I like to spend the whole period between Halloween and Christmas watching Christmas movies. It’s not about great cinema; it’s about vibes.
If you’re into vibe maintenance, you know what I’m talking about. You need the soundscape, the background colors, the ~mood~ that you can only get from a couple of people with really nice teeth falling in love adjacent to Christmas lights.
Keeping a movie going on the TV is cozier than putting up a fake fireplace (slightly) but you can’t necessarily give a movie more attention than a fake fireplace. It’s time to wrap presents. Your cat is on the wrapping paper. The kids want to open another bottle of sparkling cider. You’re wondering if you can fit in the closet with the presents, without cats or kids.
Right now you’re not keeping up with elaborate plots. Rewatching movies every year means you don’t have to. You always know when the good parts of When Harry Met Sally come around. If you miss it this year, you’ll see it next year.
So when I put something new on my rewatch list, it has to be special. It has to endure revisiting every 12 months, but only being revisited with as much attention as Swiss has cheese. It has to be predictable enough that I don’t get too caught up in worrying over the characters’ drama. I appreciate good needle drops. I want over-decorated Christmas sets whenever possible.
I found a few movies worth adding to the yearly rewatch list, so here’s my suggestions for a few you may or may not have in rotation.
If you like the traditional Hallmark-style romance, you might appreciate this version that features a male couple. The simple fantasy of an accepting family in a cute town with affordable real estate prices should belong to all sexual orientations.
From Christmas photo shoots, to excessive sweater-wearing, and Jennifer Coolidge over-directing a very dramatic Christmas play, Single All the Way has all the pretty things you could possibly want to ignore on your television.
I think people skipped this once because it was advertised as a Vince Vaughn movie, and I bet you know what I mean when I say that. Bringing up Four Christmases in conversation made people say, “Isn’t that the one where the kid beats up Vince Vaughn?” and the fact I have to say “yeah, sorry, that’s the one” isn’t starting this recommendation off on the best foot.
But that’s a pretty brief part of the movie, which is in service of drawing a picture about messy families – like the Vince Vaughn version of the cousins in My Big Fat Greek Wedding getting into trouble. It’s part of the process wherein Reese Witherspoon realizes she wants to have a family with Vince Vaughn. Their relationship is adorably nontraditional for holiday romances. I think long-time committed couples will especially appreciate how these two keep it fresh.
It’s not the most vibey suggestion, but the central couple is so cute I have to recommend it. And I bet it’s not one of your favorites yet.
This is the first year that What Happens Later has been eligible for watching, much less existing or rewatching, but I immediately gave it a position of honor on my mental shelf of Holiday Rewatches. Meg Ryan might be my favorite 90s/00s romcom darling, and my wifemommy is just as good as ever.
Contemplative and moody, What Happens Later is a slow-paced conversation between two very charming actors enjoying one another’s company immensely. Although it gets sad here and there, it’s mostly a magical look at love later in life between sweet goofball Meg Ryan and a caustic bag of luggage played by David Duchovny.
I read the stage play this was based upon before seeing the movie, and Meg Ryan did a wonderful job tweaking it just a bit to make the story warmer, but no less theatrical. This one will flow nicely in tone between more well-worn classics.
Hear me out. Even if you like the Hallmarky Christmas movie subgenre, you might not love the idea of watching Lindsay Lohan; I know there were times in her life where she wasn’t delivering her best performances. But this woman is perfect in this movie. She is every corny pink-drenched atom of clueless heiress turned flannel stepmommy that you could ever possibly want.
I’ve also watched enough holiday romances by now to realize that chemistry between the leads is entirely optional. These two are actually into each other somewhat. And despite dealing with the usual budgetary issues that Netflix holiday romances tangle with, they manage to get some good song moments, too. At some point you realize the movie has gone from silly-garish to an actual aesthetic, and it feels like you were transported onto a hot cocoa mix box logo when you weren’t paying attention. I love this one.
1. Last Holiday
Queen Latifah stars in an inspirational romance about celebrating life through grief. Sounds corny put that way? I’ve never met a movie that made me feel such a genuine outpouring of emotion. Queen Latifah absolutely destroys my soul with a beautiful performance, and the story is such heartfelt Christmas magic. Last Holiday is a great balance between my stylized platonic ideal of a Christmas movie and a flick that actually has stuff to say on a spiritual level. I *went places* watching this.
The subplot I always think about is Queen Latifah with the woman who’s having an affair. Our heroine isn’t nice confronting this woman when the opportunity arises, but she’s extremely *kind*, and the blunt honesty transforms her life. I can’t describe how the bumps along that bit spoke to me, and that was just one of many very lovely moments packed into this.
I’m convinced Last Holiday is the king of all Christmas romcoms. Somehow it totally flew under my radar until this year, and now I don’t want to live without it. I have to put it at the top of this list in case Last Holiday hasn’t graced your life yet. But maybe you already love this one too! I was surprised when I started talking about it and had folks coming out of the woodwork with superlatives.
What kind of movies are your perpetual holiday rewatches?