Hours and hours of cozy comfort viewing, ready to be repeated over and over again.
While You Were Sleeping
This movie often gets forgotten in arguments over which is the best holiday romance movie, but it’s a quiet, underrated gem. The plot is ridiculous, which is just as a holiday romance should be: Sandra Bullock’s character pretends to be the fiancé of a man she has a crush on who is in a coma (Peter Gallagher and his beautiful eyebrows), which endears her to his family and causes a confusing relationship with his brother (Bill Pullman), who is both skeptical of and attracted to her. Fun!
This is probably the best holiday romance Hallmark has ever produced (and they’ve produced MANY). Katrina Law plays a journalist investigating a political family who winds up pretending to date one of them (he doesn’t know who she really is, it’s all very complicated and hijinksy). The hero is a softie who has dreams of being a romance writer, and it’s extremely charming all around.
Snowed Inn Christmas
Bethany Joy Lenz just oozes warmth and charisma in these holiday romances, and when combined with the charm of Andrew Walker it makes for a pretty irresistible romance. The pair play competing journalists who get stranded at an inn together where the real Santa maybe lives. A pretty standard holiday romance plot, elevated by the chemistry between the leads and some very fun tropes.
The Christmas Contract
Basically a mini One Tree Hill reunion, The Christmas Contract is about a woman named Jolie (Hilarie Burton) who doesn’t want to go home alone for the holidays and face her ex and his new girlfriend. Her friend’s brother (Robert Buckley) agrees to pretend to be her boyfriend, and you can guess what happens next. It’s all super sweet.
My Christmas Love
Meredith Hagner — who is dream rom-com lead material — plays a children’s author named Cynthia who takes her collaborator/best friend (Bobby Campo) home for the holidays (and her sister’s wedding). It’s the family’s first Christmas after their mother passed away, and amongst the joy and grief, Cynthia starts receiving daily surprise gifts themed around “The 12 Days of Christmas”. As she tries to figure out who her secret admirer is, she discovers what (and who) really matters. This movie has a great big heart, which is not something that can be said for every holiday romance.
The Mistletoe Promise
Another fake dating romance (why is that the actual best trope?). This time Jaime King and Luke McFarlane star as strangers who meet at the mall and agree to pretend to date to solve their holiday season problems (her ex, his bosses). As always, the chemistry and charm of the leads is what makes this stand out from the many other movies with very similar plots.
You Can’t Fight Christmas
Enemies-to-lovers plots take on a very specific shape in holiday romances: They’re always between someone who hates Christmas and someone who loves it a ridiculous amount. That’s the case here, as a Christmas designer (apparently a thing — played by Brely Evans) butts heads with a man who is trying to cancel Christmas at his hotel. Naturally he comes around to Christmas — and love — by the end, and it’s not only sweet but also a little bit sexier than the average holiday movie.
Netflix has made a name for itself in the holiday romance department in recent years, but Christmas Inheritance was their first offering — and, actually, still their best. Eliza Taylor plays an heiress who is sent to a small town to learn the “true meaning” of Christmas. And who better to teach her than a flannel-wearing average Joe (Jake Lacy)?
The Knight Before Christmas
Vanessa Hudgens’ The Princess Switch series has perhaps gotten more attention than The Knight Before Christmas, but the latter holds up better on repeat viewings. Yes, it’s utterly absurd — it’s about a time-travelling Christmas knight!! — but that’s all part of the fun.
The Spirit of Christmas
MarVista / Lifetime
Speaking of absurd, how about a hot Christmas ghost? Thomas Beaudoin plays the titular spirit who haunts a house our leading lady (played by Jen Lilley) is trying to sell. But only at Christmas! Part murder mystery, but existential romance, it’s way more fun than it has any right to be.
Yes, this is a holiday romance. No, I will accept no feedback. Not only does it take place over the holidays (not exclusively, sure, but significant portions of it), but it just has that holiday feel, you know? It’s warm and cozy and feels like returning home in the best possible way. And it’s specifically this version and no other (no offense Greta Gerwig).
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Another holiday romance that doesn’t take place exclusively during the holidays, but starts and ends with them, so it’s close enough. Who could forget Bridget’s first meeting with Mark Darcy, in which he’s wearing that very silly Christmas sweater? Or their final moment in the movie, in which they’re in the snow and her outfit is even more ridiculous? Holiday comfort viewing perfection.
When Harry Met Sally
See above re: the fact this qualifies as a holiday romance. In fact, When Harry Met Sally contains one of the most iconic New Year’s Eve scenes of all time, featuring one of the BEST love declarations. It’s the quintessential enemies-to-friends-to-lovers journey and perhaps the greatest rom-com in general.
A certain other holiday movie gets all the attention every year (more on that in a sec), but The Holiday has been the underdog bubbling away for several years, ready for its time in the spotlight. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play frustrated women who switch lives and find romance (with Jack Black and Jude Law, respectively). Jude Law’s Mr. Napkin Head bit alone makes it worth watching (and rewatching), but the rest of it is pretty damn lovely too.
Here it is. The ultimate. The undefeated. Is it problematic? Yes. Does that matter? Well, it depends who you ask. What can’t be denied is the place it holds in so many people’s holiday traditions, and the general impact it’s had on our culture (soooo many white notecard declarations). Basically, it’s just not Christmas without a bit of Love Actually.
TV and Movies
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