Summer is over and, as Ned Stark would say, winter is coming. But, there's no reason to despair: the best stretch of the year for movies is right around the corner. The summer may offer the year's biggest films, but the fall tends to offer the best. This is the time for the Oscar favorites, the indies and the riskier blockbusters. This is where the world of film keeps stashes the good stuff.
The backend of 2013 is so jam-packed with goodness that whittling it all down to a select few was a rough and unfair experience. There are films that we're dying to see that ended up mercilessly sliced out of the list. But, these 15 films are the ones that have us the most intrigued and excited. These are the movies that we'll be spend the next four months talking about non-stop. We don't want to say we'd kill you to see them now, but we'd probably push you aside in a rough and ungentlemanly fashion.
Who doesn't love Joseph Gordon Levitt? The answer: no one. That's why the trailers for 'Don Jon' make it abundantly clear that the young 'Looper' and 'The Dark Knight Rises' star is not only playing the lead, but is also responsible for writing and directing this romantic comedy about a man's struggle to enter a normal relationship despite a porn addiction. But this is no simple vanity project. 'Don Jon' won audiences over in a huge way at the Sundance and SXSW film festivals, where audiences praised its performances, writing and direction. In other words, there's a reason people love Joseph Gordon Levitt and by all accounts, this movie will do nothing to change that.
'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2'
The first 'Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs' was an unexpected joy and one of the funniest movies (animated or not) in recent memory. It was inevitable that the kid-friendly story of mad science and food gone wrong would get a sequel and if the trailers are an indication, it looks like the second outing will retain the same spirit as the first. Although original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord have departed, their joke-a-minute, pun-happy style seems to have carried over, keeping things appropriately light and weird as the characters from the original film battle an entire jungle of sentient food. There is no kids' movie in 2013 that we're more excited to see.
A David O. Russell film is always an event, but 'American Hustle' feels like a bigger event than usual. With Russell reuniting with Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (all of whom have earned Oscar nominations or wins under his direction), this feels like it could be one of the most talked about movies of 2013. The trailer sells a movie that feels like the halfway point between the gritty honesty of 'The Fighter' and the accessibility of 'Silver Linings Playbook,' a "based on true events" '70s period piece about con men, the women in their life and their shady dealings with the federal government. In other words, it looks like a wild and crazy playground for one of the richest ensembles of the year.
Despite being released in a few months, we haven't heard more than a peep about 'Foxcatcher,' the latest film from 'Moneyball' and 'Capote' director Bennett Miller. However, that's only made us more interested in this mysterious project, which casts Steve Carell as John DuPont, a paranoid schizophrenic who infamously murdered an Olympic wrestler training at the facility he built and funded. With Carell taking on a role that's completely different than anything he's ever played before (and a supporting cast that includes Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), 'Foxcatcher' looks like it could be Miller's third winner in a row.
Although best known for 'The Bourne Supremacy' and 'The Bourne Ultimatum,' director Paul Greengrass has always been at his best when tackling more grounded and realistic stories. 'Captain Phillips' appears to be more in line with 'United 93' and 'Bloody Sunday,' where the filmmaker took harrowing real-life events and depicted them with honesty and straightforward brutality. Starring Tom Hanks as Captain Richard Phillips, the film tells the true story of how Somali pirates seized an American shipping vessel in 2009, sparking a fascinating series of events that you can read all about on Wikipedia (we're staying spoiler-free here). Between Greengrass' signature intensity and the mere presence of the always great Hanks, 'Captain Phillips' looks like it wants to be this year's 'Zero Dark Thirty.'
'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane'
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,' absence makes us really, really want to see a critically acclaimed horror movie that's been sitting on a shelf for seven years due to Hollywood politics and distribution issues that are complicated enough to make your head spin. Finished in 2006, Jonathan Levine's film played numerous festivals, where won over audiences and critics alike before being snatched up. And then it vanished, receiving releases all over the world while remaining conspicuously absent stateside. We really want to see 'All the Boys Love Mandy Lane' because it's supposedly terrific and because Levine went on to make wonderful movies like 'The Wackness' and '50/50.' But we'd be lying if we said half of the appeal wasn't finally getting the chance to see what fest-goers and horror buffs have been talking about for seven years.
Cormac McCarthy is one of the world's greatest living writers, a genuine legend responsible for masterpieces like 'No Country For Old Men,' 'Blood Meridian' and 'The Road.' So what happens when someone this important decides to write a screenplay? You get Ridley Scott directing. You get actors like Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem to fill out the cast. In other words, you get a pitch-black crime drama that promises to be one of the classiest (and most brutal) films of the year. If 'The Counselor' is anything like the films based on McCarthy's work, we're in for one helluva ride.
