Inevitably, my younger, single self always seemed to be going through some sort of break-up around the holidays. I don’t think I’m alone there—something about the family gatherings and pressures of gift-gifting tend to speed up the inevitable. If you are rolling your eyes as you read this, uttering a bitterly discernible “tell me about it” under your breath, then you know exactly what I mean. Instead of drowning your sorrows in an eggnog-fueled pity fest, take solace in knowing that there is one thing that the holidays are really, really good at: providing a plethora of movies that can act as a giant band-aid for that bleeding heart of yours. So grab a blanket, pour some cocoa, and for God’s sake, put on something comfortable. You may be on that couch for awhile.
1) Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Who says pragmatism and romance can’t go hand in hand, especially when Santa comes along to gently push you in the right direction? You can skip the multiple remakes and go straight to the original, preferably in black and white. Does Doris find love? Well, of course she does, and Susan finds the family she has always wanted, but that isn’t quite the point. They both discover that people can be good, decent, and trusted. Now that is a Christmas miracle, indeed.
2) Home Alone (1990)
Ice cream sundaes for breakfast and old mafia movies all day? What kid wouldn’t love that? The thing is, Kevin gets his wish and ends up regretting it. Turns out, being an adult wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. We can all relate. There’s something about this classic story of a kid all alone, trying to find his way, that still resonates. Maybe what we all really want for Christmas, even now, is to hug our mothers and be surrounded by family. And is that really so bad?
3) Love Actually (2003)
If you love things that sparkle and come wrapped in a neat, pretty bow, this movie is for you. No matter where you are in life or what your romantic history may look like, it’s impossible not to relate to at least one of the many interconnecting characters, each with their own love story playing out in full Christmas glory. Does everyone find a happy ending? No, but that makes the sweet spots that much sweeter. (Perhaps there is a larger lesson on life’s ups and downs, here?) Above all else, sometimes we all just need a sappy reminder that “love actually is… all around.”
4) It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
If George Bailey teaches you anything, it’s that you must get past any nasty regrets and petty grievances. All of your experiences— the good, the bad, and the ugly—have made you into the person you are today. Be proud of that person. Even if you’re feeling discarded, forgotten, or unloved, you must keep giving, giving, giving. It’ll come back to you tenfold, just as it did for George.
5) Prancer (1989)
If ever you feel you are losing faith—in family, in love, in the magical optimism of childhood—look no further. Set in a hard yet beautiful Midwestern winter, Prancer is that nostalgic piece of Christmas past that charms its way into the hearts of anyone who has experienced longing and loss. It’s the kind of movie that reminds us that dreams and beliefs are worth fighting for.
6) Die Hard (1988)
I know, I know: “But it isn’t a Christmas movie!!” I’ve been on the other side of this argument before, usually with a Bruce Willis loving ex-boyfriend (go figure). However, I also know when to raise the white flag. So, let the record show that, upon further reflection, I acquiesce: seeing as the entire movie takes place over the span of a single office Christmas party, Die Hard is an acceptable holiday film, especially for nights when you need a break from the saccharine. And for breakups, it is especially satisfying. If John McClane can fight off Alan Rickman (RIP) and his cronies single-handedly, surely you can get past a broken heart. It won’t be easy, and you’ll cultivate some bad-ass battle scars along the way, but there comes a point in life when a girl needs to be the hero of her own story.
7) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (1966)
When you are the only single person at yet ANOTHER holiday party, feel free to let your Grinch flag fly, but remember: he comes around in the end, and eventually, so will you.
8) The Family Stone (2005)
You think you’re in love. You think you have it all figured out. Then, BAM, you go to meet the family for Christmas and discover you don’t know shit—and maybe that’s not such a bad thing. While Sarah Jessica Parker reminds us to let loose and not take ourselves too seriously, Diane Keaton steps in to show us that family is what the holidays are really all about—dysfunction and all. Make sure you have tissues handy for this one.
9) When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Let’s be honest: sometimes we all need a little more Nora Ephron in our lives. Nora Ephron with a side of Carrie Fisher? Yes, please! Although perhaps not holiday canon, WHMS checks all the boxes for a witty feel-good romance whose climactic final scene happens to take place on New Year’s Eve. So grab some friends and laugh along to some of the sharpest repartee since Shakespeare.
10) The Holiday (2006)
Every now and again, you just need to get away—away from your family, your job, your heartbreak. If only the ephemeral “home exchange” were as easy or rewarding as it turns out for our pals Amanda and Iris. Still, a bit of a change in scenery can be helpful in giving us new perspective and a new, shall we say, unattached lease on life. Who knows? Jude Law could be waiting behind door number one.
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