Dim the Lights & Pass the Popcorn
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
10 Holiday Films for a Festive Respite this Season
By Kathleen Edwards
Is there anything quite like curling up on the couch with a soft blanket, a hot toddy and the remote clutched firmly in hand readying to cruise the channels and streaming services to find just the right Christmas movie to put you in the holiday mood?
With the onslaught of Hallmark Christmas movies that basically recycle the same plot, it’s important to remember other holiday offerings that deviate from the small-town-boy-meets- cynical-city-girl-and-then-it-snows-when-they-kiss formula.
Every year I have standard Christmas films that I absolutely must watch or Santa won’t come to town. The following are my top ten Christmas treats in descending order.
10. Die Hard - Now some of you - okay, then, most of you will shout foul and threaten to burn my gingerbread house down, but hear me out. Die Hard does take place at Christmas time and one of the main plot devices is a husband/father realizing how important family is - two standard Christmas movie themes. So maybe I’m stretching it a bit - okay, a lot, but I find this tough-guy action movie a wonderful way to cleanse the palate of all the sacchariny sweet holiday specials. Yippee Ki Yay.
9. The Great Rupert - Never heard of it? I hadn’t either until about 5 years ago when I unearthed it from a dollar movie bin. This 1950 gem of a Christmas film stars Jimmy Durante as the patriarch of a down-on-their-luck family of acrobats who moves into a shabby basement apartment in New York City. Unbeknownst to them, Rupert, a dancing squirrel who was left behind by his owner, has moved into the apartment, as well. Rupert acts like a guardian angel who rains blessings down upon the struggling but optimistic family. Durante is pure gold, and this quirky piece of cinema magic is just the right movie to come home to after a day of fighting your way through the Christmas shopping hordes.
8. Love Actually - I’m not really a romance kinda gal
(please reference number 10 in my Christmas movie
list), but something about Love Actually really gets to
me. It’s made up of several vignettes of lonely people finding each other during a London holiday season.
By the way - it’s the second movie on my list starring the legendary Alan Rickman (please reference number 10
of my Christmas movie list).
7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) - Edmund Gwenn stars
as Santa Claus (the real one) who finds himself as Macy’s
department store jolly ol’ elf whose honesty and kindness Macy’s uses as a publicity stunt. But soon Santa finds himself put in the mental ward because he claims to be Saint Nicholas in the flesh and - well Santa isn’t real, right? Natalie Wood is the skeptical little girl that Santa is determined to make a Kringle convert. If there really is a Santa (of course there is) Gwenn is the frontrunner to me.
6. Polar Express - Welcome to the uncanny valley. Yes, Polar Express can be at times creepy to watch. But remember, when it was released in 2004, the animation was cutting edge. Although the characters are definitely nightmare fuel, the train, the wildlife and scenery are spectacular. And the little boy’s journey to believing is heartwarming. But what is up with the hobo?
5. White Christmas - Traditionally, in my family, this film is watched Thanksgiving evening. It’s a
good lead into the holidays. Although the song, White Christmas, is the musical centerpiece of this classic, I always enjoy Sisters when performed by BIng Crosby and Danny Kaye. Plenty of music and dancing in this film which centers around Crosby and Kaye helping out their old Army commanding officer with his failing Vermont Inn.
4. Krampus - This one is a recent addition to my “must watch” Christmas cavalcade.
One does not usually associate Christmas with demons, but Krampus puts to the
forefront the punishment-wielding Santa counterpart, Krampus, in a most amusing way. Very campy with over the top performances by Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and David Koechner (The Office) It’s equal parts horror and humor. You’d better watch out!
3. Arthur Christmas - Also a newcomer to my Christmas list, Arthur Christmas a film from Aardman Animation is adorable and overflowing with dry, British humor. Arthur
(voiced by James McAvoy) is Santa’s youngest son. He’s klutzy and forgetful. He’s often overlooked by his father in favor of his older brother, Steven (Hugh Laurie), who is the administrative brains behind North Pole operations. When the unthinkable happens and a child’s toy is not delivered, Arthur springs into action and delivers the present - and a happy ending.
2. Elf - I never tire of this film. My eldest son, however, cringes every time he watches it. It’s too much for him to deal with Buddy’s complete obliviousness. But I find his innocence and complete lack of social grace a beautiful thing. The film is immensely quotable - don’t forget to answer the phone “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” on December 18th. Go on - you know you want to.
1. A Muppet Christmas Carol - Now we reach the
pinnacle of my list. I have watched this movie every Christmas Eve for the past 30 years. It is a hardcore
tradition in our house, and is arguably the best rendition
of Dickens A Christmas Carol ever put to screen. Although Michael Caine looks awkward at times as Ebenezer Scrooge, his performance is a delight. Kermit is the
humble and loving Bob Krachet. Miss Piggy is Bob’s opinionated wife, and Gonzo is, of course, Charles
Dickens. (Just go with it. It totally works). The songs are stellar with lyrics that tell the story with wit and humor.
If you’ve passed this one by, make this a part of your holiday traditions this year.
I hope this humble list inspires you to share your favorite Christmas movies with your family and friends this year. Merry Christmas!
Kathleen Edwards is a freelance writer who enjoys
wearing pajamas all day. She is the proud mama of
two sons (Isaiah and Josiah) - both of whom are in
film production, and two cats (Zippy and Katie) who