The festive season is fast approaching and while Christmas 2020 might end up being a different Yuletide to what we’re all used to, you’ll still be able to take refuge from the cold weather, hunker down and enjoy binge-watching a selection of Christmas movie classics, from old favourites to new films on the block.
Netflix is a good place to start, with a wide selection of Christmas-themed flicks including, increasingly, many of its own original movies. If you’re looking for some guidance on where to start, the RadioTimes.com team have picked out a few of our our festive favourites – consider it our gift to you.
The Christmas Chronicles 1 and 2 (2018 and 2020)
At first The Christmas Chronicles may seem like a curio, mainly of interest due to the stunt casting of Kurt Russell as an unusually sexy Santa Claus – but beyond the star billing the first instalment actually turned out to be one of the most entertaining and sweet Christmas movies for years, tapping into a kind of nostalgia for ’90s festive movies like Home Alone or Jingle All the Way.
The story is fairly slight – two kids accidentally crash Santa’s sleigh and have to help him save Christmas and deliver presents – but Russell’s charisma and plenty of action make for an enjoyable and (dare we say it) genuinely heartwarming romp.
And for the eagerly-awaited sequel, The Christmas Chronicles 2, things look to get even cosier as we spend more time with Mrs Claus (Russell’s real-life partner Goldie Hawn) and our heroes take on an evil, Christmas-hating creature named the Belsnickel (Julian Dennison). Sounds like a job for Hot Santa. – Huw Fullerton, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Editor
The Princess Switch (2018)
If you like your festive fare with a healthy helping of cheese, then The Princess Switch is one to add to your Christmas list. Vanessa Hudgens plays Stacey, a talented baker struggling to get over a break-up who, as chance would have it, is the exact double of Lady Margaret Delacourt, Duchess of Montenaro (also Hudgens) – so of course the pair end up swapping lives, with Lady Margaret escaping her loveless engagement to Prince Edward of Belgravia (Sam Palladio) and falling in love with Stacey’s best friend Kevin, while Stacey enjoys a taste of Royal life and falls for the dishy Edward…. but will they be caught out?
The film’s every bit as ridiculous and predictable as that synopsis suggests, but that doesn’t stop The Princess Switch from being a supreme guilty pleasure – it’s frothy fun with a game cast. – Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
This lavish festive musical arrives on Netflix in November, telling the story of Jeronicus Jangle, an eccentric inventor who loses his passion for life after a personal tragedy. It takes a visit from his granddaughter, a creative young girl called Journey, to once again spark his enthusiasm – but it might be too late to thwart a dastardly scheme by his former apprentice-turned-rival.
Jingle Jangle is a quintessential children’s Christmas story in how it places messages of hope and optimism at the forefront. John Legend and Usher are among the names involved in crafting the musical numbers and there are also some fun action sequences that should succeed in keeping young imaginations fed.
It’s questionable whether there’s any crossover appeal for the adults watching, but if you’re looking for a film to enchant the kids then Jingle Jangle could be a good choice. Forest Whitaker and newcomer Madalen Mills lead the cast, which also includes comedian Keegan-Michael Key and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville. – David Craig, Writer-Researcher
A Christmas Prince (2017)
The A Christmas Prince franchise has spawned three films in as many years, but the original in 2017 remains the best of the bunch.
The plot centres on an aspiring journalist, Amber Moore, who is sent by her editor to the fictional town of Aldovia to cover an exciting story about a dashing prince who is all set to be crowned king.
Of course, Amber ends up getting much more than a big scoop: while attending a press conference, she is mistaken for young Princess Emily’s new tutor and assumes her identity in a bid to snoop on the royals, eventually falling in love with the elusive Prince.
