The Sacred Wall Presents: The 2023 Holiday Viewing Guide

It’s time once again for A Sacred Wall Christmas, everybody! My apologies for so few posts this year – as some of you may know, I had a major surgery back in October that sort of knocked out both Sacred Walloween and A Sacred Wall Christmas. However, I do have a few fun surprises in store for you all, starting with the annual Sacred Wall Holiday Guide!

With families all gathering together, sometimes under one roof, arguments are sure to break out as everyone tries to decide what to watch at night, what to see in the theaters, and what they can watch in front of pious grandparents and innocent children. Therefore, I’ve compiled the following list of every major film released, recently or otherwise, on streaming and in the multiplex. This ranges from the biggest awards contenders to blockbusters to films that I like and think you might like too!

The following list is broken down between theaters, VOD, and streaming services, with helpful (or snarky…mostly snarky) thoughts on who in the family might enjoy the film in question. That way, you don’t end up putting on an erotic thriller while sharing a couch with grandma, or watching a slasher with your impressionable young ones. And at the end of the list, I’ve named five films that I personally believe will be the biggest hits with your families. As always, I’ve marked Oscar contenders in major categories with a *, while films in my Top 25 will receive a #. So, with that all settled, let’s jump straight into those 2023 holiday recommendations!

In Theaters:

  • All of Us StrangersSomething for the LGBTQ+ cousins to enjoy during the holiday season, as well as your best friend who, quote, “goes f*cking feral for Andrew Scott
  • American Fiction *A satire of how the media portrays African-Americans. Progressive cousins home from college will likely get a kick out of it. Centrist Dem and generally liberal aunts will look at each other like Maddy from Euphoria
  • Anyone But You – Listen, sometimes you just need some alone time with your significant other. And what better way to do that then a sexy, funny romantic comedy?
  • The Boy and the Heron #Maybe a little too dark for the younger kids in the family, but the older kids and teens will love it, not to mention the weeb cousins
  • The Color Purple *The aunts and uncles who loved the original should get a kick out of this. Besides, how can you go wrong with a big, splashy musical at the holidays
  • FerrariProbably the biggest “dad” movie on this list. Watch the dads all go to the theater together and spend the rest of the holidays saying “Vroom vroom at each other
  • The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesThe tweens and their older female cousins will be all over the new Hunger Games movie. After all, when was the last time there was a good YA movie for the teens to gawk at like this?
  • The Iron ClawThis will be the pick for the cousins who were really into High School Musical and The Bear. Everyone will arrive happy and leave incredibly depressed
  • MigrationPerfect for getting the screaming brats to shut up for 80 minutes. Just do yourself a favor if you’re on babysitting duty: make sure the theater has a bar
  • NapoleonFor the dads and uncles to go and see, point to the screen, and say “That’s not how it happened.” If you’re a twenty-something who agreed to tag along, make a drinking game out of it
  • Poor Things *#The perfect film for the artsier cousins to go see, most of whom will have no idea what to expect with the exception of the one cousin who seems way too happy to be seeing a Yorgos Lanthimos film
  • Renaissance: A Film By BeyoncéConcert films are all the rage now, and Beyoncé should be the perfect artist to unite the family…except for that one cousin who blew his knee out dancing to “Single Ladies” at the family wedding and is now on crutches and will never live it down at family gatherings, and Beyoncé should really pay his medical bills because he doesn’t make much as a film critic…but I digress
  • WishOnce again, this one should only be watched if you desperately need to shut the kids up. Everyone else will want to hang themselves from the Christmas lights – and any parent in attendance will immediately have to spend money on that f*cking goat toy
  • Wonka #*Stefon voice* This film has everything. Timothée Chalamet for the teenage girls. Musical for the gay cousins and aunts. The cast of Taskmaster for the Anglophiles. Goofiness for the kids. Truly miraculous, the perfect holiday movie
  • The Zone of Interest *Listen, this one is an Oscar contender, so it goes on the list, but honestly, I cannot imagine any holiday scenario where you’d want to see a depressing film about Nazis during the Holocaust

Streaming:

