Get ready for what's coming over the next two months with our 2019 Fall and Winter Holiday Movie Preview. After an uneven summer that started out big (thanks to Avengers: Endgame) but was down in overall attendance, the box office recovered in September and October thanks to hits like IT Chapter Two, Hustlers, and especiallly the much-discussed Joker, even as movies like The Goldfinch and Gemini Man floundered.
With November and December upon us, it's time for the customary late-year rush of Oscar hopefuls and tentpoles aiming to dominate the holiday box office frames on the horizon. As has become our tradition at Screen Rant, this year's fall/winter holiday preview will focus on the upcoming films that are going to be playing nationwide from the get-go (as opposed to the limited releases that will gradually expand to additional markets).
So, with that out of the way, here are our 15 Films to Check Out Over the Fall and Winter Holidays in 2019 (in the order of their release).
15. Terminator: Dark Fate (November 1)
Plot Summary: Sarah Connor joins forces with a soldier from the future to protect a young woman who's being hunted by a time-traveling Terminator.
The Breakdown: Fourth time isn't typically the charm, but that seems to be the case with the Terminator films, judging by the early reviews for Terminator: Dark Fate. The James Cameron-produced sequel is a semi-reboot that acts as a continuation of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (ignoring the not-so-beloved previous three entries in the sci-fi franchise), and is picking up praise for Linda Hamilton's performance as a seasoned, but still badass as ever Sarah Connor, in combination with the work from the rest of the cast and the action scenes by Deadpool director Tim Miller. After nearly thirty years, it appears Terminator is, at long last, back... to form.
14. Doctor Sleep (November 8)
Plot Summary: 40 years after his terrifying stay at the Overlook Hotel, Dan Torrance helps a teenager who's targeted by a dangerous cult for her own "shining" abilities.
The Breakdown: The Shining doesn't necessarily scream for a sequel, but Stephen King wrote one anyway, titled Doctor Sleep. The film version stars Ewan McGregor and is being directed by Mike Flanagan, who's coming off the success with Netflix's The Haunting of Hill House series and has explored many of the same themes from King's source material (addiction, trauma, loss) to great effect in his previous work, including his film adaptation of the author's psycho-horror drama Gerald's Game. It seems he's done the same thing here, with early Doctor Sleep reactions praising the movie for being a worthy sequel to both King and Stanley Kubrick's tellings of The Shining.
13. Last Christmas (November 8)
Plot Summary: Kate is a young woman with a habit of making poor life decisions when she meets Tom, a charming fellow who seems too good to be real.
The Breakdown: Yes, Last Christmas is a romantic dramedy, but is it also a ghost story? The question's been on people's minds ever since the film's trailer dropped and made Tom (Henry Golding) seem suspiciously like a spirit that only Kate (Emilia Clarke) can see, and the theories have only gotten wilder since then... which isn't to say they aren't much ado about nothing. Either way, between the cast, Emma Thompson as cowriter, and Bridesmaids' Paul Feig directing (not to mention, the gorgeous backdrop of London during the winter holidays) Last Christmas is worth keeping on your radar, ghostly boyfriends or not.
12. Charlie's Angels (November 15)
Plot Summary: After blowing the whistle on dangerous technology, a systems engineer is recruited by the Townsend Agency (which now operates worldwide).
The Breakdown: All appearances to the contrary, Elizabeth Banks' Charlie's Angels isn't actually a reboot of the '70-born franchise, and instead takes place in the same universe as McG's movies from the 2000s, albeit with a newbie team of Angels (Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, and Ella Balinska) and multiple "Bosleys" running around. It's a fresh start for the property all the same, and the trailers suggest it's as silly, stylish, and action-packed as the entries before it. Still, Sony's had mixed success with reviving its biggest properties in 2019 (see Men in Black: International, Zombieland: Double Tap), so it remains to be seen how their latest attempt goes.
11. Ford v Ferrari (November 15)
Plot Summary: Automative designer Carroll Shelby and his driver, Ken Miles, try to build a racing car for Ford that can finally defeat the Ferrari at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
The Breakdown: Between Ad Astra and Ford v Ferrari, it's looking more and more like the latter is going to be Disney and Fox's bigger Oscar contender this year, thanks to the positive buzz it's accumulated over the course of its festival tour. Most reviews single out the film's acting and high-octane racing sequences as being its highlights, and Fox has even gone ahead and entered both Matt Damon and Christian Bale's names for consideration in next year's Best Lead Actor Oscar category. All in all, it appears that James Mangold's acclaimed "dad movie" has the makings of yet another home-run for the Walk the Line and Logan director.
10. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (November 22)
Plot Summary: Journalist Lloyd Vogel begrudgingly agrees to write a profile piece about Fred Rogers, only to find his perspective on life transformed.
The Breakdown: Despite what its marketing would suggest, the early word from those who caught the film's premiere at TIFF 2019 is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn't so much a Fred Rogers biopic as it as a moving drama about how real kindness and forgiveness are challenging to express, but all the more important because of that. Tom Hanks is earning top marks for his supporting performance as Mr. Rogers all the same, as is Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) for her direction, which no doubt comes as welcome news for Sony. Expect this one to get a serious Oscar push in the months to come, for those reasons.
9. Frozen II (November 22)
Plot Summary: Elsa, together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven, sets out on a dangerous journey to protect her kingdom and discover why she was born with magical powers.
The Breakdown: Frozen II was a surefire success from the moment Disney green-lit it, so it's encouraging to see directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee are stepping up their game and crafting a sequel that, by the look of it, really builds upon the mythology and themes from the first Frozen. Naturally, the sequel will still include all the trademark elements audiences associate and love about Disney Animation (as it should), but it's also shaping up to be a richer, yet equally entertaining and fun piece of storytelling than its beloved predecessor. Fingers crossed, Frozen II will prove to be an exciting return to Arendelle, as promised.
