20 Most Anticipated Fall Films of 2012

The annual flood of see-them-or-be-left-out titles will pummel your poor movie-buff planning like a surging tsunami.

20 Most Anticipated Fall Films

If you’re already stressed about catching up on the 2012 films you haven’t yet seen, scrambling to find an art house theater that’s still projecting Moonrise Kingdom and Oslo, August 31st, prepare to hit the panic button. Fall movie season is upon us, and come September, the annual flood of see-them-or-be-left-out titles will pummel your poor movie-buff planning like a surging tsunami. But, hey, look at the bright side: the months of September, October, November, and December almost always feature better fare than any other stretch of the year, and 2012, like clockwork, seems primed to do the same. Unable to keep our preview list to the customary total of 15, we bumped the roster to 20, and there’s still a handful we’re curious about. Can Sam Mendes bring anything more than a fresh martini to the Bond brand with Skyfall? Is Cloud Atlas every bit the fabulous mess it looks to be in its trailer? Is RZA’s martial arts actioner The Man with the Iron Fists in fact the C.R.E.A.M. of the season’s genre crop? We’re not sure, but we feel pretty confident that your fall filmgoing won’t be complete without the following 20 selections. And nobody needs any more holes to fill.

Keep the Lights On

Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs, September 7)

Reaching enamored audiences well beyond the gay community, Ira Sachs’s Keep the Lights On, a somewhat chilly, yet genuinely poignant, semi-autobiographical tale, charts a romance through its buoyant and wrenching stages, offering moments too painfully real to forget. In the lead role, Danish actor Thure Lindhart gives one of 2012’s best male performances.

The Master

The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, September 14)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to There Will Be Blood just enjoyed some positive early ink following an outdoor Chicago screening—the first glimpse at what many have surmised to be a Scientology allegory. Whatever its motives, Anderson’s looks to be as handsome as his last effort, and Joaquin Phoenix seems madly effective as a postwar, soul-searching drifter.

How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague (David France, September 21)

A deeply emotional documentary teeming with priceless archival footage, David France’s How to Survive a Plague may just be the definitive filmic snapshot of the Reagan-era AIDS crisis, its real-life drama not recreated by actors, but played out by the very people who, neglected by their government, had to find a way to fight for their own lives. Epic in scope, the film comprehensively illustrates the rise of ACT UP, and how, for many people, it changed the world.


Looper (Rian Johnson, September 28)

The last time Joseph Gordon-Levitt and director Rian Johnson teamed up, the result was Brick, a convoluted high school-set noir that gave cult-loving millennials a latter-day slice of Bogart. Upping the ante, the director and star are back with Looper, a far more ambitious sci-fi saga wherein Gordon-Levitt’s assassin is tasked to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). In a business not exactly known for vocalized favoritism, there’s something to be said for the fact that Gordon-Levitt, Willis, and co-star Emily Blunt have all publicly announced that Looper is the best film they’ve ever made.



Paperboy (Lee Daniels, October 5)

Is Lee Daniels an urban auteur with a knack for seedy texture? Or simply his own brand of potboiling provocateur, prone to sensationalism and headline-grabbing plot points? The questions may be definitively answered with the release of The Paperboy, Daniels’s follow-up to his Oscar-baity, city-squalor horrorhouse, Precious. Otherwise known as the movie in which Nicole Kidman pees on Zac Efron, The Paperboy reportedly boasts a feral turn from the oft-classy actress, who also shares the screen with John Cusack and 2012 MVP Matthew McConaughey.

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold, October 5)

The latest adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic went through multiple talent swaps in front of and behind the camera, with Michael Fassbender and Natalie Portman first chosen as the leads, and Peter Webber on board as director. The project finally fell into the lap of Fish Tank helmer Andrea Arnold, who decided on Kaya Scodelario and James Howson to play Cathy and Heathcliff. Though Brontë’s text describes Heathcliff as “a dark-skinned gypsy,” Howson’s portrayal will mark the first time a black actor has played the role on screen.

Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, October 12)

We at the site are a bit divided when it comes to Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, a bloody, foul-mouthed jaunt through Belgium’s fairy-tale hamlet. But there’s no disputing that McDonagh’s gonzo follow-up, which seems more than a little reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, boasts a cast that’s worth leaving the house for. Colin Farrell gets in front of the camera again for his Irish-playwright maestro, along with Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Abbie Cornish, and Gabourey Sidibe.

Holy Motors

Holy Motors (Leos Carax, October 17)

A competitor for this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, where it caused a considerable stir, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is one highly enticing curio, focusing on a man (Denis Lavant) who travels through a number of parallel lives. Is Carax this year’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul? At least one of us thinks Holy Motors looks like the most promising film of the season.


Killing Them Softly

Killing Them Softly (Andrew Dominik, October 19)

Brad Pitt follows his career-best work in Moneyball with a starring role in this rough-edged crime thriller, based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins. Set in New Orleans and co-starring Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, and Monsters’s Scoot McNairy, the film might seem like boilerplate thug fare if not for the presence of director Andrew Dominik, who previously teamed with Pitt on the evocative, picturesque western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

The Sessions

The Sessions (Ben Lewin, October 26)

An excellent post-Oscar-nomination success story, John Hawkes get his first buzzworthy lead role in The Sessions, a Sundance favorite that sees the reliable character actor portray a fact-based paraplegic who hires a sex surrogate so he can lose his virginity. Likely too well-acted to be overtly sentimental, the movie also boasts Helen Hunt’s baitiest role since As Good as it Gets, and stars William H. Macy as a priest who condones the therapeutic hanky panky. Barring a glut of indie manipulation, The Sessions could prove a heartwarmer well worth your time.

