The season is upon us and we all know what that means. It’s time to binge-watch the crap out of Christmas movies.
Film industries all over the world make desperate strides to compete in the holiday flick market, and though it’s a little lucrative, I’m not going to lie… I love holiday movies. Good holiday movies, however, are the stuff of legends in today’s market.
All we get now are slightly different versions of Vanessa Hudgens packed into five different movies that run 30 minutes too long for their own good.
But though they’re no Love Actually‘s, they do remind us to be our best selves. From the cliché to the slapstick, from the animated to the live-motion, from rosy-cheeked princesses to badass moms, these movies are made to be devoured. Kind of like the cookies you leave out for Santa but end up eating anyway; you know it isn’t for the best, but you can’t help yourself.
And there’s cinematic gold in that.
91% on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s all I have to say about this beautiful movie.
There haven’t been a lot of wintery animated movies that have won us over as strongly as Disney’s Frozen back in 2013, but Klaus is an underrated exception to that trend. It hits home with an almost Christmas Carol-esque development arc – and its animation is a sight for sore eyes. You’ll fall in love with its sublimely imperfect characters. I’ll let the movie do the talking and spoil it no further.
2. Let It Snow
Ah, John Green. Remember that guy?
When Let It Snow hit the dashboard at Netflix, the 12-year-old inside me squealed; out of horror and joy. I mean, after Paper Towns… Green’s book-to-screen adaptation record was pretty tarnished. But Let It Snow was as pleasantly surprising as it was cute. With an adorable queer storyline and a diverse set of characters played well for its meager budget, all things considered, I’d say this was one of Netflix’s most tolerable Christmas movies of the year. And it’s perfect for a girls’ night in!
3. Frozen I … and II
Although my nieces drove me insane when Frozen first came out, I can’t say I don’t like the movie. Though it’s far from my favorite Disney movie (any Tangled fans out there?), it isn’t my least favorite either. Elsa’s a badass and so is Anna, and how could we forget our hero, Olaf? Get the kids together (and the inner kid squealing within you) because Frozen is, and will always be a Christmas classic. Plus, Frozen 2 is already the #1 movie in the world.
4. Last Christmas
Last Christmas is at the top of everyone’s Christmas playlist and if it isn’t on yours, I’d gently remind you to go update it. But seeing an entire movie crafted out of this season jam is a whole new dimension I never knew I’d love.
We all loved Emilia Clarke transform into soft young Lou in the aching Me Before You adaptation, and her transformation into an embittered, perpetually cynical Kate in Last Christmas is bound to be just as great. Plus, the movie is written by Emma Thompson. Enough said.
5. The Princess Switch
The first of many Hudgens – throwback to the HSM days! Despite having a non-existent character development arc, The Princess Switch still manages to incite a few aww’s from our softer sides. This was Vanessa’s big Netflix debut, so let’s treat our Gabriella Montez to a warm welcome. Plus, who doesn’t love Christmas baking shows based in fictional European monarchal states?
6. Christmas Inheritance
A quintessential trip to the family town and having your luggage destroyed by a slightly buffer Nicholas Hoult doppelganger driving a (green?) taxi that looks like it dropped right of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret? I’m interested. Although the side-swept hairdo and cheesy lines could’ve done better, I liked how homely this movie was. Christmas is a time of self-reflection and reconnecting with your roots – and the homeward journey that follows is rewarding, if slightly bittersweet. Definitely one for the list!
7. The Knight Before Christmas
I did say there was going to be a bit of Vanessa Hudgens on here. However, many are singing modest praises for Netflix’s latest in a long line of Christmas-themed movies, with Josh Whitehouse’s deep Medieval accent and soft curls winning the scene over in this holiday rom-com – as well as Hudgens’ heart. What with Christmas being a time of magic and wonder, this movie is a cozy watch for anyone wishing to bask in those themselves.
8. The Christmas Chronicles
While most holiday movies seem to linger on the romantic track, Christmas Chronicles focuses instead on the eternal bond shared between siblings. Have an annoying younger brother or sister? Maybe an irresponsible older one? Then draw up a plan to watch this with them as this hilarious Christmas movie takes you on an adventure with the rowdiest Santa Claus in town.
