The Twelve Movies of Christmas

Author’s note: if you know of any terrific winter holiday movies that don’t revolve around Christmas, please let me know. I’m always glad to expand my horizons.

#12: Miracle on 34th Street (1947): A classic by any yardstick. Doris (Maureen O’Hara, that most beautiful of women), plays a divorcée so damaged, she believes in nothing. Yet her boyfriend John Payne, plus a mysterious man who calls himself Kris Kringle, and her own child Susan teach Doris the folly of unbelief. Watch and try to be unmoved.


#11: While You Were Sleeping One of those movies that validates the existence of both Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman as movie stars. A charming romance about a loser (Bullock) who lets her cat eat out of her bowl, because she hasn’t Found the Right Man. Except in this case, the Right Man includes the Right Surrogate Family. Try and resist this one, you stone-faced troll.

#10: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Animated version) A movie that affected me deeply as a four-year-old. How would the Whos down in Whoville respond to the theft of Christmas? WHAT would they do? Let me tell you, the response (to my secular toy-cherishing four year old heart) was a surprise.

#9: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer A stop-motion animated feature from the primordial mists. Herbie is a transparently gay elf, though he never asks or tells. There’s an amazing amount of sexism, re: the “women and children,” as the frozen emasculated narrator explains. Still, the bunnies do a cute little palms-up dance while the principals sing. Besides, I’ve always had a soft spot for Yukon Cornelius.

#8: Lethal Weapon Yes, I remember the days before Mel was a scary zealot/anti-semite who called a police officer “Sugar ___”.  This was 1987, when I was 18 years old and Mel’s agony, as a widowed detective THIS CLOSE to eating a bullet really meant something to me. Besides, it’s a fun cop story, with Mel, Danny Glover and Gary Busey at their best.


#7: The Vicar of Dibley: Christmas Okay, this is just a shameless attempt to get you to watch the entire BBC series. But the Christmas special is really good, too!

#6: Bad Santa: I dare you not to laugh. The black elf (played by Tony Cox) is reduced to wearing white plastic elf ears, because apparently black-toned plastic elf ears aren’t in wide circulation. Santa (Billy Bob Thornton) is a safecracker at the end of his rope. And then he meets a boy…

#5: Christmas Vacation: Okay, I admit it. I am not a huge fan of Chevy Chase. Having said that … everything Randy Quaid says and does in this  movie makes me laugh. Especially the huge trouser snake, bag of Ol’Roy Dog Food, and visible dickey.

#4: It’s A Wonderful Life: Think what you will. Deride Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed as you will. But remember that moment when Clarence says, “Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry?” See if you can face up to that without tears.

#3: The Nightmare Before Christmas: I dare you not to marvel at this one. What’s truer to the Christmas spirit? Jack Skellington wants to be top gift-giver and thinks he has the stuff. But when Santy Claus is taken, Jack realizes his mistake. A true classic.

#2: Arthur Christmas: A modern take on the old chestnut. Is Santa Claus real? Yes, of course, but excessively mechanized, digitized and consumerized. Leave it to bumbling Arthur, St. Nick’s youngest son, to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.

#1: A Christmas Carol, starring George C. Scott, David Warner and Roger Rees. I defy you to find a more correct or accurate version, especially with regards to Victoriana. As perfect as TV is very likely to get.


20 thoughts on “The Twelve Movies of Christmas

  1. “A Christmas Story,” absolutely and forever. Another suggestion: “Love, Actually.”

  2. I like to watch Jailhouse Rock at Christmas. True, it has nothing to do with Christmas. But When Elvis smashes his cheap guitar because some drunk is spoiling his big moment, I hear a choir of angels.

  3. Anyone who puts down It’s A Wonderful Life would just have to leave my friends list. Due to its former place in the public domain, and its roughly 1 kajillion holiday showings during that time, I never saw it, until I was in college, and my film teacher did Frank Capra. He said bring tissues, and I did. I’m glad, especially with the amount of eyeliner I wore in those days. If anyone can make it through that without tearing up, I would worry about his or her immortal soul. I can watch the last 2 minutes and boo-hoo cry. I named my rescue pit bull ZUZU for heaven’s sake.
    I am sure there are others, such as the musical Scrooge, with Albert Finney, oh, and can we forget Scrooged? Surely not!

