We've spent months gorging on galaxy-traveling guardians, giant toy robots and angry lizards, ape-populated planets and a genetically enhanced Scarlett Johansson. Now that summer is basically over, we are expected to go from fluffy to heavy, and prepare ourselves for a season of prestige pics, biopics and soon-to-be Oscar picks. Yes, there are some popcorn movies coming out between now and December — a new Hunger Games entry, a long-awaited Dumb and Dumber sequel, the final chapter of Peter Jackson's Hobbit franchise — but for the most part, the fall is when studios trot out their somber and serious films. Once again, this is the autumn of our cinematic discontent.
But it's also a time when the various foreign films, documentaries, smaller American independent movies and a few genuinely unclassifiable flicks that also hit theaters don't seem like counterprogramming so much as complimentary. If you put many of the films listed in our Alt-Fall Movie Preview next to the brooding darkness of David Fincher's Gone Girl, or the stoner noir of Paul Thomas Anderson's Pynchon romp Inherent Vice, or the mondo meta-madness of Birdman, they wouldn't seem like art-house outliers the way they do in the warmer months. Still, if you need a break from the abundance of big-name studio offerings, the following movies are your best bets for outside-the-multiplex fare.