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28 of December’s best streaming debuts

Recent movies, new TV series, and classics: These are the streaming offerings most worth your precious viewing hours.

Netflix/BBC America/Marvel/AMC

Every month sees a glut of movies and television shows making their streaming debuts, across a huge range of platforms — it can be overwhelming just keeping track of what’s out there, never mind making time to actually watch it all. So in the interest of helping you curate your entertainment consumption, every month, we here at Vox Culture comb through the new offerings to highlight what’s most worth your precious viewing hours.

From recent movies and TV shows to new original series and classic films, here are December 2017’s best new streaming options, broken down by premiere date and platform. Happy watching!

Premiering December 1

Dark season 1, Netflix

Netflix’s first German-language drama is appealingly eerie through its first few episodes, with its tale of disappearing children, secrets hidden in the woods, and long-buried small town mysteries. It’s supernatural-ish without being too supernatural, hoping to walk the same sort of line that early Lost and Twin Peaks did, right down to the very loose relationship with time. Will it be able to sustain that tone over 10 hours of its first season? We’ll just have to see. —Todd VanDerWerff

Exporting Raymond, Netflix

The wildly successful sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond received the most unlikely tribute of them all when its co-creator, Phil Rosenthal, was asked to visit Russia to help translate the show for a new audience, in a brand new version, starring Russian actors and written to reflect Russian concerns. The always engaging Rosenthal made the trip to Moscow, and his travelogue is a lot of fun, and weirdly timely in an era when it’s always good to remember Russians love family sitcoms too. —TV

Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady, HBO Now

If you don’t know Michelle Wolf from her time at The Daily Show taking on the ins and outs of sexism, her first standup special is about to hit HBO. The combination of Wolf’s thick Midwestern accent and acerbic asides can make watching her comedy something of a jarring experience — a fact she, looking out at her audience with a giant grin, clearly relishes. —Caroline Framke

Titanic, Amazon Prime

Celebrate Titanic’s 20th anniversary by indulging in the nostalgia of a good old-fashioned historical weepy. Prepare to put aside all aesthetic objections to a screenplay that is made up almost entirely of repeated cries of “Jack! Jack!” and “Rose! Rose!” Instead, surrender to some stunningly immersive production design and the dazzling charisma of two of the best movie stars of their generation at the beginning of their careers. —Constance Grady

The Young Victoria, Netflix

If Meghan Markle’s engagement to Prince Harry has you royal wedding crazy, this charmer of a movie from Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes should be your go-to. Emily Blunt is beautifully headstrong as striving, inexperienced Victoria, and her love story with Albert is tender and sweet. Bonus: Once you’re done, look up Victoria’s diary entries on her wedding. Girl had a nicer time than you would expect, given her era. CG

Premiering December 4

The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee, HBO Now

A lightly fictionalized version of Ben Bradlee has turned up in several films over the years, and will soon do so once again with Tom Hanks’s portrayal of the legendary Washington Post editor in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film The Post. But before that, this documentary will serve as a more formal reintroduction to the man himself, who was a key player in the reporting of both the Pentagon Papers and the Watergate Scandal during the Nixon administration, and a journalism icon for the remainder of his life. —Genevieve Koski

Premiering December 5

Craig Ferguson: Tickle Fight, Netflix

Craig Ferguson has been less in the spotlight since his wonderful late-night talk show ended in late 2014, but the Scottish-American comedian’s new Netflix special promises his typical blend of longform storytelling, self-deprecating jokes, and a uniquely lacerating perspective on everything from immigration to aging to addiction. —TV

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Netflix

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 crackles with so much vibrant color, wild energy, and fizzy humor that there’s no mistaking it for Iron Man, Captain America, Thor or any other Marvel property. In this installment, Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and (baby) Groot are back to once again save the universe but also partake in some soul searching. At times the space opera sequel gets a little too big, and some moments feel like Marvel is trying too hard to recreate the magic of the first film. But when Guardians 2 hits its highs, it taps into a specific joy that no other Marvel movie can touch. —Alex Abad-Santos

Premiering December 7

Liar, SundanceNow

At first, you might think the six-part miniseries Liar is an essential riff on one of the most pressing questions of our age: Who’s lying when a woman accuses a man of sexual assault and he says absolutely nothing happened? But although Liar starts in that space, it quickly turns into more of a potboiler, with long-buried secrets and desperate attempts to prove wrongdoing. Still, it’s beautifully acted by Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey fame and Ioan Gruffudd, so the six hours whip by in a blur. —TV

