Let us clarify, when we write “best” Christmas movies to stream we are referring to the best worst films. We’re talking Netflix. We’re talking Hallmark. We’re talking Lifetime. We’re talking too many white people. These movies are so bad they’re good and then they’re bad again and then an angel intervenes and BOOM… good. We have watched hours of these movies and spent years of our lives thinking about them only to come to the following conclusions that we put into over 4000 words about the genre.
So grab an ex-boyfriend from your small town who you will fall in love with on Christmas Eve and get ready to binge your hearts out.
2019 PICKS OF THE LITTER:
Aha! The King can’t build a crib! After what I personally felt was an extremely dull Royal Wedding, I had low low expectations for the third installment of Netflix’s A Christmas Prince movies (the first of which still holds up, have rewatched a million times). I was pleasantly surprised at the plot since it absurdly involves a curse, a dungeon, a rogue butler laughs fancilly and empowering women in government. I was sorely disappointed however that King Richard (Ben Lamb) must either be filming something or actually dealing with running Aldovia because he is sorely missing from a lot of this movie, something I didn’t realize I missed until re-watching A Christmas Prince and realizing the Prince actually talked and had a personality in that one. I mostly just cried with relief that it was over. I still want a fourth movie though – A Christmas Prince: Ah Another Holiday Market? -Marissa
New year, new streaming platforms, new bad holiday movies. Possibly this year’s offering with the highest star power voltage, Noelle is still delightfully, well, mediocre. Our title heroine (played with adequate spunk by Anna Kendrick, who, inexplicably is not given a single song or dance in this film) is the daughter of Santa Claus. Because she is a girl (sigh), once her dad passes away, the Santa hat is passed along to her brother Nick (Bill Hader, with nowhere enough screen time), who has zero interest or inclination to carry on the Kringle spirit. When Nick goes AWOL (where he decides to go is probably the one truly funny joke in the movie), Noelle, with her elf sidekick Polly (Shirley MacLaine, no less) sets out to find him, reconnect him to the Christmas spirit and maybe learn a few things about herself. Medium hijinks ensue, Billy Eichner and a few other beloved faces pop up, and all ends well. This movie is as reliable as a Starbucks seasonal latte, and just as original. – Svetlana
Christmas at Dollywood (Hallmark)
If you’re paying attention to the world (and your own hearts) you may have noticed an uptick in all things Dolly Parton. Netflix dropped a series based on eight Dolly Parton songs and yes one of them is “Jolene”. She is the subject of one of my favorite podcasts of 2019: Dolly Parton’s America. And now Hallmark (who we have mostly forgiven for their recent nonsense) gifted us with Christmas at Dollywood. Once again we are met with an overworked woman who barely has time to relax much less celebrate any sort of holiday. Danica McKellar (who I predict will be the new jewel in the Crown… Media. RIP Lori Loughlin) lives in New York City and is a successful event planner hoping to take over the company after her boss retires. When a big job falls through at the last minute, she gets the opportunity of a lifetime: planning the 30th anniversary celebration of Dollywood’s annual Smoky Mountain Christmas extravaganza. This is basically a real thing by the way.
To no one’s surprise she gets the job but is paired with the park’s operations manager who is inexplicably and confusingly going after the same job. Yes, it’s a dude. Will sparks fly? Yup. Is there a costume montage? Absolutely. Do we get to see Dolly Parton? Eventually. It’s well worth the wait and you will probably end up looking into taking your own trip to Dollywood. – Jenn
Once you get past the fact that the word crone is used at some point, okay many points (a woman is literally billed as Old Crone), this is actually one of the most feminist-thinking holiday movies I’ve seen in a long time. We start in the past, somewhere in the 11th century I believe? Also somewhere in England. There is definitely a castle and everyone is far more clean than they should be. Preparation for a ceremony is underway and Sir Cole (our hero) can’t wait to watch his little brother become a knight. Unfortunately / Fortunately, he meets an Old Crone who curses him into modern times so he can find what he’s really looking for (guys it’s love). We then meet Vanessa Hudgens who I guess has gone full Christmas movies only now. She lives alone! She works a lot! She has a crappy ex-boyfriend! She’s perfect for Sir Cole. She takes him into her home, which is very dangerous, and we get to watch Sir Cole adjust to modern times.
