Hallmark Christmas movies have unironically become a staple of my holidays. I legit love watching them. Every movie is pleasant, doesn’t make you think too hard and Hallmark heroines always get their happily ever after.
I’ve watched these babies for years now, so I know which films are must-see and which are worth only a lump of coal. Below are my picks that everyone should have on their Hallmark Christmas movie watchlist and details on whether they're on the best streaming services. Plus, check out our Hallmark Christmas movies 2023 guide.
A Royal Christmas (2014)
The Queen of Hallmark is undoubtedly Lacey Chabert, who's made a dozen or so Christmas movies so far. In A Royal Christmas, she stars as aspiring fashion designer Emily, who finds out her boyfriend is a prince. She goes home with him for the holidays to meet his mother, the reigning monarch, played by Jane Seymour.
The couple is adorable together, and there are a lot of amusing moments about Emily being a fish out of water in her new, uppercrust surroundings. While this endears her to the rest of the household and the local orphanage, the queen schemes to send her packing. You'll be grinning throughout, as you watch to see if the young lovebirds can make it work.
Crown for Christmas (2015)
Winnie Cooper (or “Danica McKellar” if you want to get technical) is hired as the governess for a princess over the holidays. The American’s earnestness makes her a favorite of the castle and also happens to win her the heart of the widowed king, played by Rupert Penry-Jones. He's portrayed a tragic romantic hero before — in one of the best shows ever, Black Sails — and is perfect for the part. The whole movie is delightful. Alex Zamm, who previously directed A Royal Christmas, definitely seems to be the king of the "my boyfriend's a royal!" subgenre.
The Sweetest Christmas (2017)
Chabert's most delicious-looking Christmas entry sees her playing Kylie, an underemployed pastry chef working as a temp and dating her clueless boss. After she gets a promotion instead of a proposal, she decides to devote her time to a gingerbread baking competition, so she can use the prize money to open a bakery. After her oven breaks, she reconnects with her old childhood sweetheart, who owns a restaurant, to borrow his kitchen.
While there's a lot of familiar beats, the leads are totally charming together. There are also some gorgeous gingerbread creations to feast your eyes on. Plus, there’s a mini Mean Girls reunion, as the "She doesn't even go here" girl plays Lacey's work friend!
Deliver by Christmas (2020)
Band of Brothers alum Eion Bailey plays a widower with a young son who crosses paths with baker Molly (Alvina August). She becomes smitten with him, but also her new mysterious client whom she only knows from speaking with by phone. Luckily, it’s the same guy! The couple have a nice, easy rapport, but what I really love is how mature they are. Whenever a misunderstanding happens, another character comes by saying, “Wait a sec, that just sounds like a misunderstanding.” So, they deal with the issue like adults and avoid any big, dramatic breakups.
Stream on Hallmark Movies Now
A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado (2020)
This story is more grown-up than the typical Hallmark holiday film. The leads, played by Rochelle Aytes and Mark Taylor, get teamed up for a town project. The problems that arise to thwart their romance are serious issues like children’s internet privacy and eminent domain, but fortunately, their smoldering chemistry can’t be denied. There’s also a secondary romance involving a likable gay couple, and the topic of a single man adopting an older child is highlighted. The movie is full of realistic humor, like a scene that comes hard for office Secret Santa and how everyone gets stuck with a scented candle.
Stream on Hallmark Movies Now
My Christmas Family Tree (2021)
Aimee Teegarden (Julie from the beloved Friday Night Lights) stars as Vanessa, a former foster kid who takes an online DNA test, and finds her surprised bio-dad, Richard (James Tupper). Richard invites Vanessa to spend Christmas with his family in the suburbs to make up for lost time. He arranges for surrogate son Kris (Andrew Walker) to drive her, and sparks immediately begin flying. They're super cute together.
The whole family embraces Vanessa, and everybody has such amazing chemistry. But after getting a voicemail from the testing center about a mix-up, Vanessa doesn't have the heart to tell them there’s been a mistake. It all works out in the end, making this one of the most endearing Hallmark Christmas movies. Now that they're getting into making more sequels, hopefully we see this family again.
Eight Gifts of Hanukkah (2021)
This next pick isn't a Christmas movie, but it is set around during the holiday season. Sarah (Inbar Lavi) is an optometrist — a groundbreaking career for a Hallmark heroine! She starts getting Hanukkah gifts from a secret admirer, who’s possibly her dreamy contractor BFF, Daniel (Jake Epstein aka Craig from Degrassi).
Eight Gifts of Hanukkah is the cabler’s first film spotlighting just the Jewish holiday, and it’s amusing to see tropes of the genre parallelled. These include Sarah always wearing blue instead of red or green and having her apartment decked out in dreidel tchotchkes and menorahs instead of nutcracker knickknacks and Christmas trees.
Stream on Peacock
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Jenna is a freelance writer who covers TV, film, and all things pop culture. Her work has appeared on Teen Vogue, The Mary Sue, and Women & Hollywood, among other outlets. In her free time, she alternates between watching romcoms, romantic period dramas, and true crime, and is making her way through the list of movies on the National Film Registry.