Premiering December 8

The Crown season 2, Netflix

Netflix’s most sumptuous series is back for a second round of royal intrigue, political machinations, and politely restrained disdain. But this time, The Crown is telling the story of a postwar England, a more confident Queen Elizabeth (Claire Foy), and her dangerously restless husband (Matt Smith). This season will also be Foy’s last in the role before Olivia Colman takes over in season three. —CF

Legion season 1, Hulu

FX’s superhero saga, about a mutant whose powers have largely been misdiagnosed as mental illness (though he’s also mentally ill), briefly held the title of TV’s weirdest show, before Twin Peaks came along and reclaimed the throne. But this series from Noah Hawley (Fargo) is still a delightful trip to watch, filled with visually stunning moments, wildly inventive action sequences, and a terrific ensemble cast, headed up by Dan Stevens. —TV

Premiering December 9

It Comes At Night (2017), Amazon

In case you haven’t gotten enough dystopia from the year 2017, It Comes At Night is here to give you a sumptuous, well-acted, and unsettling taste of a fear-based society gone to the dogs. One of the best films of the year, writer-director Trey Edward Shults’s film finds its strongest moments in what’s left unexplained. Joel Edgerton is haunting as a man driven to extremes to keep his family safe from ill-defined post-apocalyptic terrors; the knife’s edge between trust and paranoia has seldom been walked so harrowingly. —Aja Romano

Logan, HBO Now

While technically an extension of the long-in-the-tooth X-Men film franchise, James Mangold’s Logan feels unlike any other film in that series — and unlike any other superhero film this year, for that matter. Taking the shape of a Western (specifically the 1953 classic Shane, which it openly references), Logan puts Hugh Jackman’s aging, weakened Wolverine into the role of reluctant escort to a young girl who will come to be known as X-23, played fantastically by newcomer Dafne Keen. With a strong focus on character development over mindless spectacle, and a healthy dose of realistic violence (and its consequences), Logan proves that superhero films don’t have to target the broadest possible audience to be a smashing success. —GK

Premiering December 11

The Magicians season 2, Netflix

SyFy’s Magicians, a sort of what-if-Narnia-but-with-sex adaptation of Lev Grossman’s book series, began to hit its stride in its second season. It pulled off both the death of a major character and a musical episode with equal aplomb. Its snarky, self-referential jokes have gotten sharper and smarter, and its swings into tragedy are on occasion downright heartbreaking. —CG

Short Term 12, Sundance Now

Short Term 12 stars Brie Larson as the supervisor of a group home for troubled teenagers. It’s a true marvel of a drama — empathetic, carefully written, and incredibly moving — and it also has a remarkable cast of actors who in 2013, when the film was released, were all on the verge of professional breakthrough, including Larson, Rami Malek, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephanie Beatriz, and John Gallagher Jr. Short Term 12 is the best kind of indie film, and it’s well worth a watch (or a rewatch). —Alissa Wilkinson

Steven Universe, season 4, Hulu

With every passing season of adventures in aliens and friendship, Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe gets even more ambitious and deeply empathetic than ever before. And since every episode runs a mere 11 minutes long or so, the best way to watch Steven Universe is to marathon a bunch in a row, which gets much easier as entire seasons hit streaming platforms. But fair warning: This particularly emotional season has no qualms about hitting you where it hurts. —CF

Premiering December 14

Bunheads, Hulu

The short-lived and much-beloved Bunheads is 2012’s funny, melancholy, and hyper-stylized answer to Glee from Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, about a former Vegas showgirl who becomes a small-town dance teacher. Push through the cluttered and confused pilot to get to the good stuff, and if you watch nothing else, at least make sure to watch the stunning dance sequence that ends episode six. —Constance Grady

Halt and Catch Fire season 4, Netflix

The proverbial best show on TV that no one watched, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire ended this year in predictably excellent, unpredictably relevant fashion. Set during the dawn of the internet, the fourth season of the tech-world drama focused its narrative on the race to catalogue the ever-expanding World Wide Web via search engine, but its thematic energy was laser-focused on the idea of connection — why we need it, what we’ll do to get it, and how it defines our lives. In an era when the internet so often foments division and resentment, it’s both compelling and comforting to return to a moment of such strong optimism and be reminded of what we gained, as well as lost, when we first logged on. —GK

Premiering December 15

Jean Claude Van Johnson season 1, Amazon

Martial arts mainstay Jean Claude Van Damme has starred in many a movie — of the great, terrible, and direct-to-DVD variety — but he has yet to appear in any ongoing narrative television series, until now. It’s still an open question where the Amazon original Jean Claude Van Johnson will fall on the Van Damme Quality Spectrum, but it’s hard to deny the sly brilliance of its meta premise, which bears more than a passing resemblance to that of Van Damme’s well-received 2008 comeback, JCVD. Just as he does in that high-concept film, Van Damme here plays a version of himself, a broken-down action star, with a side gig as an actual action hero: He moonlights as a black-ops agent named Jean Claude Van Johnson. Expect a mix of meta comedy and violent martial arts action, and at least one instance of the 57-year-old Van Damme’s signature splits. —GK

