I heard a rumor that 2020 gave us 115 brand-new, made-for-TV holiday movies. I don’t know. Could that possibly be true? It feels…like a LOT. But then again, 2020 was a LOT. So I guess that makes sense.
At last count, I had about 98 or 99 movies on the holiday movie premiere schedule I make for you, which for some reason, feels like a much more manageable number. And yet, I still didn’t watch every one of those movies. Who could?!
Though I do love crossing things off a list and tend to be a completer, I decided not to force myself to watch any movie this year. So if something didn’t sound good after reading a description, watching a trailer, or even watching the first few minutes, I skipped it with no regrets. As of today, I’ve watched 58 new holiday movies. I have three or four still on my DVR, but to be honest, none of them look great. We’ll see if I can get it up to a nice, round 60, but if I don’t? Still no regrets. After all, this is just for fun!
So, with all that said, I’d love to hear how many new movies you watched this year (if you happened to keep track) and, of course, which ones you liked the most. By the way, if you like keeping lists of the movies you watch and even ranking them, try the Letterboxd app. It’s what I used this year and while I don’t find the app to be super intuitive, for my basic purposes, it’s perfect!
Honestly, every time I open the app, I change the rankings on at least a couple movies. So while it may change (who knows? Maybe one of those movies still on my DVR takes me by surprise?!), here are my 20 favorite new movies from the 2020 holiday season.
One Royal Holiday: European prince is stuck in a Connecticut inn near the holidays and falls in love with the inn owner’s daughter (also a nurse who just happens to be home for a visit). Stars Laura Osnes, Aaron Tviet, and some other Broadway actors who get to sing a bit. Also, there’s a horrible castle and a gorgeous dress. Hallmark Channel.
Christmas by Starlight: There’s a real estate developer and a lawyer and a family cafe. The plot doesn’t matter; the actors do. Paul Campbell and Kimberley Sustad shine in this funny, sweet movie they wrote together. Get it? Starlight? Shine? Anyway, it’s great. Hallmark Channel.
Project Christmas Wish: A woman running a Christmas wish nonprofit meets a widowed dad with an actual adorable daughter. They do Christmas things together and fall in love. Typical but also really good. Stars Amanda Schull and Travis VanWinkle. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Cranberry Christmas: Estranged couple running home decorating empire pretend to get along for a TV special. Grownups acting like grownups and dealing with their problems for the win! Stars Nikki DeLoach and Benjamin Ayres. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
The Christmas Setup: A man returns home for the holidays, gets set up with a guy he knew in high school, also saves a historical building in town. This was adorable, and I loved it. Stars real-life married couple Ben Lewis and Blake Lee, plus Fran Drescher. Lifetime.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey: This family film on Netflix was so fun, so magical, so captivating. The costumes! The dance numbers! The inclusivity! My whole family enjoyed this movie about a toy maker who is betrayed by his apprentice and loses everything (but is then later saved by his clever granddaughter). Loved the magic, loved the redemption, loved it all. Stars Forrest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Ricky Martin. Netflix.
Midnight at the Magnolia: This was a late addition to Netflix’s offerings this year, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Something about the acting or the writing made this story about lifelong friends (and morning show co-hosts) becoming something more feel fresh and fun. It was quirky, and I loved it! Stars Natalie Hall and Evan Williams. Netflix.
Five Star Christmas: And the award for the most laughs goes to…this movie! A woman returns home to find her widower father has turned their family home into a [badly run] B&B. To impress an undercover travel critic, the family all pretends to be staff and guests, and boy, do the hijinks ensue! Stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Victor Webster. Hallmark Channel.
Sugar & Spice Holiday: A holiday movie about a Chinese-American family? Yes, please! A woman returns home, runs into her high school crush, misses her grandma, tries to finish a project for work, and competes in a baking contest. It’s a lot, and it’s wonderful! Bonus points for an unconventional ending. Stars Jacky Lai, Tony Giroux, Tzi Ma. Lifetime.
