Who needs to go out when you can stay in and watch these gems?
Watching corny holiday movies on basic cable throughout the month of December is a national nostalgic pastime and a rite of passage for pretty much every American. Instead of a night out, spend a night or two in with friends and family and this list of classic holiday movies.
Favorite Holiday Movie of All Time:
No other Christmas movie gets me as excited as this cinematic masterpiece. Snarky, brave, sweet little misfit Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is the youngest in a jumbled family that accidentally forgets him at home in the melee of leaving to spend Christmas in Paris. Forced to fend for himself, you think he’s going to do just fine making well-balanced microwave dinners and buying toothbrushes by himself, but the Wet Bandits, busy burglarizing empty homes in his neighborhood over the holidays, have other plans. Watch Kevin outwit the nitwits, defend his home and learn some valuable lessons on self-preservation (see: shaving scene). The bustling family dynamic is effortless, and writer John Hughes recognized how the world looks through the eyes of children and adults alike, bringing both perspectives together in a way that feels honest and relevant even 22 years later. The score, composed by John Williams — especially Williams’ rendition of “Carol of the Bells” — is amazing. And I wish I could rent the made-for-the-movie gangster film Kevin watches, Angels with Filthy Souls. But I can’t. So I’ll just have to rent Home Alone. Keep the change, you filthy animal.
I vividly remember the first time I saw this wonderful, dialogue-free 1982 animated film, introduced by David Bowie. I was in the third grade, and completely entranced by the gorgeous score and simple story. A boy awakens to a huge snowfall and makes a snowman that comes to life that night. The pair become fast friends, and the snowman takes the boy on a magical journey, including a night-flight over London. The ending is the definition of bittersweet, perhaps the best allegory for childhood. My best friend reminded me of this movie; it’s funny what holiday films perfectly align with your friends’ and family members’ personalities and values. Hug your loved ones after watching The Snowman — it reminds you to cherish the fleeting time we spend together, another allegory exemplified during the crushingly busy holidays.
Best Stop-Motion Animation:
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This is my mom’s favorite holiday movie, and I have been indoctrinated in the clever (and vaguely creepy) world of stop-motion animation since childhood. Rudolph is born to reindeer Donner and his wife and is ostracized by most of the residents of the North Pole due to his seemingly defective glowing red nose (all of the reindeer laughed and called him names). Rudolph decides to run away with Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist, and stumbles upon the Island of Misfit Toys. The tale culminates with Rudolph’s nose saving Christmas. The music is great and the animation, while not Pixar-quality, has a more authentic feel. A whole slew of these great stop-motion films exist, and this particular uplifting story about finding acceptance is the longest-running Christmas TV special.
Best Example of Perseverance Paying Off:
A Christmas Story
Where do I even begin? Is it the yearly 24-hour TBS marathon of this 1983 classic? Or Ralphie Parker’s (Peter Billingsley) borderline-delusional attempts at securing a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas? So many hilarious vignettes, one-liners and subplots abound in this movie, it’s hard to pick the best (my favorite is anything involving Randy, the hilarious little brother). Basically, Ralphie really wants a BB gun for Christmas, but everyone tells him how dangerous it is. He’s not allowed to have it because the adults claim he’ll shoot his eye out — and he almost does. We observe Ralphie’s daily life in post-World War II Indiana (cue awesome costumes) as he doggedly pursues his Red Ryder, only to be foiled in various ways by various foes. The unsung hero of this movie is Ralphie’s cursing, leg-lamp-winning dad. But I think it was the narrator I fell in love with the first time I saw A Christmas Story, who I later learned was author Jean Shepherd, upon whose short stories the movie is based. I notice something new and amusing with every subsequent viewing of this film, but the ache for a simpler time always remains.
It’s A Wonderful Life
George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is the American dream personified. He makes hard decisions from a selfless place, and is equally rewarded and rejected. A sad turn of events leads travel-minded dreamer George to assume leadership of the family’s Bailey Building and Loan, setting him up for a far different (albeit happy) life with wife Mary and their four kids. The pressure of the small-town setbacks he repeatedly experiences reaches a breaking point when vital funds go missing from the business. George encounters his guardian angel, Clarence, at this low point, and wishes he’d never been born — and we all know how that goes. George is shown the lives of his loved ones as they struggle without his existence, and learns the impact he has had in his time. Uncle Billy, Clarence and Violet, the secondary characters, are my favorites because of their realism and humor — watch Clarence order a drink. The ripple effect in this movie has always been the most striking element for me, and the sentiment and tangibility of George’s desperation feels especially timely these days. I adore Stewart, and cry (sob) every single time I watch this movie. It stands the test of time with its accurate portrayal of the foibles we as humans encounter and overcome.
Miracle on 34th Street: “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.” Still doesn’t clear up for me whether Santa exists or not.
Die Hard: A friend told me this is his favorite Christmas movie, and I like Bruce Willis.
Babes in Toyland: Little Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves sing about Cincinnati during an adventure in Toyland. Yes, please.
Elf: Modern-day classic. Will Ferrell is ridiculously amusing as a man-child elf in New York City.