Here’s where the feminist part comes in. Apart from a few slip ups he accepts Vanessa Hudgens’ status as a modern woman with ease. He never questions the fact that she is single, childless, and working. He never asks her to change! And when he finally gets sent back to the past, he asks to return to the present (sorry this is a spoiler). For once a man left his home and all that he loves to be with a woman. My jaw dropped. And I have great news, while both Vanessa Hudgens and Josh Whitehouse (Sir Cole) are both singers… we are not saddled with any sort of musical number. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Knight! – Jenn
I was excited for Christmas in Rome, because 1) shot on location, 2) Mean Girls‘ Lacey Chabert and Sam Page (who in my IMDB research, keeps playing characters named Keith, although in this movie his name is Oliver), so how could it be anything but amazing? After some tour guide weirdness and not enough Christmas, I at one point looked up from my phone and realized the movie was mostly over and I did not care. Watch it on mute for Sam Page and some nice Roman scenery. -Marissa
A recipe for the best Christmas movie so far this season: a dash of Love Actually, some snow, one Shameik Moore (playing Stuart, a superstar trying to be normal for a few hours), so many cute side plots that your brain will hurt from the warm and fuzzies (one involves a snowplow driver stealing a cell phone and throwing it out in a window which we are supposed to support but it gave me such anxiety), a waffle restaurant with the W missing, throw it all in a blender, blend for 1 hour and 32 minutes, and be pleasantly surprised at how good the results are. Also we need to talk about Shameik Moore. – Marissa.
Side note from Svetlana: Bonus points for Kiernan Shipka being in it. Minus points for Noah Centineo NOT being in it. And now for our (almost) million dollar idea for Netflix Holiday Season 2020: A Sabrina Christmas (but make it witchy) Movie.
The second best new Christmas movie this year, this one has the absurd plots / deadlines that almost always revolve around Christmas. There’s a small town with an insane level of holiday spirit, a centuries old family feud and two warring inns (at one point one of them decides to build a spa). It is ridiculous fun, everyone is beautiful and I was left sobbing at how adorable it was. Essentially, big city lawyer Julia (Rachel Boston), returns to her family for the holidays, surprise… she is up for a bid promotion. But then small town hijinks occur – will she save her family’s inn? Will she get that promotion? WE KNOW THE ANSWERS BUT LOVE IT ALL ANYWAYS! – Marissa
Kirsten Davis plays a Park Avenue mom and wife who finds herself, relatively abruptly, without a child (he’s off to college) or husband (he leaves her promptly after the kid leaves for college). So, she does what any woman in that situation would do: heads to Africa, has a will-they-won’t-they first encounter with Rob Lowe (still not aging at all, thankyouverymuch), who then turns out to be her safari pilot (of course), falls in love with an elephant rescue colony (she was a veterinarian before the Park Avenue life) and stays there for good (or at least Christmas). That will they, won’t they energy? We’ll give you zero dollars if you guess what happens with that in the end. – Svetlana
NEW TO US THIS YEAR (BUT DEFINITELY NOT NEW NEW)
This movie includes, and I am not kidding, barista shaming, an extremely problematic family (where the father has possibly committed some sort of white collar crime), the three daughters who have such a problematic relationship with their mother that they spend most of the movie lying to her, a fake fiance and Haylie Duff. Did I mention it’s a comedy?
Our protagonist Hillary, literally gets dumped by her lawyer fiance for… rescuing dogs (???), as he does not feel her kind-hearted actions are keeping up with his ambitions to be a successful lawyer. In Christmas movie world, this is not the craziest excuse for moving the plot along I have seen, but the rescuing dogs part had me screenshotting it and sending it to the group chat because I could not believe that was real. Anyways, she then can’t go to celebrate the holidays without her fiance, posts online for someone to pretend to be her fiance and finds an actor, who happens to be adorable, to play said fiance. You can probably guess what happens, I did kind of cry at the end of this one because it is just too ridiculous and adorable. – Marissa
Coming in ~hot~ after the 2010 launch of the classic Fireplace for your Home (not to be confused with Fireplace for your Home – Classic Edition), this is truly a pile of burning logs. No script, but with a sufficient amount of coziness, it has all the makings of a holiday movie. It’s perfect for people who just want to watch the world, or some wood, burn. I didn’t cry at the end of this one, but just restarted it, and it was like it had never ended. – Marissa
PLUS, SOME EVERGREEN HOLIDAY GOOD BADNESS, SORTED INTO EASY-TO-USE CATEGORIES:
DO YOU LOVE CHRISTMAS…AND PRINCES???
