11 Movies To Watch Over The Holidays
The holiday season surrounding Christmas really lends itself to some stellar movie watching time. It’s not a coincidence that many big releases come out the Friday before, or on Christmas day. However, when it comes to movie-watching over the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Christmas, Festivus, Kwanza and New Years (hopefully we got everyone…we’re so P.C.), the best place to watch movies is at home, on the couch, snuggled up with a beverage of choice while wearing the old Snuggie. Here are 11 great flicks to put on your list!
11. The Holiday
There’s nothing like a film offering hope for a better tomorrow. The Holiday (2006) is just that, and stars a stellar cast: Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law and for you real film buffs, the legendary Eli Wallach. The plot is pretty simple. Two women from different countries are both experiencing problems in their love lives, so they decide to swap houses and get away from everything familiar. It begins as a comedy of errors, then slides into a quaint little romantic comedy. It’s always nice to see Jack Black show his versatility and flexibility as an actor. He and Kate Winslet are dynamite opposite one another. This is a great one if you’re missing someone special during the holiday season, or if you’re wishing you had that someone special, and need some motivation to get out of the rut. Or… laughs. It’s also good for laughs.
10. Miracle On 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street is such classic storytelling, it has been remade twice since the original 1947 release, but we’re addressing the original, and the only one that needs to be viewed during the holiday season. This is the film that took the popularity of Macy’s Department Store and created something of a world brand. For those who have seen Miracle On 34th Street, it offers a little bit of everything. So much so, the execs at Fox really struggled to advertise it for its original release. It was quite unlike anything that had been made before it. The story features a department store Santa Claus, named Kris Kringle, of course, who claims to be the real Santa Claus. This frustrates his supervisor to no end, as Kris influences her daughter to believe in magical, inexplicable things. It’s almost 70 years old, and still holds up!
9. White Christmas
Jumping ahead a few years, the 1954 release of White Christmas provided for more Christmas icons than anyone might have originally expected. For anyone who has ever enjoyed Bing Crosby crooning Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” it gave birth to an entire feature film full of Christmas. It was a show within a show, lots of romance, and four of the coolest people to ever grace the screen in the same film: Bing Crosby, Vera-Ellen, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye. Yes, this is the very film and the very Danny Kaye that is referenced when Clark W. Griswold loses his mind in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. And yes, this film is full of tap dancing, as well as song, jubilation, comedy, a dash of drama and pretty much Christmas perfection for two hours. And yes, we’ll state it, and yes, George would agree with it: Rosemary is forever the coolest of the Clooney clan.
8. The Santa Clause
The Santa Clause was a pleasant surprise in the mid-1990s. And it is clause with an “e,” because Tim Allen entered into an unknown agreement to become Santa Claus. The film was released in 1994, and it still holds up wonderfully. Some of the VFX are a bit dated, but there aren’t so many that it’s distracting. And if you have a room full of kids, or really want to remember being a kid, this is the film to pop in somewhere between December 21st and 24th. What audiences will enjoy is Tim Allen at his best, and a rather witty script falling into the Christmas movie genre. The rest of the cast is made up of less recognizable actors, so there’s no risk of pigeonholing anyone on screen–this really helps for holiday movies. How popular was the film? It spawned two sequels over a 12 year period.
7. Love Actually
Love Actually is an all-around Christmas favorite. The unmistakable voice of Hugh Grant leads into this contemporary, holiday fairy tale. It is packed full of so many British (and a few American) talents, it’s a can’t miss during the holidays. Yes, it’s seriously contrived at times, but it is easily forgiven because the sentiment is right on point. It is one of those feel-good holiday flicks that was a sleeper hit in theaters in 2003, released just before Thanksgiving and gaining momentum up to and through the holiday season. The most enjoyable thing about Love Actually may actually be pre-The Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln, as the unabashedly, hopeless romantic–clean shaven, and barely recognizable. Or maybe it’s Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit) as a stand-in on a porn set. The rest of the cast is just as stacked: A-lister after A-lister, all doing what they do!
6. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Ron Howard knocked this one out of the park. It didn’t hurt having Jim Carrey lead an all-star cast in Whoville. And how about the once adorable, and now quite sultry Gossip Girl star, Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who? For those who grew up before this film was released (2000) it was a dream to imagine more of a Whoville world than what was offered in the 25 minutes of an animated television special in 1966 and passed down for the next couple of generations. Those imaginings came to fruition with the release of this film, which holds up splendidly 15 years later. Jim Carrey is at his best, and he pushes the boundaries in ways only he can–or is consistently allowed to by some of the world’s greatest filmmakers. This comedy of gigantic sentiment is perfect for viewing on Christmas Eve.
Elf has become a Christmas classic. And it is laden with Christmas trivia. There are elements of the story that are very Miracle on 34th Street, and there are actors in the mix who have been part of even bigger Christmas movies. Aside from being one of Will Farrell’s top three, the film was directed by Jon Favreau and featured one of his regular collaborators, Peter Billingsley–who often produces for Jon–as Ming Ming the elf. Peter is none other than the man who was once the boy who played Ralphie in A Christmas Story. Elf was also a film that was pitched some 10 years earlier, with the idea that Jim Carrey would star as Buddy. We love Jim, but we’re glad this one hit the back burner–it’s about as close to perfection as a holiday film can get. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!”
4. Home Alone
“Kevin!” We offered a retrospective on the fine members of this cast, and now we can honor the film. Home Alone was a cultural phenomenon spawning a brand. There were four films total…two worth watching…only one worth watching annually. John Hughes put together a guaranteed winner with this screenplay, handing the reins to Chris Columbus for direction. There were elements of Planes, Trains and Automobiles in this script, but dialed back from the “R” rating to accommodate the whole family. The antics in Home Alone can wear a little thin if watched too often, but the greatest thing about this film is watching with someone who is watching it for the very first time. A niece, nephew, best friend, the parental units–the season shouldn’t pass without a viewing. The comedy and sentiment are perfectly balanced–and Hughes even manages to sneak some morality into the mix.
3. A Christmas Story
This film could easily be at the top of any list for Christmas movies, and at some point, it certainly may be. It was made in 1983, based on the novel, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, and it served as an odd glimpse into the late 1930s/early 1940s in a way a film never had before. It stands as a great little period piece, as well as one of the finest Christmas classics to ever grace the silver or small screen. The film features the adventures and misadventures of Ralphie Parker, as well as the Parker family, as they prepare for the majesty of the Christmas season. This film has become one of the most quotable films of all-time and has introduced new generations to terms like triple-dog dares. This film hits on so many levels. It is truly timeless.
2. Christmas Vacation
It’s hard to imagine the subculture of American entertainment without the Griswold family. What if there had never been a Clark W. Griswold Jr? We can’t even imagine. This film is as necessary at Christmastime as the trim on the tree. It is part of the holiday fabric in America. We’ll offer another nod to John Hughes, who wrote this cult classic. The craziest thing about this film? It only received a lukewarm response in 1989. Roger Ebert was boring in his review, having no foresight as to what it might become. That’s the genius of the late John Hughes. He wrote with such universality, his scripts could be placed in any time and place, and still resonate. Christmas Vacation is another perfect example. And the sentimental scene between Clark and his dad? So good.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Life is often categorized as a Christmas film, because it resounds with Christmas spirit as the final credits roll, but it is a great film to watch at any point of the calendar year. The film chronicles George Bailey, a beloved member of Bedford Falls community. George is portrayed by the late Jimmy Stewart. The screen legend takes the audience on a ride in this parable about finding the wonder in, and appreciation for life. It has some elements of Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, and it has influenced the writing of scripts like Forrest Gump. It’s a Wonderful Life is recognized as one of the greatest stories ever told for screen. For the right person, at the right time, it can be a life-changing experience. It’s certainly a great one to watch the week leading up to Christmas.