Everyone gets a little sentimental during the holidays—and when we say everyone, we mean everyone. The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes this time of year, and even Scrooge eventually came around. So no matter your motion picture predilections during the regular calendar year, now is the time to embrace the sunny side of cinema with heartfelt flicks full of good tidings and joy (and mistletoe, of course).
Since one of the best ways to feel warmth and kindness of the season is to curl up on the sofa with loved ones for a holiday romance movie marathon, we decided to provide you with a list. From the old classic It's a Wonderful Life to the blockbuster hit Love Actually and the critically acclaimed Carol, there's a resonant film for everyone in the family. Here are our picks for romantic holiday movies—they're guaranteed to make you merry.
From Nancy Meyers comes this romantic comedy of two couples finding love through a home exchange over Christmas break. Full of lines like "Shall I make us a little Christmas fettuccini?" and "I like corny. I'm looking for corny in my life," The Holiday is an utterly delightful and decadently stylish romp through two whirlwind courtships. Charming A-list cast members Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black swoon all over sets that will make you seriously consider redecorating your own home.
This critically acclaimed drama will not disappoint. If you haven't seen this period piece starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, you should definitely add it to your holiday watch list. Not only is Carol thematically evolutionary, but the cinematography also makes it a treat for the eyes.
Bridget Jones's Diary
Singletons will take solace in the lead heroine's humiliating yet ultimately hopeful journey through a minefield of family gatherings, career dramas, and dating fiascos. Starring Colin Firth in a tacky reindeer jumper and spanning a full year from one New Year's Eve to the next, it is the perfect all-encompassing romance to carry you into the New Year.
War buddies Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye tap-dance their way through the New England winter playground in this classic holiday film. White Christmas is chock-full of extravagant dance numbers and Irving Berlin gems like "White Christmas" and "Blue Skies." It's arguably the only time a man has ever serenaded a woman in her pajamas fireside (over liverwurst sandwiches and buttermilk) about insomnia.
The debate over whether Love Actually is, in fact, the most romantic movie continues to rage. (The Atlantic's skewering of the festive rom-com mainstay is worth a read.) Nevertheless, the film remains a well-crafted tale of multiple love stories set against a holiday backdrop of glowing lighting and cheerful setpieces. You can't beat Keira Knightley in winter-white knitwear or Bill Nighy jingle bell–rocking out to treacly Christmas anthems.
The best thing to ever come out of a fight over the last available Christmas gift at Bloomingdale's, this John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy is warm, cozy, and sweet. Serendipity is the movie equivalent of hot cocoa. Get ready for ice-skating flirt sessions, prominent David Gray needle drops, and crush-worthy banter in a plot that centers around the premise that love is fate incarnate.
It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra's beloved tale of a man who loses his inner compass and finds his way back again, needs no introduction. Jimmy Stewart's famously amorous speeches in which he promises to lasso the moon for his one true love and later condemns plastics, ground floors, and marriage (in that order) are the ultimate in silver-screen soliloquizing.
The Family Stone
One of the most epic casts in movie history, The Family Stone is easily a romantic holiday favorite. We also feel like we owe this fictional family a big thank-you for inadvertently preparing us for our own in-law encounters and family drama. Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from theirs? (Wishful thinking.)
Whit Stillman's classic indie, Manhattan, centers around a group of young socialites in (you guessed it) Manhattan during the thick of debutante season (which is in December, apparently). The group is thrown off when an outsider joins their evening conversations about love, honor, and other philosophical notions. It's a social critique and character study full of hilarious irony—and romance, of course.
A tale of divorce and reconciliation amid terrorist threats on Christmas Eve, this shoot-'em-up action flick offers up loose-cannon cop-off-duty John McClane (Bruce Willis) as its holiday hero. It's a catchphrase-ridden, fully loaded adventure ride that begs the question: Can a man battle terrorists and save his estranged marriage in the same night? (A love story for our modern times.) Full of valor, sacrifice, and snappy one-liners, it also proves arriving underdressed to a party saves lives sometimes.
The Preacher's Wife
Do you love the classic Cary Grant film The Bishop's Wife? The black-and-white '40s film casts dreamy gentlemen's gentleman Cary Grant as an angel on earth, which seems not too far of a stretch for the devilishly handsome icon. But we love this 1996 remake starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston. Buoyed by the debonaire charisma of Washington and Houston, its sweet story—which emphasizes the importance of family values above money and ambition—is entirely charming and appropriate for all ages.
Has there ever been a better onscreen match than Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon? In this hilarious romantic comedy, the pair is happily in love and unmarried, a lifestyle choice they choose to avoid their parents' fate. When they're forced to cancel a holiday vacation in the tropics and visit all four of their eccentric family events instead, mishaps and hilarity ensue!
Bill Murray brings sarcasm and wit to this 1988 modern take on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. As a rich, powerful, and cold-as-ice TV executive who routinely gifts his only living relative with a company bath towel for Christmas, Murray is in top form, maneuvering his way through Christmases past, present, and future to eventually reunite with the one who got away (played by the excellent Karen Allen). He lets her call him "Lumpy," so you know their love is steadfast and true.
While You Were Sleeping
Sandra Bullock, decked to the gills in on-trend '90s sweaters, falls for Bill Pullman in this case of mistaken identity family comedy. A whimsical love story, the film is often credited, alongside Speed, with launching Bullock to superstardom. It also defined an archetype years before Sex and the City's Aidan Shaw came on the scene: the dream guy who makes his own furniture.
This story was originally published on December 25, 2017, and has since been updated.