The Anatomy Of Every Made-For-TV Christmas Movie

They’re so bad and yet so good. Whether it’s on the Hallmark Channel, ABC Family, or Lifetime, every TV Christmas movie has to have at least three of the following key elements.

1. Workaholic Single Woman

ABC Family

The workaholic single woman is a romcom staple. But when you put her in a Christmas movie—not only does she work too hard to find love, she works too hard to know the true meaning of Christmas. Double whammy!

ID: 2152367

2. Workaholic Dad



Workaholic Dad doesn’t have time for his family and he certainly doesn’t have time for Christmas. And he’s often cranky. But don’t worry, something will make him stop being a crappy father. What? Oh, just a little thing called the spirit of Christmas. NBD.

ID: 2152832

3. Someone Wants To Shut Something Down

Hallmark / Via

The family business, an old thing, a special/important thing—whatever it is, it’s gonna get shut down and they have to save it. Often an evil real estate developer is involved. And the worst part? Evil real estate developers rarely, if ever, know the true meaning of Christmas.

ID: 2152991

4. Somebody Died Or Is Dying


It’s the most efficient way to let your audience know this is a serious Christmas movie. And once all the characters are nice and sad, only one thing can cheer them up. Is it the magic of Christmas? No doy.

ID: 2152963

5. Someone Straight Up Is Santa Claus


Despite a moderate amount of skepticism from the protagonist, you discover that some regular dude is the real Santa Claus. And everyone’s like “Whaaaaaaat?”

ID: 2153028

6. Someone Is Unemployed


A high percentage of TV Christmas movie protagonists are unemployed around the holidays. Can the spirit of Christmas get them a job? Who cares! The spirit of Christmas is there to ensure that they have a nice Christmas and then after that they’re on their own. Not the Christmas Spirit’s problem.

ID: 2153069

7. Someone Has To Repeat Christmas

ABC Family

ABC Family



A ton of TV Christmas movies use the “Groundhog Day” method. You just keep doing Christmas over until you get it right. Because you have to learn a lesson. About Christmas.

How is this even possible? I think you know all too well that the magic of Christmas has its fingerprints all over this.

ID: 2153191

8. Someone MUST Find Love Via Christmas


The protagonist is way single and probably not even looking for love. But guess what. The spirit of Christmas is not just going to let someone be single. No way, not when Christmas magic can make you fall in love. Maybe even Santa brings you a mate as your Christmas gift. You’re welcome!

ID: 2153219

9. Car Accident


A car accident is a fast, easy way to add drama and plot to your made-for-TV movie. Even though it’s not the nicest thing to do to your characters, right when they were trying to enjoy Christmas, it’s OK! There’s one thing that’s no match for any accident—Yeah, it’s Christmas again.

ID: 2153262

10. A Wacky Mixup


Whether a rich girl is switching bodies with a poor orphan or someone somehow got on a plane to the wrong destination and spent Christmas with the wrong family, it’s not Christmas without some kind of mixup—and it better damn well be wacky.

ID: 2153287

11. Vaguely Familiar Actor You’ve Maybe Seen In Something Else

ABC Family

Wait, is that? Should we bring up IMDB? Nah, just roll with it.

ID: 2153325

12. Haylie Duff




Sure, you can have a made-for-TV Christmas movie without Haylie Duff. But it’s not recommended.

ID: 2153376

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