This week’s arrival of “Spectre” — the new James Bond film — signals the opening of holiday movie season, that time of year when studios release what they hope will be their biggest blockbusters. It’s also the start of awards season, when you’ll find 007’s type of action thriller rubbing shoulders with art-house fare meant to woo members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Occasionally, a movie straddles both categories. “Skyfall” — the previous Bond film by “Spectre” director Sam Mendes — was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two (for best song and sound editing). Whether Mendes can repeat that trick this year, winning at the box office and the ballot box, remains to be seen.
Between now and early January, when the Academy announces its Oscar nominations, there’s plenty to appeal to a broad swath of moviegoers. This is an especially good year for fans of the kind of mainstream movie that sometimes gets swamped by all the prestige, so-good-for-you-it-hurts cinema that floods the market in the last months of the year.
There’s a movie on the horizon for almost every taste, from weepy drama to farce to thriller. In order to help you navigate the field, we looked at what you may have liked last year and came up with a dozen recommendations, based on genre, theme, style, subject, actor and director.
(Opening dates and ratings may change.)
If you liked Still Alice . . . Then check out Miss You Already
Echoes of Julianne Moore’s heroine from “Still Alice” — a woman deteriorating from early-onset Alzheimer’s — can be found in “Miss You Already,” another unabashed tear-jerker featuring a strong central female performance. Make that two strong performances: Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette play best friends who must cope with terminal illness. (Friday, PG-13)
If you liked Boyhood . . .
Then check out Victoria
Do you like your movies formally audacious? Richard Linklater’s masterpiece “Boyhood” rewrote the moviemaking rule book by filming the same actor (Ellar Coltrane) over a span of 12 years. “Victoria,” shot in one nearly 2
(Nov. 13, not yet rated)
If you liked Kill the Messenger . . . Then check out Spotlight
Aficionados of last year’s fact-based drama about muckraking reporter Gary Webb — who drew connections between the CIA and Nicaragua’s Contras — may find a thematic cousin in “Spotlight,” which portrays the real-life Boston Globe journalists who won a Pulitzer Prize for their exposé of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Like “Messenger,” which was nominated by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association for Best Portrayal of Washington, “Spotlight” also boasts a local angle: Former Globe editor Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber, now runs The Post’s newsroom. (Nov. 13, R)
If you liked Gone Girl . . . Then check out Secret in Their Eyes
This year’s entry in the category of darkly twisted psychological thriller features ingredients we saw in the 2014 adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel: a morally flawed hero (Julia Roberts, as a cop seeking vengeance for the death of her daughter) and an overarching theme of the uncertainty of guilt. (Nov. 20, PG-13)
If you liked The Interview . . . Then check out The Night Before
This holiday season’s bro-centric yuk-fest isn’t likely to provoke the screening cancellations that last year’s most controversial buddy comedy did (before opening Christmas Eve via video on demand). But both movies co-star Seth Rogen and feature drug use, raunchy humor and foul language. Fans of that winning formula should belly up to the box office as Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie play old friends out for a debauched night on the town. Bonus Pop-Tart parallel: In lieu of Katy Perry (whose song “Firework” played under “The Interview’s” Kim Jong-Un death scene), “The Night Before” breaks out a cameo with Miley Cyrus. (Nov. 20, R)
If you liked The Theory of Everything . . . Then check out The Danish Girl
After his Oscar-winning turn as Stephen Hawking, the British physicist whose mind remains active even as his body wastes away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, Eddie Redmayne returns as another character trapped inside his body. As Lili Elbe (1882-1931), a transgender woman who was born male as Einar Wegener, Redmayne, right, is almost certain to be shortlisted for another Academy Award. (Dec. TBD, R)
If you liked Selma . . .
Then check out Concussion
Great roles for black actors are still too few in Hollywood. But in “Concussion,” when Will Smith steps into the role of Bennet Omalu — the real-life pathologist who pushed for the NFL to acknowledge a link between head injuries and a degenerative brain disease common among pro football players — it may remind some of what many consider last year’s standout performance. As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” David Oyelowo made an indelible impression as another crusader. (Dec. 25, PG-13)
If you liked Top Five . . .
Then check out Daddy’s Home
One of the best-reviewed comedies last year was writer-director Chris Rock’s sharp satire of race and celebrity. Will Ferrell, another “Saturday Night Live” alum who has moved on to become a movie powerhouse, returns to the silver screen in “Daddy’s Home,” a comedy about a nebbishy second husband (Ferrell) who gets caught up in a rivalry with his stepchildren’s much cooler biological father (Mark Wahlberg). Can the magic of Ferrell and Wahlberg’s odd coupling in “The Other Guys” be re-created here?
(Dec. 25, not yet rated)
If you liked The Grand Budapest Hotel . . . Then check out The Hateful Eight
At first glance, these two movies are nothing alike. Wes Anderson’s “Budapest” was a twee caper film set in Old Europe; Quentin Tarantino’s latest is a sure-to-be-hyperviolent western about an outlaw (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) who get tangled up with a half-dozen men of questionable character (including one played by Samuel L. Jackson).
But think about it: Each of these auteurs is known for his highly idiosyncratic style — as well as a tendency to cast favorite actors over and over. In addition to Jackson and Russell, “Hateful” features performances by Tarantino veterans Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. (Dec. 25, not yet rated)
If you liked Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance . . . Then check out The Revenant
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow-up to his multi-Oscar-winning “Birdman” features a stark change of setting: from the backstage warren of a contemporary Broadway theater to the 19th-century American West. Both films center on something of a comeback. “Birdman” was the story of a washed-up movie actor (Michael Keaton) and his attempt at artistic redemption. “Revenant” is inspired by the true story of Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman who in 1823 — after being mauled by a bear and left for dead — travels 200 miles to exact revenge on the man who abandoned him (Tom Hardy). (Jan. 8, R)
If you liked Ida . . .
Then check out Son of Saul
Hungary’s official submission to the Academy Awards and the Grand Prize winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, “Son of Saul” is the story of a concentration camp prisoner (Géza Röhrig) who tries to save — from the ovens — the body of a dead boy he believes to be his son. Last year’s best foreign language film winner, “Ida” also had a Holocaust theme: That Polish drama told of a novitiate nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) who discovers her Jewish roots in the years after World War II.
(Jan. 15, R)
If you liked American Sniper . . . Then check out 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Ever since “American Sniper,” the world has been waiting for another polarizing military action flick about a controversial real-life conflict zone. (Or maybe not.) Set during the infamous 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in Libya, “13 Hours” stars a beefed-up and bearded John Krasinski as a member of the embassy’s security team. Ladies and gentlemen: Pick a side. (Jan. 15, not yet rated)
Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect description of the 2014 film “Kill the Messenger.” Although the movie was nominated by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association in the category of Best Portrayal of Washington, it was beaten out for that award by “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” This version has been updated.