It may be a little sad when the days get shorter and summer ends, but the best way to face the new season is to embrace it. Click though for 20 movies that will help you do just that.
"When Harry Met Sally..." (1988)
Rob Reiner's 1989 classic romcom starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal famously ends on New Year's Eve, but one of the movie's most enduring images is the scene where Harry and Sally stroll together through autumn leaves in New York's Central Park. The brilliant fall color palette is as perfect as the comic pitch in director Nora Ephron's screenplay.
"Good Will Hunting" (1997)
The most iconic moment in Gus Van Sant's drama is what's become known as the "bench scene," where a psychologist (Robin Williams) dresses down a cocky young math genius (Matt Damon) who needs his help but doesn't know it. The scene was filmed at a bench in Boston Commons, the epicenter of autumn.
"Love Story" (1970)
Rich jock Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal) and classical musician of modest means Jenny Cavilleri (Ali MacGraw) meet and fall in love during the fall semester in New England (he at Harvard, she at Radcliffe). "Love Story" is screened at Harvard each year for incoming freshmen—who do everything but throw eggs—as an ironic part off their orientation. Still, it's a classic tearjerker, up there with the highest-grossing movies in Hollywood history.
"Far From Heaven" (2002)
There's a lot going on beneath the surface in this stylized melodrama set in 1950s Connecticut. A suburban homemaker (Julianna Moore) begins falling for her black gardener (Dennis Haysbert), who shows her the other side of the tracks. Meanwhile, her Madison Avenue ad-exec husband (Dennis Quaid) turns out to be gay. The film is also a gorgeous, color-rich painting of New England in autumn—perfect for the season's must-watch list.
"All That Heaven Allows" (1955)
This romantic drama—in the rich Technicolor that inspired "Far From Heaven"—stars Jane Wyman as a rich widow and Rock Hudson as the gardener that she falls in love with. It's set in small-town New England and the brilliant autumn scenery proves it. The upper-crust Yankees disapprove of the widow's choice and so she breaks off the affair. In the end, well, best we not say, in case you want to put it on your autumn movie watch list.
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966)
C'mon, what exactly about the "Peanuts" gang picking pumpkins from a patch, frolicking around piles of fallen leaves, and trick-or-treating on this Halloween TV special doesn't say autumn to you?
"Autumn in New York" (2000)
Joan Chen's romantic drama starring Winona Ryder and Richard Gere didn't get a lot of love from the critics, but few movies will put you in the fall mood the way this one will. There's the title, of course. And then there's lots and lots of autumn color, the best of which comes courtesy of Central Park. Oh, and it's a another tearjerker. She's very sick. Nuff said.
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"Dead Poets Society" (1989)
An inspiring, unconventional English teacher (Robin Williams) arrives at an elite prep school campus in Vermont for the beginning of the fall semester. The students love him, but in the end the adults run him out of town. Peter Weir's drama is filled with enough crisp autumn scenery to send anybody searching for the nearest ivy-covered campus before the colors fade.
"Days of Heaven" (1978)
The cinematography and rich coloration in Terrence Malick's 1978 drama about a couple (Richard Here and Brooke Adams) who harvest the wheat fields of the Texas Panhandle are among the most beautiful you'll ever see. Much of the movie was filmed with natural golden lighting, either shortly before or after sunrise and sunset. If this one doesn't get you in an autumn mood, nothing will.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009)
The fall palette is as much the star of Wes Anderson's stop-motion animated movie as the big-name Hollywood voices that appear in it. Based on Roald Dahl's 1970 children's book, it's the story of a family of foxes (George Clooney and Meryl Streep are Mr. and Mrs.) that steal their food from wealthy farmers and hide by living underground. If you like autumn orange, you'll love this flick.
"Ordinary People" (1980)
Robert Redford's directorial debut is about a family falling apart after one son is killed in a boating accident and another attempts to take his own life. As poignant as the death of summer, this a movie to watch when the leaves are falling all around you.
"Mystic Pizza" (1988)
The autumn leaves are falling all over this coming-of-age movie set in the New England town of Mystic, Connecticut. Most iconic scene: when Daisy (Julia Roberts) and Charles (Adam Storke) get stranded with a flat tire amid the fall foliage and Daisy resourcefully sticks out her thumb.
Set at a prep school known as Rushmore Academy, Wes Anderson's comedy-drama is an eccentric romp in which a teenage student (Jason Schwartzman) and a rich businessman (Bill Murray) fall in love with the same woman. The movie takes place entirely during the school's fall semester.
"The Trouble with Harry" (1955)
Alfred Hitchcock's black comedy about a dead body that won't stay buried was filmed in the Vermont countryside in the fall. Autumn is so much a part of the film that when the crew arrived to shoot in late September and discovered that foliage season had already peaked, Hitchcock had them glue fallen leaves back onto tree branches where he was filming.
"Scent of a Woman" (1992)
A young New England prep school student (Chris O'Donnell) takes a job looking after a retired, blind and suicidal Army vet (Al Pacino) over the long Thanksgiving weekend. What could go wrong? The prep school campus scenes have autumn written all over them, as do Central Park and the city streets where a blind vet test-drives a Ferrari. Hoo-ah!
"The Shining" (1980)
Keep an open mind here. Yes, the scariest scenes in Stanley Kubrick's horror classic—about a writer (Jack Nicholson) who goes murderously insane while taking care of the shuttered Overlook Hotel—take place in winter. But the movie begins in the autumn. That's when Jack takes his long and ominous drive in a yellow VW Bug to interview for the position before the hotel closes for the season.
"The Cider House Rules" (1999)
Each night before they go to sleep, the orphans under the care of Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) hear the loving words, "Goodnight, you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England." This adaptation of the John Irving novel is set in New England where autumn, too, is king.
"The Deer Hunter" (1978)
Michael Cimino's masterpiece about blue-collar Pennsylvania steelworkers who go to Vietnam has little resemblance to the other movies on our list. But autumn is when the friends do their actual deer hunting, and the cinematography is stunning. Plus, you get to see powerful early work by the likes of Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken and John Cazales.
"You've Got Mail" (1998)
Nora Ephron's romcom, pairing of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, feels like autumn from beginning to end. There's the foliage and Thanksgiving, of course, but one bit of dialogue alone makes the movie a seasonal must. "Don't you just love New York in the fall?" Hanks' character asks his online love via email. "It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."
"Halloween" (1978 and 2018)
Is there anything better than a slasher movie to get a person into a fine autumn mood? Didn't think so. John Carpenter's 1978 horror classic is set in October (duh!), so not only are there a lot of dead bodies around, the dead leaves are scattered all over the Midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois, too. Count on the 2018 reboot (seen here) to build on that theme.
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