Two complete strangers swap houses for the holiday season for a quiet escape. Sounds simple enough, right? That is until a handsome brother and charismatic composer turn up at their doors in this romantic Christmas classic.
Featuring the all-star cast of Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black, The Holiday tells the story of Iris (Winslet) and Amanda (Diaz), two women going through heartbreak during the worst time: the holiday season. In the hopes of escaping the drudgery of their failed romances, the two find each other via an online service that lets strangers swap houses. They agree to swap for two weeks, with Amanda moving to Iris' small cottage outside of London and Iris heading to Amanda's Los Angeles mansion. It is there that their lives are changed forever by the people they meet along the way, both romantically and platonically, reminding them both of the joys of life and that there is more out there than the trash fires that were their previous lovers.
Written, produced, and directed by Nancy Meyers, this holiday romance film deals with issues beyond romantic love: The Holiday also explores the grief of losing a loved one, reviving one's career at an old age, and the cultural exchange of the bustle of Hollywood versus small-town living. Ultimately, the film boasts the notion that love can be found even in the most unexpected places.
If you're looking for more holiday-set romantic films — whether it be an ensemble cast or set to the backdrop of a winter wonderland, here are 10 movies to watch next, ranked by Metascore.
Best for: Fans of Sandra Bullock and the Chicago train system
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Lucy, played by Bullock, is a lonely Chicago Transit Authority token collector who is resigned to working holidays when no one else can, as she normally has no one to celebrate with. Her great escape is the secret crush she has on handsome commuter Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher). She sees him every day at work, but the two are strangers. On Christmas Day, Peter gets pushed onto the tracks by muggers, but Lucy is able to save him from the oncoming train and accompany him in his comatose state to the hospital where she unintentionally convinces Peter's family that they were engaged to be married. Caught up in her own lie, Lucy must navigate a way to maintain this front as she's taken in by his family and shown the joys of a communal holiday season.
"Director Jon Turteltaub has a smooth style suited to classic farce and knows just how to pace the material to accentuate the positive." — Leonard Klady, Variety
Best for: Fans of Pride and Prejudice and Richard Curtis
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Based on the 1996 Helen Fielding novel of the same name, this romantic comedy follows Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger), a fun-loving, 32-year-old British woman who is single and longs desperately for something exciting to happen in her life. Committed to the idea of turning her life around, she begins to flirt with her boss and long-time crush, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), who is the head of the publishing company she works for. Things begin to escalate when Daniel starts flirting back while simultaneously a different and unexpected love interest pops into her life as well, daring Bridget to sort through her true feelings and challenge her perceptions of love.
"95 breezy minutes that typify cotton-candy filmmaking." — Lawrence Toppman, The Charlotte Observer
Best for: Fans of Meg Ryan and bookstores
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Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) runs the local bookstore called The Shop Around The Corner (because this film is inspired by 1940's The Shop Around the Corner) after inheriting it from her mother. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is a member of the Fox family that runs Fox Books, a chain of mega bookstores — the kind of bookstores that threaten the livelihoods of shops like Kathleen's. Via the thrill of email in the '90s, the two meet online and begin an anonymous relationship, completely unaware that they are each other's rivals in the real world. What unfolds is a romance that challenges both parties in their ideals and perceptions of love, and, much like The Holiday, explores the idea that true love comes when you least expect it.
"The coincidences that make the destined lovers' paths cross aren't contrived with much finesse, but the characters get in some decidedly clever lines." — Lisa Alspector, Reader
Best for: Fans of ensemble casts and cue cards
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Also directed by Curtis, this Christmas-themed romantic comedy explores ten separate stories as they each navigate how to find love in modern-day London. The film begins five weeks out from Christmas and commences to count down week by week, and as the film progresses, the storylines become increasingly intertwined with each other. The film stars include (but are not limited to) famous British actors including Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Like The Holiday, Love Actually explores love in a complicated but ultimately well-connected winterscape, highlighting the beauty of coincidences and living in a small world.
"The movie grows more cloying and repetitive as it stretches well beyond two hours. Almost every main character boasts the same bashful, puppy-dog attitude toward romance." — Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune
Best for: Fans of John Cusack and those who believe in fate
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Set in New York City, this holiday rom-com follows the love story of Jonathan Trager (Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) who meet by happenstance and find that the power of love may be far beyond their control. Jonathan first meets Sara while shopping for Christmas gifts, and they both try to buy the same pair of black gloves. Despite both being in a relationship, the pair follow the feeling of mutual attraction and grab dessert at Serendipity 3 where Sara reveals that she likes to let fate's signals determine her life decisions. Despite Jonathan's misgivings, in order to adequately test fate, the two exchange contact information via less-than-traditional means: a five dollar bill used to buy breath mints and a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera. The film's winter backdrop and unexpected yet romantic meet cute make this a perfect film for any fan of The Holiday.
