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Kids' Holiday Movie Guide 2016

Common Sense Media logo Common Sense Media 10/31/2016 Frannie Ucciferri

The holidays are a big time for movie fans, with many of the year's biggest releases coming out during the months of November and December. This year, our Holiday Movie Guide is loaded with big-budget spin-offs like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Harry Potter!), Marvel's Doctor Strange, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And little kids are in luck, too, with toe-tapping, family-friendly films like Trolls, Moana, and Sing heading their way.

There's truly something for everyone this season. Use our guide to decide which movies your family will want to see together over the holidays -- and which ones to skip. And be sure to check back when these movies hit theaters for our detailed ratings and reviews!

For more recommendations check out the Kids' Holiday Movie Guide 2017.

  • November movies
  • December movies

NOVEMBER MOVIES

  • Doctor Strange
  • Loving
  • Trolls
  • Almost Christmas
  • Arrival
  • The Edge of Seventeen
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Moana
  • Rules Don't Apply
  • Lion

Doctor Strange (11/4)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?Doctor Strange is another addition to the rapidly expanding Marvel cinematic universe (The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy). After his career as a brilliant neurosurgeon ends in horrific car crash, the egotistical Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) begins a journey that leads him to the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and the sorcerer Baron Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Strange must set aside his selfish ways to master the secrets of the mystics and alternate realities to become the next Sorcerer Supreme -- and defeat a powerful enemy. Kids and teens flock to Marvel films for their action-packed adventures; you can expect violence and peril in this one, too, as well as more mysticism and sorcery in what looks to be a darker origin story.

Loving (11/4)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Loving is a drama based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), an interracial couple who fell in love and got married in Virginia in 1958, despite the fact that their union was illegal in the state at the time. After the Lovings are arrested and exiled from the state, their struggle to return to their hometown becomes a larger fight for equality that goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Jeff Nichols' film, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to lots of buzz, looks to be an inspiring celebration of courage and love.


Trolls (11/4)
Target age: Kids
What's the buzz?Trolls is a digitally animated musical comedy from DreamWorks inspired by the tall-haired troll dolls but with more funky adventures than '60s nostalgia. The story follows an unlikely pair of troll heroes, the overly optimistic Princess Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) and her grumpy opposite, Branch (Justin Timberlake), who journey beyond their world and face the ugly, troll-eating Bergens. The voice cast also includes the likes of Zooey Deschanel, John Cleese, and James Corden. Some jokes might rely on potty humor or else go over kids' head entirely, but overall Trolls looks like a quirky, family-friendly movie.

Almost Christmas (11/11)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Almost Christmas doesn't appear to stray far from the formula for dysfunctional-family holiday movies: For the first time since his wife's death, Walter (Danny Glover) gathers his whole family together for Thanksgiving, begging them to put aside their fighting for a few days. But it's not long before they fall into chaos, attacking each other with everything from a fire extinguisher to a shotgun. Eventually they find a way to honor their mother and come together in the spirit of the holidays, but probably not before viewers encounter a fair bit of suggestive humor, drinking, and strong language.

Arrival (11/11)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Arrival is a science-fiction story that focuses on an expert linguist called in to help communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the government to lead an expedition to investigate the alien vessels and find out whether they come in peace -- or whether humankind is on the verge of a global war. Expect some scariness and action violence.

The Edge of Seventeen (11/18)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?The Edge of Seventeen is a high school dramedy about how painfully awkward it is to be a teen. Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) feels like her life is over when her annoyingly popular older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner), starts dating her best friend, Krista (Hailey Lu Richardson). Nadine feels abandoned by her best friend, as well as by her unsympathetic teacher, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), and inattentive mother (Kyra Sedgwick), who favors Darian anyway. Teens will likely be drawn to Steinfeld's realistic, brutally honest portrayal of Nadine, which looks like it will be instantly relatable to anyone who's ever felt awkward as a teen. But expect some racy content, including sexual behavior, underage partying, and strong language.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (11/18)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is based on J.K. Rowling's original story about Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the author of a Hogwarts textbook that describes various beasts and dragons. The movie follows Newt's adventures in New York's secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter first arrived at Hogwarts. As in the Harry Potter movie saga, there may be some action and violence to watch out for as Newt searches for his misplaced magical creatures in the No-Maj (American for "Muggle") world.

Moana (11/23)
Target age: Kids
What's the buzz? Disney's Moana follows an adventurous girl from the Pacific Islands (voiced by newcomer/Native Hawaiian Auli'i Cravalho). Guided by a large, tattooed demigod named Maui (Dwayne Johnson), Moana sails out on an epic quest to become a master wayfinder like her ancestors and save her people. Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker -- the filmmaking team behind family favorites such as Aladdin and The Princess and the Frog -- Moana promises to combine lots of laughs with classic Disney heart to entertain kids and parents alike. But expect some action sequences and monsters that might be too scary for the littlest kids.

Rules Don't Apply (11/23)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Rules Don't Apply is a romantic dramedy set in Hollywood in 1958. A young, sheltered actress named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) arrives in Hollywood under contract to eccentric real-life billionaire/film tycoon Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). Sparks fly instantly between Marla and her driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), even though she's Baptist and he's Methodist -- and engaged. Not to mention, Hughes expressly forbids his employees from having relationships with the actresses. Marla and Frank find their beliefs tested not only by each other but by Hughes' own odd behavior and romantic overtures toward Marla. Teens might be interested in the movie's star-studded cast (Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen), but expect drinking, kissing, and sexual situations.

