A few years ago, my mom and I were wrapping presents while watching Ion channel sappy romantic Christmas movies, and we realized three things: that these sorts of movies are a.) all the same, b.) terrible, and c.) addictive as hell.
Now, if you’re in the know, than you’re aware that Ion, the Hallmark Channel, and Lifetime don’t exactly play the classics when it comes to Christmas movies.
Instead, they produce their own low-budget Christmas movies. These movies typically start with a scene of the female lead being really busy with her career; you know, she wears high heels and walks very quickly down a city street while talking on the phone. Within the first fifteen minutes it is revealed that she is also, somehow, feeling unfulfilled. We often meet her tool of a current boyfriend, who thinks Christmas is childish. The female lead (whose hair is always perfectly curled) often ends up having to stay in some old house in a snowy town throughout the holiday season where she falls for a handsome stranger in less than a week.
My mom and I created a list of the common elements in Sappy Christmas Rom-Coms:
- A snowball fight
- A sleigh ride
- An elevator kiss
- Female Lead who is a “workaholic” at the start of the movie.
- Current boyfriend who hates Christmas
- A Best Friend character who also happens to be the only person of color/gay person in the movie
- A New Love Interest who loves children, puppies, and all things festive.
- Female Lead must unexpectedly travel somewhere that is far away and covered in snow. Note: I live in Boston and there is almost never snow by Christmas here.That starts in January
- A big dance/party/ball in the last 1/3 of the movie where the Female Lead gets to dress up really fancy.
- A Villainous Millionaire who is trying to take over some plot of land that has sentimental value to the Female Lead.
All of the movies on my list contain at least three of the above elements. They’re also all available on Netflix and Youtube, because I don’t actually have cable because I am on a teacher’s budget.
I am ranking these from best to worst; so the worst movie will be #1, and the least terrible will be #10. That said, #10 is still pretty crappy, but I made it through ten of these ridiculous movies in the last two weeks just because I really wanted to rank them.
I should also mention that after I started writing this post, I realized how incredibly long it would be if I summarized all 10 movies in one go. So, today will be hi-lighting the least trash movies, numbers 5-10.
#10: ChristmasLand: ChristmasLand is a Hallmark Channel Original that I watched on Youtube. The audio cut out throughout the Youtube video, but to be honest these movies don’t have a ton of plot anyhow, so it didn’t interfere too much. This film was actually the least terrible, as the acting was not uncomfortable to watch and the storyline, while ridiculous, was kind of unique.
The movie follows a super successful ad executive named Jules who lives in New York City and walks very fast in heels while bossing people around on her cell phone. She lives with her boyfriend who wants to go to Aruba for the holiday because he thinks Christmas is lame-o. Their plans change when Jules’ grandmother passes away and leaves Jules the Christmas theme park where Jules had spent many a happy holiday as a child. Jules travels to the snow-covered small town to deal with the estate, and meets Tucker, her extremely good-looking lawyer who immediately demonstrates his love of babies, puppies, and all things festive. Jules’ current boyfriend and a villainous millionaire plot to buy Christmas Land and subdivide it, but Jules and Tucker fight back and save the day! There’s a kiss at the end, and then Tucker and Jules go on a sleigh ride.
Number of Essential Sappy Christmas Rom-Com Elements: 6
#9: The Christmas Prince: Netflix knows what’s up, scooping this little film up and plopping it on the front page right before Thanksgiving! This also had almost bearable acting and the sets/locations were sort of interesting.
We first meet hard-working copy editor Amber as she is being forced to re-write another article for a pompous reporter. She’s out of the ordinary in this genre because she is single and focusing on her career, but don’t worry- her best friends are always on her case about it (her best friends are a woman of color and a gay man who makes a lot of sassy comments, btw). One day her boss assigns her a big story, covering the complicated coronation of a European prince who is known for his playboy ways. Amber flies to Europe, where she is accidentally hired as a tutor for the Princes little sister, Emily, who happens to have a physical disability and is also probably the best part of this ridiculous film. Amber gets to stay in the snow-shrouded palace, where she immediately realizes she is ill-equipped to teach 6th grade math (way to perpetuate the whole “girls are bad at math” thing, Netflix). Prince Richard seems rude at first but soon reveals his love of babies and puppies and he and Amber kind of develop a thing. There’s some internal conflict there, since Amber is pretending to be Tutor Martha and feels god-awful about lying to Richard. There are sled rides and snowball fights galore, but through it all Richard’s villainous millionaire cousin is trying to take over the throne! It all culminates with Princess Emily (YAS) giving Amber a makeover and bringing her to a fancy, fancy ball. Things get CRAY and the villainous cousin almost lands on the throne, but in the end Richard wins, gets coronated, then flies to NYC to propose to Amber, who he has known for about a week by my estimation.
But the quick engagement wasn’t what bothered me. What made this movie truly frustrating was that I firmly felt like Emily should get the crown at the end. I mean, I know she’s 12 but she’s clearly the most intelligent person in the palace, and she expresses that it sucks that only the male heirs get to reign. When Amber finds the secret decree from the now-deceased king at the end, I thought it would be a decree ending the whole male-lineage rule, and I was SO FREAKING EXCITED FOR PRINCESS EMILY. Then it turned out to not be that and Richard got to be king, blah blah blah. I was #disappointed. EMILY FOR QUEEN!!
Number of Essential Sappy Christmas Rom-Com Elements: 7
#8: The Spirit of Christmas This was originally a Lifetime movie that is now available on Netflix. This movie gets the prize for best looking New Love Interest, although that New Love Interest is technically deceased and technically 95 years old.
