Every December, I make it a point to watch and re-watch my favorite holiday movies. Some years I go full on Christmas-crazy and watch everything from Home Alone to The Holiday (don’t judge). Other years I stick to the tried and true classics. This particular year, I’ve found myself with some extra time on my hands (hooray, unemployment!) and might set a personal record. We’ll see.
I hesitate to call this a Christmas list because I celebrate Christmas is the very loosest sense. I’m not religious. I’ve sat in on a Hanukkah dinner or two. By Christmas, I really mean the cultural appropriation of the religious holiday, not the religious holiday itself. Got it? Ok, good.
Anyway. My Top 10 films might surprise you. Beloved classics like It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story didn’t make the cut. These are the movies that, along with sugar cookies and spiced wine, truly get me in the “Christmas” spirit.
You either love or hate Love Actually. Ten years later, there are still obsessed fans and bitter dissidents duking it out on the Internet. I’ll get more into Love Actually later in the week, but I will say this: I unabashedly adore this movie. I love the characters, I love the stories… I cry at particular moments each and every time I watch it. Love Actually makes me feel like less of a cynic. No, I wouldn’t classify it as a romantic comedy, and yes, many of the stories are not romantic. That’s not the point. The point is that, to me, it’s just plain lovely.
If you don’t have Home Alone on your all-time-favorite-Christmas-movies list, I don’t know if we can be friends. It’s like people who say they hate Mexican food. I inherently do not trust them. Every kid who watched Home Alone secretly plotted out their future booby traps and escapades away from the parents. I almost included Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on this list, because it’s basically the same exact movie except in New York, and with a creepy old bird lady instead of a creepy old neighbor man.
The Santa Clause
Ohhh, Tim Allen. Remember when Tim Allen was one of the quintessential TV dads? I never really watched Home Improvement, but after The Santa Clause Tim Allen joined the ranks of Robin Williams (circa Hook) and Tom Hanks (forever) as my favorite dad actors. As an only child to a very busy lawyer padre, The Santa Clause resonated on a deep, personal level. I mean, who didn’t secretly wish their dad would turn out to be someone magical like Peter Pan or Santa Clause? Just me? Ok, moving along…
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A 1960s TV special! Somewhat creepy, incredibly impressive stop-motion animation! The misfit toys! Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had it all. Burl Ives croons holiday jams like “A Holly Jolly Christmas” as Rudolph discovers that it’s ok to be different. Rankin/Bass produced a bunch of wacky animated classics throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s (The Last Unicorn, anyone?) but Rudolph is one of their most beloved.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Alright, you caught me. I cheated. The Nightmare Before Christmas is on both my Halloween and Christmas movie lists. I’m hoping you’ll let it slide. The movie is obviously conducive to both holidays and it’s been one of my favorite movies since I was a young, pouty little thing. It’s never leaving either list, so you can just deal with it.
Somehow, some way, I will get my boyfriend to watch Elf with me. I haven’t figured out exactly how yet, but it WILL happen. For some bizarre reason, he hates Elf. “But what about Mr. Narwhal?” I ask. “What about Will Ferrell?” Alas, he is a big grump who clearly does not understand the true meaning of Christmas. Luckily, I know Jamie will always watch it with me.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
I’m referring to the 1964 animated classic here, and not Jim Carey’s bizarre live action “re-imagining” from a few years ago. True, some folks out there might enjoy Carey’s version after a puff or two, but there’s no denying that the original is a true Christmas classic. (Although, to be honest, this one would also be fun under the influence. Drink every time there’s a rhyme?)
But Rachel… Isn’t Gremlins a movie about adorable little mogwai who turn into devious, life-destroying monsters if you feed them after midnight? Wouldn’t you consider this a horror comedy, and not a Christmas movie? You’re not wrong, voice in my head. BUT. Gremlins is set during Christmas. A lot of very Christmasy jokes take place. Gizmo himself is an early Christmas gift! Plus, Joe Dante. I rest my case.
There was a time when Die Hard was considered a strange choice for a Christmas movie list. Thankfully over the past twenty-five years everyone wised up. (Gah. That movie is as old as me. Should I feel young or old?) John McClane is a down on his luck NY cop who discovers the true meaning of Christmas and family and blah blah blah. Die Hard is awesome. It’s awesome every day of the year, but it’s especially awesome on Christmas. There also HAS to be some sort of Hans Gruber as Ebenezer Scrooge essay out there in the ether. Google it.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Everyone references Iron Man as Robert Downey Jr.’s come-back film, but the honor really goes to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a witty neo-noir dark comedy from writer/director Shane Black (Iron Man 3). Without revealing too much, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes a crummy street thief masquerading as an actor (Robert Downey Jr.), a fey LA private eye (Val Kilmer), and a sassy struggling actress (Michelle Monaghan) and throws them into a murder mystery that takes place on, you guessed it, Christmas. It’s insanely clever and a ton of fun. If you’ve never seen this movie, you are truly missing out. Add it to your holiday movie list immediately.
There are, of course, several other movies that almost made the list. Honorable mentions include Scrooged, A Muppet Christmas Carol, Bad Santa, and Edward Scissorhands.
I’ll be watching at LEAST these ten over the next two weeks, but what about you? What are your favorite Christmas/holiday films?