It’s almost the end of the 2020, a year that all of us will be glad to see the back of. But before we can do that, we can take a pause and settle in front of the TV (hopefully with family around) to watch some TV shows and films. Here is a selection of the TV shows and movies to watch over the Christmas break.
We’ve gone through and had a gander at the big video streaming services in the UK to see what films and series are worth watching. With everyone staying at home for much of the year, streaming has received a big boost, and there’s plenty to keep you captivated over the festive period.
So without further ado, here’s what to watch on Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Netflix, NOW TV and Prime Video over the Christmas period.
Raised by Wolves: series 1 (NOW TV)
It’s been three years since we last saw Ridley Scott’s vision on any screen, and he’s back with this intriguing sci-fi drama about a group of Androids tasked with raising human children on a “mysterious planet”. The visuals look very much like what we’d expect from a Scott production: slick, beautiful and stylised. Merging themes that Scott’s been dabbling over the course of his career, Raised by Wolves looks like a thoughtful and weird TV series.
His Dark Materials: series 2 (iPlayer)
We were slightly underwhelmed by the first series in this adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantastic fantasy books, but so far the second series has been a step up in quality. Following the events of The Subtle Knife, the adaptations made to the first series start to make more sense here as the fight to understand Dust and its effects intensifies. Plus, the dæmons look even better than they did in the first series.
It’s been a while since the film from David Fincher (six years!), delving into the world of TV to do Mindhunter and Love + Death + Robots. Mank, based on a script written by Fincher’s father, follows Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman), a washed up alcoholic screenwriter enlisted by Orson Welles to help write the screenplay that would become Citizen Kane. It’s a warts and all look at the era of 1940s filmmaking, full of great performances and beautiful black and white photography that captures the era.
The Christmas Chronicles 2 (Netflix)
While we could do without yet another Princess Switch movie, we’re more than happy to see Kurt Russell back again to play Santa Claus, this time joined by his partner in real life in Goldie Hawn (as Mrs. Claus). Kate (Darby Kamp) returns from the first film, older and more cynical; reunited with Santa Clause by a mysterious troublemaker who threatens to cancel Christmas forever. We can’t be having that.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gained added significance after the passing away of Chadwick Boseman in 2020. The film marks his last appearance, and by all accounts, it’s another great performance. Adapted from two-time Pulitzer prize winner August Wilson’s play, it’s the story of a fraught relationship between Viola Davis’ Ma Rainey and Boseman’s horn player Levee during a recording session; she battling to keep control of her music while Levee makes attempts to leave and start up his own band.
The Grand Tour: A Massive Hunt (Prime Video)
The title of the latest Grand Tour is, as you’d expect, full of mischief, as is the programme itself that sees the gang back for one more special as they travel through Madagascar on the search of buried treasure.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Netflix)
Another it’s not considered a Christmas film per-se, considering the existence of the A Very Spidey Christmas music album (that you can hear in the film), we like to think of Into the Spider-Verse as an unofficial Xmas film. And it’s a cracker (sorry), one of the best and freshest things to come out of the comic book film genre in years, with its fantastic visuals and awesome voice cast. Into the Spider-Verse is great to watch at any time of the year, but watching it at Christmas is even better.
Elf (NOW TV)
If you’re a subscriber to Sky Cinema on NOW TV you can watch what’s become a perennial favourite for many at Christmas. Will Ferrell plays a character that’s been raised as an elf at the North Pole, but is actually human, and decides to go to New York to find his real father. Lots of screaming from an on-form Ferrell ensues.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (Prime Video)
You can watch Die Hard (the best Christmas film) on NOW TV, but we felt like giving the sequel some props. About as unsubtle as its gloriously silly title, Bruce Willis’ John McClane finds himself in another tricky situation when a rogue group paramilitary operatives seize control of Dulles airport at Christmas. As usual, they picked the wrong time and the wrong place to mess with McClane. There are some excellent action scenes and of course “yippee ki-yay mother….”
A Star is Born (Prime Video)
This tragic love story gets another airing courtesy of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. We won’t rehash the story here, but the music is fantastic (Shallows is still great) and the performances, especially from Gaga, are very good. Watch it with a sound system plugged in and listen to it loud.
The Crown: series 4 (Netflix)
The fictional (and we can’t stress that enough) TV drama that has got UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden all hot and bothered is now onto its fourth season. Telling the (dramatised) story of the British Royal Family, it’s followed the events of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign throughout the second half of the Twentieth Century. The fourth series covers the 80s, which sees Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher enter the picture. If you haven’t watched any of The Crown yet, this Christmas period is as good as any time to start.
The Mandalorian: series 2 (Disney+)
Series two of the hit show started airing in October, with an end date of December 18th, so you can binge watch this series over Christmas. The second series explores the fall of the Empire more of Mando’s backstory as he’s tasked with returning “The Child” back to its people. With some interesting developments and characters from previous films and animated series turning up, The Mandalorian is starting to come into its own.
Initially due for cinema release but redirected to the Disney+ streaming service, Pixar’s Soul tells the story of Joe (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher whose soul is separated from his body and sent to the ‘Great Beyond’, where he has to find a way back to his body. With a fantastic voice cast that includes Tina Fey and Daveed Diggs, Soul is a little more aimed at the grown-ups in the audience, a film that has more on its mind than you might expect.
Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special (Apple TV+)
Apparently, all people want for Christmas is Mariah Carey providing some holiday cheer. With performances from Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson, plus appearances by Snoop Dogg and the Peanuts Gang (yes, Snoopy and Charlie Brown join in on the fun), if you like Mariah Carey you’ll enjoy this. And yes, she does sing “All I want for Christmas (Is you)”.