December is upon is, and the biggest streamers have some new offerings to get their subscribers into the holiday spirit. We’ve got [checks notes] a Marvel movie that culminates in the rapture of half its beloved heroes (Infinity War), the [checks notes harder] collective grief of a family spiraling into demonic possession (Hereditary), some [fully squinting now] sadomasochistic sexual behavior in an idyllic white-picket-fence town (Blue Velvet), and—oh, thank god—a wholesome sequel to A Christmas Prince. Got worried there for a second.
To help you break down everything available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, here is The Ringer’s streaming guide to December: featuring the new programming worth checking out, some recent additions you might’ve missed, as well as random recommendations that staffers recently got hooked on. Happy holidays.
What’s New to Streaming in November
A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.
Avengers: Infinity War (coming to Netflix on December 25)
Sean Fennessey: Directed by the brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, making their third film for Marvel, [Infinity War]’s an involving, funny, competently made entertainment. The set pieces are perhaps the most coherent in the studio’s history. The one-liners are bountiful. The cameos are fun. As war movies go, this one doesn’t have much to say about war, intergalactic or otherwise. But it is consumed by its own stakes, and the themes that animate them. Who lives and who dies? Sacrifice as a means to salvation. Balance over emotion. Duty beyond family. And the very thing that makes it an effective, entertaining blockbuster is the same thing that undermines it: Those stakes are basically meaningless.
Killing Eve (Hulu, December 1)
Alison Herman: Killing Eve understands what it’s about: the messy entanglement between two women who can’t help wanting what they want. For Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh), that means immersing herself in every detail of the gifted young contract killer she’s chasing more out of personal interest than professional obligation. For Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the assassin, that means “normal stuff: Nice life. Cool flat. Fun job. Someone to watch movies with.” She just wants that stuff while fulfilling her natural urges as a murderous, self-described psychopath. Basically, she wants it all.
Roma (Netflix, December 14)
Fennessey: Roma is a movie history first. It exceeded even my wildest expectations with its depth, sensitivity, and specificity; its interweaving stories of loss and perseverance are deeply realized even while they represent the undocumented memories of the [now-57]-year-old director. But the very powers that allowed its existence also defy its historical antecedents. It is not unreasonable to compare [Alfonso] Cuarón to Fellini, Kurosawa, Scorsese, Bergman — international titans of the form always seeking new ways to use the empathic tools of their medium to explore the way they see the world. This is one of the most exciting things that can possibly happen — a masterpiece.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 2 (Amazon Prime, December 5)
Herman: Ultimately, Mrs. Maisel isn’t a story about the mechanics or world of stand-up, and thank God for that; the world has long since internalized those lessons from a dozen other shows. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is about the self-actualization that comes with finding your voice and a means to share it at the same time.
Hereditary (Amazon Prime, December 27)
Adam Nayman: This juxtaposition between a woman cloistered claustrophobically in her own head and unseen forces massing around her (including in her workshop and at the foot of her bed) gives Hereditary its initial tension and mystery. Generally speaking, effective and enduring horror movies keep multiple pathways of interpretation open for as long as possible, often by having their characters reject or deny the (sur)reality of their situations: think Mia Farrow warding off paranoia in Rosemary’s Baby, or Jack Nicholson refusing to believe his eyes in The Shining, or the student filmmakers insisting that they’re lost rather than cursed in The Blair Witch Project.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Midwinter’s Tale (Netflix, December 14)
Herman: Chilling Adventures wants the audience to invest in Sabrina as a sympathetic, fully drawn figure, but it wants to have just as much fun as Riverdale does in the process. Slowly but surely, it begins to crack the code.
The Big Lebowski (Netflix, December 1)
Nayman: Of all the Coens’ movies, The Big Lebowski is, at least on the surface, the most ambling and aimless. It starts with a tumbleweed that tumbles through its opening shots to the serene sounds of the country band Sons of the Pioneers, which kicks things off at a mellow tempo. The tumbleweed’s slow encroachment through the frame is like a cue for Jeffrey Lebowski’s own woebegone progress. This is a man who takes it easy to the point that he loses track of the days of the week, and who dresses like every day is Casual Friday. But the film around him has depths to plumb, and then some: There is no bottom.
Blue Velvet (Hulu, December 1)
Herman: In the chronological order of Lynch’s filmography, Blue Velvet comes just before Twin Peaks. The two works feel inextricably tied, and not just because they share Lynch’s male muse, Kyle MacLachlan, as a star — though burgeoning creepazoid Jeffrey Beaumont couldn’t be more different from the radiantly decent Agent Cooper. Together, they make up Lynch’s most direct assault on a certain vision of Americana. Small towns and suburbs aren’t a refuge from evil, Lynch argues. They’re a mask for it, and an inevitably temporary one at that.
Some New-ish Things You Might’ve Missed
Because it’s hard to keep up with everything, here are a few things that have premiered somewhat recently that may be worth catching up on.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (on Netflix)
Miles Surrey: The Royal Wedding delivers on the same promise as its predecessor: It is cheesy, not the least bit subtle, and clearly retains a pro-blogging stance. However—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—the sequel does take some narrative turns you wouldn’t expect from a Christmas movie.
The Princess Switch (on Netflix)
Rubie Edmondson: The Princess Switch stars Vanessa Hudgens in a dual role (!) as Stacy De Novo, a bakery owner from Chicago (a real city), and Lady Margaret Delacourt, duchess of Montenaro (a made-up country). Stacy and Margaret run into each other in Belgravia (another made-up country). Margaret is there planning her wedding to Crown Prince Edward, while Stacy was invited to compete in Belgravia’s 56th-annual Christmas baking competition. They decide to secretly switch places because … well, I’ve seen this movie three times and I still can’t explain it.
