Hey there, HI, hello. It’s time for the most anticipated release of the year: my official review of all the Netflix holiday original films. I know Saturday’s normally the fashion/beauty/lifestyle day…but, well, this is more fun and festive than talking about last-minute gifts and ordering deadlines and the imminent collapse of the supply chain. This year Netflix dropped a whole slew of new programming, including the worst holiday movie I’ve ever seen and a film that made me feel like I’m actually in a coma and someone is trying to talk me awake by reminding me of all my favorite things, so we have LOTS of ground to cover. Scroll to the end for all the 2021 reviews…but maybe do a quick refresh with me, first?
Guys, my mind is a steel trap of Netflix Christmas original movies. And, well, usually all the knowledge about fake countries that sound like supplements and or Vanessa Hudgens’ rise as *the* holiday rom-com star of the decade is pretty much worthless…but not today.
For one day only, this knowledge is relevant and useful and I am READY to help you pick the films that will set the scene for the next three days. Now, this is a personal film ranking, so here are the parameters:
- It’s a Netflix original. Yes, other places have made incredible holiday films, but Netflix is pretty ubiquitous and on-demand so we’re sticking with it.
- Adults can watch. There are a few animated or family-friendly picks on here – I’ve made sure to highlight them – but there’s no Storybots or Captain Underpants here, sorry!!
- It’s an actual movie. Netflix does have a surprising number of holiday TV series (Dash & Lily is not their first Christmas show, which is mind-boggling) and shorts but this is FILM TIME, baby.
- Give me some grace on this ranking!!! As I’ve realized, Netflix are “good/good” movies (timeless films – there’s even an Oscar nominee here!), “good/bad” movies (Hallmark-style – stereotypical and fun to watch) and “bad/bad” films (usually a gratuitous sequel).
In any case, I’ve done my best and I’d love to hear your picks, too. Let us begin…
The OG Power Ranking
22. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby
Vibe: Straight-to-VHS sequel of 90s smash hit movie
Family Friendly?: Yeah, but I think it’s probably only interesting to kids 8+.
The Verdict: First off: Aldovia sounds like the name a muscle ointment and Penglia sounds like the name of an as-seen-on-TV medication and NO ONE CAN CONVINCE ME OTHERWISE. Also, how is the queen of a country allowed to blog? And it’s just called “Amber’s Blog?” What is even going ON in Aldovia??? (PS. Andy looks like a knock-off Brendan from this season of the Bachelorette. Let’s talk about it).
ANYWAY, I will tell you that it’s about a pair of royals who have to renew a truce, but the document is stolen, the thief is trapped inside the palace after a snowstorm, and then a curse threatens their baby, but that actually kind of makes it sound interesting. Overall, it’s fine. If you’re looking to binge something for a few hours, you could do worse than the 3 films that encapsulate this nice little royal romance, but it’s not really a must-see.
21. The Princess Switch: Switched Again
Vibe: “Oh no, there’s too much going on here”
Family Friendly?: There’s a scene with kidnapping, so skip this if that would frighten anyone in your household.
The Verdict: WOOF. Would really only recommend this if 1. you have a lot of wine and 2. you have someone to scream at the TV with. Vanessa Hudgens is doing THE MOST – playing 3 different characters with 2 rough accents – and you just want her to slow down.
There are just so many weird things not addressed in this sequel. Like, your best friend is in love with your doppelganger and it doesn’t affect your relationship at all? You have marriage troubles that get cleared up in 30 seconds? Folks go on ONE date and then get married? The fact that THREE WOMEN look exactly the same despite not really being related and everyone in this country is just like, “ah yes, totally normal, of course that happens all the time.” All this being said: this is fun to chirp at with friends and family, but you’re not going to walk away being like, “WOW WHAT AN INCREDIBLE HOLIDAY FILM!”
20. Operation Christmas Drop
Vibe: “Military history in gentle romance” – Common Sense Media
Family Friendly?: Yeah, this is pretty safe for all.
The Verdict: So apparently “Operation Christmas Drop” is a real thing – it’s a training mission for the Air Force where they drop toys over remote Pacific islands – and I guess it’s interesting to have a holiday rom-com based on a real life scenario, but this one just didn’t hit for me.
It’s a beautiful location, it features a powerful woman in a lead role (she’s in charge of deciding whether or not this project gets shut down!), and it’s nice to see a ton of people trying to help others, buuuuuuut…something about it really rubs me the wrong way and I’m still having trouble putting my finger on it. Maybe it just feels a little savior complex-y? Anyone else?
19. Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square
Vibe: Kind of like if Dolly Parton made the Muppets Christmas Carol on the Wizard of Oz set.
Family Friendly?: It’s not overtly “adult,” but there are some grown-up themes like teen pregnancy, the death of a parent, and a scary car accident.
The Verdict: DOLLY, I’M SO SORRY. I KNOW. I know. She gave us a vaccine and she deserves better!!! But hear me out. Y’all, I have tried to watch this THREE TIMES and I have fallen asleep every single time (not before crying, though, so I know it’s at least kind of good?). I’m kind of weirded out by Dolly parading as a homeless person at the beginning of the film (I know, she’s an angel, it’s a whole Scrooge and the ghosts thing, I get it) and beyond that, the earnestness of all these people singing so close to each other’s faces just gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’m always hyper-aware that this is some soundstage and I’m never really able to settle in.
