Christmas Movie Tropes: Cliché Screenwriting We Love Year After Year


Everyone who writes, from screenwriters to technical writers, has a story to tell. Christmas movies are some of our most beloved stories of all. Many families that celebrate Christmas make an annual tradition out of watching at least one film together. After a while, though, you notice that most holiday classics include at least one Christmas movie trope. Here are the major storylines to watch for during your next Christmas movie binge.

1. Saving Christmas

Christmas is in perennial peril. Santa relies on children, reindeer, and half-witted adults to help him deliver toys. As if Santa’s job weren’t hard enough…

2. What If I Were Dead/Never Born

Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” has inspired hundreds of writers. Mystical mentors showed Scrooge what the future held when he died. Variations of this trope have been produced ever since.

3. Becoming Santa

Let’s face it. Santa has the best job. What if YOU could be Santa? Judging by how often that happens in film, you have a good shot this year.

4. Someone Always Dies in Hallmark Movies

It’s as inevitable as burned-out bulbs on your Christmas lights. Someone’s going to push up poinsettias. Or else the main character is an orphan or in love with a widower. Thankfully, you know there will be a happy ending.

5. Kids Teach Adults to Believe in Santa

Yes, readers, there is a Santa Claus. Even skeptical kids reach that conclusion, and convince mom and dad along the way. Anytime a movie starts with a bully saying there’s no such thing as Santa, you know where the story’s going.

6. Estranged Family Members Reconnect

From the beginning, Christmas has been about family. God reconnected with wayward people by sending His newborn Son. Likewise, Christmas movies often bring dysfunctional families together.

7. Romantic Comedy Go-Tos

Psst! Many Christmas movies are actually run-of-the-mill romcoms set in December. The female lead probably needs to decide between the current/recent boyfriend (usually a self-centered rich guy from the city) and the nice new guy (frequently a blue collar heartthrob from a small town). The girl will inevitably overreact to a false assumption. She’ll get a kiss—or maybe even a ring—about 60 seconds before the credits roll.

What’s Your Favorite Christmas Movie?

Does your must-watch holiday favorite use any of these tropes? That’s a testament to the power of good stories to evoke feeling over and over again. Or maybe your film’s screenwriters created a more original masterpiece. Good writing, original or inspired by others, moves people. So this year, enjoy your favorite Christmas movies, and remember all the reasons for the season.

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