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The Best Holiday Movies to Watch This Season, No Matter What Your Mood

What better way to warm up on these cold winter nights than a festive, feel-good Christmas movie?
  • Clockwise: Candy Cane Lane, Family Switch, Yes Chef! Christmas, Ladies of the '80s: A Divas Christmas
    Clockwise: Candy Cane Lane, Family Switch, Yes Chef! Christmas, Ladies of the '80s: A Divas Christmas

    As we roll into December, it’s the perfect time to get into the festive spirit. What better way to warm up on these cold winter nights than a festive, feel-good Christmas movie?

    We acknowledge there’s a formulaic quality to holiday films, but that’s one reason why, for many, they’re essential viewing this time of year as the stressors of life often make us forget the comfort of simplicity. They’re reminders that for two hours at a time, an idyllic world exists (inside a TV screen) where the biggest problem characters face is which Christmas sweater to wear or how to win a cookie baking competition. Sometimes, all we’re looking for is a warm hug; other times, we want a royal romance set against a Christmas backdrop, or even a high-concept holiday movie.

    This year, there are over a hundred original holiday television movies being offered across a dozen networks and streaming services, from Hallmark Channel and Lifetime to Great American Family and Netflix. It can be overwhelming to decide which Christmas film to devote your time to, and when and where to watch them. That's why we’ve sorted through the many offerings to recommend 14 movies that will fulfill all of your holiday viewing wishes, including the ones with the best cast reunions, the most unexpected team-up, most promising LGBTQ+ romance, and much more.

    Sweetest Cast Reunions

    A Merry Scottish Christmas (Hallmark Channel)
    Re-airs December 2 at 4:00 PM ET

    Lacey Chabert is the queen of Hallmark, having starred in nearly 40 movies since her network debut in 2010. In A Merry Scottish Christmas, Chabert reunites with her Party of Five brother, Scott Wolf, for the first time in more than two decades and they’re back on screen doing what they do best: playing siblings. This time, there’s family baggage they have to tend to — including a big secret — before they can mend their relationship. It’s a departure for Hallmark to have a holiday movie that’s family-first, but it’s refreshing to see Chabert and Wolf playing a small role in the network’s storytelling evolution.

    Christmas on Cherry Lane (Hallmark Channel)
    Premieres December 9 at 8:00 PM ET

    When Hallmark canceled Good Witch in 2021, fans of the fantasy franchise — which aired seven seasons and five movies –— were not happy. Luckily, alums Catherine Bell and James Denton share the screen again as an engaged couple looking to start anew in this multi-generational film with three seemingly disparate storylines that may end up having a connective thread after all. The other subplots are just as intriguing: Jonathan Bennett and Vincert Rodriguez III play a twosome looking to expand their family, and Erin Cahill and John Brotherton portray a young couple preparing to welcome their first child.

    Zaniest Holiday Sequel

    Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up (Hallmark Channel)
    Re-airs December 1 at 6:00 PM ET

    The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a high-stakes, chaos-filled neighborhood house-decorating competition. This follow-up to the 2022 film, Haul Out the Holly, ticks every box. Once again starring Chabert (she’s a Hallmark darling, after all), the title, Lit Up, is the perfect descriptor to tee up the shenanigans that ensue as everyone dukes it out over who has the most over-the-top Christmas decorating eye. From cutthroat new neighbors to pesky HOA rules that rile up the dramatics to extravagantly decked-out homes, the movie has all the ingredients to inspire you to up the ante for your own festive decor.

    Most Tropes in a Logline

    Yuletide the Knot (UPtv)
    Premieres December 3 at 7:00 PM ET

    The title alone gets an A for spot-on cheekiness. But it’s the trope-heavy premise that deserves to have its due. Set in a small town. Check. A wedding is involved. Check. The wedding planner comes face to face with an ex — her high school sweetheart, to add salt to the wound — while planning the wedding. Check. It’s giving us The Wedding Planner vibes but set at Christmastime.

    Rescuing Christmas (Hallmark Movies Now)
    Premieres December 7

    Rachael Leigh Cook is about as grinchy as it gets in Rescuing Christmas, which is proudly set in a world where Santa Claus and the North Pole are 100 percent real. She’s the chosen one when a pair of Santa’s elves are tasked with finding a human to grant three wishes to. Cook’s character, Erin, is so anti-Christmas that when she wishes the holiday would cease to exist, it actually disappears. Bah humbug. Stunned to learn she’s made the world less Christmas-y and therefore devoid of any joy, Erin realizes the error of her ways and scurries to bring back the holiday. It’s one of two movies debuting on its streaming service, a first for the network.

    Catch Me If You Claus (Hallmark Channel)
    Re-airs December 3 at 4:00PM ET

    Here’s another one where Santa Claus takes center stage. Hallmark mainstay Luke Macfarlane is, ahem, Chris (aka Santa’s son), who goes on a series of misadventures with aspiring TV news anchor Avery (Italia Ricci) after being pursued by police after he’s caught intruding in her house. It’s Hallmark, so teaming up makes much more plausible sense than turning him in to authorities, but that’s beside the point. Along the way they connect over living in the shadow of their parents, and inspire each other to go after their dreams.

