Listen. I am a SLUT for Christmas. The lights. The music. The decor. The ever-present scent of evergreen. The built-in excuse to drink liquified chocolate without having to explain yourself. It all fills me with a pure, unadulterated joy that I can only describe as childlike. It’s also important to note that I am a lover of romantic comedies—the cheesier, the better. There’s nothing I love more than looking Cinema Dudes in the eye, and telling them that I sincerely think Clueless is a better movie than Fight Club. Give me your sappy, your cliche, your stringent skeptics yearning to love free, and I will binge watch each and every one of them, alone, a glass of wine in hand and a potential tear in my eye.
So you can only imagine the peppermint flavored excitement that coursed through my body when I opened up Netflix a full week before Thanksgiving, only to be greeted by a deluge of sappy, romantic, Christmas themed, made-for-TV movies. It’s like Hallmark and Lifetime got together, drank a bunch of peppermint schnapps, and then puked into my queue. I was in heaven.
I decided, in that moment, that it was my responsibility—nay, my destiny—to watch every single one. And we’re not just talking the Netflix original movies here, with actual production budgets, recognizable names and semi-digestible plotlines. We’re talking all the Netflix Christmas romances, even the ones that look like they were shot on an iPhone 4 and derived from screenplays that are one smut scene short of verifiable fan fiction.
Why did I do this? Why did I put myself through 826 minutes of wholesome yet ultimately mind-numbing Christmas cinema? It’s a simple answer, dear reader: ’tis the season of giving.
I ranked all the Netflix Christmas movies, so you didn’t have to.
*Minimal spoilers ahead but also it takes merely a simple synopsis and two brain cells to figure out how most of these would end*
8. ‘Christmas Wedding Planner’
The premise: If your idea of a Christmas classic includes Lily van der Woodsen playing a watered-down Lily van der Woodsen and Joey Fatone playing what I would imagine is just Joey Fatone, then this is the movie for you. Super quirky, yet inexplicably sad orphan Kelsey Wilson is trying to prove herself as a wedding planner by pulling off the perfect Christmas wedding for her cousin, who is not only beautiful but also kind and also outrageously forgiving (you’ll see).
The problem? A mysterious private investigator, who just happens to be the bride’s ex-boyfriend, arrives in town the day of the engagement party, dead set on uncovering some salacious skeleton in the groom’s closet that will ruin not only the wedding of her beloved cousin, but also Kelsey’s only shot at becoming a successful wedding planner. Why is her entire career riding on the wedding of a relative, something that she probably isn’t getting paid for and would likely be discounted in any legitimate portfolio? No one knows, and it doesn’t matter, because this is Christmas.
The dialogue in this movie is, for lack of a better word, bad. The romantic progression is non-existent, until the moment that it very much exists. The ending made me want to shove some especially fragrant Douglas Fir pine needles into my eye. I will absolutely be watching it again next year.
Christmas Rating: 7/10
What this movie lacks in any discernible screenwriting, it makes up for in decor. I think there might actually be a Christmas tree in every single shot. Kelsey is clad in vibrant red and forest green at any given moment. Watching it evoked the same vaguely festive warmth as drinking peppermint hot chocolate.
Chemistry Rating: 2/10
Kelsey and the P.I. inevitably team up to unearth whatever secrets lie in the groom’s past, and their half-assed investigative work has me wishing Veronica Mars would show up and beat the sh*t out of both of them. What’s worse, their stunted attempts at flirting would have you thinking that they were both being held at gunpoint just off-camera. It’s the kind of chemistry that you have with the only other person your age at a party hosted by your parents: forced and potentially incestuous.
7. ‘Christmas in the Smokies’
The premise: Disaster strikes the Haygood family when they find out their historic berry farm is in danger of being seized by the bank due to a line of credit that they were under the impression would never have to be repaid. Living in the country must be nice.
Hardworking, independent career gal Shelby Haygood is hell-bent on saving her family’s farm, despite the fact that both of her parents spend the first half of the movie being entirely unconcerned about the very real possibility that their home will be repossessed by the bank in mere days. This would probably have made for a stressful enough holiday season, but fate has decided to throw another twist Shelby’s way in the form of Mason Wyatt, her high school sweetheart-turned-bad-boy-country-star who has just returned to town.
Mason walked out on Shelby when they were 17 years old, an event which has had a formative impact on her entire adult life. This woman is clearly in her thirties and yet still harboring a grudge bordering on obsessive towards her teenage boyfriend who (and I’m only guessing here because this movie wouldn’t dare provide a semblance of context) left her on Christmas Eve to…pursue his music career?
This movie’s saving grace is Mr. Haygood, played by Whitey from One Tree Hill. He is, in fact, the exact same character, except now with a handlebar mustache. Much like Whitey, Mr. Haygood’s wisdom knows no bounds and he has zero time, patience, or regard for the temper tantrums thrown by his students daughter.
