Any holiday movie worth a viewing is bound to contain certain seasonal elements — kissing under the mistletoe, learning that the true meaning of Christmas is love, garish décor. You may call these clichés, but I prefer to think of them as holiday-movie traditions. For what’s a holiday movie if the people in it don’t treat a tree like it’s precious gold, or if there’s no wise older gentleman who teaches people about the true meaning of Christmas??
With the great holiday-movie pantheon continuously growing, it can be hard to tell which movies really meet your holiday-film comfort-food needs. This year, Netflix has released four new original holiday films, and to help you figure out which will really give you that holiday fix, we’ve put each up to a Christmas Movie Cliché Checklist to see which one reigns supreme as the most Christmassy of all. Now go, get your holiday spirit on.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (on Netflix November 30)
It’s been a year since intrepid blogger Amber Moore (Rose McIver) found true love with the now King of Aldovia in Netflix’s A Christmas Prince. King Richard (Ben Lamb) and Amber are set to get married on Christmas. However, Aldovia is in an economic free fall thanks to Richard’s botched “modernization initiative,” there’s a nationwide strike, and Amber might have to give up her blog. Don’t worry, Amber uses her “journalistic instinct” to solve the economic crisis and everyone rallies in time for a wedding party conga line and kissing in the snow.
Do people go overboard with Christmas decorations? The Aldovian palace has a tasteful display of holiday décor, which is to say — no.
Are Christmas trees, like, the Most Important? Richard and Amber are supposed to select the official royal tree for the palace courtyard, but Richard keeps standing Amber up thanks to “royal duties” and “the economy crashing,” and it starts to hit Amber that this could be her future. When they do finally find time to go tree hunting, Amber makes a big stink about finding the perfect tree and then picks the ugliest one in the forest. No one knows why.
There are baked goods, right? Amber’s dad, Rudy, invites a bunch of kids over to the royal kitchen to make Christmas cookies, much to the chagrin of royal chef Ivanna, who thrives on order. But then, it’s a Christmas miracle! She’s reminded of making cookies at home and is moved to tears! Rudy and Ivanna do not hook up, and that seems like a missed opportunity.
Do people participate in a snow-related physical activity that everyone loves even though snow is very cold and wet and stings when hurled at your face? Yes, high-speed tobogganing during what looks to be a terrible snowstorm.
Are people kissing under mistletoe as if it is the law of the land? Not even once!
Do people speak wistfully about the dead? The ghost of Amber’s mom looms over the wedding proceedings. Not literally — but Netflix can feel free to run with that idea should they want to turn this cash cow into a Halloween trilogy.
Is there some sort of children’s Christmas pageant? If I have to hear one more thing about the tale of Princess Froom! Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) is part of a Christmas play that tells the story of the Aldovian princess who gave Santa his powers as a baby (bold claim!), but the show gets shut down when there is a nationwide strike! Like, literally, they just turn off the lights in the middle of rehearsal, unplug a Christmas tree, and go home. Is this how strikes work?!
Does someone take a horse-and-carriage ride? Richard thinks it best they take a carriage to go into the forest for the tree, since last time Amber went into the forest on horseback, she was attacked by a wolf. They all have a laugh!
Is Christmas magic real? There’s no “Christmas magic” to be found, only “Christmas hacking into the Royal Hall of Records” in order to figure out where Aldovia’s money is going.
Santa’s here?! I love him! Only as a fake baby in a Christmas play!
Is there a wise older gentleman who teaches people about the true meaning of Christmas? I hesitate to call Amber’s dad, Rudy, “wise,” since when Amber “goes missing” after having second thoughts about marrying into the royal family, Rudy just wanders through a completely empty foyer screaming his daughter’s name, as if she is camouflaged against the wall. Rudy, dude, there is literally nowhere for her to hide there.
Is the true meaning of Christmas love? With the amount of time spent on discussing the Aldovian economic crisis, I think this movie is saying the true meaning of Christmas is to always make sure your Uncle Leopold isn’t using a shell company to siphon money from the national economy.
Final Thoughts: Too much talk of shell companies and royal protocol, not enough reindeer. 2/10 Candy Canes!
