People Picks



No. 1 Selma

David Oyelowo plays Martin Luther King Jr. in a powerful historical epic



Selma’s Ava DuVernay, the first black woman ever to be nominated for a Golden Globe for directing, is unquestionably destined for further honors. This excellent new movie, about Martin Luther King Jr. and the landmark 1965 voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., is a strong narrative made stronger by its lean muscularity and clarity of vision. The marchers succeeded in their peaceful advance across the Edmund Pettus Bridge only on the third attempt, and each time it hits us: We’re watching one of the most important quests in American history. The acting, starting with David Oyelowo as King, is of a piece with the movie: understated and rock solid. (PG-13, in limited release Dec. 25)

No. 2 Friends

They’ll be there for you—now, anytime you want them



In honor of Friends’ arrival on Netflix Jan. 1, here are the first three episodes to binge on. 1. “The One Where Everybody Finds Out” (Season 5): Chandler and Monica’s secret relationship is exposed! 2. “The One with the Embryos” (Season 4): A trivia contest leads to the series’ three best words, “Miss Chanandler Bong.” 3. “The One with Ross’s Wedding” (Season 4): Ross says Rachel’s name—not Emily’s!

No. 3 A Most Violent Year



1981 Was Tough for a Fuel Salesman is a more accurate title, if harder to market. This is a grim, seething drama about an immigrant businessman (Oscar Isaac, brilliant) locked in a strangely valiant battle to keep his foothold in a corrupt world. It’s the American dream as nightmare, but still a dream. (Limited release Dec. 31, R)

No. 4 5 Seconds of Summer, LIVESOS



Boy band? Punk rockers? Whatever the label, 5SOS prove they’re more than pinups with this effort, which was recorded during their shows. The chorus of screaming girls only adds to the catchy delight of their hits, and the boys stand out on covers like “What I Like About You.”

No. 5 The Essential Lily Tomlin


This year’s Kennedy Center Honorees include a versatile actress who’s won hearts with both laughter and tears. Here are some must-be-seen high points.


Tomlin was Oscar-nominated for her first movie role, as a gospel-singing wife who has a one-night stand with a country star. An unadorned, open-hearted performance.

9 TO 5

If only for the fantasy scene in which she turns into Snow White and, with a Disney-sweet smile, ladles out poison.


In the FX drama’s third season, inspired by the Madoff scandal, she was both wily and tragic as a society woman who treasured her family and really loved money. (The Kennedy Center Honors, CBS, Dec. 30, 9 p.m.)

No. 6 Two Days, One Night



Marion Cotillard can take even the most mundane moment—looking out a car window—and give it colossal weight. Is this a matter of talent or the mystery of how her natural beauty speaks to the camera? Maybe both. Here, anyway, she is at her most extraordinarily ordinary: She’s Sandra, a factory worker who gets laid off and embarks on an arduous campaign to be rehired. Cotillard somehow elevates this woman into an icon of and for hard times. (In French. Limited release, PG-13)

No.7 Marvel Universe Live!


For comics fans, this show offers something no movie can: the chance to see all the major Marvel characters together. (Conflicting rights issues prevent, say, Hulk and Spider-Man from sharing time on the big screen.) For every- one else it’s a spectacle of motorbikes, wire work and dialogue so wholesome even Spidey’s Aunt May would approve. (Touring nationally;

No. 8 Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint



Dropping the alter egos and adding A-list guests—Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Drake—Her Minajesty makes a strong return with her most serious record yet. While she has moments of vulnerability (“Bed of Lies”), Minaj hasn’t lost her edge. Her rapid-fire spitting (see “Want Some More” and “Anaconda”) secures her reign as rap’s queen.

No. 9 The Best New Books

A charmer of a novel about Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, plus two tales of love after loss

Colleen Oakley

Before I Go


In this spirited and original debut, 27-year-old control freak Daisy Richmond learns she has just months to live—and becomes obsessed with finding her husband a new wife. Author Oakley has set herself a tricky balancing act here, blending a comic sensibility with the depth and poignancy her subject requires. She pulls it off.

Kristin Harmel

The Life Intended


Manhattanite Kate Waithman hasn’t moved on since her husband Patrick’s death 12 years earlier. Now Kate’s engaged, but her heart is torn when Patrick begins appearing in psychic dreams that overlap with reality. This engaging eighth novel from former PEOPLE reporter Harmel is a Ghost-like love story that will keep you guessing.


Priya Parmar

Vanessa and Her Sister

novel Being related to Virginia Woolf can’t have been easy. In this delightful novel, Parmar reimagines the brilliant, fragile writer and her turn-of-the-century bohemian friends, the famous Bloomsbury set, through the eyes of her painter sister Vanessa. Both were forging new paths beyond Victorian strictures: Along with groundbreaking art, there was forbidden love, ambition and the elixir of good talk. And competition, which nearly tore the sisters apart. You’ll be spellbound.


Maggie Shipstead Astonish Me

Joan has left the world of ballet—and her affair with a dashing Soviet superstar—far behind … until her son turns out to be a dance prodigy. Lovely and haunting.

Dinaw Mengestu All Our Names

Scarred by his experiences in war-torn Uganda, an immigrant falls in love with a midwestern social worker in Mengestu’s powerful latest.

Ronald Frame Havisham

How did the mad, vengeful main character of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations really get that way? Frame’s inventive, absorbing novel imagines.

No. 10 Mr. Turner



In this splendid new movie from director Mike Leigh (Vera Drake), Timothy Spall plays J.M.W. Turner, the pioneering, even radical Victorian painter. Spall doesn’t say much: He grunts, snorts and shuffles along, like a man walking himself instead of his dog. Turner could be a silent comedy, only painted in ravishing oils. (Limited release, R)

No. 11 Honest Trailers



If movies had to go on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and read negative tweets about themselves, the effect might be like this funny website. Trailers takes footage of hit movies and slaps on a sarcastic voice-over announcer pointing out every flaw. Maleficent ? “Watch as the sorceress, whose name literally means evil, mildly punks people.” (

No. 12 Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest



Taylor Swift, headlining the show from Times Square, signs off on a triumphant year in which even Saturday Night Live acknowledged that, yes, you can think you’re cool as all get-out and still be addicted to the songs from 1989. Idina Menzel and Elton John also perform. Mr. Seacrest will smile beneath impeccable hair. (ABC, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.)

Related Articles