21 of the Best Un-Halloween Movies for When You Love October but Hate Horror

21 of the Best Un-Halloween Movies for When You Love October but Hate Horror
Screenshot: When Harry Met Sally/MGM

Autumn’s here (on paper, anyway), and I, for one, have… mixed feelings. Milder weather is great and all, as are the forthcoming fall colours, but October is also a harbinger of winter. Not a fan. In the meantime, let’s make the the most of it/disassociate from the terrible world by indulging in a bunch of those perfect-for-fall movies.

Now, while I love horror flicks, and this is certainly the season for them, frankly it’s been getting a little too real out there for an awfully long time now, so there’s no shame at all in looking for entertainment nary a vengeful ghost, nor a single serial killer. Movies that are lighter, funnier, warmer, and occasionally even uplifting. There are fall movies to suit a wide variety of moods, and not all are sweet and filled with pumpkin spice, but any good seasonal selection will speak to our need for something to get us through dark evenings and darker times. Grab a light blanket, or a warm drink, or an edible, or all of the above — you deserve a rest.

Soul Food (1997)

Every Sunday is Thanksgiving for the Josephs, for better and for worse. The close-knit Chicago family gets together every week for dinner, a beloved tradition until Mother Joe, the family matriarch, suffers a debilitating stroke that sends the rest of the family into a tailspin. We witness all of this warmth and struggle through the eyes of 11-year-old Ahmad, and the soul food of the title comes to represent more than just a traditional style of cooking.

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Remember the Titans (2000)

Nothing says fall like football… or so I’ve heard from people who are into football. While Remember the Titans works as a straight sports movie, it’s also an enjoyable and inspiring historical drama about the real-life Herman Boone, the first Black football coach of the first integrated team at an Alexandria, Virginia school.

And if dreary fall weather has you contemplating the passage of time, you might find some succor in thinking on the case of Denzel Washington, who has somehow aged but five years in the past 20.

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Waiting to Exhale

First, I need to offer an apology to the cast and crew of Waiting to Exhale: in my misspent youth, my friends and I snuck into a late showing, thus denying the production the literal several dollars that might have kept it on top of the box office that much longer, thus encouraging studios to create more films led by Black women. Whitney, if you can hear me: I’m sorry.

Now, being from the west myself, it’s hard to discern seasons, so a film set largely in Phoenix, Arizona doesn’t offer much in the way of foliage — but it does offer a warm-hearted vibe of changing lives and the promise of renewal, following the travails and triumphs and vehicular vandalism of four women who support each other through bad relationships (that iconic car fire will warm your soul on these chilly fall nights).

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Knives Out (2019)

OK, so the film is technically set in early winter, but those of us with a strong aversion to the cold are pulling out our stunning Chris Pine sweaters long before December. Fall also seems like a particularly good time for a murder caper — there’s a reason this genre is often referred to as the “cosy” mystery, after all. You’re meant to snuggle up under a safe, warm blanket and enjoy piecing together the clues with very little fear that you might be next to go. Ryan Johnson’s clever blockbuster plays with Agatha Christie-esque conventions in ways that make it both more and less cosy than the standard, but I think we can all agree: Chris Pine’s sweaters.

Where to stream: Foxtel Go, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

If you’re planning Thanksgiving travel (is that a thing we’re doing this year?) you might rethink it after rewatching this Steve Martin/John Candy classic (directed by John Hughes), but most likely you’ll just sit back and be grateful that none of this is likely to happen to you. It’s a wildly over-the-top screwball comedy, yeah, but it’s never really mean-spirited, and it builds to a big-hearted conclusion that will warm the chilliest heart.

Where to stream: YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Spike Lee’s feature directorial debut is in black and white, not to mention set entirely in Brooklyn, so you’re not going to get a ton of those fall colours. What you are going to get is the story of sex-positive lead Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns), who is dating three men at once while eschewing commitment in favour of freedom. Though a couple of elements don’t play quite so well in 2021, it has fun with its feminist themes and builds to a memorable Thanksgiving dinner to which all of Nola’s men are invited.

Where to stream: Netflix

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hardly anyone admitted to liking the inspired silliness of Hocus Pocus when it came out way back in 1993, but it’s developed enough of a cult following to inspire a sequel (coming next year) reuniting Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker as a trio of bumbling witches back from the dead. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for something in that witchy, Halloween-y vein that’s not going to bring on too many nightmares.

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

The Trouble with Harry (1955)

You’d think fall would be the perfect season during which to get rid of a body. It’s not too hot, so you’re not going to get all sweaty digging the hole, but the ground isn’t yet frozen solid. This rare rural-set (and underrated) entry in the Alfred Hitchcock oeuvre suggests, however, that the conventional wisdom on corpse disposal isn’t always accurate. The Trouble with Harry is about a body that absolutely refuses to stay buried — so if your favourite fall flavour is pitch-dark comedy and lots of sexual innuendo amidst the Vermont foliage, this is the one.

Where to stream: YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV

God’s Own Country (2017)

The film takes place over a period that stretches well into winter (“lambing season” to the film’s leads), but the bleak, striking Yorkshire landscape retains a chilly fall feel throughout — the perfect backdrop for a budding romance between a sheep farmer and the migrant worker who arrives to help out on his farm. There’s a verisimilitude to the scenes relating to sheep farming that grounds the central story, and, while it’s not a particularly light film, it’s a rare gay drama that doesn’t lean into tragedy.

