Best Movies to See in October: 'Birth of a Nation,' Stooges Doc and More

From a controversial racial lightning rod to a best-selling mystery and Ballad of Iggy Pop — here's what you need to check out this month

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Best Movies to See in October: 'Birth of a Nation,' Stooges Doc and More
A sexploitation throwback, not one but two powerful dramas on race and a doc on the Stooges — the 10 best movies you have to see this October.

October is all over the place this year, as far as movies are concerned: new installments of the Ouija, Da Vinci Code and Jack Reacher franchises; several would-be contenders for awards-season chatter; some phenomenal lower-profile releases; and Jim Jarmusch's long-in-the-making superfan doc on Iggy and the Stooges. And that's not even counting the two-and-a-half-hour Korean erotic revenge flick coming soon to a theater near you. The weirdos all come out for Halloween, so take this month to let your freak flag fly.

The Accountant — 10/14
Just when it looked like Ben Affleck was transitioning into the "esteemed auteur" phase of his career, he appears to have parleyed his rough-and-tough post-Batman vibe into a new role as a left-of-center action hero. His titular character, a wizard with numbers, makes a living cooking books for criminal enterprises while fronting as a mild-mannered CPA. But it's an effort to go straight by working with a legitimate robotics company that places him in danger's path. Anna Kendrick plays his love interest; J.K. Simmons is the zealous Treasury agent hunting him down. Part agent-on-the-run espionage flick, part conspiracy-baiting paranoid thriller, it should make for a fine appetizer before Affleck gets back in the director's chair for Live By Night in January.

The Alchemist Cookbook —  10/7
Ever feel like getting away from it all? Moving to a secluded woodland cabin, where you're free to live off the land and spend your days cracking the secret of scientifically transmuting ordinary elements into gold? That last bit might be specific to Sean (Ty Hickson), the loner-by-choice at the center of Joel Potrykus' unclassifiable new kinda-comedy, kinda-horror, kinda-something-else-entirely. Disgusted with modern society and living self-sufficiently, Sean seems content enough to tinker with various chemical compounds until his dabblings in the occult lead him down the path to hell. The appearance of a Satanic demon shakes matters up a bit, but Potrykus handles that hard left turn with the same sense of weirdo humor and fascination with the esoteric that he brings to the rest of the film. All Potrykus' films focus on the characters populating society's fringes, but this might be his strangest yet.

The Birth of a Nation — 10/7
Even before writer/director/star Nate Parker's unsavory history of acquitted sexual assault came to light, his account of Nat Turner's slave rebellion was a lightning rod for controversy. Even its title – a sly throwback to D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent landmark that doubles as KKK propaganda - is a provocation. But Parker ruffled the most feathers at Sundance (where Fox picked up the rights to the picture for an unprecedented $17.5 million) with his no-holds-barred depiction of the horrors of slavery. Matching the righteous indignation of 12 Years A Slave and doubling the bloodshed, the movie puts the gross inhumanity of America's origin story on full display. Brace for impact.


Certain Women — 10/14
A lawyer talks a disgruntled client through a hostage situation. A family woman prepares to build a home alongside her disinterested husband A recent law-school grad takes a gig teaching night classes and meets someone special. Three short stories, connected by tertiary characters and wide open spaces — between incommunicative people, in sparse conversation, and on the sprawling Montana plains. Kelly Reichardt directs a uniformly excellent cast including Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, and breakout Lily Gladstone in this loose triptych about the frustrations and disappointments of womanhood.

Gimme Danger — 10/28
Between his carefully curated soundtracks, collaborations with everyone from the Wu-Tang Clan to the White Stripes, and a respectable discography of his own, Jim Jarmusch knows music. So he's more than up to the task of chronicling the sweaty, filthy journey of the Stooges and their charismatically feral frontman, Iggy Pop. The beast formerly known as James Osterberg drops plenty of good soundbites about his early days as an "anarchist teenager," the rabid birth of his proto-punk band, and the constant battle to keep the ramshackle group from falling apart. Arbiter of cool + one of rock's all-time greatest groups is a can't-fail formula, and the archival footage of a bloodied Iggy freaking out to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" stands on its own merit.


The Girl on the Train — 10/7
Straight from a 13-week run on the best-seller list, this twisty thriller arrives ready-made in the Gone Girl mold: sex, murder, and a frostily gorgeous talent in the leading role. Emily Blunt portrays an alcoholic divorcée fixated on a pair of newlyweds that she idealizes from afar during her daily commute. One day, she witnesses something shocking that would have been better left unseen — no telling! — and entangles herself in a web of deception and potentially life-threatening intrigue. The Help and Get On Up director Tate Taylor takes the reins on this pulpy whodunit; Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, and Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation star Rebecca Ferguson fill out the supporting cast. For decency's sake, keep all spoilerish material under your hat until the customary four-week waiting period has ended.

The Greasy Strangler — 10/7
A touching, simple story about the bond between a boy and his father – filled with swaying flaccid penises, sludgy congealed fat, merkins as voluminous and robust as clown wigs, and ad nauseam profanity. Director Jim Hosking created this balls-quite-literally-to-the-wall assault on good taste from a mishmash of demented British children's programming and serial-killer slasher flicks, but listing influences hardly does this magnificent atrocity justice. (You've really got to see the unsexiest sex scene in recent memory to get its full effect.) Without a doubt the most disgusting film of 2016, this sophomoric oddity sure ain't for everyone. But as is often the case with such projects, the people who it is for are going to gobble it up like so much pan-fried sausage.

The Handmaiden — 10/21
From Park Chan-wook, the South Korean fiend behind such tales of revenge as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, comes another tale of betrayal and secrecy. A pair of con artists attempt to gaslight a local heiress out of her fortune, but infighting and unexpected sapphic lust complicate matters. Park's usual taste for depravity has never been more delicious – all-out lesbian sex scenes, lecherous old men with secret dungeons, sinister octopi – while the polished visual verve splits the difference between hardcore porno and East Asian Downton Abbey. It's a feast for all of the senses.


Jack Reacher: Never Go Back — 10/21
Last time around, Tom Cruise's man of action matched wits with a gang of nefarious Eastern European criminals led by Werner Herzog (who, to the best of our knowledge, was portraying a character at the time). Now, he's got a new female opposite in Cobie Smulders, who's framed for the murder of her soldier underlings. To clear both of their names, he'll have to employ all of his skills of disguise (wearing a hat) and investigation to unearth a far larger conspiracy than either of them had imagined. Mission: Not, like, impossible but probably very, very difficult.

Moonlight — 10/21
Director Barry Jenkins chronicles the boyhood, teen years, and young adulthood of a sensitive African-American kid coming to grips with his own homosexuality and life as a young black man in Miami. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes collectively paint a portrait of an arrestingly real, infinitely sympathetic character, while the Medicine for Melancholy filmmaker dives headfirst into an impressionistic look at masculinity, race, queer sexuality, and the thorny intersection between them. Instantly hailed as a masterwork upon its recent premieres at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, this one's bound to land on year-end best-of lists if there's any justice in this world.