Hallmark Christmas movies are cheesy as heck with a smart strategy behind the cheesiness. Hallmark knows what its viewers like and is happy to oblige with mounds and mounds of cheese. The gooier, the better, and this means more money for Hallmark. That said, some films are slightly less cheesy than others. Your mileage may vary, of course. Cheesiness is subjective, not objective.
11 Hallmark Christmas Movies Featuring Less Cheese
The Hallmark formula for Christmas movies goes like this: A woman meets a small-town guy, mistletoe fun follows, and they get together happily ever after. Three elements tend to be present. The woman is independent, she has a noncommittal boyfriend, and she has a pretty awesome guy friend. There’s no alcohol (definitely no snake venom beer), swearing, or anything like that.
It works. After all, more people watched the Hallmark Channel on Election Night 2021 than watched CNN (although to be fair, the History Channel had more viewers than CNN, too).
Hallmark starts rolling out the Christmas movies in October, and they stick around seemingly forever. You may have an easier time of it if you can find the ones that are not quite as cheesy, so let’s get to listing them. Some of the descriptions below have extremely mild spoilers but nothing that should prevent you from watching.
1. “One Starry Christmas”
This film is an example of fun storytelling. Cheese is present, as always, but less noticeable because of how fun the movie is. Holly is the main character, and her boyfriend Adam has opted to work over the Christmas holidays rather than go home with Holly to her family. That’s the opening Holly needs to meet the charming Luke.
2. “The Holiday Sitter”
Hallmark’s movies usually feature heterosexual couples, although with the occasional LGBTQ character. “The Holiday Sitter” diverges from this norm with a workaholic guy named Sam who happens to have a handsome neighbor, Jason. Their romance is the main, front-and-center one in the film.
3. “An Unexpected Christmas”
Speaking of LGBTQ movies, this 2021 film has a significant lesbian subplot. What makes it even more amazing is that there are no hints it is coming. The film starts off seemingly like other Hallmark Christmas movies, albeit with a trope practically anyone can support — fake dating (by straights). Then, the lesbian supporting character appears and is hilarious with her attempts to stop others’ whining.
4. “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah”
This 2021 film puts a Jewish twist on the Hallmark formula. It’s a good movie in its own right, as optometrist Sarah gets a gift from a secret admirer for each night of Hanukkah.
It declines to reinforce many stereotypes and actually subverts a few. For example, Sarah is already a doctor instead of hoping to marry one. She doesn’t worry about her biological clock, and no one asks her, “Are you having kids soon?” Just as nice, her mother is a judge. “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” is another Hallmark holiday movie worth watching.
5. “The Nine Lives of Christmas”
Cat lovers, rejoice! In “The Nine Lives of Christmas,” a fireman adopts a cat who becomes pals with another cat. The second cat belongs to the man’s future love interest. It’s cheesy, sure, but a bit less than the norm because…cats! Meow.
6. “A Majestic Christmas”
The characters in Hallmark Christmas movies tend to be overwhelmingly white. “A Majestic Christmas” features lead characters of color and gorgeous scenery. “Christmas Everlasting,” “A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado,” and “Jingle Bell Bride” are other examples of Hallmark movies that are not too overwhelmingly white.
7. “Christmas at the Palace”
This movie has a real-life majestic setting, so that’s one less “fake” thing about it. It is set in the fictional nation of San Senova but was filmed in several Romanian locations with castles nearby. “A Royal Christmas” was filmed in this area too.
8. “Every Christmas Has a Story”
This movie isn’t cheesy, really, and that is because it is pretty awful. It also happens to star Lori Loughlin. She plays a TV host who hates Christmas and is set on ruining everyone’s holiday. Her love interest is way too nice for her, and her bad attitude continues for much of the movie.
If you have a thing for analyzing Hallmark Christmas stinkers, check out, “I’m Not Ready for Christmas,” too. It’s got another thoroughly unlikeable lead. “Switched for Christmas” is not quite as awful, but it’s an uncomfortable movie to watch. Candace Cameron Bure plays two roles, twin sisters Kate and Chris. They decide to switch their lives for Christmas, and then they drag…and drag it out. There’s no hoop too convoluted for them to jump through if it means dragging out the story further!
9. “Snow Bride”
This is a good movie, Hallmark or not. It’s got a fresh, authentic air to it even with the tried-and-true mistaken identity and fake relationship tropes.
10. “Battle of the Bulbs”
This isn’t your typical girl-meets-boy movie. It’s more of a neighbor vs. neighbor movie. Bob Wallace aims to have the most festive house in the neighborhood every Christmas. One year, his neighbor one-ups him, and the battle of the bulbs is on.
If you love romance, though, fret not. Two intensely romantic subplots get in the way of what could have been a truly good slapstick comedy. Grr!
11. “Christmas at Dollywood”
Anything with Dolly Parton is worth watching. She shows up onscreen for only a minute, but it’s an amazing minute. The female lead is Danica McKellar, and she is her usual awesome self, too. The setting, Dollywood, makes the movie worth watching for that alone. If you like this type of setting, check out “Christmas at Graceland,” as well.
Hallmark Christmas Movies Are Cheesy, No Doubt
There is much to love about Hallmark Christmas movies if you’re into that kind of thing. If you’re not but your significant other is, then the occasional Hallmark film such as, “Snow Bride,” is more watchable than the typical offering. Hallmark Channel movies are an adventure all their own, of course. Check out additional adventurous offerings at Rugged Standard.