12 Best Romantic Christmas Movies (Christmas 2023)

Shikhar Jauhari

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12 Best Romantic Christmas Movies (Christmas 2023)

Christmas is unarguably a holiday for romantic films. Something about its cool air and cheerful music inspires some of the sweetest romantic scenes imaginable, from Cameron Diaz and Jude Law’s delightful romance in The Holiday to Bill Crystal asking Meg Ryan to attend his New Year’s Eve party in When Harry Met Sally.

Not only can classic Christmas movies occupy your time this holiday season – but there are also plenty of fantastic modern movies worth your while this year.

12. Love Hard (2021)

Love Hard

Stream now on Netflix

Genres: Comedy, Romance

Run Time: 1h 44m

Love Hard is an entertaining romantic comedy examining modern dating. Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) stars as Natalie, an idealist who gets duped by an East Coast guy she matched on an app – only to stay with his family over Christmas and learn so much more about herself.

Hernan Jimenez directed this film, which co-starred Darren Barnett (Never Have I Ever), James Saito (Crazy Rich Asians), and Harry Shum Jr. (Glee). Additionally, Mikaela Hoover, Heather McMahan, Rebecca Staab, Althea Kaye, Fletcher Donovan, and Takayo Fischer played key roles as Natalie’s friends and family members.

Although Love Hard is an enjoyable yet small film, its cliche-ridden plot and predictable characters leave much to be desired. Netflix’s seasonal lineup of yuletide fare is better; still, it would suit viewers looking for something lighthearted to watch while relaxing or watching with family and friends this holiday season. While Love Hard may not make for an ideal holiday film experience, it still provides enjoyable romantic entertainment without deepening into dating culture or relationships.

11. Carol (2015)

Carol

Stream now on Netflix

Genres: Drama, Romance

Run Time: 1h 58m

The film portrays Carol as she struggles through an unhappy marriage and Therese as she searches for work, which is powerfully compelling. Both women come from varied backgrounds, but their struggles are effectively captured on screen. Todd Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy team up to tell a captivating love story that explores its many facets. Actors capture beautifully both sexual repression and emotional confusion in this movie.

Blanchett and Mara perform extraordinary performances as women fighting for their lives, and the film’s sensuality is expressed through texture, fabric, and the squeeze of a hand on a clothed shoulder. It is not an overtly explicit film but allows its audience to interpret between the lines to discover what lies underneath.

The film is an impressive work of art with astounding production design, set design, cinematography, and an unforgettable score by Carter Burwell. Sarah Paulson stands out as Carol’s trustworthy confidante, Abby, while Kyle Chandler makes for an utterly convincing representation of Harge, Therese’s furious husband, seeking custody of their daughter.

10. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Stream now on Disney+

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Run Time: 1h 43m

While You Were Sleeping is an enjoyable romantic comedy. Sandra Bullock stars as a young woman who develops an intense crush on an unconscious man, so she attempts to make him fall in love with her by pretending to be his fiance and befriending his entire family – causing many difficulties along the way, but ultimately leading him out of his coma and into a romance with her.

Although some mild language may be heard during this movie, there is no sex content or nudity present – perfect for watching with kids because of its family-friendly nature. While You Were Sleeping is an unexpected rom-com that catches audiences off guard. At first glance, it may appear to be another typical formulaic love story, but director Jon Turteltaub needs to allow the film to become stuck in its formulaic love story slush.

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Instead, he and screenwriters Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric Lebow have created a warm Capraesque tale with touches of Twelfth Night that’s still relatable today. Sandra Bullock proves her versatility with more than just her signature action. At the same time, Bill Pullman also turns in an impressive performance that makes his character more likable, while Peter Boyle Warden and Glynis Johns fill out an outstanding supporting cast that brings everything home!

9. The Best Man Holiday (2013)

The Best Man Holiday

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Drama

Run Time: 2h 3m

After 15 years have passed, four college friends who once shared an unbreakable bond reunite for Christmas celebrations to realize some things have changed and others remain constant. With an outstanding ensemble cast that includes Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, and Monica Calhoun leading the charge, The Best Man Holiday offers both laughter and serious drama.

Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs), author of The Best Man, has since lost his contract and found himself financially desperate with no option other than to write NFL star Lance Sullivan’s biography in hopes it will reintroduce him to prominence. When Lance invites Harper and Mia (Monica Calhoun) over for the holidays, Harper accepts.

