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A wacky Emma Stone, musicals and more superheroes: The holiday movie preview 2023

By Dan Heching, CNN

(CNN) — Whether you’re a lover of the holidays or not, this time of year is always a good one for cinephiles, because it’s when the last high-profile awards contenders come out, as well as a few dependable lowbrow cheesy holiday titles to round out the bunch.

This year was quite out of the ordinary, though, since we almost didn’t make it to this point – twin strikes in Hollywood for much of the year put several major projects on hold, with release dates consequently shuffled and delayed.

Nonetheless, the movie release calendar for the rest of this year is duly packed, so if you’re in the mood for something new, in a theater or at home, check out these upcoming titles. There’s a nice mix of holiday-themed content and not to choose from:


Following the tried-and-true formula of holiday-timed rom-coms, this frothy title is a change of pace for former “Gossip Girl” Leighton Meester and heroic hunk Robbie Amell, who star as exes who end up spending the holidays together and – you guessed it – finding that maybe they shouldn’t have called it quits in the first place.

“EXmas” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Best. Christmas. Ever!’

This one features Brandy Norwood and Heather Graham, in essentially the same format as above but instead of exes, they’re ex-friends. But amid the holiday cheer and all the Christmas sweaters, they won’t remain that way for long.

“Best. Christmas. Ever!” is streaming on Netflix.

‘Silent Night’

For those of you who like a little blood and shoot-em-up with your figgy pudding and mistletoe, Joel Kinnaman is on John McClane duty in this dialog-free, John Woo-directed revenge thriller that looks sure to be a major palate cleanser from the rest of the holiday fare. After turning heads as Colonel Rick Flag in both “Suicide Squad” movies, Kinnaman stars here as the survivor of a drive-by shooting hellbent on exacting revenge against those who killed his child. Not to be confused with last year’s “Violent Night,” but kinda in the same general wheelhouse (minus David Harbour as Santa Claus).

“Silent Night” is currently playing in theater nationwide.

‘Candy Cane Lane’

If you like some magical realism with your holiday movies (and who doesn’t?), Eddie Murphy and Tracy Ellis Ross has you covered with this festive caper that looks like what would happen if the model town in “Beetlejuice” came alive at Christmastime.

“Candy Cane Lane” is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

‘Godzilla Minus One’

And then there’s the kaiju (that’s Japanese for city-stomping monsters, to the uninitiated) lovers out there, who will surely welcome this import from the country that inspired Legendary Entertainment’s Monsterverse, which most recently dropped “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” on Apple TV+. From the trailers alone, “Minus One” looks like a return to the fundamentals of what makes Godzilla such a lasting, menacing cultural figure.

“Godzilla Minus One” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

‘Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé’

The one and only. After a record-breaking world tour, the countless Beyoncé worshippers who didn’t get tickets to a concert now have a chance to experience the spectacle in a movie theater. The album for which this tour was named shows Queen Bey in peak form, and the shows do not disappoint. Christmas is definitely coming early this year.

“Renaissance: A film by Beyoncé is currently playing in theaters nationwide.


While Anne Hathaway doesn’t play the title character, it’s all about her in this story of a new co-worker at a women’s prison who befriends Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie), which sets off a chain of sinister and disturbing events.

“Eileen” is playing in theaters now.


“Shayda” looks like a loving portrait of a woman committed to her daughter as the pair install themselves in an Australian women’s shelter during the two weeks of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year.

“Shayda” is playing in select theaters.

‘Leave the World Behind’

This paranoid-looking thriller has the feel of a disaster film mixed with commentary on class and race relations. It also boasts a killer cast in the form of Mahershala Ali, Julia Roberts and Ethan Hawke.

“Leave the World Behind” debuts on Netflix on Dec. 8.

‘Poor Things’

Featuring what is already being touted as an Oscar-worthy performance from Emma Stone, this zany-looking fever dream from Yorgos Lanthimos (the director of “The Lobster” and “The Favourite”) looks as though it takes on the Frankenstein myth, with more than a few artful and unexpected twists.

“Poor Things” debuts in theaters on Dec. 8.

‘Merry Little Batman’

In this I-can’t-believe-they-hadn’t-thought-of-this-before animated movie, Batman has a son who must save the day when the Joker decides to steal Christmas (how very Grinch of him). The holiday special looks like kooky fun, and also the perfect opportunity to sing the Batman version of “Jingle Bells.”

“Merry Little Batman” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 8.

‘The Boy and the Heron’

The new film from visionary director Hayao Miyazaki, Oscar-winning writer-director of “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke.” Like his previous work, “The Boy and the Heron” is a fantasy mixing themes both light and dark, in a meditation on the balance between life and death itself.

“The Boy from Heron” debuts in theaters on Dec. 8.


A new take on the world created by Roald Dahl – and a character previously interpreted by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp – this dazzling-looking musical promises an origin story of sorts for Willy Wonka, the magical candy-maker and chocolatier. This time he’ll be brought to life by Timothée Chalamet, with a fun appearance by Hugh Grant as an Oompa-loompa. (“Wonka” is a Warner Bros. Pictures production. CNN and Warner Bros. Pictures are both part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)

“Wonka” debuts in theaters on Dec. 15.

