Eleven New Movies You Can Watch in December That Have Been Fast-Tracked From Cinemas to Streaming

Get comfy on the couch with the twisty thrills of 'Saltburn', an unnerving Aussie must-see set in an outback pub and Taylor Swift's 'Eras' tour concert film.
Sarah Ward
December 22, 2023

Before the pandemic, when a new-release movie started playing in cinemas, audiences couldn't watch it on streaming, video on demand, DVD or blu-ray for a few months. But with the past few years forcing film industry to make quite a few changes — widespread movie theatre closures will do that, and so will plenty of people staying home because they aren't well — that's no longer always the case.

Maybe you haven't had time to make it to your local cinema lately. Perhaps you've been under the weather. Given the hefty amount of titles now releasing each week, maybe you simply missed something. Film distributors have been fast-tracking some of their new releases from cinemas to streaming recently — movies that might still be playing in theatres in some parts of the country, too. In preparation for your next couch session, here are 11 that you can watch right now at home.

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SALTBURN

Sharp, savage and skewering, plus twisted in narrative and the incisive use of genre tropes alike: as a filmmaker, Emerald Fennell certainly has a type. With the Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman and now Saltburn, the Barbie and The Crown actor-turned-writer/director takes aim, blazes away giddily and blasts apart everything that she can. When she made a blisteringly memorable feature debut behind the lens — giving audiences one of 2021's's best Down Under releases, in fact, and deservingly earning a place among the Academy Awards' rare female Best Director nominees in the process — she honed in on the absolute worst that a patriarchal society affords women. Now, after also pointing out the protection provided to the wealthy in that first effort as a helmer, Fennell has class warfare so firmly in her gaze that Saltburn is named after a sprawling English manor. With both flicks, the end result is daringly unforgettable. This pair of pictures would make a killer double, too, although they enjoy neighbouring estates rather than frolic across the same exact turf.

On her leaps from one side of the camera to the other, Fennell also keeps filling her features with such spectacular casts that other filmmakers might hope to fall into her good graces to bask in their glow — a fate that sits at the heart of Saltburn, albeit beyond the movie world. Fresh from nabbing his own Oscar nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin, Barry Keoghan adds yet another beguiling and astonishing performance to a resume that's virtually collecting them (see also: The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Dunkirk, American Animals, The Green Knight and Calm with Horses), proving mesmerisingly slippery as scholarship student Oliver Quick. Usually standing in his sights, Euphoria's Jacob Elordi perfects the part of Felix Catton, aka that effortlessly charismatic friend that everyone wishes they could spend all of their time with. And as Felix's mother Elspeth, father Sir James and "poor dear" family pal Pamela, Rosamund Pike (The Wheel of Time), Richard E Grant (Persuasion) and Carey Mulligan (Fennell's Promising Young Woman star, also an Academy Award nominee for her work) couldn't give more delicious line readings or portraits of the insular but shambolic well-to-do.

Saltburn streams via Prime Video. Read our full review.

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

Death comes to Killers of the Flower Moon quickly. Death comes to Killers of the Flower Moon often. While Martin Scorsese will later briefly fill the film's frames with a fiery orange vision — with what almost appears to be a lake of flames deep in oil country, as dotted with silhouettes of men — death blazes through his 26th feature from the moment that the picture starts rolling. Adapted from journalist David Grann's 2017 non-fiction novel Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, with the filmmaker himself and Dune's Eric Roth penning the screenplay, this is a masterpiece of a movie about a heartbreakingly horrible spate of deaths sparked by pure and unapologetic greed and persecution a century back. Scorsese's two favourite actors in Leonardo DiCaprio (Don't Look Up) and Robert De Niro (Amsterdam) are its stars, alongside hopefully his next go-to in Lily Gladstone (Reservation Dogs), but murder and genocide are as much at this bold and brilliant, epic yet intimate, ambitious and absorbing film's centre — all in a tale that's devastatingly true.

