This time of year is full of fun movies that get people excited for the festive season. There are the classics that people must watch in December. There are even countless debates if movies are Christmas movies or not. One of the most popular movie types around this time of year are Hallmark movies. If you love them or hate them, odds are they’ll be brought up in a few conversations this time of year. Even other media companies like Netflix have joined in on the trend. Recently, these movies joined the Tik Tok conversation. Tik Tokkers have noticed a trend in Hallmark movies, resulting in some hilarious moments. After some laughter, I realized that they were onto something. Hallmark movies, especially Christmas ones, have a formula all their own. I found a few themes and tropes that have become iconically Hallmark.
- Big city professional going to a small town
The most popular trope for all seasons, this is how many movies begin. A professional in the big city is sent to a small town. It could be their hometown, or they could be traveling there for business. Either way, something big happens to get this professional to a quaint small town somewhere in the United States. Occasionally, this applies for people traveling abroad as well. Usually these professionals start out their visit looking down on the members of the town, or taking in the scenery with a bit of disdain. The town members are usually welcoming despite the cold shoulder they receive. Usually there’s one very attractive town member who tries to show our main character the joys of the place. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this person is the love interest! Like many of these tropes, this one usually involves a city girl moving to a small town and meeting a small-town man. There are some reversals of this dynamic, but it seems to be the most popular version. Usually by the end, the main character learns to love the town and the true meaning of Christmas. Bonus points if they decide to leave their job to stay there with the love interest to support whatever profession they have. It could be everything from an inn to a shop. The possibilities are endless!
- A reluctant business owner of a family business
Our main character has just inherited a family business and is not so sure about it. It could be from a dear relative, or one that they haven’t spoken to in years. Sometimes this ties in with the big city professional trope. The family business is usually a bakery, coffee shop, or hotel. The main character will vow to her bffs that she’s just going to help the business get off the ground, sell it, and go back to whatever they were doing before. Eventually, they grow to love the business thanks to experience and, you guessed it, the love interest! Sometimes the love interest works there, or could even be a neighboring business owner. With this trope, there’s also a great opportunity for family bonding. Siblings are usually what they go for, especially if they are sisters. Cue all the drama and heart-felt confessions that are perfectly Hallmark.
- A skeptic who learns the meaning of Christmas from their love interest
This trope is often wrapped up in the big city professional trope. They usually visit a town who loves Christmas and has a multitude of traditions for the season. Our main character is usually jaded in some way about the holiday. It could be past trauma, their experiences in the city, or countless other reasons. Usually it involves something that leads to a very sappy character arc. As it says on the tin, the love interest helps remind the main character of the true meaning of Christmas. They could be anyone from a member of the town, or a coworker in their new job. This love interest has a gumption for Christmas that would probably even convince Scrooge. There have even been countless A Christmas Carol inspired movies using this trope.
- A girlfriend or boyfriend who does not treat the main character well.
This trope is often tied in with big city professional trope. More often than not, the main character has a significant other already when their story begins. But you must have a blossoming romance! How can Hallmark accomplish this with an existing relationship? You would think that they would expand on the already existing relationship, but that wouldn’t provide character development. Instead, they write the significant other’s as distant or unappreciative of our main character. They could be distracted with work or just an overall jerk. They have to be unlikable enough to justify the main character moving on with the romantic interest. They’ll get back into focus right when our main character starts getting super close with the romantic interest. Cue awkward breakup scene that involves at least some weird ego. Somehow, everything ends up fine. Occasionally this feels like a deux ex machina move to get two characters together without obstacle. But hey, they’re happy so that’s all that matters!
- An enemies to lovers relationship
This trope is prevalent in stories outside of Hallmark movies. I do have to admit that this is one of my favorite romantic comedy tropes. It leads to a lot of great banter, and great character development. For Hallmark movies, the enemies part of this trope can feel a bit extreme or silly. Sometimes the writing only lets us see the bad of the potential love interest because it’s only showing the point of view of our main character. That’s when this trope really works. We learn with the main character that this person is not who they seemed. It allows our appreciation to grow with the storyline. However, in many Hallmark works it’s a bit more strange. There are stories where only the main character despises this character, despite others adoring them. Sometimes it works because it is a real life occurrence. When it’s not working, it feels like the main character is just a stubborn drama queen or king. They also tend to have a giant “my way or the highway” complex that blinds them to the good of the love interest that literally everyone else, including the audience, can see. To a degree that can become frustrating. Still, this will forever be my favorite trope when it works. If I do watch a Hallmark movie, there are high odds that this trope plays a big role in the plot.
Have you seen these tropes play out in your favorite Hallmark movies? Are there some Christmas Hallmark movie tropes that I missed? Do you have a favorite Hallmark-style movie? Let me know in the comments below! It’s been fascinating to see how this writing style has spread to other networks and streaming platforms, so I’d be interested to see if any favorite Hallmark-style movies are from these places instead of Hallmark. It was really fun to look at these writing tropes and find so many common threads. If anyone is looking for a fun writing project idea for this holiday season, I’d recommend using some Hallmark tropes to create your own story. Who knows what kind of fun storyline will come of it! If you do, please send it to me. I’d love to see what you come up with. Thanks so much for reading everyone, and happy writing!