The Maze Runner, Sept. 19
Ever wake up in a strange dark place with no memory of who you are, stranded among a bunch of other strapping teens who seem to be in the same boat, except it's not a boat but instead a deadly labyrinth? Well, that happened to this one dude in James Dashner's bestselling book, and, YA dystopia being all the rage, now that book is a major motion picture.
This Ain't No Mouse Music!, Sept. 19
There's far more music being made than that which makes it onto the radio (or even Pandora or Spotify), and Maureen Gosling and Christopher Simon's documentary follows modern-day music archivist Christ Strachwitz as he travels lesser-taken roads to discover and record unheralded American musicians, particularly blues, Cajun, and hillbilly country.
The Zero Theorem, Sept. 19
From his legendary battles with the studio over his film Brazil, Terry Gilliam has long been the essence of the outsider filmmaker, creating the kinds of movies he wants to make, limited budget or box-office potential be damned. Appropriately, his new film concerns a computer hacker (Christoph Waltz) working to discover a little matter called "the reason for human existence."
Gone Girl, Oct. 3
A woman (Rosamund Pike) and a man (Ben Affleck) are married. Both seem nice, but neither is to be trusted. On their fifth wedding anniversary, the woman seems to have escaped their marriage. Possibly not by choice. The husband draws a media frenzy of suspicion. Adapted by Gillian Flynn from her own best-selling novel, this certainly sounds like a job for director David Fincher, the dark 'n' twisty thriller specialist.
Birdman (or, the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Oct. 17
After he decided to stop playing Batman, Michael Keaton had a career as a leading man that never quite reached the same heights of popularity. Coincidentally, in Alejandro González Iñárritu's film, Keaton portrays a has-been actor who decades earlier had played an iconic superhero whose name starts with the letter B, and who now launches a Broadway play in hopes regaining his former glory.
White Bird in a Blizzard, Oct. 24
The openly queer Gregg Araki first burst onto the scene in the 1990s (when it was not okay to be openly queer) with The Living End, Totally F***ed Up, and The Doom Generation. While his provocative edge has mellowed somewhat over the years, his adaptation of Laura Kasischke's novel is uniquely his own, as a blossoming teenage girl (Shailene Woodley) investigates her mother's disappearance.
Interstellar, Nov. 7
It takes a special breed of outlier to transcend the known limits of human space travel. Here, as Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, reminds us, getting that far away from it all has enormous benefits, which include making a safe world for your kid to grow up in, rescuing your entire race from extinction, and hearing Michael Caine recite the poetry of Dylan Thomas.
The Theory of Everything, Nov. 7
While gradually becoming a prisoner in his own body due to Lou Gehrig's disease, young physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) found true love and theorized a black hole at the beginning of time. It was uphill from there. His formula for longevity: gumption, a good heart, and a rather profound infinity-awareness.
The Imitation Game, Nov. 21
If it wasn't okay to be queer in the 1990s, then it really wasn't in 1940s Britain. Morten Tyldum's film covers the period during World War II as Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) worked to build a machine to decode German secrets, all while trying to keep his own secret: the fact that he doesn't fancy a shag with co-worker Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley).
Wild, Dec. 7
Cheryl Strayed chose her last name, figuring the many meanings of the word "strayed" to be her heritage. It was she who, beloved for her candor and compassion, wrote the Rumpus advice column "Dear Sugar." Also, one time, to work through some stuff, she hiked 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. Wild is the movie of the book that hike begat.
Exodus: Gods and Kings, Dec. 12
Here's a great escape for you. The ancient tale of Israelites throwing off Egyptian slavery is foundational to human theology, and this movie about it certainly is escapist. None of its lead roles — the prophet Moses (Christian Bale), the pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), and the queen Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) — went to people of color. The parting of the Red Sea was hard enough to believe. But the pardoning of the whitewash? That's a whole other level.
Mr. Turner, Dec. 25
British auteur Mike Leigh's films can never be mistaken for anyone else's, and his latest film is about a similarly single-minded artist: the real-life J.M.W. Turner (Timothy Spall), who ruffled many British feathers in the mid-19th century both with his fondness for landscape paintings and his personal life, including two illegitimate adult daughters.