The end-of-year holidays are coming up fast — which means it’s time to put on the Christmas tunes and break out Christmas movies (including revisits of old classics).
Whether the holidays means lots of gift wrapping, family staying over, or just hanging out on your own, movies are always going to be a major reason for the season. Especially when they’re both holiday-themed and full of romance!
We’ve assembled a list of 25 of the greatest romantic movies based in or around Christmas (or Hanukkah!) to help you set ensure the stage you set — with a cozy blanket, hot chocolate and cookies, we think — is both merry and bright. If you’re looking for New York-set stories in particular, you’ll find those in droves, too.
Hankering for more delightfully cheesy options? Check out the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime Channel’s offerings this winter, too.
Get ready to fall in love.
‘The Shop Around the Corner’ (1940)
Two gift shop workers (Margaret Sullavan and Jimmy Stewart) may be unable to stand one another, but it turns out they’re actually falling in love as pen pals. During the Christmas season, they agree to finally meet in person, but needless to say things do not go smoothly. Fortunately, Christmas Eve is right around the corner! (And, yes, a version of this story was made with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as “You’ve Got Mail” in 1998.)
‘Christmas in Connecticut’ (1945)
A city magazine writer (Barbara Stanwyck) pretends to be a married farm wife while writing about her made-up husband, baby and farm life. When her publisher (who is not in the know) insists she make a Christmas dinner for a returning war hero, she’s got to take drastic action to keep up the charade. Bonus: If this version is too dated for you, feel free to give the Arnold Schwarzenegger-directed TNT remake starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis from 1992!
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)
Christmas bookends the tale of good guy George Bailey is driven to consider killing himself, after the town’s wicked miser ensures an embezzlement charge is going to come down like a ton of bricks on his head. Enter an angel to show George what his life would have been like if he’d never been born (and never met the love of his life Mary) and start the Christmas bells a-ringing.
‘White Christmas’ (1954)
Whaddya do after serving in WWII? Why, come home and form a singing, dancing partnership with your former Army buddy, of course! Phil and Bob (Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby) pair up with a sister act to try and save a struggling Vermont inn, and there’s songs a-plenty (along with some romance), plus the tune you’re pretty much obligated to hear every holiday season.
‘Falling In Love’ (1984)
Frank (Robert De Niro) and Molly (Meryl Streep) are married to others, but after a mixup over Christmas packages, they find themselves drawn to each other romantically. As their unions start to crumble, the question is: Will they find one another under each others’ Christmas trees?
‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990)
Edward (Johnny Depp) is a constructed man who was never finished by his creator, leaving giant blades for fingers on his hands. He lives alone until an Avon salesperson (Dianne Wiest) arrives and brings him into her pastel-colored suburban community, where he falls for her daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Things progress in a way you might not expect, leading to the discovery that Edward can carve many things with his fingers, including ice on Christmas Eve. Bonus: The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is gorgeous.
‘While You Were Sleeping’ (1995)
There are some rom-com plots that only work if a) Sandra Bullock is starring in them and b) you remember it’s just a movie, not real life. Because in real life it would be seriously weird if a woman pretended to be the girlfriend of a guy in a coma (whose life she saved on Christmas Day, at least give her that) after really, really deciding she likes his family. Fortunately, Bill Pullman shows up as Coma Guy’s younger brother and real sparks fly … but the big reveal is going to be kinda awkward!
Sam (John Cusak) and Sarah (Kate Beckinsale) run into each other while doing Christmas shopping, and kick off a series of life’s little “signals,” as Sara likes to think of them, that bring them together and pull them apart. Will they get the right sign that it’s time for them to be together?
‘About a Boy’ (2002)
Royalties from a Christmas song his father wrote give Will (Hugh Grant) a life without responsibilities, and he uses it to meet women at single parent group meetings. The problem? He doesn’t have a child. Then a young boy (Nicholas Hoult) who wants his mom (Toni Collette) to date Will blackmails the feckless grown-up into doing just that. But then he falls for Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Christmas fits in here in several places, but suffice it to say the best relationship Will ends up fostering is that of his with the kid.
‘Love Actually’ (2003)
Brought to you by much the same team that introduced the world to the fluttery, irresistible presence of Hugh Grant in “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Love Actually” is an ensemble comedy with an amazing cast (including Grant, natch; plus Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley and Emma Thompson) who are all struggling to find their love match as the Christmas season approaches.
A seemingly-orphaned human baby (Buddy, played by Will Ferrell) has grown up at the North Pole, and it’s Santa who gives him a push out of the nest, by sending him to meet his biological dad in New York City. Fish out of water merriment ensues, and it’s up to Buddy not just to make friends with his long-lost father, but help him get an important book out by Christmas! Meanwhile, he falls head over heels with a department store worker named Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). This movie has it all!
