TV & Movies

The Coziest Sweaters In Holiday Movies, Ranked

It’s an all-out, cable-knit smackdown.

Cameron Diaz in 'The Holiday' and Colin Firth in 'Bridget Jones's Diary.'
Sony Pictures/Miramax
By Tom Smyth

It’s no secret that sweaters were invented by Nancy Meyers in the late 20th century as a means to further Diane Keaton’s stardom — but since then, the garment has enjoyed an illustrious film career all its own. You might recognize its memorable scene work alongside Bonnie Hunt in Jumanji, Chris Evans in Knives Out, or Sarah Snook in Succession; all of these supporting roles have earned the sweater near-unanimous acclaim. Nowhere, though, does a cozy knit shine brighter than in a holiday movie.

Under the glistening lights of a Christmas tree or in the warm glow of a fireplace, sweaters have time and time again delivered iconic performances. Sure, some might think of the simple sweater as a mere remedy for a broken radiator, or a pile of wool to sink into when avoiding your old Sunday school teacher at Christmas Eve mass, but this versatile item of clothing is a star. That its achievements have thus far gone unrecognized is an indictment not only of the Academy Awards, but our culture as a whole (as I’ve always said, the sweater is the Amy Adams of clothing).

Here, a ranking of the most iconic cozy sweaters from your favorite holiday films, taking into account each garment’s style, comfort, and general star quality.

12. Andrew Lincoln’s Zip-Up Turtleneck in Love Actually

Universal Studios

What sets this sweater apart from the rest is that it is very, very ugly. Truly one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen, and not in a fun “Ugly Christmas Sweater” kind of way. It’s worn here by Mark (Andrew Lincoln), as his unrequited love Juliet (Kiera Knightley) watches the video that reveals his affection; no wonder Mark’s love is unrequited if he’s out here wearing sweaters like this. It defies all explanation: The piece appears to be a brown knit quarter zip, but the front is comprised of four panels of a smoother material (in the disconcerting color combo of mustard, olive, dark brown, and blue). But after Mark storms out of his own house for some reason, defiantly zipping up his top in the cold London air as “Here With Me” by Dido plays, viewers learn that this is no ordinary quarter zip. The collar, fully zipped, stays folded down for some physics-defying reason. Thus, it transforms into a turtleneck in an M. Night Shyamalan-style twist. I can only imagine the screams that must have rung out in theaters in 2003.

11. Queen Latifah’s Work-Appropriate Scoop Neck in Last Holiday

Paramount

Queen Latifah stars in this holiday rom-com as a woman who leaves her unfulfilling, ordinary life behind for a lavish vacation after finding out she only has weeks left to live (spoiler: she’ll actually be just fine!). Fittingly, the sweaters that she wears at the beginning of the film are fairly lackluster — it’s only on her big trip that she upgrades to a designer wardrobe. Prior to her diagnosis, the most excitement she gets is cooking along in real time with an episode of Emeril Live, and her brown scoop neck sweater shows it. The piece was likely purchased at the same department store where she works, and it lacks the pizazz of an Emeril Lagasse "Bam!" that we see from her wardrobe later in the movie. Still, it got to be worn by Queen Latifah; I give respect where respect is due.

10. Molly Shannon’s Santa Claus Sweater in The Santa Clause 2

Walt Disney Studios

Tim Allen dons a wide assortment of festive sweaters throughout this franchise, but they all pale in comparison to the one that Molly Shannon wears during her brief but iconic turn as Allen’s blind date, Tracy. This isn’t generic Santa Claus garb that you buy at T.J. Maxx. No, this is fully a photograph of Tim Allen’s face as Santa, which raises a few questions. Does the North Pole have an official merch shop or do they license Santa Claus’ image to retailers? Why doesn’t Tracy recognize her date from the sweater that she was likely ironing just hours before? Either way, the festive turtleneck, which features three-dimensional fur lining for Santa’s hat, proves perfect for someone as Christmas obsessed as Tracy.

9. Chevy Chase’s Cardigan in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Hughes Entertainment/Warner Bros.

Throughout Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wears this versatile, understated cardigan. As a dull brown piece with no frills, it might not seem like much at first — but it can be dressed up with a shirt and tie, like Clark does, or be thrown over something more casual. Extremely versatile, it’s equally suitable for erecting a three-story high Christmas tree in your living room or destroying your yuppie neighbors’ bedroom.

8. The Weasley Christmas Sweaters in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Warner Bros.

While I didn’t at first consider Harry Potter to be a Christmas movie, I was radicalized by ABC Family, which for years included the franchise in its “25 Days of Christmas” programming. They get away with it on a technicality, since Christmas does in fact happen within the Hogwarts school year, as we see in the first film.

The homemade monogrammed sweaters in question are famously courtesy of Mrs. Weasley and are received by her family with chagrin. I understand that they’re financially strapped, but she surely can magic up some new patterns instead of making the same old sweater every year? Nevertheless, they provide comfort in a drafty castle where dangers (including frostbite) lurk behind every door. There’s also a style element here: Considering that the kids otherwise have to wear the same old school uniforms straight off of Avril Lavigne’s mood board, these sweaters are a fun way to mix it up (and to tell Fred and George apart).

