Fall’s Must-See Movies: The Master, Cloud Atlas, Lincoln, and More

From the final Twilight to Clint Eastwood's non-directorial turn and that buzzed-about scene between Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron, Marlow Stern on the hottest films out this fall.

The Weinstein Company ; Warner Bros. Pictures ; Summit Enterrainment ; Dreamworks

The Weinstein Company ; Warner Bros. Pictures ; Summit Enterrainment ; Dreamworks

Now that the dog days of August are behind us, it’s time to brace yourselves for an onslaught of fantastic, award-bait movies. From Paul Thomas Anderson’s Scientology film The Master to Daniel Day-Lewis’s portrayal of the titular former president in Spielberg’s Lincoln, here are The Daily Beast’s picks for the most anticipated movies being released this fall.

By Marlow Stern

Jacob Hutchings


“I feel like Sharon Stone in Casino is fucking crazy, but in her craziness, she’s so put together and awesome,” Kirsten Dunst told The Daily Beast about Bachelorette. “That’s kind of the essence that I went for.” Yes, the raunchy R-rated comedy, written and directed by former Harvey Weinstein assistant Leslye Headland, does try to capitalize on Bridesmaids’ modus operandi a bit. But it’s a more risqué animal. Regan (Dunst) and her two hell-raising partners in crime—Gena (Lizzy Caplan) and Katie (Isla Fisher)—plan a bachelorette party for their frenemy Becky (Rebel Wilson) that goes terribly awry, resulting in rails of coke, bathroom sex, and a ripped wedding dress. The film is mean-spirited fun and Dunst is fantastic as the ice queen at the center, who fittingly shares the same name as the possessed girl in The Exorcist.

Phil Bray / The Weinstein Company


Any film by Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the finest American filmmakers, is cause for celebration, and this character study, based in large part on the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, shouldn’t disappoint. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a mentally disturbed WWII veteran prone to fits of rage. He’s taken under the wing of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a charismatic cult leader who preaches The Cause, in part because Dodd enjoys Quell’s poisonous paint-thinner moonshine. As The Cause starts to gain momentum, Quell begins to repel his mentor and his bizarre belief system. Boasting Amy Adams as Dodd’s doting wife, and a score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, The Master should prove a disturbing companion piece to Anderson’s last (brilliant) film, There Will Be Blood.

Myles Aronowitz / Roadside Attractions


This financial thriller—which premiered to raves at the Sundance Film Festival—has all the trappings to be this year’s Margin Call. For those unfamiliar with the term, arbitrage refers to the simultaneous purchase/sale of a particular asset in order to profit from the price differential. Written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki, Richard Gere stars as a Madoff-like financial guru who has lost half of his hedge fund’s reserves, and is purposely defrauding investors in order to sell his business to a potential buyer. Boasting a captivating turn by Gere, the timely film also stars Susan Sarandon as his wife, Brit Marling as his daughter, and Tim Roth as the detective on his case.


One of the fall season's biggest surprises, this visceral cop thriller by writer-director David Ayer stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two thrill-seeking LAPD officers who accidentally stumble upon Mexican drug cartel activity in the ghettoes of L.A. The film, much of which is shot by handheld cameras mimicking various surveillance footage—and Gyllenhaal’s character’s penchant for self-documentation—is relentlessly gripping, thanks in large part to Gyllenhaal and Pena’s genuinely touching bromance. You can’t help but root for these two decent, courageous men and hope—nay, pray—nothing bad happens to them.


Will celebrated documentary filmmaker Steve James finally be nominated for an Oscar? After being brutally rebuffed for 1994’s Hoop Dreams and last year’s The Interrupters, his latest effort, Head Games, just might be his ticket to the Kodak Theatre. The film tells the story of football player and wrestler Chris Nowinski’s quest to discover the truth about sports-related head injuries, including interviews with a brain trauma surgeon and several tragic personal accounts. The film is also perfectly timed to the start of the 2012 National Football League season.

John Bramley / Summit Enterrainment


Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, and based on his early-'90s-set epistolary novel of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a poignant Bildungsroman that centers on Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introverted high school freshman who is struggling to come to terms with a dark secret. He’s constantly bullied and has no friends, until one day when he’s taken under the wing of Patrick (Ezra Miller), a gay high school senior, and his best pal–stepsister Sam (Emma Watson). The film boasts stellar performances all around, in particular by Miller as the wild-child friend and Paul Rudd as Charlie’s compassionate English teacher, as well as one of the best movie soundtracks in recent memory.