  • Anatomy of a Fall *You might be able to convince the murder-mystery aunties to join in, but this one feels solely meant for the snobby foreign film cousins
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret #A nice one for the family to watch, although that may be a nightmare for the tweenage girls who feel too seen in the presence of their parents
  • Bottoms #While maybe too out there for the stuffier parents or younger kids, this is a solid choice for the sapphic cousins to watch over a few drinks
  • Dumb MoneyEvery family has at least one finance bro cousin and one Reddit cousin, and honestly it’d just be fun to put this on and let them fight
  • The Holdovers *#Everyone in the family, from the angsty teens to the older grandparents, will likely love this feel-good Christmas film with an acidic bite. Your crotchety uncle who always seems irritable, however, will REALLY love it
  • Killers of the Flower Moon *#Once again, not the happiest film of the bunch, but dads who love history and the male cousins who love Scorsese will definitely want to throw this one on at some point. If it’s a snowy evening and you can’t travel out for the night
  • Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One #Honestly, a solid pick for the whole family. There’s action for the dads and boys, nostalgia for the grandparents, Tom Cruise looking hot at 60, comedy for the kids, train wrecks for the family train wreck to relate to…something for everyone!
  • Oppenheimer *#Normally I’d say I don’t know who this one would be for – it’s a three hour historical biopic about the atomic bomb – but apparently it made a billion dollars, so everyone will love it. Just take a bathroom break to get away from the grandparents when Oppy gets slammed down big style
  • Past Lives *#This sweet film should make everyone in the family wistfully and tearfully reflect on missed love. If they’re under 30, it’ll be a bittersweet moment. If they’re over 30, maybe hide the liquor bottles that evening.
  • Priscilla #Your Elvis loving dad might be a little confused, and maybe sad, but the girls in the family should feel this one deeply. Bonus points if one cousin brought home a much-older boyfriend and you use the film to knock some sense into her
  • Taylor Swift: The Eras TourEvery girl in the family between ages 8 and 38 will want to watch this concert…even though they already saw it in theaters…and went to the actual show…may as well just put it on and join in the fun

Netflix:

  • American Symphony *For the teens and dads that want to watch a nice, pleasant musician documentary about the great jazz musician Jon Batiste
  • Maestro *A great pick for the aunt who’s obsessed with Bradley Cooper, as well as the cousin who just got home from Julliard and won’t shut up about it, and wants to refer to Leonardo Bernstein as “Lenny” the entire time
  • May December *#The feel-bad movie of Christmas! Mostly just for the artsier adults in the family, you may be able to use this one to play a fun game of “Which cousin is about to get dirty looks for (rightfully) viewing this as a comedy?”
  • No Hard Feelings – A terrifically raunchy comedy for the older members of the family. Let the cousins, aunts, and uncles watch Jennifer Lawrence go out of her damn mind for a solid 90 minutes
  • RustinReally just a solid pick for the family members obsessed with history, although it might be fun to watch the performative activist relatives react to iconic civil rights leader Bayard Rustin with “Wow, that’s crazy? I never knew”
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse *#One of the best films of the year, it’ll be a hit for everyone in the family. Kids, teens, Marvel fans, adults, everyone. Seriously, you can’t go wrong here
  • The Super Mario Bros. MovieSigh. I mean, this one will please everyone too, I guess. Young kids will love it, nerdy teens will love it, your Chris Pratt loving aunt will enjoy it, and your Adam Friedland Show-loving brother will appreciate the Italian stereotypes

Max:

  • Barbie *#Listen, there may not be much on Max this year. Maybe that’s because David Zaslav is a bastard man who deserves to be haunted by three spirits this holiday season. But nothing will bring the family together more than the year’s most feel-good comedy

Hulu:

  • A Haunting In VeniceYet another murder mystery! Your Hallmark-loving aunts are eating good tonight! This one might just be spooky enough to entice the goth cousins, too
  • Sanctuary #When the kids go to bed and the grandparents fall asleep, the couples need something to unwind to, just the two of them. What could be better than a sexy erotic thriller that doubles as a screwball comedy?
  • Theater CampThe theater kids and gay cousins in the family will love it. Their parents will have nightmares upon gazing into the future. It’s a win-win for everyone