Where to stream: YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV

Addams Family Values (1993)

Yes, technically this sequel set during the summer, but the Addams Family live in a perpetual autumn — wherever they are, whenever they are, it’s never feels like we’re very far from Halloween. Besides, it also pays tribute to that other beloved fall holiday, Thanksgiving, with Wednesday’s fantasia of Indigenous revenge (appropriative, perhaps, but still deeply satisfying).

Where to stream: Stan, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Harold and Maude (1971)

What could be more autumnal than an obsession with death? I mean, other than the contemplative tones of early ‘70s Cat Stevens? Well, this movie’s got ‘em both, set against a February-December romance between Bud Cort and the great Ruth Roman that as hilarious as it is surprisingly moving. It’s a particularly dark comedy, but with warmth to counteract the misty gloom of the San Francisco Bay (not to mention Harold’s nihilism).

Where to stream: YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

The Wiz (1978)

As it happens, Thanksgiving at Diana Ross’s house is every bit as wild as you’d expect. That family dinner kicks off this riff on the L. Frank Baum novels with an all-star cast and a trip into a fantasy version of Queens that plays quite differently than earlier, rural-inspired takes on Oz. Before it’s all done, there’ve been multiple memorable song and dance numbers as well as a promise of hard-won renewal — just the kind of thing to steel our souls for the coming winter.

Where to stream:  YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

We’re in the San Fernando Valley, so fall doesn’t look that much different from any other season (easterners will note that trick-or-treating doesn’t require a jacket)., But in true Steven Spielberg style, there’s a lot more warmth and heart to this alien invasion movie than there is danger.

Where to stream: Stan, Foxtel Go, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Possibly the most delightful of all super-hero movies, Spider-Verse sees Miles Morales take the lead amidst an assortment array of extra-dimensional spider-people. It’s fast-paced, emotional, charming, and 100% family-friendly. The fall vibes are in the movie’s good nature, but also in the autumn scenery that’s especially prominent during the last couple of acts.

Where to stream: Netflix, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Travel back with me to an era when Billy Crystal was a convincing romantic lead. If there’s an ultimate fall movie team-up, it’s Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner: These two, both separately and (this time) together, crafted some of the most popular romances of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and few say fall to me more than When Harry Met Sally…, a romantic comedy with an obvious style and intelligence that the genre doesn’t always get credit for. Though the film spans years (and ends during the December holidays, which means it is also excellent for New Year’s), the look and feel are essentially autumnal. (Who doesn’t love New York in the fall?) It’s a feel-good movie that doesn’t argue good relationships are easy, but does remind us they’re possible. (See also: Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail.)

Where to stream: Stan, Google Play, Apple TV

If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Two lovers stare at each other through prison glass in this explosive, non-linear adaptation of a 1974 James Baldwin novel. There are harsh realities at work against the romance between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonnie (Stephan James), but their’s is a love story set against New York’s changing times and seasons, and it’s stunningly photographed in the greens, browns, and yellows of fall throughout.

Where to stream: Foxtel Go, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV

Coco (2017)

Sorry. Made the mistake of choosing a clip of the “Remember Me” song to represent the movie, and I’m going to need a minute. Coco is a characteristically lovely Pixar movie about a boy who lives in Santa Cecilia, Mexico who visits the land of the dead around the Día de Muertos and tries to track down the spirit of his dead grandfather, who he hopes can return him to the land of the living (perhaps righting the wrongs of generations past along the way). Try not to cry at the joyous, bittersweet finale.

Why do I let you do this to me, Pixar?

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Autumn Sonata (1978)

As with many Ingmar Bergman films, there’s fire behind these softly spoken words and softer autumn colours. Hollywood icon Ingrid Bergman (no relation to the director) gives a powerhouse final performance as the meticulous, confident mother to a mousey Liv Ullmann. It’s not fall comfort food by any means, but an astute relationship drama — and you could do a lot worse than to spend a chilly evening with three legends at the heights of their abilities.

Where to stream: Apple TV

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Slot in almost any Wes Anderson movie here — he’s probably the king of autumnal styling (Rushmore would be another particularly good choice). Here, the burnt orange hues have taken over entirely in the stop-motion animated story of a fox on the run from three hunters.

Where to stream: Netflix, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

Selah and the Spades (2019)

This one’s considerably less cosy than many of the other movies I’ve mentioned, so don’t expect any pumpkin spice. This Shakespearean back-to-school drama is centered on Selah, the queen of her high school’s social scene who rules from a wicker throne, until an unexpected friendship throws everything into chaos. Tayarisha Poe’s film has style to spare, the photography drinking in the glorious autumn woods outside the Pennsylvania boarding school in which it is set.

Where to stream: Prime Video

Dead Poets Society (1989)

Autumn is characterised by thoughts of warm fires, comfy sweaters, and cosy movies in part, I think, because we crave reassurance that the world will keep turning and that it’s OK enjoy the quiet nights in the interim. Life and light will return, eventually. The leaves that fall will come back — except sometimes, for some of us, they don’t. So listen to Robin Williams, who knew what he was talking about when he said we all need to seize the day, even if it’s chilly out.

Where to stream: Disney+, YouTube Movies, Google Play, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video

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