The movie that launched a thousand Netflix Christmas movies! A Christmas Prince is a magical combination of all the best Christmas royal movie tropes, which include, but certainly aren’t limited to: set in an obscure European country, some sort of horseback riding scene, the Prince is a jerk at first, someone has trouble with Royal protocol, a helpful and sweet butler, an evil relative, I could go on but I have to get to the rest of these royally terrible but wonderful movies. Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
Okay so this is kind of a rarity in that the royal Christmas movie actually gets a sequel. It’s kind of the same movie as the first one, just replace all the plot points I listed above with “has trouble with royal protocol” and throw in a very strange side plot about a Christmas play? Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
This one is my absolute favorite because it is the exact same plot as A Christmas Prince just with Sam Heughan (of Outlander fame). I’m going to put a photo of Sam Heughan on the Brightest Young Things instagram and you will understand. Also it came out in 2011 so is actually more like the OG of this film trope. My favorite side plot includes the royals for some reason hating Christmas trees. It is fantastic. Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
This iteration of A Christmas Prince (which, to be fair, came out in 2014) stars Lacey Chabert and includes an obscure European country, a surprise Prince and an unsuitable commoner. The Prince has a vile ex-girlfriend who of course would be “more suitable,” but through the magic of Christmas love wins and everyone goes to Philadelphia (really). Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
If A Christmas Prince was 2017’s must watch terrible Christmas movie then The Princess Switch is 2018’s! If you haven’t seen it yet get ready for a Christmas-tized version of Princess and the Pauper with a Food Network style baking competition and Vanessa Hudgens’ bad British accent, and a very attractive best friend who somehow Vanessa Hudgens character failed to realize is a VERY BEAUTIFUL MAN! This movie loses points for having not the most attractive of Princes (don’t @ me). Also, I cried at the end. – Marissa
READY FOR SOME NORTH POLE ACTION???
One of my all-time favorites growing up, I used to truly look forward to when it would become December and ABC Family would have their 25 Days of Christmas, which is truly just all 620 Santa Clause movies. Tim Allen is great, and Charlie sucks (fight me!), the North Pole is properly magical and everyone just kind of forgets that Tim Allen’s character inadvertently commits murder. -Marissa
Y’all Lori Loughlin is a National Hallmark Treasure. From Garage Sale Mysteries (I’ve seen every one) to When Calls The Heart (a period piece where Lori still gets to have great blonde highlights!) she is out there keeping the Hallmark Channel afloat which is why I made it a point to watch this movie. On the Hallmark Channel. That I pay for. Because I am the last 38-year-old woman who has cable. A lot of Hallmark Christmas movies involve inheriting things, big crazy things. In North Pole, Open for Christmas Loughlin’s character inherits an entire inn from her aunt (actually people inherit a lot of inns in these movies). And of course she’s not sure she wants to keep this stunningly gorgeous building that she had to pay absolutely nothing for. That’s when the magic of Christmas steps in, in the form of an elf sent down from the North Pole to help Loughlin reconnect with her childhood, which apparently involved a trip to the North Pole…which she revisits as an adult. It’s very difficult to make the North Pole not look like shit in movies. There is clearly a lot of CGI involved in creating an entire fantasy city. This movie does a pretty great job, and not just for a Hallmark movie. I would say my one complaint is everyone is a little toooooo accepting of the magic involved. If an elf took me to the North Pole I would lose my goddamn mind but Loughlin is pretty chill about it. Other than that watch this movie if you love beautiful old buildings, fixer upper porn and did I mention Dylan McDermott because he is inexplicably in this film. -Jenn
What can I say about wanting to have sex with Kurt Russell as Santa Claus that I haven’t already said all over social media? Basically I have a chimney he can cum down. And if you’re as uncomfortable as I am about wanting to bone St. Nick (Dick???) for the first time then we’re on the same page. And that page is page 69. Once you get past putting Santa on the Naughty List (these jokes aren’t gonna stop anytime soon) you’ll really love this movie which is that age-old tale of a happy family who loves Christmas who then struggles to love it after their father dies. That’s when the two kids discover that Santa is real(ly hot) and hijinx ensue. Look, child actors can be awful but The Christmas Chronicles really managed to find some lovely, charming, appropriately sarcastic kids. I would say this is one of those films that kids will like but buried within are jokes only adults will enjoy. Plus you’ll feel like a real ho ho ho for Santa (sigh). -Jenn
PEOPLE WHO WORK TOO HARD AT CHRISTMAS AND THUS ARE SINGLE
As someone who is both an event planner and a complete workaholic this really spoke to me on an emotional level. Not only because the main character (Jocelyn Hudon) is such a TERRIBLE event planner but also because inexplicably Kelly Ruthrford (Serena’s mom from Gossip Girl) AND Joey Fatone from Nsync are in it. So just know that when he appears and you yell at your TV IS THAT THE GUY FROM NSYNC? Yes. Yes it is. Also included is a spoiler alert weird engagement after the couple has known each other approximately 48 hours (I may be exaggerating, if you think too hard about timelines in these movies your head will explode), either way I was screaming “they barely know each other!” at my computer while sobbing uncontrollably because of course, I cried at the end. -Marissa
Hands down this is my FAVORITE Christmas movie on Netflix. I discovered it last year and I truly spent the last 365 days talking about it. It has all the greatest hits: Beautiful house, snow, and of course an incredibly handsome ghost. Kate is a work-obsessed lawyer who ONCE AGAIN WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING has 3 days to get a bed and breakfast appraised and sold. There is just one problem, the B&B is haunted by a ghost who is able to show up once a year in corporeal form. And oh man is he ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. And she somehow doesn’t fall in immediate love with him. Look, dead or alive if you look like this dude I’m gonna want to bone you. Seriously. I cannot say enough about this man’s bone structure. I want to feel his spirit in me. Sorry. -Jenn
TRYING TO FOOL YOUR FAMILY WITH A FAKE SIGNIFICANT OTHER???
