For many, heading to the movie theater to catch new releases on Christmas Day is a holiday tradition. This year, although many of us will forgo a trip to the theater, the tradition doesn’t have to end. Several highly anticipated new movies are being released directly online.
Fire up your favorite streaming service and get ready to watch these big-name, star-powered films from your sofa.
If you’re looking to watch with the family
If your tradition involves watching movies with the whole family, here are a few you won’t want to miss. (Before we say more, spoiler alert.)
Wonder Woman 1984 (December 25)
The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, this film is the ninth installment in the DC Extended Universe. Set in 1984 during the Cold War, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) faces off against media businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and archaeologist-turned-warrior Barbara Minerva/Cheetah (Kristen Wiig). Wonder Woman is also reunited with her love interest, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who has returned from the dead.
Picking up decades after the first movie, Wonder Woman finds herself in the midst of a world dominated by material excess and the nuclear arms race. She’s driven to stop Lord, who has possession of a mystical object, before his rise to power destroys the world. Along the way, she also clashes with friend-turned-enemy Cheetah.
How to watch: Simultaneous release in select theaters and on HBO Max
Soul (December 25)
Pixar fans can get excited about the animation studio’s new release, Soul, which follows the story of middle-school band teacher and aspiring jazz musician Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx). Joe gets the opportunity of a lifetime: playing in the best jazz club in town. But before he has the chance, a misstep separates his body from his soul, sending him to The Great Beyond. When he manages to escape, he finds himself in The Great Before. In this dimension, new souls develop their personalities, quirks and traits before being sent to Earth.
On a mission to return to his on-Earth life, Joe finds himself paired with 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a soul with a dim view on life. As he tries to show her what’s great about life on Earth, he finds answers to some of life’s most important questions. When you finish Soul, check out more movies, shows and docuseries to watch on Disney +.
How to watch: Disney+
If you like movies based on true stories
The truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. Sometimes more interesting as well. Several of the movies that have reviewers raving this holiday season, including some potential Oscar nominees, are based on true stories.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (December 18)
The Oscar buzz has already begun for this film starring the late Chadwick Boseman. An adaptation of a play by August Wilson, Boseman appears alongside Academy Award–winner Viola Davis playing real-life “Mother of the Blues” Ma Rainey in 1927 Chicago. Co-produced by Denzel Washington, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom follows a battle between Rainey and her white manager and producer over control of her music while ambitious trumpeter Levee (Boseman) solicits them to start his own band while simultaneously courting Rainey’s girlfriend.
The movie has received praise from critics, particularly for Boseman, who’s said to have delivered his greatest ever performance. Some critics have noted the impact of several of his monologues, which particularly resonate knowing he was also battling terminal cancer.
How to watch: Theaters: November 25; Netflix: December 18
One Night in Miami (December 25)
One Night in Miami is a fictional story surrounding a true historical event—the night boxer Muhammad Ali defeated Sonny Liston in February 1964. The plot involves a fictitious evening shared between Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) as they celebrate Ali’s surprise win. From a hotel room, the men discuss their roles in the civil rights movement and the cultural upheaval of the 1960s.
Adapted from Kemp Powers’ 2013 speculative stage play, One Night in Miami takes place over one night, as suggested, but includes a multitude of flashbacks, as each character reflects on his own encounters with racism. This highly anticipated film is actress Regina King’s directorial debut.
How to watch: Theaters: December 25; Amazon Prime Video: January 15
Mank (November 13)
Mank is a movie about movies for those who enjoy peeking behind the Hollywood curtain. The film follows screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) as he’s writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane and was shot in a rich black and white that will delight cinema buffs.
A movie about writing a screenplay wouldn’t be all that interesting, except Mank is a drunk and a degenerate gambler who’s in a partial body cast, trying to dictate the script to a secretary out in the Mojave Desert. Interspersed with his writing efforts are scenes from a decade earlier when he befriended actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and was spending time with her and boyfriend William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). It soon becomes apparent that Hearst is being depicted in Mankiewicz’s screenplay, and not necessarily in the most favorable light. Citizen Kane ultimately won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and this movie will show you the long, dark road it took to get there.
How to watch: Theaters: November 13; Netflix: December 4
If you like apocalyptic thrillers
If fast-paced, end-of-the-world action is more your speed, check out these movies to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Greenland (December 18)
Gerard Butler stars in this apocalyptic thriller about a family fighting for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. Construction worker John Garrity (Butler) and his estranged wife (Morena Baccarin) team up to get themselves and son, Nathan, to a military evacuation zone. As news accounts roll in about cities around the world being decimated by the comet, the family encounters the best and worst in humanity as they race for safety amid panic and lawlessness. Much of the plot focuses on John being separated from his wife and son and fighting to make his way back to them before it’s too late.
Originally planned as a theater release, Greenland is now being released via premium video-on-demand (PVOD).
How to watch: PVOD or wait until 2021 to stream on HBO Max
The Midnight Sky (December 23)
Whereas Greenland focused on surviving the apocalypse, The Midnight Sky focuses on surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. A scientist in a remote research station in the Arctic believes he may be the last man alive and is attempting to get in touch with a spaceship to keep its occupants from returning to Earth following a mysterious global catastrophe.
Directed by and starring George Clooney, The Midnight Sky is based on the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Earth has been virtually destroyed by a series of catastrophic events. Clooney’s character, Augustine Lofthouse, is dying from cancer and finds himself caring for a child, Iris, who was stowed away during the outpost’s evacuation. Driven to venture out of the safety of their station in order to warn the returning spaceship (which has just discovered life on Jupiter), the future of humankind now depends on it.
How to watch: Netflix
If you want to laugh (and sing) out loud
Looking for a good laugh this holiday season? Check out Meryl Streep and James Corden as down-on-their-luck Broadway stars who hit the road to save prom.
The Prom (December 11)
The Prom was adapted from the Tony-winning Broadway musical of the same name and features a star-studded cast that includes Streep, Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells and Kerry Washington.
Licking their wounds from a bad review, Broadway actors Dee Dee Allen (Streep) and Barry Glickman (Corden) run into aging chorus girl Angie Dickinson (Kidman) and Juilliard-grad-turned-sitcom-star-turned-bartender Trent Oliver (Rannells). The four decide they can resurrect their careers by becoming celebrity activists, proving they’re not has-beens but theater people with big hearts. Angie learns of a young high school student, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), whose prom was canceled when the PTA heard she planned to bring her girlfriend. Before you know it, the group is hitting the road determined to make Emma prom queen.
How to watch: Netflix
Keep an eye out for more releases soon after the holidays
With schedules ever changing due to the pandemic, you may see a few more theater-worthy films available to stream soon after the new year. News of the World starring Tom Hanks, for example, is scheduled to hit theaters December 25 and be available on Netflix internationally sometime in 2021.
Note: Movie release dates and streaming availability are both subject to change.