Top Ten Christmas Movies
My personal favorites
Christmas movies and Christmas music comprise two of my favorite holiday traditions. Starting on Thanksgiving Day, and continuing until New Year's Day, I love to watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music. I never tire of it, but my kids often begin rolling their eyes, as I delightedly pull out the box of movies from the garage, as soon as Halloween is over. In my opinion, there is nothing better than eating Halloween candy and watching great movies.
There are many Christmas movies, and the following list makes up my ten (or so) favorites. My husband has a favorite, which we own, and which didn't make the list, "Ernest Saves Christmas". In my humble opinion, this is the worst holiday movie ever. Well, wait a second. Maybe "Dennis the Menace Christmas" was worse, however, it ranks in the top ten of worst holiday movies, and after finishing this article, maybe I will start that list. There are, however, some people who enjoy those goofy slap-stick comedies, and Ernest Saves Christmas is one of those types of humor. You might discover that you enjoy it.
In the meantime, however, I thought I would share my list of personal favorites, just in time for the holidays.
Without further ado, my top ten favorite Christmas movies, probably in no particular order. Enjoy snuggling up with a bowl of popcorn, a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.
Buy the Movie Here
Your Life Matters to Everyone
1. It's A Wonderful Life: Directed by Frank Capra, and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, this classic tells the story of what would have happened had one man never been born. This is a great reminder that we are all important to someone.
Although this movie may seem cheesy to some, to me, it is a wonderful reminder about the beauty of our lives, and how we are all connected to each other. Everything we do and every person we touch is in some way important.
After watching this movie over and over, it still doesn't get old. I especially love to watch it when I am sad or feeling down. By the end, I am always in tears, and thankful for the beautiful life I have been given.
We are all here for a reason, and this movie reminds me that even though we may not know the exact reason for things in our lives, the purpose is often greater than we are. It is easy to get worn down and worn out, and "It's A Wonderful Life" helps refresh and restore. It gives a good perspective during what can be a very difficult time of year.
Although it is black and white, it remains a classic. Young children might not appreciate all the talking and the old-style videography, but as children reach their early teens, they too have an appreciation for the depth of the story.
This is a great movie to watch when you're feeling down or unappreciated, or you just want to get in the holiday spirit. Of course, staunch movie critics may complain that the film is too simplistic, but the beautiful message brings Christmas to life for me.
No man is a failure, if he has friends. And during the Christmas holiday, it is a wonderful time to reflect on the true value of your life, the lives you touch and the difference you make.
I want to live again...
A Christmas Carol
Best Versions of an old literary classic
2. A Christmas Carol: This classic favorite, originally written by Charles Dickens in 1843, has been remade so many times, there is bound to be one to suit the entire family. There are as many different versions of this inspiring classic as there are families.
The Muppets had a great remake, called, "A Muppet's Christmas Carol. This movie is entertaining for the entire family, from youngest to oldest.
Miss Piggy does a wonderful job as the bitter Mrs. Cratchet, bringing her unique pigginess to the character, adding a little mild venom toward Scrooge, and displaying empathy for her son Tiny Tim.
Kermit the Frog plays the weary Bob Cratchet. with all the depth and feeling a little green frog can muster. He is worn and battered, not only by his boss, Ebenezer Scrooge, but also by his long-suffering wife Miss Piggy. Kermit shows great emotion when dealing with their son Tiny Tim.
Michael Caine does an excellent job portraying Ebenezer Scrooge. He is grouchy, cold and distant. In the end, of course, Scrooge has a turn of heart, and Caine does an excellent job warming the character to the hearts of the viewers.
The mice and rats offer comic relief throughout the movie. They are funny, sneaky and just a little bit charming. The humor throughout the movie is sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy, while children almost always love the Muppets. This is a great family night movie, for young and old.
My personal favorite version, starring George C. Scott, was made in 1984. Scott brings new depth to the Scrooge character, and portrays him as both despicable and sorrowful. The three ghosts are also quite well done, and the ghost of Christmas present is particularly interesting.
This is a great version of the story, and it never fails to stir my heart strings. The characters and story line may be a little difficult for young viewers to follow, but teens and adults will enjoy this version of the movie.
