Nothing puts us in the Christmas spirit like watching a marathon of Hallmark Christmas movies. They make us feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, and with colder weather here, nothing sounds better than spending all day bundled up and watching movies. Every year the Hallmark channel releases movies commemorating the holidays—since 2008, they’ve released an impressive 136 holiday films.
What’s not to love? Hallmark has perfected their equation. Combine charm, snow, romance, and a happy ending, and you’ve got the ideal Christmas movie. Although most of the plots are completely absurd—how are all these small towns filled with such hunks?—we don’t watch for accuracy, we watch for entertainment. During the season of hot drinks and presents, we want to feel good, we want hope, and...we want love! Keep reading for a list ranking the best Hallmark Christmas movies. Movies included in this coveted list have been selected based on a few qualifications: sappiest love stories, friendliest characters, prettiest winter settings, and the most perfect endings. The best time of the year just got better!
1. The Christmas Card (2006)
We are throwing it back to 2006 for this whirlwind movie that will hit all the feels. U.S. Army Master Sergeant Cody Cullen is given a Christmas card from a fellow soldier, written by a woman named Faith Spelman. The card never leaves Cody’s side as he endures the hardships of war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the soldier that gave Cody the Christmas card is killed. Cody decides to pay the soldier’s widow his respects and travels to Nevada City, California a few weeks before Christmas. Just as Cody is about to leave, Cody runs into Faith and ends up staying in the town. With her boyfriend in the way, Faith and Cody are unable to admit their feelings for each other. Will they end up together, or will they come to a dead end?
This movie ranked as the Hallmark Channel’s highest-ever-rated telecast on the date of its premiere. The ways Faith’s card affect Cody is heartwarming; Faith’s words move and inspire Cody, helping him survive in a dangerous setting. The ending of the movie beautifully conveys the meaning of Christmas. On Christmas morning Cody places his own Christmas card on the family tree that will direct them to a Christmas present he had been working on—a wooden bench with an inscription that read “Where the Magic Begins.” The bench stands in the family’s favorite spot at a nearby lake, which also happens to mark the spot where Faith and Cody first kiss. Cody’s thoughtfulness exemplifies the true meaning of the season of Christmas—it's not about materialistic things, but the love we share. The final scene is the perfect gift the movie could give—leaving you feeling satisfied and joyous!
2. Christmas Under Wraps (2014)
Candace Cameron Bure is quickly becoming a queen of the Hallmark Christmas movies; she's starred in 18 Hallmark movies and counting. This movie follows an ambitious doctor, Dr. Lauren Brunell, who has planned out her whole life to avoid any surprises. She is totally unprepared for the curveball life throws at her: she loses her dream job and boyfriend on the same day. She reluctantly decides to accept a residency in Alaska, where she learns to embrace a simple life. Lauren also ends up finding company in hot handyman Andy Holliday, who helps her give love another chance. Just when she is getting used to life in Alaska, Lauren’s dream job becomes available and she is forced to decide between love and ambition.
This movie became the highest-rated premiere in Hallmark history, and with good reason. Many of us can relate to a character who is obsessed with controlling her life, but has to learn how to finally let go. The fact that a handsome guy is the one who teaches her to live in the moment really doesn’t hurt. Wintry Alaska is the ideal Christmas location; what says Christmas more than snow?
3. A Royal Christmas (2014)
For those of you that love a Cinderella story, this one's for you! Emily is a Philly girl that is very proud of being part of the working class—she works hard for everything that she has, and she loves her life. Her world is turned upside down when she falls in love with her gorgeous European boyfriend. As luck would have it, Leo is revealed to be Prince Leopold, the heir to the throne of the small country of Cordinia. The prince decides to take Emily to Cordinia for the holidays where she can meet his mother Isadora, Queen of Cordinia. The Queen isn’t fond of Emily—wanting him to marry the Duchess Natasha—and goes out of her way to make Emily feel unwelcome. Attempting to fit into her boyfriend’s royal lifestyle becomes more complicated than Emily ever imagined.
Highly recommended for fans of The Princess Diaries, this movie fulfills all your royal needs, including the requisite scene about etiquette school. This movie adds a little something extra to that perfect formula: a beautiful Christmas setting. This classic rags-to-riches tale includes a super-likable cast. There is a subplot that involves a young orphan girl named Poppy, and, like all happy ending Hallmark movies, she finds a family in the end. At the end, despite Queen Isadora’s attempt to ruin Christmas through her ice queen antics, love and Christmas prevail!
4. The Christmas Train (2017)
All aboard! This movie is like Orient Express, but without the murder. Based on a novel by David Baldacci, the film follows a journalist as he travels by train across the country to get home for the holidays. The train travels from D.C. to Los Angeles as Tom Langdon—the angsty journalist played by Dermot Mulroney—searches for inspiration for a story about his late father. Tom begins to chronicle some of the surprises he experiences along the way. He meets some unexpected characters: the wise and caring Agnes, movie producer Max, and long-lost love interest Eleanor. A snowstorm threatens the trip and the holidays...can Christmas be saved?
