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Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”
Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

Focus Features

Darkest Hour

Director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) creates a British political counterpart to Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” Within days of becoming prime minister, Winston Churchill faces a government divided over a war against Germany for which it is poorly prepared, or a peace treaty not much different from surrender. Gary Oldman is remarkable as Churchill, completely transformed by flawless costuming and prosthetic jowls, and Kristin Scott Thomas is dramatically and comically outstanding as his loyal yet independent-spirited wife. (Nov. 22)

Juno Temple in “Wonder Wheel.”
Juno Temple in “Wonder Wheel.”

Amazon Studios

Wonder Wheel

Kate Winslet stars in this 1950s working-class drama, her first film by Woody Allen, who has guided actresses to six Oscars. She plays a wife and mother working as a waitress at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, frustrated by her failed dream of becoming an actress and by her lummox of a husband (Jim Belushi), who operates the flamboyant Ferris wheel. (Juno Temple, above, plays their estranged daughter.) She hopes that a new chapter might open as she begins a summertime affair with a young lifeguard (Justin Timberlake), who narrates the film. (Dec. 1)

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.”
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Shape of Water

There’s something for every fan in this delightfully elaborate fantasy from director Guillermo del Toro. The story is a mind-bending braid of early 1960s spy thriller, love drama and creature feature, with Sally Hawkins (above, with Octavia Spencer) playing a cleaning lady at a secret government facility who falls for a very unusual fellow captured in South America. Since she is mute and he is a real fish out of water, their moving romance becomes the very definition of recognizing the differences in others and loving those dissimilar qualities all the more. (Dec. 8)

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.”
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya.”

Neon

I, Tonya

This beautifully acted tragicomic mockumentary is a stinging, Scorsese-style take on one of the biggest scandals in U.S. sports history: conspiracy in the world of competitive female figure skating. Margot Robbie stars as Olympic hopeful Tonya Harding, famous as the first American woman to successfully jump the triple axel in competition, and later as a sideline player in a scheme to smash the leg of her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Allison Janney plays Tonya’s abusive mother, and Sebastian Stan her equally rude husband. (Dec. 8)

Jonathan Olshefskiís study of a decade in the lives of an African-American family in Philadelphia in “Quest.”
Jonathan Olshefskiís study of a decade in the lives of an African-American family in Philadelphia in “Quest.”

Provided photo

Quest

Jonathan Olshefski’s study of a decade in the lives of an African-American family in Philadelphia has been a popular documentary across the festival circuit. The Raineys describe themselves as “progressive and proud” despite experiencing poverty and deprivation on screen in vérité style. Following the Rainey family and their neighbors through social transitions that evolve through the Obama presidency until late last year, it has been praised as a moving portrait of people counting their blessings and paying them forward even when the chips are down. (Dec. 8)

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Lucasfilm

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Picking up where 2015’s “The Force Awakens” left off, Episode VIII of the series is unknown, beyond the private screening rooms of executives from Disney and Lucasfilm. But social media are abuzz with what fans are thinking, guessing and anticipating. Will the identity of the last Jedi be revealed and, if so, will there be a surprise twist? Will Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, above) embrace the dark side? How will the late Carrie Fisher’s final appearance as Gen. Leia Organa be handled? Why do Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo (Adam Driver) swing their light sabers in exactly the same way? There is only one way to find out, and it involves purchasing a ticket. (Dec. 15)

Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon, Maribeth Monroe and Jason Sudeikis in “Downsizing.”
Kristen Wiig, Matt Damon, Maribeth Monroe and Jason Sudeikis in “Downsizing.”

Paramount Pictures

Downsizing

From his feature debut with “Election” through his most recent movie, 2013’s “Nebraska,” Alexander Payne has taken a whimsical look at average American men entering middle age with a sense of being puny players in the big game of life. He takes his first futuristic look at those ideas in this fantasy about technology that actually shrinks them to 5 inches tall. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig (above) play a married couple dealing with a dubious sales pitch that people who become physically little turn out to be economically supersized. The ensemble includes Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern. So, yeah, you could be a little excited about this one. (Dec. 22)

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis star in “Phantom Thread.”
Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis star in “Phantom Thread.”

Focus Features

Phantom Thread

You never quite know what Paul Thomas Anderson has in mind until his films arrive in theaters. You often don’t know for weeks afterward as his latest one-of-a-kind opus evolves through your consciousness. That sense of mystery is one of the reasons why his work is so highly anticipated. The facts known about this mysterious love story: Daniel Day-Lewis plays a celebrated fashion designer in 1950s London; he develops a relationship with a strong-willed woman whom he lifts above her working-class origins; his protective, controlling sister moves to control the situation. What Anderson has shared in trailers feels like a dark suspense film, a costume drama directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (Dec. 22)

David Cross, Tracy Letts, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bradley Whitford, Philip Casnoff, Paul Brent Langdon, Carrie Coon star in a story of the Washington Post in the 1970s.
David Cross, Tracy Letts, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Bradley Whitford, Philip Casnoff, Paul Brent Langdon, Carrie Coon star in a story of the Washington Post in the 1970s.

Twentieth Century Fox

The Post

In the 1970s, the Pentagon Papers revealed what had actually happened in the escalation of the Vietnam War. The Nixon White House, which had long lied to the U.S. public about the war, fought to prevent the release of this Defense Department study, and to prohibit the Washington Post from publishing it. Steven Spielberg gives the story of First Amendment freedoms and Supreme Court melodrama the kind of big-star attention he used in “Lincoln,” with Tom Hanks (above left) as Post editor Benjamin Bradlee and Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham. (Dec. 22)