As Mollie Kyle, a member of the Osage Nation in Grey Horse, Oklahoma, incomparable Certain Women standout Gladstone talks through some of the movie's homicides early. Before her character meets DiCaprio's World War I veteran Ernest Burkhart — nephew to De Niro's cattle rancher and self-proclaimed 'king of the Osage' William King Hale — she notes that several Indigenous Americans that have been killed, with Mollie mentioning a mere few to meet untimely ends. There's nothing easy about this list, nor is there meant to be. Some are found dead, others seen laid out for their eternal rest, and each one delivers a difficult image. But a gun fired at a young mother pushing a pram inspires a shock befitting a horror film. The genre fits here, in its way, as do many others as Killers of the Flower Moon follows Burkhart's arrival in town, his deeds under his uncle's guidance, his romance with Mollie and the tragedies that keep springing: American crime saga, aka the realm that Scorsese has virtually made his own, as well as romance, relationship drama, western, true crime and crime procedural.

Killers of the Flower Moon streams via Google Play, YouTube Movies and Prime Video. Read our full review, and our interview with Martin Scorsese.

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THE ROYAL HOTEL

Anyone who has spent time in an outback Australian pub will recognise The Royal Hotel's namesake watering hole, even if they've never seen this particular bar before. The filming location itself doesn't matter. Neither do the IRL details of the actual establishment that stands in for the movie's fictional boozer. What scorches itself into memory like the blistering sun beating down on the middle-of-nowhere saloon's surroundings, then, is the look and the feel of this quintessentially Aussie beer haven. From the dim lighting inside and weather-beaten facade outside to the almost exclusively male swarm of barflies that can't wait to getting sipping come quittin' time, this feature's setting could be any tavern. It could be all of them. That fact is meant to linger as filmmaker Kitty Green crafts another masterclass in tension, microagressions and the ever-looming threats that women live with daily — swapping The Assistant's Hollywood backdrop and Harvey Weinstein shadow for a remote mining town and toxic testosterone-fuelled treatment of female bartenders.

Making her second fictional feature after that 2019 standout, and her fourth film overall thanks to 2013 documentary Ukraine Is Not a Brothel and 2017's Casting JonBenet before that, Green has kept as much as she's substituted between her two most recent movies. Julia Garner stars in both, albeit without breaking out an Inventing Anna-style drawl in either — although comically parroting the Aussie accent does earn a brief workout. Green's focus remains living while female. Her preferred tone is still as unsettling as any scary movie. The Royal Hotel is another of her horror films, but an inescapable villain here, as it was in The Assistant, is a world that makes existing as a woman this innately unnerving. This taut and deeply intelligent picture's sources of anxiety and danger aren't simply society; however, what it means to weather the constant possibility of peril for nothing more than your sex chromosomes is this flick's far-as-the-eye-can-see burnt earth.

The Royal Hotel streams via Binge. Read our full review, and our interview with Kitty Green.

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MAESTRO

When a composer pens music, it's the tune that they want the world to enjoy, not the marks on a page scribbling it into existence. When a conductor oversees an orchestra, the performance echoing rather than their own with baton in hand and arms waving is their gift. In Maestro, Bradley Cooper (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) is seen as Leonard Bernstein in both modes. His portrayal, especially in an unbroken take as the American great conducts Mahler's Resurrection Symphony at England's Ely Cathedral in 1973, is so richly textured and deeply complex that it's the career-best kind of astonishing. But Cooper as this movie's helmer, co-writer and one of its producers wants Maestro's audience to revel in the end result, not just in his exceptional on-screen contribution to bringing this virtuoso feature to fruition. And if he wants the love showered anyone's way first, it's towards Carey Mulligan (Saltburn), who the second-time director (and second-time director of a music-fuelled film, since his debut behind the lens was A Star Is Born) gives top billing for stepping so astoundingly into Felicia Montealegre Bernstein's shoes.

Symphonies should erupt for Mulligan's awards-worthy turn, which deserves to claim her third Oscar nomination (after 2010's for An Education and 2021's for Promising Young Woman) at a minimum. As the Costa Rican actor — a talent herself, of the stage and small screen — hers is similarly a never-better performance. It's a chalk-and-cheese partner to Cooper's, too; his is all about playing someone whose entire reason for earning a biopic is his effort and what it wrought, while she makes everything from the screwball-esque early sparks of connection to soul-aching pain feel natural. When she says "you don't even know how much you need me, do you?", the words melt, and the moment with it. When she beams by Cooper's side during a TV interview about Leonard's achievements, the practicalities of spending your life with someone have rarely felt as giddying. When Maestro's main pair quarrel on Thanksgiving, away from their family and as the parade trots along outside the window, each word is a cut. Every scene with Mulligan lays its emotions bare so thoroughly, yet never forcefully or showily, that she virtually spirits the audience into Felicia's footwear with her.