All that said, I feel like Dolly may have made a classic – it’s just not one for me right now. Like, maybe I just needed something hopeful and was not expecting her to star in a film about a woman evicting everyone from their home as the country faces an enormous eviction crisis? I could probably see this sitting alongside the Muppets Christmas Carol – it has that same sort of campy spirit – but I’ll actually need to stay awake through it to confirm. WOOPS.
18. Free Rein: 12 Neighs of Christmas
Vibe: If you were REALLY into the Babysitter’s Club, you’d probably like this.
Family Friendly?: Almost exclusively for kids and teens.
The Verdict: This is really only this high in the ratings because apparently, the kids LOVE THIS. Free Rein is a Netflix series – I wasn’t familiar until seeing the film – and from what I can gather, it checks the Hannah Montana safe pre-teen drama-shaped box.
Should you actually watch this one if you’re an adult and alone? Eh. But if you have a child or pre-teen who’s looking for their very own Christmas movie, this may check the box. I leave you with my favorite review from Google, which made me snort from laughing so hard: “AMAZING MOVIE IT WAS HORSEOME”
17. Christmas Inheritance
Vibe: HALLMARK. CLASSIC.
Family Friendly?: Nah, and depending on your parents, you may want to watch this alone (though siblings or friends would be fine!).
The Verdict: OH LORD. A high-powered executive needs to deliver Christmas letters to a town called SNOW FALLS so she can be named CEO of her father’s company. (Take a second, tap into your cheesy holiday film brain and predict what will happen next – I’ll wait.) TO LITERALLY NO ONE’S SURPRISE, she gets snowed in and learns a lot of life lessons from some handsome small town innkeeper.
But wait: GIRLFRIEND IS ALREADY ENGAGED. And for some reason, despite this being a feel-good movie, we like…never really address that she’s kind of flirting with the idea of cheating on her fiance within HOURS of meeting the hot innkeeper. (Of course, it wraps itself up in a neat little bow). I guess there’s a little more spice here than the normal holiday movie, so it’s pretty fun – worth a watch if you have some time this year.
16. El Camino Christmas
Vibe: For some reason, I am convinced that dads will LOVE this – it’s not overtly Christmas.
Family Friendly?: Adults only, but you could watch this with family if they’re okay with swearing, some violence, drug references.
The Verdict: SO FUN. Dax Shepard, Tim Allen, the dad from That 70s Show…the cast here is a real treat. There are guns, there’s a hostage situation on Christmas Eve (really, the only holiday tie-in here), and it’s definitely has the most action/buddy comedy spirit out of everything on this list.
This is a classic for me – it fills a pretty special niche, so I’ve enjoyed bringing it back year after year – but it’s definitely not for everyone. #16 on the list, #2 in my heart of hearts.
15. Let It Snow
Vibe: 90s teen movie about high school seniors ~living life~
Family Friendly?: Ehhh, watch this one on your own.
The Verdict: What a teen ensemble. There are truly like, one million child actors in this movie. So many threads and romances, so many seemingly-enormous life decisions (will he tell his best friend that he loves her? Where will she go to college?) all wrapped up in a Christmas bow and generally centered around a local establishment called Waffle Town.
It’s sweet, basic, escapist teen love with a surprisingly diverse cast (like, dang, well done Netflix) and I’m actually pretty sure that Em would enjoy this as a guilty pleasure. EMILY, PLEASE WATCH AND RELAY YOUR THOUGHTS, YEAH?
Vibe: High-brow cartoons (like, it was nominated for an Oscar – it’s legit).
Family Friendly?: Sure is! Fun for everyone!
The Verdict: OH MY. So tender and beautiful. A reject postman from the self-proclaimed “unhappiest town on earth” meets a reclusive guy in the woods and is like, “hey buddy, you have a gift – you make toys and I’ll deliver!”
2021 Update: Should this actually be a lot higher? I’m starting to think so.
There are a ton of great one-liners about the meaning of friendship and the value of selfless acts and obviously it’s all combined together in this surreally animated package. (As a side note, the animation kinda reminds me of Anastasia except BETTER, which is really saying something. Watch with your whole family!).
13. A Very Murray Christmas
Vibe: INDIE INDIE INDIE. If you are (or know) a hipster, this is the movie for you.
Family Friendly?: Keep this for the teens and adults, but it’s okay to watch together.
The Verdict: OH MAN. I worked on the vinyl rollout for the Phoenix single from this movie – it’s actually a SUPER good standalone Christmas song – so I feel like the preeminent expert on this film. (The fact that Phoenix recorded a special Christmas single really does tell you everything you need to know, though).
