Henry Golding, Emilia Clarke, and Ewan McGregor take on the multiplex while Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver launch one of the biggest Oscar contenders of the year.

By Joey Nolfi
November 08, 2019 at 09:00 AM EST

EW wants you to make good choices when going to the movies (or spending a night in Netflix-and-chilling) this weekend, and our new, recurring movie preview guide will keep you informed about the best new blockbusters, indie gems, sturdy holdovers, and fresh digital standouts up for your viewing pleasure (plus a bonus box office preview to wrap it all up).

Yes, it’s November. No, it’s not too early to revel in Christmas joy… especially with one of the scariest movies of the year preparing to jingle your bells at the movies this weekend. But, as much as Stephen King, Ewan McGregor, and one very creepy Rebecca Ferguson prepare to continue the story of The Shining in their spooky sequel Doctor Sleep, a charming British duo at the center of Last Christmas is waiting on the opposite end of the seasonal spectrum to spread some holiday cheer.

As temperatures drop around the country, Hollywood has turned the heat up across the board, with Oscar fare (Marriage Story), schlocky action (Nicolas Cage‘s Primal), and big-budget spectacles of fear and romance alike gunning for your pre-holiday dollars. Below, check out EW’s coverage of the best new movies now in theaters, streaming, and on VOD.

Wilson Webb/Netflix; Jonathan Prime/Universal; Jessica Miglio/Warner Bros.; Doane Gregory/Paramount Pictures

New wide releases in theaters

Doctor Sleep

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Cliff Curtis, Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: C+ (read full review)

Wake up, ya’ll! Don’t sleep on director Mike Flanagan’s post-Halloween horror gem, which (hold on, this is where it gets confusing) continues both the story set forth by author Stephen King in his 1977 novel The Shining as well as the narrative of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic adaptation of the beloved book (which King reportedly disliked). Now, decades after the terrors that unfolded at the Overlook Hotel, little Danny Torrance is all grown up (as portrayed by Ewan McGregor) and using his supernatural gifts to connect with a young girl with similar powers as she escapes the clutches of a dangerous cult led by a particularly menacing Rebecca Ferguson.

“I don’t want to get into a big argument about how great the Shining film is that Kubrick did or my feelings about it,” King previously told EW. “All I can say is, Mike took my material, he created a terrific story, people who have seen this movie flip for it, and I flipped for it, too. Because he managed to take my novel of Doctor Sleep, the sequel, and somehow weld it seamlessly to the Kubrick version of The Shining, the movie. So, yeah, I liked it a lot.”

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Last Christmas

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh
Directed by: Paul Feig
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: C+ (read full review)

Who knew Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, and George Michael tunes go together like spiked eggnog and bickering with distant relatives around the Christmas tree? Apparently Last Christmas writer-star Emma Thompson, as she personally met with the late pop star for approval to use his songs — particularly this romantically tinged dramedy’s titular jam, initially released by Wham! in 1984 — as inspiration for a film about a drifter woman (Clarke) whose life changes for the better after she meets a peculiar, elusive, and undeniably dashing stranger (Golding) just before Christmas.

“‘Last Christmas’ is not my favorite song,” Thompson previously admitted to EW of the song that served as the film’s impetus. “[But] George Michael himself [was] a complex and brilliant artist. His poetry, his lyrics are incredibly meaningful. I just thought of an idea to do with the lyric of ‘Last Christmas’ that inspired me, and then I thought, ‘Oh, actually, so much of George’s other music really works with this idea.’ ‘Heal the Pain’ is central to the ethos of the movie. Because ‘Heal the Pain’ is about the fact that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone. Creative things happen so weirdly and unexpectedly, so you can be led toward something by a piece of music you actually aren’t that fond of.”

Fans are sure to be fond of the fact that, thanks to the film, a never-before-released Michael tune, “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)” now exists as part of the project’s original soundtrack.

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Midway

Starring: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Release type: Theatrical (wide)

Have you ever thought to yourself: What would beloved pop star Nick Jonas look like in the throes of battle during the attack on Pearl Harbor? Well, director Roland Emmerich’s war epic Midway (reportedly produced for $100 million, making it one of the most expensive indie films of all time) is here to bring that fantasy to life via his latest, densely star-studded affair. Sure to appease both history buffs and action-hungry cinephiles alike, the film follows several United States Navy sailors and aviators as they fight through Pearl Harbor, Doolittle’s Raid, and the Battle of Midway, which served as a crucial turning point in World War II. In addition to Jonas, along for the ride are stars like Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, and Dennis Quaid.

