Here Are the Most Romantic Christmas Movies Ever Made

Dec 30, 2022

‘Tis the season to… watch movies? As we are well and truly in the throws of the Holiday season, it’s high time to engage in all our favorite festive activities to help us celebrate the most wonderful time of the year during the coolest time of the year. And what’s the best way to keep warm during this chilly time? Why, by putting on an ugly sweater, snuggling with someone special, and watching a festive movie, of course! But which romantic holiday movie should you watch? It’s an oft-intimidating canon, with childhood classics and Hallmark cheapies alike — let alone factoring in what provides the best romantic ambiance. Luckily, Collider has your back. We’ve crafted a list (and checked it twice) of the 14 most romantic Christmas movies you can watch whether it’s with your other half, the entire family, or by yourself. Happy holidays, y’all!

RELATED: Why Are the Best Christmas Movies So Damned Depressing?


The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Are you a fan of You’ve Got Mail, the early-Internet-centered romcom starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as bookstore owners who hate each other IRL but grow to love each other over email? Then you simply must see The Shop Around the Corner, the Christmas-set classic that directly inspired You’ve Got Mail. From classic German-turned-Hollywood comedy director Ernst Lubitsch (Heaven Can Wait), The Shop Around the Corner stars James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as two workers at a Budapest shop who have two versions of crackling chemistry with each other. One marked by “real world” arguments, perfectly crafted takedowns, and the best Transatlantic accents you’ll ever hear (Sullavan’s work in her famous “Mr. Kralik, I don’t like you” speech is both inimitable and super-fun-to-imitate). And the other marked by passionate, overtaking, cup-runneth-overing love — just, you know, only communicated via anonymous letters.
When Stewart and Sullavan read each other’s letters to themselves, lensed in beautiful soft focus by cinematographer William H. Daniels, it’s absorbingly beautiful and — dare I say — titillating! Later, when Lubitsch stages his stars on a date with their suitors — still without the other person realizing who they’ve actually been communicating with — it just pops with comedic energy that makes you realize what Mrs. Doubtfire took some of its cue from. Plus, at the risk of spoiling, its ending is… very romantic. If you’re looking for a “classy Christmas date night,” prepare yourself some spiked hot chocolate, put on your nicest sweaters, and throw on The Shop Around the Corner. You will feel 200% more classy, instantly. – Gregory Lawrence

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Image via Paramount

If you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life in a while, I want to give one warning: It’s much, much darker than you remember. James Stewart’s George Bailey is a desperate man driven to suicide on Christmas Eve. This is not an exaggeration or usage of distasteful metaphor: George Bailey literally wants to jump off a bridge and die on Christmas Eve. And as you might expect from a desperate, suicidal protagonist, he behaves erratically during much of the film’s first act. He’s tempted by the evils of capitalism at his job, he bitterly snaps at his children, he just doesn’t have the joy of Christmas in his heart, goshdarnit! But then, his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) arrives and shows George highlights of his life. And we see the love story between him and Mary Hatch, played with aching empathy by Donna Reed. And the film’s reputation as a romantic masterpiece (in addition being just a, y’know, all-around masterpiece) starts snapping into focus. The journey of their love story is rife with iconic moments — the school gym’s floor falling out to reveal a pool, the accidental undressing in the bushes, “You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it” — that will procure the necessary “awws” and couch snuggles they’re designed to procure.
But what I love the most about It’s a Wonderful Life’s love story (beyond everything else I love about this perfect, perfect movie) is its willingness to be real. Director Frank Capra might get knocked for being overly idealistic or even corny in his pictures, but his Wonderful Life depicts a shocking amount of stark depth. Clarence winds up showing George what life would be like without him, and George comes back to the real world a changed man, and everyone is happy again. But in the interim, we saw real pain, real agitation, real despair. These feelings don’t immediately fly away when one falls in love — or when one plans a silly, casual Christmas movie date. They’re in us all. But when one is really in love, they’re just a little more manageable with a teammate. For this reason, It’s a Wonderful Life is, and will likely continue to be, the perfect romantic holiday film. – Gregory Lawrence

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Sandra Bullock finds herself in a pickle after she saves the life of her dream man (who doesn’t know she exists), Peter (Peter Gallagher), on Christmas Day. Due to a miscommunication, his family thinks that she is his fiancée when they meet in the hospital while Peter is in a coma. What could be more complicated? How about falling in love with Peter’s brother, Jack (Bill Pullman), while trying to keep the lie going? Even though While You Were Sleeping isn’t a traditional Christmas film (the climax doesn’t take place at Christmas), the romance between Lucy and Jack gives audiences the warm fuzzies found in the most romantic Christmas movies. – Meredith Loftus