While far from flawless, this film succeeds thanks to the cast’s dynamic. However, some aspects may feel generic, with issues played out with tired stereotypes; nonetheless, director Malcolm D. Lee and his talented ensemble deserve credit for producing an okay follow-up film. The film’s most enjoyable moments come from its stellar cast, who give their all to deliver heartfelt drama and honest laughter. Although its sequel may feel cliched after the fact, it’s still enjoyable spending time with this diverse crew of friends.

8. An Affair to Remember (1957)

An Affair to Remember

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Drama, Romance

Run Time: 1h 55m

An Affair to Remember has long been a beloved classic among filmgoers. Based on Leo McCarey’s pre-World War II classic Love Affair (itself a remake of McCarey’s 1939 production featuring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne), An Affair to Remember stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as two wealthy individuals who meet aboard a cruise ship bound for New York and fall deeply in love.

However, fate intervenes, forcing them apart despite all efforts made. An Affair to Remember has long been considered (or dreaded) the ultimate chick flick, yet it has remained a timeless classic.

Kerr and Grant delivered some unforgettable lines, cementing this film’s place as one of the greatest comedies ever seen on film. The script was brilliant; my only reservation was its constant reminders that Kerr and Grant come from different social classes than most of their characters in New York. That being said, the film boasts some breathtaking moments, including when Kerr meets Grant at the Empire State Building (“This place is heaven!”) for their first meeting (which many still refer to today).

7. Happiest Season (2020)

Stream now on Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV

Genres: Comedy, Romance

Run Time: 1h 42m

Happiest Season is an engaging lesbian rom-com that features some of the top LGBTQ+ talent in film today. The plot centers around Abby and Harper, two lovers who live together happily, but one piece needs to be included: Harper has yet to come out to her parents. So when she invites Abby to attend their Christmas gathering together with Harper’s family, Abby reluctantly agrees despite feeling awkward about attending such an event.

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Happiest Season manages to avoid many of the standard holiday movie cliches thanks to an exceptional cast and script with natural flow and surprising depth, including character growth that feels earned and refreshing, further proving that romance films and crowd-pleasers can still better portray queer people.

Happiest Season successfully tackles one of its more significant themes: Harper’s parents treating her like a straight woman when it is clear she is lesbian. While it would be easy to place all the blame for Harper’s dilemma on herself, Happiest Season provides a more nuanced perspective of this story’s events.

6. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

When Harry Met Sally

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Run Time: 1h 35m

When Harry Met Sally hit theaters in 1989, it was considered a groundbreaking romantic comedy. Robert Reiner and Nora Ephron gave audiences a fresh view of how love, comedy, and heartbreak could all coexist in one film.

The film depicts a back-and-forth relationship between two friends whose relationship transcends the conventional understanding of spiritual love. It shows the depth and complexity of friendship as it develops into romance, even though both individuals firmly uphold their belief that men and women cannot coexist as friends without engaging in sexual encounters.

This film follows Harry and Sally, their friends Marie (Carrie Fisher shedding the Princess Leia persona), and Jess (Bruno Kirby). These friends serve as sounding boards for Harry and Sally’s issues in life and love, including interviews with couples describing how they met and fell in love – these scenes add realism and charm. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan’s dialogue makes this a classic movie.

Harry and Sally first meet while driving from college graduation ceremonies to New York City as newly minted graduates, each not liking each other much at first. Over time, however, they find themselves back together periodically, eventually becoming close through shared interests, such as discussing whether women fake orgasms or debating it together.

5. The Apartment (1960)

The Apartment (1960)

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Run Time: 2h 5m

The Apartment, released in 1960 and set in New York City, remains one of the most beloved movies ever. Renowned for its engaging characters and beautiful cinematography, The Apartment remains beloved today.

The Apartment perfectly balances comedy and drama, seamlessly shifting between humorous moments and more severe scenes without losing momentum or audience interest. Furthermore, this film tackles complex topics like workplace sexual harassment as well as deep misogyny within the corporate world – particularly Fran’s attempted suicide at Sheldrake’s hands being particularly impactful.