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Playing With Fire

Starring: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Greer
Directed by: Andy Fickman
Release type: Theatrical (wide)

A peculiar pairing of actors (John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Judy Greer) seemingly makes for epic comedic chemistry in this family-focused crowd-pleaser about a crew of rugged firefighters who face hilarious obstacles as they attempt to rescue three rowdy children from an impending threat.

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Better Days

Starring: Zhou Dongyu, Jackson Yee, Fang Yin
Directed by: Derek Kwok-Cheung Tsang
Release type: Theatrical (moderate wide)

One of the biggest hits in Chinese movie history (the film bagged $82 million in the region across its opening weekend — the country’s 26th best of all time), Better Days makes its way stateside in moderately wide release to several major metropolitan areas around America. Directed by Derek Kwok-Cheung Tsang, the film follows a bullied teenage girl who bonds with a peculiar young man who protects her from various assailants while she prepares for her school examinations.

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New limited, indies, specialty, and streaming gems

Marriage Story

Starring: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Merritt Wever, Julie Hagerty, Azhy Robertson
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Release type: Theatrical (limited), streaming (Dec. 6)
EW grade: A- (read full review)

Get your tissues ready, because Oscar season is in full swing as Noah Baumbach unleashes his emotionally ruining divorce drama, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a bitter, uncoupling pair fighting for custody of their young son.

“I mean, as an actor you can’t dream up speeches that delicious! It’s just crazy amazing,” Laura Dern, who plays Johansson’s attorney in the film (and is getting enthusiastic Oscar buzz for it), previously told EW of her part. “But let me just say, I’ve never cried so hard as when I first read the script. It wasn’t just the emotion of reading the story, it was the perfection of the screenplay. [And] being a parent, I understood this unbelievably sad, broken moment.”

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Honey Boy

Starring: Lucas Hedges, Shia LaBeouf, Noah Jupe, FKA Twigs
Directed by: Alma Har’el
Release type: Theatrical (limited)
EW grade: B (read full review)

Despite its title, director Alma Har’el’s semi-biographical examination of actor Shia LaBeouf’s early life as a rising child star with a troubled father is light on saccharine flair.

“I was in a court-ordered rehab facility and it was part of sussing out my past, flashlight to your soul, trying to get to know myself, like a shedding of skin in a way,” LaBeouf previously told EW of writing his unresolved personal pain into the script. “I put it on a piece of paper like they told me, and then I get home and read it and it felt like it was in script form. I wound up sending all of my stuff to Alma who’s one of my closest friends and now a full-blown collaborator, so I was sending her all these pages and as the pages kept developing she’s like ‘Whoa, this is really a film.’ She was cheerleading from the outside and that was lifting my spirits inside.” 

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The Kingmaker

Starring: Imelda Marcos
Directed by: Lauren Greenfield
Release type: Theatrical (limited)

Documentarian Lauren Greenfield, whose work includes buzzy nonfiction titles like The Queen of Versailles and Generation Wealth, continues her fascination with controversial female figures with The Kingmaker, which centers on the behind-the-scenes political career of Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines.

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Primal

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand
Directed by: Nick Powell
Release type: Theatrical (limited), On Demand

Nicolas Cage tussles with a 400-pound jaguar (on a freaking boat) in the trailer for this bonkers thriller. Could anything else possibly sell this film better?

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Notable holdovers and expanding titles in theaters now

Terminator: Dark Fate

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Diego Boneta, Gabriel Luna
Directed by: Tim Miller
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: C (read full review)

Arnold Schwarzenegger said he’d be back. But, he’s bringing a band of badass women with him for the latest installment of the Terminator franchise, a big-budget spectacle that sees series icon Linda Hamilton leading the charge as she teams up with a hybrid cyborg human (yes, really) to protect a young girl from a liquid, time-traveling Terminator from the future.

“It was so obvious that you had the same kind of commitment that I showed for T2,” Hamilton told her new costar, Mackenzie Davis, in a recent joint interview for EW. “Watching her just made me want to do that much more, be that much better. I was totally inspired by Mack. It was like, ‘How are you doing this? How is it possible that you’re not completely breaking down?’ Your body, your lack of sleep, the things that were asked of you — it was just mind-bending to watch, and made me so utterly proud.”

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Harriet

Starring: Cynthia ErivoLeslie Odom, Jr., Joe Alwyn, Janelle Monáe, Jennifer Nettles, Vanessa Bell Calloway
Directed by: Kasi Lemmons
Release type: Theatrical (wide)
EW grade: B (read full review)

What could be the last piece of Erivo’s EGOT puzzle has finally dropped in theaters, proving the Broadway breakout’s electrifying presence seamlessly translates from center stage to the big screen. Instead of bogging her portrait in historical biopic cliches, director Lemmons worked with Erivo to get to the heart of the character, crafting an intimate, moving, and highly personal version of a different side of one of the most important figures in American history.

