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The year is coming to end, but not without some major original films debuting on Netflix, Prime Video and more top streaming platforms. Whether it’s potential new holiday classics (Prime Video is launching the Eddie Murphy holiday comedy “Candy Cane Lane” this month) or potential new franchises (Zack Snyder returns to Netflix for the start of his space opera saga “Rebel Moon”), streaming is offering up a ton of original fare this month bolstered by star power such as Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and more.
Disney+ already added the first four “Indiana Jones” movies to its streaming library in May, but now comes the arrival of the fifth installment, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which marks Harrison Ford’s final outing as the iconic archeologist and adventurer. Prime Video is hoping to attract subscribers by offering “Sound of Freedom,” one of the biggest and most controversial box office hits of the year. And Netflix is aiming to keep family audiences glued to the television with the arrival of the billion dollar hit “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”
It’s also Oscar season on Netflix. Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro” and Todd Haynes’ “May December” both launch on the streamer this month as two of its biggest Academy Award hopefuls. Animated contender “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” is also debuting.
Check out a rundown below of the biggest films new to streaming in December 2023.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Dec. 1 on Disney+)
Despite being heavily marketed as Harrison Ford’s final outing as Indiana Jones, the fifth installment of the long-running adventure franchise, “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” did not exactly set the world on fire over the summer. It opened with middling reviews and ended up making only $383 million worldwide at the box office. Perhaps more fans will stream the film with its arrival on Disney+.
“Dial of Destiny” centers on Indiana Jones’ search for a mystical artifact that has the power to turn back time. He teams up with his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), to track down the device. Also on the hunt, however, is former Nazi scientist Jurgen Voller, played by Mads Mikkelsen. The cast also includes Boyd Holdbrook, Antonio Banderas, Toby Jones, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Olivier Richters and more. In his review, Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman wrote: “‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ works by translating Indy’s old daredevil kick-ass fervor into the pure will with which he’s now hunting for the artifact. As the film leaps international locations, the action starts to feel more conventional and less ‘Indiana Jones’-y.”
Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire (Dec. 22 on Netflix)
Zack Snyder returns this month with the launch of his Netflix space opera franchise “Rebel Moon.” The project was originally conceived years ago as a “Star Wars” movie, but Snyder’s preference for an R-rating and original characters resulted in it becoming a standalone story. The film is being released in two parts (although the door is open for sequels and spinoffs, of course), with Part One arriving on streaming just before Christmas. Netflix execs are surely hoping it’s their holiday streaming blockbuster. Sofia Boutella, Ed Skrein, Cleopatra Coleman and Cary Elwes star in “Rebel Moon,” which centers on an enigmatic young woman living in a peaceful colony on the outskirts of the galaxy. She’s given the task of finding warriors who can fend off an impending invasion by a tyrannical despot. The second “Rebel Moon” film, titled “The Scargiver,” will arrive on April 19, 2024.
May December (Dec. 1 on Netflix)
Todd Haynes’ acclaimed “May December” wowed the Cannes Film Festival in May and now arrives on Netflix in the heart of awards season. Natalie Portman plays an actor who heads to Savannah, Ga., to study a woman (Julianne Moore) who went to prison years earlier for having an affair with a seventh grader. Portman’s actor character is set to play the woman in a new movie. Variety’s Peter Debruge named “May December” a Critic’s Pick, writing in his review: “Todd Haynes unpacks America’s obsession with scandal and the impossibility of ever truly knowing what motivates others in this layered look at the actor’s process…As layered and infinitely open-to-interpretation as any of his films, it’s also the most generous and direct.”
Maestro (Dec. 20 on Netflix)
Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” premiered to critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival and is widely excepted to be a major player at the upcoming Academy Awards. Cooper’s directorial follow-up to “A Star Is Born,” “Maestro” is a biographical drama about famed composer Leonard Bernstein that mainly focuses on his marriage to Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan). From Variety’s review: “In his second film as a director, Cooper places himself on a high wire, working with a pointillistic intimacy that invests every moment with fascination and surprise…it’s a stunning portrait of the artist as a charismatic narcissist in thrall to a marriage he believes in yet can’t completely live up to.”
