clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Ringer Guide to Streaming in December

A helpful list of movies and TV shows to watch on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime this month

Ringer illustration

For some, December is a month to gather with family and friends to eat, celebrate, and frolic in the snow. For others, it’s a time to lock oneself in one’s apartment and stream endless entertainment on the internet. There’s no shortage of TV and movies available online this month—watch horror movies or holiday movies, TV assassins or TV artisans. Check out everything that’s new on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime below, as well as a few personal selections from the Ringer staff.

What’s New to Streaming in December

A selected list of movies and TV shows coming this month that The Ringer is very excited about.

Making It, Season 2 (Hulu, December 2)

Alison Herman: Even if Making It can’t bring itself to do away with the prize money, then, the contest that supposedly frames the show is undercut at every turn. [Amy] Poehler’s main running bit is mock-proposing not to eliminate anyone from the worthy pool of contenders; [Nick] Offerman’s is refusing to announce who’s going home each week, instead delegating to [Dayna Isom] Johnson or her fellow judge Simon Doonan. Every episode is sprinkled with silly segments that have nothing to do with the challenge of the week, featuring a “pun-off” between Poehler and Offerman or a lesson from Offerman to Poehler in the basic terminology of crafting. And as if to demonstrate that hard feelings are nonexistent at the idyllic, Malibu-adjacent farm where Making It films, the first episode ends with a serene porch hang with Poehler, Offerman, and the kindly grandmother they just regretfully sent home.

A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (Netflix, December 5)

Herman: The Royal Baby rounds out the Christmas Prince trilogy, which began in 2017 with the timeless tale of an unlucky-in-love journalist falling in love with her subject, who is also the prince of Aldovia. (Presumably, it’s right next door to Genovia.) A Christmas Prince became an early example of Netflix’s arbitrary, slightly creepy habit of occasionally letting us inside the panopticon when its official Twitter account revealed 53 users had watched it daily for 18 days. Ethics aside, the tweet simply confirmed what weeks of social media activity already implied: This thing was popular.

Marriage Story (Netflix, December 6)

Adam Nayman: Here, instead of cultivating his typical hyperarticulate cruelty, [Noah] Baumbach’s made a movie that is, in every way, about love—and specifically how it’s only love that can make you truly mean. Love may have been in the mix in dysfunctional showcases like Margot at the Wedding and Greenberg, but only as an abstraction; in the charming Frances Ha, the heightened sweetness was almost satirical. The love in Marriage Story, though, is instantly recognizable and relatable and charged in multiple directions at once: between two parents and the child they adore; between two lovers who don’t like each other anymore.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season 3 (Amazon Prime, December 6)

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. I get the sense [Amy] Sherman-Palladino can relate. Maisel’s mastermind may have locked down her voice long ago, but the show feels like a new phase that allows her to share it on a bigger and more accommodating stage than ever before. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a coming-out party for Amy Sherman-Palladino in the age of streaming, and it is glorious to watch.

It Comes at Night (Netflix, December 9)

K. Austin Collins: It Comes at Night is being called a horror movie. I’ll roll with that, but it’s a little misleading. Certainly the movie has its scares, starting with its premise, and in the hands of its 28-year-old writer and director, Trey Edward Shults, every scene is hyperinfused with uncertainty and an eerily emphatic sense of mood. Without electricity, the home is pitch black, save the flares of light the characters use to get around. Sometimes the light catches old family photos and trinkets, and the vestiges of a prior life come blinking into view, quick as a flash. You can hear seemingly everything — every crick of the floorboards.

You wouldn’t want to go peeping around any corners at night without a weapon, is what I’m saying. The characters are afraid of that dark; thus, so are we. But thinking this is a horror movie has a way of making you wait for the other shoe to drop — for the movie to get outright scary, for someone to show up with the answers. Those answers never really come.

Outlander, Season 3 (Netflix, December 10)

Herman: Created by Battlestar Galactica’s Ronald D. Moore, the show takes a historically trivialized genre — several, really — and maximizes it. But Outlander doesn’t pointedly avoid tropes à la Game of Thrones, whose success can sometimes feel like a backhanded compliment to its fantasy origins. It leans into them: yearslong investment in a multilayered relationship, equally developed male and female leads, and yes, sex scenes grounded in a woman’s perspective.

Outlander does all these things better than any other drama on cable, and the internet has responded accordingly. But the stuff that sets Outlander apart from the rest of the pack doesn’t come at the expense of Serious Television values like realism and nuance. That’s because Outlander is also one of the most gory, raw, and violent shows on television, often more so than the gritty, fatalist dramas that typically serve as its foils. To say so doesn’t qualify its core romanticism — it augments it.

