The 15 best films coming to Prime Video in December 2022

The 15 best films coming to Prime Video in December 2022

Comedy, horror, and classic cinema are all dropping on Prime Video for your holiday viewing pleasure

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Image collage of The Black Phone, La La Land, and The Ring
The Black Phone; La La Land; The Ring
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Courtesy of Lionsgate; Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures

If you didn’t get enough family time last week for Thanksgiving, December has arrived to double down on the family fun. Or, perhaps, you recently discovered you weren’t missing out much when it comes to family gatherings and would prefer to stay home and watch movies. Either way, Prime Video has some great horror, some cinema classics, and some just plain old great movies slated to drop this month, so let’s unwrap what’s coming…

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La La Land (Available December 8)

La La Land (Available December 8)

La La Land (2016 Movie) Official Trailer – ‘Dreamers’

You know what they say about haters, they’re gonna hate. And for people who just like to grouse about great films, there’s La La Land to keep you occupied until The Fabelmans lands on a streamer. A critical darling as well as an award winner, La La Land wears its musical heart on its sleeve as we meet Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone), two aspiring entertainers in modern-day Los Angeles. As these things go, the two have a “meet cute” which doesn’t go well only to have their paths cross as love starts to bloom. But what many forget about La La Land due to its vibrant colors and charming musical numbers is there’s a deep sadness that provides an undercurrent throughout the film. In an A- review of the film for The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd said it “rallies hard in the home stretch, culminating with a coda so pleasing but simultaneously bittersweet that shockwaves of feeling ripple backwards through the whole extravagant production.”

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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Available December 1)

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Available December 1)

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) Trailer Remastered HD

For some reason, the great author Mary Shelley has been popping up in onscreen conversations lately and, it’s nice to see. An early progenitor of science-fiction writing, Shelley’s most famous book, Frankenstein, has seen multiple cinematic adaptations that take the most basic aspect of the story and bring it to life, so to speak. But in 1994, fresh-faced upstart Kenneth Branagh decided to bring the real story adaptation to the screen, thus Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was born, with mixed results. On the plus side, he indeed digs deeper into Shelley’s version as Dr. Frankenstein (Branagh), a brilliant yet arrogant scientist who decides to tempt fate by reanimating the dead. The result is a monster (Robert DeNiro), but not the hulking, stilted version we’ve all grown used to. No, here as in Shelley’s novel, the monster has thoughts and deep feelings. He is also a bit miffed that the arrogance of Frankenstein brought him back to life, as he never asked for that. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein also has a great cast rounded out by Helena Bonham Carter, Aidan Quinn, and Tom Hulce, all working off a Frank Darabont script. The film’s an interesting misfire and in a review for Slant magazine, Rocco T. Thompson said, “De Niro is easily the best part of the film—plumbing the depths of the pitiable character and coming up with a soulfulness that’s so often missing from adaptations of this material.”

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The Quiet Man (Available December 1)

The Quiet Man (Available December 1)

The Quiet Man (1952) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

John Ford is on the mind of cinephiles of late and what better way to celebrate one of our great American directors than through his 1952 romantic drama The Quiet Man. The film stars John Wayne as former American boxer Sean Thornton who returns to his native Ireland where he falls for Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), a fiery red-headed lass. Unfortunately for Thornton, the small-town locals don’t take kindly to strangers moving in on their women and a divide is quickly set up as family and state seek to keep the two apart. Wayne is great in the lead role, a softer one that leans into The Duke’s underappreciated comic gifts. The film was also a smash hit earning John Ford his fourth Oscar for directing. Not only is The Quiet Man quite charming, it’s an excellent companion Ireland countryside film to The Banshees of Inishirin which is in theaters now. In a review of the film at Reel Views, James Berardinelli said, “The Quiet Man is most interesting because it offers fans of the cinema an opportunity to see a different side of John Wayne.”

