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Sasha Lane makes her film debut in 'American Honey'. (Image: A24)

We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to movies this fall. Big-name directors like Oliver Stone, Robert Zemeckis, and Martin Scorsese all have movies out (Snowden, Allied, and Silence respectively); big-name actors called Tom are back saving the world; big franchises like Star WarsHarry Potter and Bridget Jones return in one form or another; and there’s even a big remake of classic western The Magnificent Seven.

But what about those smaller, lesser-known films that punch above their weight? We’ve put together a list of the hidden gems you won’t want to miss this fall.

1. American Honey

Yes, it stars decidedly unfamous Shia LaBeouf and Elvis scion Riley Keough, but the real reason to track this movie down is director Andrea Arnold, whose 2009 film Fish Tank and blustery 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights placed her firmly in the top tier of international filmmakers. Now she’s back, hot on the heels of helming a terrific episode of Transparent, with her first film set in the States.

Where: In theaters from September 30.

2. A Quiet Passion

Cynthia Nixon‘s latest role might be a surprise to fans of Sex and the City, but before she stepped out as acid-tongued Miranda she had roles in serious period dramas like Amadeus. You could then call this a return to her acting roots, and certainly she’s gone in at the deep end with a portrayal of renowned poet Emily Dickinson in a biopic by The House of Mirth and Sunset Song director Terence Davies.

Where: At the New York Film Festival on October 5.

3. Mascots 

Mascots is a mockumentary exploring the seedy underworld of competitive sports mascots, but really all you need to know is that it’s the latest movie from This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show director Christopher Guest. Regular collaborators Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard, and Bob Balaban are all there, plus Jane Lynch and Chris O’Dowd. ‘Nuff said.

Where: On Netflix from October 13.

4. Certain Women

The synopsis for this film is simple enough: it is about three women—played by Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and Laura Dern—whose lives “intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.” Filmmaker Kelly Reichardt‘s films are never simple, however, and this one, like Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy before it, promises some pretty hefty emotional themes. It attracted near-universal praise at Sundance this year.

Where: In theaters from October 14.

5. Things to Come

Whatever your age, it’s possible to have a new start: That’s the premise of Mia Hansen-Løve‘s meditation on late-life reinvention starring la formidable Isabelle Huppert. She plays a philosophy teacher who, confronted by the triple whammy of a cheating husband, the loss of her job, and the death of her mother, decides to reinvent herself. It’s been winning awards left, right and center at international film festivals, and it’s due in the U.S. in the fall.

Where: At the New York Film Festival on October 14, then in limited theaters from December 1.

6. Moonlight

Set in 1980s Miami during Reagan’s “War on Drugs,” Moonlight promises to be an unflinching look at one man’s journey growing up black and gay in the U.S.

It tells the story of Chiron, played by three actors Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, and Alex R. Hibbert at different stages of his life, as he falls in love and discovers his sexuality, set against a deteriorating home life and other people’s definitions of masculinity. Directed by Medicine for Melancholy director Barry Jenkins, it also stars Naomie Harris (Spectre, Skyfall), André Holland (Selma), and Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), and musician Janelle Monáe.

Where: In theaters from October 21.

7. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

The tricky subject of what it is to be an American war hero is tackled by two films released on the same day in November. Mel Gibson‘s Hacksaw Ridge tells the true story of World War II conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), but it’s those involved in Life of Pi director Ang Lee‘s adaptation of a 2012 novel who should be practicing their Oscar speeches.

Featuring an extraordinary lead performance by British (yup, they get everywhere) newcomer Joe Alwyn, as well as Kristen Stewart, Chris Tucker, and a rare appearance by Steve Martin, it tells the story of an Iraq war veteran sent on a promotional “victory” tour, culminating in an appearance at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.

Where: In theaters from November 11.

8. Manchester by the Sea

Still referenced in relation to older brother Ben (unfairly, in our opinion, given his Oscar-nominated performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford), this film may well be Casey Affleck‘s big moment. He plays Lee Chandler, a man forced to move back to his childhood town and care for his nephew when Lee’s brother dies. And just in case you didn’t already think it was worth watching, director Kenneth Lonergan throws in Michelle Williams as his separated wife Randi for good measure.

Where: In theaters from November 18.

9. The Edge of Seventeen

Compared favorably with classic John Hughes comedies like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, Kelly Fremon Craig‘s directorial debut stars True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld as a high school junior navigating the usual teenage angst. Taking seriously issues like the loss of her best friend and subsequent feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, it nevertheless loses none of its humor, as lead character Nadine seeks advice from her teacher and reluctant sounding board (Woody Harrelson), and her well-meaning but ineffectual mother (Kyra Sedgwick).

Where: In theaters from November 18.

10. Julieta

The release of any film by Pedro Almodóvar is a cause for celebration, but critics agree this, his 20th feature, is his best since 2006’s Volver. Representing a return to his distinctive “cinema of women,” it stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as the older and younger versions of the film’s titular character, and became Almodóvar’s fifth film to be selected for the Palme d’Or competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Where: At the San Diego and New York film festivals in October, then in theaters from December 21.

Honorable mentions

11. Nocturnal Animals 

The second feature by A Single Man director Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals is getting wildly positive reviews from its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. There’s no trailer as yet, but it stars Amy AdamsJake Gyllenhaal, and Michael Shannon, which is enough for us to mark it on our calendar. It opens November 18 in theaters.

12. Collateral Beauty 

Another film generating hype despite so far lacking a trailer. The excitement surrounding it is surely down to its director (The Devil Wears Prada‘s David Frankel) and its formidable cast, headed up by Will Smith, who plays a New York ad man sent into a downward spiral after a tragic event, and featuring Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena, and Naomie Harris. Watch out for it from December 16.

And that’s still not it!

In addition to the above, we’ve already talked about a lot of intriguing films due out this fall on Anglo. Take a look back with the links below:

Other People (September 9) (trailer)
The Light Between Oceans (September 2)
Queen of Katwe (September 23)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (September 30)
American Pastoral (October 21)
Loving (November 4)
Shut In (November 11)
La La Land (December 2)
The Founder (December 16)
A Monster Calls (December 23)

Which ones are you most excited about?

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By Kat Sommers
Kat is a freelance writer for Anglophenia.