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The best new movies to see this month

December wraps up one of the strongest years in history with a new Star Wars, a new Little Women and the immersive 1917

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A still from the film 1917 featuring George MacKay
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures 1917

Looking for the best new movies to see this month? We’re way ahead of you: Here are the biggest and most essential big-screen releases coming to a theater near you over the next four weeks.

Best new movies this month

1
Photo: Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films

Daniel Isn't Real

Sometimes that imaginary friend isn’t so friendly. Inspired writer-director Adam Egypt Mortimer takes a tired horror premise and invests it with ideas way beyond the norm: toxic masculinity, parental abandonment and mental illness. The cast, led by Miles Robbins, is uniformly excellent. Opens Dec 6

2
In Fabric
Photo: Courtesy of A24
Movies, Horror

In Fabric

No one is making movies like the British retro-stylist Peter Strickland, who cops the grammar of early-’70s exploitation cinema—all zooms and blurs and synth squiggles—and infuses it with modern-day pain. His fourth feature represents a continuing evolution: It’s the most sensitively acted and smartest film you’ll ever see that also includes sex with mannequins. Opens Dec 6

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3
Photo: Courtesy of Neon Pictures
Movies, Drama

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

When a movie opens your eyes to a new way of seeing, it’s almost insufficient to praise it. Céline Sciamma’s radical feminist love story turns its viewers into artists close to the canvas, sketching out a line that leads to expression, desire and the remaking of identity. Strictures of period behavior—the story takes place during the 18th century—give way to something frank, fresh and modern. Opens Dec 6

4
Film Title: Black Christmas
Photo: Courtesy of Kirsty Griffin/Universal
Movies, Horror

Black Christmas

The 1974 original is a quiet, near-perfect thing: possibly the first slasher, made years before Halloween. Now it’s getting a remake—actually the second remake within the last 13 years. The set-up, about stalked sorority girls, doesn’t seem intended to carry the weight of a feminist reading, but director Sophia Takal (Always Shine) is going to try. Opens Fri 13

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5
Movies, Documentary

Cunningham

Modern dance makes a lot of sense onscreen, but few documentaries have effectively enlisted 3-D to the cause. Alla Kovgan’s definitive study of NYC choreographer Merce Cunningham turns the air itself into something tactile, sliced by angular, precise movements. Your takeaway is a tangible appreciation for an innovator of both mind and body. Opens Fri 13

6
Movies, Drama

A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick’s best work since The Tree of Life is another languorous affair that leans heavily on his usual devices of disembodied voiceovers, golden landscapes and Dreyer-like spirituality. But the philosophizing feels more urgent this time: The film tackles the true-life story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian conscientious objector during WWII. Opens Fri 13

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7
Uncut Gems
Photo: Courtesy of A24
Movies, Drama

Uncut Gems

A distilled shot of tough-New-York-Jew attitude, this is the year’s most hyperventilating watch: a daredevil act of narrative propulsion. The triumph is Adam Sandler’s, subverting expectations to play a salesman, a wayward father and—in every possible sense—a gambler. But equal praise belongs to codirectors Josh and Benny Safdie, whose singular style is vindicated. Opens Fri 13

8
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Movies, Fantasy

Cats

Those trailers are uncanny-valley nightmares, and, as of press time, no critic has been allowed to see this one. But can we admit to having a perverse curiosity? (Fine, we know what it did to the cat.) Making a movie of this musical is a big, bold risk; Tom Hooper will be infusing cutting-edge technology with a sense of nostalgia. In other words, it’s The Irishman with digital fur. Opens Fri 20

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9
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Photo: Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd
Movies, Action and adventure

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

How much rising he does in this film is just one of the big questions surrounding a typically mystery-shrouded sequel from J.J. Abrams. Don’t expect a baby Yoda, but Billy Dee Williams will be returning as the ultra-smooth scoundrel Lando Calrissian. Opens Fri 20

10
Little Women
Photograph: Wilson Webb/Sony Pictures
Movies, Drama

Little Women

We may be witnessing the smartest move of Greta Gerwig’s already-stellar career: following up Lady Bird, an autobiographical film about her own teenhood, with an adaptation of the novel that basically defined the subgenre, for avid girls and beyond. Gerwig proves herself worthy of Louisa May Alcott’s creative spirit, exploding the material with timely notes of authorial independence. Opens Fri 25

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11
1917 (2019)
Photo: Courtesy of François Duhamel/Universal Pictures
Movies, Drama

1917

Director Sam Mendes makes a personal claim to the WWI movie, shaping anecdotes of his grandfather into a sturdy narrative that puts us right in the trenches. But what makes the film unmissable is the nightmarish, Otto Dix-like cinematography of ace Roger Deakins, who, with Sicario, Blade Runner 2049 and now this, is producing the work of his career. Opens Fri 25

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