When it comes to the Hanukkah Movie Industrial Complex, the Hallmarks and Lifetimes of the world are still playing catch-up. It wasn't until 2019 that the networks aired their first Hanukkah TV movies, and though they remain outnumbered among the dozens (or maybe hundreds?) of Christmas films released every year, they've steadily improved in quality over time. The celebration of the Festival of Lights has even carried over onto streaming: In 2022, Hulu dropped its first Hanukkah-specific movie, Menorah in the Middle, which is not a Malcolm in the Middle parody, but a romantic comedy featuring a few recognizable names.
Given the limited number of Hanukkah movies out there, it's difficult to curate a top-notch viewing experience, as Hallmark and Lifetime's initial attempts don't hold up as well as their recent films. Still, even at their worst, these films offer an illuminating look at how the networks' approach has changed over the past few years and the care that's now being put into telling these stories, which were once excluded from the holiday movie canon entirely.
With the release of Hallmark's Round and Round, we now have eight recent TV movies about the Jewish holiday, ensuring that celebrants can spread out their Hanukkah viewing across all eight nights. (And if you want to program a throwback holiday, check out our list of classic Hanukkah episodes.) Of course, some are better suited for certain nights of the holiday, which is why we've created this guide to help you plan the ultimate Hanukkah movie marathon:
Streaming on Peacock and Hallmark Movies Now
Hallmark's initial attempts at translating Hanukkah to the small screen were met with widespread criticism (more on that to come), but in 2021, the network finally hit the mark with Eight Gifts of Hanukkah. Lucifer's Inbar Lavi stars as Sara, an optometrist who receives a gift from an anonymous suitor on each night of Hanukkah. Eager to uncover her holiday heartthrob, Sara recruits longtime family friend Daniel (Jake Epstein) to help her investigate, but in a development anyone could see coming, including their nosy family members, it's not until the eighth night that she realizes Daniel just may be the man she's been looking for.
While many TV movies (and American culture) depict Hanukkah solely in relation to Christmas, this romance allows the Jewish holiday to stand on its own, which makes it an ideal film to watch on Night 1, when we're still fired up about the many miracles that make up the Festival of Lights. Plus, its nonstop depiction of holiday events — there are multiple family dinners, a scavenger hunt, a public menorah lighting, and a massive fundraiser, the Mazel Ball, at the Jewish Community Center — may inspire viewers to incorporate a few extra gatherings into their celebration.
Streaming on Hulu
Night 2 of your Hanukkah TV movie marathon continues on a strong note with a film featuring perhaps the most famous Jewish summer camp alum out there: Ben Platt. Just kidding — Menorah in the Middle stars his brother Jonah Platt, though he does play a photographer named Ben who moves back to his hometown just in time for Hanukkah. There, he reunites with his high school sweetheart Sarah (Lucy DeVito, Danny's daughter), who fits the typical holiday movie mold: Freshly engaged, Sarah heads home for the holidays with her fiancé Chad (Christián de la Fuente), only to discover that her father (Bruce Nozik) has had a heart attack and the family bakery is about to go under.
"Chad the goy," as he's not-so-affectionately referred to, turns out to be a very bad dude, and there's a whole lot of singing as Sarah comes to the realization that Ben is the guy for her, after all. But if the 2022 Hulu movie loses points for the silly songs, it gains them back due to a cameo from comedian Sarah Silverman and her sister Lauren, who, as the Baum sisters, swoop in to save the day. The Silvermans' over-the-top presence elevates Menorah in the Middle above your typical Hallmark and Lifetime movie fare — and who doesn't like a little cheese to go with their second serving of latkes?
Streaming on Prime Video
Of the three Hanukkah movies released in 2019, Hallmark's Double Holiday is the least offensive. Rebecca (Carly Pope) and Chris (Kristoffer Polaha) have always been office enemies, but when they learn that they must plan the ultimate holiday party in order to win a big promotion, they're forced to work together to pull off the event. As they teach one another about their holiday traditions — Rebecca, who is Jewish, apparently doesn't know how to hang ornaments on a tree, while Christmas-loving Chris works on his guttural "ch" sounds at a menorah lighting — they grow closer and begin to embrace their differences (and each other).
Admittedly, Double Holiday is more Christmas- than Hanukkah-forward (and the title offers no hint of its Jewish themes), but it does offer a basic rundown of the significance of the holiday and the associated cultural practices. That makes it the perfect movie to educate others about the holiday, and with Night 3 falling on a Saturday this year, it offers an alternative to A Rugrats Chanukah when it comes to Hanukkah party entertainment.
Streaming on Peacock (from December 11 to 13) and Hallmark Movies Now
Like Eight Gifts of Hanukkah, Round and Round doesn't bother explaining itself or catering to non-Jewish viewers. Hallmark's lone Hanukkah entry in 2023 centers on book editor Rachel (Vic Michaelis), who finds herself reliving the night of her parents' Hanukkah party, Groundhog Day-style. In order to escape the time loop, Rachel seeks help from Zach (Bryan Greenberg), the nice Jewish boy her grandmother is eager to set her up with. A proud sci-fi nerd, Zach encourages Rachel to make big changes in her life, leading her to finally break the curse and make it to the eighth night of Hanukkah unscathed.
