There's nothing quite like holiday movies to put you in the Christmas mood. Even if you're too busy wrapping gifts and cooking an oven full of food to watch all of your favorite festive flicks from start to finish, this look-back on some of the season's cherished classics will give you a moment of cheer. Below is an Advent calendar of sorts, offering up a different holiday film for these last 15 days leading up to Christmas.
The Santa Clause 1 (1994) &
The Santa Clause 2 (2002)
Scott Calvin accidentally accepts the “Santa Clause” one night when he puts on the Santa suit of a man who falls off his roof on Christmas Eve. Although Scott is hesitant about these new duties and changes, his son Charlie is ecstatic about their new adventures. Enjoy some signature Tim Allen humor, Neil’s needlepoint sweaters, and the charming elves of the North Pole. The Santa Clause and its sequel, which is all about the clause that requires Santa to find a wife, are Christmas family favorites for a reason.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Pop some Christmas cookies in the oven and go back in time to the 40s when watching this classic, black and white movie. George Bailey (James Stewart) considers suicide and is then visited by an angel, Clarence. Clarence, by showing Bailey what life would have been like if he were never born, makes Bailey realize that he has lived “a wonderful life.” This film was based on a short story by Phillip Van Doren Stern titled “The Greatest Gift.”
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964)
One of the reasons that this film is so wonderful is because it celebrates the individual, however idiosyncratic, through the slew of unique characters who don’t quite fit in. Rudolph, of course, is the ultimate outcast who eventually learns the importance of what he once perceived as a flaw––making this a feel-good family animation with a simple and important message. Other notable characters are Hermey, an elf who aspires to be a dentist, the misfit toys, Bumble the abominable snowman, and Yukon Cornelius, a burly man who has a Poodle, Saint Bernard, Cocker Spaniel, Dachshund, and Collie as his sled dogs.
Home Alone (1990) &
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Home Alone is on everyone’s list of must-see Christmas movies. Kevin McCallister is left behind by his chaotic family during Christmas. While his parents are away, Kevin must defend his house against Marv and Harry, the two burglars (“You guys give up? Or ya thirsty for more?”) Even if you’ve seen Home Alone 1 & 2 many times and have all of Kevin’s tricks and lines memorized, they never get old. Home Alone also has one of the best Christmas soundtracks, including “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” by The Drifters.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Everyone loves Charlie Brown––I’m convinced. Watch this intelligent, lovable character struggle with his mood and what he sees around him (“Oh, no! My own dog gone commercial. I can’t stand it!”) and eventually learn, from Linus, “what Christmas is all about.” Been too busy to decorate your Christmas tree just yet? Is your spare, pathetic tree staring you down, making you feel like Scrooge? Don’t feel that bad––just tell everyone you’re channeling your inner Charlie Brown this year.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1965) & (2000)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of the ultimate Dr. Seuss works, and this animation, based on the children’s book, is a Christmas-time must. If you’ve only seen the 2000 version with Jim Carrey, be sure to watch this original animation, with all its beautiful and bright colors, this year. Do you know all the words to “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch?” Jim Carrey’s particular humor fits perfectly into the film that came out in 2000. The impressive, Oscar-winning makeup, by Rick Baker and Gail Rowell-Ryan, brings the charming members of Whoville to life. Get inspired by Betty Lou Who and Martha May Whovier’s festive and over-the-top outdoor lighting, or simply drive down St. Charles Avenue to see some Whoville-worthy displays.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
An older man, Kris Kringle, becomes the Santa at Macy’s after a sudden successful performance during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. This man claims to be the real Santa Claus, but faces much disbelief and skepticism from others, especially Doris and Susan, her daughter. Kris goes to court in an attempt to prove to all, especially Doris and Susan, that he is the real Santa Claus. Miracle on 34th Street is based on a story by writer Valentine Davies.
The Year Without Santa Claus (1974)
This film is a stop-motion animation, just like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Mrs. Claus is the narrator, and she tells the story of the year Santa Claus, exhausted, decided to skip Christmas. Santa, of course, is eventually convinced otherwise by her and his elves.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Everyone knows the name “Scrooge” and the phrase “Bah Humbug,” which come from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This festive film, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge and, of course, the Muppets, takes place in London in the 19th century and adds comedic and musical elements to the original story-line of the novella. Gonzo the Great, the blue muppet, plays Charles Dickens––the narrator.
Love Actually (2003)
If you’re a romantic comedy lover but suddenly find yourself mentally unable to watch another Lifetime Christmas movie (don’t act like you haven’t seen them before––we all have), look no further than Love Actually. This film blends multiple peoples’ stories, centering on love (in various forms), that all take place around Christmastime in London. Enjoy this holiday favorite, no matter how many cheesy moments it may have, and, of course, Hugh Grant’s dancing.
Buddy the elf (Will Ferrell) does not fit in, literally, among the elves at the North Pole. This over-sized, innocent elf heads to New York City to find his dad, spreads Christmas cheer to naysayers, and ends up saving Christmas. Buddy’s energy and insanely impressive Christmas spirit may just inspire you to brave the Christmas crowds while finishing up your shopping, and enjoy all things Christmas.
The Polar Express (2004)
This visually-striking animated film, nominated for three Oscars, was based on Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book "The Polar Express." A boy boards a train, filled with magical and festive happenings, that’s headed to the North Pole right before Christmas. Tom Hanks, who plays the conductor of The Polar Express, is also the narrator.
Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Tim Allen (Luther Krank) does Christmas and comedy again, alongside Jamie Lee Curtis (Nora Krank), but he’s definitely no Santa Claus this time. Luther, after realizing how much their family spends annually on Christmas, convinces Nora to skip Christmas with him and go on a tropical cruise. The couple faces various forms of disappointment (i.e. harassment) from neighbors and friends. When their daughter, Blair, suddenly announces that she’ll be coming home for Christmas, the couple tries to cover up their tracks and pull a Christmas miracle in a matter of hours.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Frosty would surely melt if he were in New Orleans this December, but this classic, family favorite TV short is sure to put anyone in a Christmas mood. The film is based on the popular Christmas tune.
A Christmas Story (1983)
This classic Christmas film was based on semi-autobiographical work from the writer and radio/TV personality Jean Parker Shepherd, who is also the witty and sarcastic narrator, the adult Ralphie, in the film. The “24 Hours of A Christmas Story” has been airing since 1997, courtesy of the Turner Broadcasting networks. Some of the most memorable moments in this film are ones about the creepy leg lamp (“Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window”), Ralphie’s mouthful of soap, Flick’s tongue getting stuck to the pole (“the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister triple-dog-dare”), and Randy getting dressed for school (“Getting ready to go to school was like getting ready for extended deep-sea diving.”) Keep the 24-hour special on to form a background to your family’s Christmas festivities; this will help create a sense of camaraderie between yourself and Ralphie, and will make you feel better incase you, too, have slightly insane and chaotic family.