Now that Thanksgiving is over, we find ourselves fully immersed in the holiday season. Because of this, I wanted to share some vital information to those of my readers who also double as film buffs. It’s come to my attention there has been a discrepancy about Christmas movies. So consider this article an brief guide to help steer you in the right direction.
To begin with, I would like to point out there are two types of films that will appear on this list:
- Films about the Christmas spirit
- Films that are set during the holiday season
If any of you Google any terms related to Christmas or holiday films, you will undoubtedly find rolls of film titles, some even 100 long. However, the vast majority of these movies are not Christmas movies in the traditional sense. The primary method of determining the validity of an actual Christmas film is where the holiday and its message fall within the context of the characters and story.
If the holiday of Christmas is nothing more than a set-piece, ie. in the background or backdrop, with lights and snow then that film is NOT a Christmas movie. I repeat… movies with a Christmas setting are not necessarily Christmas films. So what makes a movie a Christmas movie?
For starters, the holiday itself is in the foreground of the story and characters. The movie needs to take place during Christmas or it doesn’t make sense. Stories that can be transferred to other seasons and still maintain their dramatic integrity do not count as Christmas movies.
Secondly, the theme of the film must have a happy and uplifting ending. Christmas movies are meant to make us feel good. By the time the fade-to-black hits and the credits begin, the audience should be laughing, smiling, have tears of joy streaking from their eyes, or some combination thereof. They should be about family and love and forgiveness and new beginnings. They should, for the most part, be so sappy and saccharine you want to gauge your eyes out with an ornament on your tree.
Yes, yes, yes… we all cheered when Batman finally got rid of the Penguin in Batman Returns (but that doesn’t make it a Christmas film). Nor are Die Hard, Gremlins, Trading Places, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Reindeer Games (though aptly named), Lethal Weapon, The Nightmare Before Christmas (again, aptly names), Meet Me in St. Louis, and Bad Santa (to name but a few) – as much as we may like them or think they are.
So, to sum up… A Christmas film must directly relate to the holiday AND leave audiences with a happy and uplifting ending. Got it? Good. Now onto the list of the top 25 “not-to-miss” Christmas films to watch this holiday season (in no particular order):
- Miracle on 34th Street (either version)
- A Christmas Carol (any version incl. Scrooged starring Bill Murray)
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Babes in Toyland
- A Christmas Story (my personal favorite)
- Home Alone
- Elf (a contemporary classic)
- White Christmas
- Holiday Inn
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- The Santa Clause
- The Bishop’s Wife
- Holiday Affair
- The Ref
- Mixed Nuts
- Four Christmases
- Fred Claus
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
- Just Friends (this one could go either way, but I believe it to be a Christmas-themed rom’ com’)
- The Polar Express
- The Holiday (on the fence)
- Jingle All the Way
- Christmas with the Kranks
- The Nativity Story
And with the end of this blog, I wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night – filled with hot, buttery popcorn, and 5.1 surround sound, high-def movie viewing!