In the last decade, cable channels have turned former sitcom stars finding the spirit of Christmas into a genre of its own. Though historically overlooked next to holiday blockbuster hits and cartoon classics, the made-for-TV Christmas movie genre has a lot to offer.
Yes, some of these movies are as cheesy as their titles. But there’s a wealth of made-for-TV films out there that rival the classics in their festivity, entertainment value and warmth. Check out the list below for the most fun and uplifting films to add to the queue this holiday season. Give these underrated masterpieces a chance, and they may become perennial favorites as eagerly anticipated as “Elf.”
“Naughty or Nice”
When Krissy Kringle is accidentally mailed Santa’s magical naughty or nice list, she gets to dig up the dirt on everyone in her life — for better or for worse. The touch of magic mixed with the whimsical setting of Candy Cane Lane and Krissy’s chaotic choices make this movie the perfect choice to catapult anyone into the festive spirit instantly.
This 2012 flick is the “Pitch Perfect” of Christmas movies — it has singing groups, timeless jokes and a sweet romantic side plot. It also delivers plenty of amusing camp in Tori Spelling’s portrayal of mean girl Marci. Tia Mowry stars as Holly, a woman desperate to join a local a cappella group called the Snow Belles. When auditions go awry, however, Holly changes her plans and decides to start her own group with the hopes of performing at the mall on Christmas Eve.
“12 Dates of Christmas”
In this festive “Groundhog Day” style film, a woman is forced to relive Christmas Eve — and the blind date that comes with it — over and over until she gets the day right. Starring Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “12 Dates of Christmas” is a genuinely heartwarming movie that never gets old.
“Switched for Christmas”
This Hallmark original stars Candace Cameron Bure, most well-known for “Full House” and “Fuller House,” as twins who swap lives in the days leading up to Christmas. However, complications arise when the twins both find love while concealing their true identities. The twins’ dual point of view brings a fun twist to differentiate this holiday rom-com from movies of the same vein.
For a holiday film with a bit more depth and darkness that would hold up any time of year, try “Angry Angel.” Brenda Song, known for playing London Tipton on “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” stars as a bitter angel stuck on earth trying to rack up enough brownie points to get into heaven. She has a routine down, but things get complicated when someone from her old life enters the picture one December and a lopsided love triangle emerges.
“My Christmas Love”
When Cynthia goes home for the holidays and receives gifts inspired by “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at her door, she is determined to figure out the identity of her secret admirer. Though a Hallmark movie heavily inspired by a carol may not sound like the most appealing choice, it’s an hour and a half of lovable characters, sweet holiday romance and light mystery that will keep you hooked.
“Ghosting: The Spirit of Christmas”
This Freeform original is filled with humor, heart and a subtle dose of holiday spirit. In another unconventional Christmas movie with a heavy twist, a woman dies after an incredible first date but is stuck on earth as a ghost. She’s invisible to all but two people — one of whom is the man that she literally ghosted — and must figure out how to move on from this limbo state.
“Christmas in Rome”
Soak up the beautiful scenery in this jolly take on a classic Hallmark Christmas movie. Lacey Chabert stars as an American woman living in Rome. After getting fired from her job as a tour guide, she takes on the task of showing businessman Oliver around the eternal city and finds love along the way.