The Nerd's Watch: The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Streaming in December

Maybe the biggest streaming movie...ever is coming this month.
Maybe the biggest streaming movie...ever is coming this month.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Viewers are turning to streaming entertainment more than ever thanks to the global pandemic, and the plethora of services can serve as a much-needed escape. At the start of each month, most streamers do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some away, and io9 is here to help with your decision making.

Welcome to the Nerd’s Watch, our monthly column where we curate the most interesting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies coming to the biggest streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO Max are all ready for December with lots of holiday content, would-be theatrical movies, and more, so let’s get to it.


Netflix

Rango is coming to Netflix.
Rango is coming to Netflix.
Image: DreamWorks
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Available December 1 

The Da Vinci Code - Not quite up to the entertainment value of the book it’s based on, this slick mystery directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks based on the Dan Brown bestseller is still pretty entertaining if you’ve never seen it before. (Also on Hulu)

The Happytime Murders - I know I said these are the “best” streaming titles and this is literally one of the worst movies I’ve seen in some time. But now that it’s on streaming, I think that level of awful definitely makes this weird, R-rated, puppet human hybrid starring Melissa McCarthy worth a watch.

Jurassic Park; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Jurassic Park III - Come for the original all-time classic, stay for the diminishing returns in the sequels that at least have some great visual effects.

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Kung Fu Panda 2 - It might be weird to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 without watching the first Kung Fu Panda, but these movies are so damn entertaining for the whole family, we’re pretty confident you can pick it up. Big panda kicks ass. Got it? (Also HBO Max)

Little Nicky - After a bunch of hugely successful comedies in the lates 1990s, Adam Sandler made the weird story of a demon named “Little Nicky.” It was not as revered as those earlier movies but it has since gained some cult fans for being oh-so-strange.

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Monster House - Right in the middle of Pixar’s early 2000s renaissance, Sony released this super creepy, cool animated film about a haunted house terrorizing a neighborhood. It was a hit, but got a little overshadowed by the Pixar films, so maybe you missed it. Now you can catch it. It’s very good.

Stargate SG-1: Seasons 1-10 - I’ve never seen these shows, but when 10 seasons of a fan-favorite sci-fi series comes to streaming, we take notice. And now you’ll notice too. Here’s some more on the Stargate franchise.

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Available December 8

Bobbleheads: The Movie - This is an actual movie that exists. Cher does a voice in it.

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Available December 10

Alice in Borderland This adaptation of the manga of the same name follows a group of Tokyo gamers who wake up in a very weird version of Tokyo and get drawn into games that could kill them. It’s a Netflix original series.

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Available December 23

The Midnight Sky December has some big, big movies coming to streaming. Among them is this Netflix original directed by George Clooney in which he plays a scientist who has to stop a group of astronauts (including Felicity Jones) from returning to Earth after a massive global catastrophe.

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Available December 26

Fast & Furious Spy Racers: Season 3: Sahara With the wait for F9 continuing for a few more months, Fast and Furious fans will at least have the third season of this animated series to enjoy.

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Available December 28

Rango - After several years of Pixar dominating the Best Animated Feature Oscar, a little green lizard voiced by Johnny Depp (under the direction of his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski) came along and ended the streak. Rango is a very quirky, funny animated film that stands right along side those Pixar classics.

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Amazon

No this isn’t a live shot of 2020, it’s the movie 2012.
No this isn’t a live shot of 2020, it’s the movie 2012.
Image: Sony
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Available December 1

2012 - He was only a few years off. In 2009, Roland Emmerich made this global disaster film about a father (John Cusack) trying to save his family as the world basically ended around them. What’s more 2020 than that? And though the movie isn’t great, you could do way worse in terms of Hollywood escapism.

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Anaconda - Giant snakes, Ice Cube, and Jennifer Lopez. What more could person want?

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs - Before they made The Lego Movie, 21 Jump Street, and so much more, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were TV guys making the leap to the big screen with this excellent, smart, and funny story about a man whose food-making machine threatens to end the world.

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Dr. No; Goldeneye; Goldfinger; The Spy Who Loved Me - A kind of random quartet of James Bond movies are coming to streaming. A few of the best too, though. (Also on Hulu)

The Natural - You might be thinking, “How is this baseball movie on here? That’s not a sci-fi movie!” And yet the story of nobody Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), an older man who comes out of nowhere to, for a brief time, become the most amazing baseball player in the world with a magic bat created by lightning...sounds more like a comic book than a drama, right?

