2016 Fall Movie Preview: 17 Blockbusters and Popcorn Offerings To Check Out This Season

All this week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Fall Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of some of the year’s biggest breakouts, all the awards contenders you need to know about now and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed fall movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.

“Morgan,” September 2

“Morgan”

Stepping out of your father’s shadow is never easy when said father is beloved and successful, but it’s got to be especially difficult when it’s Ridley Scott. Sitting in the director’s chair for his very first feature, Luke Scott looks to bring the kind of white-knuckle tension and mysterious head games to the sci-fi genre as his father has done time and time again. “Morgan” stars Kate Mara as a risk-management consultant who is brought into a secluded lab to decide whether or not an artificial being should be terminated. That being is played by “The Witch” breakout Ana Taylor-Joy, and she’s not going to go down without a fight. A similar set up to “Ex Machina” is clearly on deck here, though the battles between the two women should provide a whole new level of complexities. -ZS

“Blair Witch,” September 16

“Blair Witch”

Lionsgate

Surprise, it’s a Blair Witch movie! Adam Wingard’s latest scarefest — made and initially delivered under the title “The Woods” — shocked audiences at this year’s Comic-Con when it was revealed to be an actual, factual, dyed in the wool, fashioned into scary stick people in the woods, real, totally existent sequel to “The Blair Witch Project.” Surprises are so few and far between in the entertainment world these days, and that Wingard and his crew could pull this kind of jaw-dropper off is admirable enough, but that they did it for a property that so cannily capitalized on its own spread of misinformation as marketing in the early days of the widely used internet is especially smart. Stay away from the particulars on this — some people go into the woods, bad things happen — and buckle up for an experience that’s nearly impossible to replicate. -KE

“Bridget Jones’s Baby,” September 16

“Bridget Jones’s Baby”

Bridget is back, and is as woefully misguided as ever. Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth return for the third cinematic installment of the beloved franchise, and it does not seem like much has changed here. Bridget (Zellweger) is still adorably inept at life and love, Mark (Firth) is still a bit too rigid for his own good and their relationship is again on the rocks and once again at the mercy of a smoothie suitor (this time around, it’s Patrick Dempsey). It’s the same story as ever, but at least fans of Bridget and Mark can feel safe in the knowledge that the film isn’t cribbing right from Helen Fielding’s latest Bridget book, which is all about a dead Mark and a trying-to-get-into-online-dating-widow Bridget. Sometimes the old formulas really are best. -KE

“The Magnificent Seven,” September 23

“The Magnificent Seven”

When it comes to raw charisma, Antoine Fuqua’s remake of “The Magnificent Seven” (technically a remake of a remake) is going to be tough to beat. The time-honored story appears to be unchanged: The residents of a poor Western town, sick of being terrorized by the brigands that regularly ride through the streets and raid their supplies, hire a ragtag group of gunslingers to keep them safe. Steve McQueen (and Toshiro Mifune) certainly left big, stylish shoes to fill, but Denzel Washington might be the only one of today’s stars who we could trust to wear them with style. Joined by the likes of Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Korean superstar Byung-hun Lee (“I Saw the Devil”), the film’s ten-gallon charm should be enough to distract from the fact that Fuqua could never hope to outshoot John Sturges or Akira Kurosawa. –DE

“Deepwater Horizon,” September 30

“Deepwater Horizon”

The first of Peter Berg’s two 2016 directorial forays into recent American history (his “Patriot’s Day” is slated for a limited release just before Christmas), “Deepwater Horizon” looks to be a large-scale tribute to ordinary heroes that seems to be a union of two previous Berg efforts: “Friday Night Lights” and “Battleship.” Putting a human face to the BP oil spill story that dominated headlines six short years ago, Mark Wahlberg (also the star of “Patriot’s Day”) leads the ensemble cast as Mike Williams, one of the rig workers who helped to evacuate crew members after the fateful explosion. It’s the kind of big-budget biopic that serves as the ideal transition point between summer bloat and fall prestige. -SG

“Masterminds,” September 30

“Masterminds”