That said, the cast and crew speak for themselves: Sofia Coppola directed, Bill Murray stars, and there’s a who’s who of celebrity appearances – George Clooney, Amy Pohler, Michael Cera, Chris Rock, Miley Cyrus, Jason Schwartzman…GOOD LORD. I could go on but there are literally too many celebrities to mention. It’s simple (there’s a snowstorm in NYC and Bill Murray is worried no one will make it to his TV show in time) and short (under an hour) but it’s a fun watch and you can tell that it was made with love by folks who genuinely enjoy each other’s company. I do not know why this isn’t more famous.
12. The Christmas Chronicles
Vibe: The Santa Clause but 2020 and with a better Santa.
Family Friendly?: YEAH. Super.
The Verdict: First off, I love Kurt Russell SO MUCH as Santa. Miracle is one of my all-time favorite movies and I thought I was going to have problems seeing him as anyone other than Herb Brooks and I’ve never been more thrilled to be wrong!
But truly, what a sweet story. A “true believer” gets to meet the actual Santa (she ends up climbing into his sleigh with her older brother) and they end up having to save Christmas. (As one would expect. As a spoiler, they also get to save Christmas in the sequel. The elves are SO CUTE, the story is full of heart, and just to reiterate: Kurt Russell is AWESOME and brings enough adult humor to make it fun for the whole family).
11. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding
Vibe: The Prince and Me, cold feet and all.
Family Friendly?: There is discussion of financial fraud, so maybe it’s a little grown up content-wise.
The Verdict: Again, WHY is this woman allowed to have a blog? It ends up being a sticking point in this movie, but can you imagine if Kate Middleton or Megan Markle just got to BLOG about their romances? Like, I know she’s a writer, and maybe it’s anti-feminist of me to be like, “girl NO you can’t keep that job,” but it’s hard for me to empathize.
ANYWAY. Amber gets cold feet and worries that she’s not ready to be queen of a small country. Fair enough! Will she make it through to the wedding? OF COURSE. It’s formulaic and comforting and a decent sequel.
10. A California Christmas
Vibe: The classic Christmas rom-com with a twist (that’s an alcohol joke, because wine country).
Family Friendly?: There’s definitely a lot of chemistry between the leads, so watch it on your own.
The Verdict: Uh, Christmas in wine country? I’ll take it. Plus, there’s a fun take on the old trope: it’s a business-focused man who heads to the country and meets a hardworking female ranch owner who shows HIM the meaning of the holiday. (It’s a little more complicated than that – there’s a case of mistaken identity, and his true intent was to buy the land for a corporation by Christmas, but that’s basically the gist).
Also, I just learned that this is a real-life couple, so they actually do have great chemistry. A nice, classic holiday rom-com with a not-cliche farm background – I’ll take it.
8. Holiday in the Wild
Vibe: Charlotte (of SATC fame) does Eat, Pray, Love.
Family Friendly?: Best for teens (though it be a little “mature”), or adults, and honestly, the animals are distracting enough that you can enjoy with parents.
The Verdict: Robe Lowe and Kristin Davis are so cute together and this is the escapist fantasy we all need in 2020!!! Kate gets divorced, goes on a trip to Africa to ~find herself~, meets Derek, a pilot, and ends up falling in love on an animal sanctuary.
There’s a little bit of tension (who is this mysterious blonde woman competing for Derek’s heart?!?) but it’s a slow build peppered with SO MANY very, very, very cute baby elephant shots and scenes. Will they end up together? Will they save the elephants? I’m sure you can guess!!!
9. The Holiday Calendar
Vibe: Kinda like About Time, in that there’s some magic and love going on.
Family Friendly?: This one is okay for teens/adults to watch with parents, but probably best for kids like, 10+?
The Verdict: OH, I LOVE. The woo-woo side of me went “WOO, WOO” while watching this one, which follows a woman who inherits an advent calendar that predicts her future. I AM INTO THIS PLOT – it’s special and original, but we still know what’s going to happen. (Like, it is clear 3 minutes into the movie – the second you see the way her “best friend” looks at her, we know how this is going to end).
Ron Cephas Jones is SUCH a star (you may recognize him from his role on This Is Us). You will leave this film WISHING that you had a wise grandfather who could give you magic stuff and guide you to the right partner for Christmas.
7. A Christmas Prince
Vibe: The Princess Diaries 2. Like, beat for beat.
Family Friendly?: If you’d show your kid The Princess Diaries, you can show them this one.
The Verdict: VERY schmaltzy, not even a little bit plausible, and THE DREAM MOVIE to enjoy with a big glass of wine. There’s every trope in the book here: a journalist digging for a scoop! Mistaken identity! Deep family secrets! A misunderstood prince! A woman who finally gets him!
Watching critically, I love imagining what an absolutely BAD king Richard would be. He spent a year shirking his responsibilities, he blows his only two major commitments, and he ends the week by (spoiler!) proposing to a women he’s barely known for SEVEN DAYS. But hey, it’s Christmas, and it’s cheesy, and it’s the film that really LAUNCHED the holiday rom-com on Netflix, so…it gets a pass. I love it despite the flaws.
6. The Christmas Chronicles 2
Vibe: Like kids get thrown into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except Willy Wonka is nice and not murderous.
Family Friendly?: AFFIRMATIVE. Fun for all!
