The 20 Best Holiday Movies on Netflix Right NowReading Time: 7 minutes
Netflix and…warm? Yourself by the fire? With a cup of cocoa?
The holiday season seems to start around June, and Christmas movies have become a mostly cozy preoccupation through much of the year. Though there’s still a bit of variety in seasonal fare, gone are the days when you watched one Christmas movie a year, and it was either about a guy trying to jump off of a bridge or a child setting traps to kill the two grown men who want to murder him.
No, there’s a lot more where those came from—many of them available for streaming on Netflix year-round. Here are some of the best the streamer has on offer during the festive season—however early or late yours starts. (And while this a roundup of holiday movies, yes, it’s heavily skewed toward Christmas; Netflix’s current offerings are heavy on Santa and light on everything else.)
As kids’ holiday fare goes, this one’s a little different, both in style and in pedigree. It’s a straight-up fantasy (rather than the more traditional romantic variety) with a toymaker inventing a living matador fighting for his right to individuality. The pedigree includes playwright David E. Talbert in the director’s chair and an all-Black cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, and Anika Noni Rose, all having a lot of fun in a colorful (and musical!) adventure.
A charming, bespoke Santa origin story based on nothing in particular, Klaus finds the lazy son of a postmaster general in 19th century Norway banished to a distant island town where he’s tasked with delivering 6,000 letters within a year, lest he be cut off from the family fortune. Arriving there, he discovers the two primary feuding families can’t be bothered to send letters for him to deliver, but that an elderly widower might be able to help him in a scheme he’s concocted to convince the town’s children to write letters in the hopes of receiving toys in return—toys crafted by old Klaus, in search of the family he never had. It’s all beautifully hand-animated, and the genuine emotion wrings tears, Pixar-style.
Kat Graham stars as struggling photographer Abby Sutton, who gets an old Advent calendar from her grandfather—she’s very not into it initially, until the calendar reveals a tiny pair of boots on day one, and later that day, her friend Josh (Quincy Brown) gives her a real pair of boots. As the calendar’s gifts seem to line up with things that actually happen, Abby begins to suspect that there’s magic, and romance, in the air. Ethan Peck (Star Trek) also stars.
Not to be confused with Hallmark’s 2013 Let It Snow, which is also a Christmas movie, but not a particularly (or at all) diverse one. Nor is this the 2020 snowboarding horror movie of the same name—not much margin for error when you’re hunting for this one, is what I’m saying. Based on a novel by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle that intertwines three distinct stories, this Let It Snow involves a large and diverse cast of characters figuring into holiday romances both straight and queer, all taking place in the same small town.
The set-up is blissfully familiar: Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) team up with Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) for a trip to Vermont, where they discover Bob and Phil’s old commander from the war is having trouble keeping his cute country inn afloat. What else to do but drum up business by staging the biggest darned Christmas variety show you’ve ever seen? Luckily, the have a little help from Irving Berlin, who wrote most of the songs, and from Crosby’s already classic title tune, written for Holiday Inn back in 1942.
The chemistry between Rooney Mara’s Therese and Cate Blanchett’s Carol is palpable from the moment their eyes meet across a crowded department store during the season Christmas season of 1952—it’s the 1950s, and theirs is an attraction that dare not speak its name, even in private (luckily, queer phobia has been entirely eradicated in our time). The women suffer for their love, but the tears come less when things are going bad as when it starts to feel like they might just possibly start to go a little right.
Congressional aide Erica Miller (Kat Graham) drops everything for a mission to visit a beachside Air Force base—and find reasons to defund it. She clashes with the studly pilot assigned to escort her around, who is particularly involved in one of the base’s pet projects: an annual airdrop of supplies and gifts to various Micronesian Islands. You know where this is all going, but that’s part of the fun.
Love it or hate it, actually, there’s no escaping the pull of this latter-day Christmas staple. Starting a few weeks before the holiday and counting down to the big day, the movie weaves together nine or 10 (I can never keep track) stories of love starring British familiars like Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, and Colin Firth.
Natalie (Nina Dobrev) gets catfished for Christmas (fun!). The poor woman travels across the country to see the guy she met on an app, and discovers that Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) was using pictures of his friend Tag (Darren Barnet) the whole time. She gets something going with Tag, but soon has to decide which of the two guys she really has feelings for.