Pottersville, Netflix

We haven’t seen this supposedly awful Christmas movie where Michael Shannon, one of our most immediately terrifying actors, plays a good-hearted man trying to win back his wife’s affection by pretending to be Bigfoot. (She’s a furry, see.) But you had better believe we’re staying up until midnight to watch it the second it lands on Netflix. —TV

Wormwood, Netflix

Documentarian Errol Morris mixes reality and fiction in Wormwood, a six-part, four-and-a-half-hour miniseries starring Peter Sarsgaard. It’s a true crime story, about a CIA operative who either jumped or was thrown out a window in 1953 and the son who has been trying to unravel the mystery of his father’s death. Parts of Wormwood are interviews with the son; parts are Sarsgaard playing the father. As the series progresses, it becomes an examination not just of the case, but of the nature of truth itself. —AW

Premiering December 18

Doctor Who Christmas Special, Amazon

Peter Capaldi takes his final turn as the Twelfth Doctor this Christmas — and he’ll be saying goodbye with a look back at his own past as he comes face to face with the First Doctor (David Bradley, filling in for the deceased William Hartnell). The annual Christmas special will offer fans the chance to say goodbye to Capaldi, and it will also feature the first moments of Jodie Whittaker’s turn as the show’s very first female Doctor. —CG

Premiering December 22

Bright, Netflix

Netflix’s Bright is a return to star Will Smith’s Men in Black and Independence Day brand of monster hunting, but within an updated, urban fantasy milieu that’s clearly inspired by Attack the Block — with a dash of Guardians of the Galaxy and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy thrown in as well. This time there seem to be fairies instead of aliens, and Joel Edgerton standing in as Smith’s snarky partner — only he’s also an orc. There might not be much substance to this romp beyond its “fairies on the block” concept, but that’s an entertaining enough idea that we’ll show up regardless. —AR

Premiering December 23

The Zookeeper’s Wife, HBO Now

The Zookeeper’s Wife is an account of Warsaw during the Nazi occupation that makes a strong case for a simple truth: Inhuman brutality can only be counteracted by steady compassion and kindness. Based on the nonfiction book by naturalist Diane Ackerman — which in turn draws on the journals of Antonina Żabińska, played by Jessica Chastain in the film — The Zookeeper’s Wife has a lot in common with conventional Hollywood World War II dramas, but is elevated by the simple novelty of adding animals. Most of the film is literally set in a zoo, which houses creatures great and small, including buffalo, rabbits, elephants, a tiger, a camel that trots around, and many more. Directed by Niki Caro, The Zookeeper’s Wife is a simple plea for compassion, beautifully told. —AW

Premiering December 25

The Detour season 2, Hulu

The Detour is the rare comedy serialized enough to really invite bingeing every time a new season drops. Each season covers a hectic handful of days in the lives of its central family, days filled with dark dealing and weird double crosses. Thus, it might just be a good thing the second season is landing on Hulu on Christmas. Once you’ve just had it with your family’s neuroses, stop on by Hulu to hang out with a family far more messed up than your own — and get some great dirty jokes along the way. —TV

Planet Earth II, Netflix

BBC’s Planet Earth series is the coffee table book of television programs. The first series was hypnotic and weirdly touching, inviting viewers to form powerful and slightly irrational attachments to various animals, like the dancing birds of paradise. The second series is just as gorgeous and moving (see: the drama of snake island) and has legendary composer Hans Zimmer providing the main theme of the series. —AAS

Premiering December 26

Travelers season 1, Netflix

This Canadian sci-fi series has a great premise — seemingly normal people’s personalities change wildly after they face a moment of what should have been certain death, because (surprise!) their consciousnesses have been hijacked by time travelers from the future, bent on preventing catastrophe. Instead of the deaths they would have faced, they begin mucking about in the time stream. It’s solid, fun, low-budget science fiction, perfect for a holiday week watch. —TV

Premiering December 31

Brawl in Cell Block 99, Amazon

Brawl in Cell Block 99 represents a notable tonal shift for Vince Vaughn in what could be his career-defining role: an ex-boxer whose fists make his fortune after he’s caught in a vicious drug ring and sent to prison. Brutal and redemptive, this film from Bone Tomahawk writer-director S. Craig Zahler has drawn raves from critics for its fast pacing and grindhouse-style violence with a heart. Think Oldboy meets Shawshank. —AR

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