28 of the Best and Worst Newish Christmas Movies to Stream This Year

28 of the Best and Worst Newish Christmas Movies to Stream This Year

15 min read

I don't know who allowed this to happen, but Christmas is just around the corner. So be of good cheer, and all that—you're running out of days to make it onto the nice list.

We've been watching a ton of Christmas movies the last month or so. In order to help ensure your season is merry and bright, I've compiled this list of the best and worst Christmas movies to watch.

Far warning: Many of these are not objectively good. If not for the season, I would never have watched most of them. But when it comes to Christmas, I've found it’s best to grade on a curve. I've thus grouped the movies into some rough categories.

If we were categorizing Star Wars movies according to the scale I use, it’d break down something like this:

  • Don’t Waste Your Time: The Rise of Skywalker. Seriously. Don’t even bother.
  • You Could Definitely Do Better: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones. Watchable if you have the time or just love the genre.
  • An Okay Way to Spend a Few Hours: Revenge of the Sith. Solidly okay.
  • Good, Not Great: The Return of the JediSolo. Movies I would gladly pay money to see.
  • Great Movies: The Empire Strikes BackA New HopeThe Force AwakensThe Last JediRogue One. Best of the best.

(Even this is on a sliding scale because I'm predisposed to love all things Star Wars.)

Oh—I mention in a few places if a movie made me tear up, but that should in no way be taken as an endorsement in and of itself. I am a notoriously easy cry, a fact my teenage daughter takes great delight in. She's started giving me sentimental cards just to watch my reaction. Let me tell you something, brother: Few things will emasculate you quicker and more completely than your daughter laughing at you while you cry. 

Movies are in alphabetical order, not order of preference. I also mostly refer to the actor playing the role, not the character, because the character's name rarely matters in these movies. It's basically Saint Nick or bust.

Don’t Waste Your Time

I don't know how I can make this any clearer. Do not watch these movies. Go clean your neighbor’s toilet or try to convince a social media rando they're wrong. You'll enjoy yourself more. 

Best. Christmas. Ever! (2023)


Streaming on Netflix

Damn. Filthy. Lies!

This is a deeply unfunny comedy about a family that accidentally ends up at a college friend's house for Christmas instead of Heather Graham's sister's house. I imagine you have a lot of questions after reading that sentence. The answers are dumb and just get dumber.

Poor Heather Graham tries, but there's only so much she can do. I kept hoping Jason Biggs would throw her a lifeline and start humping a pie or something, but he's settled into the frumpy, vaguely-overweight stage of life known as middle age. He'd probably throw out his back if he went to town on an apple pie.

I still would've rather have watched that.

Father Christmas is Back (2021)


Streaming on Netflix

I had high hopes for this one. 

The streaming-only Christmas sub-genre tend to be marked by bad writing and no-name actors. This one has one of the more recognizable casts—Elizabeth Hurley, Kelsey Grammar, John Cleese—but the fact that none of them have done any work of note in about 20 years should’ve been a clue. 

The story is trite, stupid, and emotionally stunted.

Holly Star (2018)

The Orchard

Streaming for free on Vudu, Plex, and The Roku Channel because nobody would pay to watch this.

A puppeteer finds love while looking for buried treasure around her hometown. 

Re-read that premise. 

If that’s not enough to steer you away from this train wreck, this movie also includes creepy puppet scenes. Just look at that screenshot!

You Could Definitely Do Better

You would probably never watch these movies under any circumstances except tis the season and you’re chasing that holiday buzz. They might be ugly, but they’ll get the job done. 

A California Christmas (2020)


Streaming on Netflix

Rich yuppie falls for farm girl after masquerading as a ranch hand in a nefarious plot to swindle the girl’s farm away from her. The stupid plot is only surpassed by the terrible acting—I would assume most of these people never act again, but incredibly there’s a sequel. Equally surprising: I might actually watch it.

A Castle for Christmas (2021)


Streaming on Netflix

Somehow turns a Scottish castle, Cary Elwes, Brooke Shields, and a charming assortment of local oddballs into a forgettable movie. It's sorta heartwarming, and I appreciate seeing a love story involving older people. But still. This is not As Good as It Gets.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2 (2020)


Streaming on Netflix

The first film was legitimately good, so Netflix decided to run it back. But they jettisoned everything that made the first movie enjoyable. Instead, we get an evilish, cackling Kiwi Belsnickel. As always, The Office did it better

Christmas Inheritance (2017)


Streaming on Netflix

An uptown girl visits the dinky little hometown where her father started his business and levels up her empathy game. And she falls in love with a local, naturally, who looks a lot like Plop from The Office.

Poor Andie MacDowell slumming it in this forgettable film is a prime example of how Hollywood shuts out actresses of a certain age. I was hoping she was a producer on the film or something, but no. This was strictly for a paycheck. The good news—she killed in in Maid a few years later and was nominated for a Golden Globe.

