The Knight Before Christmas, Let It Snow, Klaus (Netflix)
It used to be there were only two types of Netflix Christmas movies: good-bad and bad-bad. The good-bad ones (A Christmas Prince, mainly) we watched in raptures, sniffling on cue at the sentimental parts while at the same time screaming: "What am I watching? This movie is terrible, why am I crying?" The bad-bad ones (most of the others) we watched in the hope that they would be good-bad too - but not everyone's a winner.
This year, however, things have become more complicated. For the very first time, at least one new Netflix Christmas movie is actually, genuinely, properly good.
Klaus is a 2D animated feature film from Spanish director Sergio Pablos (and, as creator of the Despicable Me franchise, the man responsible for unleashing the worldwide Minions epidemic). It serves as an alternative Santa Claus origin story, which begins with a lazy and entitled postmaster's son being dispatched to the northernmost town in the land and given a year in which to set up a postal system or else be cut off from the family fortune.
The remote settlement of Smeerensburg is a cold, dark, mean old place, full of menacing children and North Pole nimbys who seem opposed to any type of change and certainly don't want to see a thriving postal service set up in their town. But young Jasper's luck – and his bad attitude – begins to change when he meets Klaus, a gruff old bloke with a big white beard and impossibly sad hobby of making toys for the family he never got to have.
Essentially a heartwarming tale of a millennial entrepreneur disrupting the status quo through social enterprise, Klaus is a pure pleasure to watch. The story ticks along at the perfect tempo, deploying twists and turns in all the right places, while the warm and inventive animation gives the sense that every frame has been afforded an unusual amount of time and thought.
It's hands-down the best Netflix Christmas movie of the year – though any other year that honour would have gone to Let It Snow. The other unprecedentedly good Netflix Christmas offering of 2019 is a Love Actually-style teen romance based on a novel co-written by the master of insufferable youths, John Green.
The characters here are less performatively quirky and as a result more likeable than your usual Green teens. Their loosely overlapping storylines all revolve around a common location (a Waffle House with extremely lax management) as the snow sets in on a quaint Midwest town and forces everybody to confront their biggest, deepest feelings on Christmas Eve.
Some may argue that by being actually good, Klaus and Let It Snow go against the spirit of Netflix Christmas movies. If that's you, try The Knight Before Christmas. It's got Vanessa Hudgens (The Princess Switch) falling in love with a handsome time-travelling knight in literal shining armour. They've put no effort whatsoever into historical accuracy.
Outside of the Christmas Prince franchise (part three streaming now), this is as good-bad as it gets.