Top Gun: Maverick to Glass Onion – the best films to watch over the festive period

<span>Photograph: Paramount Pictures/AP</span>
Photograph: Paramount Pictures/AP

Film of the week

Top Gun: Maverick

Thirty-six years after his last dogfight, Tom Cruise returns to the skies as flyboy Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in this exhilarating action sequel. The ever-rebellious Maverick returns to San Diego’s Fighter Weapons School to train graduates for a dangerous mission, including Rooster (Miles Teller), the son of his dead friend Goose. There are callbacks aplenty to the first film, from Cruise on his motorbike to the rock soundtrack to a broad-brush romance (here with Jennifer Connolly’s bar owner) and the flying sequences are razor-sharp.
Thursday 22 December, Paramount+


Meet Me in St Louis

Vincente Minnelli’s chocolate box of a musical is a sweet treat, with cracking songs – The Trolley Song, The Boy Next Door and the surprisingly melancholic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Various romantic ups and downs weave their way through a year in the life of the St Louis-based Smith family, in particular Judy Garland’s all-singing Esther, while the shadow of the family relocating to New York hangs over the build-up to the 1904 World’s Fair. Despite an array of production difficulties, on screen all is gaiety and big-budget splendour.
Saturday 17 December, 2.20pm, BBC Two


A Star Is Born

Every generation gets its version of this rags-to-riches tale, and gen Z’s boasts the splendid Lady Gaga, following in the footsteps of Garland and Streisand. Bradley Cooper – also the director and co-writer – co-stars as over-the-hill, alcoholic country singer Jackson, who discovers Gaga’s singing waitress Ally. He immediately sees her potential, they start writing together and then they fall in love. However, the less Ally needs him, the more Jackson resents her fame. A remake that has fascinating things to say about the power balance in relationships.
Sunday 18 December, 10pm, BBC Two


Back to the Future

Back to the Future.
Back to the Future. Photograph: Snap Stills/REX

Fire up the DeLorean and crack out your best Chuck Berry shuffle, Marty McFly is back with the 80s’ greatest time-travelling comedy (and its sequels, on Tuesday and Wednesday). Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd make a great comic team, as 1985’s Marty (Fox) returns to 1955 – courtesy of a time machine invented by Doc (Lloyd) – and inadvertently interferes with the courtship of his parents (Crispin Glover and Leah Thompson). A witty spin on the high school movie, with a heavy dose of 50s nostalgia and a star-making turn from the affable Fox.
Monday 19 December, 2.45pm, ITV1


The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau’s 2016 reworking of Rudyard Kipling’s tale used advances in photorealistic animal animation to bring real verve and danger to the India-set adventure. Neel Sethi plays orphaned boy Mowgli, happily living with a pack of wolves until the feared tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) threatens his life. Comic relief is provided by Bill Murray as Baloo – who unexpectedly belts out the old Disney number The Bare Necessities – while Christopher Walken brings a bizarre touch of Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz to ape king Louie.
Tuesday 20 December, 2.45pm, BBC One


Shiva Baby

College student Danielle (Rachel Sennott) reluctantly attends a shiva – a Jewish funeral wake – with her parents, only to find her secret sugar-daddy lover Max (Danny Deferrari) is also in attendance with his wife and baby. Oh, and Danielle’s ex-girlfriend Maya (Booksmart’s Molly Gordon) is there, too … Emma Seligman’s cutting comedy uses the claustrophobic setting of the communal gathering to ramp up the tension, while critiquing the roles given to young women today.
Tuesday 20 December, 11.20pm, Film4


Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast. Photograph: Disney/AP

“Beauty is found within,” is the sensible message of Bill Condon’s unashamedly romantic live-action version of the fairytale – though it helps if your beau turns into Dan Stevens in the end. Emma Watson brings Hermione’s practicality (and a decent singing voice) to French bookworm Belle, who bonds with her furry captor over a shared love of literature. Ewan McGregor (candelabra), Ian McKellen (clock) and Emma Thompson (teapot) provide comic relief as the animated household appliances, while Be Our Guest, with its Busby Berkeley stylings, is the standout number on the soundtrack.
Wednesday 21 December, 2.45pm, BBC One



His jubilee audience with the Queen brought him unexpected prominence after her death, but Michael Bond’s accident-prone Peruvian immigrant has already become a Christmas fixture. In this masterful 2014 comedy, the CGI bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) charms his adopted family – led by Hugh Bonneville and Sally Hawkins – after coming to London to track down the explorer who met his family in the rainforest. Mild menace comes in the shape of chilly taxidermist Millicent Clyde (Nicole Kidman). The sequel can be found on Friday 23 December on BBC One at 3.35pm.
Thursday 22 December, 3.15pm, BBC One



The highest-grossing James Bond film ever, Sam Mendes’s cyber thriller features Judi Dench’s final flourish as M, a luscious theme tune from Adele and one of the most entertainingly preposterous villains in Javier Bardem’s ex-MI6 operative Raoul Silva. Istanbul, Shanghai and Macau are the main stopovers for Daniel Craig’s embattled agent, while Bond’s Scottish ancestral home provides another window into the personal life of the spy – an angle that has defined Craig’s time as 007.
Thursday 22 December, 8pm, ITV1


