To call October something of an underwhelming month wouldn't be entirely false, as there was nary a runaway hit to be found at the box office. Films like The Girl on the Train, The Accountant and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back performed decently enough amid mixed reviews, while Boo! A Madea Halloween proved that the Tyler Perry's mega-hit franchise still has tremendous widespread appeal more than a decade after Madea made her big-screen debut in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Surprisingly, the closest thing to a unanimous victory among moviegoers and critics was Ouija: Origin of Evil. Directed by Mike Flanagan, that prequel to the critically reviled 2014 film based on the popular board game delivered genuine scares in a month that was lacking in major horror films.
As we enter the holiday season, the parade of blockbusters resumes once more. November has at least a few monster hits in store for moviegoers, including the latest from Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Animation and the J.K. Rowling-scripted return to Harry Potter's wizarding world. Those looking for something a bit more serious will also find plenty of awards-friendly movies on the way as we get ever closer to Thanksgiving. Without further delay, let's jump into this month's list.
Here are 10 films to check out in November 2016:
Doctor Strange (Release Date: November 4)
At this point, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has built up so much audience goodwill with its string of hits that adding magic and mysticism to it seems like no big deal as this point. Still, Doctor Strange could set the tone for films to come, as it adds complexity and layers to the franchise as well as a charming new leading man in Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film -- directed by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) -- has been accused of whitewashing some of its characters, most notably The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton). However, that issue aside, the film already appears to be winning over critics and should mark yet another massive box office hit for Marvel. The only question remains is when the titular character will be transitioning into a leadership role within the Avengers.
Check out the latest trailer for Doctor Strange.
Hacksaw Ridge (Release Date: November 4)
Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but the man has a keen eye for visual storytelling. As a director, he scored mountains of awards for Braveheart and the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time with The Passion of the Christ. So Hacksaw Ridge already came pre-loaded with high expectations, as it marks Gibson's return to the director's chair for the first time since Apocalypto a decade ago.
The film stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond T. Doss, a World War II soldier whose decision not to kill ultimately makes him the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The biopic has already been generating plenty of positive buzz since debuting at the Venice Film Festival in September, and it's a safe bet that the film could develop into a strong awards contender.
Check out the latest trailer for Hacksaw Ridge.
Arrival (Release Date: November 11)
Films that chronicle the initial meeting between mankind and extra-terrestrial life often use that scenario to explore all kinds of meaningful themes about what it means to be human, our place in the cosmos and the truth of the human spirit. By all accounts, Arrival looks to keep that tradition intact. Throughout its festival run, the Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) film has become a favorite going into the fall and could earn star Amy Adams her sixth Oscar nomination.
Moreover, Arrival continues to prove that thoughtful and/or ground-breaking science fiction films like The Martian and Gravity can attract both top-notch talent and mainstream audiences. Based on Ted Chiang's short story "Story of Your Life," the film -- which co-stars Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg -- could wind up being one of the biggest surprise hits of the season.
Check out the latest trailer for Arrival.
The Edge of Seventeen (Release Date: November 18)
Teen comedy/drama has a long history of box office appeal, dating at least as far back as The Breakfast Club. More recent examples like Juno and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have captured the bittersweet nature of your adolescence to great effect. Now The Edge of Seventeen -- the directorial debut for screenwriter Kelly Fremon Craig (Post Grad) aims to cover similar ground.
Oscar-nominated actress Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) stars as Nadine, whose life turns upside down when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her brother (Blake Jenner). The film's playful tone and stellar supporting cast -- which includes Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick as Nadine's teacher and mom, respectively -- could make this coming-of-age story the rare example of a teen film done right.
Check out the latest trailer for The Edge of Seventeen.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Release Date: November 18)
Five years ago, fans grieved for the end of the Harry Potter film series, perhaps believing that author J.K. Rowling's imaginative and magical world would never again hit the big screen. Yet, here we are just weeks away from the theatrical release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first in an ambitious slate of new films to be set within the same world as The Boy Who Lived.
Inspired by the Rowling's tie-in Hogwarts textbook released in 2001, the film follows Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as that book's author Newt Scamander on his adventures in New York. Written by Rowling herself, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them promises to uncover as-yet-unseen aspects of the wizarding community. We only hope it manages to live up to fans' high expectations.
