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What to Watch: December Streaming Guide

“Wonder Woman 1984” hits theaters and HBO Max simultaneously on December 25. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The December Streaming Guide was originally written for CLTure.org

It’s December and that means one thing: the holidays are in full swing. Thanksgiving is behind us, Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are right around the corner and there are plenty of festive streaming options to get you ready to celebrate.

Whether you’re looking for a feel-good holiday rom-com, a Christmas classic, or something completely unrelated to the most wonderful time of the year, we’ve got you covered. Another perk of December means it’s prime awards season, and in a year where theaters have been shuttered, streamers are pushing out all their best Oscars hopefuls this month. 

Here are all the best new watches hitting Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+ and Hulu in December:  

* = Original streaming content

MOVIES

“Chef” – Dec. 1 (Netflix)

If you’ve ever checked out Netflix’s “The Chef Show,” you know that Jon Favreau loves to whip up delicious dishes. Now you can find out how it all got started, and that’s with 2014’s “Chef.” Favreau stars as a down on his luck chef who starts up a brand new food truck business to reinvigorate his career in the restaurant industry. Along the way he reconnects with his family, travels the country and delivers plenty of mouth-watering scenes. Don’t watch this on an empty stomach.

“The Lord of the Rings” Trilogy – Dec. 1 (Hulu)

Dive deep into Middle-earth with a marathon of Peter Jackson’s epic “Lord of the Rings” movies. At nine hours and 18 minutes, this trilogy will require plenty of snacks, bathroom breaks, and maybe a few walks to break things up, but it will most definitely be worth it. From start to finish, the three movies earned 30 Oscar nominations and 17 wins – including an 11-win sweep for 2003’s “The Return of the King.”

“Mank”* – Dec. 4 (Netflix)

David Fincher fans may know him for his dark and twisted takes on serial killers with films like “Se7en” or “Zodiac,” but this time he’s bucking the murder mysteries for old Hollywood with “Mank.” The biographical drama centers on the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz, played by Gary Oldman, as he wrote the classic film “Citizen Kane.” The process was anything but smooth, and plenty of problems arose with legendary director Orson Welles during the film’s production and leading up to its release. “Mank” may not be Fincher’s traditional style, but it’s already an Oscar’s front-runner and Netflix’s biggest push this season.

“Mulan”* – Dec. 4 (Disney+)

For those of you who refused to hand over $30 to check out the live-action version of “Mulan” on Disney+ back in September, the time has come. The remake is now streaming for all to see free of charge, so you can finally decide for yourself whether the animated classic or the new rendition is better. This time around Disney opted to nix the original’s signature soundtrack and instead went heavier on the martial arts, but the result was a mixed bag.

“The Prom”* – Dec. 11 (Netflix)

Ryan Murphy’s TV resume has a little bit of everything on it, from spooky series like “American Horror Story” or “Ratched” to more musical-oriented ones like “Glee” or “Hollywood.” Now, he’s making the jump to the big screen with a list of A-list talent to direct Netflix’s “The Prom.” Starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington and more, the film is adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name.

“Safety”* – Dec. 11 (Disney+)

If you want a heartwarming story that hits close to home, check out “Safety.” The Disney+ Original tells the true story of Ray Ray McElrathbey, the Clemson University football player who simultaneously played Division I college football and raised his 11-year-old brother on campus back in the early 2000s. After a year as traumatic as this one, an old school feel-good story is much-needed.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”* – Dec. 18 (Netflix)

Even before Chadwick Boseman’s unexpected passing, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was already on everyone’s radar. Now, knowing it’s the late, great actor’s final performance makes it a must-watch. Adapted from August Wilson’s stage play of the same name, “Ma Rainey” features powerhouse performances from Boseman and co-star Viola Davis as the two go toe-to-toe as clashing members of a 1920s band. Produced by Denzel Washington, “Ma Rainey” is the latest of Wilson’s plays to hit the big screen under Washington’s watchful eye, following up 2016’s “Fences.”