Another favorite, starring Bill Murray, is "Scrooged", offers a humorous take on this classic tale. Bill Murray takes the lead roll, as an overworked television producer. Karen Allen is the love interest who softens his heart. The ghosts in this movie are quite well done, and the ghost of the future is especially scary. In addition, Bobcat Goldthwaite plays a long-suffering employee seeking revenge. His role lightens up the movie and gives a good laugh. The ghost of Christmas present if funny and a little sadistic, but the Bill Murray character deserves every bit of her good-natured torture.
There are many different versions, some funny, some silly and some are kind of scary. The message, however, remains mostly the same. It is never too late to do the right thing. We can make a choice, in each moment, how we will act, and who we want to be. In the end, even old grumpy Scrooge found he could be a happy person, and that is the true meaning of the movie, and the meaning of the holiday season, for me. There is always an opportunity to be kind, generous and loving, and until we are dead, it is never too late.
Miracle on 34th Street Remake
It's a Miracle
3. Miracle on 34th Street: This movie is so good, they made two! The first, made in 1947, starred Maureen O'hara and Natalie Wood. Edmund Gwenn won an Academy Award for best supporting actor, for his role as Santa Claus. His character is unbeatable, kind, funny and caring. Natalie Wood plays the young Susan, who so desperately wants to believe in Santa Claus. Her mother is played by Maureen O'hara, and while some of the old acting styles seem comical now, the movie is well done. It is worth watching, especially if you enjoy old black and white movies. Again, it may drag on for youngsters of this generation, who are used to fast action and bright colors, but adults will enjoy the quieter presentation. This is a classic movie, and will be appreciated by anyone who enjoys a good story and doesn't mind black and white cinematography.
The 1994 remake was remarkably done as well. It starred Richard Attenborough as the memorable Kris Kringle. Also, Elizabeth Perkins, as the mom and Mara Wilson as her delightful daughter both bring their characters to life, and give them unique personalities.
Mara Wilson is not only sweet, but also genuine in her role as Susan. She is charming thought the movie, but not sickeningly so. The movie is cute, and even still seems up to date. It doesn't seem to have old fashioned values or outdated beliefs. It is a wholesome movie that can help you remember the magic of Christmas, and believe that yes indeed, magic does exist.
Both of these movies are so sweet. For me, they represent the idea that Santa Claus is more than just a person who brings presents. The holiday spirit is about doing something nice for someone else. We can all do something for someone, if we put our mind to it. Santa Claus isn't the only one who can give, who can love and who can brighten a day. We can all endeavor to make life a little nicer for those around us, and to make the world a better place. If you set your mind to it, you could probably make someone's heart's desire become a reality.
I am Santa Claus
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
His Heart Was Two Sizes Too Small
4. The Grinch: The book, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", was written as a picture book for children by Dr. Seuss in 1957. The story lives on in animated version, as well as a film version. These two movies are two of my favorite Christmas movies.
The animated version came out in 1966, with the narration and voice of the Grinch by Boris Karloff. His depth and emotion bring the story alive. I remember as a child, being enthralled by little Cindy Lou Who, who discovered the Grinch stealing the Christmas Tree. Karloff's delightful narrative brings the Dr. Seuss book to life, and the dog Max is especially poignant in the animated version. And the song at the end of that movie always chokes me up. This short movie is great for children of all ages. The animation is never "old" and the songs and narration are captivating for kids of all ages. It will keep the attention of the youngest and the oldest.
Directed by Ron Howard, the 2000 release of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (also known simply as "The Grinch") stars Jim Carrey as the Grinch, and includes a talented cast of characters. While it follows the heart of the original story, "The Grinch" adds a lot of detail to an otherwise short story. Ron Howard creates a beautiful and chaotic world where the Who's are busy living their unique lives.
I didn't think the remake could possible be as good as the cartoon, but Jim Carrey does a magnificent job, portraying the Grinch. And once again, the Who's down in Whoville are outstanding. The movie tells the back story of the Grinch, his childhood and why he became the way he is today. It is a creative endeavor that works, for the whole family. While the movie has received mixed reviews, it remains a favorite in our family.
