 films to watch this autumn
Credit: Roberto Nickolson @ Pexels

Autumn is the time of year to stay inside and keep cosy, so it is no surprise that so many people romanticise activities like reading and watching TV and films. Unlike long series and books, however, films are a perfect way to relax and romanticise the change of seasons whilst not having to commit to weeks’ worth of episodes or pages.

But, as everybody knows, finding the right film, especially if you are unlikely to watch a vast number of films over autumn due to mounting workloads, can be stressful and extremely irritating when you pick the wrong one.

Now, many people think of Halloween when we speak about autumn, but this list is exclusively for the moment when the leaves start to fall, not necessarily the time for horrors. So, here are my top ten recommendations for films to watch during autumn that aren’t Halloween-themed.

1. Dead Poets Society

This American coming-of-age diamond is a tragic but wonderful story about a group of boarding school boys and their inspirational English teacher Mr Keating (Robin Williams). The film captures the beauty of growing up and male platonic relationships in a way that perhaps hasn’t been reached since. Inspired to look at life differently, each boy within the class undergoes a personal transformation, and all in the tides and changes of the autumn season.

It’s not necessarily about autumn, but with a back-to-school, autumnal colour scheme and references to Thanksgiving and harvest, it is perfect for this time of year. It’s a BAFTA and Academy Award winner, and if you haven’t yet watched it, grab a box of tissues, and get ready to feel transformed (maybe with a renewed love for literature and the arts).

2. Knives out

A modern whodunit, Knives Out follows private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) as he attempts to solve the murder of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a successful mystery novelist found dead at his 85th birthday party. All his family and nurse Marta (Ana De Armas) are called into question, each with a unique motive. 

Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon) is the first son; aspiring to own his father’s publishing company, Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) is the first daughter; she wants to lay claim to the house and is mother to Ransom (Chris Evans), Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) is Harlem’s daughter in law; she has been embezzling money for years and is mother to Meg (Katherine Langford). It’s an all-star cast that had to be highlighted: unlike many other stacked casts, each character of this film feels fully rounded and is acted to perfection.

There are more twists and turns than one viewer could count or predict. It’s entrancing, entertaining, and certainly timeless. Set on the grounds of a stunning manor surrounded by autumn leaves and trees, this film is autumnal in an unassuming way.

If you haven’t watched this before, it is a must, and even if you have, rewatching this film is a joy as you can see the clues unfold before they are revealed in the thrilling climax. 

3. Silver Linings Playbook

This romantic comedy follows Bradley Cooper’s Pat, who, after being released from the psychiatric ward for his bipolar disorder, soon meets the newly widowed Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence). The two become inseparable and enter a dance competition together, keeping Pat grounded as he begins to move on from his estranged ex-wife.

Both struggle against their mental illnesses and undergo personal development as well as caring for each other. It’s a simple story but so well acted that, despite their faults, you can’t help but love both our protagonists. Set in autumnal Pennsylvania and using a recurring motif of Pat’s runs through the small town, the film is cosy yet also inspirational. Showing people in periods of change, it’s perfect for the start of the academic year.

This was nominated for a whole host of awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Screenplay in the Oscars (making up the Big Five). Most importantly, it has a very satisfying ending.

4. Fantastic Mr Fox

A stop-motion comedy that is so much more than a story about foxes, Wes Anderson developed a simple children’s story into an open and honest discussion of feeling adrift in adulthood, as well as the beauty of childhood. The story follows a family of foxes, and Mr Fox’s (George Clooney) desire to go back to his thieving roots. The recurring themes of this film, while overtly speaking about living in a hole underground, are the aspiration for another life, and the risks parents go to for the people they love.

While planning to steal from the three farmers who run the land, the foxes team up with the other local animals who are reaching a point of starvation. Anderson uses animals to explore righteousness and reset the injustice of wealth dispersion in small communities. The film is comforting and explores the importance of familial love and found families, as well as coming together in the face of injustice, and is a surprisingly inspirational and emotional watch.

Moreover, as is always the case with Wes Anderson, the attention paid to the lighting and colours is impeccable. Undoubtedly autumnal with its orange, gold, and red colour scheme, as well as its setting during harvest and Thanksgiving, this film is a perfect cosy watch.

5. The Age of Adaline

This is a romantic fantasy film following the extraordinary life of Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively). After marrying back in 1929 and having a daughter in 1932, Adaline is involved in a fatal car accident. Despite initially dying, after being struck by lightning, Adaline is frozen in time and continues to live eternally, never ageing past 29. She vows to never fall in love and never put down roots for fear of being found out, but when she meets Ellis (Michiel Huisman) at a party, her plan falls apart.

