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The Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe: The watch order you never knew you wanted for the Christmas movies on Netflix

What is it? Why is it? We delve deep into the nature of reality, and how it relates to the Christmas movies on Netflix


Ever since Marvel Studios became the biggest thing in movies, other studios have wondered how they, too, could get a piece of that 'shared cinematic universe' action — seemingly forgetting that Star Trek has been doing the same thing since the late ‘60s in the process. Streaming giant Netflix wasn’t immune to the siren song of the shared universe, although what resulted from its attempt to play with the formula is far more seasonal, and honestly far stranger, than might be obvious at first glance. Ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else: it’s time to properly investigate the Netflix Christmas Movies Cinematic Universe.

The Netflix Christmas Movies what?

You heard me. Well, read me; this is all text, after all. There’s a Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe — a shared universe of eight movies that directly crossover and interrelate with each other, curiously styled after the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a fashion, only with no Avengers and far more Vanessa Hudgens than you might expect. It’s been around since 2017, and has been slowly building since then, in ways that bent the nature of reality long before the MCU started teasing anything about the multiverse.

To be clear, there isn’t a multiverse at play in the Netflix movies… just implied questions about the nature of reality and media and just why everything seems to end up on television no matter what. To fully embrace the NCCU is to accept that there are realities beyond reality — and that everything is streamable somewhere, somehow. Confused? You will be. It’s the most metatextual time of the year!

Go on, explain the nature of Netflix Christmas Movies' reality, then

The most generous reading of how to understand Netflix’s Christmas Cinematic Universe is that it was created in homage to the original DC multiverse stories, in which Barry Allen — the Flash of Earth-1 — grew up reading comic books about Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-2, because of the way that the vibrational frequency of the multiverse allowed a writer on Earth-1 to subconsciously tune in to what was happening on Earth-2, except he believed it was all happening in his imagination.

If that sentence reads particularly convoluted to you, all I can offer in my defense is that… it should. The idea that a hero on one Earth managed to read exactly what actually happened on another Earth in a comic book is very much one of those, 'don’t think about it too much' ideas, used to great effect in early Flash comics — and DC’s recent Multiversity series, for that matter — but not entirely airtight, in terms of logic.

The Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe operates on a similar premise, as unlikely as it may seem. Characters in Netflix Christmas movies watch each other’s Christmas movies, which wouldn’t be a big deal if some of them didn’t then go on to meet the characters from those movies. Does this mean that everything on Netflix in the Netflix universe is a documentary? And if so, just how do documentary makers get such access?

Again, I know the answer is, “don’t think about it too much,” and yet, what else am I supposed to be thinking about, exactly?

There’s something else that’s curiously fascinating about the background of these movies, and that’s the role that duplicates play in them. Vanessa Hudgens is the lead actor in the Princess Switch trilogy of movies; she’s also the lead actor in The Knight Before Christmas. That would appear to mean that the two definitely can’t co-exist in the same universe, except The Knight Before Christmas makes reference to the Christmas Prince trilogy, which explicitly crosses over into the Princess Switch movies, the latter of which feature three different characters played by Hudgens in their own right. Maybe Netflix is just doing some kind of stealth Orphan Black reboot and hoping no-one notices.

What happened to the watch order?

Oh, that’s right. Yes. The watch order for these movies. Let’s do the simpler one first, shall we…?

The Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe in release order

NCCC Watch Order
  • A Christmas Prince (2017)
  • Christmas Inheritance (2017)
  • The Princess Switch (2018)
  • A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding (2018)
  • The Holiday Calendar (2018)
  • The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019)
  • Holidays in the Wild (2019)
  • The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)
  • The Princess Switch: Romancing the Star (2021)
  • A Castle for Christmas (2021)
  • Falling for Christmas (2022)

There you go; 12 holiday movies, each filled with romance, misunderstandings, and a very casual, relaxed sense of tension as to whether the big event in question is going to go okay and a happy ending will be achieved. (Spoiler: a happy ending is always achieved in these movies; it’s part of the DNA of this genre of story.) Everything seems pretty straightforward when you view it this way. But don’t worry… that’s about to change.

How to watch the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe in chronological order

  • The Knight Before Christmas (2019)
  • A Christmas Prince (2017)
  • Christmas Inheritance (2017)/The Holiday Calendar (2018)
  • The Princess Switch (2018)

Let’s take a break here for a second to explain what’s going on. As you could see from comparing the release order to this list, A Christmas Prince is definitely the first movie in the series to be made. But, technically, The Knight Before Christmas, Christmas Inheritance, and The Holiday Calendar aren’t actually prequels; it’s a little more complicated.

The opening of The Knight Before Christmas takes place in the year 1334, where a wizened old crone — whose name in the credits is literally “Old Crone” — sends the titular knight to the present day, so it’s only a brief portion of that movie that belongs at the start of the list. So far, so good.

