Netflix vs. Hallmark vs. Lifetime’s Christmas romance movies: who does it best?

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I got this idea from Screenrant, which compared Netflix and Hallmark’s Christmas movies. I understand why they limited their story to just those two services, but what about Lifetime? Lifetime has been doing more diverse somewhat less formulaic Christmas movies for years before Hallmark was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. (Read this article about Hilary Burton not working with Hallmark after they denied her request for more diversity on screen.)

I’m giving this one to Netflix, with Lifetime second and Hallmark third. Hallmark gets some points for sheer volume and for trying to feature people of color lately, although it took them an awful long time. Here are my favorite three movies from each service. My mom and I watch Christmas movies together, so my picks here are mostly films I’ve seen with her. I’m not a huge Christmas movie connoisseur and am likely missing some good ones. Honestly I’m looking up most of the plots of these movies because I only sort-of remember them. Most of the Christmas romance movies I’ve liked have left me with a vague happy feeling and aren’t particularly memorable.

Netflix: Holidate (2020)
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My mom and I just watched this over Zoom together Saturday. It was our first show over Zoom and it worked really well! We just queued it up to start at the same time. (Why doesn’t “Watch Together” work like that, Netflix?!) A single screwup with a meddling family (Emma Roberts) meets a hot Australian guy with commitment issues (Luke Bracey). They agree to be each other’s dates for holidays only. It’s funny, it’s dumb and it has plenty of over-the-top characters and plotlines. We enjoyed it and laughed a lot.

Netflix: The Princess Switch (2018)
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This is a ridiculous and fun movie where a baker from Chicago switches places with a duchess from “Belgravia” and they fall for the men in each other’s lives. Both roles are played by Vanessa Hudgens. There’s a sequel to this I haven’t seen yet called The Princess Switch: Switched Again where Hudgens plays three characters. I am so going to watch that.

Netflix: The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
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Also starring Vanessa Hudgens, The Knight Before Christmas features a medieval knight brought to the future by a witch’s curse. He gets taken in by Vanessa’s teacher character, where he binges television and learns about modern life from Alexa. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this one.

Lifetime: A Christmas Wish (2019)
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An art teacher fends off suitors after wishing for true love. This is a cute and goofy twist on a typical Christmas movie. It stars Hilarie Burton and Tyler Hilton, with a very special guest appearance from Pam Grier.

Lifetime: Christmas 9 to 5 (2019)
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A reporter goes undercover at a family department store that’s in danger of being sold to a corporation and losing decades of tradition. This stars Tiya Sircar (The Good Place) with a cute sideplot featuring George Wendt (Norm from Cheers).

Lifetime: The Spirit of Christmas (2015)
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We talked about this movie in episode seven of our podcast, where Kristy Puchko at Pajiba recommended it to me. A real estate lawyer visits a country inn to do an audit over Christmas, where she falls for a super hot ghost with mad mixology skills and a troubled past. That’s really the plot. This is on Hulu now!

Hallmark: Crown for Christmas (2015)
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Danica McKellar stars as an American hotel worker hired to be a governess for a precocious princess in the fictional country of Winshire. The hot prince brother of her charge ends up falling for her (spoiler) but unfortunately he’s expected to get engaged to another aristocrat. (Or are they already engaged? I forget.)

Hallmark: Fir Crazy (2013)
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A young woman takes over the day-to-day operations of her parents’ Christmas tree lot after she loses her job and her father breaks his leg. She catches the eye of an elementary teacher who keeps making excuses to buy trees from her.

Hallmark: A Royal Christmas (2014)
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Is it any wonder that there are so many royal Christmas movies on my list? I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten. (Sidenote: I only sort-of liked Netflix’s A Christmas Prince and couldn’t make it through the sequel, The Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding. There was also one starring Tara Reid which wasn’t bad, A Royal Christmas Ball!) This is an adorable movie where a seamstress from Philadelphia finds out her boyfriend is royal and has to go home with him for the holidays. His snooty mom, played by “one meal a day” Jane Seymour, doesn’t accept her at first.

