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The Best TV Shows & Movies To Watch In December

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May December, Natalie Portman as Elizabeth Berry. Cr. François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix

Melissah Yang and Patricia Karounos share their picks of can’t-miss TV shows and movies that have them texting up a storm. Trust, you will be too.

Once December rolls around, motivation to do anything responsible becomes non-existent. The hours at work seem to drag on longer as the weather gets drearier when really this should be a time of holiday shopping, seasonal baking, gift giving, and enjoying the overall festive vibes with friends and family in whatever way you fancy. 

One of my favorite things to do as the days get shorter is to escape the cold by spending hours upon hours in movie theaters watching the newest and buzziest releases. That hasn’t been the easiest thing to do the last few years, but, rest assured, holiday movie season is back in full swing — and there’s something on the table for everyone, whether you’re making the trek to the local cinema or prefer to watch from the comfort of your own home. We may still be waiting for the album visuals, but Beyoncé is giving us the gift of reliving her blockbuster Renaissance tour with a new concert documentary. There’s also the latest Oscar and crowd-pleasing fare, like Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore melodrama May December, Emma Stone’s Poor Things, a new take on Wonka, and a musical version of The Color Purple. So join me in clearing your schedules: we have some serious movie-watching to do. 

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May December

You put Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore on screen together, and you know you’re in for some capital-A Acting. And to pull off a premise as alluring yet tricky to navigate as the one in Todd Haynes’ (Carol) latest film, May December, that’s exactly what is needed. 

The drama is loosely inspired by Mary Kay Letourneau — aka a teacher who was convicted of sex crimes in 1997 for having a “relationship” with a 12-year-old student, whom she married in 2005 after she was released from prison. The movie starts 20 years after a similar “affair” between Gracie (Moore) and the much younger Joe (Riverdale’s Charles Melton, who is already receiving accolades for his performance) took over the tabloids. Now, actor Elizabeth (Portman) has been cast in a film inspired by the scandal, and so she heads to Georgia to spend time with Gracie and Joe, who are now married and have three teenage kids. The couple appear to be living a pretty normal life, but as Elizabeth observes them, and adopts more and more of Gracie’s traits and mannerisms, it becomes apparent that their … complicated … history isn’t so settled after all. 

May December will make you laugh, squirm in discomfort, and gasp in disbelief. So, you know, everything you could want in a holiday movie. 

Where to watch: Netflix
When: December 1 
Good if you like: Carol, All That Heaven Allows

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Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

Grab your disco cowboy hats, silver metallics, and all things glitter: the Renaissance tour is back and coming to a theater near you. With her 2023 extravaganza, Beyoncé created one of the must-see events of the year, one that gave fans an outlet to celebrate escapism, joy, Black dance music, and ball culture — if you were lucky enough to get tickets, that is. Like Taylor Swift with her Eras tour, the superstar has documented the concert for fans who missed the live shows or just want to experience it in all of its glory again in a nearly three-hour film. 

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé is more than a concert movie, however. The camera takes viewers behind the scenes, chronicling the creative process that went into crafting the concert. Also included? Interviews with the media elusive Beyoncé herself, a look at how she recovered from a knee injury, stories about her Uncle Johnny (who inspired the Renaissance album), and Blue Ivy fighting for her spot on stage. The only question there really is to answer: exactly how many times will we all be watching the movie in theaters?

Where to watch: Theaters
When: December 1 
Good if you like: Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé, Lemonade

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Poor Things

Poor Things has had some serious buzz since winning the Golden Lion, top honors at the Venice Film Festival, in September. Now the black comedy fantasy movie is coming to you. Emma Stone stars as Bella Baxter, a Victorian-era woman who is resurrected by scientist Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) who has some serious Dr. Frankenstein vibes. As she physically and mentally redevelops, Bella quickly adapts to the world around her, and that curiosity takes her away from her maker and onto a path of self-discovery toward freedom — and sexual liberation, thanks to lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). 

While deeply embedded in the fantastical, the movie deals with the very real theme of a woman who wants to grow and progress into something more than the life quite literally created for her. Needless to say, filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite, The Lobster) does it again with a beautifully shot, and Poor Things will be a real contender come awards season so be on the lookout. Stone, who also serves as producer, just might be getting her second Oscar.

Where to watch: Theaters 
When: December 8 (limited), December 22 (wide) 
Good if you like: Amélie, The Favourite, The Lobster

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Leave the World Behind

As a chronically online person whose entire job is entirely wrapped up in her computer, losing access to the devices I’m too dependent on while away from home is one of my worst nightmares. Luckily, Leave the World Behind is a work of fiction and not actually a horror movie, so there’s still enjoyment to be had. 

