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Have Yourself a Fall Movie Marathon

Film still from Cider House Rules

By Taylor Smith

Autumn can often induce feelings of nostalgia. As the weather turns cooler and a hint of the coming winter is detectable in the late evening air, you might be tempted to curl up with your favorite blanket and settle in for a fall movie marathon. Here are a few films that are guaranteed to send you on a journey and make for a memorable evening (or two).

The Paper Chase (1973)

Based on John Jay Osborn Jr.’s novel of the same name, The Paper Chase stars Timothy Bottoms as a first-year law student at Harvard Law School who develops an antagonistic relationship with his contract law professor, Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. Things get even more personal when Bottoms (who plays James Hart) begins seriously dating Kingsfield’s daughter.

The Crucible (1996)

Filmed on Hog Island in Ipswich, Mass., the 1996 adaptation of Arthur Miller’s famous play stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Inspired by the real-life Salem witchcraft trials, the film is moody, riveting, and passionate.

The Village (2004)

Nothing screams Halloween like a period horror film. The Village was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who is known for setting and filming all of his movies throughout the Bucks County and Philadelphia areas. The Village has an excellent soundtrack and is unique in vision and pacing. It also highlights the fiery foliage that naturally occurs in suburban Philadelphia every October.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Fans of Robin Williams need no reminder that Dead Poets Society is an utter classic. Directed by Peter Weir and filmed at the prestigious St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Del., this film is guaranteed to make you stand-up and proclaim, “Carpe Diem!” Bonus: Check out Princeton native Ethan Hawke in a touching role.

Little Women (1994)

Set in Concord, Mass., the 1994 adaptation of Little Women features an all-star cast including Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale. New England is a major character in this movie, along with the influences of the Transcendental Movement.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

A very rough draft of Good Will Hunting was written by Matt Damon when he was still an undergraduate student at Harvard University. His good friend Ben Affleck jumped in on the project, and the two were ultimately credited with getting their “idea” made into an Academy Award-winning film. The very collegiate production was shot on location at Harvard University, MIT, Cambridge, and the greater Boston area.

Cider House Rules (1999)

John Irving’s sweeping novel was transformed into a visually stunning film directed by Lasse Hallstrom.  A coming-of-age tale, the storyline unfolds at a remote orphanage in WWII-era Maine. Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron deliver a sentimental (yet complicated) portrayal of love and lust. There are also plenty of visuals of New England apple orchards, cider making, and lobstermen.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

The only obvious comedy on the list, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles somehow never seems to grow tiresome. A high-strung executive played by Steve Martin finds himself unwillingly tag-teaming with a goofball shower-ring salesman (played by John Candy) to find his way home to his family in time for Thanksgiving. The unforgiving Midwestern weather and absurd inconveniences of the holiday season generate routine laugh-out-loud moments.

Frankenweenie (1984)

Tim Burton’s aesthetic is a natural fit for the Halloween season. Frankenweenie is a short film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and written as a parody (and winking nod) to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The black-and-white film centers around a Bull Terrier named Sparky, the beloved pet of a little boy known as Victor Frankenstein (played by Barret Oliver). Unfortunately, Sparky is hit by a car and Victor determines that a bolt of lightning could possibly bring Sparky back to life. Sparky is in fact raised from the dead, but explaining his sudden resuscitation to neighbors and friends is a bit more complicated. Shelley Duvall is fantastic as Victor’s mother and the entire cast of characters, costuming, hair and makeup is decidedly kitsch and inventive.