En español | You may think that the Hallmark Channel has cornered the market on Christmas movies, but Netflix has thrown its Santa hat in the ring in a big way over the past few years. The streaming giant's slate of original holiday content runs the gamut from romantic comedies and big-budget musicals to family fantasy films, with a few festive series and documentaries thrown under the tree for good measure. This ultimate 12-day watch list promises a sweet ending to a doozy of a year.
Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker (2020)
The plot: Between starring in and executive producing Grey's Anatomy and directing Dolly Parton's new holiday musical (see below), Debbie Allen, 70, isn't letting 2020 slow her down. This new documentary takes a deep dive into the former Fame star's other day job: founder and teacher at L.A.'s Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Get a behind-the-scenes look at her updated take on the ballet classic, which incorporates tap, jazz and hip-hop and is set to a score by Mariah Carey (50), Arturo Sandoval (71), James Ingram and more.
Watch if … your local ballet isn't performing The Nutcracker this year and you still want to get your holiday extravaganza fix.
Where to watch: Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
The plot: In this lush period musical with songs by John Legend and others, Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, 59, stars as a toymaker named Jeronicus Jangle who is betrayed when his apprentice, Gustafson (Keegan Michael-Key), steals the plans for his talking, singing matador doll Don Juan Diego (voiced by Ricky Martin). Populating this musical village are Downton Abbey patriarch Hugh Bonneville, 57, and Broadway's Anika Noni Rose, but you're sure to fall in love with 11-year-old breakout Madalen Mills, who plays Jeronicus’ spunky granddaughter.
Watch if … you miss going to the theater and need a toe-tapping new musical to sing along to.
Where to watch: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square (2020)
The plot: Dolly's generosity made headlines this year when her $1 million donation helped fund a COVID-19 vaccine. Consider her the 2020 gift that keeps on giving: The Queen of Country's latest offering is this campy musical, directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen. Parton, 74, stars as a homeless angel who tries to convince the Scrooge-like Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski, 68) not to sell her hometown's land to a mall developer. Black-ish matriarch Jenifer Lewis, 63, costars as the beauty shop owner, Margeline.
Watch if … you think A Christmas Carol could use a few more rhinestones.
Where to watch: Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square
The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
The plot: If you still think of Kurt Russell, 69, as a teen Disney star or a 1980s heartthrob, it may take a few seconds to adjust to his bushy white beard and red suit. But he makes a mighty fine Santa in this fantasy film by Home Alone director Chris Columbus, 62, about two kids who stow away on his sleigh. Goldie Hawn, 75, had a cameo as Mrs. Claus in the 2018 original and shows up in a much bigger way in the sequel, The Christmas Chronicles 2, released this Thanksgiving weekend. It's the perfect lightweight entertainment — complete with animated elves — for a multigenerational Zoom watch party.
Watch if … you're in the mood to pour yourself some mulled wine and hang out with Hollywood's coolest power couple for a few hours.
Where to watch: The Christmas Chronicles
Holiday in the Wild (2019)
The plot: When her husband abruptly ends their marriage, Kate Conrad (Sex and the City star Kristin Davis, 55) decides to spend her holidays alone on the second honeymoon they had planned to take together to Zambia. Once there, she meets charismatic pilot Derek Hollistan (Rob Lowe, 56) — and, perhaps more importantly, a baby elephant whose mother has been killed by poachers. It doesn't take long to start imagining the trio posing for next year's family Christmas card.
Watch if … you think no Nativity scene is complete without a few safari animals thrown in for good measure.
Where to watch: Holiday in the Wild
Dash & Lily (2020)
The plot: Based on a series of young adult novels and squarely aimed at a younger audience, this eight-episode romantic comedy series will nonetheless win you over with its effortlessly wholesome charm. Austin Abrams and Midori Francis star as the namesake duo of Big Apple teenagers who fall in love over the holiday season, but their relationship comes with a catch that might remind you of You've Got Mail: They only communicate with one another by writing clues, dares and secrets in a red notebook that they pass back and forth around New York City.
