I don’t remember a time when watching holiday movies was not a part of the Christmas season in my life. As a kid, it was the “classics,” like Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.
When I was older, and networks began playing It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, every year, those were added to my list of must-watch holiday movies. (For me, it has to the be the original Miracle, not any of the sub-par remakes!) Once I married, and we built traditions with our kids, new movies became part of our December celebrations with them. One that stands out and still holds a special place in my heart is Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas. Wonderful music and touching story.
Someone asked on Facebook the other day about my TOP favorite holiday/Christmas movies, and I began thinking. And like any attempt to narrow my love of movies to a small list, it wasn’t easy.
I am a huge fan of Dicken’s book A Christmas Carol, and a sucker for practically any re-make, retelling or re-imaging of that story. I’ve probably seen a hundred different versions. (My latest novel pays homage to this endearing story as well.)
Obviously, I still love those old movies. But my annual viewing can also include some not-so-traditional fare, such as The Man Who Came To Dinner, The Shop Around the Corner and The Bishop’s Wife. My holiday watching almost always includes a few movies that aren’t technically Christmas movies, such as Disney’s Babes in Toyland (though it does involve toys for Christmas), and Auntie Mame. (Not the really bad musical version, with Lucille Ball, but the one with the incredible Rosalind Russell!)
I like some recent ones as well. There are too many to mention all of them, but this list would include Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Elf, The Holiday and The Family Stone. I may not make it a point to watch them every year, but they are wonderful. Don’t judge me, but I also will watch those schmaltzy made-for-TV movies on Hallmark and Lifetime.
Surprisingly, there are some flicks that you’ll always find on all-time favorite lists that don’t show up on mine. I’ve never been a fan of A Christmas Story, White Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Little Drummer Boy. (That song annoys me!)
Author’s Note: I’ve read many lists that include Die Hard as a Christmas movie, merely because of the time frame of the film. In keeping with the spirit of generosity for the season, what I will say about this movie is that at least it’s not as bad as all the sequels. Yippee-ki-yay!
But since the Facebook request was for my TOP favorites, I was able to limit my list to three. (Doing so caused my heart to shrink three sizes!)
Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
This is one from my childhood. It’s a made-for-TV cartoon and it’s not even great animation. But the haunting, heart-felt music stuck with me from the first time I saw it. The music was written by the team who later wrote Funny Girl, which is one of my favorite movie musicals...ever. I guess my love of this cartoon was a foreshadowing of...well, you know, that yet-to-be revealed reality about me. (I’m talking about my love of Broadway, of course!! What did YOU think I meant?)
Another musical. (Is there a pattern?) My high school girlfriend and I saw this movie in the theaters when it was released, and I fell in love. (Don’t be snarky. Yes, I had a girlfriend!) It is still my favorite telling of the Dicken’s story, with wonderful music and the incredible Albert Finney in the lead role. The finale song in this movie makes me so happy! This is the DVD that’s generally playing when we decorate our tree.
Love Actually (2003)
Every year, my partner and I see a movie on Christmas day. (Here’s how that tradition began.) This is one of those films. I remember sitting in the theater and I was enthralled. First, it’s an amazing, all-star cast. The intertwined stories are touching, and heart-breaking. There are three scenes I can watch over and over—the “private dance” of the Prime Minister, the wedding of Peter and Juliet, and that rousing rendition of All I Want for Christmas is You at the end of the film, where the stories converge.
I love Christmas. And part of the festivities for me...tied up the ribbon of nostalgia and wrapped in great memories, are movies.
Does your holiday tradition include a movie or movies that you must watch every year?
I welcome your comments.
This is part of a periodic series called Movie Memory, and it's about films that have impacted my life.