Keith Bernstein / Warner Bros. Pictures


Will Clint Eastwood’s bizarre "invisible chair" speech at the RNC Convention detract from his first starring role in a non-Eastwood-directed feature since 1993’s In the Line of Fire? That’s the big question on everyone’s minds. Regardless, this sports drama, directed by longtime Eastwood producer Robert Lorenz, looks to be a crowd-pleaser. Eastwood plays an aging Atlanta Braves baseball scout who’s given one last assignment to prove his mettle, and his daughter, played by Amy Adams, is summoned by the organization to accompany him and keep him in line. The film also stars John Goodman as the club boss and Justin Timberlake as a rival team’s scout who takes a liking to Adams.


Yes, this is the film where Nicole Kidman urinates on Zac Efron. But this intense drama, based on Pete Dexter’s 1995 novel of the same name, also marks filmmaker Lee Daniels’s anticipated follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2009 film, Precious. The film centers on a reporter, played by Matthew McConaughey, and his younger brother (Efron), who investigate the mysterious series of events surrounding a murder in order to free what they believe to be an innocent man (John Cusack) from death row. Kidman’s performance as a feral southern sexpot drew raves at Cannes, where the film had its world premiere. 

Claire Folger / Warner Bros. Pictures

ARGO (10/12)

Ben Affleck has emerged as an unlikely A-list filmmaker. Argo, his third film after the cop mystery-drama Gone Baby Gone and the bank robbery actioner The Town is by far his most ambitious, and best yet. Based on a true story, the movie tells the tale of Tony Mendez (Affleck), who is tasked with hatching a scheme to rescue six American foreign-service members who escaped from the U.S. embassy in Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, and who are holed up in the Canadian Embassy. Out of options, Mendez enlists the aid of Hollywood—makeup expert John Chambers (John Goodman) and executive Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin)—to convince Iranian officials that the six officials are members of a film crew scouting locations for a cheesy sci-fi flick, Argo, in order to get them out of the country. The film, a deft combination of Hollywood satire, CIA thriller, and historical drama, will surely make some noise come awards season.


Let’s face it: Colin Farrell is a talented actor who’s best suited to playing a bastard in black comedies (Intermission, In Bruges) as opposed to a dashing Hollywood hero (Alexander, Total Recall). The dark comedy Seven Psychopaths reteams Farrell with his In Bruges director, Tony Award–nominated playwright and Oscar-winning filmmaker Martin McDonagh. Farrell plays Marty, a struggling screenwriter whose pal Billy (Sam Rockwell) is an unemployed actor who steals dogs on the side. When Billy and his partner (Christopher Walken) steal a pooch belonging to a violent gangster (Woody Harrelson), the shit really hits the fan. The outstandingly bonkers cast also includes Abbie Cornish, Precious’ Gabourey Sidibe, and Tom Waits.

Melinda Sue Gordon / The Weinstein Company


Australian filmmaker Andrew Dominik is a true talent whose only two films, Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, were deep, dark character studies. His latest is the New Orleans–set crime film Killing Them Softly, centering on a high-level assassin (Jesse James’ s Brad Pitt), who investigates a sloppy heist that occurs during a high-stakes poker game involving a host of nefarious characters. The hard-hitting cast also includes James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and Ben Mendelsohn, who delivered a mesmerizing performance in the 2010 Australian crime drama Animal Kingdom.

Jay Maidment / Warner Bros. Pictures


Written and directed by the team behind The Matrix trilogy, Andy and Lana Wachowski, as well as Run Lola Run’s Tom Tykwer, this epic adventure-fantasy is adapted from David Mitchell’s 2004 novel of the same name. The time-traveling film tells how our actions impact the past, present, and future, and include an 1849 diary of an ocean voyage across the Pacific, a murder at a nuclear power plant, a rebel army in futuristic Korea, an ancient forest tribe in post-apocalyptic Hawaii, and more. The cast, playing multiple roles, includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, and Susan Sarandon. This could be a sci-fi classic or a Heaven’s Gate-esque disaster, but either way, it should be worth the price of admission.


Written and directed by Ben Lewin, this indie drama was snatched up for a whopping $7 million by Fox Searchlight after its critically hailed premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film is based on the true story of Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes), a poet who was paralyzed from the neck down due to polio and was forced to live in an iron lung. With his priest's (William H. Macy) blessing, he hires a professional sex surrogate, played by Helen Hunt, to lose his virginity. The film is both hilarious and heartwarming, thanks mostly to Hawkes’s award-worthy turn as the optimistic, garrulous O’Brien.