  4. How about Scrooged, Bill Murray’s updated version of A Christmas Carol? Love that movie. “The bitch hit me with a toaster” has got to be one of my favorite lines!

    A Christmas Story and It’s A Wonderful Life are tied for my top two places though.

    And I am so glad you included Lethal Weapon. Mel’s thing about the Christmas trees at the beginning is awesome. And the young woman diving to her death to Jingle Bell Rock…well, just let me say I can’t hear that song now without seeing that in my head!

  5. I agree with a lot of these, but I feel you should clarify that you mean the 30 min Seuss animated special as your Grinch and not that dreadful Jim Carrey vehicle from a few years past.

    Love, Actually is difficult to watch with a broken heart, other than that, it’s impossible not to love. Well done. It breaks your heart and reminds you that the holidays are for living as well as loving–and so much of this movie is about grief and loss, it’s a message that is so important this time of year. I love stories that give hope to hurting people. OH! And, hello! Rick Grimes is in it. For the longest time watching The Walking Dead, I would say “But I can’t get past that that’s the Love, Actually guy.”

    I adore the movie Elf. It is one of the new classics of the past decade.

    Miracle on 34th Street (the proper version) and It’s a Wonderful Life rank on my list of all-time great movies, no holidays necessary.

    The Muppet Christmas Carol and the Jim Carrey version (Dreamworks, maybe?) are both excellent, too. That Dreamworks version (I think) has some fantastically stark and artsy scenes that really made me sit up and go “Now here’s a director who respects his audience.” Considering it was marketed to children, that gives me a warm fuzzy. I think as much as I hate Carrey’s Grinch, I love his Scrooge.

    There’s a new sequel to A Christmas Story. I rented it for the boys and they enjoyed it. There was also a sequel years ago called My Summer Story, and it was totally forgettable, but none of that diminishes the original. Love it! A real study in storytelling, there. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t done my memoir yet. I really *want* something good-hearted and sweet like Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story. That’s the flawed but loving family every kid feels familiarity with, I think. I think that’s why so many of us welcome it into our homes on Christmas Eve for a 24 hour marathon!

    Well done, EJ.

  6. I will, indeed, clarify. I forgot the other thing existed. I’ve never seen it.

    I didn’t know Rick Grimes was in Love, Actually. I need to watch that one again.

    I love the Muppet Christmas Carol. Michael Caine made a terrific Scrooge.

    Hold off on that memoir! You’re getting a lot of material just from the indie publishing journey…

  7. I have only seen Scrooged once, but I did enjoy it. I like almost everything Bill Murray does.

    We watched It’s A Wonderful Life again last night. Impossible not to root for Jimmy Stewart. Every time they get to the point where George discovers Mary’s fate, I have to laugh. “You won’t like it, George. She’s a OLD MAID.”

    Oh, good grief. I thought she was walking the streets with Violet. Or married to Old Man Potter.

  8. The musical Scrooge with Albert Finney is one I resisted for a very long time. What a surprise to find how enjoyable it was! I should try and watch that one again this season.

  9. Funny thing about that. When I was torn out of Stanton, I was placed into Dupont Junior High. The English teacher took us on a couple of field trips to specially arranged movie showings, and Scrooge was one of them. It’s interesting to me that you NEVER seem to see it on anywhere at this time of year.

  10. We always watch The Ref with Denis Leary around Christmas since the movie takes place on Christmas Eve. Though it is not children friendly. Also really like Elf and I might be in the minority, but I liked Jim Carrey’s Grinch. Of course, Christmas Vacation is watched every Christmas and just bought Arthur Christmas to add to our Christmas movies collection.

  11. I saw the Ref for the first time last year and really enjoyed it! I like Denis Leary. Hard to believe he’s 55, he looks so young.

    I hope you enjoy Arthur Christmas!

  12. I like the Peanuts special, but the music depresses me. All that tinkling piano … most people love it. I can’t stand it. I believe I may be the only woman on earth who feels that way.

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