Christmas is just around the corner, and if you’re ready to settle in for a long winter’s nap (or, more likely, a long weekend of streaming), be sure to have plenty of bingeable content queued up. If you’ve already exhausted this month’s newest streaming offerings, and if Hallmark Christmas movies and holiday classics aren’t really your speed, there is another path: foreign Christmas movies and series!
Between mega-hits like Squid Game, Money Heist, and Lupin, 2021 feels like it’s been something of a watershed year for foreign content on Netflix. Turns out, we can read subtitles and still appreciate outstanding acting and stories!
Just as Lupin introduced us all to the literary canon of Maurice Leblanc, and just as Squid Game made the whole world crave Korean fried chicken, foreign Christmas content on Netflix provides a refreshing glimpse into holiday customs and scenery outside the standard American fare. While American Christmas movies are near-diabetic in their over-the-top sweetness, foreign content is often funnier and far more down to earth (though every country has its own version of over-the-top slapstick).
From a series that actually manages to realistically integrate reindeer, to a sexy Christmas cookie plotline that you will definitely never see on Hallmark, read on for our favorite non-English Christmas movies and series on Netflix.
Home for Christmas (Norway)
Despite its absolutely bland and forgettable name, this series is consistently amusing while deftly addressing the melancholy of the holidays in a naturalistic way. It is also hygge to the max; apparently people actually get around Oslo by sled? And they go on nordic skiing blind dates?
The setup sounds cliched—Johanne is a nurse determined to find a boyfriend whom she can bring home for Christmas—but star Ida Elise Broch pulls it off with a winningly sardonic performance and some laugh-out-loud awkwardness. Plus she drinks, she has sex, and she’s pretty tatted up. In short she’s the anti-Hallmark heroine.
With its abundant snow and Christmas lights and occasional, casual reindeer appearances, you can almost taste the gløgg in Home for Christmas. In fact the series was so well-received after its 2019 debut that a second series came out in 2020. There are twelve 30-minute episodes in total—perfect for a quick and cozy Christmas binge.
Over Christmas (Germany)
This three-episode miniseries follows Bastian, a struggling musician and manchild who makes his annual trip home from Berlin to be spoiled rotten by his mom and drink with his old buddies. Then complications arise. For one, his overachieving brother is now dating his ex-girlfriend. For another, his ultra-stable parents are acting wacky and clearly keeping something from him. And then there’s the uber-cool baker chick he wants to woo (see aforementioned reference to sexy Christmas cookies).
With his self-aware goofiness, star Luke Mockridge makes you root for a character who could very easily be super unlikable. The stunning scenery shot in and around Germany’s gorgeous Eifel region is rife with snow and pine trees, and once again the glühwein and gingerbread practically waft out of the screen.
Tokyo Godfathers (Japan)
For something completely different, check out this surprisingly heartfelt anime entry from a country that barely celebrates Christmas. Tokyo Godfathers follows a makeshift vagabond family—trans woman Hana, teenage runaway Miyuki, and middle-aged alcoholic Gin—through the streets of Tokyo on Christmas Eve after they discover a newborn baby in a trash heap.
The movie premiered in 2003 but critics have called it “a stirring celebration of inclusivity that remains ahead of its time.” Tokyo Godfathers is also suitable for kids.
Three Days of Christmas (Spain)
Perhaps as close as we’ll get to Hallmark on this list, but this three-episode series spanning three different timelines in the wake of World War II is more drama and mystery than breezy rom-com. If you’re in the mood for darker, more contemplative fare, it’s worth checking out.
Christmas Flow (France)
Whew! Ok, back to the silliness. The plot of this three-episode series (gotta love how concise they keep things outside the U.S.!) is a bit on the thin and ridiculous side: a shopping bag mixup leads to an unlikely romance between a misogynistic (or is he?) rapper and a feminist blogger.
Both their chemistry and the music-industry subplot strain credulity, but star Shirine Boutella (moonlighting from her role on Lupin) is utterly charming, and her sidekick “Simones” are both quite funny, cool, and stylish in a way only French people seem able to pull off. Bonus points for the twinkly Parisian scenery and refreshingly diverse cast. Silly and occasionally quite funny, this bubbly watch goes down easy like a $15 bottle of wine.
Crash Landing on You (South Korea)
While not strictly a Christmas show, this record-breaking Korean drama is set almost entirely during wintertime and includes two Christmas episodes that are perfect for a cozy December binge. Led by Hallyu megastars Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin, CLOY (as its legions of fans call it) is about a South Korean heiress who accidentally paraglides into North Korea, and the hijinx that ensue. It sounds totally ridiculous on paper (and it kind of is), but the stars and the stupendous supporting cast make for an absolutely delightful viewing experience.
Just Another Christmas (Brazil)
Brazil’s answer to Groundhog Day, this 2020 Christmas movie depicts a Christmas-hating dad who slips off his roof and into a time loop in which he is doomed to repeat Christmas year after year, with no memory of the preceding 364 days. Just Another Christmas was viewed more than 25 million times after its first month in Brazil.
Christmas Vacation (Italy)
Not to be confused with the Chevy Chase version from 1989, this Italian cult classic actually predates it (it premiered in 1983). Two families—one wealthy and refined, one working-class and vulgar—collide during a ski holiday in the Italian Alps, where various comical misunderstandings occur. Christmas Vacation was actually featured in a 2010 retrospective on Italian comedy at the Venice International Film Festival.
NB: Christmas Vacation (Vacanze di Natale) is actually streaming on Amazon, not Netflix, but our Italian colleagues insisted it was the movie most worthy of inclusion on this list!
8 Women (France)
Bonus for the Francophiles! It doesn’t get much more French than a movie starring legends Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, and…five other famous French actresses we haven’t the space to list out.
This dark comedy from 2002 is set in a remote mountain village during the Christmas season in the 1950s. Eight women gather to celebrate Christmas, but discover the family patriarch murdered, with a knife in his back. Snowbound in their Christmas cottage, they’ll have to suss out the murderess among them…with laughs along the way.
Happy holidays, and we wish you happy streaming!
Read more: The ultimate Halloween streaming guide
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