Fall 2014’s Most Exciting Oscar Bait

InterstellarParamount Pictures

As the fall draws closer, it brings with it the start of Oscar season, when every studio unveils its biggest, buzziest and most dramatic films in an attempt to earn some recognition on the biggest night in Hollywood. And while every year does turn out a great deal of excellent films and incredible performances, at a certain point they all start to feel the same, with one domestic drama blending into another and period pieces all attempting to outshine each other. But there is some variety hidden amongst the Oscar bait, with some films providing original, interesting stories or creative twists on classic plots. In case you’re looking to add some variety to your fall film lineup, we’ve run down the best, most original awards bait hitting theaters this fall. Once December hits, however, it’s every moviegoer for himself. 

Smack dab in the middle of Oscar season, Christopher Nolan will finally unveil his latest epic, Interstellar. Part post-apocalyptic drama, part space opera, part Hollywood blockbuster, and Phase II of the McConaissance, the film follows a group of explorers who set off in for a wormhole that will allow them to travel from one solar system to another in search of resources that can save the earth now that it’s run out of food. So, you know, just your usual low-key, easy to follow, low-stakes story. 
Opens: November 7

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Every year, there’s at least one Oscar baity film the centers on a relationship falling apart, but The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby puts a new spin on that old classic by creating an epic, two-part film that tells the story from both his (James McAvoy) and her (Jessica Chastain) perspectives. Since premiering at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews, we’ve been waiting impatiently for our chance to see the film. As it turns out, we’ll actually get two: a one-film version which blends both sides together will be released along with the original two-film version.
Opens: September 12

The Boxtrolls
Of all the films being released at the end of 2014 – war epics, biopics, highly-anticipated comebacks – one of the most exciting is an animated film about the friendly trolls who live under the sewers of a small English village. That’s because The Boxtrolls is the latest film from Laika, the stop-motion studio that has made such wonderful films as Coraline and ParaNorman. Like its predecessors, The Boxtrolls  looks like an incredibly detailed, magical, funny adventure, but unlike them, we’re hoping that the studio will finally be able to get the recognition they deserve for their labors of love. And with no Disney or Pixar films to compete, they might finally have a shot.
Opens: September 26

Gone Girl
We know, we know: you’re probably sick of hearing about Gone Girl. But the buzz surrounding the film, its stars, the book it’s based on doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, so you might as well embrace it. Besides, it gives us yet another opportunity to study the enigma that is Ben Affleck’s career. Will he get a third Oscar for this? Will it finally make people take him seriously as an actor and filmmaker? Are we all going to stop praising him the second the first trailer for Batman V. Superman comes out? Nobody knows.
Opens: October 3

FurySony Pictures Releasing

It wouldn’t be awards season without a World War II drama, and 2014 is no exception. However, in addition to the typical slate of inspiring biopics and domestic dramas about the home-front, Brad Pitt and David Ayer are offering Fury. It’s a small-scale – well, as small scale as a world war gets – film about the lives and missions of a single tank crew tasked with venturing behind enemy lines, and it features a cast of acclaimed, yet underappreciated actors like Logan Lerman, Jon Berenthal, and Michael Pena. Just when you thought you’d seen every single war drama that’s been made, there finally comes one that’s actually intriguing. 
Opens: November 14

Kill the Messenger  

His Avengers co-star Robert Downey Jr. might have a higher-profile film opening that day, but we’re much more interested in Jeremy Renner’s Kill the Messenger. Based on the true story of Gary Webb, a reporter who uncovered the CIA’s connection to the Nicaraguan drug trade, the film centers on the manhunt that Webb became a part of after going public with his evidence. It’s the biggest, most intense role that Renner has had since The Hurt Locker,  and after years of being overlooked in favor of his showier co-star, we’re excited to see him get some of the attention he deserves.
Opens: October 10

Everyone love a comeback story, right? Well, how about one that’s a little more surreal? That’s what Michael Keaton is going for with his upcoming film Birdman, which takes places over the course of the several days in which washed-up actor Riggan Thompson, who made his name as superhero, attempts to mount a comeback with a play that he wrote, directed and is starring in. With Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at the helm and a cast featuring Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Edward Norton, we’d be interested in this even if it weren’t Keaton’s first big film in years.
Opens: October 17

Beyond the Lights
After winning over audiences everywhere with her breakthrough role in Amma Asante’s Belle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is set to prove that she can do more than just period pieces with Beyond the Lights.  Mbatha-Raw plays Noni, a Rihanna-like pop star struggling with being a puppet for her pushy stage mom and greedy record executives, who finds joy in a relationship with down-to-earth cop Kaz (Nate Parker). The story might be familiar to anyone who saw Britney Spears’ “Lucky” video, but it’s the perfect opportunity for Mbatha-Raw to really showcase her talent with a role that requires her to sing, dance, fall in love, and break our hearts.
Opens: November 14