The 20 Best Fall Movies to Watch This Autumn
Fall isn't just scary movie season. Although our roundup includes a select few spooky films, most of these flicks epitomize fall’s comforts, coziness and beauty.
The Best Fall Movies of All Time
When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
Not only is When Harry Met Sally… one of the best fall movies ever, it’s perhaps one of the best rom-coms, too. The set-up is familiar: estranged friends with unresolved feelings reconnect after several years apart, and things get complicated. Rob Reiner directs Nora Ephron’s Academy Award-nominated screenplay with flair, while the chemistry between Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan is undeniable (see the deli scene for proof). Much like the timeless autumn sweaters worn by Ryan, this movie simply never gets old.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
With its pleasing colour palette of oranges, yellows, reds and browns, Wes Anderson’s first animated feature draws as much inspiration from autumn’s essence as it does from children’s literature. Based on the 1970 story by Roald Dahl, this family-friendly flick tells the story of the titular Mr. Fox (George Clooney), whose penchant for stealing food catches up with him by way of vengeful farmers. Anderson’s usual suspects (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe), along with Meryl Streep, bring the stop-motion characters to life in this irresistible modern classic.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
It’s hard not to romanticize an East Coast autumn while viewing Good Will Hunting. Gus Van Sant’s beloved drama transports audiences to Boston, where math prodigy Will Hunting (Matt Damon) slaves away as a janitor at MIT. Despite his genius-level intellect, Will prefers getting into fist fights and nursing beers at the local pub with his pals. That is, until he meets therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), who encourages Will to face his past traumas and reevaluate his life path. The film has been lauded for its exceptional screenplay, acting and directing—the park bench scene alone demonstrates its excellence.
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Knives Out (2019)
It doesn’t get more autumnal than a cozy murder mystery, especially when that family includes Chris Evans in a cable knit sweater that temporarily set the Internet abuzz. Derivative of Clue yet entirely unique, Knives Out follows a deceased crime novelist’s family, who are all suspects in their patriarch’s murder. A compelling whodunnit that keeps you guessing until the very end.
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Michael Myers’ infamous white mask is as symbolic of Halloween as a jack-o’-lantern. The classic that crowned a then-19-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis as a scream queen is set in the fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois, on—you guessed it—Halloween. John Carpenter succeeds in transforming the wholesome community into a nightmare, where Laurie Strode (Curtis) is hunted down by Myers, recently escaped from an asylum. From the genuinely eerie score to the jump scares, Halloween set the standard for slasher greatness.
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Little Women (2019)
With the right cast and a clear vision, cherished classics can be revived into something wonderful. Case in point: Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This 19th-century story details the March sisters’ (Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson and Eliza Scanlen) adolescent milestones, complete with romance, sibling drama and grief. It’s perfect for period-piece enthusiasts who are seeking a comforting fall movie they can watch on repeat throughout the season.
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Dead Poets Society (1989)
Nostalgic for the days when September meant back-to-school? Dead Poets Society brings a charming collegiate atmosphere to the silver screen. Robin Williams takes on the role of John Keating, a boys’ school English teacher who strays from tradition and aims to inspire his students beyond the classroom. Full of crisp blazers and motivational speeches, Dead Poets Society is worth a (re)watch if only to fête the late Williams with “O Captain, My Captain!”
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What is fall without Tim Burton’s oeuvre of ghoulish, magnificent movies? Equal parts spooky and fun, Beetlejuice reverses the traditional haunted house narrative by killing off the main characters (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) and having them haunt the new, unsuspecting family (including Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder) who move into their home. They are, naturally, joined by the eponymous Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a creature summoned from the Netherworld whose only guarantee is bringing chaos to the table. Tricks and treats galore!
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The Witch (2015)
Many of us got to know Anya Taylor-Joy as a chess prodigy on Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit. Several years before, however, she stunned audiences as Puritan teenager Thomasin in Robert Eggers’s directorial debut, The Witch. The film takes place in the 1600s on an expansive, eerie New England farm. When unfortunate circumstances befall Thomasin’s family, they accuse their teen daughter of witchcraft. If you’re a horror fan, this one’s for you.