The Preacher’s Wife (1996)

Image Via Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The Preacher’s Wife stars Courtney B. Vance as Reverend Henry Biggs, a Baptist pastor struggling with his faith, which in turn affects his family. When he prays to God for help, his answered prayer comes in the form of the suave angel, Dudley (Denzel Washington). Though Dudley helps Henry realize the most important things in his life, it doesn’t come without some flirtation between Dudley and Henry’s wife, Julia, played by Whitney Houston. Whether you ship Julia with her husband or her family’s guardian angel, The Preacher’s Wife is a heartwarming reminder of how love is at the center of the Christmas season. – Meredith Loftus

Serendipity (2001)

Image via Miramax

The classic rom-com Serendipity is, in fact, a Christmas movie. Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) have their magical meet-cute while Christmas shopping five days before the holiday. They spend a wonderful night together, but after Sara attempts to give Jonathan her phone number, the wind takes it away; she believes it’s fate telling them it’s not meant to be. From their enchanted meeting, the wonder of Christmas lingers between the two as they find their way back to each other years later. – Meredith Loftus

Love Actually (2003)

Image Via Universal Pictures

If Elf is “lightly problematic,” Love Actually kinda dives headfirst into problematic-town without any in-character apologies whatsoever. Writer/director Richard Curtis gives us casual fat-shaming. It gives us a troubling Colin Firth relationship rife with issues of language barriers and power dynamics. In arguably its most iconic image, Andrew Lincoln pours his heart out to Keira Knightley with a series of cue cards that inadvertently reveal our world’s problem with male entitlement, the idea of “stalking” as “expressions of love,” the “nice guy” syndrome, and yes, some more casual fat-shaming. And yet… I cannot help but love this dumbass movie with my whole dumbass heart. Curtis’ use of vignettes is to his advantage. Each sketch is able to cut right to the heart of the matter, giving us the filmic equivalent of listening to a “greatest hits” Christmas album, with no auxiliary filler. I also enjoy the different emotional tenors each vignette is able to communicate, from the relative zaniness of Martin Freeman and Joanna Page’s fully nude meet-cute to the nuanced melancholy of Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson’s slow-burn discovery of an affair. This broad approach, while likely contributing to Curtis’ casual problematics, combines with the “British pride” vibe of the whole film (especially Prime Minister Hugh Grant’s story) to give Christmas — and love — a universal, wide-sweeping feeling. One that’s not difficult to allow yourself to get caught up in. Just like love, actually. – Gregory Lawrence

Elf (2003)

Image Via New Line Cinema

“Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” When we think about the 2003 Will Ferrell-starring contemporary Christmas classic Elf, we tend to think about the various comedic shenanigans and outlandishly childlike proclamations Ferrell gets into and shouts. But it’s important to remember that at the center of Jon Favreau’s lovely, hilarious, heartwarming picture… is love. Specifically, between Buddy and his polar opposite — Jovie, a cynical, beaten-down department store elf played with refreshingly deadpan charm by Zooey Deschanel. However, I’ll offer a fair warning: One of their first “meet-cutes” is awkward and borderline problematic by design. Buddy hears Jovie singing “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the store’s shower and follows the sound of her voice to sing the counterpart.
But when both parties realizes what’s going on, Buddy immediately covers his eyes, flees the room, and bonks his head on the wall on the way out. After an earnest apology, where Jovie is convinced Buddy couldn’t have meant anything harmful by the naive encounter, the two go on one of the most delightful New York City Christmas dates ever rendered on-screen. They get the world’s best cup of coffee (actually terrible), visit a litany of big ol’ Christmas trees (actually wonderful), and even smooch! I love Buddy and Jovie’s Christmastime relationship because they each earnestly add something the other person is missing to each other’s lives. Buddy gets Jovie out of her cynical rut and gets her singing — literally! And Jovie gets Buddy to acclimate to the joys of the real world, helping him grow up without “growing up.” As for their final image, alongside Bob Newhart? It’s just the sweetest Christmas card-ready thing you could ever dang see. – Gregory Lawrence

The Family Stone (2005)

Image Via 20th Century Fox

What’s a trip home for the holidays without some family drama? The Family Stone plays on the classic trope of bringing the significant other over to meet the family for Christmas; in this case, it’s Everett (Dermot Mulroney) bringing Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet his family made up of all-star actors like Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, to name a few. While there’s a bit more family drama that Meredith’s being thrown into, the romance gets more complicated when Everett starts to have feelings for Julie (Claire Danes), Meredith’s younger sister, and Meredith starts to fall for Everett’s brother Ben, played by Luke Wilson. – Meredith Loftus