It might not replace all of the many, many earlier Dickens adaptations in your holiday heart, but this computer animated musical version boasts some fun songs, and a strong voice cast lead by Luke Evans and Olivia Colman. It’s slightly less scary and maudlin than many other takes, so it might not be a bad way to introduce young kids to the holiday tale.
The holidays are in the background of this funny, fowl take on The Great Escape…with a reminder that Christmas is less fun if you’re stuck laying eggs on the farm. The sharp Aardman Brothers comedy has some incredibly fun stop-motion animation, and an awful lot of chickens. It remains the top-grossing stop-motion animated movie of all time. (Netflix is also hatching a two-decades-later sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, on Dec. 15.)
Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) have figured out how to deal with all the questions that arise (apparently?) when you’re single and you show up at family gatherings: They’re going to be each other’s platonic plus-ones at holiday meals. Would it be much of a holiday movie if something other than friendship weren’t in the offing? It all builds to a climactic Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s the holidays, and Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski!) is on her way home…to evict a bunch of people so she can sell some land to a mall developer. Naturally, she’s got some learning to do, with help from Jenifer Lewis, and from Dolly herself (cast as type as an all-singing angel). Dolly wrote all the musical numbers, and it’s all dorky fun in the best ways. The whole cast is several cuts above, as are the dance numbers, choreographed by Debbie Allen.
Speaking of Christmas casting coups, this one saw the return of Lindsay Lohan in a lead role after a decade. She plays a snotty heiress who loses her memory following a ski accident and learns lessons about love and life while recovering in a ski lodge run by earthy Jake Russell (Chord Overstreet).
A story of love and sex involving young, mercurial Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and older Oliver (Armie Hammer), Call Me By Your Name takes place mostly during the summer in northern Italy. There’s a climactic scene at the end, though, centered around Hanukkah, that sees Elio taking inspiration from the holiday and choose to to endure his grief. It’s not a lot in terms of screen time, but it captures the spirit of the holiday beautifully.
Stacy De Novo (Vanessa Hudgens) is a pastry chef from Chicago off to fictional Belgravia to compete in a holiday baking contest. There she meets a duchess, who’s also the fiancee of the local prince (Sam Palladio)—and who happens to look exactly like Stacy (surprise: they’re both played by Hudgens). The two decide it might be fun to see how the other half lives, and so they swap lives, which unsurprisingly complicates things with the prince. If you like this one, the series continues in two further movies that add yet another Hudgens.
Another trilogy, you say? Look, sometimes you just want to sink into the couch for hours of holiday schmaltz. No problem: Here, an American journalist (Rose McIver) heads to fictional Aldovia on the hunt for a scoop. A case of mistaken identity leads to her being mistaken for the tutor to the young princess. And, of course, she’s soon cozying up to the prince (Ben Lamb). It goes well enough that they get two more movies out of it. (Yes, all these movies have nearly identical plots, which is a cozy feature, not a bug.)
This one’s more of a comedy-drama in a holiday vein, so it’s less generally goofy and a bit less predictable than some of the other modern Christmas movies (whether that’s a pro or con will largely depend on your mood). Writer Jake (Justin Hartley) returns home for Christmas to settle his late mother’s estate; he’s just in time to meet Rachel (Barrett Doss), who’s looking for information about her birth mother, who’d been Jake’s nanny.
Another dramedy, Holiday Rush finds widowed hip-hop radio DJ Rush (Romany Malco) losing his job and heading back to his old home with a plan to buy the local station where he got his start alongside his producer, Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green). The professional plans don’t run particularly smoothly, but the pair do discover that their feelings might not be all business.
Peter (Michael Urie) is in a high-stress LA-type job on his way home to New Hampshire for the holidays. Sick of question about being single, he decides to invite his best friend Nick (Philemon Chambers) to pose as more than his roommate. A tried and true setup! Complications ensue when his mom (Kathy Najimy) sets him up with her fitness instructor, James (Luke Macfarlane), before learning about the fake boyfriend…who’s soon on his way to becoming a maybe real boyfriend. The fun cast also includes Barry Bostwick and Jennifer Coolidge.
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