Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Favorite Christmas Movies

Yesterday I blogged about my favorite Christmas TV specials, but what about movies? In our home we have a bin of videos and DVDs of Christmas movies that we drag out each December and there are several movies that are in the "must see" category each year. So here are my favorites, again in no particular order:


White Christmas - Bing and Danny Kaye help out the ol' General, and while the story is rather formulaic and predictable, it's still a great movie, with some great performances and songs. This movie features the song of the same name which also appeared in the earlier film, Holiday Inn, which is another movie we pull out at the holidays.

It's A Wonderful Life - I love Jimmy Stewart. He has a way of portraying characters that are lovable and somewhat morbid at the same time. Must be all those Hitchcock flicks. But here you have a timeless story that seems to fit in well with our hard economic times. Frank Capra did a great job on this story of salvation and redemption.

Miracle on 34th Street - The original version of this movie with the precocious Natalie Wood is a great story tying together the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and building on the annual tradition of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love when movies use cultural icons as part of the plot. We also watch and enjoy the newer version from 1994, but it isn't quite the same when "Cole's" replaces Gimbels. Thought the courtroom twist at the end featuring a one-dollar bill is an interesting variation on the original.

Babes in Toyland - A bizarre yet funny Laurel and Hardy classic from the thirties that was later reissued under the title March of the Wooden Soldiers. It's a seriously twisted plot line that makes you wonder if the writers were under the influence at the time. If you can find it, check it out.

A Christmas Story - "You'll shoot yer eye out!" Need I say more? I swear that one day I will mortify my wife and purchase a leg lamp. This is one of those movies that only the men in our household watch. For some reason my wife and daughter find it unappealing. We watch the DVD of this Jean Shepherd classic (I'm a radio geek, so Shepherd has a special place in my heart) every year, but also try to watch it during the annual 24-hour marathon on TBS (from Christmas Eve to Christmas night). This is a newer film (1983) but nicely bridges the gap from "classics" to more contemporary holiday fare.

Contemporary Movies

A Muppet Christmas Carol - I've always loved the Muppets and I've always loved this Dicken's classic. And the mash-up of the two does not disappoint. The beauty of this movie is how it stays true to the original tale, while also staying true to the Muppet sensibility. The writers for the Muppets are adept at creating stories that appeal to both kids as well as adults, with all sorts of cultural references and....attitude. This is a laugh out loud funny movie. I'm also a big fan of Muppet Treasure Island, which you need to watch if you have never seen it. But save that one for after Christmas.

Elf - I'm not a Will Ferrell fan. I think most of his movies are seriously inane...nay, just plain stupid. But, I love this movie, and I think he plays the part well. Plus, it features Zooey Deschanel. Need I say more? If you have never seen this, take the time to walk through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, then past the twirly swirly gumdrops, then through the Lincoln Tunnel. You won't regret it.

The Santa Clause - I keep feeling like I shouldn't like this movie, but it's funny and I think the plot is well developed. Some great stuff in here. One of those movies where you find something new every time you watch it. The sequels were so-so, but the original is a good one. They do a great job of explaining some of the "mysteries" surrounding Santa Claus. 

So there's my list. I'm sure I'll think of others. What are your favorites?


Mandy Fleisher said...

That's a great list. My top 3:

1. It's A Wonderful Life - Ken captured the genius of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra very well. This film captures everything important about the holiday spirit for me. At the end, when George Bailey is running through town yelling "HELLO Bedford Falls!" there's no way you can watch that without smiling...

2. The Muppet Christmas Carol - smart, funny, whimsical - the best of Jim Henson productions and Dickens combined. Jacob and Robert Marley are unforgettable.

3. I had to add a third a few years back when Love, Actually came out. If the Muppets, etc. are contemporary, maybe this one is super-contemporary. But the acting and variety of story lines in this one are incredible.

jamiebentley said...

So, yesterday I listed movies because I don't know how to follow the rules. It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and The Sound of Music were on that list.

Today I'm adding Santa Claus, the movie. You know, the one with Dudley Moore playing the heroic elf? I haven't seen it in years, but now that I'm remembering it I think I need to own it.

Meleenia said...