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True Lies - James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger have made some great movies, especially together, and this one—with Schwarzenegger as a man whose family doesn’t know he’s a spy—remains highly underrated. It’s so much fun and well worth a rewatch if you haven’t seen it in a while

Available December 16

The Expanse: Season 5 - We interrupt this column with an urgent break in from Expanse superfan Cheryl Eddy: “Season four ended on a cliffhanger—all those space rocks are still making their way toward Earth, and it wouldn’t be The Expanse without some sort of teetering-on-the-brink-of-war situation—but look for the series’ penultimate season to also delve into the complicated backstories of its more mysterious characters, especially fan favorites Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper). The first three episodes drop December 16, then the show shifts to a more traditional format, with episodes popping up each Wednesday through February 3.”

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Hulu

The cast of Sunshine.
The cast of Sunshine.
Image: Fox
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Available December 1

Lupin the 3rd Part 5: Complete Season 1 - James Whitbrook loves the franchise. You might too.

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30 Days of Night - Josh Hartnett stars in this decent little horror movie about a town that plunges into its annual stretch of perpetual darkness right when a bunch of vampires invade. Since vampires only can be out at night, that’s probably a bad thing.

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Charlotte’s Web - The classic 1973 animated version of the E.B White book is coming to streaming. Perfect to watch and cry at with your kids, or all by yourself, as if you were a kid again.

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist - This is Paul Schrader’s version of this twice-made tale, not to be confused with Renny Harlin’s version, and is generally considered the superior take. As the title suggests, it’s a prequel to The Exorcist in which we see Father Merrin (Stellan Skarsgård) first encounter the demon Pazuzu. It’s not in the same league as the original but fans will find a few interesting connections and scares along the way.

Dragonball: Evolution - Being voted one of the worst movies ever on IMDB makes this loose, live action Dragonball adaptation worth a watch on its own, yes? Probably not if you’re a fan of Dragonball, but for other people, bad moves can be fun.

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Sunshine - Danny Boyle’s movies are almost always awesome, and yet somehow, this 2007 sci-fi film featuring Chris Evans, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Strong, plus a script by Alex Garland, oddly gets overlooked. It’s about scientists traveling into space to reignite the sun for crying out loud! It’s awesome!

The 6th Day - While the aforementioned True Lies is great, this 2000 Arnold Schwarzenegger action film is...less great. It’s about a man running into a clone of himself and the wildness that ensues. Not much about it is memorable but it’s Arnold so that by itself makes it worth watching.

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The Fifth Element - The late ‘90s were great for sci-fi and while The Matrix and Star Wars may get the headlines, Luc Besson’s excellent story of a cab driver (Bruce Willis) saving the galaxy with the unforgettable Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) is right up there.

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The Hulk - The Hulk has become a fan-favorite character in recent years thanks to his portrayal by Mark Ruffalo but this earlier approach, starring Eric Bana, saw multiple Oscar winner Ang Lee take a crack at the big green machine. It’s a weird movie that should have been better than it is, but is nevertheless fascinating.
 
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring; The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers; The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King - The holy trilogy of fantasy filmmaking. Bow at its greatness. (Fellowship is also coming to HBO Max)

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - Almost a decade removed from the first film in the series, by the time Tomb of the Dragon Emperor came about in 2008, the Mummy franchise had pretty much been put in a tomb. But, director Rob Cohen got Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh to come out for this film and tried his best to bring it back. He failed but it’s a valiant effort nevertheless.

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Available December 6 

The Secret Garden - This 2020 version of the classic, and often remade, tale of a young girl finding a magic garden got largely lost in the annual shuffle. But now it’s coming to Amazon and reviews make it sound like at least a solid attempt at capturing the wonder and whimsy of the story.

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Available December 15

Hitman: Agent 47 - For a second, I got excited that this was the Timothy Olyphant Hitman movie from 2007. But, alas, it’s the 2015 film with Rupert Friend as the bald assassin. Both movies are bad but at least Olyphant is having a moment.

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Disney+

Pixar’s Soul is coming to Disney+.
Pixar’s Soul is coming to Disney+.
Image: Pixar
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Available December 4

Anastasia - My wife has been begging me to watch this Fox musical for years. She says I’ll love it. For some reason, I keep putting it off. But now that it’s on Disney+, I think it’s unavoidable.

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Big - Tom Hanks’ signature role as a teenage boy who longs to be an adult (and then unexpectedly gets his wish) remains as funny, poignant, and charming as it was over 30 years ago.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms - If you’re looking for a visual feast, you can’t do better than The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It’s just a stunningly gorgeous movie. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good movie. At least it’s finally on Disney+ where it belongs though.

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Sky High - I need to say this in all caps: IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN SKY HIGH, IT’S TIME TO WATCH SKY HIGH. IT’S THE INCREDIBLES MEETS HARRY POTTER WITH KURT RUSSELL AND IT IS AMAZING. No further questions at this time.

Godmothered - In this Disney+ original, Jillian Bell plays a fairy godmother in a world that doesn’t really believe in those anymore—including the girl she’s come to Earth to help, who’s now an adult played by Isla Fisher.

