No brand has made itself more synonymous with Christmas than Hallmark. It started with annual ornament releases, then transitioned into the Countdown to Christmas event that happens on all the Hallmark Channels. Beginning right before Halloween, the network shows holiday movies nonstop through January.
Hallmark Christmas movies are their own special genre, with their own special rules. It’s true they follow a formula, but some are better than others. Fans have their favorites they wait all year for, as well as the ones they love to hate watch, because they’re so crazy. Get the hot chocolate and turn on the twinkle lights, these are the five best and five worst Hallmark Christmas movies.
10 WORST: A BOYFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS
An annoying plot that Hallmark relies on to fuel its movies is that a woman can’t be happy unless she has a boyfriend at Christmas. A Boyfriend for Christmas takes this idea literally and crafts a whole film around a woman’s childhood wish for a boyfriend.
Santa discovers this and grants her wish in the form of a lawyer who proceeds to lie to her about being a present from a friend. While she’s being lied to, she has to contend with a meddling family and jerk ex-boyfriend. It’s painful to see this smart woman humiliated every year.
9 BEST: ONE STARRY CHRISTMAS
There are three elements that make these movies work; an independent woman, a non-committal boyfriend and a nice guy she’s friends with. One Starry Christmas is a great example of how to use all three to tell a fun story.
Holly’s boyfriend Adam chooses work over Christmas with her family. Luckily, she meets Luke while traveling and her parents welcome him and his brother for the holiday. Luke is endlessly charming, making it easy to fall in love with him, while rooting for him and Holly to admit their feelings. The fourth requirement is met when Holly dumps Adam after an embarrassing marriage proposal.
8 WORST: EVERY CHRISTMAS HAS A STORY
In Every Christmas Has a Story, viewers are lost right out of the gate when they meet TV host Kate (Lori Loughlin). She hates Christmas, which is fine, but she wants to ruin everyone else’s good time.
To rehab her image, she’s sent to the most festive town in America and she hates every moment. Even worse, her ex-boyfriend/producer Jack, played by the always charming Colin Ferguson, must go along, and it’s clear during the entire movie he is way too good of a guy to put up with her attitude. The movie is not an especially fun way to celebrate Christmas.
7 BEST: THE CHRISTMAS CARD
Hallmark Channel loves stories about veterans coming home and finding love at Christmas. The best version of this can be found in The Christmas Card. Faith sends Christmas cards to soldiers, with one of them finding its way to Cody Cullen. While on leave, Cody heads to the town where his card came from, meets Faith and her family, then joins them for Christmas.
The chemistry between leads Alice Evans and John Newton instantly draws viewers in, making it impossible to not get invested in their story. It’s one of the movies we’re glad to see air a million times during the season, because we watch it every time.
6 WORST: I’M NOT READY FOR CHRISTMAS
Despite the best efforts of star Alicia Witt, it’s hard to sell the audience on someone whose life revolves around their many lies. Holly’s lies are so constant, her niece wishes for her to tell the truth for Christmas.
Watching her lies come back to haunt her isn’t fun. In fact, it gets exhausting. It all boils down to the fact that Holly just isn’t very likeable. No Hallmark movie has ever gone well with an unlikeable heroine. The film’s one saving grace is Witt’s singing.
5 BEST: CROWN FOR CHRISTMAS
Keeping with its trend of bringing back familiar faces, Crown for Christmas has Danica McKellar as Allie, a nanny for handsome king Max’s “problem child” daughter. Of course, she’s the only one who can get through to the young girl, repairing their father/daughter relationship.
As the family grows closer, Max and Allie develop feelings for one another. He’s torn between his possible relationship with Allie and his duty to his country. McKellar is so great, we are instantly reminded why we’ve loved her since we were kids. Royal romances are entertaining no matter what season it is.
4 WORST: SWITCHED FOR CHRISTMAS
Siblings who switch lives is a fun concept for kids’ movies. For a serious adult movie, it’s a lot less silly and humorous. Hallmark queen Candace Cameron Bure stars as twin sisters Kate and Chris, who decide to switch lives at Christmas.
Naturally, they fall in love while pretending to be one another, and hilarity is supposed to ensue. However, it’s actually just uncomfortable to watch them jump through hoops to keep this lie going. Cameron Bure appears in a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies, so there’s no need to sit through this nonsense just to see her.
3 BEST: A PRINCESS FOR CHRISTMAS
Let’s not beat around the bush, our love for A Princess for Christmas has a lot to do with pre-Outlander Sam Heughan as Ashton, the prince Katie McGrath’s Jules meets when she takes her niece and nephew to spend Christmas with their grandfather.
We never get tired of watching Heughan’s charm take over the screen. He and McGrath have an undeniable chemistry that, honestly, makes us a little jealous. It’s a Cinderella story where we get to see Jules triumph over the mean girl, get the guy and celebrate with Santa.
2 WORST: A CAROL CHRISTMAS
There’s no end to A Christmas Carol adaptations available to watch during the holidays. While they all share the same premise, they’re not all good. One of the worst comes in A Carol Christmas starring Tori Spelling in the Scrooge role.
William Shatner and Gary Coleman play two of the ghosts trying to rehabilitate Spelling’s awful talk show host on Christmas Eve. You have so many choices for Ebenezer Scrooge, there’s no reason to punish yourself with this one. Find Vanessa Williams in A Diva’s Christmas Carol instead.
1 BEST: SNOW BRIDE
As Hallmark meet cutes go, mistaken identity and a ruined wedding dress aren’t that out there. However, add in a fake relationship and it brings everything back on brand. This is the path Katrina Law and Jordan Belfi’s Greta and Ben take in Snow Bride.
As the pair grows closer, Greta wonders how long she can keep the secret that she’s really a gossip columnist looking for dirt on Ben’s family. What continues to make this film work year after year is the authentic approach it takes to Greta and Ben’s relationship. There’s no magic, just two people realizing they want more than what they have. It’s a breath of fresh air every time it comes on.