The Exorcist: Believer (Dec. 1 on Peacock)
After bringing in a modest $107.5 million at the worldwide box office this fall, David Gordon Green’s “Exorcist” revival “The Exorcist: Believer” arrives on Peacock this month to bring the scares to streaming before Christmas. The sequel follows Victor Fielding (Leslie Odom Jr.), a photographer trying to find answers after his daughter and her friend go missing, only to return possessed by evil forces a few days later. Fielding seeks help from Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), who experienced a similar possession 50 years earlier. The movie also stars Lidya Jewett, Olivia O’Neill, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, Ann Dowd and others.
DC Universe Films (Dec. 1 on Netflix)
Netflix is getting a massive superhero upgrade this month with the arrival of the DC Universe on the streaming platform. New studio heads James Gunn and Peter Safran are currently developing a new DC Universe that will kick off with the 2025 theatrical release of “Superman: Legacy.” The current DC Universe as fans know it ends with the release of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” this month. You can catch up on the universe, which was originally shepherded by Zack Snyder, by streaming the following on Netflix: “Man of Steel” (2013), “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), “Suicide Squad” (2016), “Wonder Woman” (2017), “Justice League” (2017), “Birds of Prey” (2020), “Wonder Woman: 1984” (2020) and “The Suicide Squad” (2021).
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Dec. 3 on Netflix)
Universal and Illumination’s “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” was the first box office sensation of 2023, grossing $1.3 billion worldwide. The film features the voices of Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Jack Black and Anya-Taylor Joy and follows Mario as he ventures into the Mushroom Kingdom and other worlds on a mission to save his brother, Luigi. After making its streaming debut on Peacock in August, the film is now set to premiere on Netflix this month.
Variety critic Owen Gleiberman named the film a Critic’s Pick, writing, “It’s the rare video game movie that gives you a prankish video-game buzz…The film takes full advantage of the sculptural liquid zap of the computer-animation medium. Yet it also has a fairy-tale story that’s good enough to get you onto its wavelength.”
Leave the World Behind (Dec. 8 on Netflix)
Netflix’s upcoming disaster movie “Leave the World Behind,” based on the 2020 novel of the same name by Rumaan Alam, marks the first fictional movie from Barack and Michelle Obama’s Higher Ground Productions company. Barack included the novel on his 2021 summer reading list and was personally invested in perfecting the film adaptation, so much so that he sent script notes to writer-director Sam Esmail (best known as the creator of “Mr. Robot” and “Homecoming”). The film stars Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke as a couple vacationing in Long Island when a world-threatening disaster takes place. Mahershala Ali plays the owner of the home the couple is renting. The owner shows up seeking refuge from the disaster with his daughter (Myha’la Herrold), forcing the two families to trust each other as the world potentially comes to an end. Variety’s Peter Debruge called the film an “intriguing use-your-imagination thriller” in his review.
Cany Cane Lane (Dec. 1 on Prime Video)
Eddie Murphy is launching Prime Video’s Christmas movie season with the original comedy “Candy Cane Lane.” Directed by Reginald Hudlin, the film stars Murphy as a father who is determined to win his neighborhood’s annual Christmas home decoration contest. He unintentionally strikes a deal with an elf (Jillian Bell) to improve his odds of winning, and chaos ensues as the elf casts a spell that brings to life the 12 Days of Christmas. The screenplay is written by Kelly Younger and inspired by his childhood experiences on Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo. The movie also stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Ken Marino, Nick Offerman, Robin Thede, Chris Redd, Genneya Walton, Madison Thomas, D.C. Young Fly, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes and Nancy Lenehan.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (Dec. 15 on Netflix)
The long-awaited sequel to the 2000 stop-motion animated comedy “Chicken Run” is finally premiering this month on Netflix. Featuring an all-new voice cast, “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” follows Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) as she sets up a peaceful sanctuary far from the human world after escaping from the evil Tweedy farm. With the hatching of Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger and her mate Rocky (Zachary Levi) seem to have their happily ever after, but outside their peaceful world a new and terrible threat emerges that threatens chicken-kind. Aardman Animations’ first feature, the original “Chicken Run” grossed over $225 million at the box office to become the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time. Variety’s Peter Debruge called the sequel “a delightful, decades-later return to the English toon studio’s stop-motion roots.”
Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie (Dec. 8 on Peacock)
Tony Shalhoub reprises his Emmy-winning role in the long-awaited “Monk” movie, official titled “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie.” Set in a post-COVID world, the “Monk” reunion movie follows Shalhoub’s consulting detective with obsessive-compulsive disorder and a wide range of phobias as he takes on a very personal case involving his beloved step-daughter Molly, a journalist preparing for her wedding. Original series stars Traylor Howard, Jason Gray-Stanford, Melora Hardin, Hector Elizondo and Ted Levine reprise their roles in “Mr. Monk’s Last Case” alongside Shalhoub. Acting newcomers include Caitlin McGee and James Purefoy. Randy Zisk, who served as executive producer and director for several episodes of the series, directed the reunion movie from a script written by “Monk” series creator Andy Breckman.
The Family Plan (Dec. 15 on Apple TV+)
Mark Wahlberg is back in action-comedy mode with the release of Apple’s “The Family Plan.” He plays Dan Morgan, a suburban husband and father of three whose humdrum life as a car salesman is upended when he’s forced to return to his secret job as a high-level government assassin. Michelle Monaghan, Zoe Colletti, Van Crosby, Saïd Taghmaoui, Maggie Q and Ciarán Hinds co-star. Simon Cellan Jones directed the film from a script by David Coggeshall. Jones recently told People, “I know he’s a huge movie star and all, but Mark is amazingly easy to work with. He’s got that secret sauce, obviously, he’s natural and instinctive, super professional and really well prepared.”
Black Swan (Dec 1. on Netflix)
Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” arrives on Netflix just as Natalie Portman’s latest career achievement, the streamer’s original drama “May December,” makes its debut. Both films are home to two of Portman’s finest performances. In “Black Swan,” for which she won the Oscar for best actress, she plays a high strung ballerina spiraling into madness. From Variety’s review: “A wicked, sexy and ultimately devastating study of a young dancer’s all-consuming ambition, ‘Black Swan’ serves as a fascinating complement to Darren Aronofsky’s ‘The Wrestler,’ trading the grungy world of a broken-down fighter for the more upscale but no less brutal sphere of professional ballet. Centerstage stands Natalie Portman, whose courageous turn lays bare the myriad insecurities genuinely dedicated performers face when testing their limits, revealing shades of the actress never before seen on film.”
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Dec. 25 on Hulu)
Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” arrives on Hulu for Christmas Day viewing. The film unites the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie for a surprisingly elegiac look at Hollywood as it transforms in 1969. DiCaprio plays a fading Western television star struggling to keep pace with a booming film industry. Pitt, in an Oscar-winning role, is his lovable stuntman. From Variety’s review: “It’s a heady, engrossing, kaleidoscopic, spectacularly detailed nostalgic splatter collage of a film, an epic tale of backlot Hollywood in 1969, which allows Tarantino to pile on all his obsessions, from drive-ins to donuts, from girls with guns to men with muscle cars and vendettas, from spaghetti Westerns to sexy bare feet.”
Asteroid City (Dec. 12 on Prime Video)
After making it streaming debut on Peacock in August, Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City” arrives on Prime Video this month at no extra cost to subscribers. The Focus Features release world premiered to mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival in May, but Anderson’s passionate fanbase turned up in droves to theaters to see the ensemble comedy-drama. The movie earned a respectable $27.7 million at the box office. “Asteroid City” is set in a desert town forced into quarantine after an alien makes contact with the townspeople. Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzmann, Tom Hanks, Maya Rudolph, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Hope Davis, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and Margot Robbie make up the ensemble cast, among many others.
Showing Up (Dec. 7 on Paramount+)
“In her fourth film with director Kelly Reichardt (and their best since ‘Wendy and Lucy’), Michelle Williams gives a deceptively quiet performance as a sculptor trying to let life — and the real world — in,” reads Variety’s review of “Showing Up.” “Lizzy Carr (Williams), the central character, is a sculptor who is finishing up a series of ceramic figures she’ll be presenting in a gallery show…what’s the meaning of her life if she doesn’t succeed at becoming an artist, and for all her talent her sculptures turn out to be…a hobby? Part of the gentle enchantment of ‘Showing Up’ is that the film never articulates that question — at least, not in the way I just did. On the contrary, it’s a movie of feints, digressions, sidelong humor, and the randomness of life intruding on the purpose of life.”
