A number of titles will screen in cinemas during the week between December 25 and January 1. Here’s a guide for the films to watch when continuing the holiday tradition of a big screen with your family this holiday season.
Cinemas are currently operating at a limited capacity. Check your local theater for showtimes and opening hours. Visit cinemasafe.org for more information on safety protocols at a theater near you.
Wonder Woman 1984
This is the big one. Warner Bros.’ superhero sequel debuts concurrently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max the same day, December 25. “Watch it IN THEATERS, where it is made safe to do so,” director Patty Jenkins implored her Twitter followers. “Check out the great work theaters have done to make it so!” Gal Gadot returns as the title character for this DC Comics blockbuster, the setting now updated from the World War I timeframe of 2017’s original film to the Reagan era for this second installment.
News of the World
Director Paul Greengrass reunites with his c star Tom Hanks for Universal’s Western drama. Set in 1870 and based on the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles, Hanks plays a Civil War veteran tasked with returning an abducted girl (played by newcomer Helena Zengel) back to her family. The film debuts on Netflix streaming overseas, but Universal opted for a theatrical debut domestically.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson has made an entire career primarily helming video game adaptations, from 1995’s Mortal Kombat to all six installments in the 2002-16 Resident Evil franchise. He returns to the genre with the Sony / Screen Gems action fantasy Monster Hunter, about a group of military soldiers who… well, hunt monsters. The film will be released theatrically in the U.S., though it was pulled from theaters in China due to a joke that some found offensive to Chinese culture.
Promising Young Woman
Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education, The Great Gatsby) plays the title character in this dark comedy thriller from Focus Features. A woman regularly pretends to be deliriously intoxicated at clubs so that men will take her home and sleep with her, except she doesn’t actually sleep with them—instead, she takes revenge on her would-be rapists. Read our exclusive interview with director Emerald Fennell here.
Lionsgate, the fifth-highest grossing studio of 2019, hadn’t released a single new film theatrically since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March. But now they’re finally back with Fatale, a thriller starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as a police detective investigating the man with whom she was having an affair.
The Croods: A New Age
The top film at the box office for three consecutive weekends in November and December was Universal’s animated comedy sequel. Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, and Ryan Reynolds voice members of a prehistoric Flintstones-style family. It’s also been the second-highest grossing film at the domestic theatrical box office since the pandemic hit in March, behind only Tenet.
A 2019 Italian film adaptation of the classic story about a puppet brought to life was a success in that country, topping their local box office during Christmas week of last year. So it only made sense to dub it into English and release the film for Christmas of this year domestically, distributed by Roadside Attractions. Academy Award winner Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) plays the puppet master Geppetto; the actor played Pinocchio himself in a prior 2002 adaptation.
Die Hard (2020 re-release)
Is the 1988 action thriller starring Bruce Willis, which took place on Christmas Eve, a Christmas movie? In a recent 12,000-person online poll, 60 percent of respondents said no—although the film’s co-screenwriter Steven E. de Souza says it is. Regardless, enough people still consider it a Christmas movie that the film has earned a theatrical re-release for the holiday season.
Elf (2020 re-release)
“I’m a cotton-headed ninny muggins” indeed. Will Ferrell’s turn as Buddy the Elf’s misadventures after traveling from the North Pole to New York City made this 2003 comedy, directed by Jon Favreau, a modern Christmas classic. This year’s re-release came in third place at the box office for the December 11-13 weekend. Just be sure to order popcorn at the concession stand and not Buddy’s favorite dish of spaghetti topped with maple syrup and chocolate fudge.
The Polar Express (2020 re-release)
Based on the picture book by Chris Van Allsburg, the 2004 motion capture animated fantasy about a boy who travels to the North Pole stars Tom Hanks in multiple roles. This marked the third collaboration between Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis, along with 1994’s Forrest Gump and 2000’s Cast Away.
Focus Features’ comedy follows two half-siblings, polar opposites by personality who only just learn of each other’s existence and embark on a road trip together. Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) directs.
Universal’s dark comedy slasher horror stars Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton as a middle-aged serial killer who switches bodies with a high school girl. Director Christopher Landon is no stranger to the horror-comedy genre, having helmed Happy Death Day and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse.
The War with Grandpa
Spending its first 10 weekends in the box office top five after its October release, 101 Studios’ family comedy stars Robert De Niro getting into an increasingly fraught prank war with his grandson. Read our interview with producers Marvin, Rosa, and Tre Peart here.
Limited or Platform Releases
These films may not be playing wide theatrically next week, but you might still able to catch them on the big screen during this holiday season, especially if you live in or near a major city.
This documentary focuses on the 2018 murder of outspoken Washington Post opinion columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the behest of the Saudi Arabian government. Director Bryan Fogel previously won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for Icarus, about the Russian sports doping scandal.
One Night in Miami
This fictionalized version follows the real-life night of February 25, 1964, when four legendary African-American men spent the night together: boxer Muhammad Ali, activist Malcolm X, singer Sam Cooke, and NFL player Jim Brown. Based on the stage play by Kemp Powers, Amazon Prime Video is giving the film a platform theatrical run.
Solo Brathuke So Better
This Telugu-language romantic comedy from India, the title of which roughly translates to Living Single is So Much Better, follows a man who vows to remain single and unmarried throughout his 20s… until, of course, a woman enters his life who upends all his plans.
Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia! and The Iron Lady) directs this tale of an Irish woman who builds her own house as a refuge as the rest of her life is falling apart.
Pieces of a Woman
Vanessa Kirby plays the titular woman in this awards contender tearjerker about a married couple trying to resuscitate their lives in the aftermath of a home birth where their baby dies. Netflix is giving the film a platform theatrical run.
Shadow in the Cloud
Chloë Grace Moretz stars as a female fighter pilot during World War II, who has to battle both misogyny and an evil spirit aboard one of her flights in this supernatural historical action film.
IFC Midnight’s suspense thriller follows a family living out in the woods, whose lives are threatened by a ravenous predator wolf. The shark genre has seen numerous films through the decades, but the wolf genre remains relatively untrodden ground.
In this horror-comedy, a boy zombie must be stopped by his normal (non-zombie) human sister. During this current pandemic, of course, living under the same roof as a zombie may only be the second-biggest risk to your health.