The Verdict: THE TEARS THAT CAME DOWN MY FACE. Y’ALL. My mom and I threw this on on a whim and we were not prepared!!! It’s a pretty decent standalone film – you can generally pick up on the story without watching the first one – and it’s just a sweet, well-produced, fun Christmas movie.
We see Belsnickel – in this film, he’s a former elf that is more “disgruntled teen” than “Dwight Schrute in rags” – attempt to hijack Christmas as his own holiday; we see a kid grappling with her dad’s passing while saving Christmas; we see an anxious little boy learning to be courageous; and maybe most importantly, we see SO MUCH sweet love between Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn as Mr. and Mrs. Claus! Please cast them in these roles in every Christmas movie moving forward, THANKS.
5. The Princess Switch
Vibe: A little Parent Trap, a lot of Prince and the Pauper, plus holiday
Family Friendly?: You’re probably in the clear for 7+, but this is also easy to watch with adult family.
The Verdict: YES, I know it’s controversial to throw this above A Christmas Prince. Hear me out: this movie actually looks like it’s shot in a castle – it has the little bit of extravagant swagger we expect from Christmas royalty films. Meanwhile, A Christmas Prince looks like it was shot in a ski resort. This one wins on aesthetics alone.
But also, who hasn’t dreamed of swapping places with someone for a while? And like, hey, it’s a bonus if the person with whom you swap 1. is royal and 2. leads you to meet a handsome prince. Cheesy, formulaic, and basic shenanigans ensue – it’s the exact kind of comforting and predictable film we NEED during crazy holiday seasons. 10/10!
Okay now that we’ve made it to the final four, I am giving you trailers so you are even more enchanted to watch…
Vibe: A traditional rom-com where Christmas is a side-note.
Family Friendly?: HARD PASS. Watch this on your own time; would not recommend viewing with parents.
The Verdict: Stick with me, we’re about to get a little convoluted: Holidate is less about Christmas than the movie Valentine’s Day is about Valentine’s Day. (If you’ve seen both of those movies, I know you’ll agree. If not, we’ll proceed.)
Two people agree to be each other’s dates for a whole year. We see Christmas. We see New Years. We see St. Patrick’s and 4th of July and all the other ones, too. And of course…they come full-circle and they fall in love, because DUH. In a year without cheesy rom-coms, this scratched an itch. Does it really deserve to be #4, or am I just in lust with the novelty? We’ll find out next year, I guess. (Although this does have some good staying power for future holidays – any thoughts on whether or not Netflix will re-promote this around Valentine’s Day? Let’s take bets).
3. The Knight Before Christmas
Vibe: Like if Kate and Leopold was a Hallmark special.
Family Friendly?: It’s rated PG, but safe for kids – you won’t feel awkward watching this with parents, either.
The Verdict: OH MY GOSH. THE ULTIMATE GOOD/BAD MOVIE. It was so hard for me not to put this in the #1 slot. This woman meets a time traveling knight, HITS HIM WITH HER CAR, and then lets him move in with her. He’s a complete stranger!!! He has a weapon!!! He sets fire to her yard at one point!!!
My mom and I had to pause the movie on our first watch as we laughed so hard we were crying. Where are this woman’s friends?! Instead of being like, “girl, no, that dude needs professional assistance,” they’re like, “WOW, he’s perfect, his only flaw is that he thinks he’s a time-traveling knight!” AS IF THAT ISN’T AN ENORMOUS DEALBREAKER. It’s so good, and so bad, and so funny, and my personal favorite Christmas classic. Give Vanessa Hudgens an Oscar for this. She is the Mariah Carey of holiday originals.
2. Jingle Jangle
Vibe: Greatest Showman meets Christmas meets Wall-E.
Family Friendly?: YES YES YES!
The Verdict: There’s something deeply hilarious about going from a Hallmark-style rom-com at #3 to this absolute blowout at #2, but we’re going to roll with it. If movie theaters had been open, Jingle Jangle would have been *THE* biggest Christmas movie of the year. (TBH I thought this was better than The Greatest Showman, which is REALLY saying something.)
I’m assuming you’re a fan of interiors, so you’re in for a treat – the set design on this film is EXTRAORDINARY. Actually, the whole thing is stunning – the costumes, the makeup, the choreography, the soundtrack…SO GOOD. It’s also super empowering for kids (they save the day!) and Keegan-Michael Key is so fun to watch as a Jafar-style villain. LOVE.
1. Alien Xmas
Vibe: Classic claymation goes 2020.
Family Friendly?: YUP – even for really young kids!
The Verdict: This was a huge shock for me. When I first pitched this post, I did not anticipate that a stop-motion film about a tiny kleptomaniac alien would end up taking the top slot. But then…Alien Xmas won me over. It’s produced by Jon Favreau, the guy behind Elf (HA, amongst other things), so it has the same sweet heart, sweeping score, and you may even recognize a few of the animals from Buddy the Elf’s neck of the woods 🙂
It’s silly, fun, a quick watch, and good for the whole family – I can see folks coming back to this one year after year. Despite my initial impressions, Alien Xmas has longevity – maybe consider swapping out one of the classic Rankin/Bass films for this Netflix original this year.
