Among my circle of friends, I’m known as the one who’s VERY into Christmas love movies. I come by it honestly - my dad loves Hallmark Christmas movies and watches tons of them every year. I’ve been meaning for years to put together a guide to my favorite (and most hated) Christmas movies, and this year I finally got around to it. I’ve included a wide variety of options, from the genuinely good to the deliciously terrible, and even some that aren’t about love at all, so, hopefully, there’s something here for everyone.
These movies are ones that I think are genuinely well done, not just as holiday love movies, but as media in general.
• The Holiday - Look, this is not just my favorite holiday love movie, it's one of my favorite movies. You've got a killer cast bringing you excellent performances, great editing, beautiful locations, personal growth … everything you could want! Plus, this movie shows how much we've all been missing by not having more rom-coms with Jack Black as the romantic lead. He's spectacular!
• Home for Christmas - This is a series, not a movie, but it's worth the longer watching length. We follow Johanne on her quest to find a boyfriend before Christmas Eve so that her family and friends will get off of her case. If you've ever been the single person in a room full of people who show their love by reminding you how single you are, then you know how she feels. If you've had to navigate the frustrating and exhausting world of dating, you'll feel so seen. It's a fun, sweet show about being open to finding yourself and love that doesn't look how you expect it to.
• Holidate - Want a holiday love movie that's about lots of holidays and also about people who hate holidays? One that's also about how shitty holidays can be when you're single? This movie has you covered! It's funny, sweet, and a great take on the genre.
• Christmas in the Wild - Do you want to watch Rob Lowe take care of baby elephants in the African savannah? What if I throw in Kristin Davis as a veterinarian who gets fairly brutally dumped by her husband as their kid leaves for college? When you combine baby animals, conservation support efforts, and a sweet love story, this one is for you!
• A Bad Mom's Christmas - Look, this isn't technically a rom-com, but it's here for a reason. This one has a great cast and primarily is about what it is to be a mom and to have a relationship with a mom, but it's also got an amazing love plot: a woman who waxes a hot male stripper with a heart of gold and gets his big dick in the end.
• A Castle For Christmas - Brooke Shields and Carey Elwes in a movie about a recently divorced romance writer trying to buy a Scottish castle. I mean, come on. There are also some knitters, including a delightful gay bear who knits. Is this movie tropey? Yeah, for sure. But it's still great.
• Love Actually - It's a classic for a reason. Is it good? Debatable. Are the relationships healthy? Absolutely not. Do I still love it? Yes.
• The Noel Diary - This is the best of the 2022 releases that I’ve seen. We’ve got the wealthy author who’s a devoted bachelor, going back home to take care of his dead mother’s house, and the mystery woman whose mother may have worked for his family. It’s a family mystery, with plenty of brooding and will they/won’t they suspense. Is it as good as some others on this section of the list? No. But it’s the best of this year’s contributions.
• White Christmas - I only mean the version without the horrible minstrel number, obviously, but I love this classic. It’s a sweet story about a couple of dudes who wear some drag and throw a show to help out their former commanding officer. It’s a war movie, a musical, and a Christmas movie all wrapped in one. And, I’ll admit, I always cry at the end.
Sometimes you want a beautiful steak, and sometimes you want a hamburger. These are the hamburgers of holiday love movies
• The Knight Before Christmas - An old crone gives an amulet to a knight so he can complete his quest and become a true knight. Said amulet transports him from 1334 to 2019. It’s a gloriously ridiculous fish-out-of-water romance that’s so goofy it’s endearing.
• A Christmas Prince Trilogy - Look, these movies are bad, but they’re also delightful. Rose McIver, of iZombie fame, plays the world’s most inept journalist who manages to still marry into royalty. There are so many wacky, hilarious moments in each of these movies, and the leads are very easy on the eyes.
• The Princess Switch Trilogy - If A Christmas Prince is bad, The Princess Switch is badder, but that also makes it better in some ways? Each of the movies is thoroughly ridiculous and yet they manage to be somehow endearing. Vanessa Hudgens, who also stars in The Knight Before Christmas, plays up to 3 identical women who are all swapping places in different ways and for different reasons and it’s beautiful chaos.
• The Spirit of Christmas - I have shocking news for you - what you need in your life is a movie about a big city lawyer who falls in love with the ghost who spends December 13th to 26th haunting, in a corporeal form, the B&B she’s been tasked with selling. Our ghost is a handsome man who was a rum runner and died mysteriously back in the 1920s. Yes, it’s ridiculous, and there’s no way any of it makes sense, but goodness is it fun.
