Netflix; Annette Brown/Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Holiday season means movie season as much as it means balsam firs and hot chocolate. Hollywood rolls out the big flicks it’s betting the ranch on, so there’s more than a Santa’s sackful of promising films with great stars and directors between now and New Year’s Day, including Spielberg’s autobiographical Oscar front-runner The Fabelmans, the Knives Out and Black Panther sequels, and Tom Hanks’ A Man Called Otto. Mark your calendars and settle in!
Coming in November
The Wonder (in theaters Nov. 2, on Netflix Nov. 16)
Florence Pugh stars as a nurse investigating the case in an 1862 Irish village of a girl who doesn’t eat, yet mysteriously remains alive and well.
Good Night Oppy (in theaters Nov. 4, on Prime Video Nov. 23)
Who needs Wall-E or the Energizer Bunny when you’ve got the real thing — NASA’s plucky little robot Opportunity, sent to Mars (brr!) on a 90-day mission? And Oppy kept going for 15 years, sending back pictures to humans who loved it as much as you will.
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Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever (in theaters Nov. 11)
Audiences went wild after the Oct. 26 prerelease screening of the most eagerly anticipated superhero movie of all, the tale of Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett), Shuri (Letitia Wright), War Dog Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and their fight to protect Africa’s best-kept-secret kingdom. Instead of recasting the first film’s central role of King T’Challa after beloved star Chadwick Boseman died of cancer, the sequel makes the character’s death an emotional engine driving the plot. Nyong’o said this “put our grief to good use.”
The English (on Prime Video Nov. 11)
Emily Blunt plays proper Englishwoman Cornelia Locke, who decamps for Wyoming, circa 1890, to track down the villain she suspects slayed her son. Chaske Spencer (The Twilight Saga) is Eli Whipp, an irascible Pawnee scout on a mission to reclaim lost territory. After the two meet cute, it’s off to the (horse) races in a six-episode buddy action-Western coproduced by Amazon and the BBC.
The Inspection (in theaters Nov. 18)
In Elegance Bratton’s movie inspired by his own story, a young, gay Black man (Hollywood’s breakout star Jeremy Pope) rejected by his mother (Bring It On’s Gabrielle Union) joins the Marines and finds prejudice and a sadistic drill sergeant (Fargo’s Bokeem Woodbine) — but also the last thing he expected, the camaraderie of a new community that changed his life forever.
The People We Hate at the Wedding (on Prime Video Nov. 18)
Siblings (Kristen Bell and Ben Platt) jet to London to reluctantly attend the wedding of their wealthy and beautiful half sister (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and cross wits with their equally dysfunctional mom (Allison Janney). Mayhem and maybe even a bit of hilarity ensue.
She Said (in theaters Nov. 18)
The greatest film about investigative journalists since Spotlight stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the real-life New York Times reporters whose astounding reporting exposed the crimes of movie mogul and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein. It packs an emotional wallop, and Gold Derby’s expert Oscar predictors rank it the ninth-likeliest best picture nominee and the second-likeliest best adapted screenplay nominee (after Women Talking and ahead of The Whale).
The Menu (in theaters Nov. 18)
In a comedy for those with a taste for the ghoulish, Ralph Fiennes plays a chef who serves the meal of a lifetime to a couple of gastronomes (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult). But since he’s also a psycho, it might be their last.
Devotion (in theaters Nov. 23)
Liked Top Gun: Maverick? Try a true buddy picture about heroic Korean War fighter pilots Jesse Brown (Da 5 Bloods’ Jonathan Majors), the Navy aviator Variety calls “the Jackie Robinson of the skies,” and his white wingman Tom Hudner (Glen Powell, Top Gun: Maverick’s “Hangman” Seresin). The old-fashioned epic won the Middleburg Film Festival Audience Award — seven of the last nine winners won best picture nominations.
Bones and All (in theaters Nov. 23)
Can two fine young cannibals (Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell) find happiness together, and learn something from more grown-up cannibals (Mark Rylance, Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green)? Film fest audiences found this flick delicious.
The Swimmers (on Netflix Nov. 23)
True story: Two sisters flee Syria’s bloody war, make a perilous voyage and wind up competing as swimmers at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
White Noise (in theaters Nov. 25)
A Hitler studies professor (Adam Driver) and his pill-popping missus (Greta Gerwig) hide out from a scary airborne toxic event in Noah Baumbach’s bold adaptation of Don DeLillo’s iconic novel. It’s rated the No. 6 likeliest best adapted screenplay Oscar nominee.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (in theaters Nov. 23-29, on Netflix Dec. 23)
In the jolly Knives Out sequel, sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) gets invited to a murder mystery party on the Greek isle of an Elon Musk–like zillionaire (Edward Norton). It’s every bit as mischievously twisty as the first movie, a whodunit that will delight and keep you guessing.
