When you think about iconic romantic comedies, I’m sure a few titles come to mind: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 13 Going on 30, maybe even a recent Netflix movie like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Those films are great, but that’s leaving an entire sub-genre of romantic comedies out of the conversation: holiday rom-coms. And they’re the best ones!
Oh, you didn’t know? Holiday romantic comedies are superior to all other rom-coms. This is just a fact. Not only do these movies have the swoon factor of a regular rom-com, they take place at Christmas, which automatically makes them more sentimental. There’s still room for improvement, of course: There aren’t many romantic comedies about other holidays, like Hanukkah, and that needs to change immediately.
But do something for me right now: Take any classic rom-com scene, and set it during the holiday season. It becomes better, right? The part in 13 Going on 30 where Jenna Rink is sitting with her dollhouse? She should have been wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. Or the moment in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when Andie and Ben kiss on the highway? I would’ve cried more if Andie’s cab had a giant red bow on it. Don’t get me started on Fever Pitch, an absolutely un-watchable rom-com that – you know what? – might have actually been watchable had it included one damn cup of eggnog.
The holiday season is the happiest time of year, and rom-coms are arguably the most beloved movie genre. So when you combine the two, you get cute, cozy euphoria. Operative word being cozy, which is the best way to describe a holiday rom-com. I don’t know if it’s the twinkly lights or mistletoe kisses or snow, but these movies just feel good – like the soft, oversized sweater you break out every November. The marriage of sweet narrative and festive backdrop makes for the ultimate viewing experience.
Take The Holiday, a flaw-free rom-com from 2006 starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black. The premise is utterly delightful: Two overworked, stressed-out women living on opposite ends of the world (Winslet and Diaz) decide to swap houses for the holidays. In their new surroundings, they gain perspective, peace of mind, and boyfriends. It’s a paint-by-numbers storyline, but all the cups of tea (see below), cashmere sweaters, and snowy English cottages elevate it to the next level.
Watching The Holiday is akin to sinking into a warm bubble bath – one that lasts over two hours and flies by in no time. What would be just a standard Nancy Meyers movie has become pop-culture canon. I credit this to its seasonal flair, particularly the scene where Cameron Diaz walks aimlessly around Kate Winslet’s cottage and then starts jamming to “Mr. Brightside.” Mind you, she’s wearing no less than 6,000 layers of clothing and wielding a glass of wine. It’s the Christmas gift that keeps on giving.
The list of A+ holiday rom-coms goes on. Love Actually, first released in 2003, has become almost a cult classic. And what’s not to love about it? You have a stellar ensemble cast enveloped in several tangential love stories, all with a yuletide finish. There are too many precious moments from Love Actually to list here (Andrew Lincoln’s cue cards, anyone?), but it’s a holiday season staple. I mean, that final scene where little Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) plays the drums behind his crush, Joanna (Olivia Olson), as she sings “All I Want for Christmas Is You?” Where were the Oscars? Where were the Grammys? Where were the Pulitzer Prizes?
There’s also While You Were Sleeping (1995), about a train toll worker (Sandra Bullock) who saves a man (Bill Pullman) after he’s pushed onto the tracks, then pretends to be his fiancée while he’s in a coma. Again, you have the basic framework of a romantic comedy, but it’s a little more magical because it takes place at Christmas.
More recent holiday rom-coms include The Family Stone (2005), Last Holiday (2006), and New Year’s Eve (2011), which, yes, absolutely counts. New Year’s Eve is, in fact, a holiday, and I’ll take any excuse to talk about a movie where a main plot point is Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher getting trapped in an elevator. Also, 2013’s The Best Man Holiday, starring Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, and Morris Chestnut, is more fun than any Christmas party you’ll attend this year.
Thankfully, the festive rom-com genre is showing no signs of slowing down. On November 8 we’re getting Last Christmas, starring Emilia Clarke as Kate, a down-on-her-luck 26-year-old who keeps running into the same charming man, Tom (Henry Golding), all over town. Kate, who’s working as an elf at a year-round Christmas shop, is struggling to figure out her life after overcoming a serious medical condition. But Tom, with his cute smile and omnipresent caramel-colored coat, gives her guidance, insight and, of course, romance. It’s a movie filled with laughs, twists, and Emma Thompson talking into a Yugoslavian accent. In other words, pop-culture perfection.
Definitely add Last Christmas to your list of must-see movies this season – and the second you finish it, go home and watch any of the holiday rom-coms I just mentioned. By the time you’re done with that marathon, you’ll see the light. Holiday romantic comedies are where it’s at, people. If a love story doesn’t include at least one reference to Santa Claus, then what’s the point?