The 10 Most Popular Christmas Movies
Get in the Spirit with Nightly Holiday Movies
Watching holiday movies is as much a part of Christmas tradition as tree trimming, cookie baking and shopping. And with Netflix, DVDs and Tivo, you don't have to wait for your favorites to air or choose between watching and caroling!
Here's a list of my personal faves, guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
As a young girl, I looked forward to Charlie Brown as the official kickoff to December. This simple animated show manages to cram in about 100 life lessons into 1/2 hour. Charles Schulz's Peanuts gang decides to stage a play with -- guess who -- as its director. Lucy angles for a gift from the piano-playing Schroeder, while Charlie's younger sister Sally makes up her own list for Santa ("All I want is what's coming to me. All I want is my fair share!"). Snoopy goes uber-commercial, decorating his doghouse to the hilt.
MM comments: The day Charles Schultz died I happened to be shopping at a downtown mall. A TV crew caught me on the way out and asked for my opinion. I couldn't think of what to say, but my spontaneous dance moves made the evening news!
Which Peanuts character is your favorite dancer?
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
The primitive claymation may be cheesy by today's animation standards, but to me that makes it all the more precious. Gotta love the pairing of a misfit reindeer (Rudolph) with a misfit elf (Hermey, who aspires to be a dentist). And of course there's redemption all around at the end, especially for Rudolph, who not only gets the girl (Clarice) but goes down in history for guiding Santa's sleigh.
Burl Ives is the narrator/snowman singing the classics, "Silver and Gold" and "Holly, Jolly Christmas."
MM comments: I remember when this was sponsored by Norelco. Couldn't tell you who sponsors it now!
Bill Murray at his best (then again, when isn't he?) as modern-day Ebenezer Scrooge/TV executive Frank Cross. Hates Christmas. Visited by three ghosts, transforms to nice guy -- the plot's familiar, but Murray makes it unique.
MM comments: Carol Kane is hysterical as the Ghost of Christmas Present!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Mean, green Mr. Grinch plots to stop Christmas from coming to Whoville. He steals everything that's not nailed down. Guess what? It comes anyway. Dr. Seuss adds the whimsy while Boris Karloff narrates in his deep, insidious voice.
MM comments: Favorite scene is when the Grinch taps the candy cane from the fingers of the sleeping baby Whos. How low can you go?
White Christmas (1954)
Is this a comedy? A love story? A musical? A tribute to WWII soldiers? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, successful entertainers, hook up with sister act Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. They head north to a Vermont Inn, which turns out to be run by General Waverly, who happened to be BC and DK's commanding officer. Great singing, dancing, romancing, and a happy, snowy ending.
MM comments: I start bawling as soon as they hit the inn and don't stop till RC puts the white knight into Bingo's sack.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Christmas as seen through the bespectacled eyes of Ralphie, an 8-year-old midwestern boy. Let's just say Ralphie has quite the imagination. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, given his wacky (but endearing) family. There's real love and affection underneath the constant comedic happenings, as Ralphie tries to convince his parents to get him a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.
MM comments: For those who might romanticize Christmas in a snowy climate, consider this lesson. Ralphie's friend Flick finds out the hard way that tongues do stick to freezing metal.
Bar none, the funniest Will Ferrell movie ever. Ferrell plays Buddy, a normal-sized human raised among elves. Buddy sets off for New York City to find his real dad, a very reluctant James Caan. Buddy is the quintessential overgrown kid in a candycane shop. As he bumps up against the wonders and the realities of non-elf life, his wide-eyed enthusiasm is contagious (to everyone but Caan, that is). More than a just a feel-good movie, it's about tolerance and acceptance.
MM comments: My husband's favorite scene is when Buddy jumps into the family Christmas tree. Must be a guy thing. Me, I like his four sugar-based food groups -- now that's my kind of diet!
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
This little-known gem is my personal favorite. Could it be because the heroine is a magazine writer? Barbara Stanwyck writes a food/lifestyle column for Smart Housekeeping under the pen name Elizabeth Lane (imagine Martha Stewart circa 1945). No one's the wiser that she's not really married and doesn't live on a farm in Connecticut -- until her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) and a WWII Navy hero (Dennis Morgan) invite themselves for Christmas. A delightful romp ensues.
MM comments: The ends definitely justify the means ...and getting there is a lot of fun.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's always a toss-up whether to watch this one or A Christmas Carol closest to Christmas. I usually prefer them in this order.
What can I say about this Frank Capra classic? It is a wonderful film. How can you go wrong with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as George and Mary Bailey .. plus an angel named Clarence? Running out of holiday cheer? Feeling like 2008 is a little too much like 1929? Stick this into the DVD player and you'll soon get over yourself and into the spirit!
MM comments: Shows that true acts of heroism usually go uncelebrated, but certainly not unrewarded.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
If you don't know this Dickens tale, I bet you at least know the famous lines, "Bah, humbug" and "God bless us, everyone!" A miserly, mean old Englishman named Scrooge (whose name has become synonymous with miserly and mean) hates Christmas and everything associated with it. On Christmas Eve he's visited by three ghosts who show him the error of his ways.
MM comments: There are color, b/w and animated versions to choose from. For my money, the 1951 version, with Alastair Simm as Scrooge, is the best. Others may prefer the 1938 original with Reginald Owen or later versions with George C. Scott (1984) or Kelsey Grammer (2004).