Just Friends (2005)

Image Via New Line Cinema

Before Ryan Reynolds was the merc with a mouth, he starred alongside Amy Smart in this Christmas rom-com. Just Friends explores what the friend zone is (before we even had the term!) as Reynolds’ Chris unexpectedly comes home for the holidays and reunites with his high school best friend and crush. Though he’s accompanied by an eccentric pop star (Anna Faris) who wants to date him, Chris realizes that he’s always been in love with his best friend and has to risk leaving the friend zone in order to get his dream girl. – Meredith Loftus

Last Holiday (2006)

Image via Paramount Pictures

Queen Latifah is off to make the most of her holiday in Last Holiday. When Georgia Byrd receives a terminal diagnosis, she decides to use her remaining time to sell her possessions and live it up at an upscale hotel in the Czech Republic. While she’s there, Georgia dazzles the guests, charms the employees, and changes lives in the process. Though she catches the eye of a senator, played by Giancarlo Esposito, her heart belongs to her co-worker (LL Cool J). Thankfully, he’s also spurred into action to reveal his feelings for Georgia after she abruptly quits her job. Last Holiday is the type of movie that inspires you to live in the moment and also find love along the way. – Meredith Loftus

The Holiday (2006)

Image via Sony Pictures

Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Kate Winslet and Jack Black. Nancy Meyers and romcoms. Christmas and lovely movies. A bunch of objectively perfect pairings converged into one 2006 treat: The Holiday. When the LA-based Diaz and UK-based Winslet each suffer miserable heartbreak (with Edward Burns and Rufus Sewell, respectively), they both sign up for an online “home-swapping” service and decide to spend the holiday season in each other’s homes. While in bright and sunny LA, Winslet meets Black, an aspiring musician who happens to be Burns’ assistant. And while in dark and snowy England, Diaz meets Law, who happens to be Winslet’s brother. And if you think these unorthodox, coincidental pairings don’t slowly fall in love, then brother, you must’ve never seen a movie.
If you’re a fan of Meyers’ big ol’ kitchens and screwball narratives of stunted adults trying their best, you will mind much to love about The Holiday’s surface — and it is, indeed, a shiny surface. But I appreciate the film’s atypically melancholy, textured approach to our complicated feelings around the holidays. And, I appreciate its casting: One year before Knocked Up gave us Seth Rogen as a romantic lead, Jack Black’s character serves as a refreshingly “normal-ish” contrast to a typical male romcom performer you’d see in this kind of film. And while Black is given his chance to do his “Jack Black hijinks,” Meyers wisely pokes at that image, too. No one is left off the hook in The Holiday — and yet, it’s not an overly cynical or prickly watch. It’s both smooth and nuanced, rich but delicious. It’s the artisanal, homemade candy cane of the romantic Christmas movie season. – Gregory Lawrence

Four Christmases (2008)

Image Via Warner Bros.

Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon star in this modern yet timeless holiday tale. After a flight to Fiji is canceled on Christmas Day, the couple spends the day visiting each of their parents. Along the way, they discover more details about each other and realize they actually want more from the relationship they’ve been in for years. While the comedy is top-notch, it’s the chemistry between Vaughan and Witherspoon that holds down this Christmas movie. Brad and Kate start out as a strong couple with clear expectations yet end more in love than before (thanks to their families!) – Meredith Loftus

The Spirit of Christmas (2015)

Image Via Lifetime

What happens when you combine a Lifetime movie with the supernatural? You get The Spirit of Christmas. A determined lawyer (Jen Lilley) finds love in the most unusual circumstances after she meets a handsome ghost (Thomas Beaudoin) – yes, ghost– who’s able to appear in human form before Christmas. Though there’s plenty of cheese and suspension of disbelief, what makes The Spirit of Christmas stand out is the chemistry between the two leads and the mystery surrounding this ghost’s annual haunting. – Meredith Loftus

Happiest Season (2020)

While there’s been more than enough straight couples finding love amidst the cheesy Christmas magic, Happiest Season is here to bring that holiday cheer to the LGBTQ+ community. When Harper (Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart) decide to visit Harper’s family, it turns out Harper hasn’t told her family that she’s a lesbian. This leads to some holiday hijinks as Harper and Abby attempt to keep their relationship a secret for the time being, including some run-ins with Harper’s exes. Though you come to this movie for Harper and Abby to find happiness, what you won’t be expecting is how you might end up rooting for Abby to end up with Harper’s ex, Riley (Aubrey Plaza), instead! – Meredith Loftus

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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