The films to come during winter break

Film Critic Hunter Friesen previews multiple films releasing during the winter break.


While there hasn’t been much to look forward to within 2020, we can at least count ourselves lucky that we live in an age where escapism is easy to come by. The winter months of November through January is usually the busiest time for the film industry as dozens of movies are released for awards season contention and to cash in at the holiday box office. Unfortunately, this holiday season will not be as crowded compared to previous years, but streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Max have picked up some of the slack left behind by cinemas. Listed throughout this article are several new films that you should seek out during this extended break, many of which will be available instantly for streaming.

Note: Films marked with an asterisk still have plans to be released in cinemas. These dates are subject to change.

Nomadland (Dec. 04*)

Already one of the most acclaimed films of the year with its back-to-back first prize wins at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, Chloé Zhao’s third feature is an adaptation of a true story about a phenomenon where older Americans traveled around the United States looking for work after they had been decimated by the Great Recession.

In her first physical role since her second Oscar win, Frances McDormand stars as one of those wanderers. Her performance, along with Zhao’s direction and the cinematography, has been getting serious awards buzz since its premiere. This film will begin its run in limited release and gradually roll out to more audiences in subsequent weeks.

Mank (Dec. 04. Netflix)

Since being upset for the “Best Director” Oscar in 2010 for his work in “The Social Network,” people have been clamoring for an opportunity to properly reward David Fincher. 2020 may be the year that happens as early buzz suggests his new film is an instant classic.

“Mank” tells the true story of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s colorful experience with Orson Welles developing the masterpiece that would become “Citizen Kane.” Gary Oldman stars as the titular character along with Amanda Seyfried, Charles Dance and Tom Pelphrey.

The movie is said to be made in the style of classic Hollywood films as the sound, acting styles, cinematography and score are all accurate to the time period. This is Netflix’s top Oscar prospect as it is expected to easily notch double-digit nominations and find a place on several best of year lists.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Dec. 18. Netflix)

With the untimely passing of Chadwick Boseman in August, all eyes have shifted over to his final performance in the silver screen adaptation of August Wilson’s classic play about a tension-filled blues recording session in 1927 Chicago.

Based on the trailer and early buzz, Viola Davis as the titular singer and Boseman as her ambitious horn player are standouts and will surely find their way onto Oscar ballots. Also to watch for is the snazzy directing by George C. Wolfe as he gives the material a jolt of energy through flashy cinematography and editing.

News of the World (Dec. 25*)

One of the few cinema blockbusters left in 2020, “News of the World” is a reteaming of star Tom Hanks and director Paul Greengrass after their successful work in 2013 with “Captain Phillips.”

Hanks stars as a traveling Civil War veteran who agrees to escort a young girl across America to her aunt and uncle. This marks Hanks’ first foray into westerns and the trailer showcases many similarities to recent successes such as “No Country for Old Men” and “True Grit.” Due to Greengrass’ previous work in the “Jason Bourne” franchise, expect high tension and adventure set against beautiful scenery within the American frontier.

One Night in Miami (January 15. Amazon Prime)

Already an Oscar and multiple Emmy winner for acting, Regina King is looking to bolster her resume by directing this fictional account of the real meeting between Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown in the 1960s. Early praise has already been heaped on the cast, especially Kingsley Ben-Adir as Malcolm X and “Hamilton” alum Leslie Odom Jr. as Sam Cooke. In a tumultuous year of political and societal upheaval, this timely and powerful piece won’t be one to miss.

Other Films to Look For

  • Ammonite (Nov. 13*)
  • Hillbilly Elegy (Nov. 24) (Netflix)
  • The Prom (Dec. 11) (Netflix)
  • Coming 2 America (Dec.18) (Amazon Prime)
  • The Father (Dec. 18*)
  • The Midnight Sky (Dec. 23) (Netflix)
  • Soul (Dec. 25) (Disney+)
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (Dec. 25*)