Amazon Prime:

  • Air *#Truly no movie has ever dadded harder than this dad movie. The dads and uncles will put this on and try to dadsplain the entire plot to you. It’s an entertaining enough movie that you’ll be content to smile and nod
  • Candy Cane LaneFor when you need the younger cousins, nieces, and nephews to shut up for an hour and a half, even if it means sitting through a bad Eddie Murphy Christmas comedy
  • Creed IIIA powerful, feel good sports movie the older relatives can throw on as the evening winds down, this one has the added
  • SaltburnLikely to make the square aunts and uncles confused and annoy the elder millennial cousins, this one might be a good choice for the teens learning to be “edgy.” Plus, it’ll make the rich aunt and uncle uncomfortable, so that’s fun

Apple TV:

  • Flora and SonSometimes the adults need something nice, sweet, and mellow. After the kids finish their sugar high and get put to bed, throw this one on to mellow down after a long day
  • Hannah Waddingham: Home for ChristmasLess a Christmas special for the family as it is something pleasant to throw on in the background during the Christmas party, no one can deny that Hannah Waddingham got pipes

Peacock:

  • Asteroid City #Every family has a handful of Wes Anderson-heads. Let them gather together to watch one of the director’s best films to date
  • Mr. Monk’s Last CasePlenty of reasons to throw on the new Monk movie! Maybe you used to nostalgically watch it as a family! Maybe you’re one of the aforementioned aunts who watch reruns religiously. No matter what, comedy murder mysteries are always the way to go
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3It seems like Peacock will be the go-to for moms and aunts, as My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 will certainly be the thing for the fifty-something women to watch and laugh at the obvious jokes while saying “They’re just like us for real” (or the Boomer equivalent)
  • Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy MountainThe perfect movie for the cousins to watch together after they, quote, “go for their special walk together”
  • StraysLikely will get played when a parent mistakenly says “Oh this dog movie looks cute for the whole family!” Teens will be entertained, especially if they imbibe beforehand

Paramount Plus:

  • Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves #The nerdiest members of the family will likely be the ones demanding this one, but don’t be fooled. The entire family will be won over by its silliness – even the fantasy-hating dad
  • Good Burger 2This one will theoretically be requested by the kids yet only enjoyed by the young millennials after a few gummies. Honestly, pretty much exactly like the original
  • Scream VIWhat’s a good scare amongst older teen cousins? Perfect to throw on while the adults argue politics to think of something more pleasant: the sweet release of death

Disney Plus:

  • ElementalA delightful children’s film the whole family can enjoy. Bonus points if you can get the whole family to look at the grandparents or patriarch during the uncomfortable moments!
  • The Haunted MansionHonestly, why not? If Disney was stupid enough to put out a Halloween movie in July, there’s no reason you can’t throw this one on during the holidays. Especially for that one sister who, quote, “goes f*cking feral for Danny Devito
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of DestinyFor the parents who really love Indiana Jones that will inevitably declare “Wait, there’s a new one?” when looking at the app. One thing’s for sure: at least no one in the family will have seen this one

The Sacred Wall’s Top Five Choices:

  • BarbieI mean, come on. It may not be the best film of the year, but as it prepares for Oscar dominance, it is the most influential of the year
  • The Boy and the HeronHayao Miyazaki has made one of the year’s most beautiful films, and it’s the perfect film to see in theaters this holiday season
  • The HoldoversThe best Christmas movie in years. It’s perfect to laugh and cry with the whole family – easily one of the best films of the year
  • Past LivesWith a few holdouts remaining, this is currently my favorite film of the year. It’s sweet, earnest, poignant, and just all around beautiful
  • WonkaNo film this holiday season will appeal to every member of the family more than Wonka. It’ll please the kids, entertain the teens, and let the adults sigh with relief

Hopefully you get the chance to put this list to good use this holiday season. I will be back throughout the next few weeks with some Christmas-themed articles and a whole lotta reviews before Best of 2023 coverage starts early next year. Until then, Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, and Happy Watching!

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