Christmas Eve 2004 was the first time I saw Love Actually. I was in my early teens and used the opportunity to watch the movie as an excuse to avoid talking to people. On that beautiful night, I ate too many cheesy hash browns and fell in love with my first bookish guy, Hugh Grant (at the time, I had tragically not yet seen Notting Hill). I didn’t know then that Hugh would ruin my life, because bookish guys like him do not exist in real life; they’re only in London, and I’ve never been there, so I cannot confirm their existence. Now, watching Love Actually, a movie I have grown to hate more than love because it is a two hour and twenty-five minute HR violation, is a tradition every holiday season.
Naturally, I ranked all the storylines while considering many factors, including: if the storyline holds up in 2019, if the story would make a good standalone movie, and if Love Actually would be Love Actually if the story was not in the movie. Here are the many, many “love” stories from Love Actually, ranked from worst to best.
11. Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurélia (Sienna Guillory)
I’ve watched this movie at least three times every holiday season for more than half my life, but if someone came up to me and said, “Robert Pattinson is in love with you but you can only be together if you describe Colin Firth’s storyline in Love Actually in detail right now without looking anything up on your phone,” I’m sad to say Robert Pattinson and I are destined to be apart. I watched Love Actually for this piece twice and the only thing I can remember about this plot is that Colin Firth finds out his girlfriend is having sex with his brother. So Colin Firth goes to a cabin, sits in front of a typewriter, and falls in love with a Portuguese housekeeper. The only other part I remember about this whole thing is several British children screaming, “I hate you, Uncle Jamie!”, which is a triggering thing to hear after season eight of Game of Thrones.
Does this story hold up in 2019? This story never held. This story managed to make Colin Firth about as interesting as a lukewarm tuna sandwich (white bread, no crust).
Would this story make a good standalone movie? People falling in love while not speaking the same language is cute in theory, but I’d rather watch anything else, except season eight of Game of Thrones.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? Yes. This plot does not matter. Colin Firth’s only connection to the rest of the movie is that he attended a wedding so his girlfriend would have time to cheat on him with his brother.
10. Sarah (Laura Linney), Karl (Rodrigo Santoro), and her brother(???)
Laura Linney plays Sarah, an American graphic designer who is obsessed with her hot co-worker, Karl, who, in her defense, is very hot. And he wears pre-Warby Parker glasses. At the beginning of this story, Sarah’s boss Alan Rickman tells her everyone knows she wants to have sex with Karl and make his babies. She’s embarrassed but gets her wish when he goes home with her after their holiday party. Unfortunately, a phone call from the the facility where her disabled brother lives calls as Sarah and Karl are about to hook up, and Karl is visibly annoyed. It’s a really bad look for our guy Karl and his hotness immediately dissipates.
Does this story hold up in 2019? No. Karl is a jerk.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? It would be a standalone movie in 2005, but it would not be “good.”
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? Karl is hot, and Laura Linney is a treasure. But this story does not need to be in this movie. Sarah and Karl do nothing to move any story forward. It barely goes anywhere at all. Sarah’s existence, it seems, was to get Americans butts into theaters for a British Christmas movie by casting Laura Linney. Do not mistake this for a Laura Linney drag: She is perfect and she deserves better than Ozark (this is an Ozark drag).
9. Colin (Kris Marshall), Tony (Abdul Salis), and America
Colin, who is only in this movie because he catered Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s wedding, is sexless, so he goes to America at Christmastime to get sex. His friend, Tony, who is only in this movie because he is the director of the Martin Freeman movie, tells Colin he is stupid. But after being in Wisconsin for a few hours, Colin has a threesome with January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, and Ivana Miličević.
Does this story hold up in 2019? No. It’s a cliche.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? No. There’s zero dramatic tension.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. Even though this storyline is not essential to the movie, Love Actually actually wouldn’t be the same if January Jones and Elisha Cuthbert (fresh off her 24 fame) were not in it. What can I say? Elisha Cuthbert being in this movie was a big deal for me in 2003.
8. Julia (Keira Knightley), Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and Mark (Andrew Lincoln)
Three weeks before Christmas, Julia and Peter get married. It’s a lame wedding with a bad DJ, but it lets the audience know that some of the characters in this ensemble film have briefly been in the same room. Mark is Peter’s best friend, best man, and a very serious photographer of nudes. But Mark has always acted weird around Julia, leading Julia to believe he hates her. Because of this, she spends a lot of the energy she could be using on good times with her hot husband trying to get Mark to not hate her. Then Julia discovers that Mark was always mean to her because he is IN LOVE WITH HER. She learns this when Mark shows her footage he filmed of her wedding. Keira Knightley has an exquisite jaw that was made to be on camera, but Mark went way too far with the close-ups. It’s important for me to also note that in this scene, Keira Knightley wears a newsboy cap, which resulted in teenage me investing in a newsboy cap collection (I never wore any of them outside my bedroom). Later, Mark shows up at Julia’s apartment with posters explaining that he loves her and at Christmas you tell the truth. She kisses him, and then they just kind of move on? Peter never finds out.
Does this story hold up in 2019? In a 2019 version of this film, Mark would complain about Julia on Reddit dot com.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? If this story continued where it left off but took a dramatic turn into a Netflix original thriller where Mark murders, I would watch it while I fold my laundry and tweeze my eyebrows.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. This is actually the most Love Actually storyline in Love Actually: creepy but iconic at Christmas.
