New movies to stream on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney, HBO Max, Hulu

December 28, 2021
Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem, left) and Lucille Ball face potentially career-ending accusations in behind-the-scenes drama "Being the Ricardos."
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It’s that nightly question, the one that has you texting your kids, your siblings, your best friend in the know: What should I watch?

As 2021 winds down and omicron takes over the news cycle, many of us are just looking for something good to put on. If you’re going to the theater, there’s a host of fresh options, like “Licorice Pizza,” “Sing 2” and “West Side Story” (not to mention that billion-dollar Spidey on the loose).

But for those who prefer to hunker down at home underneath a sherpa throw, there’s a wealth of movies – new and new enough! – worthy of your time. Below we offer a smattering of it all – awards contenders, feel-good films, documentaries and dramas – from this year that kept us rapt.

If you like this list, share it! And if you feel otherwise, feel free to tweet us what should be on it.

‘Being the Ricardos’

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the biopic of sorts dives into a hellish week of producing the hit ’50s sitcom “I Love Lucy,” with Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and co-star husband Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem) dealing with infidelity rumors, Communist labels and internal squabbles that threaten not only the show but also their marriage. 

Where to watch: Amazon Prime 

‘The Rescue’

Yes, you may already know the outcome of “The Rescue,” a new documentary about the divers who risked their lives to save a group of boys and their soccer coach from a flooded Thailand cave in 2018. But the film is every bit as twisty, suspenseful and gut-wrenchingly emotional as “Free Solo,” the documentary that earned filmmaking couple Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin the best documentary feature Oscar in 2019.

Where to watch:Disney+

‘Birds of Paradise’

Sex, backstabbing, blind ambition, seething jealousy, dance moves that would cause normal people to injure themselves – this drama has everything you’d want in a ballet film. Diana Silvers and Kristine Froseth star as rival dancers at an elite French ballet academy battling for a coveted spot in the Opéra National de Paris. The two grow close before the competition puts them at odds in an entertaining narrative with fantastical ballet sequences.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

‘The Unforgivable’

The thriller casts Sandra Bullock as Ruth, released after serving 20 years for murder and figuring out a way back into society after having committed a well-publicized crime that’s made her a pariah. More important for her, though, is finding the younger sister she had to leave behind and dealing with a couple of vengeful yahoos.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘CODA’

If there’s one movie that stole collective hearts this year, it’s “CODA,” director Siân Heder’s heartfelt dramedy about a working-class deaf family and its hearing member with big dreams. Emilia Jones plays a 17-year-old Massachusetts girl who discovers a huge talent when she joins the school choir, though her newfound passion conflicts with helping the struggling fishing business run by her deaf parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur). “CODA” takes teen-movie tropes and gives them an inclusive tweak, and the result is a finale that will leave you on a high.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

‘Encanto’

Living in the mountains of Colombia in an enchanted house, the Madrigal family members are all gifted with a special ability – super-strength, healing, etc. – except for 15-year-old outsider Maribel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz). Of course, she’s the one who has to figure why the family magic is acting wonky and digs up all sorts of secrets and insecurities among her loved ones in this delightful kid-friendly adventure that counters some narrative bumps with a slew of great new Lin Manuel-Miranda tunes.

Where to watch:Disney+

‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’

Move over, Disney, this Netflix joyful animated family comedy is an absurd delight. Katie Mitchell (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) is forced to go on a road trip when her parents (Danny McBride and Maya Rudolph) insist on driving her to film school, a digital machine uprising occurs and the family has to work through its relationship issues in the middle of a robo-pocalypse.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘The Power of the Dog’

Jane Campion’s intriguingly intimate, gorgeously shot Western drama has a toxic center: An uncannily good Benedict Cumberbatch plays an ornery Montana cowboy who’s cruel to his brother (Jesse Plemons), his sibling’s new wife (Kirsten Dunst) and her son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), first mocked by the antagonistic protagonist before he takes the young man under his leathery wing. “Dog,” however, is very much about the secrets that we all keep, and the tension that roils throughout the superb narrative leads to a breathtaking, unexpected end.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘tick, tick … BOOM!’