If you did a 180-degree turn from the effortless cool and glamor of “Ocean’s Eleven,” odds are good that you’d land somewhere facing the muted awkwardness of “Napoleon Dynamite.” So it makes sense that “Dynamite” director Jared Hess is behind the camera for this real-life amateur heist comedy with an impressive ensemble. Stuffed with SNL vets from cast members (Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Jones) to former hosts (Zach Galifianakis) alike, it looks like there’s plenty of goofiness to go around. Toss in Owen Wilson and some late-’90s period wackiness and you have a cyclone of styles that might just work in spite of itself. -SG

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” September 30

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

It hasn’t been easy for Tim Burton as of late. Everyone always hopes each new film will restore his gothic glory, and yet efforts like “Alice In Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and “Big Eyes” haven’t exactly shown the best of what the director can do. And yet despite these duds, it’s impossible not to look forward to “Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children.” Based on the novel by Ransom Riggs, the story about ostracized oddballs living in strange harmony on a deserted island couldn’t be more perfect for Burton. Even better, Eva Green sinks her teeth into the lead role. “Miss Peregrine” might be Burton’s last chance to redeem himself, and it’s perhaps the best project to do so. -ZS

Check out October’s best blockbuster offerings on the next page. 

“The Girl on the Train,” October 7

“The Girl on the Train”

Universal Pictures

Tate Taylor may not be David Fincher — and that’s putting it nicely — but the director of “The Help” has gotten a big, juicy Fincher-feeling thriller to bolster his career. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Paula Hawkins (know someone in a book club? odds are, they read it this year), the film moves its action from London to the New York City suburbs, and hopefully won’t lose it punch and twists in the process. Emily Blunt stars as the tremendously screwed up Rachel Watson, who compensates for a life filled with major disappointments and huge mistakes by fixating on an attractive couple she spies every morning on the train to work (and even that relatively basic plotline has some big ol’ twists to reveal). When the female half of Rachel’s perfect couple goes missing, the always-obsessive Rachel makes it her mission to figure out what happened. It made sound cliche to say that she gets more than she bargained for, but boy does she ever, and expect those same shocks to deliver jaw-dropping moment after jaw-dropping moment to its movie-going audience. -KE

“The Accountant,” October 14

“The Accountant”

Warner Bros.

Gavin O’Connor’s “The Accountant” has already delivered a pair of impressive trailers and, should the final film capitalize on the promise of Ben Affleck playing a murderous and obsessive accountant, audiences everywhere are in for a big treat. Affleck stars in the film as a seemingly mild-mannered — if peculiar — forensic accountant who has spent his entire life amongst the comfort of numbers, thanks to a tough childhood marked by constant bullying. But not everything that Affleck’s whipsmart Chris does is entirely above-board, and soon his life of ordered numbers, cooked books and maybe an assassination or two starts to blend together into a creative thriller. And who’s to blame? Nosy Anna Kendrick it seems, who should come away from the film with a juicy, dramatic bite. -KE

“A Monster Calls,” October 21

“A Monster Calls”

Focus Features

J.A. Bayona has made a career finding terror in the natural (“The Impossible”) and the supernatural (“The Orphanage”). For his next trick, the director looks to be veering closer to the latter, with an escapist fantasy tale. Bolstered by his discovery of the title creature (voiced by Liam Neeson), young Connor (newcomer Lewis MacDougall) looks to overcome the anxieties of a grief-stricken home life and a batch of school bullies. Time will tell if this will help lead YA novel adaptations away from the realm of franchises based on murderous teenagers, but having the additional talents of Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Toby Kebbell set against Bayona’s adventurous backdrop should be worth the ride. -SG

“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” October 21

“Jack Reacher: Never Look Back”

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” continues the adventures of Tom Cruise’s titular badass, and while 2012’s origin story never reached the heights of Cruise’s mostly-brilliant “Mission: Impossible” series, there was a admirable dedication to action and stunts without CGI bloat. This follow-up ditches the first’s secret weapon — Werner Herzog (!) as a gang leader — but Cobie Smulders looks to be a strong feminist foil for our heroic stone-faced ex-army bro. Embrace the joy of spending a blustery fall afternoon watching Cruise run around at top speed in a leather jacket…while you sit on your butt eating popcorn. -WE

“Keeping Up With the Joneses,” October 21

“Keeping Up With The Joneses”