Jack and Diane

Jack and Diane (Bradley Rust Gray, November 2)

Juno Temple continues her stretch of fearless indie performances in Jack and Diane, a lesbian romance in which Temple’s Brit gets entangled with Riley Keough’s tomboyish Gothamite. The twist? Keough’s character has a tendency to morph into a werewolf, a manifestation of her burning, carnal desire. The movie’s aesthetic includes some arresting animation, and also on board is Kylie Minogue, who, incidentally, appears in Holy Motors too.


Lincoln (Steven Spielberg, November 9)

Surely the season’s biggest no-brainer must-see, Lincoln boasts an all-star pedigree from top to bottom. The man who crafted the script is none other than Tony Kushner, whose last big-screen venture was the riveting and scarily sharp Munich. Back in the director’s chair is Munich helmer Steven Spielberg, who’s sure to be in the awards discussion once again. And donning the beard and top hat of the titular American legend is the just-about-infallible Daniel Day-Lewis, who leads this year’s Best Actor race without a frame of footage seen.



LUV (Sheldon Candis, November 9)

Another Sundance favorite, LUV reportedly features a standout performance from Common, who brings the gravitas as the violent, ex-con uncle of a young boy (Michael Rainey Jr.). A tough-love road-trip-cum-cautionary-tale, LUV looks to be a family drama of equal parts tenderness and grit, and in a year that—surprise, surprise—is markedly whitewashed, it could fill the critically-doted black cinema role Pariah assumed last year.

Rust and Bone

Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard, November 16)

Also a highlight at Cannes, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone is getting the most attention for Marion Cotillard’s Oscar-y lead performance. The French beauty surely seems to have found her juiciest part since the one that crowned her Best Actress in 2008, playing an ill-fated killer whale trainer who takes the help of, and falls in love with, 25-year-old Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). Audiard’s last effort was the acclaimed A Prophet, and with a reported glut of wild plot developments, his follow-up seems a well-stocked drama not to be missed.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi (Ang Lee, November 21)

Anyone who’s seen the breathtaking trailer for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi will probably agree that it appears to be the year’s finest spectacle, trumping even our next much-anticipated entry. A 3D, CG-heavy adaptation of the Yann Martel novel many industry folks often deemed unfilmable, Lee’s philosophical fable claims the slot of industry-advancing blockbuster, a seemingly weighty prestige film that also makes the most of up-to-the-minute technology (word is you can’t tell the real tiger from his pixel-composed counterpart).

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Peter Jackson, December 14)

We don’t know if Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings prequel needed to retool Tolkien and stretch on for three chapters, but it sure is nice to head into a fall film season populated by Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, Andy Serkis’s Gollum, and a director who was probably always destined to pick up where he left off. Will The Hobbit trilogy be as momentous as its nearly 10-year-old predecessor? Probably not. But it will at least be a journey worth taking.


Les Misérables

Les Misérables (Tom Hooper, December 14)

Even if you’ve sawed off your pinky fingers to avoid emulating the snooty royals who gypped The Social Network out of its well-deserved Oscars, you can still be excited about Tom Hooper’s King’s Speech follow-up, a ridiculously ambitious, all-sung adaptation of the saddest musical in history. Les Miz buffs probably couldn’t ask for a better cast, as showman Hugh Jackman leads the pack as Jean Valjean, and tuneful starlets Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried appear as Fantine and Cosette, respectively. Throw in Russell Crowe and you’ve got an international Christmas tent pole, with Aussie actors, American ingenues, British directing chops, and the French Revolution.


Amour (Michael Haneke, December 19)

Perennial Cannes fave Michael Haneke unveils his latest Palmes d’Or winner on the world this December. Amour stars The Conformist’s French legend Louis Trintignant as one half of an elderly couple, whose way of life is turned and tested when his wife (Emmanuelle Riva), a fellow retired music teacher, suffers a stroke that leaves her half-paralyzed. Sure to be brimming with Haneke’s frank perspectives on existence, Amour also stars Isabelle Huppert, and marks the reunion of Haneke and Trintignant after a 14-year hiatus.

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, December 19)

Said to be about the “unsung heroes” who spent a decade hunting down Osama bin Laden, Kathryn Bigelow’s heavily shrouded Zero Dark Thirty is likely to bat away its knee-jerk charges of political bias, as the director and her returning Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal seem far too savvy, classy, and respectful to merely drive agendas or pander. Apparently backed by access to classified mission info, Zero Dark Thirty stars Kyle Chandler and everyone’s favorite red-headed It Girl, Jessica Chastain.

Django Unchained

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, December 25)

Continuing to not just revise, but flat-out remix, history, Quentin Tarantino follows the reparative nutso fantasy of Inglorious Basterds with Django Unchained, an homage to spaghetti westerns that, naturally, includes a cameo from original Django star Franco Nero. Who else is on the marquee? Kerry Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, new Tarantino fave Christoph Waltz, and Jamie Foxx as the emancipated title character, who treks across the country to save his kidnapped wife. A film season with a Tarantino script is a good one, and in a feature about the excitement of the coming months, his latest is a perfect note on which to end.


R. Kurt Osenlund

R. Kurt Osenlund is a creative director and account supervisor at Mark Allen & Co. He is the former editor of Out magazine.

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