Vibe: Imminent future Oscar nominee for animated short – beautiful and heartfelt and simple
Family Friendly?: YUP. Rated G, musical, and 30 minutes long.
The Verdict: A robin is raised by a family of mice after her egg rolls into a dumpster and she ends up making a wish on a Christmas star. IS THIS NOT THE SWEETEST THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD? (It gets cuter, too: the animals call people “who-mans” and they’re basically like, “who-mans take the spikiest tree in the forest and put a magic star on top, they make a wish, and in the morning, they get anything they want!”)
It’s tender and soft and easy viewing. Kids will LOVE IT. It’ll be one of those things where your dad is like, “I’m not watching,” while he stands, unmoving and near a chair/sofa, for the entirety of the short. BILLION STARS.
Vibe: Did I manifest this film????
Family Friendly?: Teens and up, yes. I watched this with my mom and didn’t feel awkward at all.
The Verdict: OK, here’s the thing. I’ve never felt like I’ve lived MORE in a simulation than I did while watching this. We see Natalie, a full-time bad date blogger (something I have joked about doing many times!) leave her apartment in LA (complete with the green version of my own bathroom!) to meet a guy in Lake Placid, NY (the place I spent every summer from 2005-now, basically) where she discovers she’s been catfished (my last date stole my credit card, so…I get it).
So maybe I’m kind of biased, but like, THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE. It’s funny and sweet and the casting of Josh’s family is SO SPOT ON. I want to live with the Lin family. To speak more bluntly, it’s also always nice to see a holiday movie that isn’t just about a white lady executive who meets a white blue collar guy who shows her the meaning of Christmas. Watch this one!!!
The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star
Vibe: Like, the film version of watching a sad balloon slowly deflate and fall to the ground.
Family Friendly?: If your goal is to put everyone to sleep, this is the movie that’ll do it for ya.
The Verdict: I don’t understand how Vanessa Hudgens can get it SO RIGHT (The Knight Before Christmas) and SO WRONG (2/3 of this series). I watched this movie TWICE because I retained nothing on the first go and I still can’t even tell you what happened. There’s a Catholic relic; there’s thievery; there’s Vanessa Hudgens playing 3 different people with bizarre accents; there’s literally no reason to ever put this on again.
Home Sweet Home Alone
Is it a Netflix movie? Technically no (it’s on HBO Max). But when Emily says that it’s good enough to share, a girl makes an exception. I’ll hand it off to the boss real quick…
Vibe: Feel good (duh) wack with a lot of clumsy SNL comedians that made our entire family LOL.
Family Friendly?: YES. the only part that scared my kids was the dream sequence with the old ladies taking out their teeth, but once we explained to them all thing dentures they weren’t scared (and they were more committed to teeth brushing). We’ve already watched it 3 times and Brian and I enjoy it as much if not more than the kids (mostly because of the actors and the comedic dialogue).
The Verdict: I was SHOCKED when Rotten Tomatoes scored it so low. I legit loved it and even storied about it after we watched it the first time. Again, it’s mostly about the hilarious comedic acting, but I think also nostalgia for the first one (there are a lot of fun references) with a much better messaging and a great ending. As you can tell it was at least an 8.5/10 for the Hendersons.
Single All The Way
As it turns out, it’s kind of hard to find time to watch every movie, so Jess did the hard work of tuning in to this one for me. Her take:
Vibe: An actually good, sweet, and funny Christmas rom-com that you can easily get behind… Also, two words: Jennifer Coolidge.
Family Friendly?: I think it’s great for the whole family! Granted I watched it by myself but would easily watch it with my family.
The Verdict: Honestly this is THE BEST Christmas movie (Sorry Caitlin). They cast seasoned actors (Michael Urie is going to make you fall in love with him so hard), the writing isn’t cringey and you can actually feel the chemistry between the characters. 10/10!!
A Castle for Christmas
Vibe: Low-stakes, turn-of-your-brain, Lifetime-quality fun
Family Friendly?: I doubt that kids would WANT to watch.
The Verdict: Ah, yes, whom amongst us ISN’T a best-selling author trying to buy a castle in Scotland? Brooke Shields’ character gets canceled after she kills off a character in one of her books (seriously). She heads overseas ASAP and she and Cary Elwes, a cranky duke and owner of the castle she wants to buy, are basically embracing like, 15? 20? minutes into the movie. I’m going to let you put all those hard-earned lifelong deductive reasoning skills to work and guess where this ends up.
It’s an easy watch. I will say that I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the representation of ~50-year-old women in media after reading this piece about the SATC reboot, subtitled “Where Are All The Other Shows About Middle-Aged Women?” So I will concede that it’s really encouraging to see Netflix dropping another rom-com that isn’t just about, you know, 20-something bloggers or 20-something princesses or 20-something executives. If you have time to kill, this one’s worth a watch.
OKAY, PLEASE TELL ME YOUR FAVORITES. I know this is a long one – thank you for meeting me down here – but I have so many of these thoughts floating around in my head and this is truly the ONLY TIME of year that I can finally talk about them!!!
