Each year, I make sure that Love Actually is on my list of Christmas movies to rewatch. It’s undoubtedly my favorite and I especially love that there are so many characters and storylines to dig into. It means that every time I watch, I take something new away, making it one of those films that’s easy to come back to year after year.
With that in mind, I consider myself somewhat of a Love Actually expert—so who better to walk you through each of the plots? Here’s a definitive ranking of which ones are best—and which ones are skippable.
Colin and America
Who wants to spend their Christmas watching a horny, unfunny idiot wax lyrical about America? As a Brit, I can’t help but cringe at Colin’s humor and on this year’s rewatch I skipped through every single one of his scenes. Sitting next to heartbreaking love stories, heartwarming relationships, and genuinely hilarious scenes, Colin’s plot has its well-earned place at the bottom of this list.
Julia, Peter, and Mark
Although this plot gave us the birth of one of my favorite memes, each year makes me appreciate just how creepy this plot line is. Imagine letting your crush on your best friend’s wife get this out of hand. What’s more, where did it even come from? By Mark’s own admission, he and Julia barely speak. We can only agree with his final line in the movie: enough.
Jamie and Aurelia
It says a lot about how much I hate Colin and am irritated by Mark that Jamie and Aurelia’s ‘love story’ isn’t in the bottom place of this list. Having a relationship based on being unable to understand each other seems like a rocky foundation—let along jumping straight into marriage.
While I can’t get on board with the mechanics, I do find myself smiling and even laughing out loud at some of the language barrier scenes, particularly when an entire Portuguese town marches through the streets to watch Jamie propose. Special mention also has to go to the eels moment.
Harry, Karen, and Mia
Harry and Karen are played by two of my favorite actors of all time: Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. Enough people have already waxed lyrical about Thompson’s Joni Mitchell scene (iconic, unparalleled, a true masterpiece), so I won’t say too much about it here, but overall the performances of both Rickman and Thompson are flawless as ever. Plus, you get the added bonus of Rowan Atkinson’s greatest scene in any film.
The reason this plot scores lower than most is the substandard ending that Karen gets. Every other couple gets some form of happy ever after—but Karen? She seems to be trapped in a loveless marriage that, in her own words, “will always be just a little bit worse”. Her small smile and resigned appearance in the final airport scene break my heart every single time. I would have been happy if we saw Harry doing all he could to make it up, or see her divorced and starting fresh. But staying in this meh-marriage forever? I can’t get on board with it.
Sarah and Karl
Perhaps one of the most heartwarming plots, this duo are the epitome of The One Who Got Away. They are both sensitive and caring enough that they seem to be a perfect match—only for Sarah’s caregiver role to become too much of an obstacle for them to overcome. In a film all about love, this plot shows just how multi-faceted love can be, with Sarah’s love for her brother struggling to make room for romantic love.
In 2022, after two years of being shown just how vital caregivers are to us all, this plot hit harder than it ever had before and I won’t deny that I welled up more than a few times.
John and Judy
On early watches of Love Actually, I saw John and Judy as mere comic relief, but they are one of the most wholesome couples in the entire movie. John’s excited skip down the stairs when Judy agrees to go on a date with him is the perfect representation of that early honeymoon stage of love and it’s the perfect palette cleanser from some of the other, sadder plotlines in the film.
Billy and Joe
If we’re truly exploring every form of love that’s out there, there’s got to be room for platonic love too. Not only does Bill Nighy provide some of the funniest moments of the entire film, but his choice at the end of the film to spend Christmas with his manager, realizing that this is the most real relationship he has, always brings as big a smile to my face as it did to Joe’s.
David and Natalie
Hugh Grant’s David is our dancing, fat-positive(ish) king (or Prime Minister) in Love Actually and I’m forever here for it. I’m a big one for huge romantic gestures and carol-singing your way through London on the off chance that you’ll find the house of the girl you love is up there with my top moment.
Daniel, Sam, and Joanna
Did I say I liked a romantic gesture? In my book, 13-year-old Thomas Brodie-Sangster invented the trope of running through the airport to get the girl—and let’s be honest, he did it best. I love the relationship between him and stepfather Daniel, I love that their story crescendoed to the tune of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, and I love that it confirms the ‘Rowan Atkinson Is An Angel’ theory at the airport. It’s the unbeatable plotline that will warm even the coldest of hearts at Christmastime.
(featured image: StudioCanal)
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