Golda (Dec. 20 on Paramount+)
From Variety’s review: “In ‘Golda,’ Helen Mirren, acting with deft skill and control beneath one of those startling transformative prosthetic makeup jobs, portrays Golda Meir during the three-week cataclysm of the Yom Kippur War, which shook Israel to its bones in the fall of 1973. As the actor stands (or, more often, stoops) before us, we can believe our eyes that this is the Iron Lady of Israel. For here is that frown, those beetle brows, that coarse wavy hair tied into a bun like challah bread, that pugnacious nose, that stare of implacability designed to bore a hole in its beholder. Here, as well, is the woman who lit a thousand cigarettes, chain-smoking her way through the war-room anxiety and through the secret medical treatments she was undergoing at the time for lymphoma…Mirren makes her terse, decisive, and ferociously alive, always a step ahead of the Israeli military officers in the room.”
Beau Is Afraid (Dec. 21 on Paramount+)
A24 spent $35 million to bring “Hereditary” and “Midsommar” director Ari Aster‘s third feature, “Beau Is Afraid,” to life on the big screen. The film flopped at the box office with a global gross just over $10 million and became one of the most divisive releases of the year. “Beau Is Afraid” stars Joaquin Phoenix as an anxiety-raddled loner who sets out on a bizarre odyssey home to see his mother (Patti Lupone). In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Aster spoke bluntly about the film’s disappointing reception. While he always knew he was making a polarizing movie, he is still saddened by the public’s refusal to engage with it.
“The film ends on a theater just very gradually emptying out over the credits, with a very indifferent audience. I wasn’t quite ready for just how prophetic that ending was going to be,” Aster said. The film can be a delirious and exhaustive ride at nearly three hours (Variety’s Peter Debruge wrote in his review that the film is “what happens when a technically gifted artist is given too much creative freedom”), but it’s got enough surprises and technical prowess that it’s at least worth a shot, especially as it makes it streaming debut on Paramount+ this month.
Sound of Freedom (Dec 26 on Prime Video)
Amazon Prime Video acquired streaming rights for “Sound of Freedom” after it emerged over the summer as an unlikely (and controversial) box office hit. The film was released theatrically in July and generated $184 million in North America and $242 million globally. It became the first independent release in post-pandemic times to surpass $100 million in the U.S. and Canada. Alejandro Monteverde wrote and directed “Sound of Freedom,” which is based on the story of Tim Ballard (“Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel), a former government agent who embarks on a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers in Colombia.
The film stirred controversy upon its initial release, with detractors accusing the film of embellishing the reality of child exploitation and stoking political conspiracy theories. Rolling Stone called “Sound of Freedom” a “QAnon-tinged thriller,” one that is designed to “appeal to the conscience of a conspiracy-addled boomer.” Audience and some critics have responded more favorably, with Variety chief film critic Owen Glieberman calling “Sound of Freedom” a “compelling movie that shines an authentic light on one of the crucial criminal horrors of our time, one that Hollywood has mostly shied away from.”
The Retirement Plan (Dec. 15 on Hulu)
Nicolas Cage is earning rave reviews for his performance in “Dream Scenario” (now playing in theaters), but the A24 dark comedy wasn’t the only new Cage release of the fall movie season. The actor also appeared in “The Retirement Plan,” which hit theaters in September and arrives on streaming this month via Hulu. Cage stars in the film as a retired government assassin with a violent set of skills who must protect his estranged daughter and grandchild (played by Ashley Greene and Thalia Campbell) after they get tangled up with some very bad men (including Ron Perlman and Jackie Earle Haley).
Director Tim Brown spoke to Variety when the film opened in theaters about working with cage: “My expectation was he was going to be a complete pro and just have everything down. The day that I have to have an ego and someone who’s trouble or really wants to push against what I’m thinking…I don’t know what would happen, I’d probably flip out [laughs]. He came in fully prepared. Whatever my expectations, he blew them away tenfold.”