December is here, and so are the holidays. The last month of the year always brings with it popcorn tentpoles, and 2021 is no different, with Spider-Man and Neo swinging back into action along with a Kingsman prequel and a big, splashy Steven Spielberg musical to round it out. But December also means being in the thick of the awards season contenders, and this month finds no less than four-count ’em, four–biopics heading our way. We’re also getting a classic noir thriller from an Oscar-winning director, a fascinating retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, and so much more.
Here’s every wide-release movie hitting theaters in December.
West Side Story – Release Date: Friday, December 10
Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, Maddie Ziegler, Kyle Allen, Mike Faist, Ariana Debose, Ben Cook
Director: Steven Spielberg
A new movie adaptation of West Side Story kicks off December, a fitting way for the universe to honor the late Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for the original Broadway musical and who passed away this week. The modernized take on Romeo & Juliet tells the tale of star-crossed lovers Maria, whose Puerto Rican family is involved with the Sharks gang, and Tony, who used to be a member of the Jets, a white gang. Their love is pure, but family, friends, and their circumstances threaten to tear them apart in 1950s New York City.
Being The Ricardos – Release Date: Friday, December 10
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Jake Lacy, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Clark Gregg
Director: Aaron Sorkin
In the 1950s, comedienne Lucille Ball and Cuban musician Desi Arnaz were Hollywood’s power couple in front of and behind the camera. Biopic Being the Ricardos is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at their life during one tumultuous and critical week while filming their sitcom I Love Lucy, the groundbreaking TV show that made both of them household names. As an interracial couple, seeing them on screen together was a pivotal moment in American television, and they went on to create their Desilu production company. The couple, particularly Ball, continued to be pioneers in entertainment for decades to come.
Spider-Man: No Way Home – Release Date: Friday, December 17
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, J.K. Simmons, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Foxx, Alfred Molina, Tony Revolori
Director: Jon Watts
Considering the mad rush to get tickets when they went on sale, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Spider-Man: No Way Home has the chance to be as big as Avengers: Infinity War or Endgame. Marvel has been teasing the existence of its multiverse, planting the seeds with Endgame‘s time travel and then opening it up with their Disney+ series. No Way Home finds the multiverse finally cracking wide open when a spell goes awry, leading to a number of Spider-Man villains from previous films coming into our world. It’s up to Peter Parker, Doctor Strange, and Peter’s friends to stop the villains from taking over – and hopefully, restoring the universe.
Nightmare Alley – Release Date: Friday, December 17
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro looks to be gunning for another Oscar, this time with his stylish noir psychological thriller Nightmare Alley. The film is an adaptation of the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham and it boasts a cast that is absolutely stacked with talent from top to bottom. The 1940s-set thriller tells the story of Stan Carlisle, a con man who has a gift for manipulation. But when he hooks up with a psychiatrist named Lilith in a grander scheme, he soon learns she’s more dangerous and manipulative than he ever could have imagined. Expect this one to dominate awards season.
The Matrix Resurrections – Release Date: Wednesday, December 22
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Ricci, Priyanka Chopra, Yahya Abdul-Mateen, Lambert Wilson, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick
Director: Lana Wachowski
Over 20 years ago, The Matrix was released and blew the world away. And while the follow-up sequels weren’t quite as well-received, it’s impossible to argue that the Matrix trilogy wasn’t one of the most influential movie trilogies of all time, continuing to influence movies to this day. Now, Neo, Trinity, and the rest return in The Matrix Resurrections. Do we know anything about the plot? Nope. Do we know which character each new cast member is playing? No again. But are we going to line up to see it on opening night? Yes. Yes, we are.
The King’s Man – Release Date: Wednesday, December 22
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Harris Dickinson, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Alison Steadman
Director: Matthew Vaughn
After having been delayed for what feels like years, the long-awaited Kingsman prequel The King’s Man hits theaters this month. Director of the first movie Matthew Vaughn is back in the saddle to tell the story of how the Kingsman intelligence agency came to be. Taking place against the backdrop of WWI, the world’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds plot to destroy the world and it’s up to one man to stop them – with a little help.
Sing 2 – Release Date: Wednesday, December 22
Voice Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, Letitia Wright
Director: Garth Jennings
The first kids’ movie of the holidays hits screens just in time for Christmas. Illumination is back with Sing 2 and a new adventure for the ambitious koala Buster Moon and his friends. Buster and his all-animal team of talented performers have a shot at putting on a huge show in the entertainment capital of the world. There’s just one catch: Buster Moon has to convince Clay Calloway, the world’s most reclusive and enigmatic rock star, to join their band. What starts out as a desire to find stardom leads to Buster and his friends being reminded of the power of music to heal a broken heart.
The Tender Bar – Release Date: Wednesday, December 22
Cast: Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Max Martini, Rhenzy Feliz, Briana Middleton, Max Casella, Sondra James, Michael Braun
Director: George Clooney
George Clooney tries his hand at a coming-of-age story with The Tender Bar, based on J. R. Moehringer’s memoir about his life growing up in Long Island. Shortly after his birth, J. R.’s dad takes off and disappears. As he gets older, he grows closer to his uncle, Charlie, bonding with him and the patrons at his uncle’s bar. It’s J. R.’s attempt to replace his dad with a father figure of his own, and along the way, he learns more about himself and his place in the world.
American Underdog – Release Date: Saturday, December 25
Cast: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Brett Varvel
Director: Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin
The third biopic on the list arrives in the form of American Underdog. It tells the inspiring and improbable true story of Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. After a great college career, Kurt Warner went undrafted in the 1994 draft and eventually found himself stocking shelves at a grocery store, sure his football career was over before it even began. Eventually, he was given a chance by the St. Louis Rams and worked his way up their depth chart to become their starting quarterback, leading them for five seasons straight. By the end of his 11-year-long pro career, Warner was a Super Bowl champ and MVP, a two-time league MVP, and an eventual Hall of Famer as the greatest underdog story in NFL history. Those who like feel-good stories will want to check this one out.
A Journal For Jordan – Release Date: Saturday, December 25
Cast: Chanté Adams, Susan Pourfar, Vanessa Aspillaga, Michael B. Jordan, Doris McCarthy, Cleveland Berto, Julian Vidaurrazaga, Joey Brooks
Director: Denzel Washington
One last true story for the month. A Journal for Jordan sees Denzel Washington sitting down in the director’s chair to tell the story of Sergeant Charles Monroe King. When he’s deployed to Iraq, Charles begins to keep a journal of love and advice for his infant son. Meanwhile, his love Dana, a New York Times editor, recounts the story of how they met and how he had always been there for her and his son. It’s a sweeping story of powerful, everlasting love, both for each other and for their son, and a reminder that family bonds are unbreakable.
The Tragedy Of Macbeth – Release Date: Saturday, December 25
Cast: Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Bertie Carvel, Alex Hassell, Corey Hawkins, Harry Melling, Brendan Gleeson, Moses Ingram, Kathryn Hunter, Brian Thompson
Director: Joel Coen
Denzel competes with himself this Christmas, as he stars as Shakespeare’s endlessly relevant, doomed protagonist in The Tragedy of Macbeth. It’s an A24 movie, so you know you’re in for something artistic, cerebral, and mesmerizing. “The Scottish Play,” as superstitious theater people call it, tells the ageless story of Macbeth, the Scottish lord and his scheming wife who murder a king to seize the crown and are haunted by their choices, forever doomed and forever damned. The drama of political ambition, prophecy, and fate, finds new life in Joel Coen’s retelling that’s sure to generate some awards season buzz.