We compile a list of some of the most resplendent autumns ever to be seen on screen
From beautiful foliage to the musky smell of rain, tweed jackets to the wistful tingle of a cold breeze, everything suggests we’re drifting into autumn. With its whirling shades of red and brown and nostalgic back-to-school atmosphere, the season’s picturesque scenarios and melancholic reflections lend themselves to attractive storytelling and gorgeous cinematography. So as leaves start to shed and the days draw in, we bring you some of autumn's greatest on-screen moments guaranteed to get you in the spirit of harvest season.
Far From the Madding Crowd (1967)
Picturesque rural settings and rusty shades are portrayed to ravishing effect in John Schlesinger’s film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 19th century romantic novel. Following Julie Christie in the role of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful, willful country heiress who is passionately contended by three different suitors, the film follows the love quadrangle as relationships unfold under the wistful English autumn sky.
The Trouble With Harry (1955)
Set in the sun-lit autumnal Vermont countryside, Hitchcock’s gruesome comedy is the story of a dead man named Harry whose body refuses to stay buried. Amid fall leafage and idyllic scenery, three town residents including Harry’s ex-wife Jennifer (Shirley MacLain in her big-screen debut) and a retired sea captain (Edmund Gwenn) struggle to keep the corpse hidden, each believing to have played a part in the man’s death. Shot during September 1954, production missed the village in full foliage, forcing the crew glue fallen leaves back onto the trees to dress the set. Despite logistical disappointments and a box office failure, The Trouble With Harry remained one of Hitchcock’s favourite films.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Centering around two Thanksgiving dinners, Woody Allen’s Manhattan episodic comedy chronicles the intertwined lives and infidelities of showbiz sisters Hannah (Mia Farrow), Lee (Barbara Hershey) and Holly (Dianne Wiest). As their relationships change with the seasons and pumpkin pies serve as bookends to life-changing decisions, erotic fantasies evolve in unexpected ways, making Hannah and Her Sisters one of Allen’s greatest achievements.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Nothing gets us in the autumn mood more than watching Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) kicking up leaves in Central Park as they wrestle the question of whether men and women can be friends, without sex getting in the way. As their friendship weaves in and out, fisherman’s sweaters, brown fedoras, diner orgasms and 80s perms capture ten years of changing fashion and seasons in New York City.
In Wes Anderson’s sophomore movie, Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman in his debut role) is an eager, overachieving 15-year-old scholarship student who’s excited to get back to school. Fantasizing over monstrous math equations and managing every extracurricular activity, Max makes friends with millionaire businessman Herman Blume (Bill Murray) and manoeuvres his way through fall term, title cards marking the shift from September through November, all the way to a triumphant Faces-soundtracked finale.
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Based on a novel by Harper Lee, Robert Mulligan’s Oscar-winning drama starred Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus Finch, a lawyer-father fighting discrimination in racially divided Alabama while defending his children against prejudice. From creepy walks in the woods to a memorable Halloween ham costume, and Boo Radley’s ghostly appearances, nightmarish events build towards a mystery that still holds its relevance today.
Autumn Sonata (1978)
Apparent from the title, Autumn Sonata is a shoo-in for our list. In his last cinematic venture, famed Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman explores the feelings of a married woman (Liv Ulmann) as she reunites with her neglectful mother (Ingrid Bergman), a celebrated concert pianist who gave up the duties of motherhood to purse a musical career. During an emotional encounter, untold feelings and past wounds resurface as the pair sits before a piano playing Chopin four hands, the familiar costal scenery and rich autumnal colours mirroring the intimate and explosive traits of their relationship.
October Sky (1999)
The true story of Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a high school kid taking up rocketry against his father’s wishes after the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1, the film is set against the backdrop of a West Virginia coal-mining town during October 1957. Originally titled Rocket Boys after the book it’s based upon, the film was renamed October Sky for two reasons: it’s the month Homer first saw Sputnik in the sky and found his inspiration, but it’s also an anagram of Rocket Boys.
Shot in Italy in the autumn of 1982, Nostalghia is a Soviet-Italian film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. Russian writer Andrei Gorkachov travels to Italy to investigate the life of a fellow countryman, composer Pavel Sosnovsky. As he rambles through the derelict autumnal Italian countryside, dreams, nostalgia and uncertain feelings interweave in the protagonist’s enigmatic, cultural voyage.
Far From Heaven (2002)
Opening to the notes of Elmer Bernstein’s Autumn in Connecticut, Todd Haynes' retro-inspired movie is a hat-tipping to the mid-century melodramas of Douglas Sirk. Life for Cathy Whittaker is exactly how she’d like it, wealthy, healthy and upwardly mobile. That is, until she catches her husband making love to a man at the office and finds herself in her own taboo affair with their black gardener. Capturing the pre-Mad Men fashion with a soft palette of oranges and greens, the film makes the season sing on screen.