While everyone has their own unique relationship with annual end-of-year festivities, for those who embrace the spirit of the season, this time of year can be especially exciting. And no matter your motion picture predilections during the regular calendar year, now is the time to watch and re-watch some of cinema's most heartfelt flicks full of good tidings and finding joy in even the most fleeting moments (and mistletoe, of course).
From the classics to the blockbuster hits and indie surprises, there's a resonant film for everyone. Here are our 20 holiday movie picks to stream this season.
The Holiday (2006)
From Nancy Meyers comes this romantic comedy of two women who each find 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.
If you haven't seen this period piece starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, 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.
Set during the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s, a band of New Yorkers sing of their struggles through their careers, love, life, and loss. The film is an adaptation of the Pulitzer and Tony award-winning musical, starring Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thomas, and more.
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
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.
Last Holiday (2006)
When Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) learns she doesn't have much time to live, she throws her overly cautious life to the wind and embarks on an international journey to milk what life she supposedly has left. In Europe, she charms a popular chef (Gérard Depardieu), but what will happen between her longtime love interest from back home, Sean Matthew (LL Cool J)?
White Christmas (1954)
War buddies Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye tap-dance their way through New England's 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.
Love Actually (2003)
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 lights and cheerful set pieces. You can't beat Keira Knightley in winter-white knitwear or Bill Nighy jingle bell–rocking out to treacly Christmas anthems.
Perhaps 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 like hot cocoa. Get ready for flirtatious ice-skating scenes, 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 (1946)
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.
Nothing Like The Holidays (2008)
Perhaps for the final time, disparate members of the Rodriguez family come together over the Christmas season. As the movie unfolds, we learn that one brother still has feelings for a former love, while another struggles to find balance in his marriage. Then, matriarch Anna announces she intends to divorce their father.
Whit Stillman's classic indie, Metropolitan, centers around a group of young socialites in Manhattan, during the thick of debutante season (December). 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.
Die Hard (1988)
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 that begs the question: Can a man battle terrorists and save his estranged marriage in the same night? (Call it a love story for our modern times.)
The Preacher's Wife (1996)
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.
Four Chistmases (2008)
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's 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!
Memories of Christmas (2018)
Noelle is back in her hometown in Michigan to sell her late mother's house, and to attend the holiday gala she founded years ago, which happens to take place in the lodge she intends to sell. When she meets the professional decorator who's been sprucing up the house all of these years and cancels the arrangement, he refuses. Memories of Christmas is one of several 2018 holiday movies from Hallmark that star historically underrepresented people of color.
Available on: Philo
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).
Just Friends (2005)
Chris Brander (Ryan Reynolds) is looking slim and all grown up, but his high school anxieties as an overweight teen come back to haunt him when he travels home and cross paths with his longtime crush and best friend, Jamie Palamino (Amy Smart). His attempts to finally win her heart get complicated when a tone-deaf pop star he's supposed to be babysitting (Anna Faris) gets involved.
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Sandra Bullock, decked to the gills in on-trend '90s sweaters, falls for Bill Pullman in this family comedy of mistaken identity. 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.
A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (2011)
It's the holiday season, and Cho and Penn are prepping for festivities with their own, new circle of friends. A mysterious package reunites Cho and Penn for another raunchy, wild adventure, years after we last left them.