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Fall Movie Preview 2016: Oscar Hopefuls, Slave Rebellions and ‘Rogue One’

From awards-worthy dramas and controversial history lessons to a new ‘Star Wars,’ what you need to see

It's fall, the season when summer blockbusters and idiot comedies give way to movies that actually might be — wait for it — good enough to grab awards. Even the epics, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, lace escapism with smarts. It's a time when a remake of The Magnificent Seven might potentially equal its predecessor, and a bestselling mystery thriller, The Girl On the Train, can get us all on board for the film version.

But fall is mostly about Oscars and how to win them. Will The Birth of a Nation, about a slave rebellion, put an end to last year's wallow in #OscarsSoWhite? Will Manchester By the Sea, about inconsolable grief, remind us of the power of indie cinema to make us feel something again? There are over a 100 fall movies vying for our attention this autumn. Here's a guide to 20 that should be on your radar over the next few months

‘Moana’ (November 23)

Disney's first animated feature about a Polynesian princess (voiced by Hawaiian teen Auli'i Cravalho) has music from Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, who tweeted, "I played a new tune for my wife  . . .  She got teary, and she's the toughest." We’re in.

‘La La Land’ (December 2)

Fresh off Whiplash, where drum lessons tracked the road to hell, director Damien Chazelle creates a musical romance between a jazz man (Ryan Gosling) and an actress (Emma Stone). The director has called his film "a big Cinemascope love letter to Los Angeles"; the old-school numbers hinted at it in the trailer look truly showstopping.

‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (December 16)

A stand-alone Star Wars focuses on Felicity Jones' scrappy thief and a handful of other criminal types being recruited by rebel fighters to steal something that could make or break the alliance's future: the Death Star blueprints. (We assume the folks behind this will do a better job with the Dirty Dozen-style storyline than Suicide Squad did.) It's a genius idea for a prequel — even promising a Darth Vader sighting.

Assassin's Creed

Kerry Brown

‘Assassin’s Creed’ (December 21)

You'll get your dramatic, serious Michael Fassbender in early September, when the romantic tragedy The Light Between Oceans comes out; now comes the action-hero, popcorn-entertainer version. The Oscar nominee stars as a convict who's executed — only to wake up, find out he's still alive and is the key to government types gaining memories of his ancestor during the Spanish Inquisition. (Don't ask.) Can a movie adaptation of a popular video game do justice to its source material? Maybe see what the people behind Warcraft have to say about that.

Passengers

‘Passengers’ (December 21)

Chris Pratt knows from guarding a galaxy. But how will he do stranded on a spaceship for 120 years with just one person for company? Since that person is Jennifer Lawrence, we're guessing he'll do just fine.

Patriots Day

Gretchen Ertl/Reuters

‘Patriots Day’ (December 21)

A movie, directed by actioner Peter Berg, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing — too soon? Boston's Mark Wahlberg, playing a cop, felt a "huge pressure to get this right." It's the kind of risk that makes the fall film season worth waiting for all year.