    Punniest Title

    Never Been Chris'd (Hallmark Channel)
    Re-airs December 5 at 10:00AM ET

    The key to a clever title is adding levity (and winking to pop culture references) when the opportunity arises. This movie title is a play on Never Been Kissed, the 1999 romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan. Like its inspiration, Never Been Chris’d has high school ties with the main trio — played by Hallmark favorite Tyler Hynes (as the titular Chris), Janel Parrish (as Naomi) and Pascal Lamothe-Kipnes (as Liz) — navigating an awkward love triangle. There’s no undercover teacher-student romantic drama at stake here; it’s more reminiscent of Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion, but for the Hallmark set.

    Most Random Team-Up

    Yes, Chef! Christmas (Lifetime)
    Premieres December 10 at 8:00 PM ET

    Who would have thought Tia Mowry and Cake Boss’ Buddy Valastro would be starring in a holiday film together? In the season’s most unexpected pairing, that’s exactly what Lifetime’s culinary movie, Yes, Chef! Christmas, brings to the plate. Mowry plays a cooking school instructor who competes at the annual Kringle Cook-Off with the hopes of becoming a respected chef like her former boss (Valastro). It’s to be expected to have a few December movies revolving around cooking competitions with stakes involving career-making (or career-ending) reputations, and this one is no different.

    Best Throwback to Another Decade

    Ladies of the '80s: A Divas Christmas (Lifetime)
    Premieres December 2 at 8:00 PM ET

    It’s an astonishing feat to have one, let alone five actresses of a certain stature in any movie — especially a holiday one. Loni Anderson, Morgan Fairchild, Linda Gray, Donna Mills, and Nicollette Sheridan play soap opera divas from the 1980s who come back together to film the final Christmas episode of their popular soap. Big personalities, diva behavior and decades-long rivalries threaten to undo the special. But their ’80s drama isn’t the only storyline. Behind the glitz are the producer and the director of the special — former lovers, of course — who dance around their romantic history.

    A Biltmore Christmas (Hallmark Channel)
    Re-airs December 2 at 6:00 PM ET

    A tentpole in this year’s Hallmark calendar, A Biltmore Christmas is headlined by One Tree Hill’s Bethany Joy Lenz as a screenwriter whose script for the remake of a beloved 1940s holiday classic is proving unsatisfactory. There’s a mystical hourglass involved, which catapults her back to the set of the original movie, where she gets close to the film’s star (Kristoffer Polaha). Her presence in the past opens up a whole can of worms that threatens the future. When time-travel is thrown into the mix, there’s a layer of messiness that adds complexity to an otherwise middle-of-the-road story.

    Most Promising LGBTQ+ Romance

    Friends & Family Christmas (Hallmark Channel)
    Premieres December 17 at 8:00 PM ET

    In Hallmark's first lesbian romance, queer actresses Ali Liebert and Humberly Gonzalez play an entertainment lawyer and aspiring artist, respectively, who are set up by their parents and agree to pretend they’re dating to keep their families happy over the holidays. The more time they spend together, the more they realize their connection is stronger than they thought. It’s a monumental step forward for Hallmark, which is gradually diversifying the stories and relationships it features, and that’s a good thing.

    Best Attempt at Freaky Friday 2.0

    Family Switch (Netflix)
    Premieres November 30

    The cast is reason enough to add this to your holiday watch list, with Jennifer Garner and Ed Helms as the parental unit, and Wednesday’s Emma Myers and The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’ Brady Noon as their teenage kids. Through a magical chance encounter with Rita Moreno just before Christmas, Garner and Helms swap bodies with Myers and Noon. It’s Freaky Friday meets 17 Again turned up to a thousand.

    Eddie Murphy Being the Eddie Murphy-iest

    Candy Cane Lane (Prime Video)
    Premieres December 1

    It’s surprising to see Eddie Murphy getting in on the holiday action with Candy Cane Lane, but he couldn’t have picked a more fitting movie to dive into. In the film, which stars Tracee Ellis Ross as his wife, the Oscar winner makes a deal with a shady elf in order to guarantee he and his family get bragging rights for the next calendar year as the best decorated house on the block. Unfortunately, there’s fine print to the deal he failed to read before signing on the dotted line. Now he’s in danger of turning into a toy figurine, which causes Murphy to go down a messy spiral of mistletoe madness as he tries to right the wrong.

    Least Surprising Royal Movie

    A Royal Date for Christmas (Great American Family)
    Re-airs December 2 at 10:00 PM ET

    Royalty and Christmas go hand-in-hand. There’s usually a smattering of royal holiday movies every winter, but A Royal Date for Christmas is our pick this year. It follows a European duke who realizes his bags have been lost while traveling to America. Due to his lack of clothing, he has no choice but to buy a new wardrobe from a small-town boutique owned by a charming business owner (Danica McKellar). Obviously sparks fly, though he doesn’t disclose his duke-ness to her, which she eventually finds out on her own. Hey, every Christmas movie needs an “obstacle,” however small it ends up being.

    Philiana Ng is a Los Angeles-based writer covering TV, celebrity, culture and more. Her work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Entertainment Tonight, TV Guide, Yahoo Entertainment, and The Daily Beast, among others.

    TOPICS: Holiday movies, Amazon Prime Video, Hallmark Channel, Lifetime, Netflix, Candy Cane Lane, Christmas on Cherry Lane, Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up, Ladies of the '80s: A Divas Christmas, A Merry Scottish Christmas, Never Been Chris'd , Rescuing Christmas, A Royal Date for Christmas , Yuletide the Knot, Holiday Programming