‘American Fiction’

Starring the always excellent Jeffrey Wright, this biting satire follows a frustrated author whose joke book riffing on Black stereotypes suddenly finds success – and thrusts him into a world full of insanity and hypocrisy.

“American Fiction” debuts in theaters on Dec. 15.

‘The Zone of Interest’

Winner of the Grand Prix award at Cannes Film Festival, “The Zone of Interest” is an unflinching look at human complicity, following the commandant of Auschwitz and his family as they strive to lead idyllic lives immediately adjacent to the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust.

“The Zone of Interest” is available in select theaters on Dec. 15.


Already gaining considerable Oscar buzz, Bradley Cooper’s heartfelt look at the life of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein features a transformative starring turn from the co-writer and director, opposite an equally buzzy performance from brilliant “Promising Young Woman” actor Carey Mulligan as Bernstein’s wife.

“Maestro” will begin streaming on Netflix on Dec. 20.

‘Rebel Moon — Part One: A Child of Fire’

This science-fiction epic looks like it has the gravitas of “Dune” matched with the action of “Star Wars,” brought to the screen by Zack Snyder. The starry cast includes Sofia Boutella, Ed Skrein, Jena Malone, Charlie Hunnam and Cary Elwes. It will be followed next year sequel “Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver.”

“Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire” will debut on Netflix on Dec. 22.

‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’

After much delay, Jason Momoa is back as the aquatic DC superhero, this time with a tot in tow as he faces off against enemies old – the terrifying Black Manta – and new. Nicole Kidman, Patrick Wilson, Temeura Morrison and Dolph Lundgren are back for the second go-round, along with what looks like Ben Affleck in another cameo as Bruce Wayne/Batman, as seen on the film’s IMDb page. (“Aquaman” is a DC Films production. CNN and DC are both part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)

“Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom” premieres in theaters on Dec. 22.

‘Anyone But You’

Again hinging on the concept of how thin the line must be between love and hate, this sultry-looking romcom features “Euphoria” star Sydney Sweeney opposite “Top Gun Maverick’s” Glen Powell as a pair of would-be lovers who can’t stand each other, yet somehow end up pretending to be a couple while attending a destination wedding. Time will tell if the chemistry they created offscreen will translate to their antics in the movie itself.

“Anyone But You” premieres in theaters on Dec. 22.

‘All of Us Strangers’

Starring Oscar-nominee Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”) and Andrew Scott (“Fleabag”), “All of Us Strangers” follows a screenwriter who begins a relationship with a handsome new neighbor while simultaneously being drawn into his past by the apparent ghosts of his late parents.

The movie debuts in theaters on Dec. 22.

‘The Iron Claw’

Featuring lycra, spandex and hair for days, “The Iron Claw” follows the Von Erich family – the infamous real-life wrestling dynasty that made history throughout the 1980s. Look for Zac Efron and “The Bear” star Jeremy Allen White as two of the brothers in this dramatic look at the family’s rise and legacy.

“The Iron Claw” debuts in theaters nationwide on Dec. 22.


Illumination Entertainment is hoping to take flight in the animation department with this “family vacation” style look at birds’ migrating patterns. Featuring the voices of Elizabeth Banks, Danny DeVito, Kumail Nanjiani, Carol Kane and Awkwafina, in her second bird voice role of the year (her first was as Scuttle in this spring’s “The Little Mermaid” live-action movie).

“Migration” will be available in theaters on Dec. 23.

‘The Color Purple’

A bold take on Alice Walker’s groundbreaking novel, “The Color Purple” is a cinematic adaptation of the twice-produced Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, starring Fantasia Barrino in the role of Celie, which launched Whoopi Goldberg’s career in 1985 with the Steven Spielberg-directed original film. The new film is exactly how a reboot should be made – with love and reverence for the source material, but with a vital soul all its own. Look for a truly head-turning performance by Danielle Brooks as Sophia, originally played by Oprah Winfrey in the first movie. (“The Color Purple” is a Warner Bros. Pictures production. CNN and Warner Bros. Pictures are both part of the same parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.)

“The Color Purple” releases in theaters nationwide on Dec. 25.


Directed by Michael Mann, “Ferrari” stars Adam Driver as Enzo Ferrari, the Italian race car driver and entrepreneur, as he and his drivers embark on the Mille Miglia, a treacherous 1,000-mile race across Italy. Costarring Penelope Cruz and Shailene Woodley.

“Ferrari” debuts in theaters on Dec. 25.

‘The Boys in the Boat’

Directed by George Clooney, this 1930s-set film follows the University of Washington’s rowing team from their humble beginnings to winning the gold medal at the 1936 Olympic Games, which were set in Berlin on the eve of World War II.

“The Boys in the Boat” debuts in theaters on Dec. 25.

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