I decided to watch 30 Hallmark films over the course of November and December. I realized I was in so deep when the Facebook algorithm started tailoring ads to me. My friends started tagging me in posts and memes. I found humor in being able to name the film from the meme because I have seen a sufficient number of Hallmark films.

Hallmark Christmas films follow a formula. Here predictable is not a bad word much like Nora Ephon’s romantic comedies. For me, Hallmark Christmas films is the journey and the different elements of the formula that create the film. I am able to enjoy the trappings of Christmas more by not having to think too hard. There is comfort in knowing what you will find each time. When there are deviations, I take notice and enjoy that value even more. I’m such a sap that despite how poorly made a few of the film are made, I become invested in some of the stories. Yet, by the emotional third act I will cry for approximately a third of the films I watched.

ScreenRant Hallmark Drinking Game

The formula is so well known this year Hallmark Christmas watching has been elevated with drinking games by People.com. Personally, I used my kindred spirit in one based on my kindred spirit in Hallmark admiration and appreciation over at Screenrant. These are worth saving for the next holiday season.

I won’t let this be ignored but Hallmark gives a unique meaning to “White Christmas”. All of my film reviews on Letterboxd tracked diversity in a note at the end. I found Hallmark to lack people of color in lead roles with exception of a few films they produced. To say Hallmark lacks diversity is an understatement as for one film I wrote, “Diversity is in the toilet.”

Most Joy

My Christmas Love (2016)

The lead actress is intentionally over the top and I love her. I feel like they wrote the role after me during Christmas time. The entire film is themed around the 12 Days of Christmas with gifts arriving at the home and the lead assumes they are for her despite the card being non-descript. Would you believe there is full a musical number in the film? The is was everything I needed. Plus the father was the meddler opposed to the females in Hallmark films. Also, I actually used swear words when that plot twist came. It was a joyous ending indeed.
Ranked: 8

A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (2018)

Jean Smart upstages everyone in this film as the Christmas angel Charlie. Her costumes are over the top and outrageous. The film is a spin on a Christmas Carol using shoes as the device to turn time. This film was the strongest out of the new premiers being light-hearted and charming.
Ranking: 6

Most the Tears

A Gift to Remember (2017)

I watched this twice and cried twice both times. I was fully invested the second viewing but with my first viewing I became invested in the late second act. Of course there was a misunderstanding and I cried with the reveal. At the very end I still cried & I knew the ending. With my second viewing I noticed more little details in the emotionality of the story. What stood out was the male lead mentioning being able to be grateful for the sad memories as he was regaining his memories. Where most films failed in diversity, this film cast multiple supplemental characters with speaking roles.
Ranking: 3

Christmas at Holly Lodge (2017)

Early on in the film there is talk of the lodge always having a miracle every year. I wondered if the miracle would be a dry eye watching this film. Hallmark’s formula is in full force and it is what I come to expect and love about this film. It works here. There is a quote, “Sometimes you find everything you’re looking for in one place”..”Or one person.” My heart lifted in that perfect snow-covered horse-drawn sled scene. Later, I cried over a gift between a teenage girl and widow staying at the lodge. I cried a second time when the widow finally was able to give her gift to the teenager. It was the joyful tears.
Ranking: 5

Most Off Formula

Reunited at Christmas (2018)

Here the lead has a boyfriend yet she is the one with issues with committing and there is no twist for Hallmark. The main plot is about a divided family being together at their late grandmother’s home who reveals the true meaning of Christmas which is on point for Hallmark. What makes this unique, is a separate story-line of love independent of the main character between her parents which deviates from the formula lead finding true love in the end.
Ranking: 27

Marry Me At Christmas (2017)

The film still follows some Hallmark tropes with the snowball and near kiss because we’ve come to expect certain it. The leads have chemistry and we see their relationship develop over the course of the film. Despite the layers of multiple betrayals in the second act, this one has trust issues & rebuilding trust as central to the main characters. That depth of character in story is one of those surprises I was writing about earlier. The male lead and the bride’s sibling relationship is deeply touching adding another depth often overlooked and not played for chesseyness.
Ranking: 4

Most Disappointing

Christmas at Pemberley Manor (2018)

I was looking forward to this specific new release more than any other 22 other scheduled release on the main channel and 37 if we count the sister channel. I am a huge Jane Austen fan and the description used the names Elizabeth Bennet & William Darcy plus the title already had the name Pemberley in the name. Outside of character names, there is no relation to the novel at all. A few moments outside the set design was gorgeous, but I am a sucker of Christmas lights and this is where the Christmas magic stopped. There was one moment where I hoped chemistry and Christmas magic would happen in the best Hallmark way but my heart did not swell as it had moments before when the sleigh was revealed. This film had no diversity in the supporting cast. As Hallmark’s headlining premier Christmas film, I feel they failed to deliver on the festival at Pemberley manor.
Ranking: 17

Top 5 Hallmark Christmas Films

The Sweetest Christmas (2017)

Christmas Getaway (2017)

A Gift to Remember (2017)

Marry Me at Christmas (2017)

Christmas at Holly Lodge (2017)

Honorable Mention

A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (2018)

Overall the 2018 films were not as strong as the previous years films. Here’s to 2019 and rewatching the best of previous years films next season.

Renee Spencer
renee.walstad@gmail.com

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