How the formulaic, overly predictable movie franchise has stolen my heart and can steal yours too. 

As a student studying screenwriting, I used to be embarrassed by my admiration for Hallmark Christmas movies. While others listed “Gone With the Wind,” “Pulp Fiction” or a modern classic as their favorite film, I would discuss the wonders of Hallmark. Although Hallmark movies may not all share the same quality or depth, it is their message of hope that I unashamedly cling to on a filmmaking and personal level.  

In my film classes, I learned that Hallmark movies aren’t exactly cinematic phenomena. On the other hand, though, I have learned in my classes that every story contains the concept of the biblical gospel message. This is in the sense that the main character usually starts out in a state of enslavement to a moral problem before repenting of their “sin,” which leads them on a new moral path. Our professors call this Hollywood’s version of repentance and see it as a reflection of humanity’s desire to repent from sin and move towards Jesus. Characters in Hallmark always end up repenting of some moral issue in a classy and subtle, yet profound manner. However, there are even more biblical ideas that Hallmark captures magnificently compared to other films.

For example, in John 16:33, after Jesus hints to the disciples about his inevitable physical departure from them, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.” You know what Hallmark movies have? A whole fifteen minutes of pure trouble and tribulation. Some might refute that these fifteen minutes aren’t enough to reflect life’s full realities. I, however, argue that the heart of Hallmark movie conflicts lie outside the movie.

Put yourself in a Hallmark man’s shoes. Imagine being a man in his mid-to-late thirties. You’re in a small town overpopulated by old ladies. There’s little possibility for you to ever meet a woman. To make matters worse, there’s a high chance that after a tragedy, you’re a widower. Now, your adorable 8-year-old daughter will grow up without a mother, and you are without a wife. 

Then, imagine being a woman who is a slave to the wage with a heart overloaded by unseen dreams. You’re in your prime, but you’re alone. Or, equally as likely, you’re dating a dull, one-dimensional business man who breaks your heart on the daily. This mediocre-looking man doesn’t know your dreams, and he’s too lazy to get down on one knee. In a city full of people, you might as well be all alone.  

I know, both situations sound pretty bleak, but thankfully there’s another part to this Hallmark story and to what Jesus says. Jesus finishes John 16:33 by saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We see here that Jesus gave us a miracle when He rose from the dead, similar to how the men and the women in the Hallmark movies receive miracles when they accidentally find each other. 

They may not realize they are each other’s miracle, but they will. Sometimes in life we don’t quite see the gift that we have been given. Isn’t it beautiful, though, how in these movies the gift comes out of nowhere and changes lives in an instant? After years of despair, not only do two people find romantic love, but also girls get mothers, businesses are saved, mysteries are solved and childhood career goals are fulfilled. 

Life often feels as if it is out of control, but as Christians we know our ending contains victory. We also know that for the Hallmark man and woman, everything will turn out well. Sure, in life and in Hallmark, sometimes plans are thrown out of sorts. The promotion doesn’t always come, and the “love of your life” doesn’t always love you. In the end, however, it is all for the best because you get something so much more fulfilling. This is because the author always has a plan. 

Hallmark is an image of faith. I watch these movies and realize that any day now Jesus could fulfill my hopeless-romantic visions. Maybe I too, after ten years of unexplained absence, will visit my hometown and run into the former high-school jerk turned nice guy and fall in love. 

Maybe I’ll write to a man overseas, and he’ll visit me for Christmas (an idea loosely based on the Hallmark film that’s distracting me as I write this). Or, maybe if life gets really intense and spicy, I’ll find myself with amnesia, time traveling in Rome with a handsome rescuer from the past. Sometimes the adventure is big, or sometimes it’s cozy, but, like any hero’s journey, it flips the entire world around. 

Hallmark movies have also taught me several lessons on love. They taught me to never jump to conclusions because that gorgeous girl the handsome man is talking to could really just be his cousin. They taught me that first impressions don’t capture the complexity of a man’s character. They taught me never to settle because, based on the availability of princes in these movies, princes must be a lot more common than I realize.  

Moving past romance, it’s a misrepresentation that these films are career wreckers. Hallmark isn’t an anti-dream franchise — it just knows something we may not even realize, which is that our goals go deeper than the corporate world. When the characters discover their true calling, they touch many, leaving a legacy in the individual lives in ways they never could have imagined. 

Most meaningful of all, as I start my Christmas celebration early, the entire season reminds me that home is right around the bend. The sentimental innocence of the homemade pies, Christmas music and Santa in shopping malls remind me of home. Watching Hallmark amplifies this effect. 

Right now I’m starting to miss home a little. But when I see Hallmark’s Christmas countdown, I am reminded that even when the path forward seems unclear, my little miracle is waiting for me, for life is kind of like a Hallmark movie. Maybe it’s oversimplified into an hour and a half of tropes and cheesiness, but I still don’t think life and Hallmark movies are that much different — and that is a phenomenon that even Steven Spielberg has to give Hallmark credit for.