Merry Christmas Eve to those who celebrate it. I’m not the hugest fan of Christmas (mostly because my mild-mannered alter ego is a merchandiser for a clothing store and Christmas time is basically my personal hell), BUT there are some fantastic Christmas movies out there that I always enjoy marathoning on Christmas Day when I cannot ever get called into work to dig my beloved suits department out of the wreckage of eight thousand crazed shoppers. So I shall share them with you!
Because what is Christmas for if not sharing joy with others!?
In no particular order:
1. White Christmas
This is one of those old-timey fluff movies that is the film equivalent of wrapping oneself in a huge blanket and drinking spiked egg nog in front of a fire with friends and family.
There’s not much of a plot except: four talented showbiz nerds get together for a Christmas vacay to Vermont where they can enjoy a proper white Christmas (and save a failing inn in honor of a beloved army commander).
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are marvelous, but it’s Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen who really steal the show. Their song “Sisters” is easily the catchiest non-Christmas tune in the film.
I heart this movie just because it’s a good mix of sentiment and sass. It’s colorful and adorable, but it’s not just substance-less schmaltz. It’s aged well, and it’s a good alternative to the more ubiquitous contemporary films everyone will encounter this year. It’s also a good Christmas-lite film to those who are a bit Santa-ed out. It’s set in winter and there are a few standby Christmas carols, but there’s also fun dance numbers that don’t mention Christmas once.
Brb, listening to “Sisters” for the millionth time.
2. The Santa Clause
For those who aren’t Santa-ed out!
This one’s great because it’s got a great blend of irreverent humor as well as a big helping of ooey-gooey Christmas feels, so it’s great for cynical Christmas goers AND people who like stories about childish belief and wishes and crap like that.
The plot: When Scott Calvin accidentally becomes Santa, he finds he quite likes the job because it helps him bond with his son with whom he’s had a distant relationship with before. But when his son begins enthusiastically telling everyone about what happened, everyone assumes Scott has become delusional and dangerous and Santa becomes a wanted criminal!
Recently, there’s been some online discussion about the elves engaging in some sort of conspiracy to off Santa, but here’s my theory: if someone is unable to complete their present delivery (like they break an ankle or something) then they poof back home, un-Santa-ed, and whoever’s available has to carry on. So the old Santa didn’t die, he just got forced into magical retirement!
Or maybe he died. I dunno.
But anyways, I love this movie. I haven’t seen the sequels, but this one stands on its own really well. I love seeing how giddy for Christmas Calvin gets once he becomes Santa-ed.
3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York City
The first one’s OK, but this one is my all-time favorite, mostly because of Tim Curry, who chews the scenery with gleeful abandon. The scene where he’s running through the hotel’s halls screaming “There’s an insane guest with a gun!” sounds like implausible comedy, but, having worked in the hotel industry, it’s totally a thing that could happen.
The plot: Kevin McAllister gets lost in an airport (because his family are idiots) and ends up in New York (because the airport folks are idiots) and he has to make it on his own and keep out of the way of the burglars whom he thwarted in the first movie by setting up a whole bunch of traps in a family friend’s renovated home.
Surprisingly, this one has some legit feels. It’s the EXACT same plot as the first movie (with the pigeon lady standing in for the angry neighbor) but it’s still sweet when it needs to be. Plus, we just like seeing the Wet Bandits get hurt a lot in the final home invasion sequence.
Or at least I do. I dunno. I’m weird.
It’s a fun film, and John Williams’ score really elevates it beyond just a goofy kid’s comedy.
Also, hopefully the enormous credit card debt that Kevin accrues throughout the movie prevents his affluent parents from going on any more crazy vacations and teaches them to stop being rich dicks and actually treat their kids right. </Marxist rant>
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Apparently the National Lampoon’s series is pretty extensive, but I’ve only seen the Vacation movies. And, to be honest, this is the best of that set (yes, even the original Vacation. I know I know. Stone me now).
The Plot: Clark Griswold has high hopes for his big family Christmas get together, but of course, his hopes are a bit too high and it all comes crashing down around them to hilarious effect.
Its sense of humor is pretty broad, but there’s enough smarts to keep it from devolving into just two hours of fart jokes. I’m particularly fond of Todd and Margo, the snooty next door neighbors who get their holiday plans ruined via blinding lights, shooting ice, and a rabid squirrel.
Also, I love the absent-minded Aunt Bethany who’s sweet as pie, but checked out from reality enough that she wraps up her cat as a gift and recites the pledge of allegiance as the blessing at dinner.
Not a lot of squishy Christmas sentiment, but I can say Clark’s hysterical rant at the end is quite the cathartic moment for anyone stressed out about the holidays.
5. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol
This one was released two years after Jim Henson’s death, and I think the more melancholic tone really makes it a fitting tribute to the genius who gave us the Muppets.
It’s delightful. And I think the reason why it works so well is that it plays the story so straight. Michael Caine is still my all time favorite Scrooge, and I think his decision to play the role as though he was performing in a prestigious BBC adaptation of the story and not in a Muppet musical was the right one. He does SUCH a fabulous job of making Scrooge equally terrifying and likable. And the fact that his costars are fun-loving Muppets really sets him that much farther apart from everyone. It’s literally like Scrooge is acting in a completely different movie from everyone else.
The comedy is more subdued, but it’s still up to the Muppets’ high standards. I’m quite fond of the music in this one, and the puppet effects are marvelous. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is literally one of the scariest things ever. It’s so freaking eerie and wonderful. It’s like a Dementor and a Nazgul had a baby and it was too monstrous even for them.
This film doesn’t get much holiday clout because it’s not as hysterically funny as other Muppet films, but this one is pretty essential for one’s holiday library regardless. It’s got a good helping of Christmas feels along with the classic Muppet shenanigans. If you haven’t seen it in a while, definitely give this one a re-watch.
“‘Tis the season to be jolly and joyous!”
I considered adding It’s a Wonderful Life to the list because that’s another good one, but it’s such an avalanche of feels that it always leaves me drained and needing hugs. So watch the others while you’re opening presents and then watch IaWL in the evening after everyone’s been drinking a bit and can handle it.
What’s your favorite Christmas film?
I hope everyone has a happy holiday season!
And if you see any ghosts, just remember: they’re there to teach you, not hurt you!