Like a student returning from summer vacation, Hollywood looks at fall as a time to brush up on its history lessons.
Between now and the end of the year, more than 25 movies based on real events will open in theaters. They include profiles of criminals, re-creations of astonishing events, and moments of political and social history. (There also are a handful of documentaries playing this fall.)
Hollywood likes “based-on-a-true-story” movies because there’s nothing more inherently dramatic than real life. Studios also like them because they can smell awards potential.
Three of the last five Best Picture Oscar winners — “The King’s Speech,” “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave” — were based on true stories. Seven of the last 10 Best Actor Oscar winners and five of the last 10 Best Actress Oscar winners played real people.
This year’s crop of Oscar-race favorites include Johnny Depp playing a mobster (“Black Mass”), Tom Hardy playing two mobsters (“Legend”), Michael Fassbender playing a tech icon (“Steve Jobs”), Julianne Moore playing a cop fighting cancer and for justice (“Freeheld”), Robert Redford playing anchorman Dan Rather (“Truth”), Bryan Cranston playing a blacklisted screenwriter (“Trumbo”), Will Smith playing a truth-seeking doctor (“Concussion”), Jennifer Lawrence as a single mom-turned-entrepreneur (“Joy”) and Eddie Redmayne playing a transgender artist (“The Danish Girl”). Joseph Gordon-Levitt is playing two real figures: French aerialist Philippe Petit (“The Walk”) and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (“Snowden”).
Other historical dramas cover a horrific mountain-climbing season (“Everest”), a landmark gay-rights event (“Stonewall”), a newspaper staff’s exposé of the Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal (“Spotlight”), the survival tale of Chilean miners (“The 33”) and the battle for women’s right to vote (“Suffragette”).
Of course, there’s plenty of fictional fodder in theaters this fall, including an animated dinosaur, Peter Pan, Katniss Everdeen and some familiar folks from a galaxy far, far away.
Here, in chronological order (and with release dates subject to change), is a rundown of the movies coming our way this fall:
Learning to Drive • A recent divorcée (Patricia Clarkson) tries to get her driver license and ends up befriending her Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley).
90 Minutes in Heaven • A Christian drama, starring Hayden Christensen as a man who is pronounced dead after a horrific accident — but wakes up claiming he visited heaven.
The Perfect Guy • Sanaa Latham plays a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend (Morris Chestnut), but finds her next suitor (Michael Ealy) too good to be true.
The Prophet • Animators — including Nina Paley (“Sita Sings the Blues”), Tomm Moore (“Song of the Sea”) and Roger Allers (“The Lion King”) — collaborate to depict the poems in Kahlil Gibran’s beloved novel.
The Visit • M. Night Shyamalan directs this “found-footage” thriller, as two kids spend a night with their grandparents.
Wolf Totem • A Chinese student, sent to rural Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution, adopts a wolf cub in this drama.
Director • Scott Cooper
Screenwriter • Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth
Main cast • Johnny Depp, Dakota Johnson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard.
What it’s about • Early buzz at the Telluride Film Festival was strong for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. Director Scott Cooper (“Out of the Furnace,” “Crazy Heart”) digs deep into Bulger’s psyche and the complicity of the Boston FBI agent (Joel Edgerton) who recruited him as an informant and looked the other way as the mobster committed more crimes. Depp dons some impressive makeup to approximate Bulger’s severe look, and the restrictive prosthetics allow the actor to let loose in what is reportedly a career-best performance.
About Ray • In this comedy-drama, a teen (Elle Fanning) transitions from female to male, a process that forces his mother (Naomi Watts) to track down his biological father.
Captive • A single mom (Kate Mara) is taken hostage by a killer (David Oyelowo) in this faith-based drama.
Cooties • A virus turns elementary-school kids into feral savages, leaving their teachers (led by Elijah Wood) to fight for their lives, in this comic horror movie.
Everest • The deaths of several climbers on Mount Everest in 1996 are recounted in this drama, which boasts a cast including Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington and Jake Gyllenhaal. (In IMAX; opens Sept. 25 on non-IMAX screens.)
Grandma • Lily Tomlin stars in this comedy as a woman who helps her granddaughter (Julia Garner) scare up some needed cash in a hurry.
The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials • The second installment based on James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic YA novels, in which immune teens are chased through the wastelands where a mutant virus has turned people into zombielike creatures.
The Second Mother • A housekeeper (Regina Casé) has an uneasy reunion with her estranged college-bound daughter (Camila Márdila), exposing the class divisions in her boss’s home, in this Brazilian drama.
Hotel Transylvania 2 • Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler) is a grandpa in this sequel to the 2012 animated comedy.
