Before we get started, let’s pay some respect to the honorable mention: Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, 1964
For some of us, college was disastrous. Constant beer wanderings, resulting in flashing cop lights, and nights spent in the drunk tank.
Enter: Rudolph the red nosed reindeer, leading Santa and his sleigh through snow blizzards and darkness.
It’s hard to fathom, but claymation movies were ahead of their time in the 60’s. Now, they’re nostalgic flicks; a memory of the ‘good old days’, before i-phones, computers, kindles and game consoles took our attentions away.
10. The Santa Clause
Don’t be so surprised by this ranking. Tim Allen in his glory days, was a staple comedian, filling the beards and tool belts of middle class America, with a smile.
When Allen came out with the Santa Claus, he was in his classic effect: funny, thoughtful, family-oriented, witty and warm.
What’s better than a high tech sleigh with a built-in cocoa machine? The Santa Claus speaks to the modern family—re-connecting busy, career-oriented grownups with Christmas wonder and their kids with a glimpse of old St. Nick
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of Elf. By the time the film came out, I was losing patience with Will Ferrell’s humor. Personal stance aside, Elf has truly become a Christmas day classic.
The film has arguably, more memorable one-liners than any of its contemporaries. “I am a cotton-headed ninnymoggins!” “You sit on a throne of lies!” ” [as he is hit by a snowball] SON of a NUTcracker!”
Aaaaand…let’s be honest: we all had a crush on Zooey Deschanel. She was one cute elf singing “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” in the shower.
8. A Nightmare before Christmas
For the misfit (and the former misfit), Tim Burton’s films are a religion. The mastermind’s stark images shared with fantasy and dark humor, create a one-of-a-kind movie experience.
Nothing like a world full of clattering skeletons singing Christmas carols. Good old Oogie Boogie is out to rule the underworld, and Jack– the forward-thinking-dead-thing– a surprising good guy with a Christmas twist.
When I say Bill Murray, you think brilliant, funny, timeless. Which is true. Murray is part of a small circle of actors, who, like a fine wine, gets better with age.
During Murray’s 80’s dominance, the star played a version of Scrooge, in a modern re-telling of Dickens classic.
It helped bridge a gap between classic story lovers and modernists, telling the story in New York’s dirty, rain-slicked streets.
6. Home Alone
Admit it: When we were kids, we all dreamt of a few nights alone to romp the town with thousands of dollars and endless bounties of sweets.
For most of us, that sort of thing never happened. And if we were honest with ourselves, we really didn’t want it to happen. Our parents and family created a comfortable safety net against the world’s uncertainties.
Which is why Home Alone is so great. It shows us, through cinematic genius, what that experience would have been like.
Aroused with a stand-out soundtrack by John Williams, timeless crookery by Joe Pesci and the shenanigans of a cute Macaulay Culkin, Home Alone is a holiday film that never gets tiring or old.
5. Miracle on 34th Street
I included this because I have to. If I didn’t, I’d be stoned for denying a historical fascination.
I will give Miracle on 34th one thing: It was great at making Santa Claus magical, and it spoke to something central—loving your neighbor—that resonates with us all.
4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Chevy Chase’s Chicago middle class suburban life, defines the Reagan era: every house, every fence, every vehicle, every everything, the same.
Clark Griswold was your dad and mine: average, hardworking, hoping for a bonus, obsessed with sports, tough but not tough enough, competitive, nostalgic, and living in a slightly off-kilter fantasy of the life he’d never have.
It’s safe to say the scene on the roof with the Christmas lights, is unlike any other scene in a comedic holiday film.
And his family, my Lord his family. The wandering back country band of trailer chugging nit wits, who made his life hell, were timeless.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown: a simple everyday boy finding Christmas magic with his adorable friends and the infamous Snoopy, defines an entire era for children.
His friend Shroeder playing piano, Linus, Peppermint Patti, sister Sally, Linus, dog Snoopy, and the infamous wa wa wa when a grown up spoke, were every element necessary for something pure.
Add it images like the impish Christmas tree, the recital, the snow, and the brilliant soundtrack by jazz legend Vince Guaraldi, and you have must see TV.
There is nothing not to love about Charlie Brown.
2. A Christmas Story
My love for this film roots deeper than it just it being a holiday tradition. The boy who plays the main character is a spitting resemblance of my cousin, and his dad—my uncle Pat—has spot-on the same personality as the father in the film.
Watching this movie is like seeing a replay of my cousin’s classic cul-de-sac life.
Back to the film: everything about it is clutch. The Red Rider bee bee gun, a scary Santa Claus, Christmas dinner in a random Chinese restaurant, a boy’s tongue stuck to a frozen light pole, the embarrassing bunny outfit, a fight against a freckled bully, and the image all of us remember: the plastic lamp in the shape of a leg.
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
“I’ll give you the moon Mary.”
I’m ashamed to admit that I held out from hearing that line for 31 years of my life. I’m not a huge fan of black and white, as uncultured as that sounds. But not this film. Nope. This film is bar none the most beautiful, heart felt, honest, complete Christmas story written for film.
James Stewart is arguably the greatest actor ever. He’s utterly believable throughout, and carries the story with voracious class. His facial mannerisms say it all. Every line, every experience is cast across his cheeks topography.
A true love story, a tale of overcoming adversity, magical realism, and a little Christmas flare, make It’s a Wonderful Life the must see film on Christmas day.