Are you one of those families that streamed Saltburn together (and now have regrets)? Or were you dancing around your mansion like Barry Keoghan to Sophie Ellis-Bextor? If you haven’t seen Emerald Fennell’s dark, funny (and extremely divisive) thriller, you can stream it on Prime Video, or see it at the cinema. But we’re going to assume you’ve moved on from the 2006 period drama and you’re looking for something fresh to see in theatres or at home.

We’ve picked 10 films out in January (with the exception of one special December release) and a new homegrown Netflix series to stream.

For devilishly unhinged cinema: Poor Things
Director Yorgos Lanthimos, screenwriter Tony McNamara and Golden Globes winner Emma Stone started talking about adapting Alasdair Gray’s novel Poor Things when they were on the set of The Favourite in 2017. They knew the story of a woman brought back to life with the brain of her unborn baby had the potential for a provocative whirlwind comedy about liberation and self-discovery. There are obvious comparisons to Frankenstein and Pygmalion, but Lanthimos takes the Victorian England setting and dials up the hypercolour sets, gothic lighting, dramatic costumes and sex scenes to animate Bella Baxter (Stone) and Godwin (or “God” as Bella calls him, played by Willem Dafoe). Mark Ruffalo’s peacock-like performance as slimy lawyer Duncan Wedderburn is the funniest to watch. Lanthimos and Stone (a producer on the film) don’t shy away from the grittier, more confronting elements of the story either.
In cinemas from January 18

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For a lesson in chemistry: All of Us Strangers
Internet boyfriends Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott get sexy and sentimental in a mesmerising boy-next-door romance haunted by the past. The Irish lads have the kind of chemistry to get you hooked on their relationship before it starts. Scott’s character Adam is a screenwriter, who returns to his childhood home to learn more about his parents who died when he was a child. Except in All of Us Strangers, Adam’s long-dead parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) are here, seemingly unchanged from the day he last saw them. Director Andrew Haigh gives space for all the tender and overwhelming emotions to take over in these scenes – just as he creates eerie, beautiful moments for Adam’s slow-burn relationship with Mescal’s character Harry. Read our interview with the director.
In cinemas from January 18

For a beautiful nightmare: Dream Scenario
Face/Off (1997) is still my favourite Nicolas Cage movie, but Dream Scenario is a close runner-up. His performance as the twitching, cringey lecturer Paul Matthews is both convincing and unnerving. Norwegian writer-director Kristoffer Borgli, who brought us last year’s indie hit Sick of Myself, takes Cage’s character on a rise-and-fall ride of viral fame when the otherwise forgetful family man starts appearing in people’s dreams, and not just in the dreams of those he’s met. At first buoyed by his newfound importance, Paul meets with a team of marketers – enter Michael Cera – to workshop his new potential in the world. It’s a sharp, satirical portrayal of fickle fame and cancel culture, with dreamy cinematography of Toronto.
In cinemas now

For ice-cold courtroom drama: Anatomy of a Fall
The steel band reggae version of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” plays over and over in my mind after seeing Justine Triet’s crime thriller at Sydney Film Festival 2023. The Palme d’Or- and Golden Globes-winning film did the festival rounds last year and it’s finally getting a general release in Australia. The gripping story follows Sandra (Sandra Hüller) who is on trial after her husband’s suspicious death, with her blind son the case’s only witness. Triet keeps the audience guessing with revelations about the couple’s relationship, and each juicy scene – such as the one with that 50 Cent cover – offers just the right amount of tension and intrigue.
In cinemas from January 25

For something totally fetch: Mean Girls
There’s a 30 per cent chance Reneé Rapp is a racier Regina George than Rachel McAdams. Don’t get us wrong, McAdams owned the role in the 2004 film, but Rapp has that knowing glint in her eye. The singer/actor said she’s leaning into the idea of the queer side of the queen bee character, and it feels right. This Mean Girls is filled with iconic lines from the first one (“You go, Glen Coco!”), but it’s a musical based on the Broadway show. Tina Fey and Tim Meadows are the only two reprising their roles; fresh faces include Auli‘i Cravalho (Moana), Bebe Wood (The New Normal), Avantika (The Sex Lives of College Girls), Australian actor Angourie Rice (Mare of Easttown), and Jon Hamm as the questionable sex-ed teacher Coach Carr.
In cinemas from January 11