This movie contains two of my favorite Hallmark Christmas Movie tropes….a mother that is pressuring her daughter to get married (in this day and age????) and a woman who hires a man to play her fiancee to appease her mother (um who has that kind of money, what does something like that cost???). This is a CLASSIC Hallmark Christmas Movie, from the gal who gets dumped AT Christmas to the falling in love with the man you paid to replace him. What luck! This film also stars another Hallmark Channel favorite, Haylie Duff (the OTHER Duff). The part of her hired fiancee is played by Jordan Bridges who I had previously only seen in the Melissa Joan Hart/Adrian Grenier 90’s gem: Drive Me Crazy. I often wonder if actors are just happy to be working or do they secretly resent doing Hallmark Movies. Please do not look a Hallmark Movie gift in the mouth. -Jenn
This one is ALSO about a fake couple but the twist? At one point they were actually a couple. This couple had a pretty quick romance that started on the 4th of July (America’s birthday is so romantic) and was over by Thanksgiving but for some reason they can’t physically or emotionally handle the prospect of spending Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s alone so they pretend to still be together? That’s so wild. This story arc is once again one of my faves. I am a single human who is usually single during the holidays (and during life) and I have never experienced this irrational pressure to be in a relationship FOR a holiday. Is it all the ornaments that look like balls? Getting stuffed like a turkey? Anyway to no one’s surprise they find their way back to each other because everyone knows when you force a relationship to happen, over the holidays which are generally very stressful, that relationship works. -Jenn
WOMEN WHO ARE HUNG UP ON THEIR SHITTY EX!
All great terrible Christmas movies begin with a woman TRAPPED in a hideous relationship. The relationship is so bad you’re left wondering if the man has ever felt an actual human emotion. She is usually wildly successful. He is usually wildly successful. He usually treats her like shit on the sole of life. Yay! Then girl meets very nice boy who is not quite as successful but who is clearly less of a serial killer and falls for him after ONE KISS. What this says to me (oh oh armchair psychologist coming at ya) is she is so absolutely starved for kindness that she will turn even an ounce of non-fuckery into a relationship. However that doesn’t happen right away because like any good narcissist, the shitty boyfriend will start playing nice-nice once he senses she’s slipping away. Also Christmas in San Francisco! -Jenn
This is my all time favorite Christmas movie and even I cannot fully explain why it’s so terrific other than it truly has all the best ingredients of an awful but amazing holiday movie. A very beautiful man (played by Zach from Saved By The Bell OR Mark- Paul Gosselaar, whichever you know him as), the main protagonist is hung up on her ex who NEVER treated her right who also (of course) has already moved on, oh and the best part it has the same plot as Groundhog Day, just… with Christmas. Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
Okay so to be fully honest when doing some very important research for this article and watching as many of these movies as I could, I started this right after Princess Switch and immediately fell asleep and woke up and didn’t fully realize I was no longer watching Princess Switch because there was still so much Christmas. Anyways, so after re-starting this movie I can vouch for the fact that this movie has EVERYTHING! A family that fights all the time, Christmas, a blizzard, more Christmas, angels helping the aforementioned bickering family discover that Christmas is about family (if I am spoiling anything for you there I am sorry but you SHOULD HAVE SEEN THAT COMING). Also, I cried at the end. -Marissa
I refer to this movie as the City of Angels of Christmas movies. This movie is DARK. A woman dies (she gets hit by a BUS) and is sent to Heaven only to discover she hasn’t earned a spot yet. Why? What happened? What did she do? How bad can you be? So she’s sent back to Earth (bummer, this place sucks) to help her ex-boyfriend get his shit together. Wow, even in death women can’t escape emotional labor! Once again, and for no reason, she has to do this all before Christmas. Look, I love this movie. As far as angelic intervention goes it’s not bad. And her boyfriend is played by the ridiculously hot Derek Theler, but like damn….can’t a woman just die in peace? Also, it’s weird that the good deed Sarah has to perform is like helping her boyfriend fall back in love with his ex. That would fuck me up. -Jenn
UNAPPRECIATIVE OF YOUR SMALL TOWN ROOTS???