Both movies are good reminders that the true meaning of Christmas really has nothing to do with presents, and has everything to do with spending time with the people you love. As the animated version reminds us, "Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more."
The original Grinch
What should I wear?
Ralphie and the Red Ryder
You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!
5. A Christmas Story: This 1983 movie tells the story of Ralphie, a boy who wants a Red Ryder air rifle. There are many sub-plots that make this a holiday hit. It is funny for kids young and old, and the humor is sophisticated enough to make adults laugh out loud.
First off, narrated by Ralph, the story tells about a boy in the 1950s who's greatest dream is a Red Ryder BB Gun. But every adult in his life warns him that he will shoot his eye out. Ralph dreams of this apex of gifts, but fails to tell Santa what he really wants. Eventually, however, Ralph receives the best present he could imagine, a Red Ryder BB Gun.
But when Ralphy does shoot his eye out, he has to make it seem like an accident.
And who doesn't love the scene when the kid licks the flagpole and sticks his tongue to the cold metal? After seeing that movie as a kid, the first thing I did was lick a frozen flag pole, just to see if it would really stick. Let me warn you now, your tongue will stick to a frozen flag pole. Just a warning.
And the parents in the movie are hilarious. The iconic leg lamp has become a cult-classic decoration for many fans of the movie. Both parents offer a glimpse into what parenting is really like during the holiday's.
This great movie takes up back to a simpler time, when kids got chased by bullies, stood up for themselves, and dreamed fantastic dreams by the radio at night. It is a delightful reminder of a simpler time, but it is funny as well. While there is no overarching moral to the story, it is a humorous holiday movie that will have you laughing throughout, and longing for a time when things seemed so much simpler.
The Peanuts Gang
6. A Charlie Brown Christmas: First airing in 1965, this animated special was one of CBS's most popular and successful special broadcasts. With the great jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi and the memorable reading from the Gospel of Luke, this is a perennial family favorite. This movie appeals to all audiences. The animation will keep young children entertained and most adults love the reminder of their childhood Christmas's.
I love Charlie Brown. My kids love Charlie Brown. He is simple and unadorned. As I've gotten older, I really appreciate the soundtrack to this movie. There was some speculation that a jazz soundtrack for a children's movie might not be well received. The reality is that the music is a nice departure from the usual cheesy music that sometimes accompanies Christmas time.
The music and Linus' speech at the end, really make this movie a favorite. At the end of the movie, Linus reads from the bible, in the book of Luke, and shares the true meaning of Christmas.
And when Charlie Brown picks a sad tree, Linus explains why that is alright. I also enjoy Schroder's playing of the piano, and Pigpen dancing, surrounded by dust. This movie is a holiday classic that should not be missed.
It reminds us all of the true meaning of Christmas, again reiterating that the holiday is not about presents and trees, but about spending time with people you love, and ultimately celebrating the birth of Christ.
The True Reason for the Season
This is Not My Beautiful House
Is This My LiIfe?
7. The Family Man: Starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni (check out the hot shower scene. This mom rocks!) Not only does Nicholas Cage do an excellent job portraying a rich Wall Street tycoon, he also does a great job as the family guy, who works in a tire store. And Tia Leoni is not only gorgeous, but she also reminds you of why you would want to be married. There is more to life than money and prestige.
The movie is a take on the Christmas Carol theme, with someone seeing how life could be different, and deciding for themselves what is most important. It is a decision that we all must make, at some point in our lives, and in this movie, Nicholas Cage has quite a time deciding what he really wants.
This film, released in 2000, causes one to pause and reflect on what is truly important, and to ponder if one's life reflects these values. What do you truly value in your life, and who do you want to be? Some years I want to be the rich guy, and some years, I want to be the family guy.
I just love the message of this movie. You can have fame and fortune, but family is really what makes life matter. In the end, family is all you have. The character in the movie, Jack, takes a while to discover what is truly important, but when he finally does, it makes your heart sing with joy. While prestige and money seem nice, they ring empty and hollow when stacked up against the fullness of family.
The kids in the movie are particularly entertaining. While younger audiences might not appreciate the nuances of the movie, older kids and adults will delight in the message of family.
