Ten autumn films for people who don't like Halloween movies
- Alex Johnston
- 10 October 2017
Not interested in being terrified? Try these non-horror seasonal movies
It's autumn, and you know what that means? Halloween is coming, which also means lists of Halloween movies: killer clowns, chainsaws, hockey masks, macabre Tim Burton-derived stop-motion whimsy and other more or less determined attempts by filmmakers to make people more afraid than they would otherwise be.
But what about those of us who aren't fans of horror films, and yet have no desire to sit through You've Got Mail, especially when we could watch its inspiration, Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around The Corner (which is a Christmas movie, and so doesn't qualify)? Here are ten autumnal films that will put you in the mood for a warm drink, something to eat that tastes of apples, and perhaps some critical reflection on the role of militarism in post-war Japanese society.
Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
Woody Allen's directorial career has become like Ser Gregor Clegane in Game of Thrones, a horrifying zombie that won't lie down and die. It's all the more sad because once, it was like Davos Seaworth: wise, dryly funny and good company. Hannah and Her Sisters is one of his best, a lean and compassionate comedy of self-deception, in which various characters go after what they think they want only to find that they wanted something else all along. Michael Caine's Elliot is one of those characters you most want to smack over the head with a copy of the collected poetry of EE Cummings.
Rent or buy Hannah and Her Sisters on Amazon Video.
Persuasion (Roger Michell, 1995)
This BBC version of Austen's most romantic novel was shot using natural light and minimal glamour, and as a result the emotional education of Anne Elliot (Amanda Root) and Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) takes place against a backdrop of mud, chilly walks in the countryside, flushed faces and general raw humanity. Root and Hinds are superb as the former lovers who can't figure out if they still have feelings, and a killer supporting cast includes the late Corin Redgrave, gleefully turning all his r's into w's as Anne's awful snob of a father.
Buy Persuasion on Amazon.
Dead Poets Society (Peter Weir, 1989)
Well, you can't not, right? This tale of an inspiring teacher at an elite Vermont prep school in 1959 features the late Robin Williams showing inspired restraint as the charismatic Mr Keating, and it's all polished wood, blazers and golden leaves as sensitive Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) is squeezed between his love of theatre and his stern father. It's become ripe for parody (the Saturday Night Live sketch Farewell Mr Bunting is not for the weak-stomached) but it's still fine entertainment.
Rent or Buy Dead Poets Society on Amazon.
Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
Everybody should see at least one Wes Anderson film, and if it's not Fantastic Mr Fox it ought to be this one. He has a genius for casting: this is the film that brought Bill Murray out of his 90s doldrums, and Olivia Williams is possibly the last person to act in a Wes Anderson film who doesn't behave as though she's in a Wes Anderson film. In its peculiar three-way romance between teenage Max, lovelorn Herman and sceptical Rosemary, it's like nothing else.
Rent or Buy Rushmore on Amazon.
Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)
If Blazing Saddles is the Mel Brooks film for Mel Brooks fans, Young Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the film of his you'd recommend to anyone who isn't sure. Frederick Frankenstein ('FRONK-en-steen!') is determined not to follow in the footsteps of his mad scientist grandfather, but the lure of reanimating the dead is too strong to resist. Gene Hackman has a glorious cameo as a kindly blind monk who inadvertently scorches the nads off Peter Boyle's monster.
Available to watch on Netflix.
When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989)
Nora Ephron's finest 96 minutes, this mother of the modern rom-com can hardly be bettered, with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan standing back and looking askance at each other for 12 full years before it begins to dawn on them that maybe this 'friendship' thing isn't their ultimate level. To this day, the deli where Sally faked her orgasm has a sign hanging over the table saying 'Hope you have what she's having!'
Buy When Harry Met Sally on Amazon.
Silver Linings Playbook (David O Russell, 2012)
Much of the action of Silver Linings Playbook takes place as bipolar Pat (Cooper) pounds the autumn streets around his childhood home, wearing the sweat jacket he's improvised out of a black plastic sack, being pestered by Tiffany (Lawrence) who just wants a partner for an upcoming dance competition. A more bruising study of self-deception than Hannah and her Sisters, it's worth it for the dance contest – the moment when the music switches from Stevie Wonder's urbane 'Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing' to the White Stripes' manic 'Fell In Love With A Girl' finally gives Pat and Tiffany a chance to show everyone what it's like to be them.
Rent or Buy Silver Linings Playbook on Amazon.
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008)
It can't all be romantic comedy. Autumn is also a time for bromance, in this case between Colin Farrell's despairing hitman Ray and Brendan Gleeson as his avuncular partner Ken, as they swear their way through a sabbatical in a delightful Belgian tourist town while Ken awaits instructions from their ever-so-reasonable boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes, stealing his every scene.) It's the most touching of McDonagh's tales of loyalty, honour and masculinity, and the paintball-gun approach to bad language is so over the top it's hilarious ('How can f***ing swans not f***ing be somebody's f***ing thing, eh? How can that be?')
Rent or Buy In Bruges on Amazon.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Bill Melendez, 1966)
Yes, a Peanuts TV special – actually, the Secrets and Lies of Peanuts TV specials. Nowadays we expect kids' movies to be cheerful and upbeat, but It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is 25 minutes of brutal disillusionment: Charlie Brown ruins his costume and gets nothing in his trick or treat bag except rocks, Sally misses all the fun because she's waiting for Linus's elusive vegetable messiah, and Linus himself stays up so long in the pumpkin patch that...well, you'll have to find out. If the New Hollywood had made a Charlie Brown story, it'd be this one.
Buy on Amazon or watch the entire film below.
Mishima: A Life in Four Quarters (Paul Schrader, 1985)
Paul Schrader's best film as a director is several films in one: the last day in the life of Japanese writer and would-be coup-inspirer Yukio Mishima; flashback scenes from Mishima's own life; and highly stylised excerpts from his work, showing how the themes of pen and sword came together on a November day in 1970. It's a miracle it got made at all (George Lucas and Francis Coppola both helped bankroll it) and one of the most striking and original films of the 80s, helped by a driving score from Philip Glass.
Criterion Collection DVD available from Amazon.