Maestro streams via Netflix. Read our full review.

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LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND

Call it the one with Julia Roberts playing the mother of a Friends-obsessed 13-year-old girl who hasn't clocked that someone closely resembling her mum pops up in the sitcom's second season. Call it writer/director Sam Esmail still ruing humanity's technological reliance and seeing only dystopian outcomes after Mr Robot became such a small-screen success. Call Leave the World Behind an effectively unnerving psychological thriller about a mysterious communications blackout striking while one New York family holidays at another's palatial Long Island vacation home, too. Down Under, badging it the horror version of Australia's November 2023 Optus outage also fits — just with a home-invasion angle that can be read two ways; Hitchcockian suspense, sharp writing and baked-in bleakness; Barack and Michelle Obama as executive producers; and Roberts (Ticket to Paradise) starring alongside Ethan Hawke (Reservation Dogs), Mahershala Ali (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse), Myha'la Herrold (Dumb Money) and Kevin Bacon (The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special).

In her second chaotic getaway in two successive movies, Roberts plays Amanda Sandford, an advertising executive who prides herself on being able to read people and situations. But her professor husband Clay (Hawke) is surprised to awaken one morning to news that their brood is going away for a few days, thanks to a humanity-escaping misanthropic urge and a last-minute online booking. He and the couple's kids — the older Archie (Charlie Evans, Everything's Gonna Be Okay) and younger Rose (Farrah Mackenzie, United States of Al) — aren't complaining about the break, though. Then problems after eerie problems occur. First, an oil tanker runs ashore on the beach. Next comes the late-night knock at the door from their holiday home's owner GH Scott (Ali) and his daughter Ruth (Herrold), who've driven in all dressed up from a night at the symphony. In a movie that isn't afraid of M Night Shyamalan-esque setups on its route to potential societal collapse, a power, phone and internet outage follows, plus oddly behaving wildlife and disquieting developments from above.

Leave the World Behind streams via Netflix. Read our full review.

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TAYLOR SWIFT: THE ERAS TOUR

Just like a great music documentary, an excellent concert film isn't solely about existing fans. That's still true when a movie arrives in a sea of friendship bracelets, focuses on one of the biggest current singers in the world, and perhaps the largest and most devoted fandom there is can be seen screaming, dancing and crying joyfully in its frames in a 70,000-plus drove. As the shows that it lenses were, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour was a financial success before any Swifties experienced their version of heaven. Swift's onstage journey through 17 years of tunes sparked ticketing mayhem both as a concert and a cinema release that captures close to every moment. The Eras tour is a billion-dollar entity, with the self-produced film that's spreading it further than packed stadiums a box-office bonanza since it was announced. The 169-minute-long movie is also a dazzling spectacle that neither dedicated Swifties nor casual viewers will be able to easily shake off.

When Swift told the world that she never misses a beat and she's lightning on her feet in possibly her best-known pop song, everyone should've believed her. Long before 2014 earworm 'Shake It Off' gets a spin in the 1989 segment of The Eras Tour, she's proven those words true in an indefatigable onstage effort. "Can't stop, won't stop moving" describes her efforts and the film, which is as energetically directed by Sam Wrench (Billie Eilish Live at the O2) and edited by a six-person team (with Max Richter's Sleep's Dom Whitworth as its lead) as it is performed. And, for anyone that's sat through Valentine's Day and Cats and found them hardly purring, it gives Swift the screen presence that she's been trying to amass here and there — The Giver and Amsterdam are also on her resume — for over than a decade. Watching The Eras Tour doesn't just feel like watching a concert, but a musical spectacular in its vast grandeur, complete with the lead to match.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour streams via Google Play, YouTube Movies, Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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DUMB MONEY

It couldn't have been hard to cast Pete Davidson as a stoner in Dumb Money, but getting the Bupkis star playing a part that barely feels like a part on paper is perfect in this ripped-from-the-headlines film. He doesn't give the movie's top performance, which goes to lead Paul Dano (The Fabelmans), but he's satisfyingly great as the DoorDash driver who's often trolling his brother online and in-person. He's also an example in Cruella and I, Tonya director Craig Gillespie's entertaining feature of one of the ideas that this true tale heartily disproves. Viewers know what they're going to get from Davidson, and he delivers. Wall Street thought it knew what it was in for when small-time investors splashed their cash on stock for US video-game store chain GameStop, too, but the frenzy that resulted demonstrated otherwise.

