Napoleon to Priscilla: 12 of the best films to watch in November

Including Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, Sophia Coppola’s Priscilla Presley biopic and the Hunger Games prequel – Nicholas Barber lists this month’s unmissable movies to watch and stream.
(Credit: Lionsgate)

(Credit: Lionsgate)

1. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

It’s prequel time again. In December, we’ll get to see the founding of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in Wonka, but first there’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Based on the dystopian YA novel by Suzanne Collins, the prequel is set 64 years before the previous Hunger Games films. Donald Sutherland’s character, Coriolanus Snow, is now a teenager played by Tom Blyth, and Rachel Zegler is the woman he has to train for the Capitol’s 10th annual death match. It is, says Collins, a rough-and-ready, low-tech contest. “Even as the victor in the war, the Capitol wouldn’t have had the time or resources for anything elaborate. They had to rebuild their city and the industries in the districts, so the arena really is an old sports arena. They just threw in the kids and the weapons and turned on the cameras. The 10th Hunger Games is where it all blows wide open, both figuratively and literally.”

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Released internationally from 15 November, and on 17 November in the US and the UK

(Credit: Marvel)

(Credit: Marvel)

2. The Marvels

Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel returns to save the planet from evil aliens, but her job is made considerably harder this time by a cosmic glitch that links her to two other superheroines. Every time she uses her powers, she swaps places with either Photon (Teyonah Parris) or Ms Marvel (Iman Vellani). Speaking of Marvels, Marvel Studios themselves have struggled to regain momentum since Avengers: Endgame came out in 2019. Could the 33rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get the company back up to speed? “The biggest difference from the other MCU movies to date is that it’s really wacky, and silly,” the director Nia DaCosta told Total Film. “The worlds we go to in this movie are worlds unlike others you’ve seen in the MCU. Bright worlds that you haven’t seen before.”

Released internationally from 8 November, and on 10 November in the US and the UK

(Credit: Amazon)

(Credit: Amazon)

3. Saltburn

Emerald Fennell follows her Oscar-winning debut, Promising Young Woman, with the satirical tale of a promising young man. Essentially “The Talented Mr Ripley Revisits Brideshead”, Saltburn stars Barry Keoghan (The Banshees of Inisherin) as a gauche Oxford University student who is invited to spend the summer at the stately home of the most popular boy in college, Jacob Elordi. Will he survive the company of the boy’s absurdly over-privileged family, including a lady and lord of the manor played with hilarious gusto by Rosamund Pike and Richard E Grant? Ella Kemp at the Evening Standard says: “Saltburn is so delicious in its twists, the gorgeously lensed disasters and endless farces, that it’s impossible to ignore the work of a truly gifted and haywire filmmaker.”

Released on 17 November in the US, the UK and Ireland

(Credit: A24)

(Credit: A24)

4. Dream Scenario

Paul Matthews (Nicolas Cage) is a happily married university professor, although he is so uncharismatic that most of his students don’t listen to him. But then, inexplicably, he starts popping up in people’s dreams: whatever anyone is dreaming about, Paul is there in the background, strolling by. Does this weird phenomenon make him special? And should it make him rich and famous?  A surreal comedy that echoes another of Cage’s films, Adaptation, Dream Scenario is an unsettling commentary on celebrity in the social-media age, when it’s possible to become globally famous for doing very little – but globally notorious, too. “Kristoffer Borgli’s dark social satire goes all in on its Twilight Zone premise,” says Peter Howell at the Toronto Star, “giving Cage one of the best roles of his career as he rages from comic to horrific, sometimes in the same moment.”

Released on 10 November in the US, the UK and Ireland

(Credit: A24-Philippe Le Sourd)

(Credit: A24-Philippe Le Sourd)

5. Priscilla

A year on from Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of Elvis Presley, Sofia Coppola has made a biopic of the King’s wife Priscilla – and it could hardly be more different. While Luhrmann’s film exploded with noise and colour, Coppola’s is a subdued, intimate drama that concentrates not on showbiz glamour but on its young heroine’s increasingly fraught domestic life. It begins in 1959, when Priscilla Beaulieu (Cailee Spaeny) is a 14-year-old girl on an American military base in Germany, and Elvis (Jacob Elordi) is a homesick soldier who takes a shine to her. “Priscilla is a radiant, empathetic, and yet not naive look at the first love that caught the whole world’s attention,” says Kristy Puchko at Mashable. “Coppola paints Priscilla’s world with all the attention to detail that the young girl does her fingernails. Every stroke matters and pays off, creating a glossy but not glossed-over coming-of-age tale of love, loss, and moving on.”

Released on 3 November in the US and Canada

(Credit: Netflix)

(Credit: Netflix)

6. The Killer

David Fincher’s last film, Mank, was a sprawling, black-and-white chronicle of political and personal conniving in Hollywood’s golden age, so you can hardly blame the director for choosing a simple, stripped back action thriller as his next project. Adapted from a French graphic novel by Alexis “Matz” Nolent, The Killer stars Michael Fassbender as a freelance assassin. He takes pride in the unshowy efficiency of his methods, but one day he accidentally shoots the wrong person in Paris, and he is forced to fly around the world, bumping off all the people who want to pay him back for his blunder.  The film is “a return to form”, says Lex Briscuso at IGN. “Marrying a tight and effective script from Andrew Kevin Walker, smart performances from Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton, and sharp editing, this assassin odyssey is one you’ll want to watch again and again.”

