By Melody Klink
It’s Holly jolly time!
That most magical time of year is back, and we’re all about to do our second favorite thing regarding Christmas: fight about the #1 best Christmas movie! (The first favorite thing seems to be talking about politics, religion, and other things not meant for holly jolly times?)
So today, I’m bringing you Ten Great Christmas Movies for Us to Fight About! These have come from a tally of family and friends. So brace yourselves, because Christmas is Coming.
(Also winter. But Sean Bean already told you that.)
Jingle All the Way
Ah, Jingle All the Way: the haphazardous story of an out-of-touch dad trying to get his kid the ONLY toy he wants. (Have you ever noticed how many out-of-touch dads there are in 90’s films? And they’re some of the best movies, too!)
It’s got some great staples of the 90s in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, along with the late, great Phil Hartman, who plays the creeper neighbor always trying to slide in on someone’s wife.
Also, uh, did y’all know there was a Jingle All the Way 2? With Larry the Cable Guy. I did not. Kinda wish I still didn’t. (Disclaimer: Larry the Cable Guy is fine, I just… uh… no thanks.)
One of my husband’s favorite Christmas movies!
Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street is the pinnacle of Christmas movies calling out against commercialism, and asking us to believe. It’s a lot to get into a single sentence summary, but IMDB did it pretty well: “When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.”
Beloved by many, the 1947 version is considered a Christmas staple, though I personally really enjoy the 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough, Elizabeth Perkins, and Mara Wilson (another great staple of the 90s! And now a woman with a great head on her shoulders.) more.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
There are hardly any well-known mean, green dudes like the Grinch! (I see you, Shrek. This isn’t about you.) Hailing from the Dr. Seuss book of the same name, How the Grinch Stole Christmas was originally animated in 1966 as a TV movie. But we all know it hasn’t stopped there: it’s been remade into at least two full-length feature films, along with becoming a musical! Still, I harken back to the animated movie as my personal favorite iteration. With Boris Karloff both narrating and playing the titular character, it’s a simple yet fun telling of the Seuss story. And the original recording of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is TOPS.
It’s a Wonderful Life
Another classic Christmas tale, It’s a Wonderful Life follows the story of George Bailey, a downtrodden businessman whose life is suddenly falling to pieces. As he contemplates suicide, he’s visited by an angel, who shows George what life would be life if he had never existed. Shaken by what he sees, George vows to continue on living, and by the end, sees how good life can be when you’re surrounded by people who love you.\
A Christmas Story
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” I think most kids of the 80’s and 90’s saw A Christmas Story before the big boom in popularity that it had when cable channels started doing Christmas movie marathons. Ralphie just really wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas-- that’s the basis for the whole movie. Shenanigans ensue, one in particular that I think most kids have tried: getting their tongues stuck to a frozen pole. So many things were made weirdly famous from this movie, like the Leg Lamp (which there’s a small replica of hanging on my Christmas tree as we speak.) and deranged Easter bunny pajamas.
The movie is based on a book called “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash” by Jean Shepherd, who also wrote the screenplay; it touches on a variety of subjects, but for A Christmas Story, the focus is consumerism. Ralph narrates the book, though the movie is only based on two chapters.
Though the man himself said it’s NOT a Christmas movie, fans of Die Hard don’t go down easily.
You taught them that, John McClane.
Indeed for many folks, including numerous friends of mine, it’s just not Christmastime until Hans Gruber falls from the Nakatomi building.
It’s not a personal favorite (at Christmas. I will cut you over Bruce Willis though), Die Hard just won’t… die hard.
(I AM NOT SORRY.)
Not gonna lie: Elf surprised the hell out of me. When I think of Christmas movies, they all tend to be past-- as in, we don’t know how to make good Christmas movies now, so let’s just keep watching the nostalgia-infused old ones. But I heartily enjoy Will Ferrell in any capacity, and Buddy the Elf is no exception. Boasting a great cast, Elf tells the story of Buddy, who was raised as an elf at the North Pole. The only problem? Well… Buddy’s human. And his real dad is a big New York hotshot (who is also out-of-touch! There it is again in 2003!) who he sets out to find.
Elf has become one of my absolute favorites, surpassing some of the classics to end up high on my list, critics be damned!
The Polar Express
My first encounter with The Polar Express went like this: my mom handed me a DVD of it and said I would love it. Unenthused because modern-day Christmas movies are often lacking, the husband and I popped it in while we decorated our Christmas tree. By the end of the film, we were sitting on the floor in front of the tv, awe-inspired and a little teary-eyed. The Polar Express begs you to believe in the magic of Christmas with childlike wonder. Featuring Tom Hanks in a million roles, it’s the train ride of a lifetime to the North Pole, complete with hot chocolate, dancing servers, and a Steven Tyler elf.
Yes. He sings and everything. Big ol’ mouth havin’ elf. But back to the magic!
The belief in Santa is tied to the ringing of a bell-- for some, it doesn’t ring at all. For others, the magic eventually fades. It’s a precious movie that MADE ME CRY Y’ALL.
Easily one of the most quotable movies on the list, Home Alone was a MUST at Christmas in the 90’s. I swear, I have a trucker hat that says Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal-- granted, that particular line comes from Home Alone 2 (thanks to faux movie Angels with Filthier Souls), the Home Alone films created a movement for shenanigans set at Christmas time. When Kevin McCallister gets left home alone while the rest of the family goes on vacation, he must protect his house from a pair of bandits-- the Wet Bandits, to be exact. He spends his time building crazy traps and staying one step ahead of the bumbling duo, all while mowing down on pizza and doing all the things an eight year-old dreams of doing, like jumping on beds and making massive messes with no one to yell about it!
I always wondered a few things about this movie, though: 1) what kind of job does Mr. McCallister have to where he can afford these lavish vacations for their huge family? 2) how does one forget their son more than once? THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS? Either way, Home Alone is rowdy fun that doesn’t take itself as seriously as other contenders on this list.
And my personal, always-and-forever-favorite #1:
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Almost a decade ago now, I was working in a large bookstore at Christmastime. A lady approached me, asking for some random item. She made small talk while I searched the computer for her, commenting on how festive the store was, how she loved Christmas movies. She then asked me, “what’s your favorite Christmas movie?”
Without hesitation, I said, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation!”
She smirked at me, then frowned. “That’s not a Christmas movie.”
“That’s 100% a Christmas movie,” I fired back, albeit politely.
At that point, her holly jolly demeanor was gone. I found her item, and she left without another word.
So let me sing it loud for all to hear: Christmas Vacation is absolutely a Christmas movie, and it is my favorite. Fight me if you must.
Clark Griswold’s shenanigans are gold. (Even though as a 30-something married woman, I now cringe at some of his behavior because holy damn Clark, Ellen is a bombshell and you’re trying to holla at Mary at the lingerie counter. Ellen’s where it’s AT.) I, too, am a huge fan of exterior illumination and overdoing it at Christmas.
Or all holidays. I’m pretty indiscriminate about it.
The cast is great, the soundtrack is fun, and Cousin Eddie’s sh*tter is full, y’all.
NOW WE FIGHT! What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Are you going to write me an essay explaining why certain ones aren’t Christmas movies? Are you gonna drink some eggnogg out of these moose cups with me?! Sound off!