Monday, December 15, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Movie

Television has plenty of ways to get us into the holiday spirit. Some classic (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), some claptrap (Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer). I've sort of outgrown the Rankin-Bass claymation specials, but there are special Christmas movies that will never grow old for me. Here are my favorites:

1. It's a Wonderful Life - I watched this for the 27th (or maybe more!) last night. I still puddle up when Harry toasts his big brother George Bailey at the end of the movie. It's the best Christmas movie EVER.

2. Scrooge - The musical version of A Christmas Carol starring Albert Finney manages to infuse the Dickens classic with really catchy songs. Everything about this movie--from the costumes to the casting--is perfect.

3. Scrooged - For those wanting to avoid the saccharine-sweetness of most holiday-themed movies, the Bill Murray version of A Christmas Carol should suffice. It remains true to the original story even as it updates it to the modern-day.

4. Miracle on 34th Street - Yes, Susan Walker--there IS a Santa Claus! So determines the state of New York in one of the best courtroom scenes in any movie. Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle isn't as much sugar as he is spice. His is a bit of a confrontational, crochety Santa who's not above being a bit naughty (smacking down an annoying Macy's employee for example...) rather than just nice.

5. The Santa Clause - This Tim Allen vehicle is much darker than your average Christmas movie. The clever high-concept plot doesn't overwhelm the message and Allen does a great job at portraying the reluctant Santa Claus.

6. Elf - Will Ferrell's perpetual manchild finds the perfect combination of humor and heart in Buddy, the Christmas elf. I love the scene where he uses Legos and LightBrights to rig up Gimbel's in time for Santa's visit. And how could you not love a movie that incorporates the talents of Ed Asner and Bob Newhart?

7. White Christmas - Although the plot is merely a contrivance to feature the singing talents of Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby, it still manages to convey the best aspects of the season: friendship, loyalty, compassion, generosity and SNOW!

8. The Ref - Denis Leary finds out crime does not pay when he hides out at the Chasseurs. The dysfunctionality of Lloyd (Kevin Spacey) and Caroline (Judy Davis) makes the strain of most family gatherings pale in comparison.

9. Bad Santa - The tagline for this movie starring Billy Bob Thornton as a drunken, womanizing, thieving mall Santa is "He's very naughty...and not very nice." This isn't some schmaltzy Christmas special for the kiddies--but it's one of my favorites all the same. Hysterically funny--especially when Willie tears into Thurman's advent calendar--and then feeling remorseful, tries to rectify it by replacing the chocolates with aspirin, candy corn, etc.

10. Gremlins - You may not think of this as a Christmas movie, but it is set at Christmastime and the original "gremlin" was an ill-advised Christmas gift. The scene where Billy's mom fends off the evil gremlins who have invaded her kitchen is worth the price of the rental alone...


  1. Jimmy Stewart was wonderful in "It's a Wonderful Life." Albert Finney's was amazing in Scrooge -the musical. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye were a marvelous team in "White Christmas." But NOBODY beats BORIS KARLOFF IN "HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!"

  2. I agree completely--but I felt "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" was more of a TV Holiday special rather than a movie (Was it ever released theatrically? I don't think so...) which is why I didn't include on the list.

    I do love it, however, and find myself humming "Welcome Christmas" even when it's nowhere near the holiday...

  3. I am more of a "Your a Mean One Mr. Grinch" kind of a guy...