Made-for-TV holiday fluff isn’t exactly chick lit, but how could I not offer up a listing of the best Lifetime/Hallmark Christmas movies ever made? Admit it – you know you can’t resist those cloyingly sappy holiday specials filled with romance, paint-by-the-numbers storylines and subpar acting.
Considering the dozens of new movies that crop up each year, I have a feeling the networks are more interested in quantity over quality. I don’t mean to sound like a film snob, but come on – how many tired versions of a Christmas Carol are they going to make? And how many times have they recycled the “I’ll pay you to be my boyfriend for the holidays with my family” plot?
Like shopping at TJ Maxx, you have to weed out a lot of baddies in order to find some quality stuff. That’s why I decided to make it easy for you and splotlight a list of my most favorite holiday TV movies. If you’re a fan of romance, fluffy animals, or just a good tear-jerker, do yourself a favor and save these on your DVR.
I watch this tear-jerker at least twice a year and it never fails to fill my heart with the warm fuzzies. The picture perfect ending is somewhat preposterous – but you know what – sometimes we have to suspend our beliefs in order to imagine that miracles really do happen. The movie revolves around a devoted aunt who goes on the run with her deadbeat sister’s two kids in order to keep them from the snares of the foster care system. Lo and behold her sad little car breaks down and she conveniently gets stuck in a quaint little Norman Rockwellesque town called Bethlehem. How stinking cute is that?!? With some help from a guardian angel, she ends up squatting in a gorgeous Victorian mansion and captures the hearts of the townsfolk, especially the super cute sheriff. The romance, the random acts of kindness, the rags to riches ending – everything about it makes my heart sing!
I have a small-time crush on Tony Danza, and boy does this Italian stallion look mighty fine in a Santa suit! Raging hormones aside, this is a quality flick chock-full of witty dialogue and really good acting. Let’s face it, when it comes to Lifetime movies, those important cinematic attributes are hit or miss. Tony does a fine job playing a fugitive bank robber with his New Jersey accent and street-tough attitude. After an ill-fated mall heist, he disguises himself as a mall Santa and ends up working at a small town Christmas tree farm run by Lea Thompson. They both had such great chemistry – and the romantic tension was quite palpable. Oh and did I mention that Betty White also makes an appearance? This movie is crazy good – and I highly recommend that you just buy the DVD because Lifetime hardly ever runs it on the holiday playlist anymore.
Every year I scour the Hallmark Channel guide for this fine holiday film set on-location in a picturesque Irish castle. From the intricate Edwardian costumes to the gorgeous Irish countryside, this movie transports me back to a time when people celebrated the holidays by singing carols by the piano and knitting Christmas stockings. The beauty of these period films is that I get to escape the dizzying digital age and imagine myself at a writing desk crafting longwinded love sonnets under the soft light of a candle. The story, which is a sequel to An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, begins when Tilly and her high-society grandmother pay a visit to Castle Shannon to celebrate Christmas with the Earl of Shannon. Tensions rise when they discover the scheming Lady of Shannon has an agenda of her own. They’re fortune is gone and she needs to marry her son Cameron off to a highfalutin society lady STAT! But little does she know, Tilly is already engaged. Romantic tension ensues when Tilly is unable to resist Cameron’s flirtations – and who can blame her – he’s smoking hot!
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this Canadian TV series. Based on a young adult book series by Lauren Brooke, the show centers on a young girl who is gifted with her late mother’s ability to rehabilitate emotionally wounded horses. Like a steaming bowl of chicken soup, this show soothes my soul with the gorgeous splendor of Canada’s mountain landscape. The horses, the acting, the sweet romance between Amy and Ty – everything about it is perfect. While watching the Christmas special, I wistfully imagined myself helping Amy and her family save wild horses from a treacherous avalanche, trimming the Heartland Ranch Christmas tree, and sitting around the hearth with Grandpa Jack. Oh how I wish that was my life!
Since I spend most of my free time at an animal shelter, I’m a tad biased about this movie. In addition to addressing the critical need for shelter fosters and volunteers, this movie shows how dogs rescue their owners right back. When a mentally challenged farm boy hears a radio advertisement pleading people to take a home a shelter pet for the holidays, he jumps at the chance to bring home a dog. When his reluctant father finally relents, he visits the local shelter and decides to do more than just give one dog a home for the holidays. He launches a big campaign and eventually convinces the entire community to get involved. This wonderful movie not only touches on the need for more pet rescue efforts, it also shows the therapeutic benefits of a dog’s unconditional love.
What’s your favorite TV Christmas movie? Post a comment and tell me about it. I promise not to judge!