Adapted from Rumaan Alam’s bestselling novel of the same name and directed by Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot), the psychological thriller tracks a family (led by Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke) to a luxurious vacation rental, where two strangers (Mahershala Ali and Myha’la) show up at the door. As if that weren’t unsettling enough, all this happens in the middle of a large-scale cyber attack that has rendered every device useless and could lead to many terrifying catastrophes. So maybe the events of the film aren’t actually that far out of the realm of possibility as I’d like them to be, but that’s what will have you gripped. Can the two families overcome their distrust of each other to make it through whatever this crisis is? Do they even have a chance? 

Where to watch: Netflix
When: December 8 
Good if you like: Mr. Robot, Homecoming, Knock at the Cabin

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The Boy and the Heron

It’s been a LONG 10 years since we got a Studio Ghibli feature film from the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. The wait was surely worth it. The Boy And The Heron follows Mahito, a 12-year-old boy who struggles to find his place in a new town after his mother dies. But when a talking heron tells him that his mother is still alive, he goes searching for her — only to find himself on a fantastical adventure that no one could expect.

Like with any Studio Ghibli project, the movie boasts beautiful animations and a touching story that jerks at your heartstrings so be ready for an emotional journey while sitting in your local theater (and yes, it’s worth the price of an IMAX ticket!). While we are usually Team Subs vs Team Dubs, the cast of voice actors in the English-dubbed version is stacked — Christian Bale, Dave Bautista, Gemma Chan, Mark Hamill, and Florence Pugh to name some. Every Studio Ghibli fan has their favorite — mine is My Neighbor Totoro — but The Boy And The Heron makes its case.

Where to watch: Theaters
When: December 8
Good if you like: Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away

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The Crown (Season 6, Part 2)

I am not a royalist by any means, but I do love The Crown as a fictionalized historical drama with incredible actors that looks and plays like a very fancy soap opera. (This, of course, does not negate the real British royal family’s awful colonial past and present.) The show’s sixth season (which is being split into two parts) will be its bittersweet last; I’ll be sad to see the show go, but it’s fair time because the timeline is getting too close to recent history and no one really wants that.

But, before we get to the end, the show does still have a lot of ground to cover. After part one covered Princess Diana’s (Elizabeth Debicki) tragic death in heartbreaking detail, the remaining six episodes are looking toward the future with focus on who will follow Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton). Expect things to lighten up as the show explores the adolescence of Prince William (Ed McVey) and Prince Harry (Luther Ford), including the beginning of Will’s romance with Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy). The series’ narrative will reportedly wrap in 2005 — could that mean a recreation of the much-discussed wedding between now King Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles be in store for the highly anticipated ending? 

Where to watch: Netflix 
When: December 14
Good if you like: The Queen, Spencer, The Favourite

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Wonka

 Full transparency: we marked the calendar for Wonka’s debut since star Timothée Chalamet casually dropped first look pics of him donning the velvet burgundy coat two years ago, but the time has come and your sweet tooth for chocolate and Timmy content will finally be satisfied. The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel is set years before the events of the classic movie as the young chocolatier works to open his first shop. And while internet reaction to the first Wonka trailer was mixed, the early reviews are in and critics are charmed(!), calling it an “instant holiday classic.” 

We’ll be honest — neither of us have screened yet. But given the buzz and marketing blitz into what’ll surely be the biggest movie of the holiday season, we’re trusting our fellow entertainment journalists and including Wonka in our recs. (And we’ll update accordingly because, ya know, we want to keep things real here.)

Where to watch: Theaters 
When: December 15
Good if you like: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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The Color Purple

When Steven Spielberg adapted Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple in 1985, the movie (which starred, among others, Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey) marked a turning point in his career and went on to receive 11 Oscar nominations (though it was stunningly shut out at the ceremony). Even still, there were many (more than justified) questions about whether he was the right person to have helmed a story about Black life in the South in the early 1900s. This new, updated version, directed by Blitz Bazawule (he worked with Beyoncé on Black Is King), is a chance to change all of that. 

Spielberg and Winfrey return as producers on 2023’s The Color Purple, which now is a musical inspired by the Broadway production that ran from 2005 to 2008, and again between 2015 and 2017. Whether you’ve read the book, seen the OG movie or caught it on Broadway, the sweeping story will be familiar: it follows Celie Harris-Johnson throughout her life as she navigates all aspects of being Black in the South during the first half of the 20th century. And if you’re still on the fence about seeing this one in theaters over the holidays, a glance at the stacked cast list should be more than enough to convince you: Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks (both of whom appeared in on stage productions of the musical), Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Aunjanue Ellis, Ciara, Halle Bailey, and Jon Batiste all star. 

Where to watch: Theaters
When: December 25
Good if you like: The Color Purple (1985) 

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

The Crown Season 5 Is Too Close For Comfort

In 'May December' The Costumes Tell A Darker Story

How To Finally Start Your Studio Ghibli Journey



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