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Classic Christmas Movies

Updated on June 11, 2011

Holiday Movies are the New Tradition!

Since I was a small child in the 1960s to now, television Christmas specials and Christmas movies have been a tradition of the holiday season for my family.  Let me introduce you to some of my favorites and see if you find something that you may never have heard of before. 

Do you remember the Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, or Dinah Shore Christmas Specials that used to be on television in the 60s?  I sure do!  They were one-time only and if you missed them you missed a lot. 

What about the perennial movies like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snow Man, and Charlie Brown's Christmas?  These programs became a part of all our baby-boomer Christmases because we looked forward to watching them every year.

I'm starting to make myself feel as old as dirt writing about those days.  Our families now have video on demand and can watch movies online at the click of a mouse. We had to wait a full year to watch these specials and films.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions with my own family has been to watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation on Thanksgiving night. It just isn't Thanksgiving without turkey.  It isn't a completed Thanksgiving without Christmas Vacation launching us into holiday mode.

Hope you enjoy our selections. I watch most of these films every year. Yes, I make myself wait until Christmas time to watch them - that's what makes them special!

Please enjoy perusing these Christmasflix!

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Our #1 Christmas Movie Pick

Released in 1989, this movie never wears out; it's as fresh and funny the 20th time as it was the first. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo play this holiday farce to perfection in my opinion. I think what makes this a favorite is that it's so true of most families and we just need to laugh at ourselves. The Norman Rockwell images of perfect families, while beautiful, just never were the daily norm of American family life; they were snapshots of lovely moments within an American life. God bless Norman Rockwell, but this movie is a glimpse into the real American home.

It's a Wonderful Life

Who Doesn't Love Jimmy Stewart

This film was released in 1946 and remains an all-time best selling film. I think they could show this at the theater today and still draw a crowd. The writer of this story had an eye on human emotions with this script! When George cannot get out of town to go to college, we can all identify with his dilemma in one form or another. When the Savings and Loan is threated with insolvency, we grip our armchair and will George to hang on and fight Mr. Potter. And of course, there is no better love story woven into the mix than between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed; what a blessing to watch them navigate the waters of life together. It's a story that always puts a smile in my heart and on my face - good overcomes evil!

Buy It's a Wonderful Life on Blu-Ray or DVD

A Christmas Story

I Double-Dog Dare You to Watch This One!

Who doesn't love Ralphy? Did you ever wish so hard for that one thing for Christmas and get no indications that you would really receive it? Travel along with Ralphy as he sloshes his way through the nay-sayers and bullies who try to squash his Christmas dreams for a Red Rider BB Gun. This kid is so quirky you can't help but love him. His earnestness is what keeps the story moving and you have to begin rooting for Ralphy to get that Red Rider BB Gun even if he will "shoot his eye out."

I find it hard to believe this movie was released in 1983! It's another of those timeless classics that is well-worth the one-year wait to watch.

Buy A Christmas Story on Amazon

White Christmas

Gotta Love a Musical!

I adore the pristine world of the 1950s.The clothing is worth the viewing alone. I think I really love these older films because morality was still in style and I miss that world.

Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay, et al...are fabulous entertainers, dancers, and actors. Why do some people just get all the talent? My favorite part of this story is Bing and Danny doing the "Sisters" number in the nightclub. The lessons we can take away from this story on the subjects of loyalty, love, honor, and character are innumerable. This is such a clean movie (there isn't even an antagonist in it) it will transport older folks back to a time when life was much simpler and give younger people character to aspire to.

This film is going to hang around for a very long time. I was fascinated to learn that the skinny little dancer (Danny Kay's girlfriend and Rosemary's sister) could not sing a note and her singing voice was dubbed. Enjoy!

Buy White Christmas on Amazon today

Holiday Inn

What is Christmas Without Irving Berlin Music?!

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire vie for the affections of their song and dance partner, Virginia Dale. Bing wins the girl and moves to Connecticut to open an inn that doesn't do so well. Fred Astaire shows up in a drunken stupor and falls in love with Virginia all over again. If you're looking for a thick plot, you won't find it in this film, but you will find the 1942 introduction of the song "White Christmas" being sung for the first time by Bing Crosby.

I like this film for its simplicity and morality. They just don't get any better than this!

Miracle on 34th Street

The timeless wishes of little girls!

Having grown up on the 1947 version of this film, I have not liked the remakes. Perhaps it's the black and white, or maybe the original actors that were imprinted on my life, but I have always preferred this version.

