Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
No Christmas is complete without watching some or all of the movies on these list – and there’s no better way to avoid uncomfortable conversation with family members this holiday season than “bonding” in front of the TV with these great flicks and a glass of egg nog.
12. The Santa Clause
The Tim Allen movie that sparked a franchise, this is the original and the best of the Santa Clause trilogy. This movie actually has some morbid undertones, as Allen plays a man who accidentally kills Santa, and then must don the red suit himself as the world’s replacement. Turns out Santa Claus has a Santa clause, which means a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo that lets the audience see Allen’s comical transformation into Santa and the rules he must follow. It’s a fun family treat for the holiday season, but not quite an instant classic. (airs Dec. 21 on ABC Family).
11. Frosty the Snowman
A cartoon classic that will make you laugh, cry, and wish you hadn’t eaten that snowcone last summer, this movie is a fun little interpretation of the classic Christmas song of the same name. In a less-creepy way than Frankenstein, Frosty is an inanimate snowman brought to life by the wishes of children, rather than science. The movie follows his discovery of life and subsequent near-death experiences as he finds his way to Santa and the North Pole, where he can stay preserved forever. It sounds a bit morbid, but it’s actually quite cute. (now on DVD).
10. Santa Claus is Coming to Town
No one ever talks about Santa’s youth. Who was Kris Kringle before he was a jolly old man? What life choices led him to spend his days in a red velvet suit instead of an orange jumpsuit? If E! were to make a cute stop-motion “True Hollywood Story” about Santa, it would probably look like this. Fortunately for Kris, he was a pretty stand-up guy with a good rep. Unfortunately for us, that means less celeb gossip (airs Dec. 22 at 5p.m. on ABC Family).
9. The Year Without a Santa Claus
Watch this movie for one reason: the Snow Meiser and Heat Meiser songs in the middle of the movie. When Santa is too depressed with the lack of Christmas spirit to get out of bed on December 25, Mrs. Claus with the help of some elves and a little boy attempt to raise Christmas spirit in the heart of America’s deep South. They aim to do this by making it snow in the South, which they can’t do without the aid of Snow and Heat Meisers, pompous feuding brothers who control the weather. In two of the greatest musical numbers in stop-motion history, each expresses just how much he loves himself. It’s a wonderfully corny, self-indulgent delight. (airs Dec. 22 at 4p.m. on ABC Family)
8. A Christmas Carol (original, Muppet version, Scrooged)
There have been so many versions of Charles Dickens’ classic that it’s hard to choose just one as being the most worthy version. For a good scope of the genre that this story has become, watch the original 1938 version (again, can’t say enough about black and whites), the hilarious Jim Henson version, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and a great modern interpretation, Scrooged, starring Bill Murray as the title character. The story lends itself to interpretation, as the original Christmas “humbug,” Ebeneezer Scrooge, learns a powerful lesson in giving from a gang of ghosts that travel through time. Each version has its own representation of these ghostly visits, and all are worth watching. (A Christmas Carol – 1938 airs OnDemand for Comcast, The Muppet Christmas Carol airs OnDemand for Comcast, Scrooged airs Dec. 19 at 8:45 p.m. on HBO Family)
7. A Charlie Brown Christmas
What is the true meaning of Christmas? Clearly “good grief!” and some good psychological help from a sassy young brunette. The Peanuts gang, always a favorite of all ages, puts its spin on the classic conundrum amidst the commercialization of Christmas just beginning to engulf the nation when it first aired in 1965. This movie makes a quite powerful and poignant statement about the frivolity of material obsessiveness and the original religious meaning of Christmas that touches even the most secular of celebrators. And no Christmas party can be complete without a good shuffle-dance to “Linus and Lucy”! (airs Dec. 18 at 8p.m. ABC).
6. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
What’s more Christmas-y than a Christmas movie based on a beloved Christmas song? It’s hard not to smile when watching the whimsical stop motion story of this misfit reindeer’s quest for acceptance. Not only is it filled with great musical numbers, talking animals, an abominable snowman, dentists, and a “skinny Santa” (no one wants that!), but it is also a great coming of age story. This movie coined the term “island of misfit toys” that is now often used to describe a group of lovable hipsters or awkward teenagers in a high school glee club. Rudolph inspires kids (and parents!) to love themselves as they are, whether they be reindeer with unfortunate noses or elves who just want to fix teeth. (aired Dec. 14 on WBZ – now on DVD).
Now a Broadway musical, Elf was an instant classic since its release in 2003. It’s hard to go anywhere around Christmas time without hearing one of the movie’s most famous quotes: “SANTA!!! I know him. I know him.” Starring the always hilarious Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human raised among Santa’s elves searching for his human parents, Ferrell plays Buddy with a childlike delight that is a treat to watch. Perhaps that is because the elves’ food pyramid consists of five types of manufactured sugar. But it is also because the audience gets to see a blonde, bang-less Zooey Deschanel, as Buddy’s surprisingly un-hipster-y love interest. Also great are Ed Asner as a sarcastic Kris Kringle and Bob Newhart as Buddy’s adopted elf father. (airs Dec. 26 at 9p.m. on ABC Family).
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 animated version)
This movie is a gem of a cartoon and this original also beats the more modern version. Boris Karloff is a much more believable and charmingly twisted Grinch than Jim Carrey. The movie follows a grumpy Christmas-hater and his funny and innocent dog Max as the Grinch tries to steal Christmas spirit from a town of adorable Whos. Directed by the incredible Chuck Jones in collaboration with Dr. Seuss himself, the film beautifully interprets the book of the same title, immortalizing the Grinch’s voice and movements. Plus, it isn’t Christmas without “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” (airs Dec. 25 at 8p.m. on ABC).
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)
Like I said, you can’t beat black and whites (so don’t watch the colorized version if you can avoid it!). The heartwarming story of a little girl who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and the man who claims to be the jolly old soul. Starring a precocious young Natalie Wood before Rebel Without a Cause and West Side Story, it beats the 1994 remake by a long shot. Cute, funny, and touching, with a great twist ending, this movie can spark the Christmas spirit in the grumpiest of Grinches. (airs Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. on AMC)
2. A Christmas Story
Not only a great Christmas movie, but also a classic comedy. Made in the 1980s but set in the 1950s, this movie tells the story of young Ralphie and his epic quest to get his ultimate Christmas present: a Red Ryder B.B. gun. Based on Jean Shepard’s short story, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, the film has become somewhat of a cult classic, with a special kind of followers. Don’t miss out on being a part of the year-round quoting, infamous “leg lamp” buying group that celebrates this movie every year! (24-hour marathon on Dec. 24 on TBS)
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
The classic story of the man who wishes he’d never been born, then realizes how precious and fragile life is, this the quintessential Christmas movie. It’s a classic that’s riveting for all ages and never loses its charm even when you watch it every year. With a stunning performance by the great Jimmy Stewart, it’s a work of acting and cinematic art. Plus, you really can’t beat the black and whites! (airs Dec. 24 at 8p.m. on NBC).