Film pick

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Daniel Craig and Janelle Monáe in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Daniel Craig and Janelle Monáe in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Photograph: John Wilson/AP

After the deserved success of his Agatha Christie homage Knives Out, it was inevitable that Rian Johnson would bring back Daniel Craig’s private eye Benoit Blanc for another starry whodunnit. Cleverly, Johnson sets the new case at a murder mystery weekend, hosted on his private island by Edward Norton’s Miles Bron, co-founder of a tech company with Janelle Monáe’s Andi. Blanc turns up after receiving an invitation that wasn’t meant for him but soon becomes involved in a real murder investigation. There are a host of suspects for him to question, from Kathryn Hahn’s Connecticut politician and Kate Hudson’s leisurewear designer to Dave Bautista’s men’s rights influencer. And then there’s Andi, who’s not on the best of terms with Miles … It’s all great fun, with a plot that’s suitably labyrinthine and a cast clearly loving it.
Friday 23 December, Netflix


Shaun the Sheep Movie

In the WGCU (Wallace & Gromit Cinematic Universe), Shaun the Sheep is the equivalent of Marvel’s Loki or Star Wars’ Rogue One, a quality spin-off from a much-loved franchise. For his first big-screen outing – and in similar fashion to the Babe sequel – Shaun finds himself in the Big City after the farmer goes missing. He’s joined by the rest of the flock and Bitzer the dog, and they have to pose as humans while seeking their owner. Aardman’s Heath Robinson approach to both plot and design is, as ever, a delight, and gives the film a distinctively British feel.
Friday 23 December, 9.55am, BBC One


The Duke

The Duke.
The Duke. Photograph: Album/Alamy

The late Roger Michell’s final drama is an engaging tale of the little man against the system, a kind of modern-day Ealing comedy. Jim Broadbent is a hearty presence as Kempton Bunton, a Newcastle taxi driver whose campaign to exempt pensioners from having to pay the TV licence fee leads him, in 1961, to steal a Goya portrait from London’s National Gallery and ransom it until his demands are met. Helen Mirren plays his exasperated wife Dorothy in a witty, quirky true story.
Christmas Eve, 1.15pm, 10.55pm, Sky Cinema Premiere


Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

The third in the Wizarding World prequels shifts focus from Eddie Redmayne’s creature-loving Newt to Dumbledore (Jude Law). With the manipulative dark wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp) politicking to destroy the muggle world, Dumbledore recruits an expert team including Newt and his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) to stop him. Always visually inventive, director David Yates keeps all the narrative plates spinning in anticipation of further films, which may or may not be conjured up.
Christmas Day, 12.30pm, 8pm, Sky Cinema Premiere



Aladdin. Photograph: Entertainment Pictures/Alamy

Guy Ritchie’s action-filled take on the Disney animation is revisionist in its casting – with fine actors of mostly Arabic origin – but otherwise hoves to the comedy musical template of the 1992 original. Mena Massoud is a charming Aladdin, the thief with a talent for parkour and pickpocketing, who falls for Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and faces off with evil vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Will Smith has the hardest task – emulating Robin Williams as the Genie – but manages to put his stamp on the part.
Christmas Day, 3.10pm, BBC One


Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins.
Mary Poppins. Photograph: Moviestore collection Ltd/Alamy

Emily Blunt did the character proud in Mary Poppins Returns, but the magical nanny will always belong to Julie Andrews. She’s spit spot-on as the mysterious visitor who entertains and educates her two wayward young charges, Jane and Michael Banks, while helping their distant banker father reconnect with them. Dick Van Dyke provides the energy as cockernee chimney sweep Bert, while the songs, by Richard and Robert Sherman, are consistently wonderful – from A Spoonful of Sugar to Chim Chim Cher-ee and, of course, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Boxing Day, 2.25pm, BBC One


The Mitchells vs the Machines

The Mitchells vs the Machines.
The Mitchells vs the Machines. Photograph: AP

This terrific animated adventure from Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe tackles the pleasures and perils of social media. Abbi Jacobson voices the Mitchells’ teenage daughter Katie, a budding film-maker who struggles to relate to her outdoorsy dad Rick (Danny McBride). It takes a “machine apocalypse” of robot digital assistants, led by Olivia Colman’s bitter smartphone, to bring them back together. Witty and creative, the film layers colourful emojis and filters over the action, revelling in big tech’s possibilities while warning of its limitless power.
Boxing Day, 3.30pm, ITV1



Martin Scorsese has said he copied the snappy, freewheeling style of the French Nouvelle Vague for his scintillating mob drama. It certainly gives a fresh look to a crime subgenre usually in the shadow of The Godfather. Ray Liotta stars in the fact-based story of Henry Hill, a teenager drawn into the Brooklyn mafia. His bosses, Jimmy the Gent (Robert De Niro) and the hair-trigger Tommy (a truly terrifying Joe Pesci), are his gateway to easy money and a flashy lifestyle – but the criminals’ paranoia about betrayal and retribution proves their achilles heel.
Boxing Day, 10.15pm, BBC Two