Natalie Wood is adorable and bubbly in this family classic. She is inclined to be more grown-up than her years before the real Kris Kringle shows up to work as the new Macy's Santa Claus. I saw this film for the first time when I was around 7 or 8 years old (that time when we stop believing in Santa Claus) and I found myself wanting to believe that Edmond Gwenn really was the real deal. I'm still delighted when little Natalie ends up believing he is Santa Claus.

Stars like Natalie Wood, Edmond Gwenn, and Maureen O'Hara can't help but warm your heart to the season of Christmas.

Buy Miracle on 34th Street from Amazon

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The Man Who Came to Dinner

Sure to make you giggle or all-out raucous laughter!

Released in 1942.

Monty Woolley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan

Bette Davis saw this play and persuaded Jack L. Warner to purchase the screen rights for she and John Barrymore. John Barrymore was screen tested for this film and was deemed unsuitable because he could not deliver the quick-witted, barbed-tongue dialogue of Mr. Whiteside. The role went to Monty Woolley because he had created the role of Mr. Whiteside on stage with the 1939 play by the same name.

As Bosley Crowther of the NY Times wrote in his review of this film, Mr. Whiteside (Woolley), is a deliciously wicked character. He said of this film, "...it is the most vicious but hilarious cat-clawing exhibition ever put on the screen."

The role played by Bette Davis is a huge departure from her usual psychotic roles and she plays it so very well.

For a wonderful laugh, this is a great film to punch into the player at Christmas time.

Buy it on Amazon today!

The Polar Express

All Aboard! A+ Animation

I read this Chris Van Allsburg book to my kids when they were little. I have tried to keep up with the world of children's books by reading every Caldecott Medal winning book there is. This film has beautifully rendered the story of the book and brought it to life.

Tom Hanks plays five different roles in this film. I not only love the story of the young boy on the verge of not believing in Santa, but I am enamored with the technical process of how this film was made. Follow along with the children aboard The Polar Express to the magical land of the North Pole. I love the innocence of the children aboard the train and can imagine myself sitting amongst them on that harrowing ride to the North Pole.

Just a fun, kid-friendly film that enthralls adults as well.

Buy Polar Express on DVD

Christmas With the Kranks

Brings Bah Humbug into the 21st Century!

Okay, I have to admit that I watch this film more than just at Christmas time. I'm a huge fan of Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dan Aykroyd, and John Grisham. That's just a bundle of talent and hilarity that can't be put on the shelf for a whole year!

Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis find themselves living in an empty nest just after Thanksgiving and they are having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit; well at least Tim is. He decides to skip Christmas and lures Jamie Lee into going along for the cruise. I love the depiction of peer pressure from all their neighbors when they don't decorate their home for the holiday and generally close themselves off from the holiday altogether - with much difficulty.

This is a good, clean, family film for the whole family filled with hilarity. I need to laugh more than once a year at this one.

Buy Christmas with the Kranks here

Elf

Too Big to Be Amused?

I dare you not to like this film. Bob Newhart and Will Ferrell? James Caan and Zooey Deschanel? Love the cast and love the delightful story. Will Ferrell crawled into Santa's bag as an infant in an orphanage and ends up at the North Pole where he is adopted into the elf family. How tall is Will Ferrell? He has to be over 6 feet. Well, he treks back to New York to find his real father who is played by cynical and grumpy James Caan.

Will Ferrell's ability to play an innocent, child-like elf can give the movie Big with Tom Hanks a run for the money. He is masterful and whimsical. Once again, a great story with impeccable cinematography. Well done and fun.

Buy Elf for the child in you today!

The Preacher's Wife

Remake of the classic The Bishop's Wife

Denzel Washington in a role different from any he has played before or since - a bumbling angel sent to help the Preacher get his faith back. Made more delightfully fulfilling with Whitney Houston's singing voice as the preacher's wife.

Some don't like this remake of the classic, but I like the story and the cast in this one. It deals with the decline of a community and interest in church altogether. There is just enough plot to keep it moving and just enough Christmas spirit to keep you rooting for the preacher.

Released in 2002, it is a relative newcomer on the Christmas classics list, but it is worth the watch if you need help getting into the spirit of the season.

Purchase The Preacher's Wife here

The Santa Clause

Another Tim Allen Classic

Tim Allen plays the unwilling new Santa Claus when the real Santa falls from his roof. When he puts on the red santa coat he and his son are transported by reindeer to the North Pole. He has to walk through the next year of getting more and more plump and growing long white hair and a white beard while working as a toy company exec. It's funny and endearing.

