Summer is (unofficially) over, which means that it’ll soon be a great time to get off the beach and into the movie theater. And not just because it doesn’t rain inside cineplexes: this fall boasts a promising list of blockbusters, indies, rom-coms and dramas to satisfy every kind of movie fan.
We’ve combed through the listings to pick out some of the films that will be brightening our weekends this autumn, whether they’re big titles that have had years’ worth of buzz or little upstarts that have caught some attention just in the last few weeks. Our top 13 are listed below.
Out: Sept. 13 (limited)
Starring: Waad Mohammed
Why we’re psyched: This little movie has been making the festival rounds for a while now, and we’ve already covered its ascent, but it’s worth singling out now that it will be in theaters. Wadjda is the first movie ever produced entirely in Saudi Arabia, and it’s also directed by a female filmmaker—but the heartfelt tale of a girl who wants a bicycle is noteworthy for its story and not just its backstory.
Out: Sept. 20
Starring: James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Why we’re psyched: In this vaugely autobiographical comedy from Nicole Holofcener, two empty-nesters find love—until she learns that she’s friends with his ex. It’s also one of the last projects made by the late Gandolfini.
Out: Sept. 27
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore
Why we’re psyched: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars, directs and writes his first feature—and it’s a smart, sexy look at the effect of online pornography on modern relationships. Tony Danza also appears as the patriarch of the hero’s ur-Jersey family.
Out: Oct. 4
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Why we’re psyched: Already winning raves from those who got to see the movie at the Venice Film Festival, Alfonso Cuarón’s astro-thriller promises to be a thrill to look at, too. There are only two actors but it has one of the most terrifying concepts to have graced cinemas in years: Bullock and Clooney are lost in space…without a ship.
(MORE: Richard Corliss reviews Gravity)
Out: Oct. 4
Starring: Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake
Why we’re psyched: Timberlake plays a math genius who turns to gambling to support himself and—when it goes wrong—goes after an online-poker entrepreneur, Affleck, who offers him a life of wealth and crime. Affleck is the next Batman, sure, but we’re excited to see him give evil a go.
12 Years a Slave
Out: Oct. 18 (limited)
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch
Why we’re psyched: This antebellum epic is based on the true account of the life of Solomon Northup, a free black man who is kidnapped into slavery. Pitt, who is also a producer on the movie, plays a Canadian abolitionist.
The Fifth Estate
Out: Oct. 18
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch
Why we’re psyched: It’s a two-Cumberbatch weekend! This one’s also based on a true story, but a much more recent one: the busy plays Wikileaker Julian Assange. We’re interested in the way director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Kinsey) handles the hot-button topic—and in checking out Cumberbatch’s impersonation skills.
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Out: Oct. 25
Starring: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Why we’re psyched: This naturalistic French film (called La vie d’Adèle in its native tongue) took home the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year. The love story tells the tale of a teenage lesbian couple—and it doesn’t leave much out: the movie will be rated NC-17 when it comes to the States.
Out: Nov. 1
Starring: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews
Why we’re psyched: Naomi Watts takes on the difficult task of portraying Princess Diana in this British biopic about her life and untimely death.
Out: Nov. 1
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Abigail Breslin, Harrison Ford
Why we’re psyched: The beloved sci-fi saga of Ender Wiggin takes place in a future in which Earth is at war with an alien race—and the future of humanity rests on the backs of children. On the other hand, there’s one reason some people won’t be lining up for tickets: the outspoken anti-marriage-equality views of Orson Scott Card, the author who created Ender, have driven a boycott against the movie.
Thor: The Dark World
Out: Nov. 8
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman
Why we’re psyched: The sequel to 2011’s Thor reunites Hemsworth’s Norse god and Portman’s human, and brings also Tom Hiddleston’s Loki too. It’s pretty hard to resist a movie in which the “fabric of reality” might be torn apart. Also, lightning bolts!
The Wolf of Wall Street
Out: Nov. 15
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Favreau, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey
Why we’re psyched: This based-on-a-true-story tale of Wall Street excess is directed by Martin Scorsese. The memoir on which it’s based is about a stockbroker who goes gangbusters during the 1990s—and is then pursued by the SEC and FBI.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Out: Nov. 22
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Why we’re psyched: If you liked The Hunger Games, you probably don’t need any more reasons to be excited for Katniss’ return. The second installment of the postapocalyptic saga promises to grab the last weekend before Thanksgiving—and to carry us into the holiday movie season with aplomb.