Have you watched Alien Xmas? Did I do Dolly dirty by throwing her so high in the list? Anyone have another take on one of these? Bueller?!?!? In any case, I hope you have a WONDERFUL holiday, no matter what films you end up watching. xx
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Emily’s “Messy” But FULL Of Memories Christmas Family Room
I love the Holidate and have watched it 3 times this year, I’ve seen everyone HATING it on other blogs! Sure it’s ridiculous, but I like it!
Your picks are controversial, sure, but it was a lot of fun to read!!
I would definitely put Klaus on the top three, but other than that, I am now looking forward to watching some movies I would NEVER watched otherwise so…. good job!
Justice for Klaus!
Wow, strangely I think this is the post I didn’t know I needed! Adding a bunch of these to my list to watch now (better than the Greatest Showman? Multiple holidays in one movie? Kurt Russell? In in in!!)
The Christmas Chronicles movies are both SO GOOD! Kurt Russell is absolutely the perfect Santa and ohhh Goldie. ❤️ My husband and I watched both in one night. 😂 We have a 4-year-old and we loved all the secrets behind Santa’s magic. Great answers to some of her big questions this year! I wouldn’t let her watch either one yet though – these are for older kids in my opinion. She hasn’t thought to question if Santa is real so I don’t want that in her head. Anyway, thanks for these reviews – can’t wait to watch Holiday in the Wild.
Just the content we needed right now! From this to try ons to home reveals to family stuff… this is why you are one of my favorites! Merry Christmas!!
It honestly made me so happy that you put The Knight Before Christmas at #3 because it is SO ridiculous and silly but simultaneously so cute that it has become my friend group’s annual favorite! What a fun list.
I think I’ve seen about half of these and there’s only one I truly loved: Klaus. What a masterpiece. <3
Caitlin, this was an awesome post!!!! I bookmarked several to watch with my kiddos and alone this Christmas. I am newly pregnant and feel nauseous and blah all day long. It’s time to embrace some movie marathons, I think. You have given me the list I need to start. I can’t feel as guilty if we are watching a holiday movie! Thank you!
This was so fun, my top three for this year are
1. Jingle Jangle (the music, the costumes, the kids, loved all of it.)
2. The Christmas chronicles 1&2 (bc Kurt and Goldie 4ever) and last but not least
If you have Prime check out “The Happiest Season” for the most non cheesy, made me cry, made me laugh and has DAN LEVY.
Caitlin, you’ve done the tards with this post!
I. Have. Nit. Seen. Any. Of. Them.
If I could choose it’d be Klaus… and Holiday in the Wild…bc…. ya know I love animals, nature, the planet….😏
Tards???? (waaaay too close to, dare I say….turds?!)🤣😂
Ding dangin’ numb fingers. Honestly, one fingered typing on a tablet? But I’m sitting on my bed and I really don’t wanna go to a chair at the PC!
Really enjoyed this extensive list and reviews, and suuuuuper glad to see such love for the whimsical and beautiful Klaus. Now maybe this isn’t on your list bc of it not being necessarily made by Netflix, but the Christmas Catch was so good/different/not 100% obvious story, which is why we really liked it. It had a little bit of everything.
Love this list, and wow! We have a lot of movies we need to watch! We love the christmas chronicles over here and I can’t wait to watch the sequel- we haven’t gotten to it yet! So many of these I haven’t even heard of- we’ll definitely be checking out Alien Xmas now, haha!!
This post is everything. I only wish it had been posted weeks ago so I had more time during Christmas to go through all these!!
My daughter in law told her kids: “Christmas break isn’t going to be a bunch of lying about. Mom has a strict schedule in place, complete with curriculum. Movie night. Every night. Christmas movies thru 12/25. Non Christmas movies after that. Test on January 3.”
I’m forwarding your blog for their homework.
Klaus is the best Christmas movie on Netflix!!
Yes to this! It is maybe the best animated Christmas movie I have ever seen.
Jingle Jangle is SO good. Everyone go watch it! Hubs and I watched is last weekend and it was a treat. Full disclosure, I did briefly fall asleep, but I can hardly make it through a Christmas movie without drowsing off for a bit. I consider it part of their appeal. 😉
Klaus is an absolute masterpiece that deserves the top slot! But I’ll let the rest slide
The Holidate was my favorite new-this-year watch. There is an Easter scene that we actually had to pause because we were laughing so hard. It’s thoroughly enjoyable despite some mediocre elements.
“The Happiest Season!!!” It’s so sweet and funny, even if Kristen Stewart ends up with the wrong woman!
Agree! Happiest season was good!
Agree! She totally should have ended up with Aubrey Plaza’s character!
“Kind of like if Dolly Parton made the Muppets Christmas Carol on the Wizard of Oz set.” — This just made me LOL even though it’s probably an accurate description of the movie. Christmas movies can be SO ridiculous but that is definitely part of their charm. And agreed that they are soooo needed this year 🙂 great post!!
