New 2023 Netflix Christmas Movies (and Other Streamers) Ranked from Worst to Best

Movies
new-2023-netflix-christmas-movies-(and-other-streamers)-ranked-from-worst-to-best

While you can always rely on Hallmark and other channels to provide a frankly overwhelming number of new Christmas movies each year, the streaming services have all been slower to crank out their own Yuletide romcoms and North Pole-centric misadventures. This year there are a solid half-dozen options among four streamers, starring plenty of familiar faces going through the usual holiday hijinks in suburbia: Christmas cards, delayed toy delivery, body swaps. If you’ve seen it before, you can expect it again with pretty paper and a bow!

I’m gonna warn you now though, there are no bonafide modern classics in this year’s batch (she said, wishing Netflix would gift us a fourth Christmas Prince), but neither are they all lumps of coal. The ones that tackle the debate of Santa’s existence do so in ways unique from one another, and the movies on this list that are most successful are the ones that get super myopic about holiday traditions—just like their protagonists, and their viewers.

Without further ado, here’s our ranking of this year’s holiday streaming offerings.

Jennifer Garner in Family Switch

6. Family Switch (Netflix)

It was too good to be true that Jennifer Garner could star in a family-friendly flick that could recapture the magic of either 13 Going on 30 or Freaky Friday. We just don’t care enough about the Walker family to be invested when uptight workaholic mom Jess (Garner) and goofy husband Bill (Ed Helms) swap bodies with their kids: soccer star CC (Emma Myers) and bullied genius Wyatt (Brady Noon).

Worst of all, it’s hardly a Christmas movie! Sure, Garner and Helms kick things off with a color-coordinated candy cane dance routine, but when we circle around to the inevitable scene in which the “kids” bust their parents’ moves at a teen house party, it’s not scored to cringingly earnest Christmas music… it’s just, well, “Bust a Move,” though that actually turns out to be the sweetest part of the movie. But yeah, despite all the lessons learned about accepting each other’s foibles, there is hardly a whiff of holiday spirit in this body swap.

The Claus Family 3 Poster

5. The Claus Family 3 (Netflix)

One of Netflix’s many Christmas-centric franchises, the Claus Family films cleverly riff on the idea of kids eventually learning the “truth” about Santa. In this case, it’s that he is their kindly grandfather Noël Claus (Jan Decleir). While young Jules (Mo Bakker) has had two movies to accept not only that, but that as the grandson he will eventually inherit the toy delivery calling, this time around it’s his sister Noor’s (Amber Metdepenningen) turn to be let in on the secret when they need more help to get toys into little kids’ hands.

Except that the plot isn’t that different from the first two Claus Family adventures, even with the bizarre subplot of Noël getting kidnapped in Mexico and a cheeky bit involving elves in the sauna. Really though, they can’t hold a candle to Peppermint, who you’ll meet much further down this list.

Melissa McCarthy in Genie

4. Genie (Peacock)

I know. How could Richard Curtis not have managed to crack the front end of the list? But there is no Love Actually all around in this remake of his own 1991 British TV movie, Bernard and the Genie, in which an average guy accidentally summons a wish-granting being for the holidays. This time it’s gender-swapped, with Melissa McCarthy playing the goofy genie Flora to Paapa Essiedu’s Bernard—not to mention the fact that his wishes are unlimited, so there are no plot constraints to their holiday hijinks.

The movie has garnered comparisons to Elf for its titular fish-out-of-water protagonist, but watching Flora wash her hair in a toilet and otherwise interact with the human realm in baffling ways lacks the tenderness of Buddy the Elf searching for how to actually fit into his birth father’s world. You get the impression that while Flora might help Bernard mend his broken relationship with his wife and daughter through some creative-but-not-manipulative wishes, she’ll eventually go back into her antique jewel box unchanged except for a makeover.

Lil Rey Howery in Dashing Through the Snow

3. Dashing Through the Snow (Disney+)

While Candy Cane Lane has an excellent cameo for a Black Santa, it’s more of a one-off joke. Conversely, Dashing Through the Snow leans fully into the premise. Lil Rel Howery is Nicholas Sinter-Claus, who might be a petty criminal, a delusional fool… or possibly even the real deal. It’s like Miracle on 34th Street with the extremely specific Christmas trauma of disbelieving dad Eddie Garrick (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) being unwilling to take Nick in good faith because a Mall Santa robbed his house when he was a child.

