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2020 Holiday Season Movie Preview: 16 Films to Look Forward To

Epic biopics, stirring documentaries, sweeping dramas and heartwarming rom-coms

Viola Davis stars in the film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Dolly Parton stars in Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square

Netflix (2)

Viola Davis (left) in "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom" and Dolly Parton in "Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square."

En español | Holiday season means movie season as much as it means balsam firs and hot chocolate. And while we may be used to previews in our beloved movie theaters announcing holiday releases, this year the crop is poised to land more on our small screens than big ones (with some exceptions). Either way, there are plenty of fine films with great stars and terrific directors lining up for our viewing excitement between now and New Year’s Day. Mark your calendars and settle in!

If you choose to visit a theater to see a film, read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus health and safety guide and consult AARP’s latest news on the coronavirus.

Mank (Nov. 13)

If you thought Gary Oldman was great as Winston Churchill, wait until you see him as the alcoholic gambler genius who wrote Citizen Kane. Some pundits predict this biopic filmed in Citizen Kane’s black-and-white style will win more Oscars than the original.

Coming to: Limited theaters Nov. 13, Netflix Dec. 4

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Nov. 13)

You didn’t know Forest Whitaker started out as a singer? He joins Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville in a musical about a toymaker who finds new hope in his kind and curious granddaughter.

Coming to: Limited theaters, Netflix

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Nov. 22)

Scroogelike Christine Baranski (The Good Fight) tries to sell a town out from under the townsfolk, but angel Dolly fights back with 14 songs.

Coming to: Netflix

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Hillbilly Elegy (Nov. 24)

In Ron Howard’s adaptation of a hit memoir by conservative star J.D. Vance, a Yale Law student returns to his troubled Ohio hometown and reflects on the legacy of his mom (Amy Adams) and grandma (Glenn Close).

Coming to: Limited theaters and Netflix

The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2 (Nov. 25)

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus (Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) defend the North Pole from assault. Watch out for the gingerbread-cookie hand grenades.

Coming to: Netflix

Burl Moseley, Alison Brie, Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Mary Holland, Victor Garber and Mary Steenburgen together in front of a Christmas Tree in the film Happiest Season


Happiest Season (Nov. 25)

Kristen Stewart wants to propose to her girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis) at her family’s holiday party, only to discover that her parents (Mary Steenburgen and Victor Garber) don’t know their daughter ain’t straight.

Coming to: Hulu

Nomadland (Dec. 4)

Frances McDormand triumphs as a woman who joins the growing population of Americans of retirement age who can’t or won’t retire, instead living in vans and RVs and hitting the road for seasonal work. Some of her costars are actual nomads telling their real-life stories in the film.

Coming to: Theaters

The Prom (Dec. 11)

After their Broadway musical about Eleanor Roosevelt flops, the vain, self-absorbed actors (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Kerry Washington) seek a good cause to redeem their reputations. So they invade Indiana, where they help a girl who wants to take her girlfriend to her high-school prom.

Coming to: Netflix

Jamie Dornan and Emily Blunt star in the film Wild Mountain Thyme

Bleecker Street

Wild Mountain Thyme (Dec. 11)

Another romantic fable from the writer of Cher’s movie Moonstruck, about an Irish girl (Emily Blunt), her neurotically elusive beloved (Jamie Dornan), his neurotic father (Christopher Walken), and their rich, shallow American nephew (Jon Hamm), who wants the family farm.

Coming to: Theaters and On Demand

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Dec. 18)

Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) star in August Wilson’s illustrious tale of Ma Rainey, the 1920s Mother of the Blues.

Coming to: Netflix

The Father (Dec. 18)

Anthony Hopkins plays a stubborn man in denial as he sinks into Alzheimer’s disease in a film that cinematically recreates the experience of dementia.

Coming to: Theaters

The Midnight Sky (Dec. 23)

George Clooney plays a scientist in the Arctic racing to prevent a group of astronauts from returning to Earth after an apocalyptic disaster.

Coming to: Select theaters and Netflix

One Night in Miami (Dec. 25)

Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke celebrate the surprise title win by Ali (then Cassius Clay) over Sonny Liston in 1964. Regina King directs Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Leslie Odom Jr. and Eli Goree — and the real Ali is in it, too.

Coming to: Theaters Dec. 25, Amazon Jan. 15

Wonder Woman 1984 (Dec. 25)

Gal Gadot is back as the Amazon warrior whose first film made $409 million — unless the studio delays this massive hit until 2021.

Coming to: Theaters

The Truffle Hunters (Dec. 25)

A smash-hit, feel-good documentary about a bunch of aging men hunting in the woods of Northern Italy for the rare, exquisite Alba truffle.  

Coming to: Theaters

News of the World (Dec. 25)

In 1870, kindly Capt. Kidd (Tom Hanks) is assigned to return a young white girl kidnapped by Kiowa Native Americans — except the girl speaks no English and regards herself as Kiowa.

Coming to: Theaters

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Nov. 3, 2020. It has been updated with the latest announced release dates for films still scheduled in 2020.

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