Tired of endless football games? Sample and savor these movie, TV, and podcast offerings with family and friends.
OK, maybe not for the little kids, but this enjoyably demented fashionista spaghetti western — in which Kate Winslet’s title character takes revenge on the outback town that bullied her — will tickle everyone else.
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
Eye-popping martial arts epic with a kick-ass heroine, choreographed with gorgeous overkill by China’s Zhang Yimou. If you and the family haven’t seen “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” start there first.
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
New Zealand director Taika Waititi just grabbed the brass ring with the new “Thor” movie, but his last outing was this hilarious comedy-adventure about the friendship between a boy no one wants (Julian Dennison) and cranky old Sam Neill.
IT’S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER
They’ve seen “La La Land”? Now show them what a real musical looks like. This lesser-known Gene Kelly outing is caustic, very funny, and full of unforgettable moments like the trash can routine, Cyd Charisse in the boxing gym, and Kelly’s tap dance on roller skates.
Nothing to do with Louisa May Alcott but rather a modern-day drama of friendship and gentrification, with two achingly fine performances from adolescent pals Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri. The latter’s a real find.
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
Want a widescreen epic to wake everyone up from turkey overdose? Peter Weir’s adaptation of Patrick O’Brien’s classic sailing-ships saga, starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany, remains the franchise that should have been. Terrific movie.
Edward Norton as a turn-of-the-century magician trying to woo Jessica Biel from nasty Crown Prince Rufus Sewell, with police chief Paul Giamatti running interference. Excellent romantic guilty pleasure, with an ace Philip Glass score.
THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED
Based on an Oliver Sacks case study, this gives J.K. Simmons a rare lead (and a terrible toupee) as a dad forced to bond with his brain-damaged son (Lou Taylor Pucci) over the classic rock dad hates. Weird, funny-sad, surprisingly involving.
QUEEN OF KATWE
The true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a Ugandan slum kid who became an international chess champion. Lupita Nyong’o hides her glamour under a bushel to play the girl’s mom. Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) directs, and it’s not just good for you, it’s just plain good.
The young ’uns haven’t seen a Hitchcock movie? What’s wrong with you? This or “North by Northwest” is the best start. If they bring up the awful Shia LeBeouf rip-off “Disturbia,” tell them to shut up and have some respect for the master.
One of this year’s most underrated gems, about a filmmaking troupe riding out the hardest days of World War II’s Battle of Britain. Some war violence and a wee bit of nudity, but if that really bothers you, go ahead and put on “Frozen” for the 745th time.
A TOWN CALLED PANIC
Sort of like a “Wallace and Gromit” movie on steroids or “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” in French, this gonzo animated romp about the adventures of small toy figurines is a truly strange delight. English subtitles, but this stuff translates even if you can’t read.
VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND
Luc Besson’s adaptation of a long-running sci-fi adventure comic book has wan lead performances, high spirits, astounding production design, and maybe the best aliens ever. I hesitate to actually call it a good movie, but it’s sure something to see.
THE ZIGZAG KID
If you’re tired of the same old Pixar/“Minions” CGI family fare, you could try these things they call “live action movies” with human actors. This Dutch treat (much of it in English) plays like “Emil and the Detectives” meets “Hugo,” and there’s Isabella Rossellini for the grown-ups.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Watch it with your family when you’re all stuck together over the holidays; watch it alone when your family is away. Just watch it. You’ll see a beautifully acted and heartfelt show about football that isn’t about football at all. Bonus: Great acting all around, particularly from Connie Britton and the young cast.
This PBS-BBC production is one of the best Charles Dickens adaptations out there. Written by master classic adapter Andrew Davies and built around an epic legal case, the series has everything you’d expect: mystery, romance, comedy, murder, and indelible characters played by a fine cast led by Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. It’s a thoroughly entertaining eight-hour binge.
A classic network sitcom that’s worth a view or a re-view — except for the last season, which was abysmal and should be eternally banished to nowheresville. I mention the pioneering series, which is as much about dysfunction and financial struggles as it is about family bonds and foible-filled behavior, because it’s being revived next year in the manner of “Will & Grace.”