“The Midnight Sky”* – Dec. 23 (Netflix)

For anyone looking to fill their sci-fi fix this holiday season, this is your best bet. Of Netflix’s awards season slate, “The Midnight Sky” may be the most under-the-radar option. George Clooney directed the film and stars in it as a lonely scientist racing to prevent a team of astronauts from returning home to a post-apocalyptic earth. Netflix’s other Oscar contenders seem to have the acting categories on lock, but “The Midnight Sky” looks like it will deliver plenty of glitzy digital effects that may earn a few nominations.

“Soul”* – Dec. 25 (Disney+)

This is the big ticket item on Disney+ this month – and really for all of Disney this year. What sounds better than gathering around the TV on Christmas night and turning on the latest Pixar masterpiece? Taking a page out of “Inside Out’s” book, “Soul” ponders some of life’s greatest questions, like “What is your purpose here?” or “What makes you, you?” Get your tissues ready, because this one lives up to the hype as a tearjerker.

“Wonder Woman 1984” – Dec. 25 (HBO Max)Plenty of movies have made the jump from theaters to streaming due to the pandemic, but none have come close to comparing to the magnitude of “Wonder Woman 1984.” The follow up to Patty Jenkins’s near-billion-dollar superhero hit will debut simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day, giving fans the chance to choose what viewing experience is best for them. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are back to star as Diana Prince and Steve Trevor, respectively, but this time their onscreen enemies will be played by Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig.

SHOWS

“Selena: The Series” – Dec. 4 (Netflix) 

Most people know about the tragic slaying of Tejano music superstar Selena, but not as many people know about her early years and her rise to stardom. The Jennifer Lopez-led film from 1997 dives into the story, but this new Netflix Original drama will go even deeper across nine episodes. The series also has Selena’s own sister and father onboard as producers, so you can bet you’ll be getting the true story through and through. 

“Big Mouth” (Season 4) – Dec. 4 (Netflix)

Remember all those traumatizing, cringeworthy experiences that we all struggled through during the puberty-ridden years of middle school? Well, “Big Mouth” is back with a brand new season to dig up all those suppressed memories in the most hysterical way possible. It’s definitely not for everyone, due to its gratuitous crude humor, but if you like adult cartoons, it’s Netflix’s very best. With a star-studded cast anchored by Nick Kroll, John Mulaney, Jessi Klein and Jordan Peele, Season 4 only gets stronger adding comedy veterans Seth Rogen and Zach Galifianakis.

“The Hardy Boys”* – Dec. 4 (Hulu)

You probably read the books growing up, but now the Hardy Boys are on-screen once more with a whole season’s worth of mysteries to solve. The original books may have been meant for children, but this adaptation definitely looks to be a darker, grittier thriller that will pack plenty of twists and turns. All 13 episodes hit Hulu on day one, so get ready to solve this mystery in a hurry.

“Euphoria” (Special Episode) – Dec. 6 (HBO Max)

No, “Euphoria” is not back for Season 2 yet, but fans of Rue, Jules and everyone else from HBO’s hit drama will get a little tease of what’s to come. After preproduction was shut down due to the virus back in March, the cast and crew were still able to put together two “bridge” episodes meant to hold fans over through the extended offseason. The first of these episodes airs this month, and will focus on Zendaya’s character Rue in the immediate fallout of the Season 1 finale.

“High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special”* – Dec. 11 (Disney+)

In all the hype surrounding “The Mandalorian” when Disney+ launched last year, the platform’s other tentpole original got lost in the shuffle. While some may roll their eyes at the “High School Musical” spin off from afar, the series actually ended up being one of the best TV shows of 2019. Now, the cast is reuniting ahead of Season 2 to sing Christmas classics and original new songs to get everyone in the holiday spirit.

“Song Exploder: Volume 2” – Dec. 15 (Netflix) 

In October Netflix dropped the first volume of “Song Exploder,” and now they’re back with a whole new slate of artists to discuss their biggest hits. This season of the docuseries will feature Dua Lipa, The Killers, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, and Natalia Lafourcade as they explain their respective creative processes using artist interviews, archival footage and exclusive studio sessions.

“The West Wing” (Seasons 1-7) – Dec. 25 (HBO Max)

Now that the presidential election is finally over, maybe you’re ready to dive back into the world of fictional politics? If so, then HBO Max has you covered with all seven seasons of creator Aaron Sorkin’s White House drama. Heralded as one of the best shows of all time, “The West Wing” was known for showing an idealistic view of Washington, and after the last four years, that’s what we all need.

“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Part 4) – Dec. 31 (Netflix)Way back in January of this year Netflix released part three of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” with part four set to hit the streamer nearly a full year later. At the time, fans were unaware that what they would get in December would be their last chilling adventures – the show was cancelled in July, despite high praise from fans and critics alike. With only eight episodes left, the final chapter will have to quickly wrap up plenty of storylines.

DOCUMENTARIES

“Baby God”* – Dec. 2 (HBO Max)

For four decades, Dr. Quincy Fortier committed heinous crimes against his patients. As a fertility specialist, Fortier secretly used his own sperm to inseminate his unwitting and vulnerable patients, fathering at least 24 children and an estimated many more. “Baby God” examines Fortier’s crimes and the impact they have had on his victims and their children as they have come to make the realization of their parentage. 

“40 Years a Prisoner”* – Dec. 8 (HBO Max)

When police raided Philadelphia-based revolutionary group MOVE’s commune in 1978, it resulted in the death of one officer and the life imprisonment of nine group members. Mike Africa Jr.’s parents were among those nine, and Mike himself was born inside the prison walls. Since then, he’s spent the last 40 years fighting to exonerate his parents by providing new research, evidence and testimonies of what really happened that night.

“Amy Winehouse: The Final Goodbye” – Dec. 16 (Hulu)Take a look back at the life and times of the late Amy Whinehouse in “The Final Goodbye.” From her humble origins to her battles with addiction, this documentary examines the singer-songwriter every step of the way in an emotional tribute.

ICYMI

“The Nice Guys” – Hulu

“The Nice Guys” is the best movie you’ve never seen. Starring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as a pair of private eyes in 1970s Los Angeles, the buddy comedy follows the duo as they investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a pornstar. Gosling’s charming yet bumbling character plays opposite of Crowe’s stern, no nonsense detective, which creates a delightful pairing. Over the years, “The Nice Guys” has become a cult classic as fans have begged for a sequel. 

“The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special”* – Disney+

In 1978, “Star Wars” made its biggest mistake ever: a holiday special based around the fictional celebration of “Life Day.” The spinoff was a disaster hated by even the most loyal fans. Now, 42 years later, Disney is hoping LEGO minifigures can set the story straight. This story takes place after the events of 2019’s “The Rise of Skywalker” and will follow Rey as she travels through time and visits different major events from the “Star Wars” universe. It’s less than an hour long, extremely creative, and an all-around delight.

“Survivor” (Seasons 20 and 28) – Netflix

Over the last 20 years, “Survivor” has cranked out 40 seasons, but these two may be the very best. Everyone knows the premise – a group of strangers split into two tribes on a deserted island for 39 days – but these two seasons added plenty of twists that prove why the show has been able to stay on the air for so long. Season 20’s Heroes vs. Villains theme brought back 10 beloved fan favorites and 10 despised villains to duke it out for the million dollars, while Season 28 featured entirely new players in the Brains vs. Beauty vs. Brawn theme. These are the first two seasons of “Survivor” to make their way to Netflix, and if the site’s Top 10 list is any indicator, they’re a hit!

“Run”* – Hulu

Originally set to hit theaters back in May, “Run” is another straight-to-streaming victim of the pandemic. Starring Sarah Paulson as an overprotective and controlling mother, the film follows her wheelchair-bound daughter, played by Kiera Allen, as she begins to discover that her mother’s intentions may not be as sincere as she once thought. Paulson has shown her ability to be terrifying time and time again on “American Horror Story,” and this is another chilling outing.

“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”* – Netflix

One of Netflix’s 11 Original films coming as a part of its 2020 holiday slate, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” may be the most unique. It’s a magical, musical adventure starring Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker as a toymaker whose prized creation is stolen by his apprentice, played by Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key. The toymaker’s granddaughter, newcomer Madalen Mills, must then save the day. Featuring new original music from the likes of John Legend and Usher, this one will at least have some quality tunes, if nothing else.

Zach Goins View All

Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.

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