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Paper Moon (Available December 1)

Paper Moon (Available December 1)

Paper Moon - Trailer

Before talking about 1973’s outstanding Peter Bogdanovich film Paper Moon, let’s quickly recap the young cinephile’s first few films. Bogdanovich started with Targets in 1968 and then went on to make The Last Picture Show (1971), What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and then Paper Moon and Daisy Miller in 1974. Granted, things got murky for the filmmaker after that but what a start! If you’ve never seen Paper Moon, you’re in for a treat. It stars Ryan O’Neal (who is also worth looking at in terms of his impressive early output) as con man Moses Pray. His accomplice is a 9-year-old, cigarette-smoking smartass named Addie, played by Tatum O’Neal, Ryan’s real-life daughter. Dare we note a trifecta of early successes before a fade out? Tatum won an Academy Award for Best Actress for this, her first performance. Set in Depression-era America, Bogdanovich pays homage to his hero, John Ford, by making a sweet and sour comedy drama firmly influenced by Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath. Roger Ebert, who adored Paper Moon, says the film is brilliant because it’s “a period piece that uses generic conventions only when they apply, so that we see the Depression through the eyes of characters who are allowed to be individuals.”

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The Ring (Available December 1)

The Ring (Available December 1)

The Ring (2002) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

2002’s The Ring holds up hardcore as a great and scary movie. The recent success of films like Smile (2022) or It Follows (2014) was all predicated on the idea of a cursed object grabbing hold of someone and giving them a time crunch to pass it on to someone else or suffer the consequences. The Ring is at the fore of that conceit. Yes, obviously The Ring was based on the J-horror classic Ringu (1998) so all props should be aimed there. However, The Ring was a much bigger hit and in many ways, a much better-realized film.

The movie trailer lays out the film’s premise easily: there’s a videotape filled with terrifying images. If you watch it, you will get a phone call foretelling your imminent death in exactly seven days. Naomi Watts plays skeptical journalist Rachel Keller who is asked to look into a recent death. She soon finds out there’s disturbing extenuating circumstances as the plot thickens in dark and creepy ways. A smash hit, the film also brought director Gore Verbinski and screenwriter Ehren Krueger to the masses (in some cases for better and for worse). In his review for The A.V. Club, Keith Phipps said “Gore Verbinski creates an air of dread that begins with the first scene and never lets up, subtly incorporating elements from the current wave of Japanese horror films along the way.”

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Kingpin (Available December 1)

Kingpin (Available December 1)

Kingpin Official Trailer #1 - Randy Quaid Movie (1996) HD

The Farrelly Brothers had a great run of gloriously idiotic gross-out comedies with Dumb and Dumber (1994), Kingpin (1996), and There’s Something About Mary (1998). Of those three, for some reason, 1996’s Kingpin always seems to be forgotten, which is odd as it’s very nearly as great as the other two. And, don’t try and throw in the Randy Quaid factor as Kingpin was made well before he left planet earth.

The film has one of the strangest plotlines you’ll find as it centers around once-great bowling champion Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) who, after losing his bowling hand to some angry mobsters, can’t seem to move on from the bowling circuit, especially when his nemesis Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) still haunts him. A chance encounter with Ishmael (Quaid), an Amish farmer and bowling professional in the making, gets Munson thinking that even though he may not be the bowler he once was, he can still bring another talent to greatness. Will Ishmael give up his simple life to chase someone else’s dream? The film seemed to turn off critics, but Roger Ebert understood the assignment, saying Kingpin is a very funny movie, and sometimes even funnier than that.”

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Cloverfield (Available December 1)

Cloverfield (Available December 1)

Cloverfield - Trailer [HD]

After a wishy-washy feature narrative debut with The Pallbearer (1996) filmmaker Matt Reeves kicked around in TV for a few years and got in good with J.J. Abrams by directing some Felicity episodes. This connection led to him directing 2008’s Drew Goddard-penned sci-fi monster shaky-cam hit Cloverfield, which Abrams produced. While the visual conceits of the film—namely use of what would appear to be a handheld camera shooting cinema verité style while pricey CGI happens in the background—has since been done to death, but Cloverfield was among the first to do it, with great results. The film still holds up even though once you see it, you’ll know what’s going on. But boy, that whole Abrams “Mystery Box” conceit was really fun back when it first started.

The basic plot of the film revolves around a group of friends who throw a surprise party for their buddy Rob (Michael Stahl-David) who has received a huge job promotion. They use a camcorder to record the party and this device becomes the lens through which the audience watches a giant monster attack and destroy New York City. Coming in at a sleek 1 hour and 25 minutes, Cloverfield announces Reeves as a legitimate filmmaker and shows that new technology can give life to cliché ideas. In his review for The A.V. Club, Keith Phipps gave the film an A-, saying it’s “absolutely terrifying, and it’s all the more effective for the way it lets viewers spend time getting to know the terrified stars, and the emotions and regrets behind their seemingly futile efforts to survive.”