• Single All The Way - Finally, something for the gays! We get a classic “we’ll pretend to be a couple to get my family off of my back,” but queer this time. I expected to be disappointed with this movie, but it actually won me over.
• Last Christmas - I want to tell you something about this one, but it would be a spoiler. Let's just say that it's odd I have 2 movies on this list with the same very unusual trope.
• Love Hard - Did you always want a rom-com about catfishing? I mean, neither did I, but it turns out this one was fun. It’s also one of the few bigger-budget movies that doesn’t have only white leading actors.•• The Knight Before Christmas - An old crone gives an amulet to a knight so he can complete his quest and become a true knight. Said amulet transports him from 1334 to 2019. It’s a gloriously ridiculous fish-out-of-water romance that’s so goofy it’s endearing.
Sometimes you don't want a hamburger, you want midnight Taco Bell. Something so bad that it circles back around to good again, or something where its terrible-ness ends up making you kind of actually like it even though you'd never admit it. For when you want to hate-watch, or at least pretend that you’re hate watching
• The Christmas Wedding Planner - This is one of the worst movies ever and I actually kind of love it? Nothing about it is good. It does have Joey Fatone? But it's exactly what it says on the label. This movie is the most greasy, disgusting Taco Bell at 2 am when you're drunk, which makes it disgusting and perfect somehow.
• Mistletoe Mixup - Remember the Lawrence Brothers? What if I told you that there's a movie where they play brothers and, even better, their actual mom plays their mom? But wait, there's more - the two brothers meet and want to date the same woman, and their mom encourages it. This movie is AWFUL but it's also perfect and you need to experience it at least once in your life.
• A Princess for Christmas - Look, there are more movies about royalty romance plots than you can imagine. So why this one? Well, it has Sam Heughan and unf.
• The Holiday Calendar - Is a magical advent calendar helping our protagonist find love? Of course. Will it be the guy who's great on paper or the artistic long-term friend? Lol, obviously you know how this will go.
• Falling for Christmas - This is kind of like a live-action Looney Tunes Christmas rom-com starring Lindsay Lohan. Look, I don't get it either, but somehow it manages to be kind of charming?
We all have that friend who insists that the perfect holiday movie is Die Hard, so here are some holiday movies that aren’t romance movies:
• Die Hard - It’s the example that everyone gives of a Christmas movie, but For Dudes I guess? It’s a good example of the late 80s/early 90s action genre and it’s been referenced in tons of other movies, so it’s worth a watch at least once.
• Anna and the Apocalypse - If you're looking for a Christmas zombie apocalypse musical this one has you covered. It’s a great little musical, a good zombie movie, and a great Christmas movie for people who don’t like Christmas movies. Honestly, the “Turning My Life Around” alone is a funny enough scene to watch this movie all on its own
• Batman Returns - Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Danny DeVito as the Penguin, and Michael Keaton as Batman: was there ever a better cast? Michelle Pfeiffer did her own whip stunts and even as a 4th grader I wanted her hot leather ensemble. It’s technically set at Christmas, so throw it on and watch with your chosen family!
• Gremlins - I debated whether to include this one because there is some stuff that’s definitely racist and some stuff that might be racist, so keep that in mind before watching. It’s still a fun horror movie with adorable puppets who happily cause murderous chaos.
• Edward Scissorhands - This Tim Burton classic (unfortunately starring notorious abuser Johnny Depp) is almost a Christmas love movie, but with that special Tim Burton twist. Even though it’s over 30 years old, it’s still a lovely and thoughtful look at the ugliness of the suburbs and the beauty of a weirdo.
These are movies I never ever ever want to see again. I watched them so you don't have to.
• Happiest Season - This isn't a movie about lesbian love or about the struggles of queerness, it's about a manipulative, selfish jerk who somehow still gets the girl. Fuck this movie.
• Christmas Inheritance - I've watched plenty of "big city work-obsessed woman discovers love in a small town" movies that didn't piss me off, but this one did. This feels like trad wife propaganda somehow.
• I Hate Christmas - This is literally just Home for Christmas but in Venice instead of Oslo. Not similar, exactly the same. Somehow it manages to turn a show that was lovely and sweet into a lifeless husk. I'm furious that this exists.
• Switched for Christmas - Candace Cameron Bure plays twins who swap places and fall in love. So why is it on the naughty list? Cuz the people who wrote and shot this movie have clearly never been to Colorado and butcher Colorado geography to an extent that I cannot even describe. As someone who grew up in Denver, this is unforgivable.