Hello again dear readers. With Christmas rapidly approaching, there are countless Christmas movies on the Television. This reminded me of two things:
1) It made me remember all of the good times I had as a kid watching these with my family.
2) That it has been a long time since I’ve actually sat down and watched a Christmas movie.
So for this article, I decided to go back and watch various Christmas Movies, some old, some new, some classic, some contemporary, and judge which ones are great films even without rose-colored glasses of childhood tilting me towards idealism. Now without further adieu, grab some Christmas cookies and pop on a sweater, because this time, I am reviewing old Christmas Movies.
Here they are in no specific order:
Probably the movie that put Will Ferrell in the radar, this film is positively hysterical. Following the story of a human raised in the North Pole by Santa’s elves, and his attempts to find his place back in human society. Defiantly a must see.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
While I admit I am not a fan of this Christmas themed comedy, it is a staple in many peoples Christmas favorites, so I had to include it. Like alot of the other National Lampoon films, it follows the Griswold family as over-enthusiastic father Clark tries to have the best Christmas ever with disastrous results. If nothing else, this film points out that as bad as your family’s holiday is, there are undoubtedly no way it went worse than this dysfunctional family.
The Family Stone (2005)
Another in a line of chick flicks where the mother is dying of cancer, this film was painfully slow going. Normally, this would just be because it’s a chick flick, but even a lot of women I know aren’t to impressed with this incredibly dry film. Unless there is almost nothing else available to watch, stay away from this forgettable film.
Die Hard (1988)
What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ than to watch Bruce Willis single-handedly clear a skyscraper full of terrorists? While it is kind of a stretch to include it on this list, I just simply could not ignore this classic action movie which just so happens to revolve around a Christmas Party that gets crashed by terrorists. For action junkies like myself, this is a Christmas classic.
The Santa Clause Trilogy (1994, 2004, 2006)
Tim Allen plays an advertising executive who one Christmas Eve, accidentally kills Santa Clause, and has to take his place as the new Kris Kringle. While definitely a more family oriented film, it is enjoyable. The two sequels are your standard badly made Disney movie sequels, and I recommend you steer clear.
Home Alone 1 & 2 (1990 & 1992)
This pair of films (I ignored 3 and 4 for good reason) features generous helpings of slapstick comedy in the form of Kevin McCallister, who is left home accidentally by his family when they leave for the family Christmas vacation, and goes to New York instead of Florida in the sequel. He does remarkably well for himself both times, having fun while learning life lessons, and even defeating a couple of bumbling home invaders by means of several brilliant (and funny) booby traps. Both feature child star Macaulay Culkin before he went off the deep end.
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, this comedy satirizes the ever increasing commercialization of Christmas as these two go to any length to get their son the hottest holiday toy. Not to everyones taste I’m sure, especially since alot of people are not fans of comedies with Schwarzenegger in them, its worth a watch.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A classic in every regard. The story follows a department store Santa Claus, who insists he is the real Santa. In the process he inspires the people of New York, culminating even the skeptics warming up to him. If this movie doesn’t make the case for Santa, nothing will. Timeless, if you have never seen it, do so at once.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton’s dark stop-motion classic and perennial favorite among the Gothic crowd, this tale follows Jack Skellington, King of Halloween as he discovers Christmas and tries to do his own rendition of the holiday. For those of you with a flair for fantasy or taste for the surreal, Tim Burton is more than happy to deliver.
The Polar Express (2004)
Based off of one of my favorite childhood Christmas stories, I was in my mid-teens when this film came out. Even at the time, this adaptation proved a disappointment. Mich like Zemicks other recent films like ‘Beowulf’ and coincidentally ‘The Christmas Carol’, the film relies mainly on 3D CGI effects, and as a result, almost every other aspect falls short, to say nothing of getting mired in the uncanny valley. Adulthood has only made this even more apparent. Unlike the timeless classic book it is based of off, the movie was dead on arrival for anybody above age 12.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, this one was awful… Even as a kid I hated this movie. It would seem adulthood was only steeped my hatred for this film even further. The premise is that Santa Claus is abducted by Martians so he will make toys for Martian children. Worse yet, contrary to the title, there is no actual conquest of Mars involved in any way. A dud even when it was released in the 60’s, these days it is mainly used to fill bargain bins and for episodes of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’. Arguably one of the worst movies ever made, watch at your own risk.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Few are better with catchy poetry than Dr. Suess, so it should come as no surprise that the cartoon based of his classic tale is a staple for many people. Following the tale of a grouchy green creature who despises his upbeat Christmas celebrating neighbors and his plot to ruin their holiday is just an all around feel-good-film. While watching, don’t be surprised to feel your heart grow three sizes.