Okay, I kind of get having a high school reunion right before Christmas because people will already be home but I also DO NOT GET having a high school reunion right before Christmas because who has time for that shit? Also aren’t you just going to see all your high school friends at that one loser bar you all go to on Christmas Eve? Yes. You are. This movie is very Mean Girls-esque in that it features our main character revisiting some sort of bizarre group dance with her lady pals AT the reunion. And wouldn’t you know it the woman who returns also thinks this would be the perfect time to try to get back together with her high school boyfriend. Um have you seen your high school boyfriend lately? No. Anyway this is one of those movies that fully takes place during the age of social media but somehow treats this high school reunion as if everyone literally hasn’t seen each other since graduation day. It does star Rachel Boston who I previously loved in the short-lived Lifetime series Witches of East End (RIP) -Jenn
A very spoiled Paris Hilton circa 2006 rich girl inherits a charming inn in a small town (called Snow Falls! I’m not joking!) and discovers (among other things) that her life is much better with the extremely gorgeous Innkeeper and not her rich guy fiancé. There is also a life-changing snowstorm involved, and of course, I cried at the end. -Marissa
WANNA WATCH AN INTERPRETATION OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL???
Dear God will no one write a role for Taryn Manning that is NOT trashy? This is your trailer park (literally) version of A Christmas Carol and while some of the stereotypes are kind of cringey it’s a really interesting take on a tale that has been taken (look those ghosts have a specific set of skills….) many times. Cindy is an unwed out of work mother who smokes, drinks and is obviously not a nerd. She is visited by 3 ghosts who decide to show her the error of her ways so she can clean up her act and make a better life for her children. This is movie is EXCELLENTLY cast with Beverly D’Angelo (ghost of Christmas future), Eric Roberts (ghost of Christmas present) and Meatloaf! (not a ghost but ya know…Meatloaf) so it’s worth the watch for the actors alone. -Jenn
Once again we take another crack at A Christmas Carol with Tori Spelling playing the part of Scrooge (Carol). Carol is a selfish, self-involved TV show host who does absolutely nothing for anyone else. Classic TV personality! Her future involves dying alone (take a number) unless she changes her evil ways. They also show her she will no longer be a star and in my opinion THAT is the real catalyst for change. Bonus: William Shatner and Gary Coleman are two of the ghosts. Beverly Hills 9021Oh Hell Yeah! -Jenn
LEGITIMATELY MERRY AND BRIGHT!
Eric (Luke Grimes) is looking for his long lost father (Tim Allen) which will end with them barricaded in a liquor store with 5 other people during an alleged robbery. Yes, Tim Allen is a crazy Republican but this is a very touching disturbing movie that left me in tears by the end. It takes place during Christmas but the overall aesthetic isn’t very Christmasy so if you’re looking for a standard snow-covered, idyllic town this isn’t the movie for you. If you’re looking for a sweet film about righting your wrongs, then do it. ALSO KIND OF DEPRESSING WHICH IS CHRISTMAS IN A NUTCRACKER – Jenn
You don’t need me to tell you to watch Love Actually. If you DO need me to tell you to watch Love Actually then stop what you’re doing and power up that Netflix tab you’ve been hiding in “Desktop 2” while you pretend to work and watch it. Prepare to cry at the end. – Marissa
COMING DOWN THE CHIMNEY SOON AND WE’RE EXCITED
Christmas In the Wild (Netflix, 2019)
According to my five seconds of google research this got pushed back to 2019 so we’re going to have to wait a whole year for a Rob Lowe and Kristin Davis movie about Rob Lowe on a safari during Christmas (I’m not joking). Also this gives me a chance to type out my very favorite riddle- how many lowes would rob lowe rob if rob lowe could rob lowes? Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
Prince of Peoria: A Christmas Moose Miracle (Netflix, December 14)
Apparently this is a children’s movie but based on the title alone we fully plan on watching it. Also features a Prince? It’s perfect already. – Marissa