A fact that should shock no one, one of the best movie musicals of 2021 is directed by “Hamilton” main man Lin-Manuel Miranda, though what puts the adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical effort over the top is a stunning turn by Andrew Garfield. As a New York composer under a tight deadline to finish the one song that will complete his sci-fi rock musical, Garfield is a singing, stressing wonder to behold. 

Where to watch: Netflix

‘The Matrix Resurrections’

Director Lana Wachowski (who created “The Matrix” with sister Lilly) takes a subversive angle at rebooting the sci-fi action franchise, reintroducing mankind-saving chosen one Neo (Keanu Reeves) in meta fashion before returning him down the virtual rabbit hole of kung fu, villainous computer programs and reuniting with love Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). 

Where to watch: HBO Max 

 ‘The Harder They Fall’

This expertly crafted all-star Western honors the untold stories of Black cowboys. Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”) is a magnetic presence as Nat Love, an outlaw who sees a chance to exact final revenge on his enemy Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) when the latter man is freed from prison in a tale that also stars Regina King, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz.

Where to watch: Netflix 

‘The Lost Daughter’

Maggie Gyllenhaal makes a strong debut as a filmmaker in this unnerving drama set at a picturesque Grecian resort. Olivia Colman is excellent as college professor Leda, who’s on holiday and trying to avoid crowds when she meets – and becomes slightly obsessed with – a young mother (Dakota Johnson) and her daughter. The interactions unlock memories of Leda’s own painful past as a parent (played by Jessie Buckley).

Where to watch: On Netflix Friday

‘The Hand of God’

Writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (“Youth”) scores with this well-crafted and soulful coming-of-age Italian drama about a young loner growing up in 1980s Naples. Fabietto (Filippo Scotti), a teen from a large and crazy family, feels the buzz around town with the arrival of soccer hero Diego Maradona, though ultimately must grapple with an unexpected tragedy.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘Pig’

The Oscar-winning actor plays an Oregon truffle hunter whose beloved pig is kidnapped. That means a bloody revenge quest, right? Nope. Featuring a wonderfully soulful turn from Cage, this intriguingly quirky, somewhat bittersweet and surprisingly tender drama has more in common with “The Fisher King” than “John Wick,” as Cage’s bearded hermit ventures to Portland with his young buyer (Alex Wolff) to find his porcine best friend and revisit a past he abruptly left behind. 

Where to watch: Hulu

‘Swan Song’

In this endearing and melancholic slice of sci-fi, graphic designer Cameron (Mahershala Ali) keeps his terminal illness secret from his loving wife (Naomie Harris) and signs on for a radical science project to save his family from loss: An innovative doctor (Close) creates his doppelganger (also Ali), with a mind that has all his memories and a healthy body that won’t have the disease. But before the new Cameron is installed in the original’s household, both versions have to work out the emotional complications arising from the switch.

Where to watch: Apple TV+

‘Come From Away’

Filmed live, the Tony Award-winning musical tells the incredible true story of a small Canadian town that welcomed 7,000 stranded travelers in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

How to watch: Apple TV+

 ‘The Humans’

In director Stephen Karam’s adaptation of his own Tony-winning play, Richard Jenkins plays an aging man who gathers three generations of his family for a Thanksgiving dinner at his daughter’s Manhattan apartment. Each comes bearing their own emotional baggage and as the evening progresses – and things literally go bump in the night – it all gets aired out in humorous and unnerving ways. 

Where to watch: Showtime

‘Bruised’

In her directorial debut, Halle Berry plays a disgraced fighter named Jackie Justice who’s been out of the cage for four hard years. A young son (Danny Boyd Jr.) comes into her life and she gets another shot at the title, this time with a trainer (Sheila Atim) looking out for her mind and spirit. It’s a decent twist on the “Rocky” formula, and Berry crafts one heck of a brutal and thrilling showdown between Jackie and a champ named Lady Killer (real-life UFC champ Valentina Shevchenko).

Where to watch:Netflix

‘The Guilty’

Jake Gyllenhaal is outstanding as a 911 dispatch operator in a downward emotional spiral in Antoine Fuqua’s white-knuckle thriller. Joe (Gyllenhaal) is a LAPD detective demoted to desk duty who takes a call from a woman in desperate need of help, and over the course of his shift (and beyond), Joe stays on the phone with various characters through the reveal of an overarching mystery with a gut-punching twist.

Where to watch: Netflix

‘Mayor Pete’

Politicos will get a kick out of this fascinating chronicle of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s run for president in 2020 and how his gift for oratory and unconventional background as a Democratic candidate (young, religious, gay and a veteran) galvanized a loyal base of supporters. The best parts are the behind-the-scenes moments, as the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor learns on the job to be a political powerhouse and wins support from husband Chasten, who’s as much a star of the film as Pete.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’

Based on the West End show (which itself is inspired by a true story), the uplifting coming-of-age musical centers on a 16-year-old English teen (Max Harwood) with drag queen dreams who deals with homophobia, bullies and a teacher (Sharon Horgan) wanting him to find a “real” career. The songs are fairly catchy, Harwood’s a joy to watch and Richard E. Grant’s great as a former drag performer and mentor.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

‘Cruella’

The Mouse House remake machine actually does something fresh and interesting with this crime comedy that doubles as the origin story of dastardly puppy-napping villainess Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone gamely plays her as a young London designer in 1970s punk-rock London who tussles with a chic and ruthless fashion icon (Emma Thompson). The divine costumes and retro soundtrack dazzle in an intriguing, colorful exploration of nature vs. nurture that’s also the coolest Disney film in forever.

Where to watch: Disney+

‘Together Together’

This feel-good pregnancy dramedy is a showcase for Ed Helms’ good-guy earnestness and a breakthrough for the hilarious Patti Harrison. A 45-year-old single tech dude (Helms) wants to be a father, his 20-something surrogate (Harrison) is a snarky barista, and the twosome become unexpected best friends in a wonderful film that tweaks May-December love stories and romantic-comedy tropes while embracing the importance of human connection.

Where to watch:Hulu

‘Summer of Soul’

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s directorial debut, a documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, is an essential jam on multiple levels. The film interviews participants about the event and its effect on culture amid a socially and politically tumultuous period in history. The true highlights, though, are the never-before-seen performances, including a dazzling 19-year-old Stevie Wonder and the heavenly gospel duo of Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples that’ll move anyone with a soul.

Where to watch: Hulu 

‘Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar’

The buddy comedy starts off like a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch: Unemployed and very chatty Nebraska besties Star (Kristen Wiig) and Barb (Annie Mumolo) decide to take a Florida vacation. Their adventure turns absolutely bizarro from there, with a supervillainous plot involving killer mosquitoes, several musical sequences, an attractive dude (Jamie Dornan) who digs middle-aged women, a talking crab, a helpful water spirit and one super-trippy tropical cocktail.

Where to watch: Hulu

‘Shiva Baby’

Welcome to the story of 20-something Danielle (Rachel Sennott) who tries to keep all her secrets intact as they literally crowd around her during a shiva. Danielle’s parents (Polly Draper and Fred Melamed) parade her around trying to help her find a job post-college graduation while she tries to figure out how to handle conversations with her ex Maya (Molly Gordon), her sugar daddy (Danny Deferrari) and his wife (former “Glee” star Dianna Agron). 

Where to watch:Hulu

‘Annette’

Those who dig Adam Driver and the songs of Sparks – the great art-pop band that’s also an acquired taste for some – will enjoy some parts of Leos Carax’s bonkers musical. Everything else may test your patience for the strange, as a bad-boy stand-up comic (Driver) and a rising opera singer (Marion Cotillard) fall in love, have a gifted daughter (played by a way-creepy puppet, mind you) and navigate the implosion of their relationship.

Where to watch:Amazon Prime

‘Misha and the Wolves’ 

The riveting “Misha and the Wolves” tells the story of writer Misha Defonseca, a Belgian woman living in Massachusetts with a jaw-dropping tale of how she survived the Holocaust. Defonseca ultimately published her memoir, but it didn’t go as planned. To say much more about “Misha” would spoil its many twists and turns (and resulting legal actions), but we can say this: the documentary plays like an espionage thriller. 

Where to watch:Netflix

Contributing: David Oliver



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