© Erik Heinila Silver Bells (Erik Heinila / (C)Hallmark Entertainment via Everett Collection)
“Silver Bells” (2005)
Heartwarming story: A woman living in New York connects with a young man who’s run away from his dad, and when the father comes back a year later to sell his Christmas trees, he and the woman connect too.
Why it’s on the nice list: “This is one of the first of these films I saw, in 2005,” said Gray. “So it’s an older one for Hallmark, and it’s a little more dramatic. That’s what I lean into. It’s got all the right pieces — including a troubled kid — and it’s what got me hooked on these movies.”
© Hallmark via Crown Media The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (Hallmark via Crown Media)
“The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (2008)
Heartwarming story: Single mom Jen brings her business acumen to Christmas, but gets thrown for a loop when her uncle shows up with a stranger to their big holiday event.
Why it’s on the nice list: “I try to watch this every year, because it makes me laugh,” said Gray. “It’s fun, it’s wacky, and fast-paced. They made it right before they started making a ton of them every year, so the quality is a little higher.”
© Ryan Plummer The Mistletoe Promise (Ryan Plummer / (C)Hallmark Entertainment via Everett Collection)
“The Mistletoe Promise” (2016)
Heartwarming story: Two strangers who aren’t really into Christmas make a pact to avoid being lonely during the holidays, by spending time together. But then things start to shift….
Why it’s on the nice list: “When I think of modern-day Hallmark with the formula and the tropes, this is the one that did it best and first,” says Gray. “This is a movie I turn to and say, ‘This is what Hallmark is.’ It’s a classic trope.”
© Robert Clark Holiday for Heroes (Robert Clark / (C)Hallmark Entertainment via Everett Collection)
“Holiday for Heroes” (2019)
Heartwarming story: Two pen pals (a woman and a soldier) find they have lots in common in their letters. When he comes back stateside, though, their worlds collide in a romantic way.
Why it’s on the nice list: “It’s a sweet story where they make you feel like there’s already a spark between them because of the letters, but once they meet in person it amplifies,” says Gray.
© Allister Foster Deliver By Christmas (Allister Foster / Crown Media via Hallmark)
“Deliver by Christmas” (2020)
Heartwarming story: A baker and a widower hit it off initially, then end up finding a real connection through the phone when he calls her bakery to order … but doesn’t know it’s the woman he just sparked with. When they meet again, it’s as sweet as her pastries.
Why it’s on the nice list: “This is my favorite for now, it came out early this month,” says Gray. “Think of it as like a ‘P.S. I Love You’ type movie for the holidays. Big fun.”