Released on 10 November on Netflix internationally

(Credit: courtesy of TIFF)

(Credit: courtesy of TIFF)

7. Next Goal Wins

In 2001, American Samoa was beaten by Australia at football, with a humiliating final score of 31-0. Determined to shed their reputation as the world’s worst footballers, the American Samoans hired a Dutch-American coach, Thomas Rongen. Their underdog story was made into a documentary, Next Goal Wins, and now Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit) has turned it into a feelgood comedy drama starring Michael Fassbender, who can also be seen in The Killer this month. BBC Culture’s Kaleem Aftab says: “Waititi’s winning, winsome film is his most accessible and mainstream movie to date, Marvel aside, one that successfully mixes in funny jokes with zeitgeisty social commentary.”

Released in the US and Canada on 17 November

(Credit: Rocket Science/Sky)

(Credit: Rocket Science/Sky)

8. May December

Gracie (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton) have been married for 20 years, and now live a comfortable life in an enviable lakeside house with their three children. The twist is that they got together when Gracie was 36 and Joe was a 13-year-old schoolboy. Does their subsequent domestic bliss cancel out the crime? And are they really all that blissful? In the new psychological thriller from Todd Haynes (Carol, Far from Heaven), a Hollywood star (Natalie Portman) signs up to play Gracie in a biopic, and starts her research by coming to stay with the family. “It’s sort of a movie about guilt, sort of about conscience, sort of about exploitation,” says Alissa Wilkinson at Vox, “but Haynes’s wrapping it in camp trappings reminds us that this is the stuff of tabloids, and the lightness of touch makes it entertaining and uncomfortable all at once.”

Released on 17 November in the US

(Credit: Pandora Films)

(Credit: Pandora Films)

9. Fallen Leaves

One of this year’s smaller and quieter films, Fallen Leaves is also one of the most acclaimed: Aki Kaurismäki’s typically deadpan romantic comedy won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and currently has a perfect score of 100 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is set in Kaurismäki’s usual quirky and melancholic version of contemporary Helsinki. Ansa (Alma Poyst) and Holappa (Jussi Vatanen) are both scraping by in depressing, low-paid jobs, but they might just stumble into a loving relationship. “It’s a wonderful film with not an ounce of fat on the bone,” says David Jenkins in Little White Lies, “and Kaurismäki still managed to thread the needle between a style of ironic detachment and emotions that are big, bold and instantly affecting.”

Released on 17 November in the US

(Credit: Disney)

(Credit: Disney)

10. Wish

Walt Disney celebrates its 100th anniversary with a cartoon that incorporates the themes and animation styles of the studio’s first century. Directed by Chris Buck (co-director of Frozen) and Fawn Veerasunthorn, Wish is a musical fairy tale set in a magical land where King Magnifico (Chris Pine) can grant his citizens’ wishes. But a 17-year-old girl, Asha (Ariana DeBose), questions whether the king should keep that power all to himself. She wishes on a star – and the star then falls from the sky to help her. Buck told Jackson Murphy at Animation Scoop that the film is “kind of our love letter to Disney, to Walt. What he brought to the world and us. And it’s for the fans, too … Not only is it made for fans but it’s made by fans. We’re some of the biggest Disney fans on this planet.”

Released on 22 November in the US and 24 November in the UK

(Credit: Strike Back Studios)

(Credit: Strike Back Studios)

11. Pencils vs Pixels

Disney cartoons had a renaissance in the 1990s, with such modern classics as Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King coming out year after year. But the release of Toy Story in 1995 changed everything. Within a decade, 3D computer-generated animation was the norm, and traditional hand-drawn 2D animation had been pushed into a specialist niche. Pencils vs Pixels tells the story of this transition, but also surveys a century of Hollywood cartoon craftsmanship. Bay Dariz and Phil Earnest’s documentary is “a potted history of the medium in America, and a chance to educate audiences on pivotal artists like the Nine Old Men and Mary Blair,” says Richard Whittaker at the Austin Chronicle. “By bringing together an extraordinary roster of talking heads… [the film] provides an incredible viewpoint from the artist’s side of the wonder of American animation and its rich legacy.”

Released on 7 November in the US

(Credit: Apple)

(Credit: Apple)

12. Napoleon

Ridley Scott’s 86th birthday might be approaching, but the director of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator seems to have more drive and energy than ever. His 28th film is an epic biopic of Napoleon Bonaparte, with Joaquin Phoenix as the French general, and Vanessa Kirby as his wife Josephine. It’s reported to be three hours long, with six major battle sequences – although it’s as much a character-driven drama as it is a war movie. It’s “a film that is, at once, the kind of battle-fuelled behemoth you want from the director of Gladiator, and the exact opposite of that, too,” says Ben Travis in Empire. “[Napoleon], above all else, is about trying to get into his head… to find out exactly what made him tick.”

On general release from 22 November

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