Billy Wilder was one of the most versatile directors of his time, creating films to please audiences of all tastes, from screwball comedies such as Some Like It Hot and The Rules of the Game to more emotional romantic dramas such as Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and Beautiful. However, The Apartment is an enduringly significant film due to its bold depiction of sexuality pre-code filmmaking – another factor contributing to its lasting legacy.

4. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

The Shop Around the Corner

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Run Time: 1h 39m

Ernst Lubitsch’s gentle comic masterpiece features an all-star ensemble led by James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan and its timeless mistaken identity story that has inspired several lesser films (such as You’ve Got Mail). This work showcases Lubitsch’s trademark “Lubitsch touch,” infusing every scene with humor, sophistication, and just a pinch of mischief – characteristics embodied by its “Lubitsch touch.”

The film’s central narrative is unassuming, yet its real beauty lies in the characters and their interactions – from jealousy, power plays, tiffs, and compromises between employees at Matuschek & Company to emotional support among employees at their firm. Each scene bursts with drama while remaining lighthearted enough for you to laugh out loud at times!

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James Stewart shines in this film thanks to his extraordinary portrayal of Alfred Kralik, the shop clerk who falls for Klara Novak (Sullavan). This role showcases Stewart at his finest: honest yet well-rounded with both comedy and heart, making for an outstanding early career performance that makes this picture enjoyable.

3. The Thin Man (1934)

The Thin Man (1934)

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Romance

Run Time: 1h 31m

Shot on a tight budget over just 14 days, The Thin Man stands out among later remakes with its fast editing and breathtaking cinematography that captures its distinctive energy. Director W.S. Van Dyke — known for his ability to complete an entire movie in just one take — gives The Thin Man its unique feel that is hard to match.

Nick Charles, a retired private eye, and Nora, his wealthy and socialite wife from high society, accept a commission from Dorothy Wynant (Maureen O’Sullivan) to track down her father Clyde and are soon involved in a web of backstabbing and suspicious deaths while enjoying cocktails, trading bons mots and spending time with their wire-haired fox terrier Asta.

The film is an icon of screwball comedy, featuring physical humor from Powell and Loy in many scenes such as those set on city streets with Lt. Guild (Porter Hall from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Double Indemnity, and Miracle on 34th Street), Cesar Romero (who would go on to appear in several sequels), Nat Pendleton as well as Asta. Asta’s antics steal the show throughout!

2. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis

Stream now on Apple TV, Prime Video

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Family, Musical, Romance

Run Time: 1h 53m

At first glance, the 1904 World’s Fair offers an enchanting, lighthearted tale about love, family, and domestic life as experienced by Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Judy Garland), and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien). But its heart lies not with period dresses or arguments over an ice cream shop but in Rose and Esther’s quest for happiness within their household, ultimately realizing true love resides herein.

Meet Me in St. Louis is one of the rare musicals that effectively addresses industrial progress and family discord – both due to Vincente Minnelli’s artfully flowing camera work, as well as to its cast. Judy Garland, at her peak as an MGM star, was particularly captivating; as Esther, she brought tears as well as applause from audiences with her agile vocal performance.

As an overall experience, the film is truly mesmerizing and one of the most beloved musicals ever made. Producer Arthur Freed insisted on Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane writing songs especially tailored for this picture by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane; these vibrant gems include classics such as “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” earning Garland one of Academy’s ‘Oscarettes’ – later dubbed Oscarette Awards – in 1944 for her outstanding performances in her role.

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's a Wonderful Life

Stream now on Prime Video

Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy, Romance

Run Time: 2h 10m

At its release in 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life was met with mixed reviews. A sentimental tale extolling old-fashioned values ran counter to William Wyler’s hard-hitting drama The Best Years of Our Lives about war veterans; postwar audiences craved optimism rather than this film that dealt with conflict-torn characters’ darkened lives.

Throughout its film career, It’s a Wonderful Life has become one of the classic American movies. George Bailey and Bedford Falls residents provide something for everyone in this romance story between him and Mary: comedic moments such as an unexpected swim at a high school dance and tragedy when George loses his son, Willy. Additionally, an anti-capitalist theme runs through many of Capra’s later works.

Even with its darker undertones, It’s a Wonderful Life is an upbeat movie with lasting appeal due to the performances by James Stewart and Donna Reed as well as its author, Frank Capra, who, upon returning from distinguished war service, wanted to pay tribute to everyday Americans through his script.

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