What’s on Netflix in December 2020? From Bridgerton to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Katie Rosseinsky
·5 min read
<p>Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton</p> (LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)

Phoebe Dynevor in Bridgerton


There’s much more to Netflix’s Christmas line-up than saccharine yuletide rom-coms.

Instead, December’s viewing schedule is packed with everything from buzzed-about awards contenders like David Fincher’s Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which features the late Chadwick Boseman’s final performance, to glitzy guilty pleasures like The Prom, starring a who’s who of Hollywood talent doing their best jazz hands.

Plus, Christmas Day will mark the debut of Bridgerton, one of Netflix's most anticipated original series. The platform’s first show to be produced under Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland banner, this big-budget Regency period drama features Julie Andrews as the acid-tongued narrator —what better way to fill the interminable gap between Christmas and New Year?

These are our highlights from the streaming service’s festive offering...

Mank - December 4

<p>Oldman portrays the Old Hollywood screenwriter</p>AP

Oldman portrays the Old Hollywood screenwriter


Gary Oldman stars as screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in David Fincher’s black and white tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age, charting Citizen Kane’s tumultuous journey from page to screen, as well as the infamous row over its authorship (Mankiewicz famously had to harangue director Orson Welles to receive a credit; they eventually shared the film’s only Oscar, for best original screenplay). It’s already stirred up awards buzz – Hollywood can rarely resist a film about itself, after all.

Selena: The Series - December 4

Tejano megastar Selena Quintanilla-Perez had just won a Grammy and topped the Latin charts when her life was tragically cut short weeks before her 24th birthday, when she was shot dead by the president of her fan club. Her story was first brought to the screen in a 1997 biopic starring Jennifer Lopez in her breakout role; now, it’s inspired a biographical drama from Netflix, starring Christian Serratos as the singer. The series will focus on the early stages of Selena’s ascent to stardom.

Rose Island - December 9

In the late Sixties, an Italian engineer named Georgio Rosa had a brainwave: bored of polite society, he’d set up his own island in the middle of the sea, just outside of Italy’s territorial boundaries, and live by his own rules. The finished island became a magnet for bemused tourists, but the Italian government on the mainland was less than impressed, quickly attempting to stamp out the so-called Republic of Rose Island. Netflix’s film promises a colourful take on this weird and wonderful story.

The Prom - December 11

<p>Meryl Streep and James Corden reunite in The Prom</p>Netflix

Meryl Streep and James Corden reunite in The Prom


Sequins! Jazz hands! Meryl Streep! This all-singing, all-dancing Broadway adaptation from Ryan Murphy boasts the most star-studded cast list we’ve seen since, ahem, the Cats movie, but don’t let that put you off. The Prom tells the story of Emma, an Indiana teen whose prom is cancelled after she tries to bring her girlfriend as her date. Enter a group of washed-up musical theatre stars, fresh from a Broadway flop, searching for a good cause that might redeem them in the eyes of their fans.

Giving Voice - December 11

This documentary, which picked up the Festival Favourite award at Sundance earlier this year, follows six students as they compete in the August Wilson Monologue Competition, an annual contest which sees thousands of budding actors from across the United States perform the playwright’s work. Executive producers and former co-stars Viola Davis and Denzel Washington also make cameos, sharing the impact that Wilson’s work has had on their careers.

Song Exploder Volume Two - December 15

This underlooked Netflix gem, adapted from the successful podcast, explores the backstories behind hit songs, documenting the creative process in depth from the initial inspiration to the meaning behind the lyrics. This time, host Hrishikesh Hirway will be chatting to artists like Dua Lipa, The Killers and Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom - December 18

<p>The film sadly marks Boseman’s final role</p>Netflix

The film sadly marks Boseman’s final role


Viola Davis takes centre stage as Ma Rainey, the real-life ‘Mother of the Blues,’ in Netflix’s take on August Wilson’s 1984 play, part of the Pulitzer Prize winner’s Pittsburgh Cycle (Davis previously won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Fences, another Wilson adaptation, back in 2017). In his final role, Chadwick Boseman stars as Levee, an ambitious trumpeter convinced he is destined for greater things than working as a session musician for big stars like Ma.

The Midnight Sky - December 23

If 2020 hasn’t permanently sated your appetite for apocalyptic drama, may we point you towards The Midnight Sky? George Clooney directs and stars in this expensive-looking sci-fi epic, playing a scientist trying to warn a group of astronauts (played Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo and Kyle Chandler) that they’d be better off staying in space following a mysterious global crisis that appears to have wiped out vast swathes of the earth’s population. Sounds festive.

Bridgerton - December 25

<p>Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page give us Regency romance</p>LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page give us Regency romance


This mega-budget adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Regency romance series is the first period drama from Shonda Rhimes, the TV powerhouse behind glossy US hits like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. The premise is Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl: Julie Andrews voices the acid-tonged Lady Whistledown, the anonymous author of a high society scandal sheet who seems determined to stir up trouble for London’s most eligible young aristocrats.

Equinox - December 30

This intense Danish sci-fi thriller looks set to fill the gap left by the likes of Dark and The OA (RIP). Radio host Astrid (Danica Curcic) is still traumatised after losing her sister in a bus accident two decades ago; when a caller phones in to her show and promises to reveal what really happened to the children in the crash, her world is turned upside down.