The Intern • In Nancy Meyers’ comedy, Anne Hathaway plays the young CEO of an online fashion site who is assigned a 70-year-old retiree (Robert DeNiro) as her new intern.
Pawn Sacrifice • Tobey Maguire plays the temperamental U.S. chess champion Bobby Fischer, preparing to face Russian Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), in this biopic.
Sicario • Emily Blunt stars in this crime thriller as an idealistic FBI agent who joins a task force trying to stop drug trafficking on the U.S./Mexico border.
Stonewall • Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) directs this historical drama, set before and during the Stonewall riots of 1969 — considered the birth of the gay-rights movement.
Sept. 30 (Wednesday)
Director • Robert Zemeckis
Screenwriter • Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne
Main cast • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz.
What it’s about • Leave it to Robert Zemeckis, melder of technological wizardry to heartfelt stories (“Forrest Gump,” “Cast Away,” “Flight”), to take viewers where few have been and no one can go anymore: the roof of the World Trade Center. Zemeckis tells the story of Philippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the French aerialist who in 1974 mounted a “coup” to string a high-wire between the just-completed Twin Towers and walk between what were then the world’s tallest buildings. The story was told in James Marsh’s Oscar-winning 2008 documentary “Man on Wire,” but Zemeckis adds the sensation of actually being up there with Petit on his wire.
Opens • Sept. 30 in IMAX; Oct. 9 elsewhere.
Goodnight Mommy • Twin brothers think their mother, recovering from plastic surgery, isn’t their mother anymore in this horror-thriller from Austria.
Legend • Tom Hardy plays a dual role in writer-director Brian Helgeland’s crime drama as Ronald and Reginald Kray, twin brothers and notorious British gangsters.
The Martian • Ridley Scott directs this science-fiction thriller, with Matt Damon as an abandoned astronaut trying to survive alone on Mars.
Peace Officer • This documentary follows William “Dub” Lawrence, a retired sheriff’s officer in Davis County, Utah, who investigates the death of his son-in-law — killed by the SWAT team Dub founded.
Prophet’s Prey • Amy Berg’s documentary digs into the empire of Warren Jeffs, the Fundamentalist LDS leader, and the sexual abuse he committed and encouraged.
Sleeping With Other People • Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie star in this comedy as two platonic friends with lengthy sexual histories.
Director • Danny Boyle
Screenwriter • Aaron Sorkin
Main cast • Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Sarah Snook, Katherine Waterston.
What it’s about • It’s about time someone paired the hyperkinetic visuals of director Danny Boyle (“127 Hours,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) with the fast-and-smart dialogue of Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”). That someone turns out to be Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Computer, played here by Michael Fassbender. Sorkin uses a three-act format to examine Jobs’ life at three crucial junctures, all backstage at major product introductions: the Macintosh in 1984, his failed NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1994. And, like an iPhone, the movie packs a lot into a sleek, deceptively simple package.
He Named Me Malala • Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) directs this documentary profile of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student who became an advocate of girls’ education and the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Just Let Go • Henry Ian Cusick (“Lost”) stars in this Utah-made drama as a man urged to find forgiveness for the drunk driver who caused the deaths of his wife and children.
Pan • The origins of Peter Pan are explored in this fantasy adventure, which stars Hugh Jackman (as Blackbeard), Rooney Mara (as Tiger Lily) and Garrett Hedlund (as a young James Hook).
Director • Peter Sollett
Screenwriter • Ron Nyswaner
Main cast • Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Michael Shannon, Steve Carell, Josh Charles.
What it’s about • Cynthia Wade’s Oscar-winning 2007 short documentary “Freeheld” seems like a natural for a scripted revision, and director Peter Sollett (“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) and screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”) oblige. The movie casts Julianne Moore as Laurel Hester, a New Jersey police detective who is diagnosed with lung cancer — and faces a fierce legal battle when she tries to leave her survivor’s benefits to her partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Moore has plenty of opportunity for Oscar-ceremony clip fodder, both portraying Hester’s declining health and her determination for equality in this precursor to the fight for same-sex marriage rights.
Bridge of Spies • Steven Spielberg directs this Cold War thriller, with Tom Hanks as a U.S. lawyer tasked with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers (“Dolphin Tale’s” Austin Stowell), a spy-plane pilot caught by the Soviets.
Crimson Peak • Guillermo Del Toro directs this haunted-house thriller, starring Mia Wasikowska as an author who visits a house that’s as creepy as its brother-sister occupants (Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain).
Goosebumps • A new kid in town (Dylan Minnette) meets a cute girl (Odeya Rush), but faces a Halloween horror show when he finds her uncle is the author R.L. Stine (Jack Black) — and accidentally unleashes the creatures in Stine’s stories.
99 Homes • A man (Andrew Garfield) goes to work for the real-estate broker (Michael Shannon) who foreclosed on his family’s house in writer-director Ramin Bahrani’s drama.
Woodlawn • A high-school football team in Alabama, 1970, faces racial tensions in this Christian-themed drama, starring Sean Astin and C. Thomas Howell.
Burnt • Bradley Cooper stars in this comedy-drama as a top chef who, after nearly destroying his career through drugs and arrogance, gets a chance to start over in a London restaurant.
Jem & the Holograms • An underground video star becomes a global rock star, with her sisters as her band, in this live-action update of the “truly outrageous” ’80s cartoon.
The Last Witch Hunter • Vin Diesel stars in this supernatural action movie as an immortal facing down the resurrected Queen Witch (Julie Engelbrecht) he vanquished centuries before.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension • The fifth — and possibly final — installment in the found-footage horror franchise.
Our Brand Is Crisis • American campaign strategists ply their skills to a South American democracy in a drama adapted from a documentary of the same name. Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton lead the cast for director David Gordon Green (“Joe,” “Prince Avalanche”).
Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse • Possibly this fall’s best title, this horror comedy follows three scouts on their final campout — and trying to save their town from a zombie attack.
Beasts of No Nation • Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective” season 1) directs this tale of a child soldier (Abraham Attah) in a civil war in Africa. Idris Elba stars as the commandant.
Finders Keepers • This offbeat documentary — a hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival — profiles a man who lost his amputated leg, and the man who found it and refused to return it.
Mississippi Grind • A veteran gambler (Ben Mendelsohn) tries to change his luck by teaming with a young poker player (Ryan Reynolds) on a road trip through Southern casinos.
Room • Director Lenny Abrahamson (“Frank”) and screenwriter Emma Donoghue adapt Donoghue’s novel, a tense drama of a young woman (Brie Larson) held hostage for as long as her young son (Jacob Tremblay) has been alive.
Trash • Three boys picking trash in Rio de Janeiro’s garbage dumps find a wallet that the police are strangely interested in retrieving in this thriller by director Stephen Daldry (“The Hours”).
Truth • Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford star in this true story as news producer Mary Mapes and anchor Dan Rather — whose pursuit of a story involving George W. Bush’s spotty National Guard record becomes a journalistic scandal.
Director • Jay Roach
Screenwriter • John McNamara
Main cast • Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K.
What it’s about • After conquering television as meth chemist Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” Bryan Cranston takes his first starring role in this Hollywood biopic. He plays Dalton Trumbo, perhaps the most prodigious and talented screenwriter of the 1940s and 1950s until he was blacklisted because of his ties to the Communist Party. Trumbo fought the blacklist the only way he knew how, by writing — either under pseudonyms or using a “front.” (His scripts for “The Brave One” and “Roman Holiday” each won Oscars while he was blacklisted.) Jay Roach (“Austin Powers”) has assembled a strong supporting cast, notably Helen Mirren as right-wing gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, but this one will stand or fall on Cranston’s performance. Who’s going to bet against Walter White?
Miss You Already • Catherine Hardwick (“Twilight”) directs this comedy-drama, starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette as best friends — one trying to have a baby, the other diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Peanuts Movie • Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang are rendered in computer animation by Blue Sky Studios, the folks behind the “Ice Age” movies.
Spectre • Daniel Craig returns as James Bond 007, tracking down a sinister organization and its shadowy boss (Christoph Waltz).
By the Sea • Angelina Jolie wrote and directed this romance, starring herself and her husband, Brad Pitt, as a couple with a fraying marriage.
Love the Coopers • A multigenerational family Christmas Eve gathering takes some odd turns in this comedy, with a cast that includes Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei and Olivia Wilde.
My All American • An underdog college football player (Finn Wittrock) finds camaraderie on the field and challenges off of it in this inspirational sports drama that marks the directing debut of “Hoosiers” screenwriter Angelo Pizzo.
Rings • The creepy Samara returns from the videotape in this third chapter of “The Ring” horror franchise.
Suffragette • The fight for women’s right to vote is played out in this historical drama, with a cast led by Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep.
The 33 • This survival story tells of the Chilean miners trapped 68 days in a collapsed mine. The cast includes Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Lou Diamond Phillips and Gabriel Byrne.
Carol • In this melodrama by Todd Haynes (“Far From Heaven”), a shopgirl (Rooney Mara) in 1950s New York falls for an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett).
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 • The final chapter brings rebel leader Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) against President Snow (Donald Sutherland) for a final showdown — and may finally settle the whole Peeta vs. Gale thing.
Secret in Their Eyes • Writer-director Billy Ray (“Breach”) remakes the 2009 Oscar-winning Argentine thriller, with Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor as FBI investigators who find a shocking personal link to a brutal murder — a crime they and their DA (Nicole Kidman) pursue for 13 years.
Nov. 25 (Wednesday)
Creed • Director Ryan Coogler reteams with his “Fruitvale Station” star, Michael B. Jordan, for this continuation in Rocky Balboa’s story — with Jordan as boxer Adonis Johnson, son of the late boxer Apollo Creed, seeking training help from Rocky (Sylvester Stallone).
The Good Dinosaur • Disney/Pixar’s second movie of 2015 imagines a world where dinosaurs didn’t go extinct, as an apatosaurus makes a human friend.
The Night Before • Three buddies (Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie) go on a traditional, and possibly last, pre-Christmas bender in this raunchy comedy.
Victor Frankenstein • A new imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic monster tale, with James McAvoy as Dr. F. and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor.
Brooklyn • Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement”) stars in this adaptation of Colm Tóibin’s novel, as an Irish immigrant in the 1950s who must choose between two men — one (Emory Cohen) in America, the other (Domhnall Gleeson) back home.
Spotlight • Tom McCarthy (“Win Win,” “The Visitor”) directs this true newspaper drama, following the Boston Globe investigative reporters (Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams) and their editors (Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber) who uncovered the sexual-abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.
Krampus • The anti-Santa legend, of a demon who attacks Christmas nonbelievers, gets the treatment in this horror-comedy starring Adam Scott and Toni Collette.
In the Heart of the Sea • Ron Howard directs this nautical tale that’s said to be the inspiration for “Moby Dick” — a true story of a whaling ship in 1820 that is attacked by a massive sperm whale. Chris Hemsworth stars.
Sisters • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play sisters who throw one last party in their parents’ old house in this raunchy comedy.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens • You may have heard about this one: J.J. Abrams directs the seventh chapter in the classic space opera, with a cast that includes Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Domhnall Gleeson joining our old friends Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
Dec. 23 (Wednesday)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip • The high-pitched rodents race to New York to stop Dave (Jason Lee) from popping the question.
Concussion • Will Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, who helped discover the brain disease caused by repeated concussions — and how his research was ignored and derided by the National Football League.
Daddy’s Home • Will Ferrell stars in this comedy as a guy who must contend with his stepkids’ too-cool father (Mark Wahlberg).
The Danish Girl • This drama is inspired by the romance of 1920s artists Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) as Einar transitions to a woman.
The Hateful Eight • Quentin Tarantino goes Western as bounty hunters gather in a Wyoming cabin during a snowstorm. Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Christoph Waltz lead the cast. (Opens Christmas in Super Panavision 70 in select theaters; opens Jan. 9 elsewhere.)
Joy • Jennifer Lawrence reunites with her “Silver Linings Playbook” director-writer, David O. Russell, to portray Joy Mangano, a single mom who built a business empire after inventing the “Miracle Mop.”
Point Break • A remake of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze bro-tastic action movie, as FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) infiltrates a group of extreme-sports bandits led by the mysterious Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez).
The Revenant • Alejandro González Iñárritu follows up “Birdman” with this survival drama about a frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the 1820s seeking revenge on the people who left him for dead.
Snowden • Oliver Stone directs this biopic of Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the NSA contractor who leaked classified information to the press, revealing the extent of the surveillance state.
James Wan Presents Demonic • A detective (Frank Grillo) and a psychiatrist (Maria Bello) investigate murders in an abandoned house that may have connections to the devil.
The Lady in the Van • A screenwriter (Alex Jennings) befriends a transient woman (Maggie Smith) parked in his driveway in this comedy-drama based on Alan Bennett’s reality-inspired play.
Macbeth • Michael Fassbender plays the Thane of Glamis, and Marion Cotillard his scheming wife, in this version of Shakespeare’s “Scottish play.”
Youth • Two old friends, a retired composer (Michael Caine) and a still-working filmmaker (Harvey Keitel), meet in a luxury hotel in this drama.
The Green Inferno • Eli Roth directs this cannibal horror movie, which follows do-gooder college kids who encounter a lethal tribe in the Amazon jungle.
I Saw the Light • Tom Hiddleston plays country music pioneer Hank Williams in this biography.
Life • In this drama, a photographer (Robert Pattinson) for Life magazine is assigned to shoot pictures of James Dean (Dane DeHaan).
Son of Saul • In this acclaimed Hungarian-made drama, a prisoner in Auschwitz, assigned to burn the bodies of his fellow Jews, tries to salvage his son’s body for a proper burial.
Fonte: The Salt Lake Tribune