This influential domestic comedy includes adult gags: It’s hard to find many family series that are appropriate for both ends of the age spectrum. But as it upends everything from taxes to treason and includes one of TV’s best-ever mama’s boys (played by Tony Hale) who spent 11 months in the womb, “Arrested Development” is hysterical. If you have mature kids who find selfish, narcissistic, stupid people funny, this one’s a blast.
As TV programming becomes increasingly niche-oriented, ABC, with the likes of “Black-ish” and “Modern Family,” is the home of affectionate family-friendly sitcoms these days. “Speechless” is one of the network’s best. Not only does it give us a very specific special-needs kid — J.J., who has cerebral palsy, played with wry humor by Micah Fowler, who also has CP — but it gives us his amusing and eccentric family, all of whom compete with him for attention.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
This comedy is one of the revivals that succeeds, not least of all because of the presence of the great Rita Moreno. She’s the grandmother of this Cuban-American family, living with her veteran daughter and her two children. The timely issues — including PTSD — are built into the humor, just as you’d expect when Norman Lear is involved.
THE WEST WING
Is it time to teach your kids about government and politics? Then please, turn off the news and give them this gift. It’s smart, dignified, and healing as it celebrates the ideals of democracy while turning national and international issues into riveting entertainment. The cast is unforgettable, including Martin Sheen as the Capra-esque president.
This 1980s-set sci-fi series has become a family favorite after two seasons, and that isn’t a surprise. Yes, there are scary monsters, but there are also very sweet kids who save the day. The creators, the Duffer brothers, are madly in love with 1980s movies such as “Stand by Me” and “Poltergeist,” and they pay tribute to them constantly.
MASTER OF NONE
I recommend this one, from Aziz Ansari, to anyone looking for a New York singles comedy that isn’t “Friends” or “Seinfeld.” It’s not exactly a family show, as it looks at modern romance, but its themes — of being a good son, being Indian-American in the entertainment industry, and assimilating without betraying your roots — are humane and often moving.
FREAKS AND GEEKS
Like “Stranger Things,” this one is set in the 1980s. It’s a sweet look back at what it meant to be a teenager before MTV took over and the factions in high school that only seem different. Only one season of 18 episodes was made, but what a season it is. The cast features young versions of Jason Segal, James Franco, Busy Philipps, Seth Rogen, and Linda Cardellini.
For those with young kids that you may be trying to pry away from TV cartoons, this is a gem. Follow “Eleanor Amplified,’’ a world-famous radio reporter, as she goes on adventures around the world to get to the truth of things — and to outsmart some bad guys along the way.
Fun, romantic, with just a smidge of melancholy, this “podcast musical” features Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton as a couple trying to rescue their teetering marriage using 36 questions designed to inspire love. It’s a little rough around the edges, which is to be expected given its relatively experimental nature, but the verve and charm of the performances more than makes up for everything.
Go inside the rise of a living legend. WBEZ’s Jenn White explores the life and legacy of Oprah Winfrey in this tightly produced three-part documentary that lifts you up with its deeply thoughtful touch.
Regret plays a huge role in this show by the endlessly talented Jonathan Goldstein, which sees the host embark on capers to help people grapple with the past. This makes the show not an obvious choice for Thanksgiving. But “Heavyweight’’ is also reflective, funny, complicated, and, in the end, life-affirming.
It’s crazy, but it’s true. This series, by Alexis Coe and Elliott Kalan, is a fun and engaging history show that re-examines past presidents purely as ordinary people — that is, humans with flaws and foibles and quirks. These days, we see this quite literally in the headlines, and that makes the show ever more valuable.
As far as fiction podcasts go, “Steal the Stars’’ is a pulpy delight with a distinctly YA spark. I mean, it features a UFO, a heist, a shadowy governmental entity, and workplace romance. Look, there’s a lot going with this, and it’s pretty fun.
Many find fine art intimidating, and so this show, by Boston’s own Tamar Avishai, is a lovely, accessible tour of individual pieces. (An episode on Mary Cassatt’s “In the Loge’’ asks the questions: What exactly is she really looking at? And does she know there’s someone looking at her?) Recommended listening if you’re thinking about hitting a museum while you’re home for the holidays.
This show is, quite simply, an unmissable experience. Brian Reed’s six-part southern gothic tale about a possible murder is elegant, difficult, and endlessly moving in its attempt to capture, in his words, “the remarkableness of what might be called an unremarkable life.”