Female Lead Kate is a workaholic lawyer whose boss unexpectedly sends her to appraise a small-town inn so it can be sold. Her task is complicated when, upon her arrival at the snow-covered inn, Kate meets a ghost named Daniel who is SMOKIN and also really wants her to get the heck out of his territory. They end up bonding, though, and decide to solve the mystery of his death, which occurred on christmas eve night during the prohibition era. We slowly learn through a series of historically inaccurate flashbacks that Daniel was a rum runner back in the day, but he’s only gotten into the smuggling biz to try to save his beloved inn for his fiancee, Lily. He was on his way home to Lily after his final smuggle when he was bludgeoned within eyeshot of his home. Lily then married his brother, which really ticked Daniel off. Now Daniel’s ghost returns to the inn during the Christmas season to brood and scare customers away so the inn he cared so much about can take a huge financial hit every holiday season. Towards the end, though, Kate convinces Daniel to bartend at a party she throws at the inn, and she gets to get all dressed up and he gets to pretend like he isn’t 100 years old and very unhappy. During the party a bunch of nonsensical paranormal things that I, with my masters degree, could not figure out. Alls I know is in the end they solve the murder mystery and end up together. He somehow comes back to life and is still a smokin hot 35 year old man, not a shriveled up 100+ year old. I have no clue how the writers of this thought the ending made sense, but whatever!
Number of Essential Sappy Christmas Rom-Com Elements: 4
#7: The Christmas Belle So, this one tried to be good. It had Haylie Duff in it, who isn’t the worst actress. And there was a dog, which I like. I like dogs. It was also (theoretically) a modern interpretation of Beauty and the Beast.
Belle works as an auctioneer with her father, who is kind of bad at his job. It’s okay, though, because Belle is really great at her job, even if she is perpetually sleep deprived. Also, Belle’s dad is clearly gay, and she seems to have no other friends, aside from her stalker, Tony. See, Belle is stalked by a guy named Tony who is constantly telling her he loves her even though they have not yet been on one date. Like, WHAT?!? Why? So Weird. Even though it’s freaking CHRISTMAS, Belle’s dad sends her to stay at the vinyard-side mansion of a shirtless guy named Hunter to appraise his assets- I mean his ESTATE- before it goes up for auction. Hunter’s a total dickhead at first but he has a cute dog named Beast who he clearly loves, and Beast becomes Belle’s pal. They get to work pricing all the historical books in Hunter’s elaborate library, and at some point Hunter and Belle start making out. I forget how this happened because I dozed off in the middle. Tony morphs from Current Suitor/Stalker to Villainous Millionaire as he tries to buy the mansion from Hunter to impress Belle. There’s a fancy dance in Hunter’s barn, and Belle wears what is definitely a recycled bridesmaid’s dress. In the end Belle tells off Tony, regains Hunter’s trust, and they get married in a “one year later” flash forward.
I would have dropped this way lower on my trash list if it hadn’t been for Belle, played by Hallmark QUEEN Haylie Duff, being kind of cool. This movie was actually pretty thin on plot, so they padded the story with long shots of Hunter (who was played by the head surgeon from The Good Doctor) running shirtless through his expansive vineyards. This was thoroughly ridiculous, and in a moment of clarity Haylie/Belle actually called attention to this craziness, asking Hunter “do you have a problem with shirts?” She also totally stands up for herself when Hunter is rude on several occasions, which was nice to see in a movie genre where most of the ladies just stand down.
Number of Essential Sappy Christmas Rom-Com Elements: 7
#6: The Christmas Kiss I have a soft spot for this movie because it is the one that inspired this whole project. Yes, my dears, this is the very film I was watching with my mom that day that I described above. This one started it all. It is the OG trash-fest covered in glitter.
Wendy is a young Bostonian (HOMETOWN!) working too hard as an assistant to a very successful interior designer named Pricilla. Pricilla thinks that Christmas is super lame and is super demanding of Wendy, so she fits the role of “tool boyfriend” in this situation. Wendy lives with her two best friends (one of whom is a person of color and makeup artist, the other works at a coffee shop) in an amazing, high-ceilinged, exposed brick loft, and how these girls afford this apartment is the greatest mystery of the film. Wendy accidentally kisses a man who she later learns is her boss’s boyfriend, Adam, when an elevator they are on begins to shift and they fall into one another and magic is clearly in the air. Wendy and Adam later bond when Wendy is asked to help design Christmas decor for an upcoming gala he’s hosting. As it turns out, Adam loves kids, and all things festive. They go on a sleigh ride, and watch Christmas movies all night together. Pricilla gets kind of nuts towards the end, firing Wendy and forcing Adam into an engagement, in an almost villainous-millionaire move. But in the end Adam takes back the diamond and goes to find Wendy, who is all dressed up for opening night at the Nutcracker. He, too, is really dressed up. They head off in an elevator together, and it’s all so sappy that it’s very nearly good.
Number of Essential Sappy Christmas Rom-Com Elements: 9
I hope you enjoyed my first installment of Sappy Christmas Rom Com Reviews!! Be sure to check back next Friday for my reviews of the next five films in my sappy christmas collection:
A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale
The Christmas Crush
Back to Christmas
Get excited to see how they rank!!
Now You Tell Me…
- Favorite Christmas movies?
- Are any of you as fascinated by this crappy christmas rom-com genre as I am?
- If you’ve seen any of these movies…do you agree/disagree with my perspective?