Like many couples this time of year, my wife and I have a holiday movie rotation we start right after Thanksgiving. There are probably 20 movies we try to get through. A lot of these are not “exactly” holiday movies. Also included are movies like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but we watch them since they premiered in December. But we do have several holiday themed movies we are guaranteed to include. Here are our favorites:
1. A Christmas Story (1983): “The big one. The queen mother of …[holiday movies). The F, dash, dash, dash word.” Most of us have “that” present in our collective holiday memories, the one that comes to mind when anyone asks for the best present we ever received. So we can all emphasize with Ralphie’s epic quest for the Red Ryder BB gun “with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”
2. Love Actually (2003): Over the years, this movie hasn’t fared as well as others on this list. These days, the adjective most used to describe this film is “sappy”. But it doesn’t matter to us, this is the first runner-up in our holiday movie list. This movie has a great ensemble of actors, some feel good storylines, and I would watch Bill Nighy read names out of a phonebook if they filmed it.
3. The Holiday (2006): I’m not sure why, but if Nancy Meyers makes a movie, it will go on my “favorites” list. I love her remake of The Parent Trap better than the original, and I watch The Intern regularly. I feel the same way about The Holiday. It’s not just a holiday movie to me; I’ll watch it in July. Jack Black plays the “good” guy that women always screw over, which resonates for we “good guys” of the world. If Eli Wallach could join Bill Nighy in reading the phonebook, I’d nominate it for a Best Picture Oscar.
4. Die Hard (1988): Simply put, Christmas just ain’t Christmas until Hans Gruber falls off of Nakatomi Plaza. “Welcome to the party, Pa!l” For all you naysayers out there, Die Hard is DEFINITELY a holiday movie. Vintage Alan Rickman steals this movie and sets himself up as the best holiday villain since the Grinch. We still miss you Alan!
5. A Christmas Vacation (1989): OK, truth be told, this is not in my personal Top Ten favorite holiday movies. I think Christmas Vacation is a poor imitation of the original Vacation movie when the Griswold clan head to Wally World. That movie was funny and edgy. A Christmas Vacation seems a little stale and formulaic in comparison. However, two reasons why this movie comes in at #5. First, cousin Eddie gets in the Shakespearian prose “Shitter’s full”, which never gets old. Second, my wife watches this movie EVERY year, and laughs like she has never seen it before. For whatever reason, the humor tickles her funny bone every time. So in the spirit of “Happy Wife, Happy Life”, A Christmas Vacation takes this slot.
6. Home Alone/Home Alone 2 (1990/1992): Again, personally not my favorite movies of the season. I do like the first one, but by the second movie, Kevin’s parents need to go to jail for neglect. However, these two movies make my wife laugh out loud every year. So I have to add them, because at least she isn’t laughing at me.
7. The Polar Express(2004): We originally got this movie for our grandkids when they were little. We would always watch it with, and we would make hot chocolate and have candy to go along with the story. Well, our grandkids have outgrown this movie, but we haven’t. This is my “guilty pleasure” holiday movie. A lot of my Christmases growing up were a lot like Billy’s in the movie, so like to see it work out for him in this film. I’m a sap, sue me…
8. Miracle on 34th Street (original 1947 version): When I was a kid, I had a thing for Maureen O’Hara. Honestly, I still do. So if Maureen O’Hara is in Christmas movie, I’m going to watch it. Every year. Add Edmund Gwenn as the best Kris Kringle in history, and a tight story line where the Odd Ball beats the Establishment, and this movie always delights. Look for an uncredited Jack Albertson as the postal worker who thinks up sending the letters to the courthouse.
9. The Bishop’s Wife (1947): Unlike Miracle on 34th Street, this movie hasn’t aged well over the years, and comes off as a little hokey in present day. But it has heart, which is why it beats out its “The Preacher’s Wife” remake with Whitney Houston, which had none. Besides, this movie has two of my favorite character actors, Monty Woolley and James Gleason. It’s worth watching just for that fact alone.
10. A Christmas Carol (1951): Two words: Alistair Sim. The best Ebenezer Scrooge that ever was or will be. Sim’s Scrooge comes across as a little more nuanced. While it sometimes strays from the book, the plot shows events in Scrooge’s life that hardened but was originally a good person. This Scrooge has dimensions not seen before or since, so it is my favorite rendition.
There you have it, my top ten holiday season movie list, hope you enjoyed it. What movies make your list this time of year?