Just as the fall is synonymous with horror movies, the winter is for holiday movies (it’d be kind of silly to have a bunch of Christmas movies in mid August wouldn’t it?) So the first question we need to ask is how we’re defining a Christmas movie. For the purposes of this list I’ll define them as movies that are either set at Christmas time or are “about” the concept of Christmas.
Lethal Weapon (1987) – This flick is just AWESOME and if you have never seen it you owe it to yourself to get out there and rent it. It’s on my list of Top 80’s Action Movies and the only reason that it’s merely an honorable mention here is that it’s VERY loosely a Christmas movie. Set out in California this action movie happens to take place around Christmas time and there’s a Christmas tree up in the Murtaugh’s house. A pretty weak link to Christmas I’ll agree, but the movie is just so damn good that it had to make the list.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) – Directed by the great John Hughes this flick tells the story of John Candy and Steve Martin trying to get home for the holidays. This is actually a Thanksgiving movie, but for some reason I always think Christmas which is why I put it on this list. If you’ve never seen this one, you owe it to yourself for one scene alone: “You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosey, fucking, cheeks! And you can give me a fucking automobile: a fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!” Need I say more?
Die Hard (1988) – Similar to Lethal Weapon, this is another action movie that happens to be set at Christmas time… and a bad ass action movie at that! Also similar to Lethal Weapon, it made my list of Top 80’s Action Movies based on the badassery of one man… John McClane. McClane’s at a Christmas party waiting for his estranged wife, when a bunch of bad guys take over the Nakatomi Tower where the party is being held. The bad guys (lead by Alan Rickman) have a single purpose and have a great plan in place which is eventually foiled by misplaced McClane.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – As you’ll see further down my list, the story of the Grinch that stole Christmas is one of my all time favorites. When I found out that this was going to be made into a live action version I wasn’t quite sure what to think until I found out that none other than Jim Carrey was going to be playing the Grinch. No other rubber-faced man on the planet could have pulled it off as well.
Elf (2003) – This one is relatively new and the first time I saw it I knew that it was high up on my list. Buddy (Will Ferrell) is an elf who’s left the North Pole. Along the way he meets his real dad (James Kahn) and hilarity ensues. The “boy trapped in a man’s body” story has been dozens of times over the years but this twist on it with the comic genius of Ferrell at the helm is simply outstanding.
THE TOP TEN
Please note these are listed in chronological order. I didn’t have it in me to try and rank them cause I love them all.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – I’ve been hearing about how damn awesome this movie is for as long as I can remember. Up until last year I’d never even seen it. One cold winter evening last year, the wife and I decided to check it out (as we’ve got the DVD sitting in the basement and just had never gotten around to watching it). This one is over 60 years old but it tells a timeless story of a man down on his luck. There’s so much “bad” going on in George Bailey’s life that you can’t see how things will turn around… until they do. Well worth the title of “Christmas Classic” that it has in so many circles.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – The first cartoon on my list and it won’t be the last. If you don’t know Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang then I’m not really sure what to tell you other than you need to get off this blog and start reading the greatest comic strip of all time. Once you’ve done that get into the Christmas spirit by checking out this animated show from before the world was so PC it makes you sick. Toward the end of this show Linus actually tells the true story of Christmas… you know, the one about that Jesus guy.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Speaking of animated entries, The Grinch first made his appearance in a book by Dr. Seuss, which was immediately followed up by this short animated show. The story of a pissed off green man living in the hills of Whoville will bring a tear to your eye if you’re not ready for it. Actually when you get right down to it, this is nothing more than a criticism of the commercialization of Christmas. Another cool note about this one. The voice of the Grinch is none other than Mr. Boris Karloff. Awesome.
A Christmas Story (1983) – Careful kid… you’ll shoot your eye out. A true cult classic that is now shown for 24 straight hours on TBS each and every year. This flick about a little boy’s quest for a Red Rider BB gun completely tanked at the theaters but has made a HUGE revival based on DVD sales and television. This happens to be my wife’s all time favorite movie which is why we have a dog named Ralphie. No shit.
Gremlins (1984) – Little fury animals that turn into bad ass green lizard looking things if you feed them after midnight. Throw water on them and you’re in for a world of hurt. Not quite a “horror” movie but definitely a Christmas favorite. As a side note, also has an INCREDIBLE sequel.
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985) – I imagine I’ll take some shit for this pick but this is one of my all time faves (hence the reason it’s on this list). Dudley Moore, John Lithgow and Burgess Meredith lead a cast that tells the story of Santa Claus, elves and an “evil” business man who’s looking to take over Christmas and make it is own. There’s some incredibly cheesy special effects in here but the story itself is pretty damned entertaining.
Scrooged (1988) – I didn’t rank this list but if I did, this would most definitely be #1 on the list. The story of Ebinezer Scrooge has been told hundreds of times but never has A Christmas Carol been quite so entertaining. Bill Murray as Frank Cross turns in what may quite possibly be my favorite of his roles. Incredibly quotable and one that you can watch over and over again. “Will someone… stop… the God Damn HAMMERING!”
Christmas Vacation (1989) – The Vacation series of films are hilarious and for some reason people have a tendency to discount the Christmas entry into the series. If you’re one of those people I’m here to tell you that you need to watch this one like yesterday. Put aside the fact that the Griswold kids change every flick and lose yourself in a great film. This is one of the funniest movies of all time whether it’s a Christmas movie or not. Chevy Chase is at his best here as Clark Griswold in his definitive role and Randy Quaid plays cousin Eddy to absolute perfection. Some of the all time best one liners are “present” with this flick. “Shitter’s full!”
Home Alone (1990) – The film that made Macaulay Culkin a household name. Chris Columbus directs this story by John Hughes of 8 year old Kevin who gets mistakenly left behind when his family goes out of town for the holidays. Cat burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern know that he’s alone and figure his house will be easy pickings… they couldn’t be more wrong. Kevin defends his house in some pretty ingenious (and hilarious) ways.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – I’ve been a Muppet fan since I was a child so it only makes sense that they’d make the list. Ironically, this is another retelling of A Christmas Carol (the second on this list). In this musical version of the story, Michael Caine (yes, that Michael Caine) plays Scrooge. You get all your favorite Muppets here including Gonzo as the narrator and Kermit as Bob Cratchet. Another plus for this one is that it’s not only kid friendly but will hold their attention the whole way through. Watch for Beaker flicking off Mr. Scrooge about 20 minutes in… hilarious.
Love Actually (2003) – Follow the lives of 8 couples as they deal with the month leading up to Christmas. They’ve all at very different points in their lives and yet all of the stories are very believable and touching. Even if you don’t relate to a specific plot line I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll enjoy the resolutions to each and every one of them. The cast includes some outstanding names including Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Kiera Knightley. Watch out… there’s a couple of potential tears in here if you’re so inclined. Merry Christmas!