Holiday movie guide: From 'The Grinch' to 'Mary Poppins,' 32 movies to see by year's end

The season is stocked with awards hopefuls and familiar faces, including The Grinch (Nov. 9), the Potterverse (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Nov. 16), a superhero (Aquaman, Dec. 21) and even Mary Poppins, y'all (Mary Poppins Returns, Dec. 19).
Published November 6 2018

The holidays are upon us. Not only because Halloween is past, but also because holiday movies have arrived at a multiplex near you.

The Grinch is here to gripe in Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice about Whoville’s holiday spirit, joining a new version of The Nutcracker that danced its way in last week.

Movie season will come and go without a Star Wars release for the first time since The Force Awakens revived the saga in 2015; you’ll have to wait until December 2019 for Episode IX. But don’t worry. The season is stocked with plenty more familiar faces, including the Potterverse (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Nov. 16), a superhero (Aquaman, Dec. 21) and even Mary Poppins, y’all (Mary Poppins Returns, Dec. 19).

Interspersed are the season’s more serious awards season hopefuls, including Netflix’s biggest Oscar contenders yet. The streaming service will release Roma, from Gravity’s Alfonso Cuarón, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, an anthology from the Coen brothers, after both won awards on the film festival circuit. In a telling sign of its Oscar dreams, Netflix will give both movies wider theatrical releases before streaming debuts than it ever has before.

Here’s a guide to everything coming your way from now till the new year. Release dates are subject to change.

Nov. 9

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Can you picture a bigger transformation for Claire Foy than Queen Elizabeth into hacktivist Lisbeth Salander? She’s on the hunt for nuclear codes in this adaptation of the 2015 sequel penned by David Lagercrantz, not part of Stieg Larsson’s original trilogy.

The Grinch

Benedict Cumberbatch is the Grinch. Pharrell Williams is the narrator. Angela Lansbury is the mayor of Whoville. And there’s Rashida Jones and Kenan Thompson, too? Our hearts grew three sizes just writing this.

Beautiful Boy

Last year’s Oscar darling Timothée Chalamet plays a teen battling a meth addiction, helped through recovery by his father (Steve Carell).

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Melissa McCarthy turns serious in this biopic about celebrity biographer Lee Israel, who tries to revive her failing career by forging letters from dead writers.


Nazis and zombies in one movie? Cue the horror. American paratroopers caught behind enemy lines before D-Day encounter the violent products of Nazi experiments in this J.J. Abrams-produced flick.


A teenage girl and her father (Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass) travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich on a contract harvesting rare gems.

Nov. 16

^ Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Dumbledore (Jude Law) tasks Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) with thwarting Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and his bid to rule over all us Muggles.


Viola Davis leads an ensemble cast of women in a heist after their husbands (hers is played by Liam Neeson) are killed during a job. Directed by Steve McQueen, who co-wrote it with Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

Boy Erased

A small-town Baptist pastor’s teen son (Lucas Hedges) chooses between gay conversion therapy or being shunned when he is outed to his parents (Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe).

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

On Netflix, this six-part Western anthology film from Joel and Ethan Coen stars Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs, Liam Neeson, James Franco and more in six vignettes.

At Eternity’s Gate

Willem Dafoe plays Vincent van Gogh in his tumultuous final days.

Instant Family

In this comedy with a seasonally appropriate dash of family feel-good, newbie foster parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) face a steep learning curve after they take in three kids.

Nov. 21 (Thanksgiving week)

^ Creed II

Michael B. Jordan returns as Adonis Creed, now training with Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to defeat the son of his father’s killer, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren, returning from Rocky IV).

Ralph Breaks the Internet

In the Wreck-It Ralph sequel, Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) head out into the world wide web after finding a router in their arcade.

Robin Hood

It seems like someone comes up with a “new” take on Robin Hood every five to 10 years regardless of whether anyone wants to watch it. This time it’s a “hip,” “modern” (read: automatic weapons) take with Taron Egerton as Robin Hood, Jamie Foxx as Little John and Ben Mendelsohn as the sheriff of Nottingham.

The Front Runner

Watch a presidential campaign implode as Hugh Jackman plays Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic nomination until a sex scandal led him to drop out.

Green Book

A black classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his white driver (Viggo Mortensen) take a tour through the segregated Deep South in the 1960s.

Dec. 7

^ Mary Queen of Scots

Saoirse Ronan plays the titular queen while Margot Robbie is her cousin and rival Queen Elizabeth I.

Anna and the Apocalypse

You know what the holiday season really needs? A Christmas zombie musical. Anna (Ella Hunt) and friends fight, slash and sing their way to survival when zombies attack their small town on Christmas.

Dec. 14

^ Roma

The black-and-white, Spanish-language movie from Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) is semiautobiographical, chronicling the struggles of a middle class Mexican family in the 1970s. Considered an Oscar best picture contender and likely foreign-language winner, it streams Dec. 14 on Netflix after a limited theatrical release.

The Mule

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the based-on-truth tale of an elderly drug mule, pursued by Bradley Cooper as a DEA agent.

The Favourite

Two cousins (Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz) are rivals for the favor of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in the drama from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster).

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

There are multiple Spider-Mans (Spider-Men?) in this animated tale of alternate universes colliding, but the main one is high schooler Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore), mentee to our old friend Peter Parker.

Mortal Engines

The latest YA dystopia to leap from page to screen is set in a war-ravaged, steampunk world where cities move around on wheels.

Dec. 19

Mary Poppins Returns

It’s a jolly holiday with Emily Blunt as Mary, checking in on sad grownups Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer). Joining her: a street lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and an eccentric cousin (Meryl Streep).

Dec. 21

^ Aquaman

Jason Momoa plays the titular half-human half-merman in the season’s obligatory superhero outing. DC’s film track record has been notoriously atrocious, but here’s hoping Aquaman is as much dumb fun as the trailers look.

Second Act

Can we all just take a minute to appreciate that Jennifer Lopez is finally starring in another rom-com? In the vein of Working Girl, she plays a woman working at a big box store until a case of mistaken identity lands her in a major business deal.

Welcome to Marwen

An assault victim (Steve Carell) constructs a miniature World War II village of his friends (among them Janelle Monáe, Gwendoline Christie, Merritt Wever and Eiza González) to help in his recovery.


Michael Bay gives up the Transformers director’s chair to Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) for the Autobot’s Earth-origin tale in ’80s California, back in the good old days when he was a Volkswagen Beetle.

Ben Is Back

Teenager Ben Burns (Lucas Hedges) unexpectedly returns home to his mother (Julia Roberts) on Christmas Eve.

Dec. 25


Christian Bale transforms into Dick Cheney, running the show for Sam Rockwell as W with Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld.

Holmes & Watson

Will Ferrell goofs off as Sherlock Holmes with Stepbrothers sidekick John C. Reilly as Watson.