October means it’s acceptable to begin talking about Hollywood award season, even if you’re currently more focused on scoring enough Halloween candy to hold you over until 2014. Festival hits are finally making their way to your local theater, carrying with them the praise of many respected critics. If there’s one trend among the biggest fall releases it’s this: these movies are going to stress you out.
Movies are supposed to be fun, so why do so many fall films have us digging our nails into the theater’s uncomfortable seats? Below, check out our helpful guide to what’s playing in the coming weeks, including which films you should avoid, depending on your medical history.
The long-awaited film from master Alfonso Cuarón has not disappointed since its release last week–unless you go by the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson. The scariest Oscar contender of the year is just as terrifying as the trailer suggests, and strikes fear with just one word: detached. Falling from her home base, Dr. Stone (Sandra Bullock) is left to emote, emote, emote, showcasing all of the thoughts that go through one’s head when on the precipice of death.
Beware if: You have a fear of heights or irrational hatred for Sandra Bullock (it’s ALL her).
Gravity is in theaters now.
Director Paul Greengrass tackles the true story of Richard Phillips and Maersk Alabama, the 20-person cargo ship that was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Tom Hanks plays the titular role, bringing to the real hero to life in an excruciatingly suspenseful survival story. Over seven days, Hanks takes responsibility for the safety of his crew, risking his life in the middle of the ocean. It’s a story that’s simultaneously fast-moving and painfully slow: the real scenarios and seconds that went into such an ordeal are harrowing and painful to even think about.
Beware if: You’ve booked a cruise within the year or don’t know how to swim.
Captain Phillips is in theaters October 11.
12 YEARS A SLAVE
A true story based on the life of Solomon Northup, Steve McQueen’s latest film is the heartbreaking saga of a man who lost everything overnight. From waking up realizing he’d been sold into slavery to the tension-filled minutes spent watching Solomon put pen to paper, Chiwetel Ejiofor deserves all of the praise he’s been getting since Toronto. Knowing the outcome may alleviate some of the worry, but it’s the masterful storytelling that has you cringing and holding your breath at every turn.
Beware if: You’re opposed to historical violence, or seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in yet another film this year.
12 Years a Slave is in theaters October 18.
ALL IS LOST
Robert Redford… on a boat… alone… in the middle of the ocean… with no one around to help. Pass the Xanax, please!
Beware if: You couldn’t get into The Old Man and the Sea in high school English class.
All Is Lost is in theaters October 18.
Rather than trouble with publishing companies, Cormac McCarthy took his latest work straight to Hollywood. Michael Fassbender plays a powerful lawyer who gets involved with drug trafficking. As any fan of Breaking Bad can tell you, those things don’t end well.
Beware if: You haven’t recovered from Javier Bardem’s look in No Country For Old Men.
The Counselor is in theaters October 25.
The future of civilization is in the hands of children, as the threat of alien invasion mounts. After two battles with an alien species known as the Formics, Earth has begun training children to fight in an anticipated third invasion. There they must not only navigate the struggles that come with adolescent socialization, but the threat of carrying an entire planet on their backs.
Beware if: You don’t support a fictionalized future that looks nothing like the Jetsons.
Ender’s Game is in theaters November 1.
HOW I LIVE NOW
An adaptation of Meg Rosoff’s 2004 Y.A. novel Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy, an American sent to live with her extended family in England right before the onset of the third world war. As a foreigner, Daisy is encouraged to leave immediately, but extenuating circumstances (read: love) keep her from getting out of dodge. Through a series of travels, the teens experience loss and heartbreak as their idyllic English countryside is transformed into a warzone.
Beware if: You’re afraid of the apocalypse, or the idea of two cousins falling in love rubs you the wrong way.
How I Live Now is in theaters November 8.
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Leonardo DiCaprio plays hard-partying finance king Jordan Belfort, who earned millions through a high-level “pump and dump” scheme. From the trailer alone, the first half of this film looks incredibly fun (ladies, lobsters, and Velcro midget). But realizing that it’s all coming to an end and you’ll likely be facing hefty jail time (or be forced to listen to “Black Skinhead” on repeat) is enough to make us hyperventilate.
Beware if: You don’t find the economic crisis funny and/or can’t stand the idea of eating live fish.
The Wolf of Wall Street is in theaters November 15.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
And you thought it was over after Round One. After emerging victorious, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is thrown into another series of the hunger games, vying for her life against a pool of previous winners of the lethal competition in Quarter Quell. On top of that, she’s forced to carry out a faux relationship with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), which includes pretending to be with child. Figuring out how to survive and pulling off a believable fake pregnancy? We’d rather deal with calculus at her age.
Beware if: You haven’t finished the second book yet.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is in theaters November 22.
SAVING MR. BANKS
Can Tom Hanks (as Walt Disney) convince P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of Mary Poppins, to approve a film adaptation of her iconic children’s tale? Our collective childhoods depend on it!
Beware if: You don’t believe nannies with large umbrellas can fly.
Saving Mr. Banks is in theaters December 20.
[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures, Fox Searchlight, Lionsgate]