Best Movies & TV (Dec. 22-25)

Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, Babylon, Matilda the Musical.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos Courtesy of the Studios

As quickly as this year passed, the holidays are already upon us. So we thought we’d gift you a present this month: an end to the seemingly infinite scroll of figuring out what’s new on streaming or what to watch. It’ll save time while you make food with your friends and family or wrap gifts. It’ll for sure save you time before you check out the two three-hour movies out this week — Babylon and Avatar: The Way of Water — which are both worth a look (maybe not back-to-back, but it’s up to you). And if you’re looking for more Christmas and Hanukkah movies, we always have you covered in our other guides here and here. Now, for this week’s list. Oh, and happy holidays!

La La Land director Damien Chazelle returns to California dreaming with Babylon, a.k.a. La La Land’s twisted opposite. There’s no Sebastian and Mia dreamily tap-dancing through the stars of Los Angeles here. Instead, you have the dark nature of Hollywood at its most debauched, with Babylon tracing the ups and downs of Chazelle’s cast of characters from silent films to talkies in the 1920s. Margot Robbie plays aspiring star Nellie LaRoy, and Diego Calva plays Manny Torres, a Mexican immigrant looking to put his foot in the door of Hollywood. Brad Pitt, Jean Smart, Li Jun Li, and Jovan Adepo round out the cast. The three-hour epic is a time commitment, sure, but it’s a fun, bombastic movie meant to be seen on the big screen.

We’ve recommended director Rian Johnson’s sequel before, but after a successful weeklong stint in theaters, Glass Onion is finally hitting Netflix. Yeah, it’s a shame you can’t see Daniel Craig’s detective Benoit Blanc solve his latest case in Greece on the big screen with a big crowd, but maybe it’s just an even better excuse to gather the whole family for a movie night.

Available to stream on Netflix

If you’re not in the mood for Avatar or Babylon this weekend, a less-than-two-hour movie contender is entering the ring. The Shrek spinoff brings back Antonio Banderas as the titular freewheeling Puss as he realizes he’s on the last of his nine lives. Meanwhile, Florence Pugh voices Goldilocks, the girlie trying to end him, which is kind of icon behavior if you ask me.

The most promo I’ve seen for Matilda the Musical was the viral Twitter clip of the girls’ aggressive choreography. To be completely honest, I had thought this already premiered, but here we are. It’s curious why Netflix hasn’t been promoting this as hard when a lot of reviews are saying it’s quite delightful! (And held its own with a top box-office spot in the U.K.) Plus, after an amazing performance in The Woman King earlier this year, Lashana Lynch is trading action for schoolbooks as Miss Honey, while Emma Thompson takes on the role of Miss Trunchbull.

Available to stream on Netflix

One of Tom Cruise’s best stunts of the year was getting Top Gun: Maverick to maintain such staying power in movie theaters and the box office. While most films have been debuting on streamers a month after their theater debuts, Maverick has stayed strong, holding on to a traditional release model. Now, almost seven months later, Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski’s sequel is coming to Paramount+ just in time for the holidays. If you’re one of the two people who haven’t watched it yet, get on it!

Available to stream on Paramount+

Out this week, director Sarah Polley’s star-studded film is one of the last possible Oscars-contending films of the year. But aside from its Oscars chances, Women Talking has been lauded as a moving drama based on Miriam Toews’s novel of the same name. Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, and Frances McDormand star as women in a Mennonite colony who, after experiencing horrific sexual abuse, discuss the next steps for their survival.

Back when cable was in her peak era, reruns of classic Christmas specials like Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (complete with a Paul McCartney needle drop) would be playing throughout the holiday season. Now, they’re a bit harder to come by if you don’t own them. Thankfully, Peacock has at least one of them. It truly feels like a fever dream to try and recount the events told by this stop-motion mailman voiced by Fred Astaire, but it’s a classic!

Available to stream on Peacock

Nothing says the holidays like a new season of Emily in Parée to shut your mind off. Sugar rush? Food coma? The perfect pacifier for those post-holiday stressors is Lily Collins’s optimistic American in Paris trying to juggle work, love, and learning a new language for bingeable seasons on end (okay, well, just three seasons). And even grander, Emily kicks off the third season by emotionally cutting her own bangs so you don’t have to! Merci.

Available to stream on Netflix

Scrolling through our list of worthwhile Hanukkah movies and specials, I remembered Rugrats’ pitch-perfect holiday episode. (An American Tail is also a great choice that reminds me of my childhood, but as writer Rebecca Caplan points out, it’s not quite the cozy holiday feeling you’re probably chasing right now.) And seeing how Christmas isn’t the only holiday going on right now, “A Rugrats Chanukah” is a fun choice for any family to tune in to as the fun-loving babies discover the true meaning (or meanie) of Hanukkah.

Available to stream on Paramount+

Michelle Yeoh has had a kick-ass year. Her victory tour started this year with Everything, Everywhere All at Once, and now ends with her leading a spin-off for Netflix’s successful fantasy series The Witcher. In Blood Origin, Yeoh leads a band of elven outcasts as the first Witcher named Scian as they attempt to defeat a great evil threatening their world. You know, basic fantasy hero stuff.

Available to stream on Netflix

Also! Read our streaming recommendations from the weekend of December 16. Vulture’s next list of weekend streaming picks goes online Thursday, December 29.

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