Must-See Holiday Movies
Nov 26, 2013 12:50PM ● Published by tina
Once the tree is trimmed, light a fire, grab some popcorn and settle back for a holiday movie marathon this season.
From November 2011 Southlake Style, written by Rhonda Ross.
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and we all celebrate in our own traditional ways. Yet whatever your plans are, we think there’s nothing better than a fireplace, some hot chocolate and a classic holiday movie. With such a wide selection available, we’ve pooled our collective knowledge to offer what we think are the must-see holiday films (in no particular order). From Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby to Chevy Chase and Will Ferrell, you’re sure to find one of your favorites here. So, get comfy and bring on the popcorn.
White Christmas (1954)
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) star as two Army buddies who become a successful musical act after the end of World War II. They team up with the singing sister act of Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to save the failing inn of their former commander, General Waverly. Crosby originally sang the classic tune, “White Christmas,” in the 1942 film, Holiday Inn. Showcased in this production along with other classics like “Sisters,” “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and “Snow,” the soundtrack to this movie is as delightful as the dancing. Despite a few mishaps, the entire old battalion shows up on Christmas Eve to honor General Waverly and save his beloved inn. The memorable finale comes to a close with the snow falling and everyone raising a glass to toast, “May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
Our Take: The holiday season wouldn’t be complete without a musical or two, and White Christmas definitely ranks as our favorite must-see musical.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is a long-suffering businessman who has always put others before himself, but when he is facing financial ruin, he ends up on a bridge contemplating suicide. Enter Clarence, George’s guardian angel who overheard George bitterly wishing he had never been born. Clarence helps George experience what the town and all his friends would be like if he had never existed, showing George all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to the community. When George is returned to the present, he realizes that while his experiences might not have turned out exactly how he planned, he still has had a wonderful life.
Our Take: Nothing beats this heartwarming, part romance, part drama film that makes you remember what Christmas is all about. It stands the test of time as a celebration of life and a feel-good fix. Trust us, this one will restore your faith in humanity.
Miracle on 34th Street – 1947
Macy’s hires a department store Santa named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) only to find out he claims to be the one-and-only real Santa Claus. Events lead to Kris being committed to Bellevue Mental Hospital, judged to be mentally unstable by declaring he is Santa. To earn his freedom, he is put on trial and defended by an idealistic attorney. His lawyer sets out to prove that Kris is recognized as Santa in a moving trial that warms your heart.
Our Take: This movie has been remade several times but we love the original, classic version the most and think you will, too. From the awestruck expressions on the faces of the children telling Santa what they want for Christmas to the inevitable happy ending, this film can bring out the child in you.
A Christmas Story (1983)
The only thing young Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle, but all he hears from his parents is, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” This comedy set in the 1940s brings back the life of a boy trying to convince his parents to purchase the coveted Christmas gift. Ralphie pleads his case to anyone who will listen, including Santa himself. On the big day, a package under the Christmas tree labeled “from Santa” does contain the sought-after BB gun but predictably, when trying the rifle out for the first time, Ralphie almost makes the dire predictions come true when a ricochet hits him just below the eye.
Our Take: All’s well that end’s well in this sweet recollection of time gone by, and we guarantee you’ll find this film playing almost every night throughout the holiday season. Nevertheless, having your own copy is still a good idea.
Will Ferrell stars as Buddy the Elf, a boy who was raised by elves at the North Pole. But when he heads off to New York City in search of his real father, he has a bit of a hard time fitting in. After confronting his father and being sent away, he lands at Gimbels, where he discovers the department store Santa is an imposter. A fight ensues and Buddy ends up being hauled off to jail. After bailing Buddy out, his father takes his son home to the family. Like a fish out of water, Buddy struggles to fit in, yet in doing so, he helps bring back the Christmas spirit to even the most jaded New Yorkers.
