The day after Thanksgiving, three of the year’s best films—Knives Out, Queen & Slim and The Two Popes—arrive in theaters. In the wintry months to come, other late-breaking Oscar contenders will touch down, as will sentimental holiday fare, a Star Wars conclusion and plenty of horror. Here are the best movies coming out in winter 2019-2020.
Knives Out (Nov. 27)
This whodunnit murder mystery, directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) is one of the year’s best. A wealthy crime novelist (Christopher Plummer) is found dead after his 85th birthday party, with his extensive dysfunctional family all present. A bombastic Southern detective (Daniel Craig) is brought in to sort through their alibis and potential motives in a beautiful, creaky mansion. The stacked cast includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield and Ana de Armas.
Queen & Slim (Nov. 27)
Lena Waithe wrote this modern-day Bonnie & Clyde story, which stars Daniel Kaluuya (far removed from the Sunken Place) and Jodie Turner-Smith. The eponymous characters embark on a mellow first date that turns disastrous when Slim kills a white police officer in self-defense during what should have been a routine traffic stop. The pair flee southward, discovering along the way how their story has struck a nerve with Americans across the country.
The Two Popes (Nov. 27)
Both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce have experience playing controversial religious leaders (in The Rite and Game of Thrones, respectively). They face off in this film from Fernando Meirelles, which is based on the real-life friction between Pope Benedict (Hopkins) and Cardinal Bergoglio (Pryce), who is now known as Pope Francis. The film lands on Netflix Dec. 20.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Dec. 6)
This historical romance was a massive hit at Cannes, winning the festival’s best screenplay award. French filmmaker Céline Sciamma tells the story of a painter and subject who begin a torrid relationship in 18th-century France. “It’s a great example of how a well-told story, with vivid characters, can seep right into your bones and keep you thinking for days afterward,” TIME’s critic Stephanie Zacharek wrote in her review.
Daniel Isn’t Real (Dec. 6)
This psychological horror film earned strong reviews out of SXSW. Miles Robbins plays Luke, a college student with a troubled past who starts receiving visits by his childhood imaginary friend, Daniel (Patrick Schwarzenegger). While Daniel helps Miles loosen up, he also unleashes Miles’ violent, manic side.
In Fabric (Dec. 6)
Two years after Phantom Thread comes another British film that mixes high fashion and higher-level anxiety. Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays a single mother who buys a blood-red dress that begins to wreak havoc on its wearers. Writer-director Peter Strickland’s concoction of horror, comedy and drama has garnered near-universal acclaim.
Jumanji: The Next Level (Dec. 13)
The 2017 reboot of Jumanji was a well-liked romp and a box office monster, grossing over $900 million worldwide. In this sequel, the film’s four core actors—Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan—get to play against type yet again as the video game avatars for a different set of real-world people. (Danny Devito’s character, for example, gets transported into Johnson’s body.) Awkwafina and Danny Glover join the cast.
Richard Jewell (Dec. 13)
In 1996, the security guard Richard Jewell found a bomb at the Atlanta Summer Olympics and helped evacuate the area before its explosion. But while he was initially hailed as a hero, he later was accused of having planted it himself. This dramatization, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring I, Tonya breakout Paul Walter Hauser, delves into Jewell’s life and the media firestorm that surrounded him.
A Hidden Life (Dec. 13)
The always ambitious, always controversial director Terrence Malick takes on the story of an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis in World War II. While many critics at Cannes praised the film’s intimacy and urgency, TIME’s Stephanie Zacharek wasn’t one of them: Though it’s beautiful to look at, she wrote, “Its ethical purity is inert, a dead butterfly in a jar.”
Uncut Gems (Dec. 13)
Adam Sandler stars as a manic gambling addict and diamond dealer constantly trying to turn one windfall into another in this frenetic Safdie brothers film, which has garnered Oscar buzz. Sandler is joined by Lakeith Stanfield, playing a rakish middleman, and former NBA star Kevin Garnett, playing a hyper-charged, diamond-obsessed version of himself. The film opens wide on Christmas Day.
6 Underground (Dec. 13)
Michael Bay on the small screen? In the new era of streaming, anything is possible. Ryan Reynolds stars as a leader of a vigilante squad who fake their own deaths in order to freely carry out hits on notorious criminals. Like any Bay flick, there’s plenty of gunfire, car chases, exotic locales, sex and massive explosions.
Bombshell (Dec. 13)
Here’s a feel-good story for the holidays: a dramatization of the 2016 Fox News scandal that brought down Roger Ailes. Gretchen Carlson (played by Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) were two of more than 20 women who accused Ailes (John Lithgow) of sexual harassment; the film depicts the internal struggle of a crumbling newsroom. Margot Robbie co-stars as a fictionalized character, an ambitious up-and-comer trying to make a name for herself at Fox.
Cunningham (Dec. 13)
Merce Cunningham is now widely considered a titan of modern dance choreography—but in the 1940s, he was struggling to make ends meet in postwar New York. This documentary traces his artistic evolution over the three decades that followed, with plenty of footage of the explosive choreography that would make him one of the medium’s foremost visionaries.
Cats (Dec. 20)
What is there to say about this film that countless memes haven’t already covered? Tom Hooper directs this furry film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and many more transform into disconcertingly humanesque felines.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dec. 20)
Is Emperor Palpatine back? Has Rey turned to the Dark Side? Will Kylo Ren turn to the light? Who is the Skywalker in question? And how much money will the final entry of the latest Star Wars trilogy make for Disney this winter?
1917 (Dec. 25)
This war film is based on a story that the grandfather of director Sam Mendes told him about his own experiences in World War I: of a messenger taking a perilous journey to deliver life-or-death information. Two young soldiers, played by George MacKay and Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman, are tasked with crossing enemy lines in order to warn a British battalion of a German ambush. Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth co-star.