7. Reese Witherspoon’s Oversized ‘80s Sweater in Four Christmases

New Line Productions

Four Christmases simply doesn’t get any respect and I’m sick and tired of it. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn star in this criminally underrated rom-com as a jaded couple forced to spend Christmas with their four divorced parents after their holiday getaway is cancelled. Kristin Chenoweth plays Reese’s sister — an inspired casting choice — and her baby projectile vomits on Reese. The scene, which should earn Mark Twain Prizes for all involved, forces Reese to don an oversized, ‘80s patterned, purple and white sweater. The look functions as her battle uniform during a square-off with the film’s antagonist, Chenoweth’s older daughter Cassie. (This is a rare time when Chenoweth’s daughter is not played by Dove Cameron, the People’s Glinda). Long story short, Reese ends up brawling with a mob of children in a bouncy house — demonstrating the garment’s versatility and mobility, in addition to its comfort and eye-catching motifs.

6. Henry Golding’s Grey V-Neck in Last Christmas

Universal Studios

In this Emma Thompson-penned, Wham!-inspired rom-com, Henry Golding continues his leading man streak alongside Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke. Though it’s tough to stand out next to Clarke’s elf costume and leopard fur coat, Golding manages to shine in an understated, light grey v-neck. Easily recreated by anybody who frequents an Old Navy, this classic look boasts a comfortable, stylish fit that could work for any occasion. In fact, that’s probably why his character wears it for almost the whole movie, and not for some other twist-related reason. Either way, if someone were given this sweater for Christmas, they surely would never give it away "the very next day."

5. Colin Firth’s Reindeer Jumper in Bridget Jones’s Diary

Miramax

While for many it would be a draw, this Rudolph-adorned “jumper” (as famed Brit Renée Zellweger would say) is a deterrent for Bridget (Zellweger) — the first of many obstacles to a potential relationship between her and Mark (Colin Firth). It’s played for laughs as a hideous sweater gifted by his mother, but today, this would retail for $150 at Zara. While the turtleneck is a bit restraining, the more serious shape balances the otherwise whimsical piece. Perhaps because of this, the sweater proves to be a better fit for a more formal occasion, like a turkey curry party, than for lounging in comfort — or for eating ice cream and woefully singing Celine Dion on the couch.

4. Diane Keaton’s Layered Sweaters in The Family Stone

20th Century Fox

The Family Stone is one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time because it understands the true meaning of Christmas: judging your family members’ new significant others, and sweater-wearing. In fact, so many sweaters are worn in the film, sometimes simultaneously, that it’s impossible to tell where the sweaters end and Diane Keaton begins. Take the above look, for example: it appears that she’s wearing two sweaters and a robe, which itself has a sweater-like pattern! This is peak holiday comfort. I can see why Sly named his band after this movie.

3. Macaulay Culkin’s Crime-Fighting Fits in Home Alone

20th Century Fox

If there’s one thing that Kevin McCallister (Culkin) loves more than cracking skulls, it’s a good sweater. He’s left to run amok without any parental supervision and the kid still thinks, “You know what, the red cable knit will go nicely with these pants.” He dresses to the nines to beat the living hell out of two burglars, breaching the Geneva Conventions along the way. But it’s the Wet Bandits who should have their prison sentences doubled: It’s high treason to stretch the collar of Kevin’s sweater by hanging him from a door.

2. Billy Crystal’s Fisherman Sweater and Meg Ryan’s Turtleneck in When Harry Met Sally

MGM

While not an outright Christmas movie, When Harry Met Sally does take place over an extended period of time that includes the holiday, even featuring the song “Winter Wonderland” and a scene where Meg Ryan drags a tree to her apartment. Regardless, it boasts some of the most incredible sweater-wearing in film history — and though there are many worthy competitors, two garments from the film come out on top: Sally’s red turtleneck, which wins for fashionableness, and Harry’s baggy white cable-knit, which takes the cake for coziness. (In fact, the latter is so loose-fitting that you could certainly fit another Billy Crystal in it.) Paired together, these sweaters are distinctive, but still reminiscent of one another — a perfect metaphor for the movie and its impact on rom-coms as a whole. Since it’s impossible to choose one sweater over the other, these two chunky boys come in at a tie.

1. Cameron Diaz’s Cottage Cardigan in The Holiday

Sony Pictures

The Holiday is the Gap of movies in that it's absolutely teeming with sweaters. Not a single one, however, can compete with this winner — the pinnacle of all holiday movie comfort sweaters. It’s worn by Cameron Diaz’s character during her first night in Kate Winslet’s snow-covered British cottage. This high-quality cable knit is the perfect look for guzzling red wine and blasting “Mr. Brightside,” as she does. (As a result, whenever I hear “Mr. Brightside,” I always wish I were wearing wool.) It’s the best, top tier, number one sweater. Nothing could possibly improve upon its excellence — save, perhaps, for the addition of Mr. Napkinhead.