No, these are not the purposefully awful Christmas-themed movies that occupy Hallmark, Lifetime, and Netflix this time of year. I watched a bunch of those last year and still haven’t recovered. I think half the reason my 2019 was so insane is because I started the year in a bad Christmas movie haze and never quite recovered. So the goal of this list is not to fill out a Hallmark movie bingo card, but the share some of the movies I revisit this time of year, while I’m
hiding from my family wrapping gifts. These are the easy to watch, only kind of have to pay attention to, time-wasting feel-good movies for the holiday season to help you relax and unwind during the busiest and most stressful most wonderful time of the year.
Is it good? Is it bad? Does it matter when it has become so ingrained in the holiday season? The thing about Love Actually is if you don’t like one storyline (ahem, COLIN) you can just skip ahead to another plot. Over the last fifteen years, Love Actually has become inescapable at this time of year, as has the debate on its quality, but its “something for everyone” approach to storytelling makes it an easy crowd-pleaser if you’re trying to find something to watch with your family. Also, and I will die on this hill, Keira Knightley’s wedding dress is FABULOUS, even if the rest of the early-aughts fashion is a complete tragedy.
Peak Cameron Diaz, Peak Jude Law, Peak Kate Winslet, and the .5 seconds in which someone thought Jack Black could be a romantic lead makes The Holiday eminently watchable. This is a Nancy Meyers joint, so you can count on a bunch of good-looking white people having romantical problems in good-looking kitchens—and the kitchens are gorgeous. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz do a home exchange, so we get both a sleek contemporary kitchen AND a cozy cottage kitchen to salivate over. Also, no one dumps Keanu Reeves this time, so it’s already one up on Something’s Gotta Give. (I LOVE the way Jude shimmies toward Cameron at the end – Lainey.)
Christmas not your thing? Or just sick of cheery romances? Have I got the movie for you! Crossing Delancey is a rom-com about a young Jewish woman, Isabelle, humoring her grandmother by letting a marriage broker set her up with Sam, owner of a local pickle shop. Isabelle and Sam have a prickly romance, in part complicated by Isabelle’s snobbishness, and her need to reconcile her aspirations and her roots (although unlike many rom-coms, Isabelle is not punished for her ambition, which is why The Family Stone is not on this list, I still don’t understand what is so terrible about Meredith being a successful careerwoman). This is as much a family drama as it is a rom-com.
This movie succeeds entirely on Queen Latifah’s charm. She is SO CHARMING it’s hard to resist the cliched charms of Last Holiday, a movie in which a woman thinks she is going to die and starts ticking off items on her bucket list and has amazingly coincidental encounters with a series of people who need her pep to change their lives. It’s sort of like if Clarence wasn’t an angel in It’s a Wonderful Life, but a dying man convincing everyone to live better lives before he dies. Alternatively, you can skip Last Holiday for the superior Latifah rom-com, Just Wright (with bonus Common). Either way, you really can’t wrong with Queen Latifah in a rom-com. There really should have been more of these. I’m still salty that she didn’t get a Julia Roberts-like run in the genre.
While You Were Sleeping
Speaking of SO CHARMING rom-com leads, Sandra Bullock, who broke out with action movies Demolition Man and Speed, became America’s Sweetheart with While You Were Sleeping. I end up watching this movie every year. The premise is so bizarre—borderline non-consensual?—but it’s also the movie that extolls the importance of “the lean” and also has Sandra Bullock being winsome for ninety straight minutes. Nothing eases stress more than Sandra Bullock being winsome.