10 made-for-TV Christmas movies that are actually good (and where to watch them)
For some of us, the November-December period is a time for forgetting real life, and escaping to a magical, snow-dusted universe where white-teethed mums and dads come fresh from the beaches of Baywatch, precocious children single-handedly devise solutions to Santa’s problems, and dogs use their abilities of speech to teach us the true meanings of love and faith.
Of course, I’m talking about the endless string of sentimental made-for-TV Christmas movies that have already started filling up our Freeview schedules like unwanted gifts in a festive stocking. But before you dismiss them as frothy daytime filler, allow me – a fan so obsessed that she literally takes holiday leave from work to stay home and indulge in countless hours of Christmas24 – to present ten made-for-TV Christmas movies that are actually good. With many boasting performances from big stars before (or after) they were famous, these not-to-be-missed features promise to bring joy to even the frostiest of hearts.
Snow (ABC, 2004)
“Every Christmas needs a miracle”
If you’re still suffering from PTSD after Harrison Wells essentially f***ed the entire planet over on The Flash, this other side of Tom Cavanagh as a Saint-Nick-in-training will have you sleeping soundly once more. Also starring that little sass-mouthed kid from Role Models, this new family classic unleashes a chaos even more fearsome than the Central City Singularity, when a poacher kidnaps one of Santa’s reindeer. Full of jingling bells and true wonder.
The Christmas Shoes (CBS, 2002)
“He didn’t know he needed a miracle until one happened”
On a level of sophistication previously unknown to the made-for-TV genre, this CBS original film packs not one, not two, but three plot lines into one hour and thirty-four stunning minutes. Starring the one and only Rob Lowe as a workaholic lawyer whose marriage teeters on the brink of divorce, plus Shirley Douglas as his terminally ill mother, the acting and writing of this bittersweet drama have secured it an impressive 6.9 rating on IMDb, and 85% on the Tomatometer. The miracles don’t stop there, though…
The Christmas Blessing (CBS, 2005)
“They didn’t know they needed a miracle until it was almost too late”
This ’17 years later’ follow-up to The Christmas Shoes sees Neil Patrick Harris as the little boy from the previous movie all grown up. Now a doctor, his dead mother sure would be proud if she could see him now, saving lives and helping those in need. We’re also treated to Lowe’s return, and Two and a Half Men‘s Angus T. Jones (before he shed the puppy fat) as the boy who ‘develops a special bond’ with his beautiful teacher (Rebecca Gayheart). Niiice. Joking aside though, this one’s a real weepy. Get the tissues ready, all ye who dare enter.
Watch it on True Christmas at 7:00pm on Saturday November 14th.
On the Second Day of Christmas (Lifetime, 1997)
“Will their Christmas be naughty, or nice?”
Pre-fame Mark Ruffalo sparkles and shines as a department store security guard who has a run-in with a beautiful shoplifter (Mary Stuart Masterson) on Christmas Eve, and takes her and her young niece in for the holidays so they needn’t spend them in social services. While the premise of shoplifting with a child accomplice leading to a “gift-wrapped romance” is somewhat questionable, this cheeky comedy is indisputably delightful.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Hallmark Channel, 2008)
“It’s beginning to look nothing like Christmas”
Once again based on slightly sketchy foundations – picking up a snowbound stranger at the airport and inviting him to live in the house of your single niece and her young son – the chemistry between Baywatch babe Brooke Burns and Alphas hunk Warren Christie is enough to supersede our cautious reservations and heat up any draughty living room this winter. Happy Days veteran Henry Winkler was clearly recruited to provide comic relief, yet all ninety minutes of this underrated classic are pure entertainment. Someone give that kid a haircut, though. Seriously.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (ABC Family, 2001)
“The story of one boy who gave Santa a present he’ll never forget”
Well, technically two boys. Starring those gorgeous Sprouse twins Dylan and Cole – post Big Daddy, but before they got awkward and pubescent – this Christmas caper will please Home Alone fans with its rollicking pranks set by 8-year-old Justin, who becomes overprotective of his parents’ marriage after catching his mother making out with Santa (unaware that it’s just his dad in costume). Don’t worry about it, kid! Being a child of divorce means you get two Christmases!
The Nine Lives of Christmas (Hallmark Channel, 2014)
“When a furry new friend brings them together, fate will intervene”
Exactly what kind of ‘furry friend’ are we talking about, here? Also, who said that Superman Returns doomed Brandon Routh’s movie career? Take those words back now! This cat-based heart warmer stars Routh as a sexy fireman who finds and adopts a cat at Christmas, compelling him to abandon his bachelor ways and open his heart to the love of a veterinary student (Kimberly Sustad). Much more effective than those ‘A pet is for life, not just for Christmas’ ads.
The Christmas Consultant (Lifetime, 2012)
“I think we need a Santa-vention”
Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s Caroline Rhea plays a perfume executive with far too much on her plate for the Christmas season, who hires a very camp ‘Christmas consultant’ with a worryingly loose grip on reality (David Hasselhoff) to help out with ‘the whole package’. This of course entails inviting the somewhat crazed consultant into her home, where he peacocks around, sets things on fire, and gets a little too close to her kids. It’s completely ridiculous, and you need it in your life.
12 Dates of Christmas (ABC Family, 2011)
“Twelve chances to find true love”
Pitched as “a girl’s version of the film Groundhog Day” – a the concept that actually got ABC sued – this wacky romcom with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Amy Smart sees the latter play endearing Kate, who finds herself transported back in time by the spritz from a ladies’ room attendant to relive Christmas Eve over and over again. Sure, Kate’s choice between her ex-boyfriend and a mysterious blind date is predictable from the beginning, but this is nevertheless a fun-filled film about the follies of fate.
Christmas Angel (Lifetime, 2009)
“Miracles are all around you”
It wouldn’t be a made-for-TV Christmas movies list without a hard-hearted, lonely woman who snubs the spirit of the holidays, before the right man comes along and teaches her the meaning of love. Sure, it sounds sappy, but Christmas Angel has everything we look for in a festive film, including a benevolent secret Santa who walks among us making dreams come true, and a betrayed secret with an uplifting resolution.
For all your made-for-TV Christmas needs, check out Christmas24: the channel showing Christmas movies all day, every day.