Over the last few years we’ve seen the streaming service take inspiration from the likes of Hallmark and Lifetime to produce cookie-cutter Christmas romcoms guaranteed to numb your mind like one too many mulled wines.
Revolutionary these films are not, but boy, do they hit the spot during the festive season. With titles like The Princess Switch, The Knight Before Christmas and A Castle for Christmas on offer, audiences have learnt that no plot is too ludicrous for a Netflix Christmas romcom. The more time travel, magic, döppelgangers and fictional European royalty on offer, the better.
With that in mind, I’m taking a look at Netflix’s in-house Christmas romcoms and ranking them based on just how ridiculous they are. This list has also been updated for 2022, which means this is the third year in which I’ve driven myself to insanity watching the new slate of films. That, my friends, is what we call journalism for the people.
Which Netflix Christmas romcom will be named the most ridiculous of them all? Keep reading to find out…
When it was released last year, Holidate carved itself out a niche as the “I’m not like the other girls” of Christmas films. Rather than adopting the standard optimism about the spirit of Christmas, we have two cool young millennials (Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey) who not only swear, smoke and drink – gasp! – but hate the festive season! Qu’elle horreur! But while these things make Holidate a cooler romcom than the others on this list, it’s an infinitely worse Christmas film for it. Sorry, but I actually do want to hear about the power of Christmas to bring people together and also maybe see some magic: sue me!
19. Holiday Rush
One of the more genuinely wholesome films on this list, Holiday Rush stars Romany Malco as a single father of four who’s let go from his job at a commercial radio station. He’s forced to downsize from his privileged life and ends up buying the small local radio station he used to work on with friend and soon-to-be love interest Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green). Again, it’s a nice enough film, but it’s pretty low down the ridiculousness ratings – honestly, that Rush can make enough money working on local radio to feed a family of five is the most unbelievable thing here.
18. Single All the Way
It’s somewhat surprising that Netflix has taken this long to dip its toe into the LGBT+ Christmas film pond (Hallmark has been doing it for a while, while Kristen bloody Stewart appeared last year in Hulu’s Happiest Season). Single All the Way stars Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie as a perpetually single gay man whose family are always trying to set him up over the festive period. It features all the clichés we’ve come to expect from a Christmas film, but is still cute, if somewhat lacking in ludicrousness (although it definitely picks up a couple of points for starring Jennifer Coolidge). Also, Urie’s character Peter is a social media strategist AKA the most unridiculous job in the world – even if it does mean we get to hear the phrase “Instagays” said in a Christmas film.
17. Holiday in the Wild
Kate (Kristin Davis) is planning to spend her December on a surprise second honeymoon in Zambia; that is, until her husband reveals his plans to leave her. Instead, she heads there on a solo trip where she meets hunky pilot Derek (Rob Lowe). Vibe-wise, there’s far less snow than your average Netflix Christmas romcom, but there are a lot of elephants, which makes this one tough to place. It’s a nice way of switching up the formula, but it’s still lacking that ludicrous Christmas magic.
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16. Christmas With You
Just like Let It Snow further down this list, the less intriguingly titled Christmas With You knows that there’s nothing people want more than to fall in love with a popstar. Former teen hearthrob Freddie Prinze Jr here plays a single father who ends up falling for singer Angelina Costa (Aimee Garcia) by way of his superfan teenage daughter. Points are gained for the implausibility of the plot, but lost because this came out in 2022, at a time when the “widowed dad” plot has been wrung dry in these films. Please, I beg, no more dead wives…
15. Let It Snow
There’s more than a hint of Love Actually to this YA novel adaptation, which sees multiple overlapping storylines eventually come together. Fortunately, there’s some moments of ridiculousness, too. Teenager Julie (Isabela Moner) fails to recognise pop star Stuart (Shameik Moore) on a train home, in a scene straight out of the One Direction fanfic I definitely didn’t spend my teenage years reading on Tumblr. There’s also a dramatic car crash at one point and a massive New Year’s Eve party, which, in a post-lockdown world, still feels slightly unbelievable.
14. Christmas Inheritance
Christmas Inheritance tells the story of Ellen (Eliza Taylor), a socialite – do they still really exist? – who’s mostly known for drunkenly getting her underwear out in public and being Generally A Lot. To prove to her CEO father that she’s ready to inherit his company, she must first travel to his conveniently named hometown of Snow Falls to learn about the value of hard work, helping others, etc. There’s an Undercover Boss type of thing going on where Ellen doesn’t want to reveal who she really is and Andie MacDowell is inexplicably in this film for some reason, but otherwise it’s pretty standard.
13. A Castle for Christmas
Let’s get the obvious stuff out the way at the top – yes, Brooke Shields is too famous to be in this film. She plays a bestselling American author plagued by one massive flop, who, in an attempt to reconnect with her roots, heads off to Scotland. Unsurprisingly, the locals – including the handsome Duke of Dunbar (Cary Elwes) – are sceptical of her plans to barge in and take things over. “To women buying castles,” is one girlboss cheer in the pub. Really, don’t we all deserve castles this Christmas?
12. Love Hard
Nina Dobrev is Natalie, a modern-day Carrie Bradshaw who writes a dating column about the tricky world of online dating (I hear ya, girlfriend). She gets catfished by Josh (Jimmy O Yang), who is using the pictures of his childhood friend Tag (Darren Barnet) and travels to meet him, only to find out the truth about his identity, which, to quote Jez from Peep Show, isn’t very Christmassy. Natalie convinces Josh to help her get the real life Tag, but – and I’m not making this up – ends up falling in love with her catfish anyway. Obviously, this is a morally questionable thing to happen in a Christmas movie, but I can reluctantly admit that it’s also pretty ridiculous and therefore works for this list’s purposes.
