Written by Naomi Head
Photo courtesy of Netflix
Let me get this out the way, my name is Naomi and I love Christmas films. The unbelievable meet-cutes, elaborate decorations, and abundance of holiday activities revive my Christmas spirit annually. In recent years, I’ve grown fond of Netflix’s very specific brand of Christmas.
If you also love rom-coms, you’ll know Netflix has released a few. Some are cheeky nods to big tropes – hello, Isn’t It Romantic. Some pull away from them, like Someone Great. And others are bat-shit nuts – thanks, When We First Met. But this round-up is much more niche than your average rom-com ranking.
Let’s dive in…
10. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)
In last place is the second instalment of A Christmas Prince.
An economic crisis at Christmas does not a good movie make. The Royal Wedding was so boring, I forgot about it. To make matters worse, the innuendo and humour that carried the original film was gone too.
The film’s multiple meta moments redeemed it slightly. Particularly, the moment Amber’s dad, Rudy, points out his own recasting exclaiming he feels like a whole new person.
9. Holiday in the Wild (2019)
There are things I like about Holiday in the Wild– the age-appropriate romance and adorable story, plus it wasn’t plot-heavy.
Kristin Davis’ character, Kate, plays with elephants, but it’s the revival of her long dormant career and gentle self-discovery that should’ve made Holiday in the Wild a great start-of-the-season Christmas film.
What really lets it down is how it’s filmed. The direction of the shots constantly changed and it made me feel motion sick. Watching HITW felt more like an endurance test than a feel-good film.
8. Holidate (2020)
Not overly Christmassy, Holidate takes place over an entire year packing in every celebration you can think of. This one isn’t for families. It kicks off with a racy blow-job scene and, at one point, Luke Bracey blows his own finger off.
While dizzying and frustrating (WHY WON’T ANYONE HAVE A CONVERSATION LIKE AN ADULT), Holidate does get extra Christmas points for featuring cameo superstar Kristin Chenoweth.
7. A Christmas Prince (2017)
Ah, yes. The one that put Netflix on the holiday film map. Way back in 2017, A Christmas Prince landed Netflix the award for the worst Christmas film of the year.
A Christmas Prince takes viewers from New York to the fictional kingdom of Aldovia. As well as questioning my career in writing, I also spent more time looking into the intricacies of national security protocols than I would have liked.
It’s above the sequel because of the innuendo, the baffling moment Rose McIver’s character, Amber, sits down in front of a growling wolf instead of defending herself, and a body double I’m convinced was a pillow case stuffed full of ugly dresses.
6. Operation Christmas Drop (2020)
I was sceptical about Operation Christmas Drop, but even without hot chocolate, conversations in gazebos or snow on the ground, it hit all the marks of a classic Christmas film for me.
Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig nailed the usual dislike to love journey and their tropical Christmas romance tugged on my heart strings more than it made me cringe.
5. A Christmas Prince The Royal Baby (2019)
Welcome back to Aldovia. The third – and potentially final – film of the A Christmas Prince franchise, The Royal Baby revives the best elements The Royal Wedding left behind.
It even manages to make a diplomatic mission more fun by adding in flashbacks, a curse and a nod to the other fictional kingdoms in the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe.
4. The Holiday Calendar (2019)
Kat Graham is back again in The Holiday Calendar, another Netflix masterpiece that nails the holiday film formula.
Filled with Christmas activities, a believable love story and character development that doesn’t feel inhuman, The Holiday Calendar is a feel-good film for romantics and I’d love to see even more Christmas film line-ups putting Black actors front and centre.
3. Princess Switch (2018)
Another piece of the NCCU puzzle and the first time the Queen of Christmas, Vanessa Hudgens, features on this list.
Princess Switchtakes us from Stacy’s Sweets and Treats in Chicago to Belgravia, where she meets her double, Duchess Margaret of Montenaro, who is also played by Vanessa Hudgens.
The holiday hijinks are almost overshadowed by a shirtless Nick Sagar sexually awakening an entire generation with little more than a toothbrush and a pair of pyjama bottoms. Not to mention the amazing chemistry between both male leads and Vanessa Hudgens.
2. Christmas Inheritance (2017)
Christmas Inheritancewas one of Netflix’s first Christmas rom-coms and leaned into all the trappings of a classic Christmas movie.
Eliza Taylor plays rich, party brat, Ellen, who has lost her Christmas spirit and herself (naturally). Sent on a quest to the small town where her dad founded his now multi-million-dollar company, she learns there’s more to life than taking shots and fancy cars. It’s typical Christmas film fare.
Plus, it features rom-com sweetheart, Andie MacDowell, giving off all those Hallmark vibes.
1. The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
I’ll say it straight – I love this film. The Knight Before Christmas is a rollercoaster from start to finish.
Once again, Vanessa Hudgens is the female lead we didn’t know we needed and Josh Whitehouse is Sir Cole, a 14th century knight, sent forward in time where he’s run over by Brooke, an unlucky-in-love high school teacher. What could possibly happen next?!
Well, plenty as it turns out. Brooke takes Cole in and watches him navigate modern life. He learns to drive a steel steed, banishes an Alexa to the freezer, demolishes Brooke’s Christmas decorations with a sword… and, inevitably, romance blossoms.
I’ve never fallen in love so quickly with a film. TKBC had me in stitches, screaming at confirmation of the NCCU, and furious when I realised HITW would have been easier to watch by using the camera on my phone to look at the TV.
There’s nothing I hate about TKBC and, honestly, if I found the magic Christmas bean, I’d wish the sequel came out tomorrow.
That’s all from me, folks! As you can see, from magical advent calendars to time-travelling knights, there’s a Netflix Christmas adventure for everyone. Not to mention, there’s a whole cinematic universe to be untangled – but for more on that you’ll just have to tune into Jingle Belles…
Until then enjoy my recommendations for this season, Princess Switch Switched Again, Christmas on the Square and A California Christmas, or join me every Sunday for more festive fun. You can find Jingle Belles on Instagram and Twitter @jinglebellespod or tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts too.
Naomi Head is a writer based in Edinburgh. She has written for Time Out Beijing, Lowercase Mag and MYLO World. Find her on Instagram @naomieah. She makes Christmas podcast Jingle Belles with co-creator Bex Sherwood.