Top 10 Romcom films to watch over the holidays
A top lecturer at the MetFilm School (London, Leeds and Berlin) shares her top tips for romcom films to watch this Christmas
Keeping warm will be a top priority this holiday season, and whilst we can’t help with the cost of heating, we can help with top advice from film experts. So hunker down under your duvet to binge-watch some top heart-warming seasonal films.
And whilst there are some great ‘best of 2022 films’ to catch-up on, for many, this year ‘tis the season for re-watching old favourites.
We caught up with ‘rom com’ expert Dr Alice Guilluy, lecturer at the MetFilm School to give us her top tips for this season.
Not all these films are set at Christmas, but most take place over various end-of-year holidays and/or feature copious amounts of snow, food, comedy… and romance.
So, grab the closest box of treats, and escape the gloom and doom for a few hours with the Dr’s Top 9 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 favourites: 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.
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 swoon-worthier. Do also check out Nora Ephron’s 1998 remake (You’ve Got Mail), which is on my colleague Justin’s Trefgane’s (screenwriter) must-watch list.
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (dir, Ayan Mukerji, 2013)
One of the best 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 in the snow-topped Himalayas. Every single musical number is excellent, Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor’s chemistry is spectacular, and (a sign of a truly great rom-com) the best friend characters almost steal the show.
Sissi (dir, Ernst Marischka, 1955)
This one has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays, except it is an absolute Christmas TV classic in mainland Europe (Empress Elizabeth of Austria, whose life it dramatises, was born on December 24). The gowns are to die for, Romy Schneider is exceptional, and the romance is ultra-schmaltzy.
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.
What’s Cooking? (dir, Gurinder Chadha, 2000)
Set at Thanksgiving, Gurinder Chadha is most famous for her brilliant Bend It Like Beckham (not a Christmas movie, an everyday time movie), but this lovely portmanteau Thanksgiving film is very underrated. Come for the family drama, stay for the lovingly-shot food.
Die Hard / Making of Die Hard (dir, John McTiernan, 1988)
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.
All That Heaven Allows (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 an upper-class widow (Jane Wyman) and her gardener (Rock Hudson) will have you reaching for the tissues in no time. Features possibly the most heart-wrenching gift-giving scene in Hollywood history. And if you need to cry some more, watch Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s New German Cinema remake, Fear Eats The Soul (1974).
Love Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2002)
And finally, the most controversial of all. Is it a creepy, bloated mess which tries to make stalking romantic? (spoiler: no, rom-com viewers aren’t idiots), or a star-studded ode to love & London? I stand firmly in the second camp and have seen this once every year since it was released 20 years ago. Sing it with me: ¯ I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toooooes… ¯