10 Films in Theaters to Watch This Thanksgiving

2:45 PM 11/23/2016

by THR Staff

From 'Lion' to 'Moana,' these are THR's picks for the best movies to catch up on over the holiday weekend.

'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,' 'Moana' and 'The Edge of Seventeen'
'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,' 'Moana' and 'The Edge of Seventeen'
Courtesy of Warner Bros; Disney; STX Productions

  • Moonlight

    Release Date: Oct. 21

    David Bornfriend/A24

    Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, takes viewers on the journey through three chapters (9 years old, a teenager and lastly as an adult) of a gay black man's life (Trevante Rhodes) as he struggles to find himself while growing up in Miami at the height of the 1980s crack epidemic.

    Writes David Rooney, "All the clichés of the coming-of-age movie have been peeled away, leaving something quite startling in its emotional directness. And though the movie is never sentimental, while watching you become aware how rarely we get to see black male characters onscreen in such an emotionally revealing light...this is a film that will strike plangent chords for anyone who has ever struggled with identity, or to find connections in a lonely world. It announces Jenkins as an important new voice."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Doctor Strange

    Release Date: Nov. 4

    Courtesy of Marvel

    The Benedict Cumberbatch-led film is a vigorous start for another Marvel franchise, notes Todd McCarthy.

    He writes, "A '60s cult figure stuck on the periphery of the Marvel Comics universe for 50 years finally spins into orbit to command the world's attention in Doctor Strange, an engaging, smartly cast and sporadically eye-popping addition to the studio's bulging portfolio. Determined, among other things, to beat Christopher Nolan at his own game when it comes to folding, bending and upending famous cityscapes to stupendous effect, this action movie ostensibly rooted in the mind-expanding tenets of Eastern mysticism is different enough to establish a solid niche alongside the blockbuster combine's established money machines."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Arrival

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    Paramount Pictures

    Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star in Denis Villeneuve's sci-fil thriller about a linguistic expert (Adams) who is recruited to communicate with aliens who have landed their spacecraft on Earth.

    Writes David Rooney, " How refreshing to watch an alien contact movie in which no cities are destroyed or monuments toppled, and no adversarial squabbling distracts the human team from the challenges of their complex interspecies encounter. Anchored by an internalized performance from Amy Adams rich in emotional depth, this is a grownup sci-fi drama that sustains fear and tension while striking affecting chords on love and loss."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

    Release Date: Nov. 11

    Ang Lee's war film raises the bar of visual storytelling starring newcomer Joe Alwyn as an Iraq War hero brought home to the U.S. temporarily for a victory tour where America's celebrity and patriotism contrast with the realities of war. The film is a literary adaptation of Ben Fountain's 2012 novel.

    David Rooney writes that the film is, "an absorbing character study, even if it's ultimately not one that justifies its much-vaunted technological advances

    Read THR's full review here.

  • The Edge of Seventeen

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    STX/Screenshot

    Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick star in James L. Brooks' coming-of-age film about a teenage girl whose brother starts dating her best friend.

    Writes Jon Frosch, "Fast, full-hearted and graced with a beautifully modulated lead turn by Hailee Steinfeld, the movie takes the risk of playing it straight and sincere — and the risk pays off."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros.

    The Harry Potter spin-off (directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling) topped competitors its opening week, landing at No. 1 at the box office with a domestic gross of $75 million.

    John DeFore calls it a "very-much-in-the-spirit new addition to the Potter mythology. ... Much of the film's big wizarding-politics material will be appreciated mostly by those who thirst for ever more backstory in Rowling's universe. It will doubtless be useful as the franchise progresses, though — the main villain, Gellert Grindelwald, makes the kind of teasing appearance at the end that promises a long Voldemort-like story arc. Whether or not the ensemble chemistry ever clicks to the extent it did for Harry, Hermione and Ron, Rowling clearly has an endless supply of lore left to share with those invested in her world."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Release Date: Nov. 18

    Claire Folger

    Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges star in a drama about a broken and grief-stricken New England family.

    Todd McCarthy writes that the film is director Kenneth Lonergan's "most impressive and deeply felt screen performance to date." Adds McCarthy, "A wrenching family tragedy is dramatized with the depth of a high-quality American stage piece."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Moana

    Release Date: Nov. 23

    Courtesy of Disney

    Boosted by songs co-written by Hamilton sensation Lin-Manuel Miranda, this colorful Polynesian animated excursion from Disney is appealing equally to the eyes, ears, heart and funny bone.

    Michael Rechtshaffen notes, "Moana represents contemporary Disney at its finest — a vibrantly rendered adventure that combines state-of-the-art CG animation with traditional storytelling and colorful characters, all enlivened by a terrific voice cast (from Dwayne Johnson and young newcomer Auli'i Cravalho). ... While the studio may have in the past faced criticism for whitewashing cultural storylines, both the look of the film’s characters and the accompanying voice casting have been carried out with notable sensitivity."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Bad Santa

    Release Date: Nov. 23

    Jan Thijs/Broad Green Pictures/Miramax

    The long-gestating sequel to the Christmas-themed black comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton arrives in time for the holidays like an outcast uncle making an impromptu visit.

    Writes Justin Lowe, "It’s been more than a dozen years since the introduction of Bad Santa’s obnoxiously unrepentant brand of holiday humor, but if anything, the follow-up outdoes its predecessor’s penchant for free-fire insult comedy. ... Even more inappropriate physical gags, foul-mouthed dialogue and outrageous situations all contribute to raising the stakes, as director Mark Waters pushes the cast to amiably outdo the original. The creative team doesn’t skimp on the holiday trimmings, either — from the awful sweaters to the overly angelic choir performances, the film is overloaded with quirky Christmas spirit, even throwing in a raucous Santa convention at the finale."

    Read THR's full review here.

  • Lion

    Release Date: Nov. 25 (Limited)

    Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

    Dev Patel stars in the film based on the incredible true story of Saroo Brierley and his tenacious quest to find the family from whom he was separated 25 years earlier. Lion hits select theaters in Los Angeles and New York this weekend before opening nationwide. 

    David Rooney praises Patel's "tremendously moving" performance as the "resilient soul" of the film, directed by Dev Patel. 

    He writes, "Comparisons no doubt will be made with the film that launched Patel's career, Slumdog Millionaire, and the early sections of this sprawling drama do in fact recall the Dickensian depiction of life for poor children in India in Danny Boyle's 2009 Oscar winner. But that movie was an exhilarating, high-energy fairy tale, while Lion is something quite different — a sober and yet profoundly stirring contemplation of family, roots, identity and home, which engrosses throughout the course of its two-hour running time. ... The restraint and authentic feeling Davis brings to the material underscores at all times that Saroo’s amazing story is quite unique."

    Read THR's full review here.

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