Netflix Holiday Viewing Guide

By Phill Powell

It’s that time of year again. Time to gather with family and friends and have a huge meal and quickly unwrap a pile of presents. And then what do you do? Easy peasy…you crank up the Netflix and settle in for a long winter’s view.

We thought it might be helpful to give you a quick guide to the most notable holiday movies on Netflix…and whether to see ‘em or flee ‘em.

Best Holiday Movies on Netflix

White-christmas-lobby-cardThe best and brightest holiday musical remains the classic White Christmas.

Holiday Movie: White Christmas
Year: 1954
Stars: Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye
Why It’s a Holiday Classic: Maybe the most pleasant holiday movie ever made. A breezy backstage comedy about one entertainment team (Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye) mixing it up romantically with another (Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen) at a Vermont ski lodge. Great comedy, amazing songs and dancing, a little holiday schmaltz and skilled direction from the man who made Casablanca. Trust us on this one; White Christmas really delivers the entertainment goods.

Planes-trains-and-automobilesToo much “together” time: Steve Martin and John Candy take the long way home in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

Holiday Movie: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Year: 1987
Stars: Steve Martin, John Candy
Why It’s a Holiday Classic: No film ever understood the various headaches and hassles that accompany the holiday travel experience better than John Hughes’ lovable comedy classic. Normal guy Steve Martin is just trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving dinner, but fate blocks his path at every turn. Soon he’s forced to shlep his way across country using every form of travel known to man, teamed with the most annoying companion in human history, played with gusto by John Candy.

I-am-santa-clausI Am Santa Claus shows the intense training it takes to stay in Santa shape.

Holiday Movie: I Am Santa Claus
Year: 2014
Stars: Santa Claus (or guys who look like him)
Why It’s a Holiday Classic: If you’ve ever wondered about the guys who don the red suits and white beards each Christmas season, this is the documentary for you. I Am Santa Claus follows the daily routines of professional Santa actors, showing you what their lives are like during the other eleven months of the year. It’s not an easy gig, and you’ll come away from this cool doc with a newfound respect for the men who would be Kris Kringle. Best moment: One Santa preps for the role in two ways at once, by having his white-hair dye job touched up while he devours a jelly donut.

ScroogedThe withering sneer of Christmas cheer: Bill Murray in Scrooged.

Holiday Movie: Scrooged
Year: 1988
Stars: Bill Murray
Why It’s a Holiday Classic: It’s a modern update on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Smarmy Bill Murray takes the Ebenezer Scrooge character to a whole new place of smugness and sarcasm. Murray’s Frank Cross is a network TV exec who has the fancy office and silk suits, but lacks any human warmth or soul. As the story dictates, he must be shown the error of his ways, and that occurs with the help of a guiding ghost, in the form of a grubby New York cabbie who chauffeurs Murray around a frightening Manhattan.

Nightmare-before-christmasThe holidays intermingle with eye-dazzling results in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.

Holiday Movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Year: 1993
Stars: Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara
Why It’s a Holiday Classic: It’s a clever showdown of holidays in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, mashing up Halloween and Christmas and creating an imaginative tale that’s brilliantly told in stop-motion animation (and actually directed by Henry Selick, a master of that animation). In the story, the mayor of Halloweentown, a plucky skeleton named Jack Skellington, launches a plot to take over Christmas. Critic Roger Ebert was blown away by the amazing look of the world Jack inhabits, comparing it to the rich and original visuals created for Star Wars.

Worst Holiday Movies on Netflix

Christmas-with-the-kranksNever have so many suffered for so little: Jamie Lee Curtis seriously loses direction in Christmas with the Kranks.

Holiday Movie: Christmas with the Kranks
Year: 2002
Stars: Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis
Why It’s Ho-Ho-Horrible: Maybe the least pleasant holiday movie ever made. Empty-nest couple decides to forego Christmas for once and take a holiday cruise instead. But that just won’t fly in their uptight neighborhood, where constant Christmas cheer is nearly enforced by law. Disturbing in its meaning and insulting to the many big-name actors (e.g., Dan Aykroyd) who appear in this dopey, unfunny mess.

Reindeer-gamesUh-oh! Santa’s down to his last clip. Affleck prepares to send season’s greetings, in Reindeer Games.

Holiday Movie: Reindeer Games
Year: 2000
Stars: Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise
Why It’s Ho-Ho-Horrible: Affleck teams up with an embittered Gary Sinise to knock off an Indian casino. Then Affleck gets double-crossed. Then he learns the true meaning of Christmas; we kid you not. At times, it’s bad in an enjoyable, laughable way, but most of the time Reindeer Games is predictable and worn-out holiday fare (with character names like Nick and Rudy – you guessed it, as a nod to Santa and Rudolph). This holiday-themed action vehicle is an overloaded sleigh that smashes into a brick chimney at 90 mph.

Jack-frostLook upon the new face of holiday terror: Jack Frost, the serial-killer snowman!

Holiday Movie: Jack Frost
Year: 1996
Stars: None
Why It’s Ho-Ho-Horrible: The movie’s concept is a killer. Get ready: He’s a slasher…and a snowman. A serial killer named Jack Frost is being transported to his execution when a freak collision occurs, involving a truck carrying genetic material. Through his exposure to the body-altering chemicals, Jack Frost morphs into a killer snowman, intent on wreaking bloody revenge on the citizens of Snowmonton. Often described as a “comedy-horror film,” Jack Frost never recovers from its oh-so-lame premise.

Santa-baby-2-christmas-maybeJenny McCarthy is Santa’s daughter and best helper in Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe.

Holiday Movie: Santa Baby 2: Christmas Maybe
Year: 2009
Stars: Jenny McCarthy, Paul Sorvino
Why It’s Ho-Ho-Horrible: This made-for-TV sequel returns blonde bombshell Jenny McCarthy as Mary Claus, Santa’s actual daughter. It’s a bit like the old “Bewitched” TV show, with McCarthy hiding her real identity by running a cutting-edge ad agency. An odd comedy and probably your only chance to see Paul Sorvino – that’s right, Paulie, the mob boss from Goodfellas – as a most unorthodox Saint Nick. (Hear Santa sing! See Santa go to jail!)

Santa-claus-conquers-the-martiansOnce seen, never forgotten: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Holiday Movie: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Year: 1964
Stars: None
Why It’s Ho-Ho-Horrible: Just take a moment and savor that bizarre title: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. True to its billing, the plot involves Martians actually kidnapping and trying to kill Santa, who is saved by a couple of resourceful Martian kids and some good-hearted, clanking robots. The film (and its no-name cast) is so terrible that it routinely gets mentioned among the worst movies ever made of any kind. The film is so famously awful that it has its own cult of fans and has even spawned a novel and a musical. Now that’s bad…

Now Go Behind the Camera
Christmas is a great time to chill out with some streaming holiday viewing. This summer will be a great time to learn filmmaking, at a Digital Media Academy tech camp. DMA film camps offer kids (ages 8 to 12) and teens (ages 12 to 17) a chance to get hands-on experience shooting and editing their own films. Courses are led by industry professionals who know how to inspire students to produce their best efforts. With more than 20 DMA tech camp locations across the U.S. and Canada, DMA’s 2015 summer camp season will be its biggest and best yet. Register now!

Happy holidays from DMA!