Lion (11/25)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Lion is based on the incredible memoir A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (portrayed by Dev Patel), who used modern technology to reunite with his birth family in India after a 25-year separation. After accidentally boarding the wrong train and traveling hundreds of miles from home, 5-year-old Saroo becomes lost on the hectic streets of Calcutta. Eventually, he's adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham), but he never forgets the family he lost. Decades later, Saroo begins a desperate search, painstakingly piecing together memories, rail maps, and Google Earth images to find his way home. This emotional movie looks like it will be OK for teens, but younger kids might not be able to handle the main storyline of a lost child, as well as the harrowing scenes of young Saroo struggling to survive alone for months in Calcutta.

DECEMBER MOVIES

  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Assassin's Creed
  • Passengers
  • Patriots Day
  • Sing
  • A Monster Calls
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures

La La Land (12/9)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?La La Land is a Hollywood-set romance starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who first played opposite each other in Crazy, Stupid, Love). Mia (Stone), an aspiring actress/barista, meets Sebastian (Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist, and they immediately begin an intense love affair. Sparks fly, but the characters come to find that the difficulties of launching a career in Hollywood could force them to choose between their dreams and their relationship. The movie looks like it might be a fine pick for teens, though you can probably expect some strong language, as well as kissing and romance.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12/16)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a stand-alone adventure that takes place before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. In fact, the opening crawl of Episode IV hints at its plot: A group of Rebel spies sets out on a mission to steal secret plans to the evil Empire's catastrophic weapon, the Death Star. The Rebels are led by the feisty rogue fighter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the latest female action hero to come out of a galaxy far, far away. Although the Star Wars franchise is popular with fans of all ages, this installment may be more appropriate for older kids, as it focuses on the realities of war, including violence, peril, and heroes with murky morals.

Assassin's Creed (12/21)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?Assassin's Creed is based on the wildly popular video game by the same name (and its sequels). The games are known for their cinematic quality and intense violence, so expect the movie to follow in their footsteps. As in the games, historical fiction meets science fiction when a descendant of a secret medieval society called the Assassins uses revolutionary technology to access genetic memories and live out his ancestors' adventures. In this case, former criminal Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is recruited to unlock the memories of an Assassin during the Spanish Inquisition so the society can gain the necessary skills to take down their enemies, the Templar Order, in present day. The popularity of the game series will likely attract teens and tweens to the movie, but it could well be too violent for younger viewers.

Passengers (12/21)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Passengers is a sci-fi adventure starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as travelers on a colonization spacecraft on a 120-year voyage to carry thousands of people to a faraway planet. But just a few decades into their journey, a hibernation pod malfunction accidentally awakens Jim Preston (Pratt). Faced with the prospect of living and dying completely alone during the long journey, he rouses fellow passenger Aurora Dunn (Lawrence) for company. They find themselves put to the test when another glitch threatens to wake up everyone else, putting the entire journey in jeopardy. There's likely to be both action and some romance, but Pratt and Lawrence are both hugely popular with teens and tweens thanks to The Hunger Games, Guardians of the Galaxy, the latest X-Men trilogy, and Jurassic World, so expect them to be interested in this film, too.

Patriots Day (12/21)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz?Patriots Day is based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the series of events that followed. It tells the story of Boston Police Department Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) as he handles the attacks and the resulting manhunt through the suburbs around Boston. Another key figure in the movie is Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a composite character based on several real-life Boston police officers. Expect the film to be too violent for younger audiences. Families affected by the attacks could also be particularly sensitive to the story, but for some parents of teens, the movie could provide an opportunity to talk about tragic current events and violence in the news.


Sing (12/21)
Target age: Kids
What's the buzz?Sing is an animated comedy that looks like a mash-up between Zootopia and American Idol. In a world where animals walk, talk, wear clothes, and -- yes -- sing, Buster, a koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), proposes a singing competition in a last-ditch effort to save his theater. Animals from near and far gather to vie for the prize money, including a gorilla trying to get out of his father's gang (Taron Egerton), a suburban mama pig (Reese Witherspoon), and even a gambling mouse (Seth MacFarlane). Some of the humor might not be appropriate for the littlest kids, but overall Sing looks like a movie that kids and parents will be able to enjoy together.

A Monster Calls (12/23)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?A Monster Calls is about a giant yew tree that haunts a boy dealing with his mother's terminal illness. Menacing but also protective, fierce, and funny, the tree makes young Conor's pain more bearable by giving him something tangible to fight against. The movie stars Liam Neeson as the Monster, Lewis MacDougall as Conor, Felicity Jones as his mother, and Sigourney Weaver as Grandma. Teens will likely be drawn to this book-based fantasy drama about love and loss.

Fences (12/25)
Target age: Teens
What's the buzz? Denzel Washington directs and stars in Fences, the film adaptation of August Wilson's Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. The movie reunites the stars of the play's 2010 Broadway revival, including Washington as Troy, a father and former baseball player struggling to support his family as a trash collector, and Viola Davis as his wife, Rose. The story examines race relations during the 1950s, as well as relationships between Troy and his family, which are strained by Troy's affair and child with another woman and his refusal to let his son play football due to racial discrimination. Expect drinking and profanity, including racial slurs, in this thought-provoking drama that will likely be best for teens and up.

Hidden Figures (12/25)
Target age: Tweens and teens
What's the buzz?Hidden Figures tells the true, little-known story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and '60s and played a major role in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) worked as engineers and "human computers" to push the limits of mathematics -- as well as the limits of race and gender in the scientific community. Expect a little bit of romance and a look at the racial tensions of the civil rights era in this drama that promises to provide some great, real-life role models for girls and people of color in STEM fields.

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