Your family guide to 2016 holiday movies


The holidays are a big time for movie fans, with many of the year's biggest releases coming out throughout November and December. This year, you can expect big-budget spin-offs like "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" ("Harry Potter!"), Marvel's "Doctor Strange," and "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." And little kids are in luck, too, with toe-tapping, family-friendly films like "Trolls," "Moana," and "Sing" heading their way.

There's truly something for everyone this season. Use this guide to decide which movies your family will want to see together over the holidays - and which ones to skip. And be sure to check out Common Sense Media when these movies hit theaters for detailed ratings and reviews!

"Doctor Strange" (Nov. 4)

Target age: Tweens and teens (PG-13)

What's the buzz? "Doctor Strange" is another addition to the rapidly expanding Marvel cinematic universe. After his career as a brilliant neurosurgeon ends in horrific car crash, the egotistical Dr. Stephen Strange begins a journey that leads him to the Ancient One and the sorcerer Baron Mordo. Strange must set aside his selfish ways to master the secrets of the mystics and alternate realities to become the next Sorcerer Supreme _ and defeat a powerful enemy. Kids and teens flock to Marvel films for their action-packed adventures; you can expect violence and peril in this one, too, as well as more mysticism and sorcery in what looks to be a darker origin story.

"Trolls" (Nov. 4)

Target age: Kids (PG)

What's the buzz? "Trolls" is a digitally animated musical comedy from DreamWorks inspired by the tall-haired troll dolls but with more funky adventures than '60s nostalgia. The story follows an unlikely pair of troll heroes, the overly optimistic Princess Poppy and her grumpy opposite, Branch, who journey beyond their world and face the ugly, troll-eating Bergens. Some jokes might rely on potty humor or else go over kids' head entirely, but overall Trolls looks like a quirky, family-friendly movie.

"Arrival" (Nov. 11)

Target age: Teens (PG-13)

What's the buzz? "Arrival" is a science-fiction story that focuses on an expert linguist called in to help communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth. Louise Banks recruited by the government to lead an expedition to investigate the alien vessels and find out whether they come in peace _ or whether humankind is on the verge of a global war. Expect some scariness and action violence.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (Nov. 18)

Target age: Tweens and teens (PG-13)

What's the buzz? "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is based on J.K. Rowling's original story about Newt Scamander, the author of a Hogwarts textbook that describes various beasts and dragons. The movie follows Newt's adventures in New York's secret community of witches and wizards 70 years before Harry Potter first arrived at Hogwarts. As in the Harry Potter movie saga, there may be some action and violence to watch out for as Newt searches for his misplaced magical creatures in the No-Maj (American for "Muggle") world.

"Moana" (Nov. 23)

Target age: Kids (PG)

What's the buzz? Disney's "Moana" follows an adventurous girl from the Pacific Islands. Guided by a large, tattooed demigod named Maui, Moana sails out on an epic quest to become a master wayfinder like her ancestors and save her people. Moana promises to combine lots of laughs with classic Disney heart to entertain kids and parents alike. But expect some action sequences and monsters that might be too scary for the littlest kids.

"La La Land" (Dec. 9)

Target age: Teens (NR)

What's the buzz? "La La Land" is a Hollywood-set romance starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Mia, an aspiring actress/barista, meets Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist, and they immediately begin an intense love affair. Sparks fly, but the characters come to find that the difficulties of launching a career in Hollywood could force them to choose between their dreams and their relationship. The movie looks like it might be a fine pick for teens, though you can probably expect some strong language, as well as kissing and romance.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (Dec. 16)

Target age: Tweens and teens (NR)

What's the buzz? "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is a stand-alone adventure that takes place before the events of "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope." In fact, the opening crawl of "Episode IV" hints at its plot: A group of Rebel spies sets out on a mission to steal secret plans to the evil Empire's catastrophic weapon, the Death Star. The Rebels are led by the feisty rogue fighter, Jyn Erso, the latest female action hero to come out of a galaxy far, far away. Although the Star Wars franchise is popular with fans of all ages, this installment may be more appropriate for older kids, as it focuses on the realities of war, including violence, peril, and heroes with murky morals.

"Assassin's Creed" (Dec. 21)

Target age: Tweens and teens (PG-13)

What's the buzz? "Assassin's Creed" is based on the wildly popular video game by the same name. As in the games, historical fiction meets science fiction when a descendant of a secret medieval society called the Assassins uses revolutionary technology to access genetic memories and live out his ancestors' adventures. In this case, former criminal Callum Lynch is recruited to unlock the memories of an Assassin during the Spanish Inquisition so the society can gain the necessary skills to take down their enemies, the Templar Order, in present day. The popularity of the game series will likely attract teens and tweens to the movie, but it could be too violent for younger viewers.

"Passengers" (Dec. 21)

Target age: Teens (PG-13)

What's the buzz? "Passengers" is a sci-fi adventure starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as travelers on a colonization spacecraft on a 120-year voyage to carry thousands of people to a faraway planet. But just a few decades into their journey, a hibernation pod malfunction accidentally awakens Jim Preston. Faced with the prospect of living and dying completely alone during the long journey, he rouses fellow passenger Aurora Dunn for company. They find themselves put to the test when another glitch threatens to wake up everyone else, putting the entire journey in jeopardy. There's likely to be both action and some romance.

"Sing" (Dec. 21)

Target age: Kids (PG)

What's the buzz? "Sing" is an animated comedy that looks like a mash-up between "Zootopia" and "American Idol." In a world where animals walk, talk, wear clothes, and _ yes _ sing, Buster, a koala proposes a singing competition in a last-ditch effort to save his theater. Animals from near and far gather to vie for the prize money, including a gorilla trying to get out of his father's gang, a suburban mama pig, and even a gambling mouse. Some of the humor might not be appropriate for the littlest kids, but overall "Sing" looks like a movie that kids and parents will be able to enjoy together.

"Hidden Figures" (Dec. 25)

Target age: Tweens and teens (PG)

What's the buzz? "Hidden Figures" tells the true, little-known story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and '60s and played a major role in sending astronaut John Glenn into orbit. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson worked as engineers and "human computers" to push the limits of mathematics _ as well as the limits of race and gender in the scientific community. Expect a little bit of romance and a look at the racial tensions of the civil rights era in this drama that promises to provide some great, real-life role models for girls and people of color in STEM fields.

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