The Ultimate Ranking Of Netflix's Original Holiday Movies

Hallmark Channel may have dominated the holiday film business for years, but Netflix has been quick to get into the holiday spirit too. One might say that it all began with "A Very Murray Christmas," the 2015 holiday special directed by none other than Oscar winner Sofia Coppola. In this musical comedy, Bill Murray is supposedly worried that no one will make it to his show because of a snowstorm but soon, he is surrounded by the likes of George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Poehler.

Since then, the streamer has gone on to produce several holiday movies, as it continued to attract some of Hollywood's most recognizable faces. These include heartwarming dramas, romantic comedies, animation, and even musicals. Over the years, both critics and fans have also weighed in on Netflix's holiday content, which has inspired this very list. The movies featured here have been ranked based on scores obtained from top review and aggregate websites, including Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic.

Unfortunately, Murray's own Christmas special didn't make the cut. Find out which ones did.

12. The Princess Switch

Vanessa Hudgens makes her Netflix holiday debut (she made her actual Netflix debut in the action thriller "Polar") in 2018's "The Princess Switch." In this charming romantic comedy set in the fictional kingdom of Belgravia, the Disney Channel alum plays two characters — Chicago baker Stacy De Novo and Lady Margaret Delacourt, the Duchess of Montenaro (a fictional land) — and essentially finds love twice after the two women agree to switch places for a couple of days. The movie is also slightly reminiscent of "The Parent Trap" and "The Princess Diaries," complete with its own version of a secret handshake.

And as it turns out, that was no coincidence. "All we're really doing is doing a new arrangement of somebody else's orchestration, and putting our own color to it," director Mike Rohl even told Vanity Fair. As for Hudgens, it is precisely her fondness for "The Parent Trap" that drew her to the role. That said, the actor also initially thought that the project would be a one-off, as she once told Glamour, "I honestly don't even know where it would go, because we already got our happy endings."

Much to the delight of fans, Netflix eventually turned "The Princess Switch" into a franchise after the streamer released follow-up films with cast members such as Sam Palladio, Nick Sagar, Suanne Braun, and Mark Fleischmann returning with the lead star. Since then, Hudgens, who serves as a producer on the franchise, also hasn't ruled out the idea of exploring the storyline further.

11. The Knight Before Christmas

Soon after the first "Princess Switch" film hit the streaming service, Vanessa Hudgens made her way back to the Netflix holiday lineup with 2019's "The Knight Before Christmas," which is also another romantic comedy but with a bit of a sci-fi back story. In addition to Hudgens, the cast includes Josh Whitehouse and Emmanuelle Chriqui.

In the movie, Hudgens plays Brooke, a teacher who no longer believes in love. That all changes, however, when she meets the very gallant (and charming) Sir Cole (Whitehouse) who has wandered into her world from medieval times England. It was exactly this plot twist that convinced Hudgens to star and executive produce another holiday project for Netflix. "The time travel aspect made it feel fresh and new within the realm of the Christmas genre," Hudgens told Entertainment Weekly.

Unlike "The Princess Switch" though, fans have yet to see a follow-up film to this movie. That said, director Monika Mitchell once teased that she's interested in doing a sequel. And while it's unclear if this is also part of Hudgens' holiday movie plans, she is happy to continue growing her relationship with Netflix. "I love the theater experience and I'm still an absolute fan of it, but I feel like Netflix is a place where I can do films that continue to live on and that people can access at their fingertips whenever they want," she once told The Hollywood Reporter.

10. Single All the Way

Michael Urie and Philemon Chambers certainly captivated audiences in this heartwarming romantic comedy, which also made history as Netflix's first-ever gay holiday film. In 2021's "Single All the Way," Urie plays Peter, a single man who convinces his best friend Nick (Chambers) to come home with him for the holidays and pretend that they're in a relationship in front of his family. Aside from Urie and Chambers, the cast also includes Luke Macfarlane, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Coolidge (who plays Peter's aunt), and "Hocus Pocus" star Kathy Najimy (who plays Peter's mom).

Interestingly, Urie wasn't necessarily up for the co-lead role when he was first sent the script. Instead, the actor told W Magazine that they were considering him for the part of the "gruff" and hot handyman. While Urie didn't exactly connect with that role, he remained interested in doing the film. Once screenwriter Chad Hodge learned that the actor was circling the project, he gave him one of the lead roles without even asking for an audition. "In show business, so often, we're just sort of expected to do what we're told, and not push back. It worked in my favor this time around," Urie later told W Magazine. "I pushed back a little bit and I got the job."