The Fabelmans (in theaters Nov. 23)
Steven Spielberg’s somewhat autobiographical coming-of-age story about an Arizona kid (Gabriel LaBelle) who falls in love with making movies while his mom and dad (Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) fall out of love, possibly partly thanks to Uncle Benny (Seth Rogen). The scene where the kid gets advice from legendary director John Ford (David Lynch!) really happened. Spielberg has 19 Oscar noms for director and best picture; this could be his first for original screenplay.
The Son (in limited theaters Nov. 25, nationwide Dec. 16)
A heartrending awards-magnet drama about a tormented young man (Zen McGrath) whose distraught mother (Laura Dern) sends him to live with his dad (Hugh Jackman) and his gorgeous new stepmom (Vanessa Kirby). Jackman has never been better, and few movies have treated the topic of mental illness with such depth and sensitivity.
Coming in December
Emancipation (in theaters Dec. 2, on Apple TV Dec. 9)
Will Smith makes his return to the big screen after his mortifying Oscars fiasco in an action-thriller inspired by the true story of an enslaved man who escapes his Louisiana plantation torturers, outwits the vicious men hunting him and joins the Union Army.
Women Talking (in theaters Dec. 2)
The Crown’s Claire Foy, Frances McDormand, Jessie Buckley and Rooney Mara star in Sarah Polley’s dreamy, scary story of women in a remote Mennonite religious community struggling to reconcile their vows to respect authority and their urgent need to escape the rapists who prey on them. It seems like a bizarre nightmare, but it’s inspired by a true event.
Pinocchio (on Netflix Dec. 9)
Guillermo del Toro makes a stop-motion animated film from the classic, darker-than-Disney tale.
The Whale (on Netflix Dec. 9)
Fifteen out of 21 top Gold Derby Oscar predictors say Brendan Fraser will win best actor for his fearless, deeply moving performance as a severely obese recluse, much beloved by his colorfully neurotic friends, who tries to turn his life around and bond with his bitterly estranged teenage daughter.
Avatar: The Way of Water (in theaters Dec. 16)
Kate Winslet, Michelle Yeoh and Edie Falco join the cast in the sequel to James Cameron’s record-breaking hit about blue-skinned aliens battling humans on the planet Pandora.
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (in theaters Dec. 21)
Naomie Ackie plays doomed superstar Whitney Houston in a biopic by the writer of the Freddie Mercury film Bohemian Rhapsody, which won Rami Malek the best actor Oscar.
The Pale Blue Eye (in limited theaters Dec. 23, on Netflix Jan. 6)
At West Point in 1830, moody, drunken young cadet Edgar Allan Poe (Harry Melling) helps a retired detective (Christian Bale) investigate a grisly murder and macabre secrets. Costars include The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson and Apocalypse Now’s Robert Duvall.
Babylon (in theaters Dec. 23)
In the Wild West of 1920s Hollywood, a Clark Gable–like star (Brad Pitt) parties hard with a brash new starlet (Margot Robbie). But Jean Smart reportedly steals the show as an old-pro showbiz journalist who coaches the actress on how to act and speak at the dawn of talkies.
A Man Called Otto (in limited theaters Dec. 25, nationwide Jan. 13)
Tom Hanks plays cantankerous widower Otto, who gets a tentative new lease on life by grudgingly befriending his new neighbors. It’s the American take on the best-selling novel A Man Called Ove, whose Swedish film adaptation was 2016’s most popular foreign film in the U.S.
Turn Every Page (in theaters Dec. 30)
A documentary that celebrates a soon-to-be-lost literary era, and a kind of love story about two of the most beloved legends in the publishing business, Lyndon Johnson biographer of genius Robert Caro and his editor Robert Gottlieb (who brought you Catch-22 and 600 other books), racing to finish their last masterpiece book after half a century’s work. Their fans Bill Clinton, Conan O’Brien, Ethan Hawke and David Remnick weigh in.
Wildcat (in theaters Dec. 21, on Prime Video Dec. 30)
The producers of Tiger King present an equally hot, more heartwarming documentary about a PTSD-tormented British Afghan war vet who went to Peru’s jungle and cared for a baby ocelot orphaned by loggers. Man and ocelot both felt emotional healing — and so will you.
Tim Appelo covers entertainment and is the film and TV critic for AARP. Previously, he was the entertainment editor at Amazon, video critic at Entertainment Weekly, and a critic and writer for The Hollywood Reporter, People, MTV, The Village Voice and LA Weekly.