My kids turned me on to this one back in 2002 and I have to say I really enjoy it.

Purchase all three The Santa Clause DVDs here

Home Alone

KEVIN! Where's Kevin?

Accidentally left home alone while the family vacations in Florida, McCaulay Culkin, has to brave robbers and the creepy neighbor in a big house all alone. The antics and problem-solving of this 8-year-old boy are unrealistic, but ingeniously entertaining.

Released in 1990 it is an enduring classic that never fails to entertain.

Buy all the Home Alone DVDs here

Little Women

The March Sisters Remake

I really like the most recent remake of this classic story. Winona Ryder brilliantly plays Jo March and makes this film come alive in the 20th Century. Not commonly listed in the Christmas film category, it does cover the March women's Christmas holiday where they take their long-awaited Christmas feast to the poorest family in town.

Once again, this is a film that teaches us about sacrifice (something we don't often see in 21st Century America) and giving from our abundance. It teaches me contentment; happiness is not found in our things, but in family, friends, and character.

Purchase this timeless story on DVD here

Christmas in Connecticut

Bring on the Deception!

Barbara Stanwyck plays a New York writer who writes for a housekeeping magazine and concocts recipes that leave soldiers with watering mouths that long for a home-cooked meal. It is a comedy of keeping the secret that she is a single woman living in a New York City apartment who doesn't cook at all.

Another lovely classic film from the 1940s era that will tickle your funny bone.

Buy Christmas in Connecticut at a bargain price

You've Got Mail

Just a enough Christmas to put it on the list

You've Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks isn't listed in any Christmas Classics list I've ever seen, but it has enough Christmas scenes in it to make it come to mind during the holidays.

It is actually a loose remake of the classic Jimmy Stewart film, "The Shop Around the Corner". In the original the man and woman work together in a little shop, but are unknowing pen pals who fall in love with one another through their letters, but don't like one another in person. Tom and Meg actually fall in love through emails - the old dial-up tones take us all back a few years. It's a sweet little film that I never grow weary of.

You've Got Mail at a near-stealing price

The Shop Around the Corner

The Original "You've Got Mail"

This may be one of the oldest films on the list, being released in 1940. You'll find a very young Jimmy Stewart working as an ambitious shop clerk alongside some very interesting characters. He falls in love with a woman he corresponds with through letters. She happens to be his co-worker in the shop whom he doesn't care for.

When I learned that You've Got Mail was a loose re-make of this film I watched it and eventually purchased it for my library of home films. Another film that was a re-make of Shop Around the Corner is 1949s In The Good Old Summertime with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. It features Judy Garland singing a new little tune called Merry Christmas.

The Shop Around the Corner on sale at Amazon

Christmas Music downloads from Amazon - Does anyone else need holiday music to get your house decorated?

mp3 downloads from amazon

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    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 7 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      Charming collection of Christmas classics. I love them all. BTW: I got a 90. Just missed the last one. 5 stars and lensrolled to Santa's Existence on Trial... Thanks.

    • mschuerer profile image
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      mschuerer 7 years ago

      @KimGiancaterino: Bless you for your blessing! I cannot thank you enough! Hooray! Blessed by a Squid Angel!!!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 7 years ago

      Nice collection of holiday movies... I watched "White Christmas" last night. Love the dancing! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • mschuerer profile image
      Author

      mschuerer 7 years ago

      Thanks pkmcr for the Squid Angel blessing! I really appreciate it!

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 7 years ago

      Great job on your first lens... you asked how I got the video clips on my movie lens... there is a utube video module...very easy to choose clips! :-)

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      A really nice first lens and features some of my favourite movies. Blessed by a Squid Angel :-)

    • sciencefictionn profile image

      sciencefictionn 7 years ago

      This lens is just fantastic. Congrats. 5*

    • profile image

      karate-lover 7 years ago

      Awesome lens! Love Christmas Vacation... 5* all the way!

    • profile image

      bdkz 7 years ago

      Welcome to Squidoo! Very nice lens : )

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 7 years ago

      What a great collection. I always have to watch It's a Wonderful Life at Christmas time.

    • strayspay profile image

      strayspay 7 years ago

      Very nice lens! Your selection includes many of my favorites too! I couldn't agree more with your comment: I really love these older films because morality was still in style and I miss that world.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 7 years ago

      Very well crafted lens here! I really enjoyed reading the infos that go with the movies - hard to find a good plot and you did it very well!

      Deserves 5 stars of course!

      Dom.