With my holiday shopping done (finally!) and a pre-Christmas Sunday dinner with some of my family wrapping up a few hours ago, I’m preparing to unwind for the evening before I begin what will be a short work-week tomorrow morning by watching a couple of my favorite classic Christmas movies. Back in June, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite Summer-centric films that never fail to entertain me and get me into the seasonal spirit- and with us being right in the middle of the most celebrated season of all- just days away from Christmas- I thought I’d put together another list of my favorite Holiday movies.
Now, it wasn’t easy- there are SO many Christmas movies I love and cherish, but I narrowed it down to the ones that I will stop and watch- no matter how far along the movie is when I tune in- and watch until the end, over and over- and never get tired of them.
‘Tis the season- and here are my Top 8 Christmas Flicks!
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
“And why is the carpet wet, Todd?”
“I don’t KNOW, Margo!”
Of all the Christmas movies I adore, ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ is by far my favorite. Not only does it ALWAYS make me laugh- pretty much every scene, really- but I think nearly everyone at some point can relate to the chaos that ensues when Clark Griswold tries to put together the perfect ol’ fashioned family Christmas for his family. Struggling to get the lights on the exterior of the house to work? Bickering in-laws? Unexpected visits from the more eccentric (and kinda’ gross) family members? Being subscribed to a Jelly of the Month Club in lieu of a Christmas bonus? Squirrels hiding in the Christmas Tree? We’ve all been there in one way or another.
2. A Christmas Story (1983)
You would think that a movie that gets aired 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve through the end of Christmas Day would get tiresome after a while, but that isn’t the case with “A Christmas Story.” Like Clark Griswold’s mishaps and meltdowns- Ralphie’s quest to get a coveted Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas despite his teacher, his mother, and a mall Santa telling him he’ll shoot his eye out is hilarious and stands the test of time.
From the Old Man’s “Major Award,” and the triple-dog-dare by the iced over flagpole, to the bunny pajamas from Hell and Ralphie’s Life Buoy soap punishment- 24 hours never seems like enough time to view this movie. Also? Visiting Ralphie’s house is on my to-do list.
3. Home Alone (1990)
Christmas just isn’t Christmas without watching Kevin McCallister set traps and outsmart two bumbling, idiot thieves while learning about the importance of family. While I’m also a fan of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” (although Child Protective Services really should have intervened and investigated Kevin’s parents after that one,) but nothing will top the original.
Watching Marv shriek in pure terror as Buzz’s tarantula crawls across his face will always be one of my favorite moments from when I watched this movie with my family when I was a kid- but as I get older- I find myself tearing up (in a good way) when Kevin’s neighbor, Old Man Marley, reunites with his son and his granddaughter while Kevin looks on from his window as the snow falls. It gets me every time.
4. The Holiday (2006)
I’m not one for romantic comedies, but “The Holiday” really touches me on a personal level because I connect so much with the character, Iris, played by Kate Winslet. The movie, for those who haven’t seen it or heard of it- follows two women, strangers to each other and frustrated with the complications and disappointments in their love lives- who agree to swap homes for two weeks around Christmastime on an Airbnb style website. Iris ends up in Los Angeles while Cameron Diaz’s character- Amanda- ends up in Surrey, England. Predictably, both women find love, as well as inner-strength while they’re visiting abroad- just in time for Christmas.
A little cliché, sure- but the movie delivers strong performances from Winslet, Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black- and some really great, poignant lines from the late, great Eli Wallach.
5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
I think I’ve seen every possible version of “A Christmas Carol” that has ever been made- but my favorite will always and forever be the one with the Muppets, because they just make everything infinitely better. No disrespect to Bill Murray or Patrick Stewart, who did phenomenal jobs in their roles in their interpretations of this story- but with catchy, thoughtful musical numbers and a Tiny Tim frog with a little crutch that will melt even the iciest of hearts- this is a must-watch for me every year.
And my absolute favorite part of this movie is watching the regal, classy Michael Caine’s (Scrooge) banter with my two favorite Muppets- Statler and Waldorf- who play Ebenezer’s ghostly former associates. It’s the BEST.
6. White Christmas (1954)
The oldest movie on this list is also the one that many consider to be the most classic. “White Christmas” reminds me of many things- mostly Christmas Eves or Christmas Days spent visiting at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid and listening to Bing Crosby holiday records playing from their living room. This movie was almost always playing on a television set somewhere in their home, and I would almost always sit down- bundle up in blankets- and watch intently as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang and danced their hearts out to save a pitiful inn somewhere in Vermont.
While the story itself might not exactly withstand the test of time, there’s plenty of lovely musical numbers and a much-needed happy ending for all of the characters to keep even the most cynical of viewers entertained and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
7. The Santa Clause (1994)
Before inspiring a couple of unnecessary sequels (and I think may have inspired “Christmas with the Kranks,” which was also unnecessary) that I never had any interest in seeing, there was simply the first “The Santa Clause,” which my parents took me to see in theaters when I was younger . Putting aside the fact that Scott Calvin (Tim Allen,) who gradually and reluctantly transforms into Santa Clause after accidentally killing the original man in the red suit- had the most irritating, whiny son on Earth- the story was, at the time, really unique for a Christmas movie and had plenty of silly jokes for kids and even more “adult” jokes geared towards the grown-ups- which I didn’t get until another viewing when I was much, much older.
8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
My favorite thing about “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” apart from the animation and the music- is that this movie has the distinction of being both a Halloween movie, AND a Christmas movie. It’s a great combination of creepy and festive. The best scene, following Jack Skellington’s twisted take on delivering presents for Santa Clause, is when the toys come to life and proceed to terrify the living hell out of the human children who received them. The little boy screaming while the gigantic toy snake devours his Christmas tree never fails to get me to laugh- and songs like “Making Christmas,” “What’s This?” and “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” deserve a spot on a lot of holiday playlists.
I love to watch this movie in October, and then again around this time of year because whether it’s Halloween or Christmas- I always feel festive.
And that’s it! Eight of my all-time favorite Christmas movies- a blend of comedies, classics, and childhood memories. Not included are annual specials like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” or the animated version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” since I consider those separate from full-length feature films- but I always make a point to watch those every year, too!
And if anyone wants to share their favorite holiday movies, too- feel free!