Round and Round takes place almost exclusively on Night 7, but Hallmark has wisely chosen to air it on the fourth night of the holiday, when our attention begins to drift away from dreidel games and platters of jelly donuts. But with its charming leads, explicit queer romance (between Rachel's sister and her partner), and highly specific cultural references, this film may be just the thing to renew viewers' holiday spirit as Hanukkah reaches its halfway point.
Streaming on Hallmark Movies Now
Don't be fooled by the explicitly Hanukkah-centric title: This 2020 Hallmark movie blends Jewish and Christian traditions into one interfaith holiday romance. When restaurant owner Christina (Mia Kirshner) takes a DNA test and discovers that she's Jewish, she reaches out to her birth mother (Marilu Henner) and joins their festive celebration of menorah lightings, singing, and dreidel games. Soon, Christina embraces new traditions alongside her old ones, and she carves out a new identity for herself that encompasses her unique history. But despite delivering a feel-good story (and a middling romance with Ben Savage), Love, Lights, Hanukkah! is ultimately a forgettable holiday flick — just like lighting the candles on this night.
By Night 6, Hanukkah has begun to drag — at a certain point, you get sick of all those latkes and bags of chocolate gelt, and lighting the menorah feels more like an obligation than an exciting opportunity. The general apathy that surrounds this night of the celebration pairs perfectly with the disaster that is Hallmark's Holiday Date, in which recently dumped fashion designer Brooke (Brittany Bristow) hires an actor to play her boyfriend over Christmas. The only problem? Joel (Matt Cohen) is Jewish, and he's entirely unfamiliar with the holiday that dominates global culture for two months every year. Over the course of his visit, Brooke's family becomes suspicious of Joel's lack of Christmas knowledge and come to question his relationship with their daughter.
When it aired in 2019, Holiday Date was rightly criticized for trafficking in antisemitic tropes about "untrustworthy" or "sneaky" Jews, and even though Brooke's family does celebrate Hanukkah when they learn of Joel's background, getting to that point is all-around gross. Fittingly, this movie has been wiped from the internet — it's not available to stream anywhere, not even on Hallmark Movies Now — though the trailer is still available on YouTube. And if you do track down an illegal stream, consider washing it down with a different Christmas-meets-Hanukkah story, like The O.C.'s "The Best Chrismukkah Ever."
Streaming on Hulu and Lifetime Movie Club
Maybe it's for the best that Lifetime stopped making Hanukkah movies after just one year. 2019 film Mistletoe & Menorahs takes the Double Holiday approach by combining elements of both Christmas and Hanukkah, although the former comes out looking far better than the latter. Hoping to impress a Jewish client, toymaker Christy (Kelley Jakle) asks friend-of-a-friend Jonathan (Jake Epstein, in his second appearance on this list) to transform her into a "Hanukkah expert." In exchange, Christy teaches Jonathan how to Christmas-ify his home to impress his girlfriend's parents, prompting the same kind of cross-cultural exchange that dominated the TV movies of that year.
Sadly, though, many of the movie's jokes are made at the expense of the Jewish holiday, which isn't a good look for Lifetime's first (and only) Hanukkah movie. There are plenty of silly or bizarre things that accompany the Festival of Lights (including its multiple spellings and the oil-related miracle of it all), and by Night 7, after a week of celebrating, Jews are likely keenly aware of them. In that sense, Mistletoe & Menorahs works as a penultimate-night watch, but viewers should be warned that the movie isn't as in on the joke as it thinks it is.
Streaming on Prime Video
By the last night of Hanukkah, celebrants have had all the fried food they can manage, which is why Hanukkah on Rye, Hallmark's 2022 film about rival deli owners, offers a welcome change of pace. After Jacob (Jeremy Jordan), the son of Southern California "deli royalty," and Molly (Yael Grobglas), the fourth-generation owner of Gilbert's on the Lower East Side in New York City, are introduced via a matchmaker, they start an anonymous online relationship, unaware that they're falling for their competition. When Molly discovers the truth about Jacob's identity, she struggles to reconcile his ruthless business persona with his kindhearted digital presence, leaving her in quite a pickle over Hanukkah.
Hanukkah on Rye may be ridiculous, but its connection to classic rom-coms like You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally helps it stand out among the other movies on this list. It's not exactly elevated fare, but it does make for a tasty end to Hanukkah — provided viewers can handle all the meat-related puns.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: Hanukkah, Hallmark Channel, Hulu, Lifetime, Peacock, Double Holiday, Eight Gifts of Hanukkah, Hanukkah on Rye, Holiday Date, Love, Lights, Hanukkah!, Menorah in the Middle, Mistletoe & Menorahs, Round and Round