The film is knowingly cheesy and trashy – leaning into the style popularised by Hallmark Christmas movies – and despite lacking any formal qualities it makes for a tremendously fun festive watch, packed with warmth. Just don’t take it too seriously! – Patrick Cremona, Writer-Researcher
Let It Snow (2019)
Based on the young adult novel of the same name, 2019’s Let it Snow is a charming Christmas rom-com that explores a group of high school seniors’ friendships and love lives against the backdrop of an epic party at the local Waffle Town. The film’s biggest selling point is its talented young cast, with Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) and Mitchell Hope carrying off an endearing will they / won’t they plot as best friends (or more?) Duke and Tobin, and the likes of Shameik Moore (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and Jacob Batalon (Spider-Man: Far From Home) delivering winning supporting turns. Full of Christmas cheer, this is undemanding festive fodder that, at a snappy 93 minutes, happily doesn’t outstay its welcome – Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor
The Holiday (2006)
When it comes to Christmas rom-coms, few can compete with 2006’s The Holiday – Nancy Meyers’ house swap romance. Starring ’00s blockbuster royalty Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Jack Black, this entertaining if somewhat predictable flick directed and written by the queen of romantic comedies is a modern Christmas classic.
After her needy ex-boyfriend announces he’s engaged, journalist Iris (Winslet) decides to get out of London for Christmas and house swaps with movie trailer producer Amanda (Diaz), who is looking to escape Los Angeles after discovering her boyfriend has cheated on her. While the two women decide to focus on themselves during their festive retreats, they’re both distracted by charming locals – Iris’ widowed brother Graham in Amanda’s case, and Amanda’s colleague Miles for Iris.
With a soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and endearing performances from its A-list cast, feel-good film The Holiday is worth adding to your Christmas watch-list. – Lauren Morris, Writer-Researcher
Who says that Christmas movies have to be all smiles and cheer? Krampus is an entry into the niche subgenre of festive horror, telling the darkly comic story of the Engel family, whose constant arguing is a far cry from the spirit of the season. Their complete lack of hope attracts the malicious spirit of Krampus, a figure from traditional Austro-Bavarian folklore who punishes those who have misbehaved.
The film gets off to a flying start by introducing its memorable cast of characters, propelled by a fun script and strong performances from the likes of Toni Collette (Hereditary), Allison Tolman (Fargo) and Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation). From there, director Michael Dougherty effectively builds suspense, utilising some excellent production design as the family faces off against a mysterious blizzard and the creatures lurking therein.
While by no means revolutionary, Krampus is a well executed Christmas horror film with a sense of humour and solid tension throughout. Those looking for a break from cliche festive stories should find this a welcome breath of fresh air. – David Craig, Writer-Researcher
The only Netflix original Christmas film to be nominated for an Academy Awards (so far, at least) Klaus is a wonderful animated feature which provides an alternative look at the origins of Father Christmas.
Set in the 19th century, it follows a struggling postman who is sent to an island town in the Far North and soon comes across a reclusive toymaker, Klaus, with whom he becomes fast friends.
Written and directed by Spanish animator Sergio Pablos, the film has everything you could possibly want from a Christmas movie: plenty of humour, a heartwarming narrative, and no shortage of festive magic.
With beautiful animation, a stellar voice cast that includes JK Simmons, Jason Schartzman and Rashida Jones, and most importantly an excellent story, this was well worth its nomination in the best animation category at the Oscars, and should be considered a must-watch for the festive season. – Patrick Cremona, Writer-Researcher
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
It won’t be for everyone, but if you’re an admirer of Bill Murray’s offbeat comic stylings – and in particular a fan of his 1988 Christmas Carol update Scrooged – then you’ll find much to enjoy in A Very Murray Christmas.
Part surrealist comedy, part variety special, this 2015 film reunites Murray with his Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola and sees Murray (playing himself) encounter a whole parade of stars – including Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones and Chris Rock – while trapped in New York City’s Carlyle Hotel during a huge snowstorm. The highlight has to be a surreal fantasy sequence in which, after drinking himself into unconsciousness, Murray dreams up a duet of ‘Sleigh Ride’ with Miley Cyrus while George Clooney prepares martinis. If you’re looking for a unique holiday experience this year, then A Very Murray Christmas is required viewing. – Morgan Jeffery, Executive Editor