This is not my life...
Love is All Around Us
All You Need is Love
8. Love Actually: This movie offers a touching look at the lives of several people during the week leading up to Christmas. Not every story has a happy ending, but in the end, we all have to get through our lives. This 2003 film stars Hugh Grant, and is a comedy and love story. It begins with reunion scenes at Heathrow Airport, and even the beginning makes you realize how important love is.
I'll admit it. The first time I watched this movie, I kind of hated it. It was confusing. I couldn't figure out what each subplot had to do with the other. (Okay, I may or may not have had a glass or two of wine.) It seemed confusing and unconnected. But after hearing so many rave reviews, I gave the movie another chance. And I'm glad I did. It took two or three times, but once I finally understood the premise, a glimpse into several loosely connected character's lives, then I could piece together the story.
After watching this movie many times, I really love it. It shows the hard sides of love, of loss and forgiveness. We do what we must to carry on, and how we survive as humans at many different stages of life looks different for each one of us. It touches on young, adolescent love, marriage, infidelity, death and work place romance, just to name a few themes. This movie boldly explores these common love situations, and examines different ways to get through life, love and loss. It is a far reaching story about love and life.
In the end,everyone realized that the only thing that really matters is love. And in the end, everyone needs love in their lives, no matter how old, how jaded or how bitter they have grown.
We started out as friends
9. When Harry Met Sally: This 1989 romantic comedy isn't really a Christmas movie, per se. However, as the most important scene (the last one) takes place over Christmas and New Years Eve, I always watch it during the holidays. And the Harry Conick soundtrack is awesome. Technically, it's not Christmas music, but I've added it to my holiday playlist for variety.
I love the fact that Harry and Sally break up and get together, and share the holiday's and learn how important friendship is to true love. They spend many years of their lives learning about each other and becoming friends.
That is the message of the movie. Friendship endures through the trials and tribulations of life, and eventually, love can develop from these. It shows how important friendship is for long lasting love. This is a sweet love story, and a great movie to watch during the holiday season.
Stop Motion Classics
10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town: These stop motion animation cartoons are holiday classics. Rudolph came out in 1964, followed by Frosty in 1969 and Santa Claus is coming to Town in 1970.
These movies were television standards when I was a kid, and starred the voices of such greats as Jimmy Durante and Fred Astaire. These three movies can be purchased as a boxed set, and will entertain your family for at least 90 minutes. They are cute and the songs are catchy. Little kids will enjoy the cartoons, older kids will hopefully enjoy the message, and adults will be awash with nostalgia as they watch these classics.
The appeal of the stop motion animation is timeless. My kids are as entranced with these movies as I continue to be. And who doesn't love Herby the Dentist? The movies are simple, fun and clean. They are a great addition to any family movie collection. And their sweet messages about things like loyalty, friendship and not judging others are softly presented, rather than beating kids and parents over the head.
These classic movies are longtime favorites, with memorable soundtracks. You will be singing the Heat Meister song long after the stockings are down.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
A few other holiday greats
Prancer is a beautiful movie about a little girl who's mother died. She wonders if there really is a God, and if so, then why he decided to take her mom back to heaven.
One of the most beautiful scenes in the movie is when her father reads to her from the article in the old Sun newspaper, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus"
The dad finally learns the importance of loving and accepting his daughter, just the way she is.. This movie is sweet and touching, and a beautiful Christmas about the importance of family.
Chevy Chase does an awesome job in Christmas Vacation, especially if you enjoy his type of humor, which I do. I particularly love the squirrel scene. This slapstick comedy is fun to watch, and always elicits lots of laughs from my entire family. We never grow tired of Uncle Eddy.
Finally, the Home Alone movies always crack me up. And, having left a kid behind once or twice, I can sympathize with the mother. The first two are especially good, creative and funny. The third and fourth movies seem to try and capitalize on the franchise without improving or renewing the plot. For my money and my holiday enjoyment, I stick with the first two movies of the series.
That, in a nutshell, is a list of my favorite holiday movies. I hope you enjoy watching them, with or without your family.
© 2010 Deborah Demander Reno