Francois Duhamel / Sony Pictures

SKYFALL (11/9)

The 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall, also happens to be released on the 50th anniversary of the first—1962’s Dr. No. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), James Bond (Daniel Craig) is presumed dead after a disastrous operation, and the identities of all the undercover MI6 agents are leaked. Bond is forced to come out of hiding to track down the notorious Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who is connected to both him and his boss/mentor, M (Judi Dench). The film also stars Ralph Fiennes as an MI6 government agent, Albert Finney, and Naomie Harris. But it’s Bardem, as the cackling villain with the creepy blond coif—think No Country For Old Men’s Anton Chigurh with peroxide and better funding—who should steal the show here.

David James / Dreamworks

LINCOLN (11/9)

Have you seen the creepily accurate poster of Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln? This Oscar-bait biographical drama, directed by Steven Spielberg, will reportedly focus on Lincoln’s road to abolishing slavery and ending the Civil War. Pulitzer-winning playwright-cum-screenwriter Tony Kushner worked on the script for six years, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s tome Team of Rivals. The film also stars Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as their son, Tommy Lee Jones as radical Republican Congressional Leader Thaddeus Stevens, and many more. Hopefully this film will wash the bitter taste of Day-Lewis’s last, the awful 2009 musical Nine, out of our mouths, and for Spielberg, be his first exceptional picture since 2005’s Munich (also penned by Kushner).

Andrew Cooper, SMPSP / Summit Entertainment


Will all the chaos surrounding Kristen Stewart’s overpublicized affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director, and subsequent break-up with beau Robert Pattinson, overshadow the final entry in the Twilight franchise? While the first film in the two-part finale, directed by Bill Condon, was utterly ridiculous, hopefully the final chapter is more in the vein of the surprisingly enjoyable third installment, Eclipse. In the film, Bella Swan’s (Stewart) unfortunately named vampire baby (Renesmee) with her vamp love, Edward Cullen (Pattinson), is targeted by the vampire council, the Volturi. While it’s not high art, it will probably gross a billion dollars, and the movie’s publicity tour should be interesting stuff.

Laurie Sparham / Focus Features


Adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, filmmaker Joe Wright has decided to reteam with frequent collaborator, actress Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement), on Anna Karenina. Set in late-19th-century Russian high-society, aristocrat Anna Karenina (Knightley), who is stuck in a loveless marriage with the powerful Alexei Karenin (Jude Law), engages in a complicated affair with the affluent Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The operatic costume drama also stars Boardwalk Empire’s Kelly Macdonald, Olivia Williams, and Emily Watson.

RUST & BONE (11/16)

Jacques Audiard is one of the finest French filmmakers on the planet, responsible for the Hitchcockian thriller Read My Lips, the crime saga The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and 2009’s crime epic A Prophet (which should have won an Oscar). His latest is Rust and Bone, a film about an unemployed 25-year-old man who falls in love with a killer whale trainer, played by Marion Cotillard. Their love is tested when the trainer becomes crippled following a terrible accident. This marks Cotillard’s first true leading role since her Oscar-winning turn as crooner Edith Piaf in 2007’s La Vie en Rose and, if the buzz is justified, could land her a second Oscar nomination for a French-language film—an incredibly rare feat.

Twentieth Century Fox

LIFE OF PI (11/21)

Based on the 2001 bestselling adventure-fantasy novel by Yann Martell, this 3D epic is helmed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee, of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain fame. The film tells the story of 16-year-old Pi (Suraj Sharma), the lone survivor of a sunken freighter, who finds himself trapped on a Noah’s Ark-esque lifeboat with a bizarre crew, including an orangutan, a hyena, a zebra, and a Bengal tiger. Hopefully the film, which will premiere at the 2012 New York Film Festival, is better than Lee’s last stab at a blockbuster: the disappointing 2003 superhero film Hulk.

Jojo Whilden / The Weinstein Company


Oscar-nominated filmmaker David O. Russell’s follow-up to The Fighter stars Bradley Cooper as Pat Solitano, a former teacher who, fresh off his release from a mental institution, moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver), who want Pat to share their passion for the Philadelphia Eagles football team. Pat also hopes to patch things up with his ex-wife (Julia Stiles). Things get tricky, however, when he forges a friendship with Tiffany (The Hunger Games’ s Jennifer Lawrence), a young girl with her own set of issues. In addition to those named, the film features comedic actor Chris Tucker in a rare, non–Rush Hour role.