The Princess Switch (on Netflix now)
Broken-hearted Chicago baker Stacy (Vanessa Hudgens) travels to a country calling itself Belgravia with her best bud Abs — I’m sorry — Kevin (Nick Sagar) and his precocious daughter Olivia (Alexa Adeosun) to compete in the 56th International Christmas Baking Competition. There, she bumps into Duchess Margaret (also Vanessa Hudgens), who is about to marry the Belgravian prince, Edward (Sam Palladio), but desperately wants to learn what it’s like to be a normal. The ladies switch places for two days and obviously fall in love with the man they are not supposed to. There is a Christmas wedding!
Do people go overboard with Christmas decorations? Belgravia’s Christmas Village might as well be the North Pole.
Are Christmas trees, like, the Most Important? Not terribly, but Edward does really fall for Stacy-as-Margaret once she demands Edward give the children at the local homeless shelter a real Christmas — and that includes hitching a tree to his royal car and getting it to the shelter.
There are baked goods, right? The inciting incident is Stacy going to a Christmas Baking Competition! And, yes, she bakes a ridiculous multitiered cake and wins the competition right before winning a proposal from the prince. Best baking competition ever.
Do people participate in a snow-related physical activity that everyone loves even though snow is very cold and wet and stings when hurled at your face? Once Margaret starts living life as a normal, she gets a taste for snowball fights — and no one can quench that thirst.
Are people kissing under mistletoe as if it is the law of the land? It happens twice to show the progression of Stacy and Edward’s feelings for each other, so honestly it might be the law of the land in Belgravia?
Do people speak wistfully about the dead? Both of Margaret’s parents died tragically when she was young, so she feels very bound by duty and honor and is afraid to admit she’s in love with Kevin. But her parents would’ve wanted her to be happy! Also, they did not see Kevin’s abs!
Is there some sort of children’s Christmas pageant? The only reason Stacy agrees to the switch is so that Olivia can get into the Belgravia children’s ballet. It’s as good a reason as any.
Does someone take a horse-and-carriage ride? Um, how else do royals travel to the local homeless shelter to see the good they’re doing for the community?
Is Christmas magic real? Yes! And I don’t just mean buying into the titular switch or Kevin’s abs — there is a tiny magical man who pops up everywhere and makes sure our four lovebirds are finding their way toward one another.
Santa’s here?! I love him! Margaret, Kevin, and Olivia take a quick photo with Santa, but there is only room for one magical old man in this movie.
Is there a wise older gentleman who teaches people about the true meaning of Christmas? Don’t sleep on the old magic dude!
Is the true meaning of Christmas love? Yes! Two couples find true love — even after Margaret tells Kevin that she wants to be with a normal boy, which I actually think is kind of an insult?
Final Thoughts: Though this ticks a lot off our Christmas cliché list, you could easily exchange Christmas for any other holiday. It’s still best to consume with a side of hot chocolate, but Christmas isn’t integral to the plot. 7/10 Candy Canes!
The Holiday Calendar (on Netflix now)
Abby (Kat Graham, who should be in all the Christmas movies) is a sad, unfulfilled photographer living in her small hometown and dreading the holiday season. Her grandfather (Ron Cephas Jones) gives her an antique Advent calendar that belonged to her grandmother and may or may not have magical powers — it eventually helps her realize that her best friend Josh (Quincy Brown) is the love of her life.
Do people go overboard with Christmas decorations? Abby’s small town looks like an elf vomited all over it, so … yes.
Are Christmas trees, like, the Most Important? Very important! Abby has her meet-cute with Snoozefest Ty (Ethan Peck) when his Christmas tree falls off the roof of his car and almost kills her. Cute, right?! Her dating Ty for ten days and realizing he is terrible does lead her back to Josh in the end, so this tree is totally fine by us.
There are baked goods, right? Not as many as you’d think! But Abby does take a cute picture of Josh and Gramps eating Christmas-tree cookies.
Do people participate in a snow-related physical activity that everyone loves even though snow is very cold and wet and stings when hurled at your face? The Holiday Calendar only believes in light outdoor physical activity like non-rigorous ice-skating and some kissing in the snow.
Are people kissing under mistletoe as if it is the law of the land? There is NO mistletoe and that is a travesty.
Do people speak wistfully about the dead? Ron Cephas Jones misses his dead wife, and even the Grinch would tear up when he talks about her.
Is there some sort of children’s Christmas pageant? Abby’s niece is a Sugar Plum Fairy in the school pageant and literally her entire family attends this function. Why?