What really makes this movie special is the amazing cast—the Hallmark Channel spent big bucks on the retro set, and the cast that includes Joan Cusack and Danny Glover. A train ride during the holidays meeting exceptional people really pulls some heartstrings. The promise of romance as the flame between Tom and Eleanor reignites will also keep you glued to the screen. As two old flames that might just get things right this time around, Tom and Eleanor provide the movie's requisite Christmas miracle. With snow and love in the air, The Christmas Train will leave you looking for mistletoe!
5. Journey Back to Christmas (2016)
This film begins in 1945 during Christmas time, as Hanna Norris deals with the loss of her military husband who died in World War II. In order to spend the holidays with her family, Hanna decides to make the drive—in the dead of winter! Unfortunately Hanna is involved in an accident during the storm, and is stranded. When she takes shelter in an abandoned barn, her life changes in a surprising way. Lightning strikes her, knocking Hanna unconscious. When Hanna finally awakes, she realizes that she has been transported 71 years into the future. A handsome police officer—Jake Stanton—offers to help the very-confused Hanna, by allowing her to stay at his parent’s farm house. With Christmas in the air and time spent with Jake, Hanna begins to develop feelings for her rescuer. Soon Hanna discovers that a Christmas miracle caused the time jump, and she must decide whether to stay in the present with Jake, or head back home to 1945.
Why do we love this movie? It is reminiscent of the 1985 movie Back To The Future. It provides nostalgia with the magic of the holidays. The movie has the same wonderful ingredients: wholesome townspeople, a cozy family farm, and budding romance. It stars Full House’s Candace Cameron Bure and Dawson’s Creek Oliver Hudson as they discover the meaning of kindness. Your heart will grow three times in size just by watching this one!
6. Coming Home for Christmas (2017)
Based on a novel of the same name, the rom-com follows Lizzie Richfield as she lands a job as house manager for the Ashford estate in the Virginia countryside. When Lizzie discovers that the estate is being sold, she decides to plan one final Christmas Eve gala for the Marley family, the owners of the estate. However, Lizzie is caught up in the lives of the family. As she finds herself tangled in the chaotic lives of the Marleys, Lizzie is herself drawn to the handsome Robert Marley ... if only she could shake the advances of his younger brother Kip.
We love a Christmas miracle, and this film delivers just that. When Lizzie gets laid off at an insurance agency, she magically finds a new career. There’s romantic fulfillment when Lizzie and Robert finally get together. The black-tie event has the best Christmas decorations and provides a glamorous air; you can live out your rich fantasies through Lizzie. Even more important is the portrayal of family during the holidays. The Marleys are dysfunctional and disconnected—in this day and age what family isn’t?—and yet through the power of Christmas and Lizzie’s tenacious nature, they are able to come together as a family to celebrate the season. There’s nothing like a wholesome family moment!
7. Northpole (2014)
The home of Santa and Mrs. Claus, Northpole has grown into a city powered by the universal magic of holiday happiness. However, the city is in trouble as people around the world become too preoccupied to enjoy the festivities. In order to save Christmas and protect the city of Northpole, Clementine—a determined elf—must team up with Kevin. It would be a lot easier if Kevin’s protective mom, Chelsea, could rediscover the magic of the holiday season. Nevertheless, Kevin enlists the help of his caring teacher, Ryan, and a gospel singer named Josephine. Kevin and Clementine make a great team as they embark on an magical adventure to prove that anything is possible when you just believe.
Nothing screams the holidays like a collaboration between an elf and a child. Both hold tightly onto the magic of the holidays, and they embody the Christmas spirit all year ‘round: awe, excitement, and happiness. This movie is as sweet as the cookies left out for Santa. It serves warmth by focusing on happiness and toy-making and coming together to keep the holiday alive. There’s also possible romance between Chelsea and Ryan, so add some spice to the eggnog. There’s love, there’s family, there’s Santa ... what more could you ask for?
8. Crown for Christmas (2015)
Allie Evans is an American hotel maid who ends up getting fired from a high-end New York hotel. When Fergus—a hotel patron’s servant—overhears Allie being fired, he offers her a job as governess to a young girl who is part of a powerful European family. Allie accepts and arrives in the country of Winshire to discover that Fergus’ employer is Maximillion, King of Winshire, and the girl she is in charge of is Princess Theodora. After her mother’s death, Princess Theodora became mischievous, terrorizing authority figures. However, Allie and the Princess immediately hit it off, while sparks quickly fly between Allie and Max.