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Available December 11

Ralph Breaks the Internet - The video game world of Wreck-It Ralph was so worth exploring audiences luckily got to see more of it in this awesome 2018 sequel, where Ralph jumped from the old-school arcade to the new-school internet. Chances are you haven’t seen it and, if not, you should watch it.

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Available December 18

Into the Woods - Rob Marshall’s fairy tale-filled musical adaptation isn’t quite as good as fans had hoped upon release, but the iconic songs and performance by the likes of Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt still make it a nice addition to the Disney platform.

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Available December 25

Soul - When Pixar releases a new film, it’s a big deal. It’s an even a bigger deal when it skips theaters to go to Disney+ and even bigger again when it’s the latest film from Pete Docter, director of Monsters Inc., Up, and Inside Out. Soul follows Joe (Jamie Foxx), a jazz teacher who gets his big break and then dies in a sudden accident. He then helps a soul (Tina Fey) learn why life is so precious. I’ve seen the film and it’s every bit as good as you hope it will be.

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HBO Max

One HBO Max subscription, please.
One HBO Max subscription, please.
Image: Warner Bros.
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Available December 1

Annabelle: Creation - Why not start the holiday season by diving into one of the many subsets of The Conjuring Universe, such as this second film about a sinister doll, which helps explain her origins?

The Crow; The Crow: City Of Angels; The Crow: Wicked Prayer - The main event here is the original Crow, a moody, powerful comic book adaptation starting the late Brandon Lee. Then, if you’re so inclined, you can go to the second and fourth films in the franchise. Not as good, obviously, but at least you get the original.

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Deep Blue Sea - Genius sharks, Samuel L. Jackson being eaten in one of the greatest on-screen deaths ever, plus an amazing LL Cool J theme song? This is what cinema is all about.

Demolition Man - Grab some Taco Bell and enjoy one of the best and most underrated sci-fi action films of the 1990s, starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and Sandra Bullock.

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Fallen - Denzel Washington stars in this excellent supernatural thriller about a killer who passes into other people’s bodies through touch. Chilling, tense stuff. Absolutely worth watching if you’ve never seen it.

Final Destination; Final Destination 2; Final Destination 3; The Final Destination - You can’t escape in these four pretty damn awesome horror films about people who avoid death and then find it following them at every turn. The original is great but even the sequels are good.

The Girl With All The Gifts - One of the best zombie movies you’ve never seen. Read more about it below but seriously, don’t miss it.

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Harry And the Hendersons - John Lithgow stars in this Bigfoot comedy from the 1980s you may have forgotten existed until this moment. But it does. And it’s dumb as hell in the best possible way.

Logan’s Run - This 1976 classic is crazy dated but still hugely important to the sci-fi genre. It follows a society that seems like everything is perfect and peaceful, mostly because everyone is killed when they hit a certain age.

Mars Attacks - ACK. ACK. ACK. TIM BURTON. ACK. ALIENS. ACK. WATCH IT.

The Omega Man - Charlton Heston stars in this adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in which a man fights mutants while believing he’s the last person on Earth.

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Shaun Of The Dead - The best zom-rom-com of all time. Edgar Wright co-writes and directs the modern classic about a regular guy who tries to reconcile his failing relationship during a zombie apocalypse.

Snakes on a Plane - The fact Snakes on a Plane is coming to HBO Max along with Deep Blue Sea makes for a very good double feature of Samuel L. Jackson fighting weird creatures. In this one, he actually survives longer than a few minutes.

Snow White and the Huntsman - Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth fall in love while battling Charlize Theron in this better-than-you-remember fantasy adaptation.

Spawn - As fans wait for Todd McFarlane to make a new Spawn movie, never forget in 1997 Hollywood already made one. It’s pretty bad but there are some cool effects and stuff.

THX 1138 - Before he created Star Wars, George Lucas made this heady sci-fi film starring Robert Duvall. It’s not as exciting as Star Wars but the big ideas and filmmaking talent are well on display.

Westworld - If HBO Max is gonna have the Westworld TV show, it’s probably good to have the Michael Crichton movie on which it was based. Required viewing for fans of the show and Yul Brynner in a black hat.

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Available December 19

Wendy - The sophomore film from Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin is a modern, gritty, beautiful, and poignant reimagining of the Peter Pan myth. It got a little buried in the 2020 shuffle but is absolutely worth watching.

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Available December 25

Wonder Woman 1984 - The reason why HBO Max is now on the list, and while you’re all soon to become HBO Max subscribers. Warner Bros. has decided to debut one of its biggest 2020 release on its streaming service, the continuing story of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman. We are so pumped for this you don’t even know.

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Available December 26

Independence Day - What better way to ring in the new year than with this 1996 sci-fi blockbuster? Bonus, this is the “Extended Edition” which adds a few little scenes, nothing significant, but it’s still a great movie.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

I liked Little Nicky the first time I watched it, but I was drunk.  It did not hold up on repeat viewing.