50 Fall Movies & TV Shows That Perfectly Capture Everything You Love About The Season
Your fall bucket list probably looks a lot different this year. The coronavirus pandemic has made most of the fall activities you’ve come to look forward to nearly impossible to enjoy safely, so there’s likely no baking apple pies at your apartment with friends, haunted hayrides glued to your significant other’s side, or costume planning for Halloween parties on your schedule. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find other ways to celebrate the season — especially inside. Take, for instance, these 50 fall TV shows and movies that’ll give you the autumn vibes you crave from the comfort of your socially-distanced couch.
From Halloween and Thanksgiving classics to shows with quaint, small-town settings that are just as much of a character as the actual characters, these shows and movies scream “autumn.” Whatever you choose to watch, you’ll be transported to a world where the leaves are every shade of orange, everything is pumpkin-flavored, and — best of all — the coronavirus doesn’t exist.
This list is pretty extensive, so whether you’re into comedy, romance, drama, horror, or anything in between, there are definitely plenty of options to keep you in a festive, fall mood throughout the entirety of the season. Now, grab a cup of hard cider, the fluffiest blanket you can find, and start streaming.
‘American Horror Story’ (2011-Present)
If you’re just looking for a super creepy series to put you in the spooky Halloween spirit, any iteration of the American Horror Story franchise will do the trick. But if you’re looking for optimal fall vibes, Season 1 and Season 3, Murder House and Coven, respectively, truly deliver.
‘Best Man Holiday’ (2013)
In the sequel to the 1999 hit The Best Man, a gang of lifelong college friends reunites for a holiday trip to Vermont. As with any reunion of family and friends, tons of drama inevitably ensues. So, if you’re looking for a juicy plot with a bittersweet ending for a cozy date night in, this viewing staple (which was released right around Thanksgiving) is a go-to.
There’s no Thanksgiving like a Black-ish Thanksgiving. You should absolutely watch this series in its entirety because it’s packed with relatable, hilarious moments. But if you want to skip straight to the turkey, watch Season 1, Episode 8, "Oedipal Triangle," or Season 3, Episode 7, "Auntsgiving."
After a magical dark force kills their mother, Mel and Maggie Vera not only discover they have a secret third sister, Macy, but that all three of them are powerful witches who must defeat the dark forces lurking in their Michigan town. If Charmed sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a modern (and more diverse) retelling of the 1998 show of the same name.
‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ (2018-2020)
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina puts a dark spin on the story of Sabrina Spellman you came to know if you grew up watching The WB’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Unlike its lighthearted and comedic predecessor, Netflix’s retelling is much darker, with horror following Sabrina wherever she goes. The fourth and final installment of the series is expected to arrive on the streaming service later this year.
‘Dawson’s Creek’ (1998-2003)
Dawson’s Creek is about four teenagers growing up in Capeside, Massachusetts. As expected from any series set in a picturesque coastal town, this show delivers on the autumn views and the year-round drama.
‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989)
This film came out in 1989, is set in autumn of 1959, and is still beloved in 2020. In it, the late Robin Williams shines as John Keating, a charismatic professor tasked with teaching students at an elite Vermont boarding school poetry and, more importantly, how to seize the day.
‘Definitely, Maybe’ (2008)
Long before Ryan Reynolds was a household name, he starred in this gem of a romantic comedy about a dad who recounts his love life to his 11-year-old daughter. The movie, set in New York City, has plenty of romantic rooftop convos and walks through Central Park to set the perfect autumn mood.
‘Downton Abbey’ (2010-2015)
This historical drama series takes place in 20th century Hampshire, England, and spans decades of autumns, so there are plenty of scenes that capture the lush foliage and fall style of the time. In the sweeping story of haves and have-nots, the British aristocratic Crawley family must hold on to their estate, Downton Abbey, as England goes through countless historical upheavals, from the sinking of the Titanic and the suffrage movement to World War I.