Christmas Rating: 5/10
The first 15 minutes of this movie had me positively charmed. The classical, nostalgic Christmas music that I haven’t heard since the last time my parents forced me to go to church on Christmas Eve was a welcome reprieve from the contemporary covers that we’ve come to expect from these kind of productions.
But that initial charm was immediately overridden by the overt religious undertones that kicked in after about 20 minutes. Yes, I know. Christmas is a religious holiday. Sure. But also, no it’s not. There is Christmas the religious holiday and there is Christmas the cultural event and we all know that we came to this very specific Netflix category for the latter. Let’s not try to make this something it’s not.
Chemistry Rating: -4/10
Mason Wyatt had more natural chemistry with Whitey than his actual love interest. In fact, Whitey was the most likable character in this entire movie. I would watch another hour and a half of him and his friends eating breakfast and making vague sexual innuendos via grits and bacon.
Not only could you not convince me that these two people were ever in love, but I barely believe that one wouldn’t sell the other into indentured servitude for 50 cents and the knowledge that they would suffer for the rest of their lives.
Like, I get it. It’s a little hard to focus on a romantic sub-plot when there are serious things like bankruptcy and foreclosure on the line. But guess what? I didn’t pick Christmas in the Smokies for the far-too-realistic storyline of financial hardship during the holiday season. I chose it because I wanted to watch some vaguely country themed Christmas love play out between two people who are even the slightest bit attracted to each other, and I didn’t even get that.
Because you know what’s required in any kind of romantic movie? The one thing that’s pretty much make or break for the success of your film? A KISS. THESE TWO IDIOTS DIDN’T EVEN KISS. I haven’t been deprived this level of closure since every relationship I’ve ever been in.
6. ‘The Spirit of Christmas’
The premise: Our protagonist Kate is your typical Lifetime movie lead: a strong, yet perpetually frazzled, working woman who takes her job, and by extension herself, far too seriously. Kate doesn’t have time for love! There are frantic phone calls to answer! And very important deals to close! And overbearing father figures masquerading as bosses whose approval she has to win! If only there were a man who could teach her that there’s more to life than being rich, successful, and shattering the glass ceiling.
Kate is offered a last minute job before Christmas (not that she celebrates anyways, she’s too busy proving her worth at the office!!), one that will catapult her career to the next level and finally win her the begrudging respect of the men at work. She’s been tasked with heading out to a quaint, historical bed and breakfast in a nondescript New England town and ensuring that it’s appraised and sold before Christmas. Easy right? From here, you probably know where the story is going.
Kate heads to picture-perfect bed and breakfast. Kate meets man. Man shows Kate the ways of the world, complete with Christmas decorating montage. Kate falls in love and forgets that she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on law school, only to throw it all away for the owner of a bed and breakfast.
Oh yeah, and he’s a ghost.
— New York Post (@nypost) October 30, 2018
Christmas Rating: 7/10
This movie not only has modern Christmas, but also colonial-era Christmas. There are not one, but TWO Christmas balls. There is snow everywhere. Kate and the ghost decorate a tree together because a very specific curse allows him to become human for one week a year and therefore do things like pick up Christmas ornaments. We have sufficiently checked the Christmas box here.
Chemistry Rating: 4/10
Kate and the ghost spend the first good half of the movie hating each other—Kate because the ghost stands in the way of her appraisal and therefore advancement in her career, the ghost because Kate is intruding on his one week a year to be corporeal, eat pancakes, and sulk about being dead.
Usually, I’m a sucker for the hate-turned-friendship-turned-love trope, but in this case we went straight from all-out hate to inexplicable love, without any real indication as to why. I get that that’s par for the course with these things, but this case was especially jarring. I don’t know, maybe because the love interest was dead and pining for his dead fiancé up until about 10 seconds before they were suddenly in love.
However, once the ghost decided he no longer hated Kate, he truly committed to being unnecessarily in love with a human that he had spent all of four days with and that, I can respect.
5. ‘Holiday Engagement’
The premise: Part-time writer Hillary finally has it all: a minimum-wage paying gig at her local small town paper, which exists despite the fact that she appears to live in LA or New York or some other Metropolitan city, and a fiancé named Jason who was gushingly described as “fiscally responsible” by Hillary’s best friend. You may have thought that list was going to go on, but no, those two sad things are all she has.
But it’s enough for Hillary, because now she finally has a man to bring home for Thanksgiving to appease her overbearing mother, who might actually just be the mom from Pride and Prejudice who somehow managed to find a time machine that allows her to harass a whole new family of daughters into loveless, wealth-accumulating marriages.