Honorable mentions I’ve seen are Netflix’s The Holiday Calendar and Home for Christmas (check out my writeup on that!) and Hallmark’s Check Inn to Christmas and A Shoe Addict’s Christmas. Also I asked on Twitter for recommendations and people love Netflix’s new Dash and Lilly so that’s on my list. Other favorites are Mistletoe Promise, Most Wonderful Time of the Year, The Nine Lives of Christmas, Love at the Christmas Table, Undercover Christmas, A Christmas Duet, A Very Merry Mix-Up and A Diva’s Christmas Carol. (Thanks to Briana, Sharmila, Alicia, Joslynn and LJM!)

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Photos credit: Netflix, Lifetime and Hallmark

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28 Responses to “Netflix vs. Hallmark vs. Lifetime’s Christmas romance movies: who does it best?”

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  1. bonobochick says:

    I’ve been watching Lifetime movies more because they have embraced diversity longer. Hallmark is doing better *this year* with diversity but I’ve not forgotten their many years of being made to feel people of color don’t deserve love stories. Lifetime (and even Freeform when they aired holiday movies) has been there for me longer to spotlight Black women being shown some love. I appreciate that a lot considering how often we’re marginalized on that front.

    Movie suggestions:

    The Christmas Pact, The Christmas Inn, Wrapped Up in Christmas on Lifetime

    One Royal Holiday, Deliver By Christmas on Hallmark

    Operation Christmas Drop on Netflix

    The Spirit of Christmas on Hulu

    • DB says:

      Thank you for these suggestions. The ones I’ve seen are my favorites, so I’ll definitely check out the others. The Holiday Calendar with Kat Graham (Netflix) is also very good!

      • bonobochick says:

        Welcome! I hope you enjoy 😊

        “The Christmas Aunt” on Lifetime is good too.

        I still need to watch “Christmas Unwrapped” and “The Christmas Edition” on Lifetime. They’re on my DVR to watch during this upcoming holiday long weekend.

      • GenericUserName123 says:

        I watched that one last year and became obsessed with advent calendars!

  2. Lady Luna says:

    I honestly like Netflix’s movies better. Hallmark’s movies have become so predictable and the acting sometimes is so stiff.

  3. greenmonster says:

    I tried A Royal Christmas yesterday and didn’t make it through. I also tried the Vanessa Hudgens one and found it to be awful. I do love Jenny Nicholson’s Youtube video about Netflix’s A Christmas Prince. That is much better than the film itself.
    I stick with Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Family Christmas and A Divas’s Christmas Carol with Vanessa Williams when it comes to Christmas movies.

  4. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Lol, definitely in that order. Netflix, Lifetime, Hallmark. Although I’ve watched my personal share, it’s not my normal Xmas viewing. I’m more of a, ‘Die Hard’ (love getting into those arguments lol), Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Anything Dickensian or Tim Burton, Batman movies and Superman movies lol. Jim Carrey in The Grinch. And Ren and Stimpy. And Animaniacs.

  5. DB says:

    Thanks for writing this article. I just got into the tv Christmas movies over the past few years, but really enjoy them – especially this year when cute stories like these are so needed. But as a Black woman, I’m really annoyed with Hallmark. Given the sheer number of movies they churn out every year, it’s embarrassing how white they all are…with the same milquetoast actresses each year. Representation matters and it’s a cop out the way Hallmark will put BIPOC in random secondary/tertiary roles for diversity. There are only a handful of Hallmark movies I’ll watch (most of them star an old friend of mine). I enjoy Lifetime and Netflix so much more…less formulaic and more diverse stories. I especially like the ones with Tia and Tamera.

  6. Snuffles says:

    I’m ashamed to admit that I watched the Princess Switch and A Knight Before Christmas a STUPID amount of times. It was one of my ways of soothing myself during COVID and election stress. I enjoyed Holidate but not enough to watch it on repeat. I also thoroughly enjoyed Dash and Lily and will probably watch it again.