It’s a wonderfully easy watch, with fantastic visuals and costuming, often set against stormy backdrops. While much of this film does not occur in autumn, the clothing and themes of the film feel very autumnal and certainly a good film to relax to when the weather is cold outside. It’s a simple film but a great piece of romantic fantasy.

6. Little Women (2019)

This American coming-of-age film set in 1868 is a classic for its interpretation of sister and womanhood. There are other adaptations of this novel but the 2019 version is by far my favourite, as the cast combined with Greta Gerwig’s direction are perfection. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters: Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and Amy (Florence Pugh).

We see the trials and tribulations of growing up with siblings, as well as growing up during the time of the American Civil War. Laurie (Timothée Chalamet), a neighbour, remains a firm friend of all four of the girls and eventually finds himself confused between his romantic and platonic feelings.

This film is beautiful, as each sister finds her path without judgement from the others, despite their different wants in life. Gerwig’s direction pays credit to each girl without degrading one’s goals for another.

The setting in rural America during autumn, as well as the orange and yellow tones of their costumes, creates a warm glow in the film which feels perfectly cosy. It’s a tragic yet beautiful story that continues to remain relevant, stacked with a brilliant cast. Little Women is both comforting and nostalgic, perfect for a peaceful afternoon.

7. You’ve Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail is a 90s romantic comedy, set against the backdrop of central New York in the fall with a ‘friends to enemies to lovers’ trope. It follows Joe (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen (Meg Ryan) who connect through anonymous emails, sharing all their thoughts and feelings and developing a firm friendship.

Kathleen is an independent bookshop owner and Joe owns the conglomerate ‘Fox Books’, what you or I might know to be Waterstones, and he opens one right across the road from Kathleen’s ‘The Shop Around the Corner’. Unknowingly, the two become rivals while simultaneously getting closer and closer online.

It’s nostalgic, romantic, and endlessly cosy with its montages of long walks through leafy parks, decorating for the Thanksgiving and Christmas period, and its love of books. It’s been a classic for over two decades for a reason and you can’t help but fall in love with these characters.

8. Good Will Hunting

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) works as a cleaner at Harvard whilst on parole from jail in South Boston. One day Will finds a maths problem left on the chalkboard and solves it despite having no formal education. The lecturer then writes a harder problem, discovering Will and changing his prospects in the process.

While working at Harvard, Will also meets his romantic interest Skylar (Minnie Driver), an English medical graduate, and continually sees his therapist Sean (Robin Williams) with whom he develops a firm friendship.

The film follows Will’s huge personal journey in recovering from his past and finding himself worthy of love and loving in return. Set on the grounds of Harvard and the city of Boston, and like many back-to-school or university movies, it is extremely comforting and autumnal. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards, with Affleck and Damon winning for Best Screenplay. Comforting, emotional, and empowering: it’s simply perfect.

9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Whilst the Harry Potter series can be watched all year round, and any one of the films could be watched for an autumnal sentiment, I believe Azkaban to be the most autumnal of them all.

With speak of werewolves, Animagus characters from Sirius (Gary Oldman) to Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), as well as the introduction of dementors and the Patronus, this film has many autumnal moments. My favourite being Hermione’s use of the time turner when next to Hagrid’s pumpkin patch.

Every film contains spells, magic, mysterious creatures, and back-to-school themes, so all eight could be on the list, but if you wanted to watch just one (and not in order), Azkaban should be it.

10. The Shawshank Redemption

This prison drama is already a classic, and if you haven’t yet watched it, use this autumn as an excuse to. The film follows Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) after he is wrongly convicted of two life sentences for the murder of his wife and her lover in 1947.

Within the twenty years that he spends in prison, he meets Red (Morgan Freeman) as well as a band of another five friends, and is used to launder money for the prison warden due to his previous life as a banker. All the while, Andy tries to plan his escape out. The men become close and lovable, and we are subject to the suffering of prison inmates, as well as the rivalries that are born out of these environments.

Despite not doing particularly well at the box office, critical and awards success has helped cement it as the cultural behemoth it is today. Except for the ending set amongst the wheat fields, there aren’t too many clear autumnal motifs in the film. Nevertheless, there is something about the feeling of watching it that makes it just right for this time of year. The story is intensely gripping, as well as heartbreakingly emotional. If you haven’t watched it yet, this is your sign.

So, to wrap up: I am not claiming that any of these films are niche or unheard of, in fact, I am certain of the opposite. Whilst there are many other brilliant movies that you can cosy up in front of this autumn, these are my top ten for the tenth month of the year. Now, before the season ends, enjoy a moment away from academic stress and relax with one of these quintessentially autumnal films.

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