Does someone take a horse-and-carriage ride? Ty takes Abby on a series of “good on paper” holiday-themed dates, including a carriage ride, but these dates, like Ty, have no soul.
Is Christmas magic real? The whole movie hinges on a possibly sentient Advent calendar sending Abby tiny Christmas-related figurines that may be predicting her future. Or is it just a coincidence? You decide!
Santa’s here?! I love him! Relax, it’s just Christmas Village Santa, Bob. Although, Bob does tell Abby she looks beautiful when she shows up for her first date with Ty and that feels very on-brand for Kris Kringle.
Is there a wise older gentleman who teaches people about the true meaning of Christmas? Abby gets three wise men — get it?! Obviously, her grandfather, but she also meets two men at a homeless shelter Ty takes her to on one of their dates, and they tell her all about the importance of how people make you feel. They also warn her that Ty brings all of his dates here. Thank goodness for the wise older gentlemen, otherwise Abby never would’ve dumped Ty and seen Josh with fresh holiday eyes.
Is the true meaning of Christmas love? Uh, two best friends realizing they’ve had true love in front of them all along? Yes, the true meaning of Christmas is love. What a question!
Final Thoughts: What it lacks in mistletoe and snowball fights, it more than makes up for by having the heroine get nearly crushed by giant candy canes while wearing an elf costume. 9/10 Candy Canes!
The Christmas Chronicles (on Netflix now)
Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy Pierce (Judah Lewis) are having a tough time since their dad (Oliver Hudson) died. When Kate wants to catch Santa (Kurt Russell) in the act on Christmas Eve, Teddy goes along with it, and after throwing Santa off schedule, they end up on a grand holiday adventure in which they have to save Christmas. And, plot twist: Santa Claus is, like, super hot. It’s a very conflicting feeling.
Do people go overboard with Christmas decorations? This is actually a plot point! Teddy avoids putting the Christmas decorations up because decorations were his dad’s thing, and now his dad is dead. The teen is not dealing with his grief, to say the least.
Are Christmas trees, like, the Most Important? This ties into the Christmas decorating. At one point, the Pierce kids are fighting and Teddy gets pushed into the tree, and Overworked Sad Mom (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) has had ENOUGH.
There are baked goods, right? I’m still crying about it: Kate makes hers with extra sprinkles because that’s how her dad liked them.
Do people participate in a snow-related physical activity that everyone loves even though snow is very cold and wet and stings when hurled at your face? Technically, no. But Teddy, Kate, and Santa do crash into piles of snow both during a sleigh accident and while driving a car to escape police custody. This is a wild movie, guys!
Are people kissing under mistletoe as if it is the law of the land? In an old Pierce-family Christmas video, Oliver Hudson waves mistletoe in front of the camera so he can make out with his wife, and then he starts singing “O Christmas Tree.” Anyway, I’m crying again.
Do people speak wistfully about the dead? Dead Oliver Hudson appears in a Christmas ornament so that Teddy can tell his dad that he’s proud to be his son!!!!!!! So, yes.
Is there some sort of children’s Christmas pageant? The kids in this movie are too busy saving Christmas for a play!
Does someone take a horse-and-carriage ride? What is this, amateur hour? Kate and Teddy ride in Santa’s sleigh led by eight reindeer, and then later they ride those reindeer bareback through the sky. They are living the Christmas dream!
Is Christmas magic real? So real.
Santa’s here?! I love him! He’s not a regular Santa; he’s a Hot Santa.
Is there a wise older gentleman who teaches people about the true meaning of Christmas? The ultimate wise older gentlemen: Mr. Santa Claus himself!
Is the true meaning of Christmas love? The Christmas Chronicles teaches us that, yes, the love of your family is the most important thing, but also that if people don’t get presents from Santa Claus, we’ll fall into a second Dark Ages.
Final Thoughts: Since it’s not a holiday romance, The Christmas Chronicles avoids lots of schmaltzy Christmas-movie clichés, but make no mistake: This movie is delightfully overloaded with the Christmas Spirit. I mean, Kate travels to the North Pole by climbing through Santa’s toy sack, and Hot Santa sings “Santa Claus Is Back in Town” in a jail cell with Steve Van Zandt playing backup. This movie is Christmas through and through! All the Candy Canes!