When a whole show is named after the town it’s set in, it’s a sure sign that town will be a driving force of the story. In Everwood, a world-renowned brain surgeon packs up his glamorous life in Manhattan to start a private practice in Everwood, Colorado, after the death of his wife, uprooting his two kids’ lives in the process. Let’s just say the born-and-raised New Yorkers aren’t too thrilled with the quirks of small-town living, like the leaves crunching under their feet in the mountains and every neighbor (including a pre-Parks and Recreation Chris Pratt) being all up in their business.
‘Friday Night Lights’ (2006-2011)
What says “fall” more than football? In rural Dillon, Texas, nothing is more important than Friday night games. This show follows the lives of those involved with Dillon High School’s football team — from the inspirational Coach Taylor to the students in the bleachers — as they deal with everyday life issues, all while never losing sight of their football championship dreams.
No show does Thanksgiving better than Friends. My personal favorites are: Season 1, Episode 9, “The One Where Underdog Gets Away”; Season 3, Episode 9, “The One with the Football”; Season 4, Episode 8, “The One with Chandler in a Box"; Season 5, Episode 8, “The One with All the Thanksgivings”; Season 6, Episode 9, "The One Where Ross Got High"; Season 7, Episode 8, “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs”; Season 8, Episode 9, “The One with the Rumor”; Season 9, Episode 8, "The One With Rachel’s Other Sister"; and Season 10, Episode 8, “The One With the Late Thanksgiving.” Oh wait, those are all of the Thanksgiving episodes.
‘Friends with Kids’ (2011)
You know what would make Thanksgiving even more awkward than usual? Spending it with your best friend, who you decided to have a baby with so you could enjoy the joys of child-rearing without having to "settle" in the romance department, only to find out you actually want to be with them. (So relatable, right?) In Friends with Kids, prepare to cringe over the drama, but definitely not over the fall fashion: The coats the characters rock throughout the film are to die for.
‘Gilmore Girls’ (2000-2007)
You knew this one was coming. Forget Rory and Lorelai; the storybook village of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, is the real star of this series. Sure, the Gilmore family’s unpredictable lives are the focus of the show, but it’s their warm conversations over cups of coffee and strolls through the seemingly perennial fall foliage that’s at its heart.
The late, great Debbie Reynolds stars as Aggie Cromwell in this Disney Channel classic. In it, her grandchildren discover their family’s magical powers when they follow her home to Halloweentown and team up to save the magical world from evil. The movie was such a cult hit, it inspired three sequels and a real-life Halloweentown festival in St. Helens, Oregon, where the movie was filmed.
‘Harry Potter’ (2001-2011)
For so many, it’s become tradition to marathon all eight movies in the Harry Potter franchise when autumn arrives, and it’s not hard to understand why. The series is jam-packed with Halloween vibes, from the ghosts and ghouls roaming the halls of Hogwarts to the absolutely terrifying prospect of entering the foreboding Forbidden Forest. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the opulent Great Hall dinner spreads Harry, Ron, and Hermione enjoyed throughout their time at school serve as endless inspiration for holiday tablescapes.
‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ (2020)
The follow-up to Netflix’s hit horror series The Haunting of Hill House brings all the same haunted mansion visuals you loved, but delivers an entirely new (and still creepy as hell) plot. The story is about an American nanny hired to care for a pair of orphaned children at their family’s English mansion. As expected when you pack up and move into a sinister house, it’s haunted. But apart from the hair-raising scenes throughout the show, the gorgeous English countryside and the comfy sweaters the characters wear as they dodge ghosts are a lot to take in.
‘Hocus Pocus’ (1993)
No fall movie roundup is complete without Hocus Pocus. The 1993 Halloween classic takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, where everyone goes hard for Halloween. That’s probably why it’s stood the test of time well; it never really feels like Halloween until you’ve watched Bette Midler’s Winifred Sanderson lead her sisters in their witchy rendition of "I Put a Spell on You."
‘Home for the Holidays’ (1995)
After making out with her boss (yikes), single mother Claudia Larson finds herself fired from her job right before Thanksgiving. On top of that, her daughter ditches her to spend the holiday with her boyfriend. All alternatives exhausted, Claudia resorts to spending the holiday with —*gasp* — her family.
‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ (1996)
If you didn’t watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown while wearing PJs and devouring snack-sized candy bars, did Halloween even happen? The animated classic will stream on Apple TV this year, and there’s no need to worry if you’re not a subscriber. It’ll be available to watch for free from Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, so get ready for a marathon.
‘Knives Out’ (2019)
Thanksgiving with an eccentric family can be awkward, combative, and usually ends with a bang. Now, imagine everyone at your dinner table is a suspect in a murder case and a nosy detective crashes the party to solve the mystery. That, there, is the plot of Knives Out. The movie takes place at an old mansion in Massachusetts, which already brings the fall vibes. But the best, most autumnal thing about the whole film is Chris Evans’ iconic white cable-knit sweater.
‘My So-Called Life’ (1994-1995)
Set in fictional Three Rivers, Pennsylvania, My So-Called Life follows Angela Chase, a pretentious 15-year-old experiencing the everyday ups and downs of the high school experience. Come for the relatable storylines and the enchanting scenery of the Pennsylvania suburbs in fall, stay for a young Claire Danes making her mark on TV history.
‘October Sky’ (1999)
In October Sky, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Homer, the son of a West Virginia coal miner who’s expected to follow his dad’s path in the family mining business. However, Homer’s dream is to build rockets, and it’s going to take a lot of convincing to get his dad on board. This movie has October in its title, so the fall feels are pretty strong already, but the provincial setting and plaid-clad characters really drive the theme home.
‘One Tree Hill’ (2003-2012)
This WB-turned-CW television show staple ran for nine seasons because everyone fell in love with the small town of Tree Hill, North Carolina, and the not-so-small drama that went down among its protagonists. Since this is a high school drama, there are plenty of football games, Halloween parties, and bonfires that feel like they’re straight out of a cozy teenage dream.
‘Parks and Recreation’ (2009-2020)
If you need a break from the cutthroat politics of 2020, Parks and Recreation is a welcome getaway. Leslie Knope is an earnest and passionate employee in the Parks and Recreation Department in Pawnee, Indiana, who just wants to plan an epic Harvest Festival, make her local parks safe and beautiful for trick-or-treating, and meet Vice President Joe Biden, OK?
‘Pieces of April’ (2003)
If you want to know what trying to host a Thanksgiving dinner in a tiny New York City apartment is really like, skip Friends and watch this quirky film starring a young, punk-rock Katie Holmes.
‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’ (1987)
In this American holiday staple, bad weather leaves account executive Neal Page grounded in Wichita, Kansas. So, he begrudgingly teams up with a goofy shower ring curtain salesman named Del to make it home to his family in time for Thanksgiving. Hijinks ensue as they road trip it to their destination, and along the way, Page ends up learning more about family from Del than he ever expected.
‘Practical Magic’ (1998)
As far as ’90s classics go, this one is top-tier. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as Sally and Gillian Owens, sisters who were born into a magical (and cursed) family. When they accidentally kill Gillian’s abusive boyfriend, they must muster up all their witchy knowledge to avoid suspicion from their hot local policeman, who just might be Sally’s soulmate.
‘Pretty Little Liars’ (2010)
Pretty Little Liars has everything you love about autumn. It’s set in quaint (but often overcast) Rosewood, Pennsylvania. The main characters are constantly rocking fluffy beanies, oversized sweaters, sick bomber jackets, and cute little mittens you wish you had in your closet. But while the days in Rosewood are unassuming, things get menacing when the sun goes down.
‘Pride & Prejudice’ (2005)
Chances are you’re familiar with Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s iconic love story in Pride & Prejudice, but the 2005 adaptation of the Jane Austen classic is worth a rewatch this fall. Elizabeth’s journey will transport you to autumn in 19th century Hertfordshire, England, in vivid detail while giving you a taste of what fall fashion looked like in an entirely different era (thank GOD corsets did not stick around).
‘Remember the Titans’ (2000)
In this film set in 1971 Virginia, Black football coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) is hired to lead the newly racially-integrated T.C. Williams High School team to victory. While the white players struggle to accept Boone and their Black teammates at first, Boone’s perseverance and unorthodox coaching tactics makes them realize the errors of their ways, and the team becomes stronger than ever. This movie is all about overcoming adversity and embracing people who are different from you, a lesson everyone should remember come Thanksgiving time (and, really, all the time).
There’s nothing like football and an underdog story to get you in the fall spirit. This classic’s titular character is bound to spend his days working in the steel mills of Joliet, Illinois, after he graduates high school, but he dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. Unswayed by not having the grades, tuition money, or even the stature required to make the team, Rudy sets out to make his dream a reality by simply working harder than anyone else.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999)
Tim Burton is practically synonymous with Halloween, so why not watch one of his earliest, creepiest films to usher in All Hallows’ Eve? In this film, Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a police constable sent to Sleepy Hollow to figure out who’s brutally decapitating its residents. I’ll give you one hint: His name rhymes with “the shmeadless shmorseman.”
Comic book fans get to watch Clark Kent experience the highs and lows of high school, all while learning to embrace his alien powers, in this retelling of Superman. The lush autumn foliage on Clark’s Kansas family farm is a welcome sight for fall lovers. The discovery of kryptonite under said foliage… not so much.
‘Son in Law’ (1993)
Dealing with in-laws can be awkward AF during the holidays, and that’s the premise of this family comedy. Son in Law follows Rebecca Warner, a farm girl who goes off to college in the big city and comes home for Thanksgiving with a new look, liberal ideals, and a (fake) fiancé in the form of her college bestie. Let’s just say sparks fly among her conservative family… and not the good kind.
‘Soul Food’ (1997)
Traditions are one of the most beloved parts of the holiday season, but grandparents are often the ones keeping them going. In Soul Food, when the Joseph family’s matriarch, Big Mama, passes away unexpectedly, the family is left struggling to deal with life in the aftermath of her loss. While various family members grow apart, Big Mama’s grandson Ahmad sets a plan into action to bring the family back together and keep Big Mama’s traditions alive.
‘St. Elmo’s Fire’ (1985)
Filmed in Washington, D.C., St. Elmo’s Fire tells the story of seven recent college grads with different dreams who are all coping with life in the real world. Apart from the picturesque Georgetown setting, St. Elmo’s Fire is what you’d get if you mixed Real World with Friendsgiving — college bars and salacious drama, but also, a whole lot of heart.
‘Stranger Things’ (2016-Present)
Season 1 of this hit Netflix series, which is set in November of 1983, follows a group of middle school friends who unwittingly discover dark supernatural forces and nefarious government activities in Hawkins, Indiana. As they seek out answers and try to keep each other (and their clueless families) alive, Hawkins’ eerie woods become a hotspot for the kids’ adventures. You won’t regret sticking around for Season 2 — it takes place during Halloween, and the costumes these characters rock are straight-up iconic.
When it comes to fall holidays in shows and movies, Black Friday doesn’t get enough love. That’s where Superstore comes in. The NBC comedy follows the eclectic employees of a Walmart-esque megastore called Cloud 9 as they tackle the everyday challenges of being retail workers — yes, including the day after Thanksgiving. If the shopping holiday is a hot mess for you, imagine what it’s like for the employees who have to keep rabid coupon-cutters from tearing their store apart.
‘The Craft’ (1996)
Mean Girls meets black magic in this 1996 cult classic. The Craft tells the story of Sarah, who has the power of telekinesis. When she gets roped into a group of wannabe witches, the magical hijinks go from harmless fun to dangerous, and then to deadly. The highly-anticipated sequel, The Craft: Legacy, will premiere on Oct. 28 on most on-demand streaming services.
‘The King: Eternal Monarch’ (2020)
Netflix’s The King: Eternal Monarch will introduce you to autumn in Korea, as well as autumn in the fictional Kingdom of Corea. The show is all about King Lee Gon, the ruler of an alternate universe where Korea is still a monarchy. When he accidentally crosses the barrier into modern-day Korea, he uncovers a plan by his evil half-uncle to steal his throne. While the supernatural plot will keep you coming back for more, you’ll also find yourself falling in love with King Lee Gon’s sharp peacoats and the lush forests of Korea.
‘The Oath’ (2018)
In this movie set in a near dystopian future (that sadly doesn’t seem too outlandish in 2020), the president of the United States has asked citizens to sign a legal oath of loyalty to her, with a deadline to do so by Black Friday. A liberal couple named Chris and Kai (played by Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) must get through Thanksgiving dinner with their conservative family members without talking politics — all while avoiding two government agents who have it out for them.
‘The Preacher’s Wife’ (1996)
There’s a lot to juggle when it comes to preparing for the holidays, and while you’re bogged down in the details, it can be easy to forget about the spirit of the season. That’s what happens in The Preacher’s Wife. Rev. Henry Biggs is a pastor of a struggling church who’s become neglectful of his family. When Henry is visited by an angel, he figures out how to save his church and reconnect with his loved ones. The plot is perfection, as is the soundtrack, which is packed with the sweet vocal stylings of the film’s title star, the late Whitney Houston.
‘The Vampire Diaries’ (2009-2017)
If you like your autumn scenery with a little forbidden romance and a whole lot of fangs on the side, The Vampire Diaries is the perfect fall watch. The magical turmoil in Mystic Falls, Virginia, comes to a head when a human named Elena Gilbert finds herself torn between two vampire brothers. There are plenty of sex scenes throughout to keep you warm when the weather gets cold, FYI.
‘The Witches’ (2020)
Anne Hathaway takes on the iconic role of The Grand High Witch in this 2020 retelling of Roald Dahl’s spooky children’s classic The Witches. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer plays the kindly grandmother, who teams up with her grandson to foil the witches’ plan to rid Britain of every child by turning them into mice. You can stream it now on HBO Max.
‘The Wiz’ (1978)
Thank you to whoever had the idea to cast Diana Ross and Michael Jackson as Dorothy and the Scarecrow in this retelling of The Wizard of Oz that triumphantly celebrates Black culture. The movie kicks off with Dorothy celebrating Thanksgiving with her family in New York City, and the new setting puts a spin on the magic city of Oz you know from the classic 1939 film version of the children’s story set in Kansas. Still, it has all the qualities you love about the original The Wizard of Oz, like Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion easing their way down a yellow brick road. Even if you haven’t watched the movie (yet), you’ve probably heard Ross’ emotional rendition of the musical’s final song, "Home."
‘Twin Peaks’ (1990-1991)
Apart from the abundance of crunchy forest greenery, nothing is as it seems in the mountain town of Twin Peaks, Washington. If you like your murder mysteries with a dose of the supernatural, a whole lot of camp, and very little commitment, this short-lived but highly-acclaimed series is just right for you.
‘What’s Cooking?’ (2000)
Thanksgiving doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some families like dressing and cranberry sauce on the side, while others prefer tamales or collard greens to accompany their turkey. What’s Cooking celebrates different ways of celebrating the holiday by following four ethnically diverse families on Thanksgiving Day.
‘When Harry Met Sally’ (1989)
This iconic rom-com tells the story of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan), two strangers who continually cross paths over the years. As they discuss their respective love lives, they go from acquaintances to friends, and then to lovers. Can you blame them? Autumn in NYC is uber-romantic.
‘You’ve Got Mail’ (1998)
Another Meg Ryan rom-com rounds out this list. In You’ve Got Mail, rival book store owners Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) cross paths repeatedly, and not even the calming vibes of autumn strolls through New York City with a fresh cup of coffee can stop them from butting heads. Little do they know, they’re unwittingly falling in love with each other via email the entire time.
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