I like to celebrate the full Christmas season, and part of that celebration means watching my favorite Christmas movies. So, just for fun, here are my top six:
6. Love, Actually
As the title suggests, this movie is about love in all its forms. It highlights romantic love, parental love, sibling love and friendship. The movie has just enough raunch to keep me laughing and just enough sentiment to bring a tear to my eye. It’s not a religious movie, but it does take place during Christmas, which is appropriate because the coming of Christ is supposed to be all about love.
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
There have been multiple versions of this story, most of them in the black and white era, and one in 1994. I only choose the original feature length film as my favorite because it’s the one I grew up watching. It’s a story about teaching a little girl to believe in Santa Claus and teaching a mother to let her kid be a kid. I could go into deeper analysis, but there’s really no need. It’s cute. It’s corny. It’s Christmas.
4. Bad Santa
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s vulgar. No, it’s not for children. But it is one of the best Christmas movies because it’s ultimately a story of redemption. Billy Bob Thornton portrays a filthy, low-life criminal who is so disgusted by his own existence that he’s suicidal, until a weird, portly little boy gives him a reason to live. It’s a story about the losers in life – the people who don’t quite fit in with the rest of society. In this movie some of them find each other and make life worth living.
The modern twist on A Christmas Carol needs no plot summation. We all know how the story ends before the movie begins. What makes this version great is that it stars Bill Murray at his 1980s best, delivering darkly comedic lines like only he can. It’s also a perfect satire of the entertainment industry and still makes me feel warm and fuzzy at the end.
2. Christmas Vacation
Like all the Vacation movies, this one was only mildly amusing when I watched it as a child. Re-watching it as an adult, I find it funnier and funnier every year. If you’ve ever hosted house guests, obsessed over decorations, or struggled in any way to create the perfect holiday for the people you love, you can relate to Clark Griswold. Even if you haven’t done any of those things, you can enjoy the subtle one-liners muttered under Clark’s breath and the passive aggressive comments made by the older relatives. These can be overlooked underneath all the slapstick, so if you haven’t seen this movie since you were a kid, give it another chance.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
The word “classic” gets thrown around a lot, but this is one movie that lives up to that label. I’ve seen it just about every year since I was little, and I never tire of it. George Bailey is the small town hard-working hero with a faithful sweetheart and a greedy old miser as his foil. He wants to do great things, but life keeps getting in the way – just like almost everyone I know. And as my brother once pointed out, it’s got the happiest ending in movie history (spoiler alert): everyone he knows comes to his house and gives him money. Christmas doesn’t get much merrier than that.
You may notice that A Christmas Story is absent from my list. There’s a simple explanation for that. I don’t really care for the movie. It’s grown on me a little in recent years, but I still find the characters kind of whiny and annoying, and there’s far too many dream sequences for my taste. I’m sure there’s lots of objective arguments to be made (by everyone I know) for why it’s great, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.
Did I miss any other great Christmas movies?