Christmas Unwrapped: The first of many movies about a journalist writing a story this season, this one had the advantage of being produced by Tiffany Haddish. And also, it was just good! Subtle Santa magic, diversity, fun banter, cute leads. Stars Amber Stevens and Marco Grazzini. Lifetime.
If I Only Had Christmas: What happens when you cross the Wizard of Oz with a Hallmark movie? This. This is what happens. And while I heard plenty of critique and will easily agree it was super cheesy, I loved this movie and had a blast trying to catch all the Wizard of Oz references! Stars Candace Cameron Bure and Warren Christie. Hallmark Channel.
Christmas Ever After: A romance novelist visits an inn and realizes the inn’s son (and new owner) looks exactly like the hero of her books. How? Why? And did I mention she uses a wheelchair and nobody makes a big deal about it at all? Loved this new inclusivity and the fun story. Stars Ali Stroker and Daniel di Tomasso. Lifetime.
Feliz NaviDAD: The title is terrible, I know. But this story about a widowed dad starting to date again when his teen daughter creates a dating profile for him is very cute! I may have already watched it twice. (Spoiler alert: It’s true. I have.) Also, great musical numbers at the end. Stars AnnaLynne McCord and Mario Lopez. Lifetime.
Cross Country Christmas: I’ve realized this year that I do love a road trip movie. Two former classmates have to make their way across the country after their flight is grounded due to weather. Fun trip and cute banter. Stars Rachel Leigh Cook and Greyston Holt. Hallmark Channel.
The Angel Tree: Nothing original in this movie that’s about childhood friends reconnecting, a secret Santa granting holiday wishes, and a journalist writing a story. And yet, I liked it so much! Probably because it stars Jill Wagner and Lucas Bryant, who I love. (I do wish this had a different name because it’s a bit misleading having the same name as a well-known holiday ministry.) Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
A Nashville Christmas Carol: This is exactly what it sounds like, except—strangely—we never meet the ghost of Christmas future. Childhood friends with potential for more have a falling out over the music business, but then reconnect years later. And also country stars show up to make sure she makes good choices. Stars Jessy Schram and Wes Brown (who weirdly didn’t get to sing in this movie), plus Wynonna Judd, Kix Brooks, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley who has a questionable accent but fabulous red dress. Hallmark Channel.
A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado: A woman working for a small town tries to convince a local firefighter to donate the giant tree in his yard to the town for a tree lighting ceremony. He doesn’t want to because the mayor just cut the fire department’s budget. The mayor is her dad. Tensions and chemistry run high in this one, and I really liked it. Stars Rochelle Aytes and Mark Taylor. Hallmark Channel.
Timeless Christmas: A rich inventor from the early 1900s travels to present time, where he discovers his home has been turned into a museum. Luckily he falls in love with the museum director. Time travel! At the holidays! On the Hallmark Channel! This actually wasn’t as great as I hoped, but it was still fun to see something so different this year. Stars Erin Cahill and Ryan Paevey. Hallmark Channel.
Love Lights Hanukkah! A woman who was adopted by a single woman uses a DNA test to look for her family after her mom dies. She discovers that she’s half Jewish, meets her birth mom, and falls in love with a family friend of her new-to-her family. All while running an Italian restaurant. Oh, and who’s the main guy? It’s Cory Matthews! A little sappy for me, but still love the Hanukkah focus here. Stars Mia Kirshner, Ben Savage, Marilu Henner. Hallmark Channel.
Christmas Waltz: A woman planning a Christmastime wedding gets dumped by the worst not-the-right-guy of the year. She takes the dance lessons they’d signed up for and falls for the dance instructor. Lots of dancing happens. I can’t help it; I liked it a lot. Stars Lacey Chabert and Will Kemp in the best Hallmark roles I’ve seen them in. Hallmark Channel.