The reason that both Christmas Inheritance and The Holiday Calendar come before The Princess Switch is a little bit more complicated. Christmas Inheritance appears playing on a television during The Princess Switch and The Holiday Calendar, which means that the former obviously happened after the latter, but The Holiday Calendar is also playing on a television in both Christmas Inheritance (as well as The Knight Before Christmas), which means that it needs to have happened relatively contemporaneously to Christmas Inheritance. Somehow.

Oh, and The Princess Switch features the characters watching A Christmas Prince on television, which will get a little bit awkward later.

Simple, right? Let’s get back to the list.

  • A Christmas Prince: A Royal Wedding (2018)
  • Holidays in the Wild (2019)
  • The Knight Before Christmas (2019)

Obviously, The Knight Before Christmas shows up again here because this is where it falls in terms of the 'modern day' sequences of the movie. During those sequences, we get to see both Holidays in the Wild and, as I said before, The Holiday Calendar, on televisions.

The Knight Before Christmas belongs in continuity to all these movies, in case you’re wondering, because the sister of Vanessa Hudgens’ Brooke — the movie’s lead character — mentions a trip to Aldovia, the fictional country that’s the setting for the Christmas Prince movies. In fact, the Prince in question, Prince Richard — actually King Richard by this time, because he becomes king at the end of the first Christmas Prince movie — is actually the ruler of Aldovia.

Monarchs are a big thing in the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe: there’s Richard in the Christmas Prince movies, as well as Prince Edward in the Princess Switch movies; one of Vanessa Hudgens’ roles in that latter franchise is Lady Margaret, who becomes Queen of another fictional country (Montenaro, if you’re wondering) in the second movie in that franchise. It’s a whole fairy tale romance thing, don’t you know.

The Knight Before Christmas doesn’t have a Prince or a King, per se, but an actual medieval knight thrown through time is a pretty good replacement, all things considered.

Anyway: Aldovia and televisions. That’s the primary connective tissue in this franchise to date. Let’s get back to the list.

  • A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby (2019)
  • The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

Okay, here’s when things get strange. (Stranger?) Despite the characters from The Princess Switch having watched A Christmas Prince in the first movie in the former’s series, the Christmas Prince leads King Richard and Queen Amber attend the coronation of Queen Margaret at the end of The Princess Switch: Switched Again. Do the Princess Switch characters share their earlier discussion about how A Christmas Prince is one of their favorite movies? Of course not, because that would remind everyone that A Christmas Prince used to be a fictional movie in the universe of The Princess Switch.

Again: let’s pretend that A Christmas Prince was a hard-hitting factual documentary in the universe of The Princess Switch — after all, Queen Amber was an intrepid journalist and blogger who just accidentally lied her way into falling in love with royalty, before winning the heart of Prince Richard and the entire country of Aldovia, so why not? That makes sense, right…?

Back to the list.

  • The Princess Switch: Romancing the Star (2021)
  • A Castle for Christmas (2021)

The third and apparently final installment of the Princess Switch series features a cameo from Simon, the as-close-to-a-villain-as-these-things-get from the A Christmas Prince series, cementing that these two trilogies definitely happen in the same universe. (That first movie is certainly a hard-hitting documentary, then.) Meanwhile, A Castle for Christmas features cameos from two supporting characters from the Princess Switch series who show up as a couple, consummating their long-standing romantic tension in a way that, inexplicably, they didn’t get a chance to do in the actual movies they belonged to in the first place.

And, finally for the chronological order…

  • Falling for Christmas (2022)

The connection here is, once again, television; Lindsay Lohan, for it is she, scrolls through Netflix and manages to avoid Christmas Inheritance, a couple of Christmas Prince movies, The Princess Switch, and A Castle for Christmas. I think that means that she exists in the third plane of reality that exists in this universe, if you consider the following:

Christmas Inheritance and The Holiday Calendar are viewable in the plane of reality in which the Christmas Prince and Princess Switch movies — which share characters with A Castle for Christmas and a fictional location with The Knight Before Christmas — take place, as well as Holidays in the Wild. Falling for Christmas, meanwhile, can view both of these planes. We, meanwhile, can view all of this. Does this mean that we’re showing up in a higher plane of reality’s Netflix movies? Maybe we shouldn’t think too much about that, really.

How to watch the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe in the right* order (*YMMV)

If you’re looking to streamline your viewing so that you can fit in other seasonal forms of entertainment — Bill Murray classic Scrooged isn’t going to watch itself, after all — then I’d recommend ditching everything that’s not the Christmas Prince and Princess Switch trilogies, both of which are absolutely perfect combinations of camp, holiday cheer, and utterly ridiculous but thankfully self-aware plots that refuse to be taken anywhere close to seriously. They’re gloriously over the top, filled with repetitive tropes, and a quality of acting that often verges on the atrocious — which makes them not only ideal for this time of year, but not that far away from the average MCU movie, if you stop to think about it for a second.

But just a second, after all. There’s something about the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe that would get very, very fragile if you kept thinking for any longer than that, and that’s what makes them quite so lovable. Happy viewing, and happy holidays!

Once you’re done with holiday happiness, you might need a change of pace; that’s why we have a Walking Dead watch order for you, right here.

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Graeme McMillan

Staff Writer

Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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