9. Angela’s Christmas
I absolutely love, love, love Angela’s Christmas. It is equal parts beautiful, touching and visually pleasing to the eye, and packed with important messages from start to finish. Messages we could all do with in this time of giving, reflection and celebration. I don’t want to spoil the watching experience for you, but if you’ve lost hope in animated holiday movies, this Christmas movie will definitely revitalize it.
10. The Man Who Invented Christmas
I’m a sucker for period dramas, and when it’s got Dan Stevens in the mix, it’s impossible to say no. I grew up reading A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol, so a biopic on the man who popularized Scrooge was at the top of my list. Even if it does tend to fictionalize some bits. Plus, have we ever thought about Scrooge being the result of Dickens having a serious writer’s block? This Christmas movie intends to show us just that. Here’s one for all you aspiring writers!
11. A Bad Mom’s Christmas
If you loved Bad Moms, you’re going to love A Bad Moms Christmas. With the likes of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hann taking the lead, you can never go wrong, Loud, raunchy, laugh-out-loud and incredibly relatable for not just all the moms but every Christmas rebel out there, this is bound to be on everyone’s Christmas movies bucket list!
Anna Kendrick in a holiday movie? Trying to recover Santa from his escapades in the human world? Saving Christmas in the process? YES. Sibling tussles are apparently quite universal, so grab your own or get your kids, nieces, and nephews to sit down and reap the adorable messages peppered across this Disney movie. With the comedic mastermind of Bill Hader and Anna’s endearing badassery, you’re going to enjoy a few laughs for sure.
13. Holiday In The Wild
Baby elephants, beautiful Zambian landscapes, a woman on an empowering journey of self-actualization, AND Rob Lowe – what more could be perfect? On an almost Eat, Pray, Love-esque plotline, Holiday In The Wild is about Kate, reeling from the shock of her husband filing for divorce, realizing that life has a whole lot more to offer beyond skulking over heartbreak. The movie urges us to think about the bigger things in life, not least of all that Christmas is not just a time for fancy decorations. It’s a time of compassion and helping the helpless. The landscapes make this message even more poignant. And the fact that stars from the ’80s are making a comeback, y’all.
14. Holiday Rush
Other than the fact that Holiday Rush brings back Starfleet’s powerful Michael Burnham from Star Trek: Discovery to the big screen, Holiday Rush has a special place in my heart. While most Christmas movies choose to show us the pretty lives of affluent families who can afford the latest holiday merch, Holiday Rush hits home with its beautiful portrayal of a father struck by unemployment right as the holidays arrive. His love for his family, however, pulls through and Chrismas still manages to be magical. Needless to say, this one will invite a few of us to tackle our moms and dads with bearhugs for all that they have and continue to sacrifice for us.
15. The Holiday Calendar
Magical calendars and Bonnie from TVD make this cutesy chick flick even cutesy-er. Unlike most chick flicks that choose to focus solely on vapid romances, The Holiday Calendar invokes hope and optimism even when you think your dreams are all but dust. We all loved Elena (who am I kidding? I didn’t), but let’s admit it – Bonnie deserved better. And in this movie, she might just get her just dessert. Literally.
16. A Christmas Prince, The Royal Wedding, and The Royal Baby
The Christmas Prince trilogy is perfect for a nice, long binge-watch session. The series began similar to the way we all fell in love with Prince and Me back in 2004 minus all the incessant casting changes (we miss you, Julia Stiles!); although the second and third installations aren’t half as good as the first, it is one of Netflix’s first original holiday flicks and deserves a spot on anyone’s list for the season.
I know, I know. The trailer is mildly terrifying. Alright, alright – absolutely terrifying. But with T-Swift bagging Artist of the Decade at the AMAs and our undying devotion to the original musical, it would be unthinkable to not watch Cats this Christmas. There are loads of promising things in the movie, its star-studded ensemble being one. Although Broadway to Big Screen adaptations rarely pan out well, you never know; Cats might just be the exception. Here’s to hoping the musical score compensates for the nightmarish animation.
