‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring as everyone was in their own rooms trying to avoid classic, seasonal familial disputes. Just Kidding (sort of)! The stockings have been hung, the milk and cookies have been left out, and there’s a snowman in the yard sporting a fetching top hat; yes, Christmas has crept upon us once again! Family time is important, especially during the holidays, and once the feast has been eaten and the presents unwrapped, what better way to keep the holiday cheer going than by sitting down to a festive family film. So here it is: our list (checked twice) of the Top Ten Christmas movies. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
10. Scrooged (1988): We already listed A Christmas Carol on our top ten Time Travel movies list, so for Christmas I offer an alternative: Scrooged. Bill Murray stars as Frank Cross, a selfish TV executive and modern-day Scrooge who faces three ghosts after keeping his underpaid staff late on Christmas Eve. Frank, in his eagerness to gain success and fortune, has forsaken his true love Claire (Karen Allen), ignored his brother James (John Murray), and mistreated his assistant Grace (Alfre Woodard) who is unable to be present for her mute son Calvin (Nicholas Phillips). A smart-mouthed cab driver shows Frank his regrettable past, a slap-happy fairy shows him the dismal present, and a scarily large ghoul tells of a lonely and disappointing future. Scared straight by the ghostly antics, Frank finds life imitating art as he wakes up during the end of his live production of A Christmas Carol, just in time to reconcile with Claire and hand out some much-deserved Christmas bonuses. It’s been said before but I’ll say it again: God bless us, everyone.
9. Elf (2003): Buddy (Will Ferrell) isn’t like other elves. After falling into Santa’s sack after a visit to an orphanage, Old Saint Nick decides to raise little tyke as an elf, but Buddy doesn’t stay little for long. All grown up and too big for the North Pole, when Santa lets it slip that Buddy’s real dad, grumpy businessman Walter Hobbs (James Caan), is alive and well in New York City, Buddy goes to find him. Buddy makes it to the city only to find that human life isn’t what he thought it would be. After a disappointing first impression with his father leads him to a department store, Buddy is mistaken for an employee and brings it upon himself to spread the Christmas spirit to both the store and his newfound love, Jovie (Zooey Deschanel). Buddy finds his way back to Walter, and stays with him, his stepmother Emily (Mary Steenburgen), and his half-brother Michael (Daniel Tay). After Buddy’s childish ways start to grate on his father, Buddy runs away. But it wouldn’t be Christmas without a happy ending, so Buddy reunites with his family and Jovie in central park, and uses the power of song and Christmas cheer to save his old pal Santa from some trouble. Full of lots of laughs and a little bit of love, Elf proves that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
8. Love Actually (2003): Known as the ultimate romantic comedy, Richard Curtis’ Love Actually feature ten interconnected stories of love, all staged in London during the five weeks before Christmas. We see relationships introduced, examined, and strained by an aging rock star (Bill Nighy) and his faithful manager (Gregor Fisher); two newlyweds (Keira Knightly and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and their secretly infatuated friend (Andrew Lincoln); A lonely writer (Colin Firth) and his Portuguese housekeeper (Sienna Guillory); a businessman (Alan Rickman) caught between his secretary (Heike Makatsch) and his wife (Emma Thompson); a newly elected Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and his employee (Martine McCutcheon); a widower (Liam Neeson) and his stepson’s (Thomas Sangster) schoolyard crush; a woman (Laura Linney) forced to choose between her love (Rodrigo Santoro) and her brother; a man (Kris Marshall) on a journey to America in search of sex; and a pair of sex scene body doubles (Joanna Page and Martin Freeman) learning to feel comfortable with each other with their clothes on. The comedy is an epic for sure, and as the title suggests everyone, in their own way, finds themselves love (actually!).
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): If this Christmas you happen to find a severed arm in your stocking or a spider in your eggnog I know who’s been getting into the Christmas spirit. When the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) finds himself bored with his job, an accidental wander into Christmas Town reveals to Jack an exciting new holiday, one he wishes to take over. He kidnaps Santa and takes on the role himself, setting the residents of Halloween Town to work on their own warped version of Christmas, an event shy ragdoll Sally (Catherine O’Hara) fears will prove to be disastrous. If nothing else, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a visual feat and treat, as director Tim Burton’s stop-motion style works overtime to put the creepy in Christmas. When what should be a joyous time of year is replaced by yuletide terror, Jack is left defeated with Santa and Sally in the hands of the evil Oogie Boogie (Ken Page). Jack manages to rescue the two, but is met with no gratitude from Mr. Claus who flies off the reverse the damage done by Jack and his ghouls. But Saint Nick doesn’t stay mad for long, and a snowfall over Halloween Town brings with it the true meaning of Christmas.