11. Operation Christmas Drop
Now this is an interesting one, because while the central premise may be ridiculous, it’s actually based on a real-life tradition. Yep, every year, the US Department of Defense uses military equipment to drop Christmas presents to people in Micronesia. Bringing in the romcom element alongside the light military propaganda, we have career-obsessed congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) who is sent to shut down the mission – boo! – but ends up falling in love with the tradition and hunky soldier (Alexander Ludwig) – yay!
10. Falling For Christmas
This year, the real Christmas miracle is Lindsay Lohan’s return to acting. She stars as Paris Hilton-esque hotel heiress and influencer Sierra who accidentally skis off a cliff, hits her head and forgets who she is. Yep, you heard it here first: the “falling” in the title is her falling over. She’s rescued by the kind-hearted owner of a struggling hotel who sets about teaching her the importance of Christmas. It goes without saying that the lack of understanding about head injuries makes this film ridiculous, but the main sticking point for me is Sierra’s fame. How come this girl is a big enough deal that she has millions of Instagram followers, a famous father and designer wardrobe, yet nobody in the town next door recognised her when they found her? Why did it take days for anyone to realise she was missing, but an entire press conference was held for her return? Make it make sense!
9. I Believe In Santa
On a scale of 1-10, how big an ick is an adult man who still believing in Father Christmas? For Lisa (Christina Moore), it should be a big fat 10. She’s a Christmas-sceptic and assumes the guy she’s dating is the same. But then lawyer Tom (John Ducey) reveals his terrifying secret: he’s a huge fan of the festivities and, yep, still believes in Santa. That revelation comes around the 38 minute mark, and the most ridiculous part of this film is that Lisa doesn’t walk out the room, block him on all platforms and never look back. A truly terrible film, but a pretty ludicrous one.
8. The Holiday Calendar
Abby (Kat Graham again) works as a Christmas elf – classic – but dreams of being a photographer. One year, she receives an old-fashioned advent calendar from her twinkly-eyed grandfather (Ron Cephas Jones) and finds out that it’s able to grant wishes, as evidenced by her friend Josh (Quincy Brown) who declares: “Clearly the calendar’s magic.” Clearly. But then all her Christmas dreams start coming true – nice for some, eh! – and she finds herself caught up in a love triangle with Josh and Ty (Ethan Peck). Finally, some magic on this list!
You’ll notice a common theme among the films that top this ranking: an obsession with fictional European royalty that The Princess Diaries is almost certainly to blame for. For anyone who has, say, been to Europe, the fact that everyone speaks in bad English accents will be baffling, but I digress – it’s probably not for us. In A Christmas Prince, we have Rose McIver as Amber, a plucky young journalist who is sent to the land of Aldovia to investigate the country’s Prince Richard (Ben Lamb), a notorious playboy. Because celebrity access is famously so easy for journalists to get, Amber manages to sneak her way into the palace pretending to be a tutor for the prince’s sister, discovers that he’s actually a great person and they fall in love.
6. A Christmas Prince 2: The Royal Wedding
More of the same but there’s a wedding and the prince’s 13-year-old sister is an elite computer hacker!
5. A Christmas Prince 3: The Royal Baby
Even more of the same but there’s going to be a baby and they’re trying to stop it from being given a deadly curse!
4. The Princess Switch
If you’re going to make anything your niche, cheesy Christmas films seem like a pretty good one. Vanessa Hudgens is Netflix’s queen of this genre and it’s clearly paying off – I’ve seen her Architectural Digest house tour! Her first appearance came in 2018’s The Princess Switch, playing both all-American girl Stacey and Lady Margaret Delacourt of the kingdom of Belgravia. Yes, you heard right: Vanessa Hudgens plays two characters in this film. A multi-talented queen! After running into each other at a bakery competition (of course), the pair switch places and pretend to be each other, making the whole thing way more confusing along the way. This is largely due to the fact that Hudgens is already doing a terrible British accent while playing Margaret, which just gets more mangled when Stacey has to pretend to be her. Confused? So am I, which is exactly how I want to feel watching a Netflix Christmas romcom.
3. The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star
In The Princess Switch, Vanessa Hudgens played two identical characters. In The Princess Switch 2, she played three. If this franchise was to follow the expected algebraic formula (number of Princess Switch films + 1 = number of Vanessa Hudgens döppelgangers), one would hope that The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star, in which all the Hudgenses come together come together to track down a missing jewel, would add another one into the mix and probably top this list. But no: Hudgens is only in this film three times and I feel cheated.
2. The Princess Switch 2: Switched Again
The Princess Switch 2 was peak Princess Switch, when we were first introduced to the third Vanessa Hudgens (once again playing a British socialite with a dodgy British accent). Also, the couple from A Christmas Prince make a surprise cameo, proving that the Netflix Christmas romcom universe is more complex than the MCU. The film series could never improve on this and we should just accept it.
1. The Knight Before Christmas
Look, the film’s called The Knight Before Christmas. It would be frankly criminal for it not to top this list. As Netflix Christmas romcoms go, it’s got everything you could possibly want. Magic! Medieval dress! Even more Vanessa Hudgens! The knight in question is Sir Cole (Josh Whitehouse), who has been transported forward in time on a quest only to be hit by a car driven by Brooke (Hudgens). It’s your classic fish out of water story, only this one involves time travel and a fish that does things like refer to a TV as a “magic box that makes merry”. But the absurdity lies in the details. The old crone who tricks Cole is never named; they literally just shout “old crone” at her face. Cole is also from Norwich, which seems incredibly out of place. And at one point, there is a piece of Amazon/Netflix product placement so blatant I nearly fell off my chair the first time I saw it. Sorry guys, everyone else has to go home. It doesn’t get better than this.