However, tragedy strikes when Hillary implies that she doesn’t want to uproot her entire life and burgeoning part-time journalism career for Jason’s promotion, and he dumps her mere days before they’re set to spend the weekend at her parents’.
Naturally, the only thing Hillary can do now is to hire a struggling actor to play the part of Jason and convince her entire family that their wedding, set to take place at the end of December, is still happening. This may sound like an inane plan to you, but having had to watch an hour and a half of this woman interact with her children, I would say it was the best possible course of action.
Christmas Rating: 6/10
Being set during Thanksgiving weekend, I was initially concerned about the amount of Christmas they could actually pack into this movie. Clearly someone else felt the same way, and managed to shoe-horn an entire scene in which the mother singlehandedly decorates the whole house at midnight after Thanksgiving dinner. Her ungrateful children never recognize this selfless task, and it was at this point that I found myself aligning with the suffocating and needlessly dramatic mother. Couldn’t possibly tell you why that is.
Chemistry Rating: 2/10
Everything about this couple made me uncomfortable. Their kissing, their body language, their half-assed attempts at pretending they’ve known each longer than two days. Honestly, if you’re going to commit to such an over-the-top plan, you would think you’d actually, I don’t know, rehearse? Do some research? Act as if you liked each other? I haven’t seen such a disheartened attempt at acting since I was forced to take improv classes in middle school. I found myself screaming “YES, AND” at the TV every time they tried to pull together a cohesive story from their supposed shared past.
4. ‘Merry Kissmas’
The premise: The story opens on Kate, a woman whose only discernible character trait is that she’s stuck in a loveless engagement with an egocentric choreographer named Carlton, who possesses zero redeeming qualities and one Lindsay Lohan-esque, nationality agnostic accent. If nothing else, we must give the screenwriters credit for their unique take on a Christmas romance.
Carlton is choreographing and producing his own twist on The Nutcracker, which is to take place in San Francisco. The unhappy couple decides to kill two birds with one stone and hold their engagement party the same week, in Kate’s native Palo Alto.
It is clear to Kate—and to everyone but Carlton, really—that this relationship is doomed to fail. While contemplating whether or not she actually wants to get married, Kate finds herself in a sticky situation that can only be solved by diving into an elevator and kissing the attractive guy inside. We’ve all been there.
This kiss ignites a passion in Kate that she hasn’t felt in years, driving a further wedge between Carlton and herself. As she grows closer to the kind, caring, not emotionally abusive elevator man who also happens to be the caterer for her engagement party, Kate must decide whether or not to marry the small dancing troll who treats her like an unwanted stepchild. What’s a girl to do??
Christmas Rating: 2/10
The writers seem to have been under the very mistaken impression that an abundance of nutcrackers and cookies can make up for the total lack of any actual cozy Christmas atmosphere. I mean, you’re really setting yourself up for failure when your Christmas love story takes place in sunny Palo Alto, California. No snow to inspire a spontaneous snowball fight? No roaring fire place to curl up in front of? No scarves to playfully tug on? How dare you come at me with this absolute pretense.
Chemistry Rating: 5/10
Other than presenting me with the first truly believable kiss of this entire movie marathon, I couldn’t quite figure out why I was so invested in Kayla and the Catering Man. They were a pair of two-dimensional saltine crackers who made for a generically attractive couple, but nothing worth getting worked up over. But then, the words of the ingenious and immortal Natalie Walker rang through my head, and it hit me.
“The screenwriters are assuming if they give the audience enough reason to root against [Kayla] and [Carlton], they’ll forget they’ve been given no compelling reason to root for [Kayla] and [Catering Man].”
This sad, blonde whisper of a woman may have been devoid of any real personality other than a weird obsession with collectible nutcrackers, but that doesn’t mean she deserved to be sentenced to a lifetime of misery at the hand of the tap-dancing goat she was currently shackled to. Hell, I’ll root for her with anyone, as long as it means she’s free of Carlton’s (undoubtedly tiny) grasp.
3. ‘Christmas With a View’
The premise:n Disgraced restaurant owner Clara is back in her hometown, managing a local high-end ski resort and trying to get back on her feet after a vague but apparently life-altering failure in the Chicago culinary scene. Like any good romance heroine, she’s too focused on her career to have time for men…until New York’s most eligible bachelor/chef snags the Head Chef position in the resort’s restaurant. That’s right. Bachelor AND Chef. What a multi-faceted creature.
Will they fall in love? Yes. Will there be hurdles? Yes. Will there be an extensive winter-activity-falling-in-love-montage? You better believe it.
Christmas Rating: 7/10
Not only was this movie chock-full of Christmas cheer, but it had layers to the festivity. Different locations offered up different vibes, juxtaposing the cozy, homey decor of Clara’s childhood hotel against the glamorous yet sterile aesthetic of her current job. Of course, this was a thinly veiled metaphor for family run businesses, the unsung heroes in these small ski towns, diametrically opposed to corporate holiday resort conglomerates. You know, a classic Christmas movie message.
