December: a time for cheer, a time for festivities, a time for awful "Netflix and chill" jokes (because it's cold outside -- get it?). OK, it's just a time for Netflix. With the season upon us, we wrapped the best Christmas movies currently streaming on the platform and placed them under your tree. Prepare to have a happy holiday.
Bill Murray achieves peak arrogance in this modern riff on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Written by Michael O'Donoghue, the first SNL head writer, and Mitch Glazer, a longtime Murray collaborator who recently wrote the actor's Netflix Christmas special (below), Scrooged pairs Murray's slave-driving TV executive up with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, all of whom are a bit more... unhinged than the ones in previous adaptations.
Just Friends (2005)
In the wake of There's Something About Mary and American Pie, the early-to-mid-'00s were filled with comedies that mixed crude humor with treacly sentimentality -- but Just Friends was the only one to throw Christmas cheer (and a giant burning Santa) into the mix. This tale of a smart-ass LA record producer (Ryan Reynolds) returning home to New Jersey over the holidays and romancing his high school BFF (Amy Smart) doesn't go down easy -- some of the jokes have aged like your favorite Good Charlotte song -- but the leads do their best with tepid gags about retainers, The Notebook, and "friend-zoning." So why give this one a chance? A very funny turn from Anna Faris as a deranged Paris Hilton-style pop singer who makes Reynolds' life a living hell. If her character ever makes a Christmas special, we'll be there.
White Christmas (1954)
Sometimes the most comforting choice is the best choice. Elevated by joyful performances from Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, this warm Snuggie of a movie doesn't push against any conventions of the holiday season, subvert any Yuletide tropes, or even make that much sense. But none of that matters when you've got scenes like the above.
The Ref (1994)
The married couple in this pitch-black comedy, played by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, could be the most unpleasant romantic pairing in any Christmas movie ever. They'll make you appreciate your own irritating relatives. When the two are taken hostage by a roguish thief (Denis Leary, hot off his 1993 No Cure for Cancer stand-up special), the film gets even more acerbic and nasty, culminating in a farcical dinner scene that will have you coming back for seconds. Just make sure to watch this one after the kids go to bed.
Love Actually (2003)
Richard Curtis’ overlapping-stories rom-com has become a polarizing flick in recent years, many arguing that the film is too sickly sweet for its own good. But if you’re the type who tends to get sentimental at the airport arrivals gate, watching this group of high-wattage, British thespians, including Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman (RIP), Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, and The Walking Dead's Andrew Lincoln, navigate love under the mistletoe, the movie is a perfect seasonal reminder that love actually is all around.
Black Mirror's "White Christmas"
Charlie Brooker's 73-minute Christmas special interweaves three tales of techno-paranoia to tackle the future of dating, hiring personal assistants, and blocking people. Though Jon Hamm's megawatt power can be distracting at times, he's the linchpin of this still-potent 2014 Black Mirror gem, which ends with a resounding WUT?! Fans frequently cite this gripping entry as one of their favorites -- if not favorite -- and rightfully so. Just be sure to leave your optimism at the door.
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
When the world cried out for a ridiculous version of Miracle on 34th Street, actor Jim Varney answered its prayers. As far as lowbrow slapstick shticks go, Varney’s Ernest P. Worrell ranks among the best. His heart-of-gold keeps this buddy comedy -- Santa Claus being the buddy -- surprisingly watchable family entertainment.
Sean Baker shot this 2015 award-winning dramedy entirely on an iPhone 5s. Sound like a gimmick? Crazed camerawork proves your do-it-all phone is also the greatest conduit for electric, kaleidoscopic adventure. Set on the streets Los Angeles, the movie follows trans sex worker Sin-Dee Rella, fresh from a 28-day prison stint, as she hunts down her cheating boyfriend on Christmas Eve. While urgent and modern, Tangerine is still a throwback to road movies and old-school farce. Wild, from surface to core -- just like the holidays!
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Subliminal pro-Macy's marketing be damned, George Seaton's fanciful story of Kris Kringle, and the trial to prove he's the real deal, is an ode to the transformative power of believing in something positive. For all the star power in this movie (including a young Natalie Wood as Susan, the girl who needs to believe), it's Edmund Gwenn as Kris who remains so pure and positive, you really might believe he is Santa by the end. Miracle on 34th Street hovers under To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry Men as one of the great courtroom dramas (even if the legal proceedings don't make a lick of sense), but you'll be too lost in the twinkle of this movie to ever think of it as such.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Depending on how you look at it, While You Were Sleeping is either a sweet rom-com fable about true love or a disturbing portrait of a sociopath. A post-Speed Sandra Bullock plays a lonely subway token-taker who rescues a dashing man (Peter Gallagher) after he stumbles onto the train tracks. Charming, right? Well, after the accident, the man falls into a coma and Bullock pretends to be his fiancée, mourning by his hospital bed, celebrating the holidays with his doting family, and eventually falling in love with his brother (a furniture-building Bill Pullman). Like many screwball protagonists, Bullock lies her whole way through the movie, and the script plays all of her deceptions as lighthearted farce, but with a few tweaks, this could be a Christmas horror classic. Even the title is creepy.
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
"We've got food, we've got booze, we've got attractive people" -- this is a real line from last year's Bill Murray-led holiday romp. Also, a bit of an understatement. George Clooney, Chris Rock, Miley Cyrus, Amy Poehler, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Cera, Maya Rudolph, Rashida Jones, and Paul Shaffer are all on hand to argue, laugh, and make your Christmas Eve feel a little like a star-studded night of karaoke. Clocking in at less than an hour, the Sofia Coppola-helmed special is well worth a watch if any of the names above make you smile.
Fireplace for Your Home (2013)
An experimental film about the decaying phases of a roaring fire. OK, no, it’s a frickin’ yule log. But enjoy its endless crackling!
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