Most spy films are fun. But not every spy film is a comedy with Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot as an undercover spy couple living in suburbia. If, for some reason, that isn’t enough to sell you, “Superbad” and “Adventureland” director Greg Mottola oversees the hilarity, as the title couple moves into an ordinary neighborhood alongside unwitting married neighbors (Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher). The bumbling normals vs. precise experts dynamic isn’t novel, but this quartet seems it might be the right kind of mismatched to pull it off. At the very least, it should be fun to see Gadot and Hamm momentarily veer away from high drama and into feature-length hijinks. -SG

“Inferno,” October 28

“Inferno”

If there was ever a film where the audience knows what they are getting beforehand, it’s “Inferno,” which will be the third time Ron Howard directs Tom Hanks in a film adaption of a Dan Brown book (“The Da Vinci Code”). In the third installment in the bestselling series, Robert Langdon (Hanks) wakes up in a hospital having no clue how he got to Italy, but before he can piece it all together his doctor (Felicity Jones) must save him from an assassination attempt, which thrusts the two in another thriller/mystery for Langdon to solve. This time the piecing of the puzzle pieces reveals a plague that threatens humanity and poses a near impossible dilemma for Langdon. This is Brown, so expect scenes of narrow escape, exploration of ancient text (this time “Dante’s Inferno”) and his unique brand of popcorn paranoia. -CO

Check out November’s best blockbuster offerings on the next page. 

“Doctor Strange,” November 4

“Doctor Strange”

Marvel

Marvel blockbusters can be a hit or miss game when we’re dealing with standalone adventures (for every “Iron Man,” we get a “Thor: The Dark World”), and yet it’s hard not to be looking forward to “Doctor Strange” given its star-studded cast. From lead Benedict Cumberbatch, who steps into the role of a doctor who is given mystical, time-jumping powers, to Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton, the ensemble might be Marvel’s best yet for an origin film. But can the movie survive the justified whitewashing backlash and Marvel’s affinity for weak villains? The pressure is on for “Doctor Strange” to deliver, and we have faith it just might. -ZS

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” November 18

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

Warner Bros.

Harry Potter might be missing in action, but Hollywood’s obsession with his magical world of witchcraft and wizardry is still going strong. A semi-prequel to J.K. Rowling’s beloved saga, the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is set more than 60 years before The Boy Who Lived was even born, jumping back in time and across the ocean to New York City circa 1926 to follow the familiarly named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as the proto-Poké master arrives on our shores with a briefcase full of enchanted creatures. Written by Rowling herself, directed by Hogwarts alum David Yates, and glazed with the unforgettable twinkle of James Newton Howard’s score, this might not be a new Harry Potter movie, but it sure looks like the next best thing. -DE

“Bad Santa 2,” November 23

“Bad Santa 2”

Jan Thijs / Broad Green Pictures / Miramax

Fans of director Terry Zwigoff’s 2003 hit comedy “Bad Santa” have been patiently waiting for a sequel since rumors about the project first surfaced back in 2012. This time around, Billy Bob Thornton’s sex-crazed alcoholic con man Willie Soke is donning the St. Nick suit to knock off a charity in Chicago with his elf sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox), who recently got out of prison early. Thornton and Cox star alongside Christina Hendricks, Kathy Bates and Brett Kelly, who reprises his role as the slow but lovable Thurman Merman, now a 21 years old. “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters directed the movie, which was co-written by Shauna Cross (“Whip It”), Doug Ellin (“Entourage”), John Phillips (“Dirty Grandpa”). -GW

“Moana,” November 23

“Moana”

Disney

The new Disney 3-D animated musical tells the story of young Moana (new-comer and native Hawaiian Auli’i Cravalho), a young navigator who sets sail for a fabled island and along the way teams up with her hero and demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson). The film is a mix of old and new for Disney. Directors John Musker and Ron Clements are Disney bedrock, having been the duo behind classics like “Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.” On the music side things, the creator and star of the Broadway uber-hit “Hamiliton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda and first time composer Opetaia Foa’i are brought into the Disney fold, as they created original songs for “Moana” teaming up with multi-talented composer Mark Mancina. -CO

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