I am not sure what it is about Christmas movies that make me so happy. By Christmas movie I mean the often romantic ones made for television and often produced by Hallmark or the Family Channel. We are not talking the classics here, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street”. Not those Christmas movies.
Most of the these Christmas movies make people cringe, and rightly so, the level of cheesiness is often so blatant and in your face! My wife can’t stand them. But some of these movies are well made with original plots that are not cheesy, predictable or derivative. They stand on their own and are favorites for me. I think there are three things that make a Christmas movie great. But first, a definition.
Definition of a Christmas movie
A Christmas movie is simply a movie that takes place at Christmas or features a Christmas as the focal point for the plot.
There are some common elements between all the Christmas movies that help make them truly Christmas and often cheesy.
A cabin in the snow or a childhood home back in a small town. Maybe a big city with the right weather, but the plot takes us out of the city to somewhere more cozy. Sometimes we stay in the city but find Christmas charm and small town connections right at home.
Christmas cookies. Cakes. Candy canes. Home cooked meals, and of course egg nog and hot chocolate. These are a must. At least two items are required. Food will play either small role to set the tone or take center stage, like a gingerbread contest, cookie contest, cookie crawl, or even a Food Network style competition. Christmas and Christmas treats make for a great movie.
Love and romance
Oh the number of plots you can have. Not worth going into them all, but at a minimum there needs to be romance. At least one tragedy or moral dilemma that involves putting work second and family first or confronting a daemon or horrible memory from the past. A popular one is the Scrooge role, the girl who moved away to be rich but brought back to her hometown by a death, tragedy, or some other catalyst just to discover love was there the whole time! You might even find characters become angels or find themselves in a ground hog day situation or worse, stuck in a snow globe! I love it!!!
Over the top characters
Good looking and often up and coming stars or stars from shows long ago. I have also seen the roles taken by no one I have ever heard of but who have really great talent, even if the role is pretty bad. The characters are often over the top. Either filthy rich, burned out rockstars, horrible or sugary sweet, they are characters that you love to love or love to hate.
Yeah. Anything goes here. From great to cheese ball pavilion. Just start watching and you will get it.
In my opinion there are three things that make a good Christmas movie stand out.
A good Christmas movie will pull your heart strings while simultaneously promoting and irresistible craving for a Peppermint Mocha and some Christmas cookies. Hallmark would love to add “and an Ornament” to that, but that’s never happened for me.
Sometimes the plot is so cheesy it’s hard to get any reaction, while other times I get goosebumps and tears. It really depends. So to make it a good movie, there has to be some good character development, a belief in the plot, and then some major development that’s pulls heart strings. That’s hard to do with Christmas movies. Which is why I think the ratio of good to bad or super-cheesy is about 1:8. I watch Christmas movies because I love Christmas. And I am a person that enjoys a good romance, which is key to a good Christmas movie.
Obviously it’s gotta be about Christmas. But how that’s accomplished is key. It can’t just be a decorated house or a pretty Main Street with lights. That’s a good start. No there has to be more. The plots need to twist and turn around Christmas. It’s a cornucopia of possibilities. From family dynamics that are comical or disturbing around the holidays to telling the complicated and touching stories that make Christmas either an amazing and positive experience or horrific. That’s the risk with having a major holiday that the world recognizes. If something bad happens around that time, it’s not like Christmas is just going to slip by unnoticed. It’s a huge reminder every year for some that want to forget. I love when a good Christmas movie tackles that one.
Out of control
Christmas movies are out of control. Last year Hallmark added 36 new movies. That’s insane! They are taking a recipe, adding pretty people, and pumping out a movie. And I have watched them all and will continue doing so. I wish I could stop. Here is the Hallmark countdown to Christmas for 2019.
- Christmas Town – great
- Christmas Magic – great
- 12 Dates of Christmas – great
- Snowglobe – great
- The Mistle Tones – great
- Christmas Lodge – great
- Christmas Angel – great
- Engaging Father Christmas (Erin Krakow!) – great
- The Sweetest Christmas – great
- Crown for Christmas – great
- Mistletoe Promise – great
- A Very Country Christmas – great
- The Rooftop Christmas Tree – great
- A Royal Christmas – good
- Snowed Inn Christmas – good
- Love you like Christmas – great
- Snowcoming 2019 – good
- Switched For Christmas – meh
- Picture a perfect Christmas – good
- A wish for Christmas – good
- With Love, Christmas – good
- Christmas Connection – good
- Christmas Cupid – great
- A December Bride (Jessica Lowndes ) 2016 Good
- The Flight Before Christmas 2015 Good
- Naughty or Nice 2012 – great
- A Christmas Movie Christmas 2019 – funny, could have been better
- A Gingerbread Romance Good
- Dashing Through the Snow ok
- The Perfect Christmas Present 2017 Ok
- Christmas Festival of Ice 2017 Good
- Christmas at Holly Lodge Good
- Christmas in Homestead Good
- The most wonderful time of year Great
- The Christmas Calendar – meh
- Falling for Christmas ok
- The Spirit of Christmas great
- A Cinderella Christmas 2019 Great
- A Christmas Duet ok
- Christmas under wraps
- A Star for Christmas 2019
- More to come …