It’s common knowledge that Hallmark movies all follow a certain formula, which can veer towards the ridiculous. This list is to help you choose Hallmark style movies (including movies with the same formula on any other network and Netflix). Here are the 10 best holiday TV movies for people who don’t like formulaic Hallmark movies.
Best Christmas Party Ever
Starring: Torrey DeVitto
Where You Have Seen Her: Torrey DeVitto played Nanny Carrie on One Tree Hill and currently stars as Dr. Natalie Manning on Chicago Med.
Movie Tropes: A party planner has to plan a Christmas party to save an event for orphans at a local toy store. We have two tropes here. Jennie is a party planner, and she has to save a small business/small business event. Oh, and also Jennie is uptight and Nick is easy-going and will show her the error of her ways.
Plot Summary: Jennie (Torrey DeVitto) is a party planner hoping to inherit the business from her boss, Petra (Linda Thorson), when she retires. However, then Petra’s son Nick (Steve Lund) shows up and Petra announces that she is leaving the business to Nick. Meanwhile, Jennie is trying to save a Christmas party at a local toy store that has sentimental meaning to her.
Why It’s Good: Usually, if a Hallmark style movie is good, it’s because the actors work well together, and that is definitely the case in this film. They also never make Nick unlikeable, even when Jennie is frustrated with him since the situation isn’t his fault.
A December Bride
Starring: Jessica Lowndes, Daniel Lissing
Where You Have Seen Them: Jessica Lowndes played Adrianna on the reboot of 90210. Daniel Lissing played Jack Thornton on When Calls the Heart.
Movie Trope: An interior decorator pretends to be engaged so she won’t be embarrassed when her ex-fiance is getting married to her cousin. Then, because why not, Jack hires her to decorate his house for Christmas because his boss expects it.
Plot Summary: Layla (Jessica Lowndes) is left by her fiancé, who is now marrying her cousin. Layla gets Seth (Daniel Lissing) to go as her date, and in his enthusiasm to help her look good in front of her family and friends, Seth announces that he and Layla are engaged. There is also a house decoration holiday event.
Why It’s Good: Again, this is a case where the actors work well together. It also has enough Christmas to feel like the holidays but not so much you start choking on mistletoe. Layla is also a very sympathetic and likable character.
The Spirit of Christmas
Starring: Jen Lilley, Thomas Beaudoin
Movie Trope: This doesn’t follow the general Hallmark movie formula as much as most. The closest to a trope is a ghost. Don’t read the plot summary. Just go with it.
Why It’s Good: It’s a little different while still being a Hallmark style film. There’s a story within another time period, and a mystery to solve.
A Christmas Prince
Starring: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb
Where You Have Seen Her: Rose McIver played Tinkerbell on Once Upon a Time and more recently played Liv Moore on iZombie.
Movie Trope: A reporter is undercover to get a story. And she’s in a fictional western European Monaco-like country.
Plot Summary: A reporter gets her first big assignment to cover the royal family of Aldovia, and is immediately mistaken for the princess’ tutor. She goes with it and covers the prince from in the castle, getting close to him in the process.
Why It’s Good: The relationship between Amber (Rose McIver) and Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) is a large part of what makes this film enjoyable. It also takes place in a great castle, the same one used in filming A Princess for Christmas.
A Christmas Kiss
Starring: Laura Breckenridge, Brendan Fehr, Elisabeth Rohm
Where You Have Seen Them: Brendan Fehr was on Roswell for three seasons and more recently starred on The Night Shift. He also played Booth’s brother on Bones. Elisabeth Rohm was on The Oath and The Last Ship, as well as having supporting roles in American Hustle and Joy.
Movie Trope: Mistaken Identity
Plot Summary: This is a cute Christmas movie, but another one where the plot summary is too ridiculous. Just watch it and go with it.
Why It’s Good: The main characters are inherently likable, and there are scenes with her friends that are actually not annoying. There is also just the right amount of Christmas in it.
A Princess for Christmas
Starring: Katie McGrath, Sam Heughan
Where You Have Seen Them: Katie McGrath played Morgana on Merlin and is currently Lena Luther on Supergirl. Sam Heughan plays Jamie Fraser on Outlander.
Movie Trope: The main character, who takes care of her late sisters kids goes to Europe and falls in love with a prince.
Plot Summary: Jules (Katie McGrath) is raising her niece and nephew after their parents died when she gets an offer from her brother-in-law’s father to go to their castle in Europe.
Why It’s Good: Katie McGrath is completely charming in this film. It is a good Christmas movie. It has humor and fun characters.
A Nutcracker Christmas
Starring: Amy Acker, Sascha Radetsky
Where You Have Seen Her: Amy Acker played Fred on Angel, Root on Person of Interest, and Kate Strucker on The Gifted.
Movie Trope: Your ex-boyfriend is running a show and someone drops out and you have to fill in to save the day!
Plot Summary: Lily was a ballet dancer that quit when her sister died in a car accident (that may be its own trope). She still encourages her niece who gets into a prestigious ballet program. Lily accompanies her to the program, only to find that it’s being run by her ex-boyfriend.
Why It’s Good: It’s a slightly more mature story than most Hallmark movies. The ballet and music are great, and the main actors work well together.
Starring: Jessica Lowndes, Christopher Russell
Where You Have Seen Her: Jessica Lowndes played Adrianna on the 90210 reboot.
Movie Trope: The main character has to work with her ex-boyfriend.
Plot Summary: Brie is assigned to create a wedding scene for a magazine, and discovers the photographer is her ex-boyfriend.
Why It’s Good: This one is just a mindless rom-com type Hallmark movie with a lot of Christmas and likable characters.
The Mistletoe Promise
Starring: Jaime King, Luke MacFarlane
Where You Have Seen Them: Jaime King starred as Lemon on Hart of Dixie and Luke MacFarLand played Scottie on Brothers & Sisters.
Movie Trope: The main characters pretend to be a couple.
Plot Summary: Elise wants a boyfriend to get back at her ex-husband and to improve her standing at work. Nick needs a girlfriend because he’s up for partner at his law firm and they only promote married people.
Why It’s Good: Both characters are strong, and while it might be more tropey than some of them, it’s a more entertaining because you really root for the characters.
Christmas In Mississippi
Starring: Jana Kramer, Wes Brown
Where You Have Seen Her: Jana Kramer played Alex on One Tree Hill.
Movie Trope: Holly has to work with her ex-boyfriend on the Christmas Festival.
Plot Summary: This one is pretty simple. The main plot if just Holly and Mike working on the Christmas Festival. There’s a little more thrown in, but this film is just a really relaxed Christmas movie.
Why It’s Good: The characters make you care about them, and the relationship between both leads and a kid is the emotional heart of the movie.
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