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Perhaps cinema’s most heart-wrenching take on otherworldly creatures, Steven Spielberg’s much-loved blockbuster introduces moviegoers to E.T., an (impressively designed puppet) alien who mistakenly winds up in a suburban family’s backyard in the San Fernando Valley. A young boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas), develops a special bond with his foreign friend, which is threatened by a task force determined to detain E.T. It’s definitely a tearjerker.
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Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Gentle beasts are brought to life with mesmerizing results in Spike Jonze’s adaptation of the classic children’s book of the same name. Max is an adventurous and imaginative little boy, who feels suppressed within the confines of his school and home. Upon running away, he discovers a world beyond his wildest dreams, filled with creatures who take him under their wings. A comfort film for all ages.
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The Craft (1996)
Sabrina the Teenage Witch has nothing on The Craft girls. This cult classic is campy, stylish and quintessentially ’90s. We watch as the nervous Sarah (Robin Tunney) befriends a group of eclectic (read: occult-obsessed) peers at her new high school. The group of witches learns that with great power comes great responsibility—and some of them let their exceptional abilities take over for worse.
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Juno put Canada on the map in more ways than one. Shot in Vancouver, Diablo Cody’s first screenplay stars Canucks Elliot Page and Michael Cera as high school lovers who run into an unexpected pregnancy. The coming-of-age dramedy garnered a standing ovation at its TIFF premiere and has since become widely lauded for its raw yet tender portrayal of teen pregnancies, found families and hamburger phones.
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You’ve Got Mail (1998)
Two bookstore owners fall for each other, only to find out they’re business rivals: This charming premise could only come from the mind of rom-com queen Nora Ephron. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play Joe and Kathleen, literati that dabble in the world of Internet dating. Will their ambitions and egos get in the way of what could be a once-in-a-lifetime romance? It’s not a spoiler to say that everything works out, albeit unexpectedly.
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Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
The only thing more stressful than holiday dinners is holiday travel. Planes, Trains & Automobiles takes the anxiety-inducing commute and elevates it with slapstick. Comedy legends Steve Martin and John Candy star as polar opposites with the same goal in mind: make it from New York City to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Everything that could possibly go wrong does, and while the gags are good and plenty, there are also touching moments to ensure tears balance out the laughs.
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If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
On the heels of his Academy Award-winning stunner Moonlight, director Barry Jenkins not only managed to create a film as invigorating as its predecessor, but one that finds strength through its most quiet moments. Adapted from James Baldwin’s acclaimed 1974 novel, this tragic Harlem romance is seamlessly translated from page to screen.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Whether it’s your first viewing or your 20th, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone brings the fall magic in spades. Harry Potter is an orphan living with his greedy, unflinching aunt, uncle and cousin when he receives an invitation (er, invitations) from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In a matter of days, the boy who thought he was merely a muggle is transported to a school of fellow magically-gifted kids, where fantastical adventures ensue. It’s one of the best fall movies, and a brilliant launchpad for one of the most beloved film franchises of the 21st century.
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
A beloved coming-of-age novel-turned-movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows shy high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), as he finds himself through reading books, listening to The Smiths and watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a rambunctious group of edgy seniors. After watching this movie, you’ll never be able to go through a tunnel without blasting “Heroes” by David Bowie again.
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Coraline is the crème de la crème of creepy children’s animation. From the mind of Henry Selick (director of The Nightmare Before Christmas), this stop-motion animated movie focuses on Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning), a curious young girl with a knack for getting in trouble. When she stumbles upon a portal to an alternate universe, however, she realizes her life at home is far better than what she thought she longed for.
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A Ghost Story (2017)
Don’t let A Ghost Story’s title or promotional images deceive you: this highly original film is about grief and the passage of time, above all else. When a musician (Casey Affleck) is killed in a car accident, his spirit returns home to comfort his mourning wife (Rooney Mara). When he realizes he is stuck in time, only able to watch his wife move on with her life, the true scare becomes his own personal haunting.
After you’ve added the best fall movies to your watch list, check out the best movies on Netflix Canada right now.