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5 films we can't wait to see: Here's Hollywood's holiday bounty

Tsireya in <em>Avatar: The Way of the Water</em>
20th Century Studios
Tsireya in Avatar: The Way of the Water

Sure, you want to snuggle by the fireplace as the weather turns cold. But it's Hollywood's job to lure you out of the house, so at this time of year, it trots out blockbusters, awards contenders, and star vehicles. Here are five to whet your appetite:

Avatar: The Way of Water

Even if nothing else were opening this season, Hollywood would be pumped about the sequel to the biggest box office smash of all time. In the works for more than a decade, it features much of the original cast (even those who played characters who died — Sigourney Weaver's back as a Na'vi teenager, for instance). Where the first Avatar marked big advances in film technology, director James Cameron claims this one will be even more eye-popping (and as the first of four planned sequels, it had better be.) December 16

Imani Pullum and Charmaine Bingwa in <em>Emancipation</em>
/ Apple TV+
Apple TV+
Imani Pullum and Charmaine Bingwa in Emancipation


Antoine Fuqua's Civil War epic takes its inspiration from the true story of a man who became a potent symbol for the abolitionist cause when photos of horrific whipping scars disfiguring his entire back were published in 1863. Will Smith stars — his first role after an Oscar ceremony where he won Best Actor and slapped Chris Rock. December 9

Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy and Diego Calva as Manny Torres in <em>Babylon.</em>
Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy and Diego Calva as Manny Torres in Babylon.


Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie star in La La Land director Damien Chazelle's comic take on the moment when silent film was giving way to talkies, and Hollywood debauchery was prompting talk of a Production Code. Brassy, boozy and gargantuan at three+ hours (reportedly down from a four-hour first cut), the comedy promises Jazz-era decadence writ large – murders, suicides, overdoses, rattlesnake wrestling and mountains of cocaine. December 23

Rooney Mara as Ona in <em>Women Talking</em>
Michael Gibson / Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures
Rooney Mara as Ona in Women Talking

Women Talking

Sunlight streams through slats in the walls of a barn where women and girls gather in Sarah Polley's compelling adaptation of Miriam Toews' 2018 novel about a remote, patriarchal religious colony. The women have long kept quiet about abuse at the hands of the colony's men – taught by their faith that it's not their place to question or challenge. But their abusers are unexpectedly in jail, and for the few hours before they've posted bail, the women have a chance to discuss what should come next. December 2

Bill Nighy as Williams in <em>Living</em>
Ross Ferguson / Number 9 films / Sony Pictures Classics
Number 9 films / Sony Pictures Classics
Bill Nighy as Williams in Living


Ramrod straight, tailored in bowler hat and pinstripe suit, Bill Nighy is Mr. Williams, a buttoned-up widower toiling in a public works office in post-World War II London. His days shuffling papers as head of a staff of six, are unvarying and pointless. His staff embodies bureaucratic inertia, with "skyscrapers" of papers piled atop desks, tasked with shuttling them (and the people who bring them) from department to department. An elegant, exquisitely sad retelling of Kurosawa's 1952 drama Ikiru (To Live), brimming with period detail, and gorgeous performances. December 23

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 26, 2022 at 10:00 PM MST
An earlier version of this story misstated the year and the name of Kurosawa's drama To Live, as Ikuru (1953). It is Ikiru (1952).
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.