Our Take: We must admit that the humor in Elf isn’t for everyone, but there is nothing like Will Ferrell in yellow tights to fill you with the holiday spirit.
The Santa Clause (1994)
When Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) discovers his ex-wife and her husband are trying to convince 6-year-old Charlie that Santa isn’t real, Scott sets out to bring the holiday magic back to his son. One night while his son is asleep, Scott receives an unexpected visitor on the rooftop. Unfortunately, he startles Santa, who tumbles off the roof and disappears, leaving behind a sleigh with eight tiny reindeer and an empty Santa suit. Donning the stray suit, Scott magically becomes the real Santa. Comedy ensues.
Our Take: Although this film continues to be a popular classic, we are perplexed as to why Walt Disney Studios made the equally awful two sequels that followed.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
It just wouldn’t be December without a visit with Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his various assorted collection of relatives as they gather to celebrate a good old-fashioned family Christmas. As usual, the best of intentions fall by the wayside as Clark encounters one hilarious problem after another. From an adventure with a squirrel in the limbs of the Christmas tree to an incident with an unfortunate cat, this family favorite will keep you laughing until the New Year. Who can forget the expression on Clark’s face when he plugs in his extravaganza of holiday lights and nothing happens, or the look on the neighbor’s face when the brilliant display finally does come on.
Our Take: Can anyone have this much bad luck? We bet you recognize someone from your family in this film. It might even be you, channeling a little Clark Griswold of your own.
Home Alone (1990)
When Home Alone premiered at the box office, the film reigned supreme for 12 weeks straight, so it’s no surprise it makes our list. Who could resist the cute-as-a-button Macaulay Culkin in his breakout role as 8-year-old Kevin, who accidently gets left behind when his family takes off for vacation? While the frantic family attempts to get back to Chicago from Paris, Kevin enjoys his adventure eating copious amounts of junk food, jumping on his parents’ bed and watching gangster movies. But on Christmas Eve, Kevin has to stand up and defend his home from two criminals (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) set on robbing the seemingly empty house.
Our Take: An improbable plot doesn’t seem to matter since Kevin protecting the house from bumbling burglars is slapstick funny. Believe it or not, you can have too much of a good thing. In this case, we suggest skipping the sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
The Polar Express (2004)
The youngest of our classic films, The Polar Express tells the story of a young boy from Michigan (voiced by Tom Hanks) who is looking for a reason to believe in the true spirit of Christmas. He boards a magical fantasy train for a journey to the North Pole in search of Santa. After a few trials and tribulations, he and his fellow passengers reach the North Pole and watch as Santa prepares for his trip around the world. Our hero finds that only believers can hear the beautiful sound of the silver bells on Santa’s sleigh. When the boy returns home and finds a wrapped silver bell under his Christmas tree, both he and his sister marvel at the sound. They realize that their parents can’t hear the bell, and the movie ends with the narrator recounting that although he’s grown old, “the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who believe.” Magical.
Our Take: The Polar Express is the only animated film that made our list, and the adaption of this children’s book is simply phenomenal. Using a live-action performance capture technique, the filmmakers incorporated the movements of live actors into the animated characters.
A Christmas Carol/Scrooge/Scrooged (1951, 1970, 1984, 1988, 1999)
Dickens’ original story about a man who learns compassion when three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve delivers a great message at a time of the year when we all need to remember our fellow man.
Our Take: No matter how you slice it, this holiday classic stays on our favorite list despite overabundant versions appearing like fruitcakes this time of year. We enjoy each of them for their different portrayals of the timeless Dickens tale with the possible exception of the modern version, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray as a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge. Somehow a cynical TV executive doesn’t jive with the image of the miserly Victorian man we’ve grown fond of.
Whether you have a full house or an empty nest, take time to have a movie festival this holiday season. Light the fireplace and pop the popcorn — you’ll be making memories that can last for generations.
Our Favorite Christmas Television Specials
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
Santa Claus is Coming to Town