Watch if … you're looking for a cool new show to chat about with your grandkids.
Where to watch: Dash & Lily
Holiday Rush (2019)
The plot: A Million Little Things actor Romany Malco, 52, stars as widowed DJ Rashon “Rush” Williams, who loses his job when his station changes format. He and his producer, Roxy (Star Trek: Discovery's Sonequa Martin-Green), buy the old station where they used to work, and sparks begin to fly one holiday season. In a fun twist, Rush and his kids are forced to move in with his Auntie Jo, played by none other than Darlene Love, the vocal legend behind 1963's “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Watch if … you've worn out your copy of A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector and want to hear Love blow the roof off the joint with a classic.
Where to watch: Holiday Rush
RELATED: Do you know how old Brenda Lee was when she recorded her holiday hit “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree"? Was she 21 or 13? Discover the answer to this and other fantastic Christmas music trivia in our new holiday quiz: How Well Do You Know Your Christmas Carols?
The plot: Netflix's first original animated feature offers a revisionist Santa Claus origin story, told through a crisp 2-D animation style that will trigger a bit of nostalgia. Jason Schwartzman stars as Jesper Johansson, the spoiled son of the royal postmaster general, who is sent to work in the remote Scandinavian outpost of Smeerensburg. Here, he befriends a reclusive toymaker named Klaus (J.K. Simmons, 65), and the two work together to make and deliver toys to the children in the town. The under-the-radar film was nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature.
Watch if … you're desperate to introduce your grandkids to a wintry cartoon that isn't Frozen.
Where to watch: Klaus
Operation Christmas Drop (2020)
The plot: In this military-themed romance, a workaholic congressional aide (Kat Graham) heads to a U.S. Air Force base in Guam with one goal from her boss (Virginia Madsen, 59): Figure out an excuse to shut it down. Once she arrives, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who teaches her about the movie's namesake real-life tradition. Since 1952, the Department of Defense has airlifted gifts and supplies to remote islands around the South Pacific.
Watch if … you're dreaming of a white (sand) Christmas.
Where to watch: Operation Christmas Drop
A Christmas Prince (2017)
The plot: One of Netflix's first forays into Hallmark Channel territory, this romance follows a young American journalist, Amber Moore (Rose McIver), as she travels to the fictional nation of Aldovia to cover the ascension of its new king, Richard (Ben Lamb), to the throne. With its snowy horseback rides and sumptuous Christmas Eve Ball, it became an instant holiday cult classic and even spawned two sequels, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018) and A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019).
Watch if … you're obsessed with Meghan Markle and can't wait for her season of The Crown in a few years.
Where to watch: A Christmas Prince
The Princess Switch (2018)
The plot: If you've spent any time watching musicals with your grandchildren, you might recognize Vanessa Hudgens from her roles in Grease: Live, Rent: Live or the High School Musical franchise. Here, she does double duty in a contemporary twist on The Prince and the Pauper as a Chicago baker who heads to a prestigious competition in the kingdom of Belgravia, where she meets the prince's fiancée — her identical look-alike! For two days over the holidays, they swap places and learn about life on the other side. This winter brings a sequel, The Princess Switch: Switched Again, which adds a third look-alike and cameos by Amber and Richard from A Christmas Prince.
Watch if … you wish you could swap places with a look-alike who could take care of the shopping, decorating, wrapping, baking, cooking …
Where to watch: The Princess Switch
A Very Murray Christmas (2015)
The plot: It helps to have talented friends. In this irreverent homage to Christmas variety specials, Bill Murray, 70, teams up with Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola and musical director Paul Shaffer, 71. It's Christmas Eve, and Murray is waiting in his suite at Manhattan's Carlyle Hotel as an impending blizzard threatens to cancel his show. As he wanders the halls of the hotel and its iconic Bemelmans Bar, he performs classic and contemporary carols with the likes of Chris Rock, 55, George Clooney, 59, Miley Cyrus and Maya Rudolph.
Watch if … you miss singing carols around the piano with friends after a few too many eggnogs.
Where to watch: A Very Murray Christmas