‘Surviving Christmas’ (2004)
After being dumped by his girlfriend, Drew (Ben Affleck) discovers no one in his friends circle wants to have him over for Christmas, and on advice from his therapist returns to his family home (now occupied by a new family) and pays them to let him celebrate an old-fashioned Christmas with them. But while he’s a bit of a tyrant about it, one member of the family might see a spark of something worth falling for.
‘Last Holiday’ (2006)
During Christmas season, a department store worker named Georgia (Queen Latifah) learns she has a brain tumor that will kill her in weeks, so she decides to go out with a bang, trying all kinds of scary, dangerous activities and spending her savings like it’s going out of fashion. Meanwhile, a co-worker she’s long had feelings for steps up to the plate and reveals his own long-standing feelings. To say more would give the game away, but if you’d like a more retro take on the story, there’s a version of “Last Holiday” from 1950 with Alec Guinness in it, too.
‘The Holiday’ (2006)
When two women as amazing as Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet decide to swap houses for the holidays, they find that a little mixing up of their lives can lead to a fresh outlook on the world … plus love, in this warm film from writer/director Nancy Meyers.
‘Lovely, Still’ (2008)
Robert (Martin Landau) is lonely. When starts falling for his neighbor’s mother Mary (Ellen Burstyn), he finally agrees to spend Christmas with someone for the first time. Friends and neighbors are remarkably helpful in getting the older couple close as the holidays approach, but there’s a sweet and melancholy twist to the tale.
‘Four Christmases’ (2008)
When one Christmas isn’t enough, how about trying four? This film sports a terrific cast: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Kristin Chenoweth (for starters), and tells the tale of a couple who has to hit four Christmas parties when their vacation plans are canceled.
‘Stuck in Love’ (2012)
There’s enough multi-generational romance in this film for three movies, including a divorced couple (Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly) who might find their way back to one another, and their kids, each reaching out into the world for their first loves in different ways. Also, there’s sex in a closet on Christmas Day, as one does. Great cast, and plenty of romance to go around.
‘Love the Coopers’ (2015)
When you’ve got a cast including John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, Timothée Chalamet and Olivia Wilde (with the voice of Steve Martin), do you really need a summary? Suffice it to say that the heads of the Cooper clan are holding their marriage together for one reason alone: To have one final perfect Christmas with the family before divorce splits them up. But is there a way for them to make amends?
It’s the 1950s and women are not supposed to have love affairs, at least not publicly. But this doesn’t stop Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara’s characters from using the holiday season to leap into the deep end and find a connection they’ve been unable to discover in their public lives.
‘Call Me By Your Name’ (2017)
All right, it’s true that most of this movie takes place during the sunniest days Italy can offer, but it is a romance and it does have a critical scene that takes place during Hanukkah, so we’ll take what we can get. In the film, Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) fall for one another, but Oliver’s stay in the country is only temporary, and leads to heartbreak.
‘Love, Simon’ (2018)
Though not fully about Christmas, this warm-hearted tale about a closeted gay teen has a critical sequence during the holiday that turns everything around for him in the future. Plus, it’s also very, very romantic. Add it to your stocking, or your list!
‘Little Women’ (2019)
Though any version of “Little Women” will do, the 2019 version feels the most true to the source material, about sisters living in genteel poverty in Civil War-era Massachusetts. Christmas is just one element of their lives, but is an important time when we see them truly being their best selves, by helping others who seem to need things more than they do.
‘Last Christmas’ (2019)
Inspired by the George Michael/Wham! 1984 song with the same name, “Last Christmas” is a different way to see Daenerys Targaryen (that is, Emilia Clarke) as Kate, a disillusioned year-round Christmas store employee who falls for Tom (Henry Golding) whose goodness inspires her to improve her own life. But Tom is not what he seems and the pair have a deeper connection than Kate could have ever expected.
Two singletons (Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey) agree to be each other’s “holidate” for the Christmas season thanks to a combination of recent breakups and a disinterest in finding new romance. It’s a tradition that continues throughout the following year, until they’ve finally spent so many “holidates” together that they just can’t help falling in love. But can they see it through?
‘Love Hard’ (2021)
Just when you think all the goofy romantic holiday premises have been used, here’s a new one: a writer known for documenting her disastrous dates via dating app is catfished by “Josh,” something she only finds out after journeying to meet him for Christmas many thousands of miles away. But wait! Josh has a plan, and it involves her pretending to be his girlfriend for the holidays, after which he’ll introduce her to his pal, whose photos he used on the app. This goes more or less where you think it will, but it’s charming along the way.