Chemistry Rating: 6/10
Clara and the hot chef receive the highest rating thus far for the simple reason that I actually believed these two people wanted to have sex with each other. That’s it. It’s that easy. Just look into each other’s eyes and try to offer up a modicum of affection. I’m not asking for that much.
2. ‘The Princess Switch’
The premise: Stacy is an uptight pastry chef from Chicago who’s been unlucky in love despite having the hottest best friend/sous chef of all time. It sounds like she acquired her accent by watching one season of Shameless and that one Chicago Bears SNL skit from the 90’s.
Margaret is the equally uptight but apparently inwardly rebellious Duchess of Montenaro, who also happens to be begrudgingly engaged to the Prince of Belgravia. It sounds like she acquired her accent by watching one season of The Crown and the trailer for the new Mary Poppins movie.
The two are distant cousins who meet by chance at an international baking competition in Belgravia. They are, of course identical twins, played by Vanessa Hudgens.
Margaret hatches a diabolical and never-before-seen plan to (gasp) switch places so that she may experience a normal life before being swept up in the high profile lifestyle of the royal family of this miniscule fictional eastern European country.
While Stacy has never even considered the possibility that her best friend Kevin is an absolute snack, and Margaret has never thought to try and pursue a romantic relationship with her attractive royal fiancé, the same can’t be said once the two take up each other’s lives.
Christmas Rating: 10/10
This movie is Christmas porn. Lest you drop me smack dab in the middle of a Christmas market in Vienna, I could not be happier. Margaret’s holiday color palette of exclusively blush and cardinal is not only iconic but also revolutionary. Take note ladies, this year we throw caution to the wind and mix our pinks and reds.
Chemistry Rating: 8/10
Once I was able to work past Vanessa Hudgens playing a British Vanessa Hudgens trying to sound like a Chicago Vanessa Hudgens, I settled right into everything The Princess Switch was selling. These beautiful people are throwing longing, romantic glances left and right in this absolutely perfect Christmas village and my feeble little heart can’t take it.
Am I projecting because I would be happy with either of the love interests (but mostly Kevin)? Maybe. Are my standards outrageously low, having been so recently burned by Christmas in the Smokies? Perhaps. Do I just have soft spot for Vanessa Hudgens, having come of age in the High School Musical era? Yeah. Sue me.
1. ‘The Holiday Calendar’
The premise: Abby Sutton is a struggling photographer, stuck in a sh*tty hometown holiday job and living vicariously through her crazy-hot best friend Josh, who actually managed to turn his traveling photography blog into a successful venture. In a movie literally centered around a magic advent calendar, that is the single least believable plot point.
Two important things happen this holiday season: Josh comes home for good, bringing his overtly obvious unrequited love for Abby with him, and Abby receives a magical antique advent calendar from her grandfather. With each passing day, the toy behind every door of the calendar dictates the course of Abby’s life. She is lead to love, loss, and an excessive amount of elementary school events.
Christmas Rating: 9/10
This movie reeks of Christmas. Abby works as the photographer at a Santa pop-up in town square. Everything is covered in snow, garland, and joy. The entire story relies on an advent calendar, the most Christmas themed subplot imaginable. I went to sleep filling fulfilled and wishing that any one of my childhood friends even slightly resembled Quincy Brown.
Chemistry Rating: 10/10
These two are head over heels in love with each other from the second they appear on screen and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.
Pull out your romantic trope checklist folks, because we’ve got it all:
- Longing looks while the other glances away
- Quincy Brown serving us The Look™️ in general! Here is an entire Twitter thread dedicated to The Look in case you don’t know what that means.
The number one thing a man in a romcom needs, TV or movie, is the ability to look at their love interest REALLY WELL. The man barely even needs to speak if he just knows how LOOK at a person.
— Alanna's on strike (@AlannaBennett) March 28, 2018
- Family members practically begging them to get together
- Falling asleep on the couch and ending up cuddling when they wake up
- Ultimate despair at having to watch the love of your life date other people
- Jealousy! So much jealousy!
- A grand romantic gesture followed by an admission of love! ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
I’m going to make my own advent calendar, and each door is going to reveal a Post-it note that says “Watch The Holiday Calendar again, you lonely idiot.” It is the Christmas Netflix movie we all wanted, but never one I thought we would deserve.
Stay tuned for part two of this series, where I review the rest of the Netflix Christmas movies this streaming service throws at me in addition to the ones that haven’t even premiered yet.
Yeah, I’m talking about the sequel to The Christmas Prince.
Images: Giphy (5), @AlannaBennet, @nypost / Twitter; Netflix