It was in 2019 IRL when DeepFuckingValue aka Roaring Kitty aka Keith Gill first posted on subreddit r/wallstreetbets that he'd bought stock in GameStop, the Texas-born brand that had been struggling but he thought was undervalued. Dumb Money tells this story from Keith's digital enthusiasm through to the impact upon the financial markets, plus the worldwide attention that followed. In 2021, the GameStop situation wasn't just news. It was a phenomenon, and one of the great modern-day David-versus-Goliath scenarios. There's a reason that this recent chapter of history been turned into a movie, and not just because it's an easy candidate to try to emulate The Big Short: the big end of town kept pulling its usual strings, the 99 percent played their own game instead and the status quo was upended — temporarily.

Dumb Money streams via Google Play, YouTube Movies, Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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THEATER CAMP

If you've ever wanted to turn your childhood into a movie, Theater Camp is the latest film that understands. It's also happy to laugh. Unlike Minari, Belfast, The Fabelmans, Aftersun and Past Lives, this isn't a drama, with Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Noah Galvin and Nick Lieberman making a sidesplittingly funny mockumentary about a place that's near and dear to them. What happens when four friends reflect upon their formative years, when they all fell in love with putting on a show? Theater Camp is the pitch-perfect answer. Looking backwards can be earnest and nostalgic, as Gordon and company know and embrace. Going for Wet Hot American Summer meets Waiting for Guffman and A Mighty Wind, they're just as aware that it can be utterly hilarious.

Watching Theater Camp means stepping into Gordon, Platt, Galvin and Lieberman's reality. None are currently camp counsellors, but the realm that they parody genuinely is personal. The film's core quartet initially came into each other's lives via youth theatre. With Gordon and Platt, the picture even boasts the receipts — aka IRL footage of the pair performing as kids — from a time when they were appearing together in Fiddler on the Roof at age four and in How to Succeed in Business at five. This team was first driven to bring their shared experiences to the screen in an improvised 2020 short also called Theater Camp. Now, they flesh out that bite-sized flick to full length as enthusiastically as any wannabe actor has ever monologued. All four co-write, while Booksmart and The Bear star Gordon directs with fellow first-time feature helmer Lieberman. Gordon, Dear Evan Hansen stage and screen lead Platt, plus Galvin — who similarly portrayed that Broadway hit's title role — act as well, playing three of the adults at AdirondACTS.

Theater Camp streams via Disney+, Google Play, YouTube Movies, Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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HUNGER GAMES: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS & SNAKES

When children from Panem's first 12 districts are chosen to fight to the death, each year's unlucky kids conscripted into the bloodthirsty fray that gives The Hunger Games franchise its title, they aren't simply battling for survival. In this dystopian saga stemming from Suzanne Collins' novels, they're brawling to entertain the wealthy residents of the ruling Capitol — they're forced to submit to a display of power and control, too, and to demonstrate humanity's innate cruelty — all while waging war against perishing into nothingness. Arriving eight years after the series' last page-to-screen adaptation, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is a swung sword, flung spear, hurled hatchet and jabbed knife in the same type of skirmish. This is a blockbuster franchise, but 2012's The Hunger Games, 2013's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 2014's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 and 2015's The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 have long faded from the big screen, which virtually means no longer existing to Tinseltown, other than as fuel to relight the flame. So kicks in the "sequels, prequels, spinoffs, continuations, TV shows, remakes, reboots, reimaginings or perish" motto that may as well be etched onto the Hollywood sign.

Why The Hunger Games' battle royales exist, and what their purpose and substance are, prove topics of conversation more than once in The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. A tale that features the person who created the games and the mind overseeing them — that'd be Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage, Cyrano) and Dr Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis, Air) — ought to ponder such notions. A jump back in time in a now five-entry franchise, and a chapter that runs for 157 minutes at that, couldn't leave it out. But a sense of nothingness still swirls around this Tom Blyth (Billy the Kid)- and Rachel Zegler (Shazam! Fury of the Gods)-led picture about Coriolanus Snow's origin story, even if Collins did actually write a novel with a plot that justifies the movie's existence (unlike comparable shenanigans over in the Wizarding World, aka the Fantastic Beasts films). There's an insignificant air to this return trip to YA bleakness, as smacking of chasing cash and keeping IP bubbling in the popular consciousness was bound to inspire; this doesn't feel like a return or a bonus, but an optional extra.