Rankin/Bass Christmas Cartoons (various)
I will always remember Rankin/Bass Productions for their animated version of the Hobbit, but far more people are familiar with their classic Christmas specials, which include ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, and ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’. Most of them involve stop-motion animation that many people have come to associate with Christmas specials. While I enjoyed them as a kid, I find them endearing even today, albeit now more for it’s over-the-top cheesiness. Still, it counts for something.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
One of a surprisingly large number of slasher films set around Christmas, this particular film and it’s four sequels feature a rampaging killer dressed as Santa Claus. Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “You better watch out”, the film has ignited its fair share of controversy and has a small cult following. Not for the faint of heart, I myself am not a fan, but I have friends who swear by it.
A Christmas Carol (1984 and 1999)
There have to have been dozens of movie adaptations to Charles Dickens’ classic tale of holiday inspired redemption. These dozens range in quality and style, ranging from the original black and whites, the recent 3D Jim Carrey version, and even a version staring Mickey Mouse and another with the Muppets. The good news is there are two movies that near perfection as far as the original story. These two happen to be the 1984 version starring George C. Scott and the 1999 version starring Patrick Stewart. If you want to see a version of this classic tale, those two are as good as as they get.
A Christmas Story (1983)
Christmas movies really thrive off of Nostalgia, so it should come as no surprise that one movie really Captured that yearning for Nostalgia perfectly in the form of the movie ‘A Christmas Story’. Set in the Midwest in the 1940s, the movie follows 9-year old Ralphie, who just wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. All sorts of hijinks’s ensue before then, including the world’s naughtiest table lamb and an important lesson on licking icy poles (ie, don’t). Providing the audience with a nice slice of classic Americana and topped with good amounts of humor for people of all ages and sizes, I recommend watching this film highly.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Last year I almost fainted when a Ukrainian friend of mine replied that she had never heard of this classic Christmas special. This timeless film, featuring Charles Schultz beloved Peanuts gang, is about as good as Christmas cartoons come in my opinion. The story follows Charlie Brown as he tries to find the true meaning of Christmas, in the middle of trying to direct a Christmas play. Whether it be Charlie Brown trying to keep his Christmas Tree alive, Snoopy and his antics, or Linus’ monologue on the reason for the season, there is just so much to love about this film. If you have seen it, go watch it again. If not, go find a copy and watch it. I just hope you don’t need to find one in Russian like I did.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Christmas films don’t get any better than this movie. Featuring James Stewart as George Bailey, a down on his luck owner of a loan company. Humble and selfless, he repeatedly gives up his own dreams for the betterment of his hometown of Bedford Falls. His continued sacrifices help many people around him, and he never asked anything in return. Following a bank error, a warrant is issued for his arrest. On the brink of suicide, he is saved at the last minute by his guardian angel, Clarence.
Clarence then grants him a vision of an alternate history where he was never born, a vivid vision of how the world is different without him. His hometown of Bedford Falls is now a run down skid row called Pottersville. Many people he helped are either criminals, broken or dead. His own brother drowned because he was not there to save him, and in turn, dozens of soldiers his brother saved on the beaches of Normandy instead died in World War II. His wife Mary is a lonely librarian.
Filled with a new appreciation for life, he returns home just in time for the entire community to rally behind him, repaying him for years of kindness. His crimes forgiven, he realizes although he put aside his dreams, he has something far more valuable: a family and a community he loves, and loves him back unconditionally.
Almost half a century later, this heartwarming movie is a beloved personification of everything Christmas should represent: family, friends, goodwill towards mankind, and the simple joy of being alive. Though referanced or parodied countless times, nothing is equal to the original, and you must see it at once this holiday season.