Four Movies for Fall

Leaves are falling, a brisk wind has picked up outside, and the sky has been getting dark earlier and earlier. What do you do at times like these? Sure, you could pick up a book and curl up by the fire, but you could also switch on a film and be visually transported elsewhere. There are a couple of elsewheres I prefer during this season; places that have similar weather to yours, yet are different enough that you’d devote two hours to being there. Here are four of my favorite fall-themed films that feel just right.


Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

With an all-star cast and a heartfelt story, Mona Lisa Smile is the perfect feel-good film. It opens in the fall of 1953 as the school year begins at Wellesley College. Julia Roberts plays a first-year teacher, Katherine Watson, who is a new hire at Wellesley after pining after the job for years. Teaching art history, Katherine Watson is a free-spirited woman attempting to open the minds of her stuck-up students. Eventually, this teacher learns just as much from her students as they do from her. 

This film may lack a nuanced script, however, it successfully addresses the topics of early feminism, female friendships, and the power of art. Though it takes place over one school year, many of the main plot points occur in the fall and wintertime, leaving images of chunky sweaters and crackling fires in your mind. If you enjoyed Dead Poets Society or October Sky in any regard, I would recommend checking out Mona Lisa Smile on Netflix.


Practical Magic (1998)

Another female-led film that is perfect for the spooky season is Practical Magic, adapted from the novel of the same name by Alice Hoffman. Starring a young Sandra Bullock and Nichole Kidman, this film has it all: sisterhood, star-crossed lovers, and witches. I would strongly suggest watching this one on Halloween night for a particular spooky feel. 

Sally and Gillian Owens (Bullock and Kidman, respectively) are two young women who, though born into a magical family, have purposefully gone their whole lives without using magic. Only out of necessity, when Gillian’s abusive ex-boyfriend tracks her down, do the sisters teach themselves the art of black magic. These sisters, with drastically different personalities, must band together and learn to understand each other while simultaneously getting in touch with their family’s magical heritage. Practical Magic didn’t win any Oscars, but it is great fun to watch. There’s arguably nothing better than a light-hearted rom-com on a rainy day. 


Rushmore (1998)

A hidden gem in Wes Anderson’s filmography, Rushmore was also released in 1998 but to a much different audience than that of Practical Magic. This film stars Jason Schwartzman, playing a precocious high schooler named Max who falls in love with a teacher at his school. Max turns to the dad of a kid in his class, Herman (Bill Murray), for advice when he realizes he has made no real friends. Things become complicated when Herman also falls in love with the school teacher, breaking Max’s heart in more than one way. Rushmore is a comedy that borders the line of tragedy. 

Set at the beginning of the school year, of course, the fall season plays a role in this film. It adds just the right amount of that academic aesthetic often correlated with fall time. A large part of Max’s hijinks takes place outside on the school’s quad, as he roams through the trees plotting revenge on Herman. If you’re looking for a good laugh, Wes Anderson is the man for you.


When Harry Met Sally (1989)

I often try to be unbiased in my writing, but I must be honest here. When Harry Met Sally may be the best romantic comedy ever made. Not only is it carried by the phenomenal acting of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, but its script is also brilliant. The story comes from the amazing Nora Ephron and was directed by Rob Reiner, who also did Stand By Me and The Princess Bride. Billy Crystal plays Harry and Meg Ryan plays Sally who carpool to New York City after graduating college. Though the two have a mutual friend, Harry and Sally immediately get off on the wrong foot and are reluctant to drive across the country together. Yet they are both witty and ambitious, leading them to friendship by the end of the trip. A point of contention always remains between them: Harry believes women and men can never merely be friends because sex always gets in the way, whereas Sally thinks he just hasn’t made the right friends. They both prove each other wrong. 

This film takes place over roughly ten years, so the fall season feels ever-present. One of the most crucial moments between Harry and Sally happens while they’re strolling through Central Park as orange and red leaves fall around them. But don’t fret if you cannot squeeze this one in before fall ends because the story comes to a head around New Year’s. As with any film, there is more than one optimal season within to watch them.


If you do decide to check out any of these films, I hope they are as comforting to you as they are to me. 


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