MetFilm School’s Top 10 Holiday Romances to watch this Festive Season
Dr. Alice Guilluy, MA Deputy Programme Leader and Screen Theory Tutor at MetFilm School London (and rom-com expert, may we add), picks her top 10 holiday romances to watch this festive season. Over to you, Alice!
The holidays are upon us, which for me means only thing: turning off my email notifications and hunkering down under a mountain of blankets to binge-watch to my heart’s content.
And whilst there are lots of ‘best of 2021 films’ lists to catch-up on, for me ‘tis the season for re-watching old favorites’. Not all of them are set at Christmas, but most take place over various end-of-year holidays and/or feature copious amounts of snow, food, and – as a rom-com fanatic – romance.
So grab the closest box of sugary treats, and escape the gloom and doom of 2021 with my Top 10 Holiday (mostly) Romances…
The Holiday (dir. Nancy Meyers, 2006)
If this is too cheesy for you, better turn away now, it’s not going to get better. Nancy Meyers’ is one of the reigning contemporary masters of the rom-com, and this is one of my personal favorites. Yes, both heroines’ homes are worth millions, but their messiness and awkwardness make them engaging and relatable, and the production design is – as ever with Meyers’ films – flawless [IMDB]
Dash & Lily (created by Joe Tracz, 2020)
The Netflix Christmas Universe is fast-expanding, and whilst the Christmas Prince & Princess Switch trilogies have gathered the most attention, my favourite is the unassuming Dash & Lily, which features two delightful leads, lush cinematography of New York in the snow, and a killer soundtrack (‘Fairytale of New York?’ Yes please). [IMDB]
Sissi (dir. Ernst Marischka, 1955)
This one has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, except it is an ultimate Christmas TV classic in mainland Europe (Empress Elizabeth of Austria, whose life it dramatizes, was born on December 24). The gowns are to die for, Romy Schneider is exceptional, and the romance is ultra-schmaltzy. [IMDB]
Desk Set (dir. Walter Lang, 1957)
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy’s real-life romance shines through this charming rom-com between a snarky librarian (Hepburn, always magnificent) and the grumpy IT engineer (Spencer Tracey, wonderful gruff) hired to replace her with… a computer. A truly funny 1950s workplace comedy, featuring endearing sidekicks, fantastic zingers and a heart-warming Christmas finale. [IMDB]
All That Heaven Allows (dir. Douglas Sirk, 1955)
Here’s a proper 50s weepie for those tired of all the holiday cheer. Shot in glorious Technicolor, this heart-breaking love story between a upper-class widow (Jane Wyman) and her gardener (Rock Hudson) will have you reaching for the tissues in no time. It also features possibly the most heart-wrenching gift-giving scene in Hollywood history. And if you need to cry some more, follow up with Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s New German Cinema remake, Fear Eats The Soul (1974). [IMDB]
What’s Cooking? (dir. Gurinder Chadha, 2000)
Gurinder Chadha is most famous for her brilliant Bend It Like Beckham (not a Christmas movie, an everyday all-the-time movie), but this lovely portmanteau film set on Thanksgiving is very underrated. Come for the family drama, stay for the lovingly-shot food. [IMDB]
Die Hard (dir. John McTiernan, 1988) / ‘Die Hard’, The Movies That Made Us (dir. Brian Volk-Weiss, 2019)
Whilst technically not a romance (the love story is very much a sub-plot), this is an undeniable Christmas classic (or is it?). And whilst the film itself needs no introduction, the dedicated episode of Netflix’s The Movies That Made Us is well-worth a watch, too. [IMDB]
The Shop Around The Corner (dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
A true Christmas classic: this delightful epistolary romance between two warring shop-floor workers bears the hallmarks of the famed ‘Lubitsch touch’. Jimmy Stewart has never been dreamier. Do also check out Nora Ephron’s 1998 remake (You’ve Got Mail), which featured in my colleague Justin Trefgane’s must-watch list last year. [IMDB]
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (dir. Ayan Mukerji, 2013)
One of my favorite rom-coms of the last decade. This one does not feature Christmas, but does end (happily-ever-after) on New Year’s Eve, and most of the first act is set atop the beautiful snow-topped Himalayas. Every single musical number is excellent, Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor’s chemistry is spectacular, and – sign of truly great rom-com – the best friends almost steal the show. [IMDB]
Love Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2002)
And finally, the most controversial of all. It is a creepy, bloated mess which makes audiences believe stalking is romantic (spoiler: no, rom-com viewers aren’t idiots), or a genuinely funny, star-studded ode to love, London and Christmas? I stand firmly in the second camp, and have watched this one every year since it was released nearly 20 years ago. Sing it with me: “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toooooes…” [IMDB]
- Dr Alice Guilluy’s book Guilty Pleasures was published by Bloomsbury in Nov 2021, examining the reception of contemporary Hollywood romantic comedy by European audiences. Take a closer look.
- Interested in kickstarting your own filmmaking career next year? Download a prospectus today.
- MetFilm School wishes everyone a safe and restful festive break and a Happy New Year. See you in 2022!