Bumblebee (Hulu and Amazon, December 13)

Miles Surrey: In lieu of explosions and a ridiculous excess of machismo, Bumblebee is surprisingly small-scale—well, as small-scale as a movie with a giant transforming robot can be—and intimate. After a brief, action-heavy prologue on the Transformers’ home planet of Cybertron, Bumblebee spends most of its running time focusing on the emotional bond between a teenage girl (Hailee Steinfeld, particularly great when you consider she’s mostly acting opposite CGI) who’s reeling from the death of her father and the robot disguised as a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle she finds in a junkyard on her 18th birthday. This character-focused approach is nothing revelatory; in fact, it’s quite open about being from the reference-heavy Stranger Things school of storytelling. (Bumblebee is a big fan of The Breakfast Club, but he doesn’t like the Smiths or Rick Astley.) Going this route could’ve easily seemed gimmicky, as Stranger Things sometimes does. But what helps Bumblebee seem like it’s paying deference rather than cynically tapping into nostalgia is the earnest belief that the things we bond with when we grow up—whether it be a family pet, a diminutive alien, or a transforming robot—shape who we are as people. A word of warning: You may actually cry while watching a Transformers movie.

Killing Eve, Season 2 (Hulu, December 18)

Herman: The elements of Killing Eve’s strange chemistry remain in place. They’re there in Eve’s unhinged laugh when she realizes she’s the subject of a would-be intervention, and the pop art kids’ pajamas that fit the adult Villanelle suspiciously well. By definition, a show’s second season contains less novelty than its first as it conducts the unsexy work of sustaining a vibe instead of establishing it. But so far, Part 2 of Killing Eve does that work well—and given how intoxicatingly original its predecessor was, even maintenance means preserving what makes the show exceptional. [Phoebe] Waller-Bridge may no longer be conducting this symphony. The orchestra she’s assembled plays on.

Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020: Part 2 (Netflix, December 24)

Nicole Bae: At times, watching Terrace House can feel like you’re observing real life through a blurry lenses, and it’s not just due to the soft filter used by editors. Things seem so … calm. Terrace House doesn’t satisfy that bloodthirsty, “unscripted”-but-probably-scripted drama that you get from The Bachelorette, Real World, and the like. The common tropes of reality TV as we know it are noticeably absent. While cast members do have sex and sometimes drink heavily, the producers purposefully don’t show debauchery. Instead, Terrace House focuses on what happens next, like looking at how a relationship changes — or doesn’t change — after becoming official or how a hungover cast member tries so endearingly hard to make it through a date at an amusement park. (He ends up throwing up five times.) Terrace House doesn’t even have the seemingly requisite confessional interviews, where cast members can spill the beans or hint at stewing drama. What you see is what you get, and you learn to pick up on the nuances, glances, attitudes, and tones within each interaction.

Preacher, Season 4 (Hulu, December 29)

Surrey: As Preacher enters the home stretch, the show has settled into this familiar rhythm; the first three episodes of Season 4 are set in Masada in the Middle East, home to the Grail’s headquarters. Once again, there are some worthy morsels of absurdity in the fourth season, like a fight sequence in the third episode pitting Jesse against costumed inhabitants from a house of sexual debauchery that echoes the hallway scene from Oldboy. Three seasons in, the Preacher viewing experience is still entrenched in what The Ringer’s Micah Peters aptly called a “half-remembered fever dream.” It’s made a habit of creating something profoundly strange, spitefully nihilistic, and gloriously gory almost seem perfunctory, while occasionally jolting you out of that daze with a lurid and undeniably unique set piece. (You probably wouldn’t rewatch any episode of Preacher, but you would revisit five juicier minutes on YouTube a couple of times a year.)

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.

The Crown, Season 3 (Netflix)

Brian Phillips: In its third season, The Crown remains a polished, sumptuous, and reassuringly well-crafted piece of television. As befits its subject, it’s a luxury product in the old-fashioned sense, every joint tightened, every surface buffed to a sheen; you can imagine the heartening thwock it would make if you gave it a knock on the side. It’s acted with intelligence and sensitivity. It’s decorated with lavish attention to detail. (There is not a lot of historical guilt, for a show with so imperial a focus, but there is a lot of historical gilt.) There’s a lot to enjoy here, and I did enjoy the first two seasons, if sometimes a little uneasily: Are we really going to celebrate monarchy without even pausing to ask ourselves why? The new episodes, though, mostly left me with an impression of expensive hollowness, like a Chippendale cabinet with nothing inside, and I think the reason has to do with the show’s meticulous avoidance of mess, chaos, and surprise. The real royal family incorporates risk in its very essence; royalty is the risk. The Crown shuns risk in favor of smooth, predictable storytelling, as if knowing the outcome in advance means having to lead the viewer there via the most familiar train of subheadings, and it thereby flattens the most compelling aspects of its own narrative.