"Contrived and schematic, Peter Chelsom's film is a mechanical bird that never takes wing." — Carrie Rickey, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Named after the hit 1984 holiday song by Wham!, this romantic comedy film follows Kate Andrich (Clarke), an aspiring singer and hot mess who hops from friend's place to friend's place and works as an elf at a year-round Christmas store in London. When she notices that she keeps bumping into a handsome man named Tom (Henry Golding), Kate decides to spend more time with him as he goes about the city doing good deeds. As they explore their relationship, Kate begins to reckon with her own life choices, her health, and most importantly, the matters of the heart. Last Christmas is filled with surprises that should satisfy any holiday-oriented romantic.
"Clarke's natural charm comes through but such a fleabag-screwup role feels better suited to a more comedic performer." — Jake Coyle, Associated Press
Best for: Fans of Ryan Reynolds and Alaska
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Yet another rom-com starring Bullock, this film follows her as Margaret Tate, the editor-in-chief of a New York book publishing company. Cutthroat and demanding, she is disliked in the office but is at the height of her career — that is until she is told that as a Canadian citizen, her visa renewal application has been denied and she faces being deported back to Canada. In a moment of desperation, she blackmails her cheeky assistant Andrew Paxton (Reynolds) into pretending to be her fiancé so that she can get a green card. In order to sell the lie, the bickering pair must travel to Andrew's hometown in Alaska where she is to meet his entire extended family under the guise of love. Despite not being set during the holidays, The Proposal is homey and family-oriented, dealing with such similar themes to that of The Holiday as unlikely lovers and chosen family.
"A funny, able romantic comedy that is a cut above, but no more. Still, those leads are awfully likable, the Massachusetts-for-Alaska landscape rather picturesque, and if The Proposal doesn't reinvent the wheel, merrily we roll along nonetheless." — Kimberley Jones, The Austin Chronicle
Best for: Fans of Justin Long and answering machines
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This romantic dramedy follows nine people and their various problems in their love lives. Ranging from not getting a call back to falling out of love with a spouse, He's Just Not That Into You covers it all. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) has the most common throughline throughout the film, as she navigates dating around and trying to read men. With the help of a snarky but honest bartender named Alex (Long), she gains confidence and enlightenment in her love life and shares her newfound knowledge with her coworkers, friends, and sister who each have their own struggles, single or taken. Like The Holiday, this film stars an ensemble cast, and despite not being set around Christmastime, showcases the same tender charm of finding love in a hopeless time.
"Yes, that's an impressive collection of actors. And yes, it's deflating to watch them wandering in and out of half-written scenes with no discernable direction." — Elizabeth Weitzman, Daily News
This romantic comedy tells the story of Andie Anderson (Hudson), a writer for a women's magazine where her focus is the "how to" column despite longing to write about more serious issues. During a pitch meeting in an attempt to save her heartbroken friend from being the subject of an embarrassing article, Andie volunteers to write a piece about the common mistakes women make when dating. When scouting out the potential subject — and victim — for her new project, she meets Benjamin Barry (McConaughey), an advertising executive, who unbeknownst to her had just made a deal for his own career that he can make any woman fall in love with him. Unknowingly diametrically opposed, the two embark on a dysfunctional romantic relationship and learn that true love may be the one thing they didn't plan for.
"With a premise this screwy, nobody has any choice but to follow the savvy lead of Bebe Neuwirth, who, as Hudson's 'Composure' editor, hams her queen-bitch-mother-hen role to glazed perfection." — Laura Sinagra, The Village Voice
Best for: Children of divorce and fans of Reese Witherspoon
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This Christmas comedy follows couple Brad (Vince Vaughn) and Kate (Witherspoon) who both come from dysfunctional families of divorce. In an attempt to avoid the chaos, every year they travel abroad and pretend to be doing charity work. The third Christmas they attempt to pull this off, their flight is canceled due to fog and they are interviewed by a news crew, which airs on television for each of their families to see. Consequently, they have no choice but to visit each of the parents' homes, and what follows is an outrageous Christmas marathon that tests Brad and Kate's relationship while reminding them what the holidays are all about.
"I recommend thinking of Four Christmases not so much as a really short movie but as a very special holiday episode of a sitcom." — Rick Kisonak, Film Threat