    ETA: I also want a sequel to Knight. In the post credits it hinted that the witch was going to do the same to Cole’s little brother who was knighted by the end of the movie.

  7. Mich says:

    I live in the styx with limited bandwidth and don’t have cable so I’m stuck with the ION+ movies. Watched three of them yesterday. My aunt just died and they were a better distraction than NCIS Los Angeles or Starsky & Hutch ;-) So bad they were fun.

  8. Stef says:

    I’m a sucker for Lifetime and Hallmark movies because several of them are filmed in my town, Ladner Village in BC. It’s fun to see them film in July and cover the centre of town in fake snow.

    I liked Operation Christmas Drop and Hollidate on Netflix.

    • Liane says:

      Same here! The Ottawa valley has seen a lot of Lifetime and Hallmark productions too. It’s fun seeing the snow in July, and it’s fun to watch the movie to see what we recognize from town.

  9. Amelie says:

    Oh I love all the recommendations and will probably check out a lot of these! I infinitely prefer Netflix Christmas movies to Hallmark which doesn’t sit well with my mom. She finds Netflix movies to be “awful” and “so cheesy” when compared to Hallmark lol, which is hilarious considering how silly most Hallmark Christmas movies are. I think she’s just annoyed Netflix has caught up to Hallmark and is doing it better.

    By the way this isn’t a major spoiler at all but we get confirmation that the Christmas Prince movies and the Princess Switch movies occur in the same universe haha. We get a very short cameo of the couple from the Christmas Prince at the end of the Princess Switch 2 sequel. It was a nice little surprise!

  10. Vera says:

    I mostly know the Netflix ones, there are some fun and easy ones there:
    the 3 Christmas Prince movies (I really like Rose McIver)
    Holiday in the Wild (elephants! )
    Let it Snow
    I yet to watch JIngle Jangle, but looks fun

  11. FC says:

    Love all these movies but the women in the Lifetime/Hallmark ones always wear a FULL FACE of makeup and it’s so distracting. Like, who wears lip liner to hike in the woods?

  12. Case says:

    Admittedly I’m not the target audience here because I really hate these cheesy holiday movies, but I think Netflix actually has particularly garbage holiday films. Me and my friend hate-watched the Christmas Prince trilogy over Zoom and it was SO BAD. I also honestly disliked Knight Before Christmas – his whole “quest” made zero sense, and why was it narratively okay for her to let a stranger stay in her guest house?!?!? (Note: Me and my friend hate-watched this over Zoom too.)

    I love this time of year but I’m a Grinch about these movies. My favorite Christmas movie is actually Muppet Christmas Carol. I watch it every year with my family!

  13. (TheOG) Jan90067 says:

    I LIVE for this time of year to OD on the Xmas movies on these channels, as well as my favs (that I have on DVD). Thank you for the heads up on a few I missed, CB, I’ll definitely check them out!

    I find it INFINITELY comforting to sit in my LR, with my blue and white Hanukkah lights twinkling on the balcony outside, and the ones up on the mantle making the crystal and mirrored wall surround look so wintery and icy, a big bonus in warm So. Cal!).

    It’s SO nice to have something that gives real joy in these times.

  14. Anina says:

    Thanks for the list I’ll have to check these out.

    I usually watch those ABC family christmas movies with 90210 & saved by the bell actors…like the MistleTones or the 12 dates of christmas.

  15. RoyalBlue says:

    I watched Netflix’s Holidate and Operation Christmas Drop and enjoyed both of them as the lighthearted cheer I needed.

  16. Yvette says:

    Netflix has Christmas movies inline with Hallmark? All I’ve noticed are a few variations on the ‘Princess Bride at Christmas and/or Princess Switched at Christmas’ theme. I didn’t realize there were more than a handful of Christmas-themed movies, but I’ll check it out.

    I love Lifetime’s diverse Christmas films in race, culture, and gender! A few of them are heartwarmingly sentimental, but they need better writers. They’re not quite there yet … perhaps in a year or two.

