Christmas has always been considered a season of love and good feelings. The media has perpetuated this holiday mood with books, like Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, songs like “Winter Wonderland” sung by Dean Martin, Dolly Parton, The Carpenters, and more, and of course on the big screen with a selection of well known titles featuring many artists. Five of the greatest romantic Christmas films produced within the last generation include Four Christmases, The Holiday, Love Actually, Just Friends, and While You Were Sleeping.

Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn and Reece Witherspoon is a romantic and amusing tale of a couple who considers themselves modern and detached, with no need for family ties. When the holiday season rolls around they traditionally make up excuses to their respective families, and escape for a romantic getaway, just the two of them. When their plans go awry, they are force to pay four visits to each of their parents, all divorced and living separately. In a series of awkward visits, they are forced to evaluate their own feelings on familial relations.

With an impressive cast of Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black, The Holiday introduces two women living an ocean apart facing troublesome relationships with unfaithful partners. After discovering each other through a website for swapping homes, they decide to switch places for the holidays. Through a series of events, they discover that all is not hopeless, and the holiday season can be a time of friendship, joy, and new beginnings.

Credited with a cast list that includes names like Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Liam Neeson, Love Actually takes an almost stream of consciousness approach as it moves through the stories of eight London couples who appear to be distinct but share a vague connection. All characters in the tale play a part in the varying stages of romantic relationships, good and bad, in the weeks preceding Christmas. The film jumps back and forth between the stories, and leaves the viewer with the message that love is, actually, all around us.

Just Friends, starring Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, and Anna Farris opens with a peek of the past, when Reynolds’ awkward and overweight teen character has an unresolved crush on Smart’s character. Ten years later, through a series of events, a successful and slimmer Reynolds ends up at his parent’s home just before Christmas. Smart is in town also, and Reynolds is determined to begin a relationship. Through a series of up and downs, he begins and pursues a campaign of romance that does not exactly follow the path he had planned.

While You Were Sleeping is a tale of mistaken identity and misplaced love, in which Sandra Bullock plays a lonely ticket seller for the “L” in Chicago with a secret crush on a commuting stranger played by Peter Gallagher. Shortly before Christmas, Bullock rescues Gallagher from a mugger, but is unable to save him from a coma inducing injury. When she visits him in the hospital, his family mistakes her for his fiance, and Bullock is trapped in a lie. Complicating matters, she and the brother of Gallagher’s character, played by Bill Pullman, develop an attraction for each other that they hide. When Gallagher wakes up, the confusion escalates and the plot slowly works towards a hopeful happy ending.

Christmas is traditionally a season of romance and hope, and each of these films carriers on the mood of the season in a time honored tradition.

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