Uh-oh, am I the only one who didn’t like Jingle Jangle? Am I a Scrooge?! I adored Klaus and will check out Alien Christmas.
there was so much to love about it — amazing actors/performances, costumes, set design, songs — but I felt like it should have been an hour long, not two hours. So I’m kinda torn. I admired it, I didn’t like it, if that makes any sense…
I agree, it dragged at parts and would have been so much more enjoyable if an hour had been cut. However, when I enjoyed it, I really enjoyed it.
My kids and I tried to watch and really wanted to like it but we ended up turning it off after 30-40 minutes. Maybe it was the pacing? It just didn’t grab us, even though it seemed like it had all the right elements.
This is amazing! I was in a sort of overwhelmed state about all the Netflix originals and therefore hadn’t committed to watching any of them, so this helps me narrow it down so much! After my husband and I finish our Harry Potter movie marathon of course (we’re on Order of the Phoenix right now) 😀
When you finish, “A Boy Called Christmas” is adorable and has many Potter nods (including cast – McGonagall and Slughorn!)
The Holidate was SO good! Watched with my husband who said, “we need more movies like this”. Sweetie, that’s called a rom-com!
There’s one more in Netflix that I watched – Home for Christmas (Seasons 1 and 2)
Not family friendly!
RomCom but not the Lifetime/Hallmark type
It’s Norwegian with English dubbing and somehow that isn’t weird.
I totally enjoyed both seasons and I want to visit Norway during Christmas.
I came here to say exactly this! I keep telling people to watch Home for Christmas (both short seasons)! I love it and am on my second viewing!
Thanks for this recommendation. I just watched the first episode and I’m hooked! It’s totally charming and not corny.
I know you’re reviewing movies, but you need to do a similar post on Netflix Christmas series just so we can put Home For Christmas (Heim til Jul) in the #1 slot.
Definitely a candidate for the #1 spot!
Thanks for the review, adding a couple to my list.
My friends and I have been using Scener to watch Netflix and other movies together this year. It’s great because it’s a video chat room and one person is controlling the remote/movie.
I’ve already watched The Holidate twice already. So funny! The Christmas Chronicles is also a great family movie.
Haven’t seen any of those and don’t plan to. I’m sure it there are a couple good ones in the list. I’m so disappointed with shows and movies these days. Rarely there’s a good one. Most follow the same formula and are super predictable. I’m 38 so I’ve watched so much already. European tend to be a bit different. In general Netflix stuff feels so mass produced.
Not Christmas, but Ted Lasso on Apple+ was different and perfect this season.
There’s a Ted Lasso Christmas episode! We’re planning to watch it as part of our holiday viewing (it’s separate enough from the season 2 storyline that it stands on its own).
Ha! This was perfect timing!! I’ve been craving a good christmas movie lately so this was just the ticket – Just watched The Christmas Inheritance while pre-cooking Christmas dinner and it was wonderfully cheesily ridicolous and christmas-y! Can I still get swept of my feet by a handsome small-town boy even if I’m not a succesfull business woman from the city?? Please send candidates my way… 😉
I love everything about this review roundup; even while I wildly disagree with some rankings I still feel totally SEEN! In lieu of anything approaching a purpose at this time of year, I have made it my mission to endlessly watch as much holiday related fare as I can stuff in my eyeballs- but I have been holding off some of what I’m hoping is the top-notch viewing of the season til now- Klaus, Christmas Chronicle 2, Jingle Jangle…and apparently Alien Xmas?! I’m here for it! Merry everything, y’all!
PS. Holidate is my favorite surprise of the season so far- so much fun, plus it was the distraction I so desperately needed when I watched it on election night.
Weeeeelllll. I hate Hallmark movies so I probably (def) won’t watch most of these. Maybe the top 4 minus the Vanessa H. one. lol. But happy to know those 3 are there to watch!
Ok, the best part of Knight Before Christmas was the scene in the grocery store when he’s checking out the rolls. Because, seriously, those squishy grocery store rolls are NOT bread.
I laughed out loud through the majority of this and the vibe one-liners were truly *chefs kiss*. This felt exactly the kind of commentary from my college roommates group text AND I LOVE IT!! thank you for this immense amount of important research!! off to watch like, 9 of these today! xx
Caitlin, I really love your posts! I love these deep dives with lots of info, and you always present it in such a fun to read way.
I laughed my way through this and we attempted to watch Knight Before Christmas last night. We made it 48 minutes in and then switched to Sugar Rush. Tonight, we’re gonna try the alien one!
Everyone kept recommending Klaus so we finally watched it despite my intuition that my littles wouldn’t like it. As an adult I can understand it’s popularity but my kids really disliked it. My 7 year old is sensitive and she thought it was mean, scary, and sad. If you have sensitive younger kids this is a hard pass.
Why do SO many kids movies have to be scary and violent?
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I’ve been glued to the news and needed something to clear my head and I’ve literally watched everyone one of these… plus a few more. They are the perfect escape. I’m a pastry chef and I was talking to friends about how baking is the vehicle in sooo many Christmas movies. We don’t find that part romantic at all. 🙂 also, I was pleasantly surprised by a movie called New York Christmas wedding. I expected the same formula with the bonus of Chris Noth. But, it turned in to a story about finding true love and marriage equality. Worth checking out.