But thankfully Eddie’s daughter Charlotte (Madison Skye Validum) has enough Christmas spirit for both of them, and so they wind up tagging on Nick’s adventures around town, outrunning a corrupt politician while also possibly delivering presents. He certainly has the uncanny ability to know what every single person has on their Christmas list, making even the most cynical adults recall a time when they got exactly what they asked for.

Heather Graham in Best Christmas Ever

2. Best. Christmas. Ever! (Netflix)

Here’s where we get gratifyingly granular, with a movie whose inciting incident is a Christmas card. Viewers will definitely sympathize with Charlotte Sanders’ (Heather Graham) jealous frustration reading her college bestie’s annual holiday missives, as the recipients of such a breathlessly detailed annual update. That envy contributes to a comedy of errors where Charlotte, husband Rob (Jason Biggs), and endearingly weirdo kids Dora (Abby Villasmil) and Grant (Wyatt Hunt) wind up snowed in for the holidays with bubbly Jackie Jennings (Brandy Norwood) and her seemingly perfect family. They’re as idealized as they are in the card, from hunky husband Valentino (Matt Cedeño) to ridiculously precocious Beatrix (Madison Skye Validum, doing double duty this holiday season!).

And yet, this movie could have been so much more fun. There was a legit moment in which I wondered if we were headed into swingers territory with some old flames possibly being rekindled between Jackie and Rob, not to mention Charlotte obviously drooling over Valentino. But instead the mood swings wildly between those farcical bits to surprising depth about the pressure of covering over the disappointments and losses in your life when you only get one chance a year to make an impression on people who only know a version of you.

Still, even that message gets eclipsed by a baffling subplot involving a hot air balloon standing in for the “Star of Wonder,” and Charlotte’s metaphorical turn from Grinch to Mrs. Claus is pretty whiplash-inducing. That said, Beatrix’s detailed investigation into the truth about Santa was funnier than most kids’ Christmas movie antics.

Eddie Murphy Family in Candy Cane Lane

1. Candy Cane Lane (Amazon Prime Video)

Remember what I said about tunnel vision and the hubris of the holidays? Candy Cane Lane takes what could be an exhausted trope—suburban dads competing to have the best lawn decorations—and cranks it up to 11. True to his name, Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) puts care into his hand-carved lawn decorations, yet even those are not enough to be in the running for a local TV network’s $100,000 prize. But when he and daughter Holly (Madison Thomas) come across an only-slightly-shady toy shop called Kringle’s, they can’t resist peeking in—and what they find easily rivals Santa’s Workshop with its ingenuity and strangely lifelike glass figurines.

Desperate to win, Chris signs over more than just his holiday bonus to a bonkers elf named Peppermint (Jillian Bell, doing the absolute most and chewing the scenery like it’s gingerbread), and in return gets a seriously cool Christmas tree that sings “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Except that Chris didn’t read the fine print, and all of the wooden birds et al come to life. Before he knows it, Chris and his family must face off against ladies milking and lords-a-leapin’ in order to recover five golden rings before Chris gets turned into one of those glass figurines forever!

With such a premise, not to mention Bell sleigh-riding away with the movie, the Carvers get short-changed in the character development realm. We know just one fact each about musician son Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixson) and track star daughter Joy (Genneya Walton), and Tracee Ellis Ross gets completely dismissed as the breadwinner wife Carol. It would have been fun to watch the Carvers bring their unique talents to this kooky premise from the start, because Chris keeping the secret from them doesn’t actually generate any dramatic tension, and it doesn’t seem like he learns much by the end. But at least we got a Nick Offerman cameo and a holiday movie that goes for it, even if it’s the equivalent of an over-the-top lights display that you’ll still be blinking spots in your eyes from once you’re long past it.

Do you agree with our rankings, or did you find your own favorite among this year’s offerings?

The post New 2023 Netflix Christmas Movies (and Other Streamers) Ranked from Worst to Best appeared first on Den of Geek.

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