Happy fall, Polygon readers! September is upon us, and that means it’s time time to dust off your favorite sweater and dapple a little pumpkin spice in your morning coffee. We’ve got a whole slew of new movies, television and books to look forward to in the coming weeks and months, not to mention all the exciting new films arriving on streaming this month.
Our roundup for September includes Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 sci-fi thriller Arrival, the 2013 sci-fi action film Riddick starring Vin Diesel, William Friedkin’s supernatural horror classic The Exorcist, and more.
Let’s dive in and see what this month has in store.
New on Netflix
Genre: Sci-fi thriller
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story “Story of Your Life,” Arrival is Dune director Denis Villeneuve’s first foray into hard science-fiction and easily ranks as one of his best.
Starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, the film centers on Louise Banks (Adams), a linguistics professor enlisted by the US government to lead a team of investigators on a first contact expedition when twelve mysterious spaceships touch down across the planet. With a beautiful score composed by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson — his last collaboration with Villeneuve before his death in 2018 — and a moving premise focused on the intrinsic power of language and communication, Arrival is an intimate sci-fi love story for the ages. —Toussaint Egan
Stand By Me
Genre: Coming-of-age drama
Run time: 1h 29m
Director: Rob Reiner
Cast: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman
One of the great Stephen King adaptations, Stand by Me is a coming-of-age film about four 12-year-old boys who set out to find the body of a missing kid. The boys trek across the Oregon forests, running into local hoodlums and speeding trains. But despite the dangers, the real thrill of the movie comes from the transformative power of childhood friendships. The main character closes the movie with a line that basically sums it all up: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?” —Petrana Radulovic
New on Hulu
A Knight’s Tale
Genre: Medieval action comedy
Run time: 2h 20m
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell
Inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Knight,” Brian Helgeland’s semi-anachronistic medieval adventure comedy A Knight’s Tale stars Heath Ledger as William, a young peasant with a gift for jousting who poses as a knight and embarks on a quest for fame and glory alongside his friends Roland (Mark Addy) and Wat (Alan Tudyk). Along the way the trio meet Geoffrey Chaucer himself (Paul Bettany), a loquacious writer with a gift for theatrics who aids William on his journey of self-made fame and notoriety. An oddball comedy filled with surprising needle-drops, colorful characters, and a smoldering romance plot featuring Shannyn Sossamon as William’s love interest, A Knight’s Tale may have bombed when it premiered back in 2001, but has since become a cult favorite among a loyal contingent of fans. —TE
Genre: Apocalyptic drama
Run time: 2h 16m
Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alexander Skarsgård
Kirsten Dunst (Maria Antoinette) is Justine, a young bride who experiences a depressive episode on the eve of her wedding. When a rogue planet known as Melancholia appears hurtling towards Earth on a crash-collision course, Justine’s sister Claire struggles to maintain composure in the face of imminent disaster, while Justine navigates a strange euphoric resignation that washes over her in the planet’s last days. Melancholia is an achingly beautiful, somber, and harrowing journey through depression and ennui and one of Lars von Trier’s finest more touching films. —TE
New on Prime Video
Children of Men
Genre: Dystopian action thriller
Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine
Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 dystopian sci-fi drama Children of Men has been hailed in recent years as a prescient depiction of contemporary global strife and conflict. Set in 2027, almost two decades after the last human child due to inexplicable worldwide infertility, Cuarón’s film finds activist-turned-government-pawn Theo Faron (Clive Owen) unexpectedly entrusted with ensuring the safe passage of Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), an asylum seeker and the first woman to become pregnant in over 18 years. Children of Men is a blea, and thoroughly convincing depiction of a future in which there seems to be no future, a drama in which the last glimmer of hope for humanity rests in the hands of man who has all but lost faith in it. —TE
Genre: Sci-fi action
Run time: 2h 6m
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Paula Patton
Long before John David Washington’s leading role in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, his father Denzel Washington starred in his own time-twisting sci-fi action film directed by the late Tony Scott. Washington stars as Doug Carlin, an ATF agent who joins a top-secret government program in the wake of a terrorist attack on a New Orleans ferry that claims the life of his wife. Using cutting-edge technology in the form of an experimental headset, Carlin peers through the folds of space-time to investigate the events of the fateful day as they are happening in order to discern the identities of those responsible and bring them to justice. Washington’s second collaboration with Scott following 2004 ‘s Man on Fire is an exhilarating whodunnit packed with explosive action, shocking twists, and frenetic pulse-pounding cinematography that’s well worth a revisit. —TE
Genre: Sci-fi action
Run time: 1h 59m
Director: David Twohy
Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable
Richard B. Riddick is basically Vin Diesel’s answer to “Mad” Max Rockatansky: A sci-fi action role meant to be as singular as the made-up world around him. David Twohy’s 2013 film picks up five years after the events of 2004’s Chronicles of Riddick, and is essentially a reprise of 2000’s Pitch Black, serving as a soft franchise reboot in the mold of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Which is to say: It’s a lean, mean, back-to-basics sequel that sees Diesel’s semi-blind, karambit-wielding apex predator forced to once again team up with a band of unlikely allies as they fend off a horde of murderous mud creatures to escape the planet alive. It’s got great special effects, better cinematography, and more interesting action choreography than Pitch Black, but is nonetheless a film that benefits from having watched the prior two live-action installments in the series (both of which are available to rent on VOD platforms). If you haven’t seen the prior films, though, Riddick is as good a place as any to start before working your way backward at your own leisure. —TE
New on Max
Genre: Supernatural horror
Run time: 1h 13h
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Cast: Simone Simon, Tom Conway, Kent Smith
Jacques Tourneur’s classic horror movie is a dark and sexy tale of a woman (Simone Simon) who believes that if she is ever stimulated sexually, she will turn into a murderous panther. When she falls in love with a marine engineer (Kent Smith), she struggles to balance her desires with her beliefs.
There’s a tense sequence in this movie where one character stalks another. Tourneur lets the tension build to an unbearable level before surprising the audience with the sudden appearance of a bus. The sequence led to a technique coined the “Lewton Bus” after producer Val Lewton, and it is often considered the originator of the modern jump scare. Cat People is an indelible part of horror film history and, at 73 minutes, a lean good time. —PV
Cat People is available to stream on HBO Max.
Genre: Supernatural horror
Run time: 2h 2h
Director: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
The late William Friedkin’s masterpiece The Exorcist is just as terrifying now as when it caused a mild national panic on release in 1973. When a young girl (Linda Blair) starts behaving very strangely, her mother tries anything and everything to get her help, leading to... well, you know the title of the film. The realism of a mother’s desire to keep her daughter safe in an uncontrollable world set against a supernatural conflict pulls you right in from the very beginning, and keeps its hold on you far beyond the end of its two hour run-time.
The sixth entry in the franchise, helmed by David Gordon Green after his recent Halloween trilogy, comes out this October. The franchise has an impressive hit rate, especially as far as long-running horror franchises go, so hopefully this new one can keep up. Either way, there’s no beating the original, and there’s no better time to watch it as we head into fall. —PV