The best Christmas movies on Netflix right now
If you thought you used to spend long winters at home on the couch, this year is about to give you a whole new definition of a holiday in. To while away the wintry hours, Netflix has got you covered with festive entertainment options, from Christmas classics to its own recent string of straight-to-streaming films (no, A Christmas Prince did not make our list). Stock up on cookies and cocoa, because you've got one long movie marathon ahead of you.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The 1966 animated TV special of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is great and iconic and rhyming and all, but it is barely half an hour long. Excuse me, but this is America. We need something feature-length. It needs to be live-action, with a visibly furry, tangibly gross chartreuse antihero. It needs to be packed to the grinchy gills with weird hairstyles and wacky foods and outlandish costumes. In short: We demand more. We demand most. We demand Ron Howard's insane 2000 Grinch. Thanks.
EW grade: B– (read the review)
Related reading: The 25 best holiday movies since Home Alone
Okay, no more messing around. Christmas isn't just a time for stupid movies (not that The Knight Before Christmas is stupid! We would never say that!); it's also for actual masterpieces. Look no further than Todd Haynes' gorgeous romantic drama, based on Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt, about two women from very different backgrounds in 1950s New York who connect, quietly but desperately, in a world that refuses to let them. Carol received six Oscar nominations but no wins, which is a travesty. Also, for the record, it takes place during the holidays but is not technically about the season, though Rooney Mara does wear a Santa hat, and lends it much distinction.
EW grade: A– (read the review)
A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)
One way to make Christmas Bad: Add more moms. The central trio of 2016's surprise hit Bad Moms are joined by their own mothers for Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's second R-rated woman-powered romp, this time with 100% more tinsel (mostly courtesy of Christine Baranski, on a mission) and probably 150% more sexy Santas.
EW grade: B+ (read the review)
Related reading: Holly-jolly holiday movie superlatives
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
Sofia Coppola took a break from elegant theatrical features five years ago for this moody, meta Netflix holiday special, in which Bill Murray (playing himself) struggles to shoot his own holiday special, which has been snowed out. Wandering through the Carlyle Hotel, he encounters a parade of celebrity guests, who join him in yuletide duets as he realizes his lonely Christmas isn't completely lost. What, you thought Coppola and Murray would just make some cheery cheesy Christmas drivel? Do you know who they are?
May your days be merry and frightful with a nice disturbing viewing of this horror anthology comprising eight segments, each revolving around a different annual celebration. It includes some seasonally appropriate Christmas and New Year's Eve terrors, but why not retroactively observe Easter, Mother's Day, Halloween — all the celebrations denied us this year — with these tales of how hideously, nightmarishly wrong they could possibly go? Doesn't that sound like a pleasant way to celebrate the season?
Related reading: Seth Green talks horror anthology Holidays
White Christmas (1954)
In Michael Curtiz's (yes, the director of Casablanca) time-honored classic, two WWII-vet Broadway superstars meet a pair of song-and-dance sisters with whom they travel to snowless Vermont, where they are reunited with an old boss for whom they decide to stage a musical which may or may not be televised, upon which decision the film's central romance hinges. It's great! People eat liverwurst sandwiches and pretend it's romantic. George Chakiris is a background dancer in the film's worst musical number! If you've somehow never seen it, a very merry Christmas surprise awaits you indeed.
Related reading: These are the top 20 Christmas movies ever
This Christmas (2007)
'Tis the season for big-family drama, and few movies do it well as Preston A. Whitmore II's music-filled, feel-good holiday flick, in which the Whitfield family's secrets crisscross through its imperious matriarch's house over the course of one eventful holiday. In a year when so many families will be prevented from gathering together, watching this well-cast crew go through their seasonal dramas is the next best thing.
Related reading: Idris Elba's 10 hottest roles
Let It Snow (2019)
The Netflix Christmas oeuvre expanded last year with this charming teen ensemble rom-com, a relatively understated entry in the streamer's catalogue (compared to, say, the very sparkly musical Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square). When a snowstorm hits a small midwestern town, romance sparks and secrets spill among its teenage population. Also, Joan Cusack plays an infamous local eccentric and a fictional pop star shows up! We did only say relatively understated.
The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
We know what you're thinking: It is sacrilege to choose, out of the entire Vanessa Hudgens Netflix Christmas canon, anything other than 2018's iconic, unimpeachable The Christmas Switch or even its sparkling brand-new double-switching sequel. But hear us out: The Knight Before Christmas is even better, maybe. Hudgens plays a young woman who is sad and single until she meets an actual Medieval knight who has been magically transported to her small Christmas-movie town at Christmastime! She teaches him about modern life, including how to navigate actual Netflix on her TV. Extremely festive!
Talent: Vanessa Hudgens, Josh Whitehouse, Emmanuelle Chriqui
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
In compiling this roster of holiday entertainments, I first had The Christmas Chronicles listed simply as That Kurt Russell Santa Movie, which is probably what you call it, too. That is because Christmas Chronicles pretty much means nothing — the headline of this very list could probably be The Christmas Chronicles and nobody would blink an eye — but the phrase Kurt Russell Santa conjures an entire world of roguish yuletide possibilities. You watch The Christmas Chronicles only to see Kurt Russell as Santa Claus, which is more than enough to recommend it. Keep an eye out for its sequel this year, The Christmas Chronicles 2, more commonly known as The Kurt Russell Santa Movie Plus Goldie Hawn This Time.
EW grade: N/A (read the review)
About Time (2013)
Even when Love Actually filmmaker Richard Curtis isn't making good cheer-stuffed ensemble rom-coms that are as much about Christmas as they are about love, actually, he can't help but at least tangentially touch on the holidays. In this heart-tugging, slightly supernatural romantic comedy, a young man discovers that the men in his family have the ability to go back in time, a skill which he uses to navigate his own messy love life — in part on New Year's Eve.
Related reading: 18 rockin' New Year's Eve movies
Ghosts of Girlfriend Past (2009)
Mark Waters' snowy romantic comedy is not a classic Christmas Carol, but it's the next-next-next-best thing: A moderately offensive late-aughts Matthew McRom-Com-Conaughey vehicle featuring Michael Douglas! Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey plays a sexist, racist, homophobic hotshot photographer who, on the eve of his brother's wedding, is visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his womanizing ways — past, present, and future tense. It's a gimmick, yes, but it's a festive gimmick.
EW grade: B– (read the review)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
This fairly recent release didn't, um, attract accolades, but that doesn't mean it can't help your holidays along splendidly. As our hearts ache for live entertainment, get a little taste of what it would be like to go to the ballet this season with Disney's riff on the classic Nutcracker, full of whimsical costumes and inventive new CGI-assisted additions to the story (some of which are better than others). The true star of the show — whatever Keira Knightley's pink wing tries to tell you — is Misty Copeland, stepping in with a breathtaking display of the beautiful art form.
EW grade: C (read the review)
Related reading: 12 ballet movies that are en pointe
If all you want for Christmas is a little Scorsese, then Hugo is your best bet. Not explicitly a holiday film, it still has all the ingredients — orphan children! Snowy Paris! Mechanical constructions! Artful cinematography! The love of cinema! — of a truly magical seasonal adventure. It may have crashed and burned at the box office, but as we all know, true holiday spirit isn't about money; it's about solving mysteries in a French railway station in the 1930s.
EW grade: A– (read the review)
Related reading: Hugo, Georges Méliès, and silent cinema