18. Anna And The Apocalypse
For all the zombie apocalypse junkies out there who never thought something as guiltily good as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could ever be made again, think twice. Anna and the Apocalypse is precisely what the trailer suggests; Shaun of the dead x La La Land Christmas gore galore. Jingle bells and zombies? Heck yes! With a catchy musical score, this movie is great for laughing out loud at the abrupt plot twists, raunchy humor and the desperate plight of teens trying to survive through Christmas – all while fending off a zombie apocalypse.
19. Christmas In The Heartland
Christmas In The Heartland is much like The Christmas Switch where two girls switch places for a week, soon finding themselves helplessly and inextricably entwined in the other’s life. The seemingly unimpressive cast of this holiday flick might be a turn-off but sometimes, that’s all you need. Supporting burgeoning actors and actresses is just as important as downing a good Christmas movie. And anyways, tone down the judgment, people – it’s the holiday season!
20. Surviving Christmas with the Relatives
Just the title had me sold. A slew of differences between you and your extended family? Unbearable aunts making unwelcome comments on your body? An unending influx of relatives you never knew existed and are now forced to smile at? Incredibly expensive gifts that leave holes in your pocket? Holiday getaways with the family gone horribly wrong? This Christmas movie gets the trainwreck situation that accompanies big family Christmases just right. All the way from outrageously misaligned sibling relationships to romantic mistakes, I thoroughly enjoyed this yet another underrated, small-budget flick. It’s hilarious.
21. Santa Girl
As a high school senior, I get Santa Girl’s dilemma. All she wants is a normal life, not to be the heir to her father’s Christmas empire – and although going to Yale doesn’t exactly scream ‘normal’ in any way, shape or form, the storyline is quite enjoyable for its running time. The title could have done with some more thought, but seeing our beloved Harper from Wizards of Waverly Place play the lead in this I-am-my-own-person film was worth it. As for her overbearing father, Santa, I say: who passes up Yale?
Oh, wait, the college admissions scandal. That’s a big tick in the Naughty column. Riiight.
22. The Grinch
Come on, does this even need any convincing? This is signature Christmas movies galore. I mean, it’s the Grinch’s bildungsroman!
23. The Nutcracker And The Four Realms
We’re all familiar with the sad story behind The Nutcracker, an undeniable Christmas classic. Mackenzie Foy plays young Clara, a princess on her way to restore stability to her land by journeying to the Fourth Realm alongside, of course, the fabled Nutcracker. This one quietly hit the cinemas and left it just as quietly, much to everyone’s surprise. With voice-overs from award-winning actors and actresses like Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and Keira Knightley, you would imagine it would have gained more traction. And that’s precisely why this is one of the many underrated Christmas movies on my list this year.
24. Little Women
Here’s one for all of you bookworms! As a certified Jo March, I simply could not put a Christmas movie list out there without mentioning this gorgeous, if slightly less Christmas-y, new remake of Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women. Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Timothée Chalamet; I don’t know how I’ll manage to survive such incandescence. Plus, Ladybird’s Greta Gerwig is directing it. Need I say more? Let’s get the tissues out because here come the tears! (And by that, I mean Timmy’s beautiful brown locks and Emma and Saoirse’s unapologetic sisterhood. Of course, that’s what I mean.)
25. Black Christmas
Not the jolliest ending to a Christmas movie list, but Black Christmas should definitely be on yours this holiday season. If you loved Get Out, you’re going to love this movie, coming from the very same production house. A tasteful horror set in the lives of college sorority girls with Cary Elwes (oh, Princess Bride) being their creepy professor, it’s unmissable. Cults, stalkers, sisterhoods – one thing we can definitely celebrate this Christmas, is new-age horror.
Now, you might end up loving some of these or you won’t. But Christmas movies will continue to hold a special place in your heart, just as they continue to hold one in mine. Happy holidays and happy binge-watching!