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8 Merry Movie Mitzvahs

Ranking kitschy Hanukkah films.

By Entertainment, Featured

Illustration by Aditi Singh.

It’s Hanukkah season, folks, so get your frying pans ready for those latkes and pull out your menorahs!

But Hanukkah is more than the celebration of the Maccabees’ eight-day oil-based miracle. It’s also the holiday goyim love to commercialize, and if they’re gonna make money from Hanukkah blankets, light-up plushies, and socks (all of which I own), then we deserve awful Hallmark-esque movies too. Here are eight that fit the bill, ranked from worst to best. Perfect if you want to watch one each night.

All of these movies have certain tropes fit for a bingo card. The most prevalent trope is girl-celebrating-Hanukkah-meets-boy-celebrating-Christmas (or vice versa), and they each teach each other about their holiday. You’ll also be sure to get the obligatory explanation of what Hanukkah is.

Oh, and almost all of the leads are played by actors you might recognize mainly from supporting roles in random TV shows.

Yael Grobglas and Jeremy Jordan in Hanukkah on Rye (2022).

#8: “Hanukkah on Rye” (2022)

Here’s the premise: a matchmaker sets up rival deli owners played by Jermery Jordan and Yael Grobglas (a.k.a Petra from “Jane the Virgin). Doesn’t that sound amazing? Well, unfortunately, this movie is the equivalent of spinning shin in Dreidel because the only way to watch it is if you happen to catch it when it plays on the Hallmark channel. And for being disappointing and literally unwatchable, “Hanukkah on Rye ” gets ranked number eight.

Jonah Platt and Lucy DeVito in “Menorah in the Middle” (2022).

#7: “Menorah in the Middle” (2022)

“Menorah in the Middle ” is the nepo-baby Hanukkah movie. Starring Dany DeVito’s daughter, Lucy DeVito, and Ben Platt’s brother, Jonah Platt, this movie (if you can even call it a movie) is topped off by shoving Sarah and Laura Silverman into the plot. That’s not even mentioning the bizarre singing narrator. The only redeeming scene of “Menorah in the Middle” is the very long, drunk dreidel sequence where Lucy DeVito’s character’s awful boyfriend, Chad the Goy (Christián de la Fuente) punches her father in the face and breaks her zayde’s urn.

Carly Pope and Kristoffer Polaha in “Double Holiday” (2019).

#6: “Double Holiday” (2019)

Here is where our Hanukkah Lady (Carly Pope) meets Christmas Man (Kristoffer Polaha) trope starts. “Double Holiday” is  … well, it’s fine. Just fine. They’re rival coworkers who have to plan a corporate Christmas party together. But oh, no! She doesn’t know how Christmas works. They have decent chemistry, yet I can’t help but feel like the female lead is dealing with constant workplace microaggressions that the narrative doesn’t acknowledge.

Jake Epstein and Kelley Jakle in “Mistletoe & Menorahs” (2019).

#5: “Mistletoe and Menorahs” (2019)

Really similar to “Double Holiday” but with a “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days”-style twist. Christy (Kelley Jakle) accidentally tells her toy company boss she’s a Hanukkah expert, so she has to find a Jew to teach her before the big company holiday party. Enter Jonathan Silver (Jake Epstein), a handsome Jewish middle school teacher who needs to learn about Christmas to impress his girlfriend’s dad. It’s charming, and by far the best part is when Christy ends up designing and inventing a line of Macabee action figures.

Mia Kirshner and Ben Savage in “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” (2020).

#4: “Love, Lights, Hanukkah” (2020)

Adopted woman (Mia Kirshner) learns that her birth family is Jewish! She reconnects with them just in time for Hanukkah. This one is very watchable, but there’re just so many missed opportunities. And despite getting Ben Savage (Yes! Corey Matthews himself!) to play the love interest, there is absolutely no chemistry here. “Love, Lights, Hanukkah,” sadly, would’ve been so much better if it wasn’t a story about people falling in love. It moves to number four.

Brittany Bristow and Matt Cohen in “Holiday Date” (2019).

#3: “Holiday Date” (2019)

I genuinely love this one and not just because the male lead is played by the guy who played Michael in “Supernatural.” Brooke (Brittany Bristow) hires an actor (Matt Cohen) to play her boyfriend at her family Christmas. The catch? The actor she hires is Jewish. This film is a delight. Matt Cohen’s character is so excited to celebrate Christmas for the first time, and Brooke’s family is hyped to learn about Hanukkah when they find out he’s Jewish. The sole reason this one isn’t higher on my list is that for the first 17 minutes, it seems like it’s only going to be a Christmas movie. So, for here it’s number three, but if this was a Christmas movie list, it would be number one.

Inbar Lavi in “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah” (2021).

#2: “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah” (2021)

This movie gets to be number two because it is the only Hanukkah movie on this list that feels like an actual movie but does not mention Christmas once. Sarah (Inbar Lavi who you might know as Eve from “Lucifer”) has a secret admirer who is sending her heartfelt presents each night of Hanukkah. But who could it be? Surely not her childhood best friend … right?

Vic Michaelis and Bryan Greenberg in “Round and Round” (2023).

#1: “Round and Round” (2023)

This might be cheating since “Round and Round” doesn’t actually come out until December 10. However, when you hear the premise, you’ll understand why it bags number one. Rachel (Vic Michaelis, who is known for her work on CollegeHumour) is stuck in a Hanukkah-themed time loop. Come on! What could be a better story than that? I’d schlep to any streaming site, even cable, to watch it.

 

Sidne K. Gard (BFAW 2025) hopes to one day understand how to make their own monsters. They are the entertainment editor at F Newsmagazine. See more of their work at sidnekgard.com.
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