This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on December 25, 2016.
For many families going to the movies is a holiday tradition. Each year Hollywood releases a slew of new films, including blockbusters, animated features, and prestige pictures, right before or on Christmas. With so many options, it can be incredibly difficult to make up your mind regarding what to see. That can only be compounded if you’re making that decision as a group with other family members.
Don’t worry though, we’re here to help with the 2016 holiday movie season. We’ve assembled a list of movies reaching wide distribution just in time for Christmas and ranked them according to director, stars, critic’s reviews, and our own assessment of the buzz surrounding each movie. So if you’re looking for some recommendations and details, click ahead as we rank six of this year’s Christmas releases from worst to best.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%
This is a movie that looks really good on paper. It features two of Hollywood’s most charming actors in an original science fiction film. That should please both the genre and celebrity fans in any family. Everything seems like it should work right up until the moment you actually realize what the movie is about.
We won’t spoil the plot here, but there is a very good reason that Passengers is pulling in such a low score on Rotten Tomatoes in spite of its excellent pedigree. This is a movie that is broken on the fundamental level of the script and there’s nothing Lawrence or Pratt can do to fix it. In fact, watching Pratt in this film might make it a bit more difficult to enjoy his rascally charms in Guardians of the Galaxy or The Magnificent 7. When you’re selecting a movie to see on Christmas, it’s best to pass on Passengers.
Director: Justin Kurzel
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 25%
Assassin’s Creed delivers another disappointingly low score from critics, although not much worse than the trend of video games being adapted into films would suggest. In spite of its rich source material and fantastic scenery, it seems this one is lacking anything special enough to make it stand out against a year filled with beautiful and compelling blockbusters.
There are still a couple of things going for this movie though, primarily in the cinematography. Director Justin Kurzel and stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard previous collaborated on 2015’s Macbeth and delivered one of the most visually striking movies of the year. Even if the assassinations and sci-fi are yawn inducing here, Assassin’s Creeds is bound to drop a few jaws just showing off its ancient cities and the terrifying moves of those who occupy it.
Director: John Hamburg
Stars: Bryan Cranston, James Franco, and Zoey Deutch
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
It’s not rare for comedies to rank low with critics, especially when they feature plenty of low-brow humor. There’s nothing wrong with low-brow jokes though, especially when the right people are delivering them. That’s the reason to consider checking out Why Him? because its male leads are bound to create sparks.
James Franco is typically hilarious in stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and This is The End, and Bryan Cranston never fails to deliver. They’re also both filling comfortable roles with Franco as an inexplicable weirdo and Cranston as the stressed out dad. The two of them together ought to offer up plenty of laughs, even if the premise itself is uninspired.
Director: Denzel Washington
Stars: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, and Stephen Henderson
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
This is where we reach a point in the rankings where everything starts to look like a good choice, it’s simply a question of what will be best. Denzel Washington’s adaptation of the play Fences is raking in great reviews, which should surprise absolutely no one. He is one of Hollywood’s best and most reliable actors. Here is working with great source material as well, although some questions remain regarding the adaptation.
Viola Davis may be the reason to check this one out though. If you’ve seen the trailer, then you know exactly why. The moment where she shouts “I’ve been standing here with you” is bone-chilling. Davis is a consummate professional and is clearly making an Oscar bid here. If you’re looking for some stellar performances to observe this Christmas, then look no further than Fences.
Director: Garth Jennings
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Seth MacFarlane
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%
This is bound to be the “go to” movie for families over Christmas and it looks like it will surely deliver on all of the promise in its premise. Watching trailers for this one, you can already tell the soundtrack features plenty of stellar (if obvious) picks. Hopefully the movie itself will find some deeper cuts for its cast to perform. The cast is the next big selling point. Every animal in this jam-packed movie is voiced by someone instantly recognizable.
The combination of music and charismatic characters alone should be enough to sell it, but it appears Sing will offer up a wild world that could stack up against Zootopia or The Secret Life of Pets. With animals from all walks of life, there should be a plot thread for everyone to be found here. If you’ve got young ones, then this is definitely the movie to check out on Christmas.
La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and John Legend
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
This is the Christmas release that really does have it all. Charming leads? Check. Beautiful filmmaking? Check. Stunning performances? Check. Fantastic soundtrack? Check. Uplifting themes? Check.
Whatever you’re looking for, La La Land is bound to deliver. Critics and audiences alike have said Hollywood doesn’t make movies like this one anymore, and it certainly seems to be a delightful return to form. This romantic musical about two young dreamers striving to make it as artists in L.A. soars above its concept and tells a story that’s deeply human. It’s the sort of film that will remind the grandparents why they go to the movies, teach the kids what cinema is capable of, and give everyone in between something to love.
If you’ve come this far, then look no further, La La Land is the movie of the season, a special holiday gift from Hollywood.