The art of coziness can mean different things to different people. For many of us, it’s nestling into a comfy spot on the sofa with a cup of piping-hot cocoa and putting on a movie or TV show that allows us to forget our worries and transports us to a place of pure enjoyment. And it’s no secret that we now find ourselves in the season where coziness is king.
Fortunately, Netflix has you covered with some especially cozy offerings. Here are a dozen (nine films and three bingeable TV series) that we’ve handpicked to get you through the depths of winter. All you need to do is provide the PJs and the throw blanket.
As Good as It Gets (1997)
James L. Brooks directs the kind of smart, sophisticated adult comedies that Hollywood doesn’t seem much interested in anymore. They’re also perfect for days spent on the couch when the mercury drops (see Broadcast News, etc.). This one, which recently made its way onto the streaming service, is a perfect example. Jack Nicholson plays a curmudgeonly obsessive-compulsive New York novelist who enjoys insulting friends and strangers alike. Helen Hunt plays a hard-luck waitress struggling to pay for her sick son’s medical treatment. They’re as unlikely a couple as you could ever imagine. But, to quote the movie, she makes him want to be a better man. Thanks to Brooks’ deft plotting and unexpected punch lines (not to mention his two stars’ Oscar-winning performances), it works beautifully.
Watch it: As Good as It Gets
Big Fish (2003)
Director Tim Burton’s movies have always tended to be more creepy than cozy. But this very un-Burton-like fantasy is his warmest (and perhaps most personal) story to date. A lot of the credit for this charming father-and-son tale belongs to Albert Finney, a legend and a lion who plays an elderly man on his deathbed who’s always told his estranged son (Billy Crudup) the tallest of tales about his life. But as the son looks a little deeper into his dad’s wild youthful adventures, they turn out to be more truthful than he ever imagined. Ewan McGregor plays the younger Finney, and the sparkle in his eyes throughout is Burton’s best special effect. Movies, especially Tim Burton movies, don’t come much sweeter.
Watch it: Big Fish
Going in Style (2017)
A frisky, rollicking update of the great 1979 senior-citizen crime caper that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg, this contemporary retooling equals the original’s note-perfect casting courtesy of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin, who play a trio of sprightly coots who decide to spice up their boring, pigeon-feeding lives with some good old-fashioned larceny. The actual heist is almost beside the point. The real fun of the movie is watching these three Hollywood pros bicker and banter while discovering the fountain-of-youth side effects of planning their job. Crime may not pay, but in this case it certainly can make you feel like a young buck again.
The Holiday (2006)
Between the past two years of COVID and now, with winter’s chill closing in, chances are you’re probably getting pretty sick and tired of your surroundings. Well, writer-director Nancy Meyers’ 2006 romantic comedy is the perfect prescription for both your loneliness and your wanderlust. Two women — one American (Cameron Diaz) and one British (Kate Winslet) — swap homes over Christmas while nursing bad breakups. In their temporary and picture-postcard new settings, they both fall in love with charming local guys (Jude Law and ... Jack Black?!). Yes, The Holiday is totally contrived and full of more real estate porn than a season’s worth of Selling Sunset, but its guilty-pleasure pull is undeniable. Resistance is futile.
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Howards End (1992)
Beginning to detect a theme with some of these selections? I guess there’s just something about the English and their country estates that gives off coziness vibes. And no one knew how to make movies for cold winter nights, a warm cup of Earl Grey and a flickering hearth like the good-taste team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, famous for their Brit-lit adaptations (A Room With a View, The Remains of the Day). In this handsome take on E.M. Forster’s classic novel, Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson comprise a Masterpiece Theatre dream team acting out this knotty tale of inheritance, romance and betrayal. But it’s Thompson who steals the show, thanks to both her sense and sensibility.