The End of the F***ing World, Season 2 (Netflix)

Micah Peters: The show doesn’t offer any good answers, because there aren’t any. If the first season was a smash-and-grab, series creator Charlie Covell has been discussing the second as a matter of sweeping up the broken glass, which is obviously a lot less fun. It may be precisely what fans who didn’t want a second installment feared: an epilogue that ends not far from where it began and doesn’t connect as well as the original story. It is, however, honest about the gas pockets we can hit while mining past trauma as we attempt to better understand ourselves and connect with each other.

In Season 1, The End of the F***ing World was a well-produced show where two teens were headed nowhere fast. In Season 2, it’s a show where three teens could be headed somewhere, possibly, at a much more cautious pace.

The Mandalorian (Disney+)

Herman: What little we see of the Mandalorian’s backstory is standard lone-warrior stuff, a jaded fighter whose new protégé puts him in touch with his own lost innocence, Lone Wolf and Cub–style. Where The Mandalorian excels is in world-building, fleshing out a Star Wars subculture until it has all the heft of Jedi lore. The Mandalorian quickly establishes itself as a PG-13, extraterrestrial answer to John Wick, a window into a “guild” with ancient traditions and all-important bylaws. We’re clued in to the rules with dialogue that’s swift and deft, never clumsy: Mandalorians are a tribe that replenishes itself with initiates known as “foundlings”; the iconic armor, best known as Boba Fett’s costume, appears to have an almost religious significance. The raw material is accepted as a down payment for a job, and it’s suggested—though not confirmed—that Mandalorians aren’t allowed to remove their helmets. (That’s pretty much the only excuse I’ll accept for hiding [Pedro] Pascal’s face. At least Rian Johnson did us the service of getting Kylo’s mask off!)

Dickinson (Apple TV+)

Herman: The space where Dickinson thrives is the full-blown surrealism scattered throughout. Much of the imagery is borrowed directly from Dickinson’s poems: Wiz Khalifa plays the title character of “Because I could not stop for Death,” taking Emily for nighttime carriage rides and heart-to-hearts; when a friend of Emily’s falls ill, she sees their impending death as a swarming pack of flies. Others are more original inventions, like when Emily takes opium at a house party and hallucinates a giant bee voiced by Jason Mantzoukas. In part, scenes like these help interrupt the visual monotony of buttoned-up Amherst. Mostly, they imbue it with Dickinson’s voice and give Dickinson the distinctiveness it seems to be striving for. No review of a show about horny teens would be complete without a comparison to Riverdale, but hanging out with the Grim Reaper is the closest Dickinson gets to the CW drama’s transcendent lunacy.

Whatever its faults, Dickinson mostly overpowers them through a palpable love for its subject. Snippets of Dickinson’s writing often flash across the screen in loopy, brightly colored text, letting her language—and distinctive punctuation—speak for itself even as Dickinson attempts to illustrate it. Part spoof, part teen drama, part biopic, Dickinson is an audacious effort, synthesizing many genres in pursuit of a singular figure. Even when it misses the mark, it’s aiming for something great.

For All Mankind (Apple TV+)

Michael Baumann: For All Mankind’s greatest strength is its depiction of a reality close enough to our own that it’s recognizable, but different enough to inspire the viewer to take a serious look at the real world and consider whether our society couldn’t be better. That’s no surprise—Ronald D. Moore cocreated the show. Moore is best known as a writer, producer, and showrunner on some of the most thoughtful—and thought-provoking—sci-fi and fantasy shows of the past 25 years, from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to Battlestar Galactica to Outlander. For good or ill, Moore’s shows are usually ambitious in scope and message, unafraid to ask big questions or make big statements.

The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

Herman: The Morning Show arranges sterling components into a fairly standard design. There is a host of easy pop cultural parallels to The Morning Show’s plot and setting, and all of them ring at least partially true. Alex is an older woman threatened by the rise of a younger ingenue, just like All About Eve. The show is a behind-the-scenes story driven by the fast-paced rhythms of live TV, just like The Newsroom. (There are even walk-and-talks, lest you miss the Sorkin influence.) Even the morning show setup, technically borrowed from Brian Stelter’s 2013 dish-fest Top of the Morning, recalls the 2010 Rachel McAdams film Morning Glory. And if you can watch a tough-talking reporter with a Southern accent lose her shit on camera and not think of Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, that means you haven’t seen Broadcast News.