8. Knives Out (November 27)
Plot Summary: When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey inexplicably dies just after his 85th birthday, Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate.
The Breakdown: If Rian Johnson's Knives Out wasn't already on your must-see list this fall, the Agatha Christie-style whodunnit definitely should be now, following its early rave reviews. So far, critics are loving everything from the film's political commentary to its witty dialogue and the collective performances by its star-studded ensemble (Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, and so forth), and it sounds like a welcome return to Johnson's Brick and The Brothers Bloom form overall. The murder-mystery may not have the immediate box office pull of his Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but good word of mouth from its pre-release screenings should help its cause there.
7. Jumanji: The Next Level (December 13)
Plot Summary: When Spencer vanishes into the world of Jumanji, his friends follow him and discover the game's changed since last they played.
The Breakdown: Dwayne Johnson is headed back to the jungle yet again for December's Jumanji: The Next Level, a sequel that features the same cast and action-comedy approach as 2017's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, but with even bigger spectacle a zanier body-swapping story. Indeed, director Jake Kasdan (also back from the last film) will attempt to further up the ante by adding Danny DeVito and Danny Glover to the equation, and having them "play" The Rock and Kevin Hart, no less. It's still going to be tough to replicate the unexpected fun of Welcome to the Jungle, but The Next Level is certainly making an admirable go at it.
6. Black Christmas (December 13)
Plot Summary: The members of a college sorority find themselves being hunted by a mysterious killer while preparing for the winter holidays.
The Breakdown: The 1974 slasher classic Black Christmas has already been remade once before (in 2006), but this new version seems a far cry from the previous two iterations, and in a promising way. Judging by its trailer, director Sophia Takal and writer April Wolfe have made a horror movie that's as much about the patriarchal legacy of its setting, Hawthorne College, as it is a loner stalking and murdering young women, and it's an intriguing and relevant twist to the original film's premise. That also bodes well for the rest of this particular reboot, which is angling to cap off what's been another great twelve months for horror movies in general.
5. Cats (December 20)
Plot Summary: Members of the Jellicle cat tribe try to decide one night which of them will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life.
The Breakdown: Yes, Cats is the weirdest Broadway musical to turn into a movie, but there's something inspired about just how bonkers Tom Hooper's adaptation looks so far, from its "digital fur technology" to Idris Elba, Taylor Swift, and Jennifer Hudson as humanoid felines singing and dancing across the film's gigantic sets. December has become a lucrative frame for musicals in recent years (see: The Greatest Showman, Mary Poppins Returns), and the longstanding popularity of the original show suggests the Cats movie could prove to be an equally big hit at the box office. Whether it'll actually be good, well, that's something we're all curious to find out.
4. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (December 20)
Plot Summary: The Skywalker Saga draws to a close as Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron fight back against Kylo Ren and the forces of the First Order.
The Breakdown: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is now officially the longest Star Wars movie ever, and with fair reason. J.J. Abrams' film is tasked with not only concluding the nine-part Skywalker Saga that began in 1977, but also wrapping up the sequel trilogy, introducing new characters, and explaining how Emperor Palpatine is back from the dead in a cohesive fashion. The Rise of Skywalker's ultra-secretive marketing has started to frustrate some fans by this point, but the actual movie continues to look promising, and (in Abrams' capable hands) the ultimate payoff is expected to be worth all the build-up and spoiler dodging.
3. Little Women (December 25)
Plot Summary: Sisters Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March come of age and strive to live life on their own terms in post-Civil War 1860s New England.
The Breakdown: Between Louisa May Alcott's cherished source material and Greta Gerwig directing a cast that includes her Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, it's long been anticipated that Little Women will be a contender in this year's awards race. The early reactions suggests it's exactly that, with Gerwig earning praise for her nonlinear remixing of Alcott's narrative and drawing energetic performances from her cast (especially Florence Pugh, who's already been having a terrific year thanks to Fighting with My Family and Midsommar). Little Women arrives over the busy winter holiday frame, so mark your calendars accordingly.
2. Spies in Disguise (December 25)
Plot Summary: World-famous super spy Lance Sterling is accidentally turned into a pigeon by his gadget man, Walter Beckett, forcing them to work together and save the day.
The Breakdown: There's been a theme of Will Smith getting CG makeovers this year and that continues with his latest offering, the wacky action-comedy Spies in Disguise. Blue Sky's new project seems like a far cry from the type of ambitious storytelling seen in recent Disney and Pixar animated films, but its brand of irreverent entertainment could be exactly what families are in the mood for over the winter holidays, and there's admittedly something inspiredly silly about its "Will Smith is a pigeon" setup. Add Tom Holland as the ungainly Q to Smith's dashing secret agent and Spies in Disguise could make for some welcome holiday frivolity.
1. 1917 (December 25)
Plot Summary: Two young British soldiers are given an impossible mission during WWI: deliver a message, deep in enemy territory, in time to stop their men from walking into a deadly trap.
The Breakdown: There wasn't a ton of buzz around Sam Mendes' WWI epic 1917 until recently, when it came to light the Oscar-winning director and his legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins shot the movie to look like a single, uninterrupted take (a la Birdman), in an effort to really capture the intensity of its race-against-time storyline. Couple that with the excellent cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, and so forth), and 1917 sounds all the more like something that needs to be experienced on the big screen. Whether audiences are in the mood for a heart-pounding war movie over the holidays, that's another matter.