The best part of Christmas for me? The tradition of snuggling down with some coffee and watching Christmas movies all day; sometimes with friends, sometimes by myself. There are films that get switched out, but here are five that I always come back to year after year. Please note that this list is highly subjective and there are films that were never under consideration (I hate Jingle All The Way with the fire of a thousand suns and I’ve never seen all of Die Hard.) So here we go:
It’s A Wonderful Life
I know!!! But hear me out. The Christmas aspect only takes up the last bit of the film and it is saccharine, but that’s not why I like this film. Linda Holmes from the podcast “Pop Culture Happy Hour” nailed it in an encore episode from 2010 I heard the other day. She said this film is about a man who is so very angry because of all the sacrifices he’s had to make for the greater good. We tend to think people who make great sacrifices in their personal lives do it out of a sense of joy and little thought to themselves. Jimmy Stewart shows us that continually doing that wears a person down. Of course, this being Hollywood, everything gets wrapped up in a tight little bow in the end, but I like what the film had to say while getting there. There are problematic elements to this movie; Bailey refusing to give back his future wife’s robe as she hiding naked in the bushes is a biggie, but overall, I have a deep appreciation of this movie.
Santa Claus: The Movie
This is my obscure movie and I’m curious to see if anyone else knows of it. I haven’t actually seen this one in years, but it always sticks in my mind because I loved it as a kid. (Though it kind of terrified me. More on that in a bit.) This movie stars Dudley Moore and John Lithgow playing a villain that’s straight out of a pulp fiction novel. The movie covers two timelines: the first is the origins of how Santa and Mrs. Claus came to be and how Santa ended up giving gifts to children all over the world on Christmas Eve. The second deals with one of Santa’s elves, Patch (Moore) who strikes out on his own and gets mixed up with an evil toymaker from New York City. Christmas is in danger, but then of course is saved and all the children of the world still get their toys. So it’s your basic feel-good film, but there are some dark elements in this story and I remember being kind of creeped out as a child. Of course, this made me want to watch the film even more.
I love Elf. It’s so silly and ridiculous and shouldn’t work, but it does. That’s mainly thanks to Will Ferrell’s performance and some great one-liners that are perfect for random quoting and gif-making. The beginning is a little slow and the film drags towards the end, but the middle is so great. One viewing and I’ll be quoting lines for the rest of the day.
The longevity of this movie isn’t in the physical slapstick comedy; you laugh really hard on the first viewing and then it loses its luster. What keeps me coming back to this movie is the absolutely brilliant comedic performances from Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. It’s the thing you appreciate as you get older. Fun fact: the mumbling that Pesci does every time Kevin gets the drop on him is the only way to keep Pesci from dropping the f-bomb as he was known to do. It’s still my favorite part of the movie to this day. The following clip pulls from Home Alone and Home Alone 2.
I know this movie has its haters. They have good reason; there are some problematic elements to this film for sure. Its sweetness at times rivals It’s a Wonderful Life, but it has some great performances and some storylines I love. The scene of Emma Thompson standing in her bedroom while Joni Mitchell plays and her world is shattered breaks my heart every time. There’s the under-appreciated storyline of the porn stand-ins, Hugh Grant dancing through the prime minister’s residence, and Colin Firth being awkward. The film also has inspired a saying amongst some Tumblr friends that is handy in many different scenarios: “Always fuck Karl.” We will ignore the storyline of the guy obsessed with his best friend’s new wife, which I once thought was romantic and now recognize as creepy. I love this film and it is a must-see every year for me. I even live-blog it sometimes.
So that’s my top five. What are your favorite Christmas movies?