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Igby Goes Down (Available December 1)

Igby Goes Down (Available December 1)

Igby Goes Down Official Trailer #1 - Jeff Goldblum Movie (2002) HD

2002’s Igby Goes Down is one of those underrated DVD shelf rentals that only the late 1990s/early 2000s could have birthed. Written and directed by Burr Steers (here’s some movie trivia: he played “Flock of Seagulls” in Pulp Fiction), the film wears its Catcher In The Rye meets Harold And Maude influences on its prep-school sleeve. Igby (Kieran Culkin) plays the titular character, a spoiled rich kid who, rather than be a phony, runs away instead of going to the fancy boarding school he is being forced to attend the following school year. He ventures into New York City, meets cute but troubled Sookie (Claire Danes), falls for sexy junkie Rachel (Amanda Peet), and manages to run afoul of his generous godfather D.H. (Jeff Goldblum) in the process. Yes, that’s a hell of a cast, and Ryan Phillipe and Susan Sarandon round it out, as does an excellent Jared Harris. This description isn’t doing Igby Goes Down the justice it deserves, as it’s a solid and interesting coming-of-age story. In his review for The A.V. Club, Scott Tobias said “writer-director Burr Steers’ auspicious black comedy Igby Goes Down is like a Larry Clark baby with breeding and a budget.”

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The Black Phone (Available December 13)

The Black Phone (Available December 13)

The Black Phone - Official Trailer

After “moving on” from the Dr. Strange franchise, writer/director Scott Derrickson got back to his horror roots with 2021’s creepy The Black Phone. Adapted from a so-so short story from writer Joe Hill, Derrickson and co-writer C. Robert Cargill build upon a very basic premise about a young boy named Finney (Mason Thames) who is kidnapped by a local serial killer nicknamed “The Grabber” (Ethan Hawke) and placed in a basement until The Grabber feels it’s time to put the kid out of his misery. While down there, Finney starts getting phone calls from, you guessed it, a black phone which isn’t hooked up to anything except the afterlife. The calls are from other victims of The Grabber and they provide Finney clues on how he might escape. What elevates the film from the source material is the way Cargill and Derrickson weave in a realistic-feeling backstory for Finney as well as his little sister. Themes of bullying and abuse run through the story and they might be almost as bad as The Grabber himself. This movie rips and Ethan Hawke is an outstanding villain. In a review for The Los Angeles Times, Katie Walsh praised the film’s “positively quaint moral at the center of a shockingly violent and scary movie.”

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To Catch A Thief (Available December 1)

To Catch A Thief (Available December 1)

To Catch a Thief Official Trailer - Cary Grant Movie (1955)

Widely considered “minor” Hitchcock, 1955’s To Catch A Thief is still a great watch mostly due to the fact that it stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly at the height of their most movie starry-est. Grant plays John Robie, a retired jewel thief living out his days on the French Riviera. However, recently, a string of heists begins around the coastline and Robie is the prime suspect as the crimes match his former M.O. Rather than leave it up to the police to find out who’s behind the burglaries, Robie decides he’s the best one to catch the thief as he can think like a thief does. Along the way, he strikes up a romance with an American socialite (Kelly) who becomes embroiled in the exciting investigation. To Catch A Thief is nowhere near top-tier Hitchcock, but many of his themes, his clever and witty filmmaking, and his excellent use of very beautiful people can’t be denied. In a review for The Times UK, Ed Potton said “It’s not one of Hitch’s most profound films, but it remains a twinkling, innuendo-laden pleasure, with Grant, Kelly and the French Riviera vying for your attention.”

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Ordinary People (Available December 1)

Ordinary People (Available December 1)

Ordinary People (1980) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

1980’s Ordinary People is a great film and an amazing acting showcase. It’s also the directorial debut of Robert Redford. Starring Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, and Judd Hirsh, Ordinary People details a family in crisis after the accidental death of their eldest son. As each family member seeks to deal with the loss, Moore’s Beth becomes edgier than ever as surviving son Conrad (Hutton) attempts suicide due to being overcome with grief. Meanwhile, patriarch Calvin (Sutherland) tries to hold it all together. Ordinary People is a heavy film but is ultimately a rewarding watch. Redford showed early skill as a subtle director and the film cleaned house at the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Hutton), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Alvin Sargent. In a four-star review, Roger Ebert said it “is an intelligent, perceptive, and deeply moving film.”