7. Harry (Alan Rickman), Karen (Emma Thompson), and Mia (Heike Makatsch)
The worst thing to happen in all of cinema? When Alan Rickman played a character who hates listening to Joni Mitchell. Alan Rickman is hot for his secretary, and his wife, Emma Thompson, loves Joni Mitchell. But he hates Joni! Emma Thompson finds out about his infidelity because he does not excel at discretion. When she confronts him about it, she’s like, “okay, this is bad, why did you do that?” but she tragically does not file for divorce.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Not really. Mia could be a more layered character, but she’s reduced to a caricature, and that necklace is disgusting. If I were Emma Thompson, I’d be more mad about my husband’s taste than getting cheated on.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? Yes. A deeply sad one with a Joni Mitchell soundtrack.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are too British to not be in Love Actually.
6. Karen and Joni Mitchell
Emma Thompson’s character is obsessed with Joni Mitchell, and it is the most relatable thing about the movie. Joni has gotten all of us through a lot of tough times.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Yes. Every woman with repressed feelings wants to be in a relationship with Joni Mitchell, including me.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? As long as it’s just Emma Thompson sitting in an armchair beside a Christmas tree, listening to Joni Mitchell while drinking merlot and smoking a cigar, and occasionally checking her phone.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? It would not. Joni Mitchell is an essential part of the movie; her music gives the audience a clearer understanding of a broken marriage between two people who don’t know each other anymore.
5. Rufus (Rowan Atkinson) and wrapping
In a scene that is British comedy at its purest, Alan Rickman’s character is at a department store with Emma Thompson. He is trying to quickly buy a necklace for his mistress/secretary, but Rowan Atkinson, the cashier, is taking his time wrapping the present. It is a box in a bag, but he insists on including cinnamon and other pleasant herbs. This man loves wrapping as much as Alan Rickman’s character hates Joni Mitchell.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Yes. This is the funniest scene in the movie.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? Yes, but only if it is longer than The Irishman.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. It simply would not.
4. John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page)
These two are body doubles for some film that has either one really long sex scene or a lot of really short sex scenes. Looking back on it, it could be porn. John and Judy meet while shooting these scenes together, and for people who are professionally naked for a living, they are incredibly socially awkward. It is adorable.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Mostly; in Love Actually, we are (actually) supposed to believe that Martin Freeman—a man who played a Hobbit—was a body double for Brad Pitt, who, at the time this movie came out, had his Troy body.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? Sure! But Martin Freeman, one of the only white men allowed to be in Black Panther, is pretty busy.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No! The absurdity of this relationship exclusively developing while the characters are naked sets a good tone, and it balances out the more depressing things that happen to other characters.
3. David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon)
Hugh Grant, who plays the new, hot (single) Prime Minister, only has better chemistry with Paddington. David and Natalie’s chemistry oozes British sex. The only thing that upsets me about their relationship is that they do not share an explicit, fifteen-minute sex scene. They could’ve had Christmas sex at the airport at the end! Hugh Grant has also never been more attractive than when he dances around 10 Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Somewhat. David is (actually) aware that his feelings toward Natalie, who works for him, are inappropriate given his position, and Natalie is too. David also comes to Natalie’s defense when American President Billy Bob Thorton (best performance of his career, sorry Fargo season 1!) makes inappropriate comments about her body and an unwanted pass at her. But in pretty much every scene Natalie is in, someone makes a joke about how she is fat. These jokes were not okay at the time, and certainly are not now.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? A British Prime Minister finds love at Christmas. This will probably be the premise of a Netflix original starring Vanessa Hudgens (playing six characters) next year.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. Hugh Grant is literally the person who says the title of the movie in the movie.
2. Daniel (Liam Neeson), Sam (Thomas Sangster/Jojen Reed), and Joanna (Olivia Olson)
The first time I saw this film, I confidently stated that Olivia Olson’s version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was “soooooooo” much better than Mariah’s Carey version. Now, I can confidently state that I was an idiot back then. Nothing is more relatable than young love, and this young love building a bond between a grieving stepson and stepdad make it even sweeter. This ought to be the saddest part of the movie, but these are the characters you look forward to seeing the most.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Yes! Teens will always be in love with somebody they’ve never spoken to.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? Yes. It’s basically About a Boy but without an original soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? No. This story is the heart of this movie, which makes Hugh Grant’s story the brain and Keira Knightley’s the butt.
1. Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and His Manager (Gregor Fisher)
Bill Nighy plays Billy Mack, a middle-age rockstar struggling to make a hit because all anybody cares about these days (in 2003) are boy bands. Billy Mack spends the entire movie basically doing anti-promotion of his awful Christmas song, “Christmas Is All Around,” and on this promotional tour he realizes that Joe, his manager, is his one true love—but in, like, a platonic way.
Does this story hold up in 2019? Yes. It’s a stunning portrayal of male bonding, but there are a few gay jokes that we can leave in 2003.
Would this story make a good standalone movie? I feel it in my fingers: This standalone movie would win Golden Globes.
Would Love Actually be the same without this story? Is it even Christmas without a group rendition of “Christmas Is All Around”? No.