For the past two months, Jenna Golden has organized her weekends around the 2021 Hallmark Christmas movie schedule. The company released a record 41 movies this year, and Golden says she owed it to herself—and her following—to watch and rate every single one.
Though she’s been told it’s “off-brand,” Golden, a DC media and political consultant, has been ranking these cultural staples for the last three years. She started watching them as a joke but has really come to like them, especially as the network “is making huge strides to be way more inclusive,” including hiring Wonya Lucas as the CEO.
“They are light, they are easy, they are enjoyable,” Golden says. “The world is complicated; these movies are not complicated.”
And here is my full list of all 2021 Hallmark Christmas movies ranked! Thanks for following along on this magical journey 🎄🎅🏼🎬 pic.twitter.com/vywMoFRiDo
— Jenna Golden (@jigolden) December 20, 2021
Her ratings are on a five-star scale, and Golden set strict rules for herself to keep integrity in her system. For one, she has clear guidelines of what she’s looking for: chemistry, a diverse cast, a modern storyline, and the kiss. “The kiss matters. Sometimes there’s literally only one kiss,” she says. Another rule, since Golden is tweeting out her reviews in real time: She doesn’t allow herself to change the number of stars retrospectively.
Generally, Golden will know in the first 15 minutes if she’s going to like a movie. And, since Hallmark recycles so many plot lines, it’s easy for Golden to identify her least favorites, like ones involving magic or kittens (she doesn’t like cats). But this year, she saw more original storylines, which was “very refreshing.”
“One of the things they started doing well this year with a few movies is less focus on the primary leads falling in love and more focus on an ensemble cast,” Golden says. Every Time a Bell Rings, which landed second on her ranking, followed three distant sisters who came home for the holidays.
They’re also revising the trope of the Big City Girl with her Big City Job who throws it all away after reconnecting with her high school boyfriend. “I think Hallmark has taken more of a feminist turn, which is the woman is empowered to make the decision, it’s not the decision of the man to decide the outcome of her future, so at least that has changed,” Golden says.
Hallmark has competition these days, with Netflix, Lifetime, and Hulu all creating their own formulaic holiday movies. But seeing as Hallmark created the warm, nostalgic, and happy genre, Golden still says it’s the “GOAT.” Although Golden may sound at times like a cheerleader for Hallmark, she’s simply a fan, she says, and has “no relationship, sponsorship, or arrangement with Hallmark and I have never received any payment from them.”
Instead of blogging about the movies, Golden sticks to 280-character reviews, which are a “snackable, easy way for people to understand what they’re getting into and gauge whether they want to watch it.”
“Everything is so hard right now. Everyone is trying to avoid getting sick,” Golden says. “Are these really predictable? Yes. And are they kind of silly? Sure. But who doesn’t want love and happiness, and you’re going to get that in this movie. In some ways, it’s like a really, really comforting, warm hug.”