It’s Love Actually time folks! It is now seen as calendrically sound to watch one of the cheesiest, most problematic Christmas films of the early 2000s! I understand that, objectively it has some morally dubious moments by today’s standards, but I still gobble it up like mince pies on Christmas Eve.
While we can appreciate it as a festive romp full of stars from all your favourite films and TV shows, most of the male characters just… suck. There’s no better way to describe them. However, the order in which they suck is very important, so I have taken it upon myself to rank all of the main male characters of Love Actually from worst to best. Sit back, grab a mulled wine and pop on your Joni Mitchell CD that your husband bought you, because it’s time to rank London’s least eligible Christmas bachelors, actually.
14) The US President played by Billy Bob Thornton
Fellas, do you ever lust after someone so hard that you threaten the literal trading bloc between the US and UK? We’re starting off with a Character who is so evil, I cannot find an actual name for him anywhere on the internet. His character is employed to come in, be menacing to the Prime Minister, feel up a member of staff and then leave. He goes back to his wife and children in the USA with his tail between his legs, but wreaks havoc on years of political stability between the US and the UK. This is particularly impressive seeing as he seems to be in the UK for less than 24 hours.
13) Colin played by Kris Marshall
Self-proclaimed ‘God of Sex’, Colin Frissell is such a little sex pest. After having no luck with ‘stuck up’ English girls, he flies to the USA to find a girlfriend. Handily, he finds a bar with 3 of the most beautiful women in the world in it, and proceeds to have a four-way. Colin is ranked so low on the list because his weird, incel-ly obsession with women and sex is his only defining character trait. To make matters worse, Kris Marshall, the man who played Colin actually gave his Love Actually paycheque back because he believed having his clothes taken off by three girls for multiple shots was payment enough, ew.
12) Harry played by Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman might have played famous villain Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, but his most evil and villainous character is right here. Harry has an emotional affair with a colleague who is much younger than him and instead of shutting it down, he buys her a giant heart-shaped necklace! At least he has the decency to be ashamed when confronted by his (beautiful and stoic) wife played by Emma Thompson. Without this storyline, we wouldn’t get the most spectacular acting in all of British cinema by Thompson and he does seem genuinely remorseful and trying to make amends at the end of the film.
11) Mark played by Andrew Lincoln
Mark does two things wrong in this film. 1) Romantically pursue his best friend’s wife and 2) Be an annoying pick-me boy. Instead of owning up to his romantic feelings for Juliette, he is just mean to her and instead of coming clean to his best friend about his feelings for his wife. He creepily films her face at her wedding to another man and turns up at their front door in the middle of the night with giant signs professing his love for her. None of these moves were really the best course of action, and while Juliette shouldn’t have kissed him, he should have left well enough alone.
10) Billy Mack played by Bill Nighy
Billy is an ageing rock star with incredibly misogynistic views on women and a penchant for getting his penis out on live television. He is clearly meant to be a satire of has-been celebrities and the lengths they go to keep their careers relevant, but he’s just emulating the creepy uncle you try to avoid at functions. He even fat-shames his only true friend in the whole world on the radio. He does rank slightly higher on the list than other creeps and weirdos when he has his epiphany that he actually loves his manager a lot more than he lets on.
9) Sam played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster
I’ll let Sam off the whole being super cringy thing because he is literally a child, but the fact that he fancies a girl with the same name as his mum who just died doesn’t sit right with me. Everyone grieves in their own way but becoming a threat to air traffic control for a girl who doesn’t even know you exist, feels like a weird way to let it all out.
8) Joe played by Gregor Fisher
As Billy Mack’s manager, Joe ranks higher than Billy simply because he sticks with him through thick and thin and endures a lot of verbal abuse and shots taken to support his friend. It seems as though Joe hasn’t had much of his own life and has sacrificed a lot for Billy’s career, I always feel weirdly triumphant when Billy comes to spend Christmas with him when he could have been with Elton John- a classic Christmas conundrum.
7) Peter played by Chiwetel Ejiofor
Peter hasn’t really got an awful lot of screen time but seems to have stood by when his best friend was being inexplicably rude to his fiance. Other than that, he also tells Juliette to tell Christmas carollers to ‘bugger off’ so he hates the spirit of Christmas.
6) Rufus played by Rowan Atkinson
Look, Rufus just wants to gift wrap your present, it fills him with joy. Carry on, king.
5) Karl played by Rodrigo Santoro
Karl just wants to be inexplicably tanned and treat you right. However, he doesn’t quite have the words to express how he feels, which leads to an awkward false start in a relationship with his colleague. He doesn’t really have the emotional depth to support her through her troubles, but at a better time, something might happen between them. I still have hope that they ended up together.
4) Daniel played by Liam Neeson
Daniel kicked off his Christmas period with a funeral for his wife, so he’s taking the backseat from a romantic storyline this particular Christmas to help his stepson (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) pursue the love of his tiny life. He’s still healing but he does a lot to break down toxic masculinity and show male emotion. I’m proud of him.
3) Jamie played by Colin Firth
Taking the bronze, we have Jamie, who takes the fact his girlfriend is cheating on him with his own brother remarkably well and goes to a hut in the South of France to write his crime novel. He falls in love with his cleaner, who is Portuguese, and though they can’t understand each other, they have a sweet love story. They even learn each other’s languages for one another! However, one does worry about the implications of the fact that Jamie is Aurelia’s boss and if she wasn’t into him, it would very quickly turn from a love story to a horror story. He also asks Aurelia to marry him way too quickly.
2) David played by Hugh Grant
In only this Utopian Christmas world would a politician be this high up on a ranking list, but this Prime Minister is the leader the UK needs. He defends the woman he loves from body shamers, stands up for his country and dances like nobody’s watching, until, in fact, someone is. Similar to Jamie and Aurelia, he is Natalie’s boss but she’s not his only employee in a remote French house on their own, so it’s marginally less ominous.The only reason he isn’t a winner is because he doesn’t communicate enough with Natalie after the incident with the evil President of the US.
1) John played by Martin Freeman
Although they met in untraditional circumstances, John and Judy have the sweetest romance and courting period. Even though you’d expect a body double for sex scenes to be disrespectful, he’s incredibly sweet and excited that Judy likes him back. He’s my unproblematic king and the winner of this ranking list, congratulations to John.
While Love Actually is very 2003 (aka deeply problematic), it still holds up two decades later and will forever be a timeless Christmas movie to me. Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope 2024 brings you more Johns than evil US presidents.