For Brissie on the big screen: Boy Swallows Universe
Writer Trent Dalton introduced us to the character of Eli Bell in his 2018 novel, loosely based on his upbringing in Brisbane’s south-west in the ’80s. The best-selling book was adapted into a play and now a TV show, capturing an underworld of drug addiction in the River City. The exuberant Eli is played by Felix Cameron in the Netflix limited series, alongside a heavyweight cast of grown-ups including Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals), Simon Baker (Limbo). The show follows Eli as he navigates right and wrong with a heroin dealer for a stepfather, a notorious criminal for a babysitter, and a recovering addict mum.
Stream it on Netflix from January 11

For wry festive cheer: The Holdovers
If you’d like to linger longer in the holiday spirit, Alexander Payne’s latest film is all about unlikely companionship at Christmastime. Payne has teamed up with actor Paul Giamatti for the first time since 2004 film Sideways, and the witty, charming buddy-comedy vibes are similar in The Holdovers. Giamatti – who took home a Golden Globes award for his performance – embodies an irritable, pessimistic teacher who’s tasked with babysitting a group of privileged boarding school students with nowhere else to be at Christmas. The group whittles down to just one student, teacher and the school cook (played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, also a Golden Globes winner). It’s set in snowy Massachusetts in the 1970s, and Payne’s film feels like it was made back then.
In cinemas from January 11

For sisterhood and show tunes: The Color Purple
Like Mean Girls, this adaptation of Alice Walker’s impactful novel is not a straightforward book-to-film movie. It’s a musical version based on the 2005 Broadway production with influences from the 1985 Steven Spielberg film, which starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia. Both Winfrey and Spielberg have producer credits on this fresh new take, along with executive production from Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker, among others. It’s a milder treatment of the text, focusing on the bond between the three women who experience brutal violence and racism. Celie is portrayed by Fantasia Barrino; Taraji P Henson (Hidden Figures) plays Shug Avery; and Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) is Sofia. Also among the impressive cast is Colman Domingo (Zola), Halle Bailey (The Little Mermaid) and singer H.E.R.
In cinemas from January 25

For a meditation on life and death: The Boy and the Heron
Fans of Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro have likely flocked to see Hayao Miyazaki’s swan song film already, but it’s never too late to get on board the Studio Ghibli train. The 82-year-old Japanese filmmaker came out of retirement to make this final animation, and it’s just as magical and moving as his others. It’s semi-autobiographical, following a boy called Mahito, who’s searching for the spirit of his dead mother. Mahito goes to stay with his aunt where he’s visited by a heron with human teeth. One day Mahito follows the heron through a portal into a world shared by the living and the dead. It’s about grief, but also about new beginnings, and it won a Golden Globe for best animated feature film.
In cinemas now

For feel-good laughs: Next Goal Wins
In 2001 the American Samoa soccer team lost 31–0 to Australia in a qualifying match for the World Cup. They were subsequently named “world’s worst football team” by the global press, and Dutch-American coach Thomas Rongen was brought in to help their game. In 2014, a documentary was made about Rongen’s efforts – as well as the team’s fa’afafine player Jaiyah Saelua, who became the first transgender player to compete in a World Cup qualifier. Now, 23 years after the record loss, Taika Waititi has taken the heart and soul of the story and added his signature warmth and Kiwi humour, as well as a few Hollywood names. Saelua is played by impressive newcomer Kaimana, but big names include Michael Fassbender as the cantankerous Rongen, Elisabeth Moss as his ex-wife, Will Arnett as her new partner, and Waititi himself as a priest. It might not be the Jojo Rabbit director’s most entertaining film but it is an uplifting story to see play out on the silver screen.
In cinemas now

For a tumultuous love story: Priscilla
It would be a hard to follow Austin Butler’s performance in Elvis, but focusing on whether or not Jacob Elordi nails the role in Priscilla would entirely miss the point. This is Priscilla’s story – Priscilla, the 14-year-old who meets the king of rock’n’roll at a party in 1959, moves to Graceland while still at school, marries him and has his child, Lisa Marie Presley, then ends up alone most of the time while Elvis is making movies. Sofia Coppola employs a similar observational, dreamy lens as she did in The Virgin Suicides to depict Elvis’s controlling behaviour – such as instructing Priscilla to dye her hair, or dress a certain way. Golden Globes-nominated Cailee Spaeny is as captivating to watch in the early years as she is when Priscilla starts to gain independence. It’s a film that famously upset Lisa Marie, but it’s a fascinating watch based on her mother’s 1985 memoir that had Priscilla’s tick of approval.
In cinemas from January 18

This article was first published on January 2. It was updated following the Golden Globes 2024.