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Ho-ho-Hallmark: the definitive ranking of TV Christmas movies

Dec. 14, 2017
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As an aspiring screenwriter and a holiday season fanatic, there’s nothing I love more than curling up with a hot cup of cocoa and a delightfully cheesy TV Christmas flick. Unlike traditional “big screen” blockbusters, you can always count on a TV holiday movie to 1) end happily ever after for everyone except big conglomerate businesses, 2) revolve around some sort of romantic storyline (most likely between a Christmas enthusiast like myself and an overworked, underappreciated, but very attractive “Scrooge”), and 3) include at least one scene with snow, regardless of the location. That’s not to mention the familiar faces you’ll come across—most notably, the ever-charming (and seemingly omnipresent) Lacey Chabert, aka Gretchen Weiners from Mean Girls. 

In the past few years, I’ve become somewhat of an expert when it comes to TV Christmas movies—I’ve got two recording on my DVR as we speak. From Hallmark Channel to the ion Television Network, ice-sculpting competitions to aggravated kidnapping (yep, that’s right), I’m proud to say I’ve seen almost all of them.  

And so, it is with great authority—and a deep love of all that is romantic and cheesy—that I give you my Top 12, in no particular order. Enjoy!

  1. The Most Wonderful Time of Year (Hallmark) 

“The overwhelming tasks that go along with Christmas have taken the joy out of the holidays for busy single mom Jennifer Cullen. Then her Uncle Ralph arrives at her home with the young, handsome Morgan Derby. Morgan's love of Christmas, and life, is contagious and as Jennifer glumly navigates through the holidays, she soon realizes that what she needs most is right under her nose.”

My take: Henry Winkler, aka Happy Days’ Fonzie, stars as Jennifer’s kooky Uncle Ralph. Morgan is also the sexiest drifter I’ve ever seen…

  1. 12 Men of Christmas (Lifetime)

“A high-powered New York City publicist finds herself in Montana promoting a charity calendar after being betrayed by her boss and fiancé. Unfortunately, matters of the heart are just as complicated in the wild as they are in the big city.”

My take: What the IMDb synopsis fails to mention is that Broadway legend Kristen Chenoweth stars as spunky, pint-sized publicist E.J. Baxter. (What a name, right?) She packs a lot of punch for such a tiny body! 

  1. Let it Snow (Hallmark)

“A self-defined Grinch, Stephanie begins her stay at Snow Valley Lodge immune to Christmas sentiment. But as the lodge's festive traditions provide the Christmas Stephanie never had growing up with her distant father, Stephanie finds herself enjoying every minute. As her Christmas Eve deadline approaches, she's faced with a decision: should she transform the lodge into a new winter hot spot or embrace tradition and let it snow?”

My take: Who doesn’t love a Candace Cameron TV rom-com? Sure, it’s a slightly recycled storyline (cold, business executive finds happiness and love), but the beautiful snowy scenery definitely makes up for it. 

  1. 12 Gifts of Christmas (Hallmark)

“When Anna is unable to make ends meet, she is hired to become a personal Christmas shopper for Marc, an uptight corporate exec. As they work together, Marc learns that Christmas giving has less to do with the amount of money spent and more to do with the importance of the gift, while Anna discovers she might find success as an artist in a way she never expected.”

My take: I might just be biased, because my favorite part of Christmas is picking out the perfect gift for everyone, but this movie is so cute! I’m not a huge fan of the artist subplot, but the two actors have great chemistry and they eat a lot of cookies, so that’s great. 

  1. Marry Me at Christmas (Hallmark) 

“A bridal boutique owner, deep in the flurry of planning an exquisite Christmas wedding, is unexpectedly swept off her feet by the bride's brother, a famous Hollywood heartthrob.” 

My take: Again, my bias is showing! Marry Me at Christmas is based off of a book in one of my favorite book series by Susan Mallery. Like all Hallmark Christmas movies that take place in the quaintest American towns, this flick was filmed in Canada. Of course.  

  1. Holiday in Handcuffs (ABC Family)

“Would-be painter Gertrude 'Trudie' Chandler loses her waitress job and boyfriend Nick on Christmas Eve—her only shot not to feel like her family's black sheep. To replace the ideal son-in-law with even hunkier dream-prince, David Martin, she kidnaps him at gunpoint to attend the family holidays in a secluded luxurious log cabin.”

My take: I would watch every movie ever made if it starred Melissa Joan Hart and Mario Lopez (circa 2007). Because this one’s an ABC Family flick, pre-Freeform, it’s a little raunchier than your average TV Christmas movie. That’s not a bad thing, though!

  1. Dear Santa (Lifetime)

“A young woman who comes from a life of privilege falls for the owner of a soup kitchen after discovering a Dear Santa letter written by his seven year old daughter.”

My take: This one’s directed by Jason Priestly, y'all. Enough said. 

  1. Charming Christmas (Hallmark)

“Meredith is the uptight heiress of Rossman's Department store. She has made the business her entire life, not leaving any time for Christmas or romance, much to the chagrin of her parents. But when she is roped into playing Mrs. Claus at Rossman's, her life takes some unexpected turns.”

My take: Though I tend to stray away from the more emotional, heart-wrenching Hallmark movies, this one I like. Probably because David Sutcliffe (aka Rory’s Dad from Gilmore Girls) leads an ensemble cast as Rossman’s Santa Claus… or is he the real Santa? I’m still not sure. 

  1. Snowmance (ION) 

“Each year Sarah builds her 'Snow Beau' snowman with her best friend Nick. After another breakup, she begins to wonder if she'll ever find true love of her own. A little Christmas magic brings her Snow Beau to life.”

My take: This is one of those concepts that I wish I came up with first, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen several versions of this film already. And before you ask, no she does not fall in love with an actual snowman. He’s like a real guy… who sweats a lot around the fire. 

  1. A Royal Christmas (Hallmark)

“Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Cordinia, wishes to marry his young love Emily Taylor, a humble seamstress from Philadelphia. But Leopold's mother, Queen Isadora, has other plans for her son.”

My take: Enter Gretchen Weiners, heir to the throne of a fictional European country. I like this one, because Gretchen and her boyfriend are already together when the film starts—it’s not about them falling in love, but rather about them building a foundation for the rest of their lives. Awww!

  1.  Crown for Christmas (Hallmark)

“After getting fired from her job as a maid at a ritzy New York hotel, Allie reluctantly accepts a temp gig as the governess to a young girl who is part of a powerful family in Europe that lives in an actual castle.”

My take: Yes, this does take place in yet another fictional kingdom. It stars Danica McKellar (little Winnie Cooper, all grown up!), and you can’t help but smile while watching her bring her “American” style to… Europe? 

  1.  A Christmas Melody (Hallmark)

"A single mother moves back to her hometown with her young daughter. Having a hard time adjusting, the daughter seeks help from her music teacher to write a song for the Christmas variety show."

My take: Gretchen Weiners + Her childhood nemesis, Mariah Carey + a Mariah Carey original song + Mariah Carey’s film direction. What more could you ask for? Oh, Kathy Najimy, too!? I’m sold. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • A Princess for Christmas (Hallmark)
  • The Flight Before Christmas (Lifetime)
  • A Very Merry Mix-Up (Hallmark)
  • Holiday High School Reunion (Lifetime)
  • A Christmas Wedding Date (ION)