Lady Bird (2017)
Director Greta Gerwig’s female coming-of-age dramatic comedy hit theaters in 2017, but it’s easy to imagine it coming out in 1987 and starring Molly Ringwald. Instead — and this is no consolation, since she’s brilliant — we have Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird, the sort of teenage iconoclast who yearns for someplace a lot cooler than her California hometown. The usual humiliations and peer pressures of high school are on display, but Ronan (because of her smarts as an actress and a character) elevates them into seemingly existential trials. But what really elevates the film a couple of notches above its typical teen misfit predecessors is the hilariously spiky (but oh-so-truthful) relationship between Ronan’s Lady Bird and her mom, gloriously played by Laurie Metcalf, who, in a just world, would have walked off with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Watch it: Lady Bird
My Fair Lady (1964)
Netflix does many things well, but the one section of its menu that tends to be a little thin is movies made before the 1980s. So it’s a nifty surprise to find this beloved musical in its streaming catalog. Even if you’ve never actually seen this delightful makeover tale, it should seem familiar, since it’s been copied by everyone from The Simpsons to Pretty Woman. The incandescent Audrey Hepburn plays a cockney waif who is transformed into a lady of class by Rex Harrison. And he, in turn, finds himself transformed, too. Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s score is a master class in they-don’t-make-’em-like-they-used-to Hollywood classics. Not for nothing did it win eight Oscars, including Best Picture.
Stand By Me (1986)
Director Rob Reiner’s nostalgic coming-of-age tale (based on a Stephen King novel) manages to be a feel-good delight and also a bittersweet glance back at the best time of life long after it’s vanished. Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell and River Phoenix (unforgettable) play childhood pals who hear about a dead body several towns over and set out to get a look at it. The movie is more about the journey than the destination, though, as the best friends share their hopes and fears over campfires and laughter. An absolute delight.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
A classic of every cracked ’70s childhood, the original Willy Wonka (steer clear of Tim Burton’s off-key 2005 remake) remains delightfully scrumdiddlyumptious thanks to Gene Wilder’s slightly deranged take on Roald Dahl’s eccentric confectioner. Four spoiled brats (plus poor ragamuffin Charlie Bucket) win a tour of the sugary savant’s wacky factory only to meet their just desserts. The songs are great, the sets are outrageous eye candy and the wholesome message has no expiration date. Warning: Watching it (and all of its mouthwatering Oompa-Loompa-made treats) may give you the munchies, so have some fun-size snacks handy. If you’ve still got a sweet tooth (of a more adult variety) afterward, try the swoony Chocolat (also on Netflix).
Plus three bingeable TV series …
When it comes to cozy fireside entertainment, the Brits know a thing or two. And between the upper-crust comforts of Bridgerton and The Crown, Netflix has you more than covered. But the series that serves up the most bingeable bang for your buck is Julian Fellowes’ upstairs-downstairs soap opera about the never-boring Crawley clan and the equally incident-prone men and women who cater to them. The nonstop melodrama will keep you glued to your set, but the family’s envy-inducing Edwardian manor (with its emerald gardens, dark-paneled studies and bottomless snifters of brandy) will keep you snuggled up under a blanket.
Watch it: Downton Abbey
The Great British Baking Show
If you haven’t binged this addictive reality contest yet, what are you waiting for? Seasons 5 to 9 of this feel-good juggernaut are just a click away (the first four seasons left Netflix on Jan. 1). The premise: A dozen or so amateur bakers from every corner of the U.K. meet up under a tent in the English countryside to square off in the kitchen, whipping up cakes, tarts and whatever other mystery treats the judges have in store for them. Half of the show’s immense joy is watching these hopefuls measure and mix their assigned recipes; the other is the selfless camaraderie they all seem to share in their quest to be each week’s top baker. There is something decidedly un-American about this show in that the competitors aren’t all that competitive with one another. They just love to bake for the sake of baking. It’s a balm for the soul — and may even get you to try your hand at making a Linzer torte afterward.
Watch it: The Great British Baking Show
Netflix offers more than a few fantastic nature series narrated by the one and only Sir David Attenborough. His liltingly jolly, sandpaper voice is a global treasure, as is his lifelong mission of making the planet feel not only smaller but also like it's something we need to protect. With impossibly gorgeous wildlife photography and enlightening, informative nuggets about the ins and outs of Earth’s stranger-than-fiction animal kingdom, this is the rare program that manages to be educational without being dry or preachy. Whether waxing rhapsodic about polar bears, Siberian tigers or the cartoonishly bizarre creatures lurking at the bottom of the ocean, Attenborough (and his cozy, Santa Claus narrative style) makes the world feel smaller and more wondrous than before. Our Planet is also proof that just because you want to do some chillaxing doesn’t mean you have to check your brain at the door.
Watch it: Our Planet
Chris Nashawaty, former film critic for Entertainment Weekly, is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story and a contributor to Esquire, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.