We all have our own personal movie favorites to watch at Christmas time. For most the preferred film is It’s a Wonderful Life. For me it’s an eclectic mix of expected and unexpected films that fills me with holiday cheer.
So here is my obligatory top ten Christmas movie list. This is not to say that this list summarizes what I consider to be the best movies made about Christmas, but more which movies are the ones I watch every year. So, though Christmas may not be the overall theme, it does play a part in the film somewhere.
Perhaps the time of year abates my testosterone so you won’t find Lethal Weapon, Die Hard or Die Hard 2: Die Ridiculouser on the list. Although Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a mighty close also-ran.
Nor will you find popular classics like White Christmas or the aforementioned Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra collaboration. In fact, only one film predating the 1990s makes an appearance here… and that movie isn’t really a movie at all.
Probably the most glaring omission would be Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story. Yes, I love the film. However, for some reason, I have not fully revisited it since I initially experienced it as a nascent teenager. Each year I keep threatening to get it on DVD and each year I neglect to do so. Until that time, I can’t really put it on my list of annual viewing choices.
But enough prologue. Let’s begin…
- Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
I didn’t grow up watching the original Natalie Wood version. In truth, this Les Mayfield remake was the first incarnation I ever viewed. Though the climax is completely at odds with what are my politics regarding US currency, Richard Attenborough’s positively charming Santa Claus more than makes up for any faults that this film may have. When he talks to the little girl in sign language, it’s absolutely touching.
- While You Were Sleeping (1995)
For some reason, this holiday gem was released in April. A pleasantly unassuming romantic comedy that features wonderful performances by Sandra Bullock — in her first starring role — and Bill Pullman, who graduated from love interest to ass-kicking, fighter-piloting leader of the free world the following summer.
- Beauty & the Beast (1991)
Yes, I know. Technically, this Oscar nominee has absolutely no association with Christmas. However, I’m going to sneak it in on two technicalities. First is that I watch it every year at Christmas time. Second is the fact that the direct-to-video Beauty and the Beast: An Enchanted Christmas purports to take place within the timeline of this film… So there.
- Star Trek: Generations (1994)
Many people revile this film simply in and of itself. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this torch-passing adventure. Think it has no connection to Christmas? Think again. When Captain Jean-Luc Picard disappears into the nexus, he finds himself smack-dab in the middle of a gloriously Dickensian Christmas holiday with the family he’s always wanted.
- Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (2001)
The first two Harry Potter movies in general, and Chris Columbus in particular, get a bad rap for piling on spectacle in place of story. Ordinarily, I would agree with such sentiment. However, in the case of the first adventure of the boy who lived, the spectacle is the story. Never mind the silly little scenario of the Sorcerer’s Stone and Voldemort regaining his power and the painfully convenient Deus ex machina ending. The real story is the awe-inspiring wonder of the magical world itself. Columbus does a fantastic job of taking the audience on the same thrilling journey of discovery as Harry himself.
- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Cry “chick flick” all you want. This amusing adult fairy-tale is full of charm, humor and one of the best fight scenes ever put on film (“It’s a real fight!”). Wrapped beginning and end in Mother Jones’s Turkey Curry Christmas party, it’s a sweet, crass and sassy holiday indulgence whose only real crime is having us believe that Bridget herself is somehow fat.
- Love, Actually (2003)
The first time I saw this film I didn’t really care for it. Most of the storylines still don’t ring true. Some are flat-out ridiculous (the young Brit who heads off to Wisconsin for orgiastic sex with eager, gorgeous American girls is the most blatant example) while others are downright depressing (you know the one I mean). But over the years it’s grown on me, warts and all. The key to the whole flick is the relationship between Thomas Sangster and Liam Neeson. Makes me cry every time (stupid heartwarming story).
- Little Women (1994)
The most obvious “chick flick” on the list. Watch it mainly for the heartwrenching Claire Danes, in fine form as Beth March. When she comes downstairs Christmas evening to find the gift of the charitable Mr. Laurence’s piano, her performance will make you break down in sobs.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Technically not a movie, I have it on my list not just because I watch it every year but because I watch it several times each year. It’s amusing in that it makes little sense and offers some of the most ridiculous dancing this side of a reality TV talent show. But it’s those little foibles that make it so endearing. It would be a crime to exclude it from any Christmas list.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Without question or hyperbole, this is the best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ book that ever was and quite possibly ever will be. I know most people swear by the 1951 version with Alistair Sim as Scrooge. But Michael Caine imbues the man with more necessary humanity than Sim’s grim old man ever does, even after his redemption… and all alongside a bunch of puppets!
Disagree? That’s fine by me. Offer your Christmas favorites below.