'Thor: The Dark World'
We may be absolutely spoiled with superhero movies these days, but we'll always be excited for the latest from Marvel, who are doing them better than anyone else at the moment. Much like how this year's 'Iron Man 3' took the baton from the company's "Phase One" and sprinted with it, 'Thor: The Dark World' appears to build off of everything we've seen before. The first 'Thor' was a good time, but the sequel looks bigger, richer and far more epic, finally delivering on the scope and weirdness that the initial film could only hint at. There is no straightforward popcorn movie coming out in the remainder of the year that has us more pumped than this one.
The last time we saw director Spike Jonze, he was breaking our hearts with the beautiful 'Where the Wild Things Are.' The last time we say Joaquin Phoenix, he was leaving us shattered with his jaw-dropping performance in 'The Master.' So, naturally, the two of them working together is all you need to get us interested. However, 'Her' seems to offer so much more, telling a weird and sweet/creepy story of a lonely man who falls in love with the advanced artificial intelligence controlling a new computer operating system. It's a crazy sci-fi premise, but Jonze and Phoenix are guys always known to bring honestly and humanity to the strangest premises. We don't need to know anything else -- we are so on board with this.
'Escape From Tomorrow'
The fact that 'Escape From Tomorrow' is coming out this Fall is shocking. Heck, the fact that it's coming out at all is amazing. A surreal, fantasy/horror film about a father's nightmarish final day of vacation, the film was shot entirely on Disney resort property without the company's knowledge. The guerrilla production has been the main topic of discussion (and rightfully so because it's fascinating), but the film itself earned its fair share of raves at the Sundance film festival, where critics applauded its audacious skewering of Disney culture. Somehow, all of the threatened legal action never transpired and the film is being unleashed in limited release and on VOD. There is no film on this list that surprises us more through its sheer existence.
'The Monuments Men'
'The Monuments Men' looks delightful. Seriously. In fact, it looks like it may be one of the most delightful movies to ever take place in war-torn, World War II-era Europe. George Clooney directs and stars as the leader of a special squad of art historians sent to the front lines to retrieve and protect the countless masterpieces stolen by Hitler and the Nazi regime. Antics, of both the comedic and dramatic variety, ensue. Clooney is backed up by Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett and a bunch of other actors you really, really love. If you're not excited about this movie, you're probably dead inside.
We've been looking forward to 'Gravity' for what feels like an eternity. Director Alfonso Cuaron has been teasing his ridiculously ambitious sci-fi thriller for as long as we can remember and it's almost difficult to believe that it's actually, finally, on the verge of hitting theaters. The exact details of the plot have been intentionally kept kept vague in the trailers (which depict a routine spacewalk performed by two astronauts going horrifyingly awry), but we've seen enough to know that this looks like one of the most terrifying films to hit theaters in quite some time. Cuaron makes handsome, technically astonishing films that push the limits of what you can do in the film medium. We're not exaggerating when we say that this looks like something that's unlike anything we've seen before.
'The Wolf of Wall Street'
Martin Scorsese directing Leonardo DiCaprio in a movie about corruption and excess on Wall Street .. and it's a comedy?! The initial marketing blast for 'The Wolf of Wall Street' is the kind of thing that immediately grabs your attention: this is a new Scorsese picture starring his favorite muse and the trailer is audaciously cut to Kanye West's "Black Skinhead." It's honestly the trailer of the year. Despite his advanced years, Scorsese still directs like he's a young man and this looks to be no different. Like DiCaprio, he refuses to let himself get pigeonholed, playing around with various genres and constantly reinventing and challenging himself. When these two collaborate, cinephiles celebrate for a reason. There are few things as reliably great as a Scorsese/DiCaprio team-up.
'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues'
'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy' is the funniest movie of the '00s and a cultural touchstone that will be fondly remembered and quoted for decades to come. That immediately puts a disturbing amount of weight on the shoulders of the upcoming sequel, 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.' How do you follow that up? You can start by getting the whole cast back together, adding a whole bunch of amazing new talents and lining up some astonishing cameos. Honestly, star Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay have been so funny for so long that we'll be shocked if this is anything less than hilarious. Of course, we could be setting ourselves up for the mother of all disappointments, but we're treating this like Ron Burgundy would -- we're going to act oblivious at the very thought of things not going our way.
'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Look, it's simple logic. Any time the Coen brothers have a film coming out, that film immediately gets bumped to the top of that year's must-see list and it is the duty of every other movie to dethrone it. That didn't happen here. 'Inside Llewyn Davis' is, by all accounts, one of the best films of the year and another gem in a filmography filled with masterpieces. The reviews out of the film festival circuit have been glowing. The trailers have been beautiful and sad and hilarious. This movie looks downright magical, the kind of film that can only be made by directors who are secretly wizards or something. This should be your most anticipated movie of the year.