Wondering what to watch over the Christmas weekend? For the last streaming update of 2023 it’s all killer and absolutely no filler.
Leading the pack is Tom Cruise’s mega-hit Top Gun: Maverick, one of the year’s highest grossing, highest flying action films, coming to Paramount+ just in time for Yuletide (along with one of the craziest promo videos to come out this year).
At the same time, the critically acclaimed The Banshees of Inisherin, the latest award-tipped dark comedy from writer-director Martin McDonagh, starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as newly estranged friends, comes to Disney+.
Read more: The best movies of 2022
Lastly is Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, following up the witty and subversive whodunnit from Rian Johnson with a brand new all-star cast of suspects for renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to sus out (not to mention that you can catch up on the excellent previous film this week too, as Knives Out lands on the service).
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Top Gun: Maverick (2022) | Paramount+ (pick of the week)
Even 36 years later the need for speed hasn’t dulled with Top Gun, as Joseph Kosinski – having directed another belated sequel to an 80s blockbuster in Tron Legacy – delivers the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick.
Maverick (Tom Cruise) has moved on from being a fighter pilot and become a test pilot with the film opening on a bravura sequence in which he pushes a jet from Mach 9 to Mach 10. Of course, his history of bristling at authority gets him in trouble yet again, but instead of a demotion he’s called back to the Top Gun flight school to train a new generation of hot shot pilots for a mission in a (conspicuously) undisclosed nation.
Watch a trailer for Top Gun: Maverick
It’s not long before the realisation sets in that Kosinski and Cruise are set to blow the original Top Gun out of the water, with daring action that reaches utterly unbelievable heights, enabled by the film’s commitment to believability. Part of that comes from actually putting the actors in the jets, and the film makes sure to capture the physical strain of piloting through immense G force. Its various training sequences are exhilarating already, before the film throws in the utter chaos of its final act.
Read more: The best movies on TV over Christmas
With that commitment Cruise once again sets out to prove that he’s the Last Movie Star™, a title which at this point no other actor has gone so far as to try and claim. The result is probably the most well made military propaganda the US box office has seen in years. To concern oneself with the dubious jingoistic politics of Top Gun: Maverick is to also deny oneself a pretty thrilling good time with one of 2022’s biggest films.
Also on Paramount+: The Lost City (2022), Snow Day (2022)
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) | Netflix
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out came as a delightful surprise in 2019, a welcome return to the twisty, smaller-scale genre flicks the filmmaker made his name on before the sharp space opera of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Knives Out’s stunningly successful theatrical run made the purchase of the IP by Netflix both a surprise and something of a minor disappointment, as the provider is seemingly determined to keep their movies out of the cinema as much as possible.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in December
Still, the news of a sequel was regardless welcome. The format lends itself to a lot of possibilities for expansion with Daniel Craig’s deep fried accent work as the bumbling detective Benoit Blanc working through the potentially murderous relationships between different hosts of self-involved socialites. In Glass Onion, it’s the cadre of a Elon Musk type billionaire, as Blanc is accidentally summoned to his gaudy private island for a yearly getaway that he hosts for his friends.
Watch a trailer for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Blanc isn’t the only uninvited guest however, and of course, someone dies, and it’s up to Blanc to figure out who planned it. Glass Onion as a whole finds some slight diminishing returns on its predecessor as it stacks up one too many celebrity cameos and draws out a fairly slight mystery over too much runtime, it doesn’t help that in the film’s intentionally distasteful setting that it doesn’t quite have the same rustic visual appeal of the autumnal setting and country house of the last film.
But its dialogue is still razor sharp and its social satire surprisingly well-timed, and a cozy, funny mystery film in its own right.
Also new on Netflix: Knives Out (2019), Mothering Sunday (2021)
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) | Disney+
After hitting a bit of a hurdle with his previous film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (a misfire in its attempt to get at racial politics and American policing that only ended up minimising and insulting, despite winning awards) Martin McDonagh is back on his best form with The Banshees of Inisherin.
Colin Farrell brings his expertise at playing miserable losers in his incredible, heartbreaking performance as the oafish Pádraic, who finds himself devastated when his buddy Colm (Brendan Gleeson, wondrously cruel) suddenly and inexplicably ends their lifelong friendship.
Read more: The best Christmas TV specials to stream
After much pestering, Colm warns Pádraic not to talk to him lest there be consequences: he’ll cut off one of his fingers and give it to him. The resulting personal squabble pulls in some of the locals of the fictional setting of the isle of Inisherin, where there’s little else to do in its remoteness, taking place at the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923.
Watch a trailer for The Banshees of Inisherin
McDonagh extrapolates their fight as an allegory for said war with incredibly mixed results, but The Banshees of Inisherin is really just better when you take the film at face value. The performances from its leads are excellent, hysterically funny and frequently devastating, as are those from supporting performers Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan — the latter of whom plays a well-meaning dolt compared to his usual little menaces.
Also on Disney+: Strange World (2022), Barbarian (2022)