The Best Movies on Apple TV Plus Right Now (December 2020)

The best flicks on Apple's streaming video service

Apple TV+ doesn't have the thousands of movies that Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Max offers. But it does have a great selection of high-quality films from major talents and big-name stars. Whether you want an engaging drama, a thought-provoking documentary, or something for the kids, these are the best movies on Apple's streaming platform.

Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special (2020): Best Holiday Cheer

Mariah Carey in 'Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special.'

Apple

IMDb rating: n/a

Starring: Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson 

Director: Hamish Hamilton, Roman Coppola

Motion Picture Rating: TV-G

Running Time: 43 minutes

Mariah Carey is responsible for one of the catchiest holiday songs ever, and now she has her own Christmas special debuting on Apple TV. It's filled with celebrities, including Tiffany Haddish, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and even Mariah Carey's twin children. Come for the musical numbers and the gorgeous costumes and set designs, stay for Snoop Dogg in a Santa suit just being Snoop.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth (2020): The Beloved Children's Book in Animated Form

A family goes for a bike ride in 'Here We are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth'

Apple

IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jacob Tremblay, Chris O'Dowd

Director: Philip Hunt, Douglas Carrigan

Motion Picture Rating: TV-G

Running Time: 36 minutes

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth is a short animated film based on the beloved children's book by Oliver Jeffers. Filled with beautiful art and soothing vocal performances from actors like Meryl Streep, Chris O'Dowd, and Ruth Negga, it's a lovely glimpse at the basics of life on this planet. Plus, the short length is perfect for smaller attention spans.

Dads (2020): An Affectionate Tribute to Paterfamilias

Bryce Dallas Howard and Ron Howard in 'Dads.'

Apple

IMDb rating: 6.4/10

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard, Will Smith

Director: Bryce Dallas Howard

Motion Picture Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 1 hour, 27 minutes

Bryce Dallas Howard is a famous actress and director with a famous director dad. So, she got her father, and other celebrity fathers, to sit down and chat about parenthood and its various struggles. Will Smith, Patton Oswalt, Neil Patrick Harris, and more give interviews for this heartwarming documentary. There are also glimpses into the lives of everyday dads. It all sounds a bit saccharine, but it's also a moving tribute to the big guy in our lives.

Greyhound (2020): Best Serious Tom Hanks Movie

Greyhound on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.0/10

Starring: Tom Hanks, Elisabeth Shue, Stephen Graham   

Director: Aaron Schneider

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Originally planned as a major theatrical release, COVID-19 pushed the debut of this World War 2 thriller onto Apple TV+.

Greyhound stars Tom Hanks (who also wrote the screenplay; adapted from a novel by C.S. Forester) as an inexperienced commander of a fleet of escort ships during the early days of U.S. involvement in World War 2. In this action-packed naval war saga, the fleet must evade German U-Boats as it makes it way to Liverpool.

On the Rocks (2020): Best Indie Family Relationship Drama

On the Rocks on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 6.5/10

Starring: Bill Murray, Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans

Director: Sofia Coppola

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

This mix of comedy and drama reunites director Sofia Coppola with her Lost in Translation collaborator, the iconic Bill Murray, for a look at family and relationships.

In On the Rocks, a woman (Rashida Jones) enlists the help of her playboy father (Murray) to help figure out whether her husband (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her. That quest involves a trip from New York to Mexico, with examinations of the dynamics between fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and more. The film is boosted by a winning cast and a lighter tone than the material might lead you to expect.

Beastie Boys Story (2020): Best Non-Earth-Shattering Hip Hop Time Capsule

Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.8/10

Starring: Beastie Boys, Mike D, Adam Horovitz

Director: Spike Jonze

Motion Picture Rating: TV-MA

Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Hip hop heads can't afford to miss this career-spanning look back at seminal group, the Beastie Boys. From the group's start nearly 40 years ago, through their breakout early albums, their '90s reinvention, to the 2012 death of co-founder Adam "MCA" Yauch, this documentary runs the gamut.