    For me, the reining Champ of Christmas films remains Hallmark. They adapt many of their films–in general and for Christmas–from romance novels … and romance is something Hallmark does very well (try reading the book “Unleashing Mr. Darcy” by Teri Wilson).

    Three of my favorite Hallmark Christmas films? “A December Bride,” “Crown for Christmas,” and “One Starry Christmas.” :)

  17. Izzy says:

    Lifetime started showing holiday movies on October 23rd. Who knew Lifetime Network would be an unsung hero of the pandemic?

  18. Yvette says:

    Came back to say that “Crown for Christmas” involves the widowed King and father of a 10-year-old nightmare of a child falling in love at first sight, and vis-versa, with a maid (who also happens to be an extremely talented artist) in his New York City hotel after she accidentally hits him with her maid’s cart. The King’s Head of House, who witnesses the exchange, hires the maid as a temporary Nanny for the King’s daughter. The maid and young Princess bond over the loss of parents–a mother for the Princess and both parents at a young age for the maid. The King is not formerly engaged to anyone, but was always expected to marry a horrid woman in a Monarch to Monarch arranged ‘this will form a closer bond between our kingdoms’ kind of thing, but that didn’t keep the King from eloping with his first wife.

    It’s a wonderful film with an incredible cast. Danika Mckellar starred as Winnie Cooper in “The Wonder Years” and British actor Rupert Penry-Jones starred as Lord Thomas Hamilton in the Showtime pirate series “Black Sails.”

  19. Beth says:

    I watched “Home for Christmas” last year, thanks to your recommendations. I loved it! I also loved “Dash and Lily,” so watch it soon!

  20. holly hobby says:

    I found really old ones on Tubi and my local library (streaming for free!). My favorite is Christmas Belle with Hayley Duff and Nicholas Gonzalez (Dr. Melendez of the Good Doctor). It’s a remake of Beauty and the Beast (no cgi beast just bad temper) but I really secretly enjoyed it because I liked the scenes with a shirtless Nicholas Gonzalez (haha).

    I saw the Hilarie Burton one on my library stream. That one is good.

  21. daphnesmom says:

    My favorite Hallmark movie is The Ornament with Kellie Martin and Cameron Mathison. First off, they have lovely chemistry. Kellie’s character’s husband has died. She is still mourning him when she meets Cameron’s character. They take things slowly and we’re left wondering if they will get together. It’s less meet cute and fall in love in 24 hours which is typical of Hallmark. It’s a mature love story. I love it so much, I bought it.

  22. Peet33 says:

    If you’re looking for more diversity in a holiday movie I’m really looking forward to ‘The Happiest Season’, which is apparently out this week! Kstew & Mackenzie Davis play a couple going home to meet her parents for the first time…the cast and the house looks amazing & it’s written by Clea DuVall and Mary Holland (who I have been obsessed with for years due to some amazing appearances on Comedy Bang Bang). I am really looking forward to seeing Kristen Stewart do more of a rom-com vibe because she KILLED it on SNL a few years back
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=h58HkQV1gHY

  23. The Voice says:

    I got into Christmas movies a few years ago when they were mostly on Hallmark and a few on Lifetime. Andrew Walker is a favorite of mine – I love the chemistry between him and Bethany Joy Lenz in Snowed Inn Christmas and Bottled with Love. I agree with a lot of the posters that there’s very little diversity in Hallmark movies. There are a few Black characters who plan the best friend or co-workers. Don’t even get me started on the lack of Asian characters.

    Looking forward to checking out a few of the latest titles on Netflix. I watched The Princess Switch and I really enjoyed it. Currently watching the sequel. Not a Christmas movie but Falling Inn Love was also very cute. I love montages (fixing houses or makeovers and these movies have them in spades!).

    I even got one of my friends into Hallmark movies. At first she was hate-watching them (after I described the predictable formula) but then she started telling me about them and then I knew she was hooked. I no longer have the Hallmark channel so I have to watch them on Netflix or even Prime. I really hope in 2021 they make one or several featuring Asian main characters!

    Happy movie-watching, Celebitches!!