1. Scrooged! how could you leave out this Bill Murray favorite.
2. While you Were Sleeping - Sappy, i know, girlie, but i must watch every year.
3. The Santa Claus with Tim Allen - the kid's fave.

Jeremy Bentley said...

Ken, you pretty much nailed it for me with your list, but I have a few to add. They fall more under the line of "Christmas movies I remember from my childhood" rather than ones I get out every year.

First off, Tim "Tool Man" Taylor and his ape grunting aside, The Santa Clause is an awesome movie, so yes, it should indeed be on the list. I back your submission heartily. It is a movie that is assembled in a true classic Christmas movie style, and it definitely warms the heart.

Okay, on to a couple childhood made for TV nostalgic memories...

The Night They Saved Christmas
This was a TV movie set in Alaska, I think, or somewhere very far North. This guy works for an oil company that is blasting at an Arctic site to try to set up drills for his oil company. The blasting rocks the North Pole and Santa's workshop, though, and the second intended blast site will end up destroying Santa's home if the oil company can't find oil at the first. So Santa sends a messenger to bring the man's wife and children to the North Pole and explain the need to stop the blasting, as they will be the ones that need to convince the husband/father to not only believe in Santa Claus, but convince his company that there is indeed oil at the first site so the second blasting is unneeded. The thing I liked most about this movie is that Santa takes the family through his whole operation and shows them how they do it.

Babes In Toyland (the eighties version)
If any of you had not seen this movie when it aired on TV in the eighties and watched it now, you would note what an utter piece of crap it is, but we taped it when it aired, and then watched it several times afterward, and I remember liking it when I was younger. This movie stars Keanu Reeves as Jack, Pat "Mr. Miyagi" Morita as the Toymaster, Richard Mulligan as Barnaby, and Drew Barrymore as a hot-headed tween determined to show her elders that she is no longer a child (and she makes mention of this many times in the movie). This movie is kind of like the original, The Wizard of Oz, and A Christmas Carol all rolled into one. Drew Barrymore lives in the "real world" where it is Christmas time, but she has decided that at 11 years old, she is far too old for Christmas because she is "not a child" anymore (sort of has a "Bah Humbug" attitude about it all). Well, she ends up hitting her head in a snowy fender bender and is transported to Toyland where all her friends, family, neighbors, and even the jerky old man that greedily runs the local toy store are also denizens of Toyland (kind of like Wizard of Oz - "and you were there, and you were there, etc."). Drew has to help save Toyland from the evil Barnaby, but she has to learn to believe in her inner child and regain the joy and wonder of Christmas in order to do so. I am sure you can all see where this leads.

So besides Ken's submissions (which are pretty much my list too), I felt it necessary to add those made-for-TV-movies that I remember watching numerous times in my childhood.

Jeremy Bentley said...

Love, Actually!
Of course! I guess that is a Christmas movie, isn't it? We LOVE that movie. That is definitely among my favorite movies of all time, Christmas and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

It isn't so much a Christmas movie as one that takes place during Christmas and includes some gorgeous and extravagant Sweedish Christmas interior sets--Fanny & Alexander, by my boy Ingmar Bergman.

I'm with you on the rest of the list. Btw, why are all modern Christmas comedies fully reliant on slapstick?

Frances said...

I really love The Santa Clause -- how could you not with the great soundtrack? It got me hooked on The Drifters version of "White Christmas" and the Michael Convertino compositions are gorgeous.

We're big fans of A Christmas Story here, and happy our kids love it just as much as we do.

And it's not Christmas until we've watched A Christmas Carol -- the 1984 CBS version starring George C. Scott.

Wendy Edsall-Kerwin said...

1. A Christmas Story
2. Edward Scissorhandsm - yes this is a Christmastime fairytale
3. Hogfather - not exactly Christmas, but Terry Pratchett's Disk World version.

Ken said...

hmm. I love Edward Scissorhands. Not sure why I never really thought of it as a Christmas story...but hey, I'll go with it.

jamiebentley said...

Nightmare Before Christmas should also be on this list, as well as on Halloween movie lists. Not often a movie can be for 2 holidays :)

B.B. Bellezza said...

My hands-down favorite is A Christmas Story.

I also love Mixed Nuts - it is wacky and I loved Madeline Kahn.