More than any other streaming service, Netflix has gone all-in on original Christmas content, including some hidden gems. Combine those with a few classic Christmas titles, and Netflix has plenty of good holiday movies worth watching. Here are the 10 best.
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A Boy Called Christmas
The early days of Santa Claus are reimagined as a fantasy epic in A Boy Called Christmas. Maggie Smith plays an eccentric aunt telling her nieces and nephew the story of Nikolas (Henry Lawfull), a boy living in long-ago Finland who goes on a quest to search for hope in a dark time. Nikolas’ story combines familiar Christmas elements (elves, reindeer, presents) with a grand adventure saga, as Nikolas faces off against a sinister elf leader (Sally Hawkins).
It’s a silly but entertaining new approach to a Christmas tale, making Santa into the kind of hero who could team up with Harry Potter.
The Christmas Chronicles
It’s sort of hard to believe that no one had thought of casting Kurt Russell as Santa Claus before The Christmas Chronicles. Russell plays a very cool version of St. Nick, who resents his popular portrayal as fat and doesn’t like saying “ho, ho, ho.” When a pair of kids spot him on Christmas Eve and hitch a ride on his sleigh, they end up damaging the various magical implements that Santa uses to deliver his presents. Santa and his inadvertent new helpers go on an overnight adventure to save Christmas, complete with a jailhouse blues jam and visits from Santa’s odd, Minion-like elves.
Christmas is a dangerous and bloody time in the German dark comedy Christmas Crossfire. A hapless literature professor hooks up with an attractive, assertive young woman in a bar, and soon he’s accompanying her to the small village where she grew up. When they arrive, the couple gets caught in the, well, crossfire of a group of small-time criminals, getting themselves deeper into trouble with each attempt to escape.
The violence escalates in morbidly funny ways, all while the dilapidated town puts on its meager Christmas celebration, finding bits of holiday cheer amid economic hardship.
Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s psychosexual thriller Eyes Wide Shut may not seem like an obvious choice for Christmas viewing, but it’s set in New York City during the holiday season, and it deals with the kind of existential doubts that plague many people at this time of year.
Most people don’t go to secret underground orgies to deal with those doubts, though, as Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) does when he’s consumed by thoughts of his wife (Nicole Kidman) potentially sleeping with another man. Kubrick makes these common worries into a grand, mesmerizing odyssey, lit by the lights of Christmastime.
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Christmas isn’t the only holiday in cute romantic comedy Holidate, but it’s central to the concept. Two perpetual singletons (played by Emma Roberts and Jake Lacey) decide to be each other’s “holidates,” after enduring unpleasant romantic pressure on Christmas. They devise a no-strings-attached plan to accompany each other on various holidays, but of course by the following Christmas they’ve fallen completely in love. Roberts and Lacey provide the right balance of cynicism and sentiment to make the predictable romance easy to enjoy.
Oscar-nominated animated movie Klaus comes up with a new kind of origin story for Santa Claus. Here, Klaus (voiced by J.K. Simmons) is a reclusive hermit who lives outside a remote island town. The town’s reluctant new postmaster (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) recruits Klaus as part of a scheme to increase mail delivery, getting children to write letters requesting toys that Klaus will hand-craft and deliver.
The movie is full of gorgeous, painterly visuals, along with oddball characters populating the town, where an ancient feud between two clans is about to be undone by the spirit of Christmas.
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Let It Snow
A variety of teen romances play out over Christmas Eve in the likable Let It Snow, a throwback of sorts to the ensemble teen comedies of the 1980s and ’90s, with a Christmas twist. In the snowy, sleepy small town of Laurel, Illinois, attractive teenagers couple up, break up, make up, and party down, as the local diner turns into a holiday hot spot.
The engaging cast includes Kiernan Shipka, Isabela Merced, Liv Hewson, Odeya Rush, Shameik Moore, and Jacob Batalon, plus Joan Cusack as the mysterious, tinfoil-wearing tow-truck driver who dispenses surprisingly useful advice to the lovestruck teens.
The Noel Diary
Veteran Hollywood director Charles Shyer brings added sophistication to Netflix original Christmas romance The Noel Diary. There’s still the requisite love story between two lonely people during the holidays, but novelist Jake (Justin Hartley) and the stranger who shows up at his late mother’s house have deeper issues to process than just their feelings for each other.
Jake and Rachel (Barrett Doss) take a road trip for him to connect with his estranged father and her to learn about her biological mother, and the movie finds heartfelt emotion amid the standard romantic developments.
A Very Murray Christmas
More of a vibe than a movie, A Very Murray Christmas is Bill Murray’s take on the classic Christmas special, directed by filmmaker Sofia Coppola and featuring an eclectic lineup of celebrity guest stars. Murray plays himself, snowed in at a New York City hotel where he’s supposed to be broadcasting a Christmas special. With the broadcast eventually canceled, he schmoozes with hotel guests, sings some songs, and gets drunk.
The story coasts on Murray’s endearing laid-back presence, along with appearances from Chris Rock, George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, Maya Rudolph, and many more.
It’s still primarily known for its beloved title song, but there’s more to White Christmas than just the tune written by Irving Berlin. The amiable musical stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a pair of Army buddies who team up as nightclub performers after World War II. They fall for a pair of female singers (played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen), and all four spend Christmas at a picturesque Vermont inn, where they put on a show to attract guests to the snowbound getaway. Various misunderstandings ensue, but romance and Christmas generosity prevail in the end, of course.