The characters are very believable, and the relationship that forms between Allie and Theodora is truly special. Their growth and unconditional love for one another really makes the movie stand out—nothing makes the holidays more memorable than spending them with family. It is a magical movie for an audience of any age, with a dream-like Cinderella ending. At the core is the importance of family, but the movie still provides the trademark Hallmark romance between Allie and King Maximillion. You can check that off of Santa’s list!
9. My Christmas Love (2016)
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me ...” Cynthia heads back to her hometown a few days before Christmas to enjoy the holidays with her family and attend her sister’s wedding. It will be anything but a walk in the park! With Cynthia’s recently-widowed father spending the first Christmas without his wife, and Cynthia still recuperating from a difficult breakup, it seems the jolly season will be put on pause. Well, think again, because the weekend is filled with surprises. Meredith—a hopeless romantic at heart—received anonymous gifts inspired by the “12 Days of Christmas,” and now must figure out who her secret admirer is.
Honestly, this the ideal Christmas problem to have! Cute, festive, and romantic, what more could you want? It is a very thoughtful gesture that will make you swoon and second-guess your singlehood. The mystery adds a slight edge to the movie as Meredith coincidentally bumps into a few exes. Also, can we please talk about how attractive Meredith’s exes are—um, where is this town again? The surprise revelation will definitely keep you on your feet and have you rooting for the pair.
10. The Mistletoe Promise (2016)
Jaime King plays a divorcee in her 30s who isn’t a fan of Christmas. She meets a fellow Grinch—single attorney, Nick— and the two end up bonding over their dislike of the holidays. So they decide to make a pact to pretend to be a couple over the holidays to avoid annoying questions from family and friends. As they attend holiday parties together, they begin to spend a lot more time in each other’s company, until they discover that there might be a spark between them. They eventually let love and Christmas get the better of them.
Many might not enjoy the perspective of the characters—both of whom completely hate the holidays—but it is very refreshing. The characters aren’t being obnoxious about their distaste of the holiday season. They simply have terrible memories of Christmas time and prefer not to engage in the festivities. It is important for movies to tell stories from the perspective of people who don’t have the jolly Christmas experience, because the holidays can actually be a very isolating time for many of us. Hallmark does a great job of integrating diverse stories while still appealing to their fanbase. At the beginning, the characters are completely anti-Christmas, but by the end they give in. Why? Because just like the Grinch, we all want to spend the holidays with someone else. Turns out that all along they just needed each other...and mistletoe!
11. Christmas at Cartwright’s (2014)
Nicky is an unemployed single mother who grows desperate as the holidays approach. Hoping to get enough money to finally give her daughter the Christmas she deserves, Nicky decides to apply for the position of Santa at a department store. However, Nicky’s application is rejected by Senior VP Fiona Aldrich because she considers Nicky a threat to her pursuit of winning over the handsome store manager, Bill. Finding help in Harry Osbourne, a consultant, Nicky is encouraged to dress up and begin working as Santa. Nicky ends up earning enough money to give her daughter the amazing Christmas she deserves. She might not have time to buy herself a gift, but Santa’s got her covered. What’s Nicky's gift? The super sexy and nice Bill!
This movie is a guaranteed good time especially with all the antics Nicky has to deal with as Santa. Also, props to Nicky for breaking down the patriarchy by becoming the new department store Santa. Granted it is kept a secret for much of the movie, but eventually everyone realizes how great of a Santa a woman can be! The beautiful relationship between Nicky and her daughter Becky drives the movie. Even though Nicky ends up having a love interest it’s touching that she is focused on her familial relationship first. Lucky Nicky gets the best of both worlds, a wonderful daughter and a hunky man. Who would’ve thought that dressing up as Santa could get you ... paid!
12. A Very Merry Mix-Up (2013)
This movie stars another Hallmark movie regular—Alicia Witt—who plays an antique store owner as she sets out to meet her in-laws for Christmas. The tension runs high, since it is her first time meeting her fiancé’s family and she must go on her own—he is set to meet her there. Her trip ends up being a total disaster due to lost luggage and a broken phone. Lucky for Alice, she meets Matt, who graciously offers to help and even give her a ride. She accepts but quickly realizes that he is her future brother-in-law and that she is falling in love...and it’s not with her fiancé.
We find this movie absolutely adorable but we do have one concern...It is a bit strange that Alice falls for the man she believes to be her brother-in-law. Although it turns out to be a misunderstanding, Alice’s ability to fall for her husband’s supposed brother is frightening. Aside from that, the chemistry between Alice and Matt is through the roof! Who needs hot cocoa when there’s these two? The confusion makes for some great comedic moments, while allowing our leads a chance at love. This movie could’ve ended differently, but luckily for them it seems Santa’s elves were working an extra shift.
Featured still from "Northpole" via Netflix