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Paranormal Activity (Available December 1)

Paranormal Activity (Available December 1)

“Paranormal Activity” - Official Trailer [HQ HD]

The holiday season is a great time to revisit the film that started it all for Jason Blum, 2009’s clever and scary horror film Paranormal Activity. Say what you will about the film and how it’s aged, but also wrap your head around the fact that it cost right around $15,000 to make and grossed nearly $200 million at the box office. Also notable is the trailer for the film, which found a way to tell people what a low-budget ghost movie was all about by showing the test audience watching the film and freaking out. This was brilliant marketing as it only gave a taste of what was happening in the film and also intrigued people to see a film with not a single recognizable actor in it. Director Oren Peli wields his consumer-grade camcorder brilliantly and even though this style (ok, gimmick) has been done to death now, this is one of the best uses of it ever. In a review for The Horror Show, Scott Weinberg called it a “subtle well-crafted chiller.”

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Young Sherlock Holmes (Available December 1)

Young Sherlock Holmes (Available December 1)

Young Sherlock Holmes - Trailer

If you’ve never seen 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes, you’re in for something special. A very weird something special. Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy, and Steven Spielberg produced the Barry Levinson-directed film off a Chris Columbus script. How’s that for a top-tier ’80s filmmaking dream team? As you may have pieced together from the title, Young Sherlock Holmes details an early adventure by the titular detective, this time involving murder and psychedelic freakouts. Yes, really. Nicholas Rowe plays Holmes and Alan Cox plays Watson in a kind of prequel where the two famous partners meet and quickly stumble into a mystery involving an Ancient Egyptian-worshipping cult, a human-powered airplane, and people getting dosed with a hallucinogenic that causes them to kill themselves while others are wrapped like a mummy before hot wax seals their fate. For as little-known as the film is, it’s actually a pretty great ’80s kids’ film with some dark edges. Also, for you trivia buffs, it features the first ever fully CGI character used in a movie. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert said, “The elaborate special effects also seem a little out of place in a Sherlock Holmes movie, although I’m willing to forgive them because they were fun.”

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Pet Sematary (Available December 1)

Pet Sematary (Available December 1)

Pet Sematary (1989) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Seeing as how the world is currently in a second or third Stephen King renaissance, now is a great time to revisit one of the better of the ’80s King movie adaptations, Mary Harron’s Pet Sematary. It really holds up, even though it’s covered in ooey-gooey ’80s gauze. The premise involves a young doctor named Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) who’s recently moved his family into the quiet backwoods of Maine to take a cushy job at a college. As soon as the family arrives, we see wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) has some reservations but is sticking by her man. At least the neighbor, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynn), is friendly enough, even though for some unknown reason he informs Louis of the healing powers in a nearby pet cemetery. Seriously, think about it. Why does Jud do this? Well, because it wouldn’t be much of a horror movie if he didn’t! Soon enough, the cemetery is put to use and horrific mayhem ensues. For a late ’80s movie, it sure packs in some indelible imagery and scenes that still break out the gooseflesh even in today’s overstimulated world. In a review for Film Freak Central, Bill Chambers praised Harron, saying the director “captures the autumnal chill that seeps out of the pages of the novel and into the reader’s skin.”

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Eight Men Out (Available December 1)

Eight Men Out (Available December 1)

EIGHT MEN OUT (1988) | Official Trailer | MGM

If you’re missing baseball, Prime Video has you covered for that early winter hankering with the classic 1988 film Eight Men Out. Written and directed by John Sayles, the film details the true story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, who were nicknamed “The Black Sox” after several of the players were caught betting against themselves and trying to intentionally lose the World Series. A study in the “haves and have nots,” Eight Men Out does a great job portraying Chicago in 1919, and the film also has an impressive cast which includes John Cusack, Michael Rooker, Charlie Sheen, Don Harvey and D.B. Sweeney at the apex of his doe-eyed ’80s self.

The film also does a great job explaining how and why some Sox players decided to do what they did, even though we all know it’s wrong. Some empathy is garnered as well as anger at some of the more greedy players and that’s a tricky line to successfully walk. Roger Moore recently revisited the film for Movie Nation and wrote “Sayles treats the story as a ‘loss of innocence’ parable, with cynical, predatory owners, predatory gangsters, cynical sports journalists (historian Studs Terkel played Hugh Fullerton, and Sayles himself was the legendary Ring Lardner) and naive but corruptible players misused by one and all.”

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