There are certain films that beautifully evoke the same energy, colour palette and overarching feel of the seasons. The heady, drawn-out love affair in Call Me By Your Name is intertwined with hazy summer days, thrumming with desire and heat; the oppressive blanket of snow traps the Torrance family with flurries of cabin-fever in The Shining. Autumn is no different, with autumnal themes ranging from fresh starts (I, for one, will forever feel deferential to the scholastic calendar), to a burnished orange colour palette, drawing viewers in with its comforting glow, crackling leaves and various woolly knitwear. From Fantastic Mr. Fox to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, here are six films to watch this month that are sure to get you feeling cosy.
Dead Poets Society
Dead Poets Society has the winning autumnal combination of beginning at the start of the school year and boasting some beautiful nature shots full of crackling leaves, blue skies and earthy terracotta visuals. The narrative is imbued with autumnal themes: hope; the desire to break free and have a fresh start; the devouring of new knowledge. There’s an 18-year-old Ethan Hawke with floppy hair and a shy demeanour, getting stuck into his studies in navy knitwear; and Neil, who later defies his father to play Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, sports a crown and cuff-pieces made of twig, sparse leaves and berries, straddling summer and autumn, old thoughts and new, both in texturally and conceptually.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
It’s near-impossible to find another film that is so closely loyal to autumnal aesthetics as Fantastic Mr. Fox. The earthy threads in Mr. Fox’s tweed suits, the tawny hue to his sleek fur, even the characteristically gravelly vocal fry of the voice cast; it all contributes to the warmth and snugness of the season. The film also has a strong presence of harvest; oranges and yellows in grains, pulses, nuts, flowers, seeds and corn mark the end of a season of growth and the slow descent into winter. Harvest and feasting are certainly themes of both autumn and this film; while Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in the fall, in Fantastic Mr. Fox they have a similar feast with their stolen treasures from Boggis, Bunce and Bean; ruby red berries inside a golden roasted turkey, sat atop a carrot-hemmed tablecloth.
Good Will Hunting
Though Good Will Hunting’s promotional posters feature orange-hued trees in the background, in that actual scene, the trees are green and not obviously autumnal. We’ll gloss over that. If any film on this list is about change, it’s this one. Will’s character arc mutates and shifts through coldness and light as if by nature’s force; indebted to its location of South Boston, the camera lovingly captures the city’s verdant parks as contrasting vantage point where freeing conversations can take place. From Robin William’s school-masterly knitwear and professor-ly kindness to the ochre-yellow glow given off by Will’s bedroom lamp as he studies, there’s something about the colours and themes of this film that feels developmental, scholastic. How do you like them apples?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best Harry Potter film. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the only Harry Potter film directed by Alfonso Cuarón. I can assure you that these two facts are, indeed, correlated. The perhaps curious decision of swapping from the resolutely ‘Hollywood’ Chris Columbus to a then-fairly unknown Mexican indie filmmaker was the best thing the franchise could have done. The third Harry Potter film marked a change in the wizarding tale – a change that is felt through every autumnal hint in the film. The franchise grew darker; our protagonists were 13-going-on-14, and their hormonal teenage angst is deftly exposed every step of the way. Cuarón expanded the Hogwarts grounds and fully realised its location to incorporate its nature into the magic of the story line, not just expanding borders and horizons geographically, but thematically. Prisoner of Azkaban just is autumn: the pumpkin patch at Hagrid’s hut; the Halloween-esque malevolent imagery of black crows, beasts and bad omens; the Whomping Willow shedding its golden-orange and maroon leaves. For me, this film is pure magic.
When Harry Met Sally
Through vignettes of Harry and Sally’s life we see stand-alone snippets of their relationship, which are often framed around a season – and when Harry and Sally finally become friends it’s as they walk together in a blur of burnt-orange and yellow leaves, marking a new start, a fresh change. There’s something truly enchanting about the way Rob Reiner captures a certain magical essence of New York in the autumn as our two protagonists stroll through Central Park, blanketed in rustling leaves. More restorative and nourishing than hot soup on a cold day, the film’s witty dialogue and beautiful aesthetics layer together with so many other autumnal touches, from Meg Ryan’s earth-toned cords to both of their chunky cable-knit jumpers.
There’s a reason why I simply haven’t listed a series of Halloween films on this list, and I’m not listing Hocus Pocus purely for having the most glorious triumvirate of camp witches that my spooky-loving heart could wish for. There’s just something about New England that feels so autumnal to me (and I’m sure you’ll agree if you’re a Gilmore Girls fan); the sloping white architecture contrasts so beautifully with autumnal colours, and as we see Max cycle through a Salem that is carpeted with warmth – through crackling-leaf golden streets and graveyards and fields – the spirit of the season is so richly brought to life.
by Steph Green
Steph Green is a culture writer from North London. Having studied English Literature, French and Film at Leeds University, she is now the film news editor of The Indiependent and has written for Vogue Paris, Into The Fold and The Gryphon. Some of her favourite films are The 400 Blows, Memento, The Social Network, Before Sunset and Call Me By Your Name. She’s normally found wittering about film on Twitter and Letterboxd.
Categories: Anything and Everything