Directed by Spike Jonze—who also directed the band's iconic music video "Sabotage," along with indie feature hits like Her, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich—the film may not break any news or provide major insights, but it's still a great time capsule for long-time fans and new converts.

Bruce Springsteen: Letter to You (2020): Best Springsteen Fan Creative Indulgence

Bruce Springsteen Letter to You on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.5/10

Starring: Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa   

Director: Thom Zimny

Motion Picture Rating: TV-PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Released in conjunction with the album of the same name, this Springsteen doc takes a deep dive into the Boss' work by combining in-studio performances, rare archival material, and live footage.

While the documentary is nominally tied to the creation and release of the "Letter to You" album, there's something here for fans of any era of Springsteen or those simply interested in creative work. Springsteen's recent turn towards introspection and looking back on his life and career has revealed important facets of an artist many think they already know, making Letter to You all the more interesting.

Hala (2019): Best Culturally Inspired Coming of Age Drama

Hala on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 5.9/10

Starring: Geraldine Viswanathan, Jack Kilmer, Gabriel Luna  

Director: Minhal Baig

Motion Picture Rating: R

Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

This coming-of-age drama set in a Pakistani-American family provides a new look at a well-worn genre.

In Hala, the titular character is a teenage girl who loves skateboarding, has a crush on a non-Muslim boy, and is trying to make her way in the world as any teenager would. This is complicated by her parents' expectations for her, cultural pressures, and growing discord in her family. Featured at the Sundance film festival, Hala freshens up the coming of age story by coming at it from a different cultural perspective.

Boys State (2020): Best Examination of What Governing Might Look Like in the Future

screenshot from the Boys State documentary

IMDb rating: 7.7/10

Starring: Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall  

Director: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

This award-winning documentary (it took home the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at Sundance 2020) is extra relevant in the wake of the U.S. presidential election and a renewed focus on democracy and governance worldwide.

Boys State chronicles the journey of over 1,000 teenagers attending the eponymous annual event, in which they design a government. This process includes everything you'd expect, including creating parties, running campaigns, and all of the messiness and ugliness that can come with politics—all of which makes it an important look at how we govern ourselves and what that might look like in the future.

The Banker (2020): Best Drama with a Social Conscience

The Banker on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.3/10

Starring: Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult   

Director: George Nolfi

Motion Picture Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 2 hours

This film, which is based on true events, had its premiere marred by accusations of sexual misconduct against a co-producer, but that shouldn't subtract from its power.

The Banker tells the true story of a pair of Black real-estate entrepreneurs in 1950s Los Angeles and Texas. Facing challenges due to racism, the pair recruit a White man to pose as the head of their company. The trio buy properties and integrate neighborhoods, fighting racism along the way, until a suspicious executive and missteps by the white partner bring the business down.

Fireball (2020): Best Science Documentary for Herzog Fans

Fireball on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.2/10

Starring: Werner Herzog, Jan Braly Kihle, Jon Larsen  

Director: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Ever get a strange feeling when thinking about what might be out there in space, just waiting to fall to earth? If you want a look at the heavens grounded in science, look no further than Fireball.

Directed by master documentarian Werner Herzog, Fireball focuses on meteors and comets, and examines how they've influenced history, religion, and much more. For documentary fans, any new Herzog is an immediate must-watch.

The Elephant Queen (2018): Best Nature Documentary Following a Herd of Elephants

The Elephant Queen on Apple TV+

IMDb rating: 7.8/10

Starring: Sadoc Vazkez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sadoc Vazquez  

Director: Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Following in the footsteps of nature documentaries like March of the Penguins, this award-nominated film follows the journey of a herd of elephants displaced by drought.

Narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film has been praised for its nuanced and sensitive look nature, community, and family. Suitable for viewers of all ages, The Elephant Queen tells a complex, rewarding story.