The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes streams via Google Play, YouTube Movies, Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY'S

Nicolas Cage is sorely missed in Five Nights at Freddy's, not that he was ever on the film's cast list. He starred in 2021's Willy's Wonderland, however, which clearly took its cues from the video-game franchise that this attempt to start a corresponding movie series now officially adapts. Willy's Wonderland wasn't great, but a near-silent Cage battling demonic animatronics was always going to be worth seeing. Unsurprisingly, he's mesmerising. In comparison, the actual Five Nights at Freddy's feature stars Josh Hutcherson (Futureman) deep in his older brother phase, bringing weary charm to a by-the-numbers horror flick that's as routine as they come no matter whether you've ever mashed buttons along with its inspiration — which first dropped in 2014 and now spans nine main games, a tenth on the way and five spinoffs — or seen everyone's favourite Renfield, Pig and Color Out of Space actor give an unlicensed take a go.

Writer/director Emma Tammi (The Wind), the game's creator Scott Cawthon (Scooby Doo, Where Are You? In... SPRINGTRAPPED!) and co-screenwriter Seth Cuddeback's (Mateo) movie iteration of Five Nights at Freddy's doesn't just arrive after a Cage film got there first; it hits after season 16 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia wreaked havoc on a comparable setting already in 2023. If you're looking for a pitch-black comedic skewering of eateries in the style of Chuck E Cheese, the IRL pizzeria-meets-arcade chain that Freddy Fazbear's Pizza is patently based on, that's the best of the year. So, the Five Nights at Freddy film lingers in multiple shadows. There's symmetry on- and off-screen as result: shining a torchlight around in the movie uncovers sights that its characters would rather not see, and peering even just slightly through recent pop culture shows that this picture isn't alone, either.

Five Nights at Freddy's streams via Google Play, YouTube Movies, Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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THANKSGIVING

Edgar Wright's Don't and Rob Zombie's Werewolf Women of the SS must be on their way to the big screen soon. With Thanksgiving's arrival, three of the five films teased as trailers in 2007's Grindhouse — and at the time only conceived to exist as those faux trailers — have come to full-length feature fruition. So, the double of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof didn't just give the world biochemical zombies and a murdering stuntman, but Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun and now Eli Roth's turkey-holiday slasher horror. In this first stint behind the lens since 2021 documentary Fin, plus 2018's vastly dissimilar Death Wish and The House with a Clock in Its Walls before that, the Cabin Fever and Hostel filmmaker knows the right mood: when you're plating up a film that began as a gag ad, leaning into both tropes and a knowing vibe is the best choice for carving a path forward.

There's a downside to the joke beginning and happy winking now, though: Thanksgiving sure does love sticking to a tried-and-tested recipe. Roth and screenwriter Jeff Rendell, both returning from 16 years back and sharing a story credit, have taken to the whole "Halloween but Thanksgiving" approach with the utmost dedication — because it's as plain as a roasted bird centrepiece that that's what they've purposely cooked up. The mood, the nods, the derivation: they don't add up to a new masterpiece, however, genre-defining, cult or otherwise. But there's something to be said for a film that commits to its bit with this much relish, so bluntly and openly, and with the tongue-in-cheek attitude that was baked into the Grindhouse package slathered on thick. And yes, the image that no one has forgotten for almost two decades returns, alongside other signature shots from Thanksgiving's proof-of-concept sneak peek.

Thanksgiving streams via Apple TV and Prime Video. Read our full review.

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Looking for more viewing options? Take a look at our monthly streaming recommendations across new straight-to-digital films and TV shows — and fast-tracked highlights from January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November, too. 

We've kept a running list of must-stream TV from across the year, complete with full reviews.

We also rounded up 2023's 15 best films, 15 best straight-to-streaming movies, 15 top flicks hardly anyone saw, 15 best new TV series of 2023, another 15 excellent new TV shows that you might've missed and 15 best returning shows as well.

Published on December 22, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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