9. The Christmas Chronicles

As Netflix kept producing more and more holiday originals, the streamer knew that it would eventually have to introduce its very own Santa. And there was no one more qualified for that top job than veteran actor Kurt Russell. In 2018's "The Christmas Chronicles," he makes his debut as Netflix's Santa, and from the time that he started taking meetings for the project, he was already devoted to playing the iconic holiday character. In approaching the project, Russell was also determined to present a Santa that was more grounded in reality whilst retaining the holiday magic. As part of his preparations for the film, the actor threw himself into Santa Claus research, telling Global News, "I began to find out more about Santa in terms of being born, then he became a bishop, and he began to give presents away for very specific reasons." In the end, Russell delivers a Santa that's not exactly the most jolly but still, full of heart.

As the movie came together, it also ended up being a bit of a family project for Russell with stepson Oliver Hudson playing the lead characters' dad and longtime partner Goldie Hawn ultimately playing his Mrs. Claus. The cast also includes "Father of the Bride" star Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Darby Camp, and Judah Lewis. Following the success of the first movie, "The Christmas Chronicles" eventually became another Netflix holiday franchise.

8. The Noel Diary

A lot of Netflix holiday films may tend to be bright and cheery, but eventually, the streamer delivered this touching tear-jerker headlined by "This Is Us" star Justin Hartley and "Station 19" actor Barrett Doss. In 2022's "The Noel Diary," Hartley plays Jake Turner, a best-selling author who returns home for the holidays to settle his mother's estate following her death. While there, he meets Rachel (Doss), a woman trying to get more information about her mother who used to work for Turner's family.

Now, Hartley may be a highly experienced drama actor, but surprisingly, director Charles Shyer wasn't too familiar with the actor while he was casting for the film. Fortunately, his ex-wife, romantic comedy queen Nancy Meyers, recommended Hartley for the part. "He's in the movie pretty much 100 percent because of Nancy. Nancy still has that great eye for talent, and that's what rang the bell for me," Shyer later said in The Hollywood Reporter. As for Hartley, the actor immediately signed on to the film knowing that it was Shyer at the helm. He also knew that it was a holiday film that would appeal to his fans from "This Is Us". "There's this feeling of being alone. There's a whole theme of forgiveness, whether it be forgiving yourself or forgiving others," Hartley told Tudum in an interview.

7. A Christmas Prince

Before Netflix got to work on "The Princess Switch" and "The Christmas Chronicles" movies, there was 2017's "A Christmas Prince," one of the streamer's first original holiday films. At first stream, the film certainly feels like a typical cheesy Hallmark holiday film and perhaps, that's why it has appealed to many. It also doesn't hurt that "A Christmas Prince" boasts of a rather popular cast, led by Rose McIver ("iZombie" and "The Lovely Bones") and Ben Lamb ("Divergent" and "Now You See Me 2"). In the movie, McIver plays Amber, a reporter who decides to go undercover as a tutor to get the exclusive scoop on playboy Prince Richard (Lamb). And as is often the case in a holiday movie (whether it's Netflix's or Hallmark's), the two eventually develop feelings for each other.

While the movie is set in the fictional land of Aldovia, it is also partly inspired by real-life royals, particularly Prince William and Princess Catherine. As Karen Schaler, one of the film's writers, revealed to The Telegraph, the story for "A Christmas Prince" came to her while visiting Anglesey, the place where the royal couple stayed during the early years of their marriage. As she spoke with locals, Schaler realized how protective they were of the Waleses. This gave her the idea to write Amber as a nosy reporter trying to uncover dirt on the prince. Following the success of "A Christmas Prince," Netflix turned the film into a franchise.

6. A Castle for Christmas

Netflix has certainly showcased a great deal of royal-themed holiday films over the years, but "A Castle for Christmas," despite its title, isn't exactly one of them. Sure, there is a (fictional) royal involved in the story, particularly an insufferable Scottish duke named Myles played by the brilliant Cary Elwes ("The Princess Bride," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights"), but that's about as royal as it gets. 

In the 2021 flick, a best-selling author named Sophie (Brooke Shields) makes her way to Scotland following a rather embarrassing on-camera moment. While there, she tries to buy a castle as Elwes' Myles tries to give her a hard time. For Shields, agreeing to do the Netflix holiday film had been quite an easy choice. For starters, she could relate to her character very well. "It's such a refreshing perspective, because it's real. I know so many women, even just over 40, who are either divorced or falling in love or deciding to get married for the first time," she told USA Today. At the same time, Shields was also glad that Netflix decided to make a holiday movie that was centered around more mature characters which are often overlooked in Hollywood. 

5. Let It Snow

In 2019's "Let It Snow," Netflix puts together a recognizable ensemble of young stars that would make any holiday movie pop. These include "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" main star Kiernan Shipka, "Santa Clarita Diet" star Liv Hewson, "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" actor Isabela Merced, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" series star Shameik Moore, and MCU fixture Jacob Batalon. Based on a young adult novel of the same name, "Let It Snow" centers on a group of people who get stuck in a snowstorm together on Christmas Eve.