Predictability is not inherently a vice. Movie stars plugged into ready-made templates powered the entire film industry for decades, before those templates were called “IP” and became the star of the show themselves. Indeed, one gets the distinct feeling that, were The Morning Show made just 10 or 15 years ago, it would have been a feature, down to the exact same cast.

Bonus Watching

A random collection of movies and TV shows that are a little more off the beaten path.

Random Disney rewatch of the month: Did you buy Disney+ to watch The Mandalorian? Are you now wondering why you paid $7 a month just to make googly eyes at Baby Yoda? Do you hate your phone and want to pretend that you don’t need it for your job? Do you want to feel, for about 30 minutes, that we are not going to be swallowed by the ocean within the next 50 years? Same. Boy Meets World won’t fix your problems, but it might make you forget about that subscription fee … and your phone … and the rising seas for a little bit.

BMW is a pretty standard ’90s sitcom for kids. The main character, Cory Matthews, is 11 years old at the beginning of the series; he’s a relatable goofball who loves the Phillies and Super Soakers and has a love-hate relationship with his next-door neighbor/teacher, Mr. Feeny. (My girlfriend, who loves school, has described the show as “the one where the kid doesn’t like school.”) As the series goes on, Cory grows up and goes to college and gets married, all the while being guided by Mr. Feeny and his family. It’s mostly light and innocently funny and charmingly earnest. Call it the anti-Mandalorian. —Chris Almeida

What to watch if you’re looking for a biopic that rings true: There’s a line casually tossed around early on in James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour (on Netflix) about a shared road trip between the late David Foster Wallace and his Rolling Stone profiler, David Lipsky, that I think about frequently. “If they’re responding to your work, and your work is really personal,” Jesse Eisenberg’s Lipsky asks Jason Segel’s Wallace, “then reading you is another way of meeting you. Isn’t that right?”

It’s a heavy question, and one that often, in films, elicits a well-thought-out, perfectly elocuted response, reflecting the depth exhibited by the question itself back to the interviewer. Only that doesn’t happen here. “That’s so good,” Wallace replies. In that moment, Segel and Eisenberg’s characters shift from caricatures to people. We’ve only just met them, but now they’re real. Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies’s script is likely the most accurate portrayal of Wallace we’ll ever have. Based on Lipsky’s transcripts from his time with the author, the film feels more like sitting in on a long conversation than watching two fictionalized characters traversing the Midwest. “The conversation is the best one I ever had,” Lipsky says at the story’s end. It’s the best one I’ve ever heard. —Shaker Samman

What to watch if you need your Kristen Bell fix: With The Good Place fall finale in the rearview, you probably find yourself craving more of, well, Manny Jacinto’s jawline, first and foremost, but also our leading lady’s trademark tough but tender charisma. If you, like me, missed the boat on Veronica Mars back in 2004, and then again when it became a movie, and then again when the TV show was rebooted, rest assured, the CW show is still on Hulu. Popular kid turned weirdo private investigator and her rotating group of high school fuckups tangle themselves up in misadventures, all the while grappling with bigger issues, handled with a surprising amount of care: grief, depression, and sexual assault, to name a few. Devour Veronica’s sardonic wit this month the second you get sick of your own family’s. —Julie Kliegman

What to watch if you’re ready for the holidays: You can watch Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (on Amazon Prime) at any time of year, but now that it’s December, there’s no excuse not to unearth this meditation on duty and community masquerading as a Christmas story. As George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart plays both the adventurous teenager planning his trip around the world and the devoted small-business owner trying to help his neighbors afford a house without missing a beat; he’s cranky and hopeful and funny, all in his old-timey Pennsylvania drawl.

It’s hard to tell exactly what kind of movie It’s a Wonderful Life really is. It tells a small-town story, full of friendly, particular characters like pharmacist Mr. Gower and cabbie/cop buddies Bert and Ernie. It’s also a love story; there’s incredible chemistry between George and his wife, Mary, played by Donna Reed, who said it was the most difficult movie she ever made. It’s a fantasy, where angels are real and every time a bell rings one of them gets his wings. And it’s a parable, too, about the ripple effects of a single person’s good deeds. A Christmas movie that’s not really about Christmas, it’ll leave you with “Buffalo Gals” stuck in your head instead of “Jingle Bells.” —Charlotte Goddu