Check out the latest trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Manchester by the Sea (Release Date: November 18)
Sometimes, a smaller release makes such a consistent impact in the critical community that cinephiles can't help but anticipate having the chance to see it for themselves. Such is the case with Manchester by the Sea. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's (You Can Count on Me) latest film -- shot and set in the titular Massachusetts town -- was among those to make the biggest splash at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, who receives custody of his nephew (Lucas Hedges) following his brother's (Kyle Chandler) death and returns to his hometown. Both Affleck and leading lady Michelle Williams (who plays the actor's estranged wife) are currently gaining momentum for Oscar contention, with the former largely considered the frontrunner for Best Actor. This is one to track down, as it's only in limited release this month.
Check out the latest trailer for Manchester by the Sea.
Allied (Release Date: November 23)
Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) has so many undisputed classics behind him that it's impossible to let one of his films past our radar. Naturally, Allied then is one we're incredibly curious to check out. The romantic thriller centers on a real-life tale of a pair of assassins (Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard) who fall in love and how their connection is compromised during World War II.
The basic premise, if not the tone, does bear a striking resemblance to Pitt's Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and for Zemeckis' sake, perhaps this new film can earn similar box office success. Following in the wake of his box office misfire The Walk, the director has something to prove with Allied. Pitt and Cotillard are certainly talented enough to make it work, and the story has potential. Here's hoping it all comes together.
Check out the latest trailer for Allied.
Bad Santa 2 (Release Date: November 23)
Unlikely holiday favorite Bad Santa may have only earned $60 million back in 2003, but that modest box office haul only represents a fraction of the film's now-ardent fanbase. In the years since its theatrical release, Billy Bob Thornton's profane, alcoholic con man has become an annual tradition for those in search of a less-than-cheery way to celebrate. Enter Bad Santa 2.
In development since 2009, the sequel might be coming a few years later than expected, but considering the ongoing trend of tapping into late 1990s/early 2000s nostalgia, perhaps now is the perfect time for Thornton and returning co-stars Tony Cox and Brett Kelly to reprise their roles. The addition of Kathy Bates as Thornton's mother should only heighten the appeal of director Mark Waters' (Mean Girls) film.
Check out the latest trailer for Bad Santa 2.
Moana (Release Date: November 23)
Disney is on a roll this year. In addition to mega-hit films like The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory, the company is also determined to keep the second Disney Renaissance (which arguably began with Tangled in 2010) going strong. March brought the universally beloved, $1 billion grosser Zootopia, and now Moana is destined to book-end the year with Walt Disney Animation Studios hits.
The film follows the titular young woman (voiced by Auli'i Cravalho) and a demigod named Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) as they search for a mythical island. With a gorgeous visual style, scriptwork by Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi and songs written in part by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Moana is almost certainly going to continue Disney's 2016 hot streak.
Check out the latest trailer for Moana.
Lion (Release Date: November 25)
Garth Davis makes his feature directorial debut with Lion, the story of a young man (Dev Patel) searching for his family after 25 years. Based on Saroo Brierley's own non-fiction account of his life, the film -- which made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September -- may be the best chance yet for Patel to prove his mettle as a leading man since Slumdog Millionaire eight years earlier.
Moreover, Lion depicts the kind of intimate drama that seems right at home in the middle of awards season. Even if the film doesn't light up the Oscar stage, its strong cast -- including Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman and David Wenham -- might help some moviegoers give the film a chance. Those interested in seeing it may need to travel a bit, since Lion is only in limited release this month.
Check out the latest trailer for Lion.
With only two months left to go until 2016 comes to a close, there are certainly lots of notable releases on the horizon. Of course, films like Doctor Strange and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are essentially guaranteed massive opening weekends, but it'll be interesting to see how those films stand among predecessors in their respective franchises. In addition, November is bound to bring some surprises along with the films we've mentioned above. Some -- like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk -- came close to making our list but failed to make the cut due to a very limited release that will expand in the coming weeks. Don't be surprised if some of those appear here in the near future.
In the meantime, we're dying to know which November releases you're most excited to see. Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Once again, here are the 10 films to check out in October:
November 4: Doctor Strange, Hacksaw Ridge
November 11: Arrival
November 18: The Edge of Seventeen, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Manchester by the Sea
November 23: Allied, Bad Santa 2, Moana
November 25: Lion