“More than anything, we wanted to show the woman, so we looked into her family, her life, and her love,” Erivo told EW at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the film launched its awards season bid. She also admitted to putting herself through rigorous physical training — including lengthy bike rides and running sessions at the crack of dawn — to build up her endurance to match Harriet Tubman’s. “I did some horse riding with corsets before to make sure I got used to that. All of that, I just wanted to make sure I was ready physically so I didn’t have to think about that when I was on set. I just wanted it to be a second-nature thing for me.”

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The Irishman

Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Ray Romano
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Release type: Theatrical (limited), streaming (Nov. 27)
EW grade: B+ (read full review)

Martin Scorsese is back in theaters ahead of a monumental Netflix bow for the American filmmaking legend, and he brought Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci (whom he coaxed out of retirement for his first movie role in nine years) for a gritty crime drama. What more do you need to know?

“Having gotten to make the film. The picture was very difficult to get made the past 10 years, and for many different reasons. But I really felt that De Niro and I had one more picture to make at least,” Scorsese recently told EW. “Robert read Charles Brandt’s book [I Heard You Paint Houses] when he was doing [the 2006 drama] The Good Shepard. He gave it to me. I saw he was connected with the character and we’ve been wanting to make something together since Casino. I realized he really cares about the character, and that it’s something that could be moving. So I figured we’d take the trip. It took a while. It’s very special that we got it made. And I feel at this point in my life, it’s something that I feel the value of — if not for me, for Bob, Al, and Joe — a lot of people involved in it. And the fact people have reacted so strongly is really [pauses] I don’t know if I have the words to express the thanks. What’s special about it is that everything in our hearts was put into it at this stage of our lives.”

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Parasite

Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Release type: Theatrical (limited)
EW grade: A- (read full review)

As we commanded in our first official Oscar predictions of the season: BongHive, assemble! The breakout prestige hit of the festival circuit, Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner has become the darling of awards season, completely selling out every showing of its New York City theatrical bow in limited release en route to likely becoming one of the most successful foreign releases of the year for its unique social commentary on class disparity.

“I’m not a sociologist, but I think all creators are very sensitive to their surroundings and all I do is try to portray what I encounter in my daily life,” Joon-ho told EW at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Even just a second with another person, you think about that person’s class, you get to smell them, so it’s a very natural, all-surrounding thing.”

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Jojo Rabbit

Starring: Roman Griffin Davis, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Thomasin McKenzie, Rebel Wilson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant
Directed by: Taika Waititi
Release type: Theatrical (limited)
EW grade: A- (read full review)

Though it might not seem like it’s possible on the surface, director-star Taika Waititi proves it’s possible to mine heart and soul out of the atrocities of World War II, as he and an impeccable cast (newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Thomasin McKenzie) craft a timely anti-hate satire about a young Hitler Youth who, amid divisive political discourse, discovers his pure-hearted mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in the walls of their home in 1940s Germany. As Waititi said in EW’s exclusive behind-the-scenes featurette for the film: “I just want people to be more tolerant, and spread more love and less hate.”

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Nov. 1 – 3 weekend box office preview:

While most of us cozy up to winter temperatures (and the warm embrace of Lifetime Christmas movies), Doctor Sleep looks to turn up the dial at the box office, with sizzling scares counter-programming just about everything else in wide release. The film’s robust profile (could expectations be any higher than following up one of the best horror films of all time?) and genuinely disturbing trailers should be enough to get audiences hot for horror to ensure a No. 1 debut.

Though it might be more seasonally appropriate to predict a box office victory for Last Christmas, the film’s sharply divided reception thus far (some critics have hailed it as a fuzzy holiday romp, while others have labeled it a wintry trifle) could scare off a decent portion of skeptical audiences browsing for a casual pick-me-up at the cinema. The divide between critics and audiences is often large, so there’s a real chance the film could ride atop long legs throughout the weeks ahead.

Elsewhere, Midway‘s wartime dressings should play well with the over-40 male demographic, though not enough to make it a hit (as previously mentioned, the film reportedly cost $100 million to shoot), while John Cena’s inherent likability on the Playing With Fire morning show press tour (plus his rising profile as a film star) will push the cross-demographic comedy to a decent opening atop other fading family movies like Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and The Addams Family.

1) Doctor Sleep — $25 million

2) Last Christmas — $18 million

3) Terminator: Dark Fate — $12 million

4) Midway — $12 million

5) Playing With Fire — $9 million

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