With dozens of Christmas movies released every year, Hallmark has made a tradition around their carefully crafted holiday films. Acquiring a steady cult following over the years, there are many viewers that don’t feel like Christmas can really begin until they’ve settled onto the couch with a warm cup of hot cocoa and played one of them. Even for those less enthused, they still offer a welcome break from the holiday shopping grind. Sure, many of them can come off as formulaic, but they have an earnest quality about them that can be infectious to even the most stubborn Grinch.
Now that there are hundreds to choose from, it’s difficult for anyone to determine a true Hallmark Christmas classic. For some fans, it will depend on if their favorite Hallmark actor is featured, while for others it has to have a romance and happy ending. Whatever you base your criteria on, there’s enough laughter, love, and wholesome friendship in each to be worth a spot on this list. Below are 10 Hallmark Christmas Movies that should be classics.
10 WINDOW WONDERLAND (2013)
When the biggest promotion of go-getter Sloan’s life is on the line at the biggest department store in New York City, she’ll have to design the greatest Christmas window display McGuire’s has ever seen. There’s only one problem - she’s not the only one up for the position, and she’ll have to beat handsome and happy-go-lucky Jack to get it.
But not everything is what it seems in this festive film about finding the spirit of Christmas amid the mad holiday rush of consumerism. Sloan learns to not make snap judgments about the merit of others, and that sometimes working together pays off much more than going solo.
9 ALL OF MY HEART (2015)
After Jenny inherits an old bed and breakfast in Bucks County, she’s elated at the prospect of owning her own business, albeit one that could use a new coat of paint. Ready to roll up her sleeves, she wants to transform it into a welcoming space where she can show off her culinary skills. There’s just one problem - she’s only inherited half of it, and the co-owner is a fast-talking Wall Street investment banker named Brian.
With no interest in the holiday season or the house, he wants to sell it off as soon as he can. She has no intention of selling it, and instead works to buy him out of his share. In the process of their negotiations, she begins to win him over with the possibilities for the house and unexpected romance. Lacey Chabert, franchise queen of Hallmark Christmas movies, gives another charming performance.
8 THE CHRISTMAS CONSULTANT (2012)
When busy mom Maya has a very important Christmas party to plan, she has no idea how she’s going to pull it off with also juggling her kids and work. Her boss is sure to show up and she’s angling for a new promotion, so she hires prestigious Christmas consultant Owen (David Hasselhoff) to throw the most spectacular bash ever.
The Hoff puts in a magnetic performance in this cheery Christmas yarn, and whatever your preconceived notions about his acting abilities, they’re in fine form among the typical Hallmark movie regulars. Owen’s story is surprisingly touching and endearing, and Caroline Rhea’s comedic talent as Maya makes this a hidden gem.
7 THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT (2013)
Charlotte can hardly believe it when she finds herself in a coma before Christmas, making her miss the holiday season entirely after a deadly car crash. As it turns out, she isn’t the only one that got put in a coma after the crash - a greedy developer looking to push ahead huge commercial developments in her town is also hurt.
Charlotte’s Christmas season has become something out of A Christmas Carol, complete with its very own Christmas ghosts - and she's one of them! Even as a specter, it'll be up to her to change the developer’s mind. While she’s determined to find a way to show him there’s more to Christmas than money, is there a way to make their relationship a little more corporeal?
6 ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS (2017)
When interior designer Sarah returns to her hometown, she looks forward to spending time with her Uncle Roy who’s recently lost his wife Beth, the woman who helped raise her. Sarah is more than happy to help plan Beth’s annual Christmas Parade, hoping it will help her forget about her recent breakup with a tech-giant in Manhattan.
Her plans get turned upside down when Graham Mitchell, a huge Hollywood star, arrives at her family’s ranch to prepare for a role in his next film. Sarah begrudgingly agrees to let him stay provided he actually helps her work the ranch. As they work together they develop feelings for one another, which are complicated by the arrival of his costar Nicole, who also feels like she has a special claim to his affections.
5 HOLIDAY BAGGAGE (2008)
Though Hallmark Christmas movies are often full of young, attractive couples strolling along snow-covered streets of festive small towns, Holiday Baggage takes a look at a slightly older couple whose faces show the hidden work put into many holiday seasons. A single mom with a demanding job as a pediatrician must juggle making Christmas still feel festive even if her ex-pilot husband is no longer in the picture.
The holiday spirit claims her, and she decides to invite Pete back into her home with the promise that he'll try to make things right with their daughters. After that, she'll agree to sign off on a trial separation that will lead to divorce. Hallmark movies don't usually get this heavy, but it doesn't shy away from showing the "holiday baggage" of blended families.
4 A ROYAL CHRISTMAS (2014)
It’s a fairytale come to life when Emily gets a job working in the palace. While she tends to Prince Leopold and his family’s needs, she learns more about their long-forgotten Christmas traditions. While he’s busy delegating their business affairs, he has no time for the joviality of Christmas, so she becomes determined to make sure that he gets back in touch with his Christmas spirit.
It definitely falls under the “royal falls in love with commoner” trope, but keeps it fresh with competent acting. Jane Seymour gives a fine performance as Prince Leopold’s mother, intent on marrying him off to royalty, who has to learn a thing or two herself about putting duty before family.
3 THE CHRISTMAS CARD (2006)
When a lonely soldier in Afghanistan receives a Christmas card out of the blue, he can’t help but be touched by the seasonal greetings from the anonymous sender. When his tour of duty is over and he finds himself back in the United States, he makes it his personal mission to locate the mystery woman who’s sent him the card.
He visits the town where the card originated from, and discovers a church group that has been writing and sending out hundreds of inspirational cards to servicemen, offering them some Christmas cheer. But he can't help but feel there’s something special about the person who wrote his card.
2 THE SANTA SUIT (2010)
Kevin Sorbo heads up this whimsical Hallmark film about a money-loving businessman named Drake Hunter who only seeks to exploit the holidays, not enhance them. As the president of his family company, Hunter Marketing, he wants to boost sales for his family toy company by hiring a department store Santa.
The real Santa gets wind of this and decides that Drake needs to focus more on the true spirit of Christmas, so he turns him into a Santa look-alike. Forced to make an honest living and interact with the customers that buy his family’s toys on a personal level, Drake may be money-poor but spirit-wealthy.
1 BATTLE OF THE BULBS (2010)
Battle of the Bulbs is the ultimate showdown between two neighbors who are committed to making their houses the most well-lit on the block. When Bob Wallace decorates his house for Christmas, he puts up enough lights and decorations to rival Santa’s Workshop. When he discovers one year his new neighbor Stu Jones has started to outshine him, rivalry ensues.
For fans of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Deck the Halls, this film will offer comedy, slapstick humor, and a touching message about the perils of putting materialism and notoriety over family and camaraderie. Both Daniel Stern and Matt Frewer are great physical comedians that put their all into making this film a bright part of your holiday binge-fest.