‘A Christmas Prince’ Trilogy (2017-2019)


Streaming on Netflix

Do women really get worked up over a guy just because he’s a rich and handsome prince? Just once, I’d love to see a movie about an American falling for the prince’s butler or maybe his janitor. This is really just an extension of my ongoing disbelief about America’s fascination with royalty. Didn’t we go to war with the British to free us of such tyranny?

A Christmas Prince is a full-on trilogy wrung from the most tired yet bountiful of premises: normal American girl falls for Prince (ofc) and they end up together despite the difficulties imposed by his station. My favorite thing about these films is the lengths they go to make it seem like they occur in a British-adjacent kingdom without actually existing on any map. Imagine The Princess Diaries: Christmas Edition without the great actors and clever writing. 

My daughter loved them. Watching them with her made me enjoy them, too.

Christmas Without You (2022)


Streaming on Netflix

Guys. Freddie Prinze Jr. has gotten old. 

I think maybe it was the shock of seeing him for the first time in like 15 years, but my man definitely looks like he’s pushing 50. Which basically means that those of us who were teenagers when he was in movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and She’s All That are getting hella old, too.

Freddie is a dorky, middle-aged music man living with his daughter and his mother. A pop superstar ends up at his house for ridiculous reasons, and Freddie makes sweet, sweet music with her. It’s fine.

Falling for Christmas (2022)


Streaming on Netflix

Lindsay Lohan stars as a rich socialite who loses her memory after a skiing accident and develops feelings for the guy who rescued her. Is it romantic or is it Stockholm syndrome? It doesn't matter—you won't really care either way. Sorta heartwarming but feels very performative.

Finding Santa (2017)


Streaming on the Hallmark Channel

Little Stephanie from Full House is all grown-up and I just can't even deal with it. I never got into Fuller House, so it's a legitimate shock seeing her as a grown woman.

She plays a character who basically plans Christmas for an entire little town. When the local Santa throws out his back, Stephanie has to find a replacement for the big parade, which is being broadcast across the country. The good news: despite being at least 60-years-old, Santa has a hunky 20-something son who would be perfect, actually. He even went to Santa School.

I bet you can't even guess what happens next.

Holiday in the Wild (2019)


Streaming on Netflix

I’m going to channel some Chris Traeger energy right now: Rob Lowe is literally the most unbelievable African bushman I’ve ever seen. He still manages to sweep Kristin Davis off her feet because he’s Rob Freaking Lowe

Oh: Baby elephants are literally the cutest animals. 

Lights, Camera, Christmas! (2022)


Streaming on the Hallmark Channel

This is an Americanized version of the Prince fairytale storyline. An uber-talented seamstress just sort of existing has her life up-ended when a movie starts shooting in her tiny town. Things Happen, which requires her to work on the movie. She gradually develops a relationship with the film's lead, a handsome and douchey guy that lives the G.I. Joe motto (i.e. more than meets the eye).

I really liked this movie, but the ending completely crapped the bed. Like, poop all over the place. You remember that scene in Daddy Day Care where Eddie Murphy sees the bathroom after the toddler uses it? That's the level of poop we're talking about. Inexplicable amounts of poop.

If not for the horrifically bad ending, this would've been in the next category.

Looks Like Christmas (2016)


Streaming on the Hallmark Channel

This one is also called Christmas Carol, apparently, because Anne Heche plays a woman with a Christmas fetish so legendary the town has started calling her names. It's ostensibly about a pair of single parents finding each other over the holidays. It's nothing you haven't seen before.

Watching it, I mostly felt sad about the tragic turn Anne Heche's life took. Which has nothing to do with this very formulaic movie.

Operation Christmas Drop (2020)


Streaming on Netflix

You may be thinking to yourself—hey, I know that guy! He’s from The Hunger Games / Vikings / Air Bud: World Pup. Welcome to the world of low-budget Christmas films, my friend. Most of these movies have at least one person you vaguely recognize, and then you spend the next 10 minutes tuning out the movie as you try to figure it out. Sometimes Google is necessary.

This one is about a career-minded U.S. Senator’s aide who takes her power suits to a military base in the Pacific. She falls for an Air Force pilot who is basically an amalgamation of Ice Man from Top Gun and Santa Claus. He flies around on Christmas Eve in a sleigh C-130 aircraft dropping presents supplies for children locals. The premise is based on a true story—the tradition goes back to 1952 and is the longest-running mission in Department of Defense history.

I might’ve teared up at the end.

A Very Country Christmas (2017)


Streaming basically everywhere for free

A huge country music star hides out in the podunk town where he discovered his love of music, and discovers something else to love (hint: it's a girl). Really bad acting, but damn if I wasn’t a bit moved by the cliched and predictable ending. 

There’s an actual country music star in this movie (Deana Carter) who I didn’t recognize and then thought maybe she was June Carter’s daughter, a notion my wife quickly disabused me of. The fact that I didn’t know who Deana Carter was and then tried to invent some way of making her famous sums up her stardom.