Homecoming (on Amazon Prime)
Surrey: Homecoming is right up there with the best television mysteries of the year, with everything clicking into place: a perfect match between auteur and material, a gripping mystery that moves at a brisk pace (all episodes are roughly half an hour long), and a deep-rooted paranoia that feels right at home in 2018.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (on Netflix)
Nayman: Because the stories in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs are all so miniaturized—each runs about 20 minutes, with the James Franco–starring second episode coming in well under that mark—it’s hard to discuss them without giving away setup and punch line. Ever the virtuoso storytellers, the [Coen brothers] lean into this predictability, building each narrative less around surprise than an ingrained sense of inevitability—a tactic that makes sense when you’re talking about death.
Patriot Season 2 (on Amazon Prime)
Claire McNear: Patriot is really, incredibly, ecstatically messed up. The show takes a spy drama and runs it through a filter of Veep-style oh-god-are-they-really … ? humor and the weirdo tenderness of—I’m dead serious—Amélie. Its closest recent comparison might be Killing Eve, at least from a murder-as-camp perspective. The show is the brainchild of Steve Conrad, whose previous credits include the gloriously bleak The Weather Man and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and, yeah, that’s about where the pulse sits.
The Other Side of the Wind (on Netflix)
Lindsay Zoladz: This movie is a funeral for the old, restrictive idea of the untouchable male genius and its impossible expectations—the brazen, maverick filmmaker who can get away with whatever he wants. The Other Side of the Wind has arrived 40 years late. But in its odd way, it’s right on time.
A random collection of movies and TV shows available to stream that Ringer staffers can’t get enough of, for when you’re in a certain kind of mood.
What to Watch If You Wish Twin Peaks and The Exorcist Converged in a Remote Korean Village: There is something about The Wailing—a mammoth, 156-minute Korean horror film streaming on Netflix—that is both familiar and completely novel at the same time. Its setting and premise—a remote Korean village, recently beset by a rash of mysterious murders from its own inhabitants—seems like a spin on Twin Peaks, all the way down to the metaphysical terror that appears to be responsible lurking deep in the forest. Twists abound in The Wailing (you know a movie has a good ending when there are several substantive video breakdowns on YouTube), which will make you distrust several characters’ motivations and whether their intentions are good—or secretly insidious. Basically, if you want a good exorcism-type story with an Eastern flair involving shamanism and a plethora of nightmare-inducing imagery, The Wailing will deliver, and then some. —Surrey
What to Watch If You Want Two Series About Sexual Midlife Crises: One of the quirks of Peak TV are its coincidences—the incredibly niche series that sure sound redundant, but miraculously aren’t. Premiering within weeks of each other, Hulu’s The Bisexual and HBO’s Sally4Ever are both British imports about queer women undergoing a sort of sexual midlife crisis, written by rising auteurs who also act in their own creations. Of the two, The Bisexual is both hipper and a little more realistic (which isn’t hard, given that Sally4Ever’s first episode features someone taking a blow-dryer to their own dick). Leila, an American living in London, breaks up with her girlfriend of 10 years; single for the first time as an adult, she discovers in her 30s that she’s interested in dating people who don’t identify as women. The Bisexual is smart about the generational fissures this reveals in Leila’s community: Those older than her, including her ex, see it as a betrayal; those younger than her, used to identifying as queer, don’t see it as a big deal. Leila herself feels unmoored from her own identity, and in six episodes, The Bisexual makes for a funny, nuanced, bittersweet journey of self-discovery. Sally4Ever is both sillier and more cynical. Like Leila, Sally leaves a long-term relationship, this one with an emasculated loser of a guy, for uncharted territory. What follows is a caustic, loopy, bawdy ride, close to The Bisexual in subject matter but drastically different in tone. When it comes to expanding the Girls or Louie template, variety begets variety. — Herman
What to Watch If You Want a Will-They-Won’t-They With Copious Amounts of Beer: Drinking Buddies is a 95-minute happy hour on Netflix with friends—or, at least, actors you’ve always assumed would be good hangs. Olivia Wilde stars as Kate, who works with Luke (Jake Johnson) at a local brewery run by Gene, played by Jason Sudeikis. Kate and Luke’s relationship isn’t romantic enough to consider the movie a rom-com, yet the two toe the platonic line each time they decide to open a cold one (or two, or 12). It’s an up-close and painfully realistic depiction of the “will-they-won’t-they” question played out in real time, served in a frosty glass. —Haley O’Shaughnessy
What to Watch If You Want Holiday Viewing With Familiar British Faces, Violent Duels, and Dope Russian Outerwear: If all of the above sound thrilling, then the miniseries War & Peace, streaming on Hulu, is for you. Trying to pin down how you know the cast, apart from leads Lily James and Paul Dano, is entertainment in and of itself. This includes Jack Lowden (the pilot from Dunkirk who is Not Paul Hardy), Aneurin Barnard (the soldier in Dunkirk who is Not Harry Styles), Callum Turner (the freckly, ginger actor who is Not Eddie Redmayne), and James Norton (the freckly, ginger actor who is Not Eddie Redmayne or Callum Turner.) And oh, look, Jim Broadbent is here too! (Of course he is.) Beyond forcing viewers to flip from Hulu to IMDb and back, War & Peace also offers sumptuous costumes, fabulous sets, and a truly great waltz scene, as any self-respecting period drama should. Your move, A Christmas Prince 2. —Kate Halliwell