After wading through more than our fair share of popcorn fluff over the past few months, the Oscar contenders have finally arrived. From unconventional sports movies to Ryan Gosling overload, there is much to look forward to and a lot of talent on display from now till November.

Here's a look at the big dramas on the horizon and which ones we think look best:


Opens: September 9

Who's in it? Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law; directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Scott Z. Burns.

What's It About? Steven Soderbergh directs an all-star cast in this deadly-virus-gone-haywire disaster flick. Somewhat reminiscent of over-the-top B-movies, Soderbergh plays it straight and takes us into a world where death is literally waiting around every corner.

Are We Excited? When considering Soderbergh's history with top-notch
casts –- yes.



Opens: September 9

Who's in It? Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte; directed by Gavin O'Connor; written by Gavin O'Connor, Cliff Dorfman and Anthony Tambakis

What's It About? Edgerton and Hardy play estranged brothers who both, quite inexplicably, are entered into a mixed martial arts tournament. Nolte, who plays the boys' alcoholic father, is doing his best to make amends with both –- with limited success.

Are We Excited? Already being tossed around in Oscar discussions, 'Warrior' has a chance to be this year's 'The Fighter.' Also, a sports movie centered around a father-son relationship? Count us in! (And please remind us to bring our hanky.)



Opens: September 16

Who's in It? Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Bryan Cranston; directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; written by Hossein Amini

What's It About? Gosling plays an unnamed mechanic who moonlights as a Hollywood stunt driver and, at times, freelance getaway driver. While working a job to help out a neighbor in need, things go terribly, terribly wrong –- which gets our unnamed hero in hot water with two gangsters, played by Brooks and Ron Perlman.

Are We Excited? After his real-life heroic exploits, will audiences now look at Gosling and think, Well, he's just playing himself? The marketing campaign for 'Drive' is a bit disingenuous, portraying the film as a sleek heist movie rather then the extremely violent film that it really is. As long as the audience knows what they're in store for as far as gore, this is definitely something to look forward to.


'Straw Dogs'

Opens: September 16

Who's in It? James Marsden, Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard; written and directed by Rod Lurie

What's It About? James Marsden moves with his wife, Kate Bosworth, from Los Angeles back to her hometown in the Deep South. Their marital issues are exacerbated when, soon after they arrive, a group of men begin harassing the couple and later attempt to break into their home. The combination of events pushes Marsden to his limits, asking the question, "How far could you be pushed before you break?"

Are We Excited? Call us cautiously optimistic. The original 1971 Sam Peckinpah / Dustin Hoffman flick is a classic, which bodes both well and ill here. It's a great, simple, straightforward story, which should be easy enough to update; on the other hand, that story's already been told about as well as it can be -- and by a true directing master -- so what can this remake bring to the table?



Opens: September 23

Who's in It? Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Robin Wright; directed by Bennett Miller; written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

What's It About? Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, general manager of baseball's Oakland A's, in this story of how the small-market A's managed to out-think and even out-compete much richer teams by using creative statistical analysis to find great, hidden players other teams either didn't want or just ignored.

Are We Excited? We'd like to be, but the trailers and clips we've seen so far look like the filmmakers have taken a unique story of unheralded but fascinating characters and turned into a run-of-the-mill underdog sports team movie. However, the script is by Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin ('The Social Network'), so it could just be the marketing that's making us nervous. Maybe it'll be a home run! (Sorry.)


'The Ides of March'

Opens: October 7

Who's in It? George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Marisa Tomei; directed by George Clooney; written by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon

What's It About? A naïve young staffer for a presidential candidate gets a firsthand look at the dirty world of politics as he's thrust right into the middle of a campaign -- and an attempt to rig it.

Are We Excited? Yep. The pairing of Clooney and Gosling should be fascinating enough, kind of like the clashing of generational titans. Plus they have that same smirk. It also helps that this is coming out so close to an American election period, and Clooney is directing.


'The Rum Diary'

Opens: October 28

Who's in It? Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard; written and directed by Bruce Robinson

What's It About? Adapted from the novel by the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp stars as a journalist named Paul Kemp who leaves New York City for Puerto Rico where he writes for the local paper and gets sucked into the rum-soaked life of the island.

Are We Excited? Johnny Depp has already had one go around channeling the good doctor. (For all you non-Gonzo fans, that would be Hunter S. Thompson.) In 1998, Depp played Raoul Duke in the drug-addled mind trip 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.' Rest assured, there will be no ether-fueled visits to Las Vegas's Circus Circus in this film. Rather, the heaviest thing we will see in 'The Rum Diary' is, well, rum (obviously). Still, we are very excited to watch Depp get back into Hunter territory. Also, the rest of the cast ain't too shabby either, what with Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard and Giovanni Ribisi also starring.



Opens: October 28

Who's in It? Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis; directed by Roland Emmerich; written by John Orloff

What's It About? Did Shakespeare really write all of those renowned plays? And if he didn't, who did? Intriguing!

Are We Excited? Any English major worth his/her salt should be over the moon about this film, which addresses the ages-old debate about whether or not Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. But if you fall asleep by the time Hamlet speaks to poor Yorick's skull, then this probably won't be the film for you.


Make sure to check out the other genres in our Fall 2011 Preview Guide:

Monday, Aug. 29: Horror

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Family Movies

Thursday, Sept. 1: Action

Friday, Sept. 2: Comedy

So which drama are you most excited to see this Fall?

'Warrior' photos courtesy of Lionsgate; 'Moneyball,' 'The Ides of March,' 'Straw Dogs,' and 'Anonymous' photos courtesy of Sony Pictures; 'Contagion' photo courtesy of Warner Bros.; 'Drive' and 'The Rum Diary' photos courtesy of FilmDistrict.
PG-13 2011
Based on 38 critics

Around the world, doctors race to find a cure for a rapidly spreading virus that kills within days. Read More

The Ides of March
R 2011
Based on 43 critics

A press secretary becomes involved in a scandal that threatens his candidate's election chances. Read More

PG-13 2011
Based on 42 critics

A baseball manager (Brad Pitt) on a tight budget takes a new approach to assembling his team. Read More

R 2011
Based on 43 critics

A stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver has a price on his head after a botched robbery. Read More

The Rum Diary
R 2011
Based on 37 critics

In Puerto Rico a journalist (Johnny Depp) becomes obsessed with a shady businessman's fiancee. Read More

Straw Dogs
R 2011
Based on 29 critics

Locals in a woman's Mississippi hometown push her screenwriter husband into violent retaliation. Read More

PG-13 2011
Based on 35 critics

A war veteran and his estranged brother clash in a mixed-martial-arts tournament. Read More

PG-13 2011
Based on 43 critics

An ordinary actor named William Shakespeare gets the credit for the work of another man. Read More