Grab a choc top and leave room for popcorn — here’s your ultimate guide to the must-see flicks these holidays.


Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Jemaine Clement
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Release date: 26 December

Disney veterans Ron Clements and John Musker are back with the best film of the summer — one that feels very much like a classic Disney adventure, in some ways, while telling a story you haven’t seen before and spotlighting a culture that doesn’t get enough time in the pop culture spotlight. Dwayne Johnson is great as the boorish demigod Maui, but the real stars of the show are the animators responsible for the film’s dazzling water effects, and the songs by Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda.


Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, John C Reilly.
Directed by: Garth Jennings
Release date: 26 December

Illumination Entertainment’s second effort this year is much, much better than the disappointing Secret Life of Pets. It’s a spirited, funny and irresistible musical with an uplifting message. If you’ve got kids, chances are they’re going to drag you along to this one anyway, but you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.

Red Dog: True Blue

Starring: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Jason Isaacs, Phoenix
Directed by: Kriv Stenders
Release date: 26 December

If you’ve seen Red Dog, you’re in for more of the same here — but then, if you’ve seen Red Dog, you know that’s a good thing. A heartwarming Australian story and the rare prequel that doesn’t suck, it’s a worthy follow-up to the original sleeper hit.

La La Land

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Release date: 26 December

Believe the hype. La La Land is a tour de force from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle that revives the spirit of the classic Hollywood musical without ever devolving into retro camp. The phrase “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” was invented for movies like La La Land. Gosling and Stone have superb chemistry, as always, and while they’re not necessarily the world’s best singers and dancers, their slight awkwardness actually adds an extra layer of charm and believability to the film.

Why Him?

Starring: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch
Directed by: John Hamburg
Release date: 26 December

Why Him? really shouldn’t work — it’s a film with a stale premise (a girl’s wacky new boyfriend clashes with her straight-laced dad!) from director John Hamburg, who has already mined this material to diminishing returns as the writer of the Meet the Parents trilogy. But Franco and Cranston are too funny and talented for this movie to fail completely, and their chemistry makes it worth watching.


Starring: Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Release date: 26 December

We’re so grateful Robert Zemeckis has stopped making dull CGI monstrosities like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol that there’s a temptation to praise anything he does to the high heavens, but the reality is that this just isn’t prime Zemeckis. Pitt and Cotillard certainly make for an attractive couple but Allied never delivers on the promise of its premise. This movie was much better when it was set in the present day and called Mr and Mrs Smith.


Starring: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig
Directed by: Pablo Larrain
Release date: 12 January

Just when it started to seem like Black Swan might have been a fluke, Natalie Portman is back with one of the best performances of her career. Jackie follows First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the days following the assassination of her husband, President John F Kennedy. Aside from the miscasting of Peter Sarsgaard as Robert F Kennedy, Jackie doesn’t put a foot wrong, and serves as a fascinating snapshot of a tumultuous period, not just in American politics, but in the life of a young woman.

Assassin’s Creed

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Release date: 26 December

The director and cast of last year’s fantastic Macbeth adaptation are back with… a really disappointing video game movie. Assassin’s Creed is one of those films that makes you wonder how it got the greenlight in the first place, and should only be seen if you’ve watched everything else on this list and you’re just desperate to spend a couple of hours in air-conditioning.


Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Release date: 1 January

An interesting premise — two people wake up from an induced hibernation 90 years too soon on a spaceship bound for a new planet — and a star pairing that any studio head would literally kill for are torpedoed by a plot development so ill-advised and tonedeaf that the movie just can’t recover from it. Pratt and Lawrence are always good, but they’re in desperate need of a better vehicle than this.


Starring: Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham
Directed by: Garth Davis
Release date: 19 January

Barely sneaking in at the tail end of the school holidays, Lion tells the story of a man (Patel) adopted by an Australian family who uses Google Earth to discover his past. Early buzz is very, very good on this one, with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman picking up Golden Globe nominations and the film itself earning a nomination for Best Picture (Drama).

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Starring: Vin Diesel, Ruby Rose, Donnie Yen
Directed by: DJ Caruso
Release date: 19 January

Desperate for a Fast & Furious fix? This is as good as you’re going to get these holidays. Drown yourself in a tub of popcorn (and liquor, if your cinema allows it) and you’ll probably have fun with this one, even if it’s not going to win any awards (except maybe an MTV Movie Award, if that’s still a thing).

What looks good to you? Let us know in the comments below!