Little Women (Dec. 25)
Louisa May Alcott’s enduring novel from 1868 about the four March sisters has been the subject of countless adaptations throughout the years, including a beloved 1994 film starring Winona Ryder and a BBC series from just last year. Greta Gerwig takes the helm for this new version, which scrambles the book’s timeline and has drawn early raves. The sisters are played by Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen, while Meryl Streep plays Aunt March and Laura Dern is Marmee.
Just Mercy (Dec. 25)
Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and activist who has spent his career representing vulnerable defendants in the American South, is played by Michael B. Jordan in this adaptation of Stevenson’s memoir. The film focuses on his work on the case of Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), a black man who is sentenced to die for the murder of a white woman despite overwhelming evidence pointing to his innocence.
Clemency (Dec. 27)
Chinonye Chukwu’s death-row drama took home the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance this year. Alfre Woodard stars as Bernadine Williams, a prison warden whose feelings of guilt begin to mount after carrying out dozens of executions. “Clemency captures the unbearable atmosphere of offices and corridors suffused with the stench of death,” Justin Chang wrote in the L.A. Times.
The Grudge (Jan. 3)
How will this version of The Grudge—the fourth installment of the American horror film series based on a 2002 Japanese movie—be different from its predecessors? “The movie’s way more f-cked up,” director Nicolas Pesce said in October. The film will run parallel to the 2004 version—which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar—and follow a deluge of horror that wrought by a terrifying, long-haired, pale-faced ghost named Kayako.
Like a Boss (Jan. 10)
Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne co-star in this comedy as best friends who start a cosmetics company and quickly find themselves in thousands of dollars of debt. To salvage their company, they turn to a wealthy, glamorous investor (Salma Hayek) who begins to steal their ideas.
Underwater (Jan. 10)
When a research facility seven miles below the ocean surface gets destroyed by seismic tremors, the six people onboard must flee across the ocean floor to safety. But as they begin their journey, they start being picked off one by one by mythical sea predators of the deep. Kristen Stewart, most recently seen in Charlie’s Angels, stars.
Dolittle (Jan. 17)
Dolittle has experienced nearly as much unpredictable tumult as the fictional doctor himself: the film was pushed back nine months, reshot and renamed. Robert Downey Jr. will star as the eccentric doctor who can talk to animals. John Cena voices a polar bear. Emma Thompson voices a parrot.
Bad Boys for Life (Jan. 17)
It’s been a quarter of a century since Martin Lawrence and Will Smith first swaggered through the Miami streets as detectives Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey. The pair will return for the proverbial last job in the franchise’s third and final installment, which has been stuck in development hell for many years. This one includes midlife crises, a Romanian mob boss and, naturally, an unceasing hail of gunfire.
The Turning (Jan. 24)
Two of America’s most beloved child stars—Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard and The Florida Project‘s Brooklynn Prince—star as orphans in this horror film. When a nanny (Mackenzie Davis) shows up to their Maine estate to take care of them, she soon suspects the children and house are harboring dark secrets.
The Gentlemen (Jan. 24)
Some aspects of The Gentleman seem pretty straightforward. Guy Ritchie directing a gangster movie? Sure. Matthew McConaughey playing the kingpin of a weed empire? Of course. But Hugh Grant plays not a loveable fop, but McConaughey’s dangerous cockney rival. Succession’s Jeremy Strong shows up in a bright pink suit. Michelle Dockery is here, as is Colin Farrell, and Henry Golding. We’re frankly intrigued, whether or not it all coalesces.
Gretel and Hansel (Jan. 31)
“Hansel and Gretel” may be a classic children’s story, but it’s also shockingly gruesome: it hinges, after all, on a cannibalistic witch trying to kill and eat two children. This version of the tale leans into its horror elements, lacing a sugary tale with jump scares and terrifying images.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (Feb. 7)
The flamboyant mouthful of a title alone suggests that this installment of the DC Extended Universe take a different in tone from the rest of the relentlessly dark series that has included Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie reprises her role from the latter film as the anarchic and unhinged Harley Quinn, who has broken up with the Joker (Jared Leto) and forms her own crew of female vigilantes.
The Photograph (Feb. 14)
Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield have displayed both side-splitting comedic chops and thoughtful character portraiture on Insecure and Atlanta, respectively. They play foils in love in this romantic drama, which was written and directed by rising star Stella Meghie. As Rae’s character grapples with her burgeoning relationship, she seeks to uncover more information about her mother and her own love story a generation prior.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Feb. 14)
The original image of the furry speedster, unveiled back in April, was so widely ridiculed that designers went back to the drawing board, hoping not to incur the wrath of the internet a second time. Jim Carrey, who plays Sonic’s archenemy, Dr. Ivo Robotnik, voiced disappointment with the turn of events: “I believe in auteurs. I believe in creatives,” he told the Sioux City Journal. “You just become their Frankenstein monster at some point, right?”
The Invisible Man (Feb. 28)
In 2014, Universal Pictures hoped to start its own cinematic universe to compete with Marvel’s and DC’s sprawling worlds—but the idea was abandoned after the critical and commercial failure of The Mummy in 2017. The Invisible Man, however, is a vestige of that franchise, and is a reboot of the 1933 film based on an H.G. Wells novel. Elisabeth Moss stars a woman who starts being haunted by her abusive ex-boyfriend—who is presumed to be dead.
Onward (March 6)
In this animated Pixar film, two Marvel stars—Tom Holland and Chris Pratt—voice elfin brothers who set off to find magic in a world increasingly reliant on digital technology.
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