AWESOME POST. It’s useful, but was also so entertaining on it’s own. My favorite review by far was Christmas Inheritance. Ha! If you also read romance novels and write reviews on Good Reads, I really, really, really want to follow you.
Alien Xmas, El Camino Christmas, and a Very Murray Christmas are now on my actual watchlist, and I wouldn’t have ever clicked on them. Thanks! I only regret that this post didn’t come in time to save me from watching Virgin River while wrapping gifts. 😉
Oh! And I agree on Klaus. I was 100% prepared to hate it, but I thought it was lovely. My kids watch it when it’s not even Christmas time.
I’m a minority who didn’t like Christmas Chronicles (I’m not into edgy Santa), but my kids strongly disagree and watched it at least five times this year and last. Another half-dozen viewings for the sequel this year also, although I haven’t seen it.
I personally wish Jingle Jangle was a bit shorter, because my opinion is that any family movie longer than 1.5 hours is too long, but there was something there for everyone in our home to love. The storyline was weak, again because I think it dragged on, but there were so many funny lines. The songs and art direction were great. Forest Whitaker in particular was just wonderful. Here he’s a real actor, and my favorite performance of his is from a family holiday movie, haha. My kids enjoyed all the kiddie antics and grumpy Grandpa schtick. And my husband and I cheered every time the backup dancers appeared. We were all yelling when the kids went through the fan tunnel!
Klaus- my kids and I watched it with my dad last year and it warms my heart every time we have a salad and they scream “WHAT?! No croutons?!”
100% agree Operation Xmas Drop is basically a military industrial complex advertisement, trying to convince us that US imperialist colonial white-savior occupation is Festive Kindness. Blah.
You convinced me to watch Alien Xmas last year with my husband and 4 year old and we were all like, “What is this nonsense??” And then immediately like, “is this the best Christmas movie we’ve ever seen??” 10/10 recommend. THANK YOU.
I couldn’t help but love the princess switch 3 😂. I feel like they really leaned into the “so bad it’s good” vibes. Watching Vanessa Hudgens do a bunch of over the top accents delighted me… whatever that says about my taste in holiday movies.
I did also really enjoy Love Hard and Holidate!
I loved the princess switch 3 too! I thought the accents were hilarious! My husband and I were LOL- ing the whole movie!
I realize this was a Netflix holiday movie review, but they’re sorely lacking in religious representation at a time when Hallmark is making a meaningful effort. I’d like to see Netflix match their effort but with their better writing and production value. Hallmark, cheesiness and all, hit it out of the park representation-wise with 8 Gifts of Hannukah – all Jewish and even Israeli lead actors, accuracy of traditions and cultural elements. It was clearly written and produced by Jewish people.
As far as this review list – we love Holidate and it’s becoming an annual watch for us along with other studio classics like The Holiday, Jim Carey’s Grinch etc.
I too enjoyed seeing 50 something women represented in A Castle For Christmas, and my mom and her friends especially enjoyed it.
We’re looking forward to adding Love Hard and Single All the Way to our at home date night watchlist, and a few of the family friendly ones like The Christmas Chronicles and new Home Alone as our kid gets a little older.
For anyone with a toddler, the holiday specials for the Netflix original animated shows are decent.
Ok so I don’t watch Christmas movies and probably won’t watch any of these either. Not even sure why I bothered to open up and read the post. But Caitlin, this was a super fun read and you had me spitting coffee. I hope you have aspirations or a book in the works. You have talent.
Caitlin! I remember you being a fan of the very underrated Wine Country on Netflix so you must watch A Clusterfunke Christmas (I think it’s on Comedy Central). Written by and starring national treasures Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch. It’s a Hallmark movie spoof and it kills.
These were great! Maybe you can do a post (non-Christmas/NY) about the best series/movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime that you are into!!
Thank you for this! My 5 year old son loves The Knight Before Christmas – he wanted to watch a movie with a knight in it but I didn’t want him watching anything too violent so we randomly watched it in October and now it’s in the rotation!
Klaus is just lovely. I also just watched Angela’s Christmas after I saw it recommended on CoJ. It’s a 30 min animated movie and it’s the sweetest and beautifully made.
Loved Angela’s Christmas. Those accents…! 🥰😍
Here to say A boy called Christmas was lovely.
Seconding A Boy Called Christmas – one I would watch year after year!
Holly Star!! Why isn’t Holly Star on either list?!? It is SO GOOD!!! I’ve watched it three years in a row (on Netflix) and I feel like it is such a step up from your average hallmark Christmas movie.
Oh, and Angela’s Christmas (animated) was so dang cute and my kids really enjoyed it. Planning to watch the second with them this year.
Love your writing style Caitlin and loved this post, even if I won’t be taking in any Christmas Prince in “Gendovia” (a small little kingdom just left of “Fritaly”) type movies! I thought the Holidate was cute and I have Single All the Way bookmarked for some chilly Saturday night in front of the fire; Klaus is my No 1 from the list though. My picks would also include The Holiday and Love Actually. Then I’d jump across to Disney+ for The Family Stone, all the Frozen’s and Die Hard!