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New on Netflix UK

Our pick of the fresh TV shows and movies on the nation's favourite streaming service, updated for December 2020

You know how new DVDs and Blu-rays always come out on a Monday? Netflix laughs in the face of such regimented scheduling and instead releases all of its new TV shows and movies whenever the heck it feels like it.

That can make keeping track of all of the new stuff a first-world nightmare of epic proportions.

But help is at hand: here we highlight all of the best new stuff on Netflix. And yes, that does mean we've left out all of the rubbish, so you won't find the likes of Frontier or Sharknado: The 4th Awakens here.

Instead, allow us to guide you, truffle pig-like, to the finest and freshest streaming fungus.

Note: the newest stuff is at the top of the list, with the shows and movies getting progressively less new as you scroll down and switch pages

The Midnight Sky

George Clooney stars in and directs this Netflix original movie, which (for better or worse) very cleanly falls into the Ad Astra/Contact/Interstellar/Arrival subgenre of “grandiose emotional sci-fi”.

It’s 2049, and a mysterious environmental disaster has befallen Earth. At a remote arctic observatory, one lone scientist remains, intent on ensuring he delivers one vital message to a research mission returning from space: don’t come back. With two nearly distinct stories competing for our attention (Clooney’s bearded, world-weary boffin trudging unmerrily through the snow like some anti-Santa while Felicity Jones and co banter on their slickly advanced starship), The Midnight Sky doesn’t feel quite as focussed as it needs to be, but an effectively understated performance from Clooney and a bold (if clearly telegraphed) twist make it a diverting watch.

Watch The Midnight Sky on Netflix

Ariana Grande: excuse me, I love you

Ariana Grande brings her flawless vocals to London in this concert movie, which mixes live and behind-the-scenes footage in a feature-length documentary that’ll have stans of the pop icon in raptures. There’s not much here to excite non-fans, perhaps, but it stands as a much-needed reminder of massive concerts and huge crowds, and excites the hope that such events will be open to us again in the not-too-distant future.

Watch Ariana Grande: excuse me, I love you on Netflix

Mary, Queen of Scots

Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie play rival British monarchs in Josie Bourke’s sumptuous historical drama – a film that some have decried for its colour-blind casting and “modern” feminist outlook. As they almost always do, these tired criticisms miss the mark: this is a clearly fictionalised portrayal of real people and real events, produced for consumption by a modern-day audience.

If it's dry historical retellings you want, watch a documentary – this movie is an entertaining jaunt through a period riven with warfare, intrigue, sexual politics and religious strife, all of which find themselves under Bourke’s microscope.

Watch Mary, Queen of Scots on Netflix

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Chadwick Boseman’s final film is a Denzel Washington-produced drama about blues pioneer Ma Rainey (played by Viola Davis, who may well be on course for a second Oscar), set entirely during a single studio recording session in 1920s Chicago. Turns out shutting a bunch of fiery, fierce musicians in a room all day produces not only hit records but gripping drama too. Who knew?

Watch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix

The Ripper (S1)

An exhaustive documentary series about the Yorkshire Ripper’s reign of terror in the 1970s and early 1980s, this Netflix Original arrives in timely fashion, just a few weeks after Peter Sutcliffe’s death.

Sutcliffe murdered at least 13 women before his arrest, but had been questioned many times by the police, who don’t come out of this at all well. Convinced that the killer had a Geordie accent and was motivated by a hatred of prostitutes, their investigation discounted vital evidence and dismissed women’s accounts, allowing Sutcliffe to continue his horrific rampage.

Watch The Ripper on Netflix

Song Exploder (S2)

Music fans, here’s an early Christmas present for you: a second batch of episodes of this fascinating series, each of which takes a deep dive into a pop song. With creators and collaborators, host Hrishikesh Hirway breaks down the inception, writing and recording of four key tracks: Dua Lipa’s “Love Again”, The Killers’ “When You Were Young”, Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and Natalia Lafourcade’s “Hasta la Raiz”.

Watch Song Exploder on Netflix

Mank

David Fincher’s black and white biopic of legendary screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz looks utterly gorgeous – its starkly-lit monochrome visuals echoing the striking cinematography of the Hollywood golden era it depicts.

Gary Oldman caps a star-studded cast as the eponymous scribe, a hard-drinking satirist who clashed with both Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst, the ruthless press baron who inspired Mankiewicz’s best-known screenplay and Welles’ best-know movie: Citizen Kane. Oldman is in typically fine form as the acerbic Mank, agile of wit but beset by inner demons, while Charles Dance gruffly glowers as Hearst.

Watch Mank on Netflix

The Last of the Mohicans

Michael Mann’s epic adventure movie, based on the classic novel by James Fennimore Cooper, is one of the few films in which Daniel Day-Lewis takes on a traditional leading man role. He plays Hawkeye, a white man raised by native Americans allied with the British in the 1757 French and Indian War.

When tasked with escorting two young British sisters to the fort commanded by their father, Hawkeye and his adoptive father and brother find themselves drawn into a brutal personal conflict involving the French-allied Huron tribe. Romance, action, betrayal and sacrifice all end up playing their part in this rollicking tale.

Watch The Last of the Mohicans on Netflix

Rick and Morty (S4)

A new, long-awaited collection of five episodes rounds off the fourth season of Rick and Morty, a show adored by fans but now arriving on an “as and when” basis. If you haven’t yet accompanied misanthropic inventor Rick and his awkward teenage grandson Morty on their adventures through time and space, you have one heck of a binge-watch available to you. Look forward to murderous pickles, portal-jumping aliens and persistent scatological humour, juxtaposed against the sort of everyday family dramas that occur in more conventional sitcoms. Creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland have brewed up an inventive, infectious mix.

Watch Rick and Morty on Netflix

Arkansas

This old-fashioned crime thriller, released straight to Netflix, explores the escalation of a drug deal gone wrong. Two low level dealers discover that, when everybody you work with and for is untrustworthy, secretive, paranoid and liable to shoot you if they smell something off, it’s hard to live a simple life. The subject matter may be fairly well-worn, but a talented ensemble cast, well-chosen soundtrack and sharp writing keep things ticking along in entertaining fashion.

Watch Arkansas on Netflix

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