We have been heralding the return of the rom-com all year, recognizing Netflix as leading the way in its resurgence with adored favorites like Set It Up and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Now in the throes of the holiday season, the romantic comedy flourishes with mistletoe meet-cutes, ice skating rendezvouses, and magical kisses in the falling snow. It’s no surprise, given the growing demand for rom-coms, that Netflix has started to produce their own holiday films. At the time of this article’s publication, they have released five holiday-centric romantic comedies, and we’re sure this is only the first of many. We’ve ranked them below, so you know how to prioritize your Christmas rom-com queue.
5. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding
Even A Christmas Prince is not immune from sequel-syndrome. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding is an overstuffed follow-up to last year’s holiday romance hit. Royal Wedding follows Amber (Rose McIver), as she prepares to marry King Edward and become “Queen of small country.” Only clocking in at a little more than 90 minutes, Royal Wedding feels like three hours, a montage of wedding planning, royal protocols, and saving a country from economic ruin. It’s missing the warmth and sweet irony that made audiences fall in love with its predecessor.
4. The Holiday Calendar
Call me a cynic, but whenever “magic” is involved in a holiday rom-com, I have a hard time accepting it. In The Holiday Calendar, aspiring photographer Abby (Kat Graham) receives an advent calendar from her grandpa (Ron Cephas Jones), and each day, the calendar magically opens one door, leaving a holiday-themed clue on what will happen that day. Before she realizes it, Abby is caught up in a new romance, all the while her lifelong best friend Josh (Quincy Brown) returns to town in hopes of winning Abby’s heart.
The film’s concept, revolving around the calendar, loses its charm fast, as it drags the story out and takes away from the interactions between Abby and the people in her small town. While Kat Graham is delightful as Abby, and Quincy Brown is charming as Josh, the two never establish an intimate enough chemistry to make me believe that they should be more than friends.
3. Christmas Inheritance
Christmas Inheritance was lost in the wake of A Christmas Prince when it was released in 2017. While it may not have gotten as much buzz, it is still a worthy addition to this growing line-up of films. Starring The 100’s Eliza Taylor, the film follows an heiress, Ellen (Taylor), who must visit her father hometown of Snow Falls to hand-deliver a letter, in order to claim her father’s business as her inheritance. Unsurprisingly, a snowstorm traps Ellen in Snow Falls and her time there illuminates secrets from her dad’s past, and a local, Jake (Jake Lacy), captures Ellen’s heart.
The plot itself is obviously not something to boast about, following formula to a T, but the chemistry between Taylor and Lacy is wonderful. I don’t know why Lacy isn’t the new leading man for more rom-coms because his screen presence is immediately magnetic. Taylor is also great in this, and it shows her range by stepping into a role so different than The 100.
2. The Princess Switch
I’m a sucker for stories where dopplegangers switch lives and realize how the other half lives. So, when Netflix announced The Princess Switch, starring Vanessa Hudgens, I made sure to clear my evening schedule the day it debuted. Hudgens stars as the two leads, one a duchess, who is arranged to marry the prince of some fictional European country, and the other a baker, who is visiting said country from Chicago for a bake-off competition. When the two women meet, they agree to switch lives for a few days, but what they didn’t expect was to fall in love with the men in the other woman’s lives.
The Princess Switch is delightful, but there is a part of it that was trying too hard. I know these movies are not meant to be subtle, but The Princess Switch missed out on having that fine balance of being just outrageous enough to be acceptably believable. Regardless, the movie establishes excellent chemistry between Hudgens’ characters and their respective love interests. Nick Sagar, who plays Kevin, a fellow baker, is particularly noteworthy. Kevin may not be a character who is immune to the rom-com formula, but Sagar imbues such charisma in the character, that I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of him in this genre.
1. A Christmas Prince
It’s hard to measure up to the film that arguably started the Christmas rom-com renaissance. A Christmas Prince follows aspiring journalist, Amber, as she sneaks undercover as a tutor, to get a scoop on the Royal Family of another fictional European country. Rumors have it that Prince Richard may abdicate the throne, and the country is in need of a new king. Amber immerses herself in the royal family, bonding with Prince Richard’s little sister. Ultimately, Amber and the Prince begin to have feelings for each other, while the country’s future leadership remains at stake.
Sure, Hallmark and Lifetime have been producing these films for years, but Netflix captured magic in a bottle with A Christmas Prince, adding in a tiny drip of irony and self-awareness to make it stand out from the rest. The other Netflix originals on this list have a shade of this, but they don’t incorporate it as well as A Christmas Prince, which is why it tops this year’s list. It’s beyond the “so bad, it’s good” idea and fully embraces every trope in the holiday romantic comedy wholeheartedly.
All of the movies listed are now streaming on Netflix.