6. Home Alone (1990): Kids wish for all kinds of incredible stuff for Christmas: puppies, rocket ships, a million dollars. But when Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) wishes his annoying family would disappear, his wish comes true. After a power outage messes with their alarm clocks making them late for their flight, a further headcount mix-up sees the McCallister clan on a plane to Paris missing one member. Kevin is initially thrilled with his newfound independence, grocery shopping, dancing around the house, and rifling through his brother’s things. But things take a turn for the worse when the notorious “Wet Bandits” (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) decide to hit Kevin’s neighborhood. When the two scoundrels find out that the kid is home alone, they try and break in, with disastrous results. Come for the humor (“Keep the change, you filthy animal!”) but stay for the heart, because after fighting thugs (seriously, those guys should be dead) and fighting to get home, nothing feels more like Christmas than the look Kevin gives his mother (Catherine O’Hara) as she walks back through the door.
5. A Christmas Story (1983): There’s only one thing eight-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas: a Red Ryder BB gun, but every attempt to tell the adults in his life what a perfect gift it will be, even Santa, is met with a chorus of “you’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie is also forced to contend with a relentless bully, his friends and their triple dog dares (not the pole, Flick!), and a heinous pink bunny suit; the likes of which must be seen to be believed. Eventually Christmas day comes and Ralphie unwraps all his gifts with fervor, hoping for only one thing, to no avail. Disappointed, Ralphie’s father reveals a hidden present and—could it be?—yes! It’s a Red Ryder BB gun! After a test-run in the backyard goes a bit awry, some warnings should be heeded, the Christmas feast the Parkers have been waiting all day for is ruined by a pack of hungry dogs. Deflated, the family heads to a Chinese restaurant and some hilarious, though mildly racially insensitive, caroling ensues, proving that the best Christmases aren’t the perfect ones.
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966): Originally a Dr. Seuss book, the thirty minute animated special is the story of the Grinch, a curmudgeonly fellow green (literally) with envy and black (figuratively) of heart, who steals all the presents of the Whos on Christmas Eve. We see the Grinch disguise himself as Santa Claus in an effort to infiltrate the homes of sleeping Whos undetected, backed by the world’s best villainous anthem, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch”. Having thoroughly raided Whoville of all its Christmas goods, our titular tyrant sends all of it tumbling off of a cliff. But what’s that? Cheers in the place tears coming from Whoville warm the Grinch’s dark heart and he rescues the stolen treats from the cliff, just in time for Christmas. The lesson that material things mean less than togetherness on Christmas is enough to make your heart grow three sizes.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): There’s not much that can make the perpetually glum Charlie Brown crack a smile, and Christmas is no different. Chock it up to Seasonal Affective Disorder, but something about the holidays has young Chuck feeling depressed. After some seemingly good advice from his pal Lucy, Charlie decides to direct the kids’ Christmas play. Charlie lightens up for a whole second before the rehearsal devolves into madness, as Shroeder insists on playing that repetitive theme music. The final nail in Charlie’s coffin comes when tasked with finding a Christmas tree for the play, and our heavyhearted hero drags home a little sprig of a tree, only to be ridiculed by his peers. After an impromptu speech from Linus, the group of plucky youngsters come together to decorate the tiny tree and greet one depressed little boy with shouts of, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” Simple and sweet, the lessons learned in A Charlie Brown Christmas resonate years after its creation.
2. Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Santa Claus comes to town a little earlier than expected in this classic story of the power of kindness, imagination, and belief. Hired by Macy’s event director Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) to be the store’s Santa Claus, the real-life Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) struggles to get Doris, her skeptical daughter Susan (Natalie Wood), and New York City to see him for what he is, Father Christmas himself. After a number of psychological evaluations find Kris to be of sound mind, vengeful and non-believing Macy’s employee Granville Sawyer (Porter Hall) has Kris institutionalized and files charges against him, trying to prove his insanity. Doris’ neighbor Fred (John Payne), both lawyer and suitor, encourages Kris not to give up, helping him soften jaded Doris and grant Susan her one Christmas wish. Be nice to any jolly, bearded men this holiday season, because they just might be who you think.
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): This is a classic for a reason. Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is the tale of George Bailey (James Stewart), a compassionate businessman who is as unlucky as his heart is big. Ever since George was a little boy, all he’s wanted to do is see the world, but incident after incident keeps George trapped in his small town, running his late father’s struggling loan business. No matter what happiness he achieves, a wife, kids, and a big house, his problems keep coming back to money. After his uncle and business partner misplaces eight thousand dollars, George thinks both he and the company are done for, and worse still, it’s Christmas. That’s the last straw for mild-mannered George, who after a fight with his family and a bar brawl contemplates suicide before running into his guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers). When he tells Clarence that he wishes he’d never been born, George is in for a shock when his wish comes true and he realizes that he’s the glue holding his little town together. All isn’t lost though. Thoroughly broken by no one knowing him, George wishes for his life back and fills with Christmas cheer, as he finds that “no man is a failure who has friends.”
Article by Nia Howe-Smith