As it turns out, Merced and Shipka had known about the film for years. Both stars also expressed interest in doing the movie even when no one knew whether it would push through. "There was something about it that felt different to me from all the other teen rom-com scripts that I'd read," Merced even told Entertainment Weekly. Meanwhile, for Batalon, there were two key reasons why he agreed to do the movie. "I think what attracted me really was the entire script and the people who were in it and is just our sort of collaborative effort on the film," he told Esquire Philippines.

4. A Boy Called Christmas

Netflix has presented a lot of fictional lands throughout its holiday films and in that regard, "A Boy Called Christmas" is no different. That said, this 2021 release particularly appeals to many because of its touching family story which also happens to trace back the beginnings of Santa Claus/Father Christmas. Not to mention, it also features an incredible cast that includes Henry Lawfull, Michiel Huisman, Maggie Smith, Joel Fry, and Kristen Wiig.

Based on a novel of the same name by Matt Haig, "A Boy Called Christmas" tells the story of a young boy named Nikolas (Lawfull) who goes on an adventure of a lifetime to find his father (Huisman) who had been searching for the village of the elves known as Elfhelm. Joining him on his journey are his pet mouse and the reindeer Blitzen. For newcomer Lawfull, having an actual set made to look like Elfhelm helped a lot with his onscreen portrayal of Nikolas. "To work there, and to act with it just made you feel as if you were in that situation," the actor told Movie Mom. That said, the young star also had to learn how to act with co-stars who would only be added digitally later on. For these scenes, Lawfull had to learn to act opposite puppets or even a tennis ball.

3. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

While there's a lot of love for several Netflix original holiday movies, fans and critics certainly can't get enough of the fantasy musical film "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey," which is a story of family, loss, and forgiveness. The 2020 movie also boasts a star-studded cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and Ricky Martin. "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" tells the story of a toymaker named Jeronicus Jangle (Whitaker) whose magical invention could change life as everyone knew it. Instead, however, it was stolen by his former friend Gustafson (Key) who is determined to make a fortune out of it.

For writer and director David E. Talbert, it had been a long journey to finally get "Jingle Jangle" to the big screen. The idea for the story came to him when he realized that his son didn't share his interest in musicals (Talbert started in the business as a playwright) partly because there wasn't much representation for people of color on Broadway. "So that's when I thought, it's time to do it, because if my son is experiencing this, how many sons and daughters of color, around the world want to see themselves represented as well?" he told IndieWire. Naturally, Talbert also first conceived the project as a Broadway show until both Disney and Universal expressed interest in turning it into a movie. Ultimately, however, both passed on the project and luckily for Talbert, Netflix swooped in and gave it the green light.

2. Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Mystery

Fictional murder mysteries have always had a certain charm, but when they involve Santa himself, they can take an interesting turn. It's also even more fun when the actors involved are veteran comedians who had to improv their way throughout the entire story, which is the case here. The 2022 Christmas special "Who Killed Santa? A Murderville Mystery" sees the return of "Murderville" series star Will Arnett as Detective Terry Seattle. And when Santa gets murdered, he enlists the help of his celebrity pals, namely Jason Bateman, Maya Rudolph, and Pete Davidson.

In the special, Bateman, Rudolph, and Davidson both come in as Detective Seattle's 'trainees' with Bateman getting to the scene first, followed by Rudolph, and much later on, Davidson. And while the production had managed to book both Bateman and Rudolph in the lead-up to production, they only managed to land Davidson by chance. "I think he was in town for the Emmys, and we happened to shoot the week right after the Emmys," showrunner Krister Johnson recalled during an interview with Consequence

1. Klaus

As far as Netflix holiday films go, this animated film takes the top spot. For many, 2019's "Klaus" is an instant classic, thanks to its hand-drawn animation and its heartwarming story about the friendship between the toymaker Klaus and a postman named Jesper. To make things even more interesting, the movie is set in Smeerensburg, which is supposed to be the "unhappiest place on Earth." As some may have also noticed, "Klaus" is also a take on the origin story of Santa. In coming up with the film's storyline, Sergio Pablos, who serves as one of the film's co-writers and co-directors, told Deadline, "There's no widely accepted origin story for Santa. That would be definitely an interesting exercise."

At the same time, the film also gets a lot of star power behind the animation with J.K Simmons voicing Klaus and Jason Schwartzman voicing Jesper. In addition, the (voice) cast also includes Rashida Jones, Will Sasso, and Joan Cusack. This Netflix holiday film went on to score an Oscar nod for best animated feature film.

Our ranking methodology

All of the films featured above have been ranked based on scores and reviews obtained from Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic.