Top 10 Fall Movies: Early Oscar Favorites

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As the leaves start to change, you can count on one thing from Hollywood: Films' quality will skyrocket. A majority of the movies that wind up hoisting Oscar gold each year arrive in the final quarter of the year. There are dozens that are vying for film’s highest honor and it is a safe bet that one of them will be released between now and when the calendar switches to 2013.

Movie Fanatic previously gave you our Top 10 Fun Fall Films, and now we get serious. It’s time for our Top 10 Fall Movies: Oscar Edition.

10. Zero Dark Thirty
The last time director Kathryn Bigelow wielded her camera, she won a Best Director Oscar and her film, The Hurt Locker, took home Best Picture. For her latest work, she goes inside the mission to take out Osama bin Laden. Since the film’s announcement, it has been embroiled in controversy with leaders in the House of Representatives accusing Bigelow of having access to state secrets. Judging by the Zero Dark Thirty trailer, whatever she used… this film looks timely and thrilling. Release date: December 19.

Zero Dark Thirty Picture

9. End of Watch
David Ayers made a name for himself as the writer who got Denzel Washington his second Oscar statue for Training Day. That same grittiness is present, and even amped up, in his follow-up that also serves as his directorial debut. As seen in our exclusive End of Watch trailer, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are two LAPD officers who stumble on a South American cartel’s goods, and may pay for it with their lives. Look for some Oscar love for Ayers’ screenplay, direction and hopefully stars Pena and Gyllenhaal. The film lands September 21.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Stephen Chbosky wrote a little book in the late 1990s and it became a cultural phenomenon. It only took over a decade, but the film version is set to hit theaters and boy is it worth the wait. The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Emma Watson arrives in limited release September 21 before opening large September 28. The book, and film, possess a power that has not been seen in stories whose subjects are teenagers for decades. The old adage on this film is too true: You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll leave the theater immensely moved.

7. Anna Karenina
Director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley join forces again, a decade after making Pride and Prejudice. Wright takes Leo Tolstoy’s iconic book and manages to give it a life never seen before. Movie Fanatic caught the flick at TIFF and was completely blown away at the wildly original way that Wright has crafted his film. Look for Anna Karenina to get Oscar attention from a Best Picture nomination through its cast that also features a never-been-better Jude Law. The film premieres November 16.
Aaron Johnson Keira Knightley Anna Karenina

6. The Impossible
After the Toronto Film Festival, even with all the stellar performances witnessed, few captured the hearts and souls of everyone in attendance as Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts did for The Impossible. The true tale of one family’s survival story in the wake of the Thailand tsunami is not one you will ever forget. Try watching The Impossible trailer and not have your jaw drop! The film will be released December 21.

5. Django Unchained
As told to us in our Jamie Foxx interview, Quentin Tarantino had the actor in tears with his script about a freed slave trying to free his wife from the bonds of slavery with the help of a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz). The powerful premise, coupled with Tarantino’s unmatched cinematic gifts has Movie Fanatic all sorts of thrilled to catch Django Unchained on Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to all!

4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth in the first of his latest JRR Tolkien-based trilogy. The story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventure with Gandalf will introduce us to the iconic ring and that rascal Gollum. The footage we saw at Comic-Con was mind-blowing. The film that had difficulty coming to the big screen as directors came and went scored gold when it got Jackson to return to the franchise and bring the adventures of our new favorite Hobbit to life. The following two films in Jackson’s Hobbit series will hold a permanent place on this list for the next two years. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey lands December 14.
Gandalf the Grey The Hobbit

3. Cloud Atlas
A mind-blowing premise, a star-studded cast and a film made by a trio of filmmakers (the Wachowskis, Tom Tykwer) who can push the envelope and Cloud Atlas is a saliva-inducing piece of work. Judging by the nearly six-minute Cloud Atlas trailer, this is a story that spans generations, planets and features actors performing various roles (Tom Hanks has six!). You would be hard pressed to find a more original film landing on screens this fall when Cloud Atlas premieres October 26.

2. Argo
A little-known sub-story to the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, Argo arrives as a potential Oscar favorite from Ben Affleck. He serves as star and director after two successful helming efforts with Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town. Six Americans escaped the embassy takeover and this is the true story of their CIA-orchestrated rescue. In case you're wondering, Argo refers to the fictional title of the film within the film that CIA agent Affleck and his Hollywood friends are "scouting" in Iran in order to stage a rescue.
Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

1. Lincoln
Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day Lewis as our 16th president from the astounding book by Doris Kearns Goodwin? Just give Lincoln the Best Picture Oscar and Lewis a Best Actor trophy already! Mark November 16 on the calendar when Lincoln lands.

Honorable mentions: On the Road, Les Miserables, Butter, Hyde Park on the Hudson and Life of Pi

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