19 best autumnal films from You’ve Got Mail to Mona Lisa Smile

Posted by for Film

In the mood for a film that helps you embrace the changes of autumn? From Good Will Hunting to You’ve Got Mail and Hocus Pocus, these are the films you should curl up with while lounging on the sofa with a hot chocolate this weekend. 

Pumpkin spiced lattes. Polo neck jumpers. Nights spent reading a book in bed. Golden leaves blowing around a new pair of statement boots. Ah yes, autumn is finally here – whether you like it or not.

If you’re in the mood to embrace the new season, curling up on the sofa with an autumnal film is the perfect way to relax, process the change in mood, reset and get excited about what’s ahead. They also provide some serious inspiration for how to layer up in style (we’re looking at you, Meg Ryan circa When Harry Met Sally). 

After asking for recommendations from the Stylist team and readers on Twitter, here are the top 19 films that get people in the mood for autumn…

The best autumnal films to watch tonight

When Harry Met Sally
Autumn movies: When Harry Met Sally.

When Harry Met Sally

Let’s start with what is perhaps the most obvious choice: Nora Ephron’s 80s romcom starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. When Harry Met Sally of course follows the story of two graduates who, after a short-lived friendship, find each other again five years later. Ryan’s cosy clothes and walks through a golden brown New York are enough to make fans feel all fuzzy and warm inside. 

Mona Lisa Smile

This feel-good film gives some serious September school term vibes, following a group of female students in Wellesley College during the 1950s. When new art history teacher Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) arrives with her progressive ideas, the girls slowly start to challenge what society expects of them, and question what futures they really want to create for themselves. Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhall also star in the impressive cast. Oh, and all the autumnal hats are amazing. 

Knives Out

Thanks to Chris Evans’ cable-knit jumper, Knives Out is a modern classic in this best autumnal films list. The movie itself is brilliant: a hilarious and whipsmart whodunnit with the most unexpected twists. But, first and foremost, it really is all about that cosy jumper. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Autumn films: Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson’s stop motion adaptation of this classic Roald Dahl tale about the Fantastic Mr. Fox is a visual delight. Perhaps it’s the colourful swirl of reds, golds and yellows that give it that outdoorsy autumnal vibe. It makes you want to go out for a British countryside walk and pop into the local pub for a local cider.  

Julie & Julia

What screams autumn more than food? Julie & Julia follows the lives of two real women – Julie Powell and Julia Child – showing how their lives become intertwined. Directed by Nora Ephron (the queen of autumnal films?), it’s also a bit of a weepy, heartwarming one. And that’s exactly what we want right now. 

Far From Heaven.
Autumn films: Far From Heaven.

Far From Heaven

Set in an autumnal Connecticut in 1957, Far From Heaven explores sexuality and race through a privileged suburban family that is turned upside down. It tells the story of housewife Cathy Whitaker, who sees her husband kissing another man. She soon finds comfort in a friendship with her Black gardener, Raymond, which in turn challenges her traditional values.

Little Women

It doesn’t matter which version you choose to watch, Little Women will make you want to cosy up with your friends, family or flatmates at home, read and write late into the night à la Jo March, and enjoy the charms of a simpler life (sans Timothée Chalamet, sadly). 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Autumnal films: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

What could be more autumnal than Halloween at Hogwarts? And it’s not just that. In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione, Harry and Ron take us on a tour of the castle’s cold and crisp grounds – complete with Hagrid’s gigantic pumpkins. 

October Sky

The clue is in the title, duh. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, October Sky tells the story of Homer Hickam: a coal miner’s son who’s inspired to build rockets when he hears about the first artificial satellite Sputnik being launched into space, even though he faces resistance from his father.

Dead Poets Society.
Autumnal films: Dead Poets Society.

Dead Poets Society

Another offering from Williams – the king of feel-good drama. Taking us back to that new-term feeling, Dead Poets Society tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. You will 100% cry and feel inspired to do that evening course you’ve been meaning to sign up to.

The Devil Wears Prada

Admittedly, this isn’t the most autumn-y film on the list. But Anne Hathaway’s character, Andie, does offer some fine examples of autumn wear during that memorable outfit montage. And she shows exactly how much life can change in the space of a year.

Hocus Pocus
Autumnal films: Hocus Pocus.

Hocus Pocus

OK, we’ll allow one Halloween film here: because it’s so damn good. The iconic 90s film about three witches – starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy – is actually getting a second movie soon. But in the meantime, catch up with this classic (even if it’s not quite Halloween yet). 

500 Days of Summer

From summer to autumn, this indie flick takes us on a journey from one man’s relationship with one woman to another over the course of 500 days – and the highs and lows are oh so very relatable. Again, it just goes to show how much change autumn can bring when you least expect it.  

Autumn films: Stepmom.
Autumn films: Stepmom.

Stepmom

Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon will make you weep in this tear-jerker about a terminally-ill woman dealing with her ex-husband’s new lover, who will be her children’s stepmother. Along with all the other feelings, it will also give you some serious autumn ones. 

You’ve Got Mail

A third offering from the brilliant Ephron, You’ve Got Mail seems to be another film that people turn to during the autumn months.  It tells the story of two people in the New York book world who fall in love via email correspondence without realising that they are very direct business rivals in real life (but you already knew that, because you’ve watched it 50 times before – but now’s the perfect time to make it 51). 

Waiting to Exhale.
Autumnal films: Waiting to Exhale.

Waiting To Exhale

A film all about embracing big changes, no matter how hard they may seem, Waiting To Exhale follows four women avigating through their careers, family, romance and friendships. It’s directed by Forest Whitaker (in his feature film directorial debut) and stars Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett.

Good Will Hunting

Boston is a perfect backdrop during the autumn months in Good Will Hunting. The fact that Robin Williams stars in it only helps build the case for it being on this list. Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, it tells the story of a young janitor who is an unrecognised genius. 

P.S. I Love You.
Autumnal films: P.S. I Love You.

P.S. I Love You

In this tear-jerking adaptation of Celia Ahern’s novel, Holly (Hillary Swank) receives letters from her late husband, Gerry (Gerard Butler), that bring her hope, strength and inspiration, and make her feel as if he is standing by her side each step of the way. On her trip to Ireland, where Gerry is from, Holly wraps up in hats and coats to beat the Irish winds and chill – and watching it all will warm you up too. 

St Elmo’s Fire

This coming-of-age 80s classic is another popular choice for this time of year, perhaps helped by its nostalgia. St Elmo’s Fire is about seven friends who are trying to navigate through life and their friendships following college graduation. Maybe that’s what we’re all still trying to do, after all. 

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Images: various production companies

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…