The holiday season is officially upon us, and this year, your favorite auteurs are gifting cinephiles with something shiny and new: Guillermo Del Toro is trying his hand at stop-motion animation for the first time, while Noah Baumbach is tackling his first ever adaptation. Others are keeping with the classics, as James Cameron and Rian Johnson unwrap much-anticipated follow-ups to Avatar and Knives Out, respectively.
'Tis a season of celebration, and multiple films being released this month celebrate the power of cinema itself, like Sam Mendes' cineplex-set Empire of Light and Damien Chazelle's Hollywood epic, Babylon. There are also multiple musicals, a couple rom-coms, and one action-comedy starring David Harbour as Santa Claus. So, whether you're planning a night out at the theater or you'd prefer to cozy up with a streaming service, scroll on for all of December's must-see movies.
Based on the memoir Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by TV journalist Michael Ausiello, Jim Parsons stars as Michael, a TV journalist who falls for Kit (Ben Aldridge). When Kit is diagnosed with cancer, their love story becomes one for the ages. Spoiler alert: You're going to want tissues for this one. Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field co-stars in the latest from director Michael Showalter.
Watch it: In select theaters Dec. 2 and nationwide Dec. 16.
Based on the novel by Miriam Toews, and adapted and directed by Oscar nominee Sarah Polley, Women Talking follows a group of Mennonite women as they grapple with the fallout from a devastating wave of sexual assaults in their community. The ensemble cast includes Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, and four-time Oscar winner Frances McDormand.
Watch it: In select theaters Dec. 2 and nationwide Dec. 25.
Empire of Light
The latest drama from director Sam Mendes (a Best Director winner for 1999's American Beauty) follows Hilary (Oscar winner Olivia Colman), a cinema manager in a coastal town in 1980s England. Struggling with her mental health and sense of belonging, Hilary meets Stephen (Michael Ward) and finds a kindred spirit, finding connection through film itself in this ode to the power of cinema.
Watch it: In theaters Dec. 9.
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
In his first foray into stop-motion animation, two-time Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro delivers a darkly whimsical take on the classic fairy tale about a lonely man who makes a wish on a star and the wooden marionette who becomes a real boy. The all-star voice cast includes Oscar winners Tilda Swinton, Christoph Waltz, and Cate Blanchett, plus Ewan McGregor as Jiminy Cricket.
Watch it: On Netflix Dec. 9.
Brendan Fraser is experiencing a well-deserved career renaissance with The Whale, based on the play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter and directed by Oscar-nominee Darren Aronofsky. Fraser stars as Charlie, a 600-pound recluse grappling with regret and seeking connection in his final days. Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, and Ty Simpkins also star.
Watch it: In theaters Dec. 9.
Avatar: The Way of Water
It's been 13 years since James Cameron released his technical marvel, Avatar, which earned nine Oscar nominations and won three. The long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, returns moviegoers to Pandora, as Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) face new threats to the Na'vi. The cast also includes Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Michelle Yeoh, and Stephen Lang.
Watch it: In theaters Dec. 16.
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the two-time Oscar-winning director of Birdman and The Revenant, gets personal in Bardo, told with the filmmaker's signature visual bombast. The drama follows a filmmaker who returns to his native Mexico and begins to have an existential crisis, as he contemplates the past, present, and his own sense of self.
Watch it: On Netflix Dec. 16.
The debut feature from Nikyatu Jusu, Nanny blends horror with West African folklore in the story of a Senegalese immigrant (Anna Diop) who takes a job nannying for an affluent white family. Tension grows as she becomes entangled with the family and experiences haunting visions that threaten her sanity and safety.
Watch it: On Prime Video Dec. 16.
Damien Chazelle won an Oscar for Best Director for La La Land, his ode to Hollywood musicals. Now, he's turning his sights to the darker side of Hollywood with Babylon, an epic tale of ambition and excess in 1920s Tinseltown, with an ensemble cast comprised of two-time Oscar winner Brad Pitt, Oscar nominee Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, and Tobey Maguire.
Watch it: In theaters Dec. 23.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Daniel Craig returns as Detective Benoit Blanc in this follow-up to Rian Johnson's Knives Out. (The original earned the writer-director an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.) This time Blanc is heading abroad for a new mystery, with a starry new cast including Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, and Edward Norton.
Watch it: On Netflix Dec. 23.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody
Whitney Houston's triumphant and tragic life is chronicled in this biopic from director Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou) and Oscar-nominated Bohemian Rhapsody screenwriter Anthony McCarten. Naomi Ackie stars as Houston, playing the icon from her early days to global superstardom, with Stanley Tucci co-starring as her legendary producer, Clive Davis.
Watch it: In theaters Dec. 23.
Three-time Oscar nominee Noah Baumbach helms this adaptation of Don DeLillo's novel of the same name, previously thought to be unadaptable. Adam Driver stars as Jack Gladney, a professor of Hitler Studies, and Greta Gerwig stars as his fourth wife, Babette, as their lives are upended by an "airborne toxic event." The cast also includes Don Cheadle and Jodie Turner-Smith.
Watch it: On Netflix Dec. 30.
ALSO OUT IN DECEMBER:
The Eternal Daughter (Tilda Swinton plays mother and daughter in this ghost story from filmmaker Joanna Hogg, in select theaters Dec. 2)
Hunt (Squid Game's Lee Jung-jae makes his directorial debut with this spy thriller, in theaters Dec. 2)
Lady Chatterley's Lover (Emma Corrin stars in a steamy adaptation of the controversial and once-banned novel, on Netflix Dec. 2)
Sr. (Robert Downey Jr. documents the life and legacy of Robert Downey Sr., on Netflix Dec. 2)
Violent Night (David Harbour is Santa Claus by way of Die Hard in this R-rated Christmas action-comedy, in theaters Dec. 2)
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras' Golden Lion-winning documentary about artist and activist Nan Goldin, in theaters Dec. 9)
Something from Tiffany's (the perfect gift for the rom-com lover on your list, on Prime Video Dec. 9)
Corsage (Vicky Krieps stars as the rebellious Empress Elisabeth I, in theaters Dec. 23)
Living (Bill Nighy is a London bureaucrat in search of meaning, in theaters Dec. 23)
Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical (with Emma Thompson as Trunchbull, on Netflix Dec. 25)