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Judgment Day: The Search for the Greatest Performance in a Garry Marshall Holiday Movie

Ringer illustration
Ringer illustration

The legendary screenwriter William Goldman has said that if you want to judge an actor’s greatness, you first have to watch them perform in the Garry Marshall Holiday Universe. It’s easy to see why. The GMHU — consisting of the classic films Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and, as of last Friday, Mother’s Day — is an actor’s playground, a canvas on which real artists are allowed to create real art within the stakes of generally recognized secular holidays.

On the occasion of Mother’s Day, we figured it was the perfect time to reassess that age-old question: Who holds the title of “best performance in a Garry Marshall holiday film” — and, by extension, can be considered the greatest actor in the world?

We took some notes, made some tough decisions, and settled on a definitive list:

(30) Anne Hathaway, Valentine’s Day. Says “make love.” (29) Ashton Kutcher, New Year’s Eve. Admits going to Tufts. (28) Jason Sudeikis, Mother’s Day. Raps.(27) Taylor Swift, Valentine’s Day. Cheerleader-shames. (26) Topher Grace, Valentine’s Day. Misidentifies techno. (25) Jennifer Garner, Mother’s Day. Raises the roof. (24) Ludacris, New Year’s Eve. Is a cop. (23) Julia Roberts, Valentine’s Day. Quotes Pretty Woman. (22) Shay Mitchell, Mother’s Day. Attempts to drive a wedge between young people using Foo Fighters tickets. (21) Michelle Pfeiffer, New Year’s Eve. Pays Zac Efron to hang out.

(20) Timothy Olyphant, Mother’s Day. Pronounces “Paris” with a long a but a dropped s. (19) Jessica Alba, Valentine’s Day. Humiliates Ashton Kutcher in public. (18) Bradley Cooper, Valentine’s Day. Predicts vestwave. (17) Jon Bon Jovi, New Year’s Eve. Wins a duet against Lea Michele. (16) Seth Meyers, New Year’s Eve. Brags about his vet-school discount. (15) Jamie Foxx, Valentine’s Day. Gets a text and then says, “Got a text.” (14) Jessica Biel, Valentine’s Day. Tells a masturbation joke while sobbing. (13) Katherine Heigl, New Year’s Eve. Threatens Bon Jovi with a knife. (12) Sarah Jessica Parker, New Year’s Eve. Defends clogs. (11) Carla Gugino, New Year’s Eve. Touches a DVD.

(10) Margo Martindale, Mother’s Day. Opens a beer with one hand. (9) George Lopez, Valentine’s Day. Does the Heisman pose during an insurance dispute. (8) Ashton Kutcher, Valentine’s Day. Gets engaged and then says, “Call me Mr. Engaged.” (7) Halle Berry, New Year’s Eve. Skypes with Common. (6) Jon Lovitz, Mother’s Day. Holds a dog like a baby. (5) Julia Roberts, Mother’s Day. Holds a baby like a dog. (4) Queen Latifah, Valentine’s Day. Confronts Anne Hathaway. (3) Shirley MacLaine, Valentine’s Day. Makes out in a cemetery. (2) Zac Efron, New Year’s Eve. Talks to Sarah Jessica Parker on the phone while peeing. (1) Jennifer Aniston, Mother’s Day. Mocks Twitter.

This piece originally appeared in the May 4, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.