One of the best part of the holidays is the plethora of movies we enjoy watching to go with the holiday spirit. These may not be “holiday movies” to everyone but to our authors, they’re just right for this time of year.
Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually is the romantic comedy to watch around the winter holidays. An ensemble piece, Love Actually featured stories from almost 20 people looking for ways to find, keep, or avoid love during the most magical time of year. This is a movie that even those who despise the rom-com genre will enjoy, and perfect for geeks with appearances by Rick Grimes, Professor Snape, Ra’s Al Ghul, Bilbo Baggins, and more. The movie is chock full of celebrities, each with their own story. What I love about ensemble pieces is that you get just enough of each storyline to be satisfied without getting bored. Love Actually does what some ensemble pieces fail to do; it connects each story in a humorous and sometimes adorable way. Love Actually truly is one of the best romantic comedies made and one of my favorites to watch during the holiday season.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
This is probably one of the least Christmas-ish movies on the list, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the Christmas spirit, generosity, presents, or anything like that. So why does it get to be on a Christmas list? Because it has Michelle Monaghan running around in a Santarina outfit for most of the movie, complete with mini furry skirt, red stockings, and Christmas cleavage. Who wouldn’t want to see that under their tree on Christmas morning?
Die Hard (1988)
Die Hard will always be the classic that brings you a “side eyed” reaction from ordinary people when you mention it as your favorite Christmas movie. What better way to celebrate the Holiday of giving than by watching Bruce Willis kill terrorists with an assortment of guns and one-liners? When people argue against Die Hard being a Christmas movie I bring up the obvious: It has Christmas music, its set during a Christmas party at CHRISTMAS TIME and it even has Christmas references. Adding to the essential holiday formula is the plot, which largely focuses on a man having to overcome impossible odds in order to reunite with his family during Christmas time. So not only does it have your typical Christmas movie set-up but it’s an incredibly fun ride that can be watched and enjoyed by all members of the family, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the normal Christmas fare. Yippie-Ki-Yay Santa Claus!
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Jingle All the Way is a hilarious look at the absolute madness of last second shopping for the hottest toy during the holiday season. Almost every parent that had to buy their child a toy during this season can relate to this movie as it brings back familiar memories of Tickle-Me Elmo, Furbies and Tamogotchis. Aside from the commentary on how far people will go to get the hottest gift for their child it also has a pretty heartwarming story at its center that revolves around a father and son relationship. You have the Dad that’s always too busy with work for his family and the son that values that friendship more than any materialistic toy money could buy. Throw in some ridiculous scenarios, funny one-liners and the usual Christmas time cheer and you get a perfect recipe for a Holiday movie in my eyes.
Home Alone (1990)
One of the earliest films I remember seeing in the theater as a kid was Home Alone, and at the tender age of 6 or 7 this was one of the best times I had. I was with my cousin who was a few years older than me, and my oldest sister had taken us. After we saw the film, we practically acted it out and it was an obsession for many years. As I got older, I kept the Home Alone love alive and it has become a must-watch for me at Christmas time. It is one of the first Christmas films I saw and it is loaded with fun. Sure it can be silly and not at all realistic, but why should it be? It’s every kids dream to be left alone, and be the master – and heck even beat the bad guys. The film contains great performances from Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard and Catherine O’Hara with a memorable cameo from the late John Candy. The script by John Hughes was great, and this was Chris Columbus at his best as director. It is a great Christmas/Holiday film, one for the entire family no matter your ages.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)
As much as I love Home Alone, It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Christmas Story, these feel good and cheerful holiday movies get a bit tiresome after a while. So why not go for something different this year and watch some psycho in a Santa suit kill people? Silent Night, Deadly Night is a slasher film that arose during the golden age of that subgenre in the 80′s and remains notable for the controversy it created with uptight moms across the country. In essence, it is just your typical slasher film just set with the backdrop of Christmas and it works. A simple “screw you” to the holidays and a lot of fun 80′s cheese. The story actually has a bit of build to it as we see our main killer grow from a scarred boy to a maniac with a little bit of a sympathetic side as we see him try to recover from the death of his parents and having to deal with a mean nun. Then he let’s loose and you get some rather bloody good kills (including one involving some deer antlers) which are great. If you’re looking for some holiday FEAR this Christmas, then this movie will snuggle perfectly in your stocking.
Black Christmas (1974)
Christmas is a time known for being about love, family, and all-around joy…well I have one thing to say: the holidays isn’t all about love! In 1974 a slasher film came around that shaped the future of slasher films and it goes by the name of Black Christmas. Some may know about the remake (I hated it), but the original film is a slow burn slasher film that put emphasis on characters and ended up being one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. The movie still scares me to this day. Part of what makes it work is its Christmas setting, because the horror perfectly juxtaposed with the holiday. While a group of sorority girls are getting ready to go home or celebrate Christmas, a crazy man invades their home killing them one-by-one. One scene that really works with the holiday terror is when one sleeping sorority girl is sleeping upstairs. Jess, the “final girl,” hears Christmas carolers outside so she goes and watches them. As the young kids sing carols, Jess’s friend is brutally stabbed to death with a cute glass menagerie unicorn. The editing, Christmas music, and everything comes together perfectly. This isn’t a movie about gore and cheese. It is 100% serious and shows the dread that can come along with Christmas. This is the movie I watch every year.
You know those movies that make you smile no matter how many times you have seen it or how bad your day has been? Well, for me that film is Elf. There is so much joy, wonder and purity to a movie that could have been absolutely ridiculous and forgettable. I have never been a huge fan of Will Ferrell’s, he was always just too much, too silly, too oddball, just too much to handle, so then it should be a surprise that I can easily list Elf in my top favorite films of all time. The film follows the adventure of Buddy the Elf to New York from the North Pole in search of his biological father, but it becomes so much more as Buddy is able to share his sweet nature with a world that has become cynical and all about the bottom line. The film can be seen as just a simple take on a familiar story of the man-child, but there are deeper undercurrents of self-discovery, the battle between modern corporate culture and youthful imagination, the understanding that something as simple as a song can bring about the purity of love and happiness. It is hard to think of this movie and not feel your heart grow ten times, even the Grinch and Scrooge would have a hard time sitting through this and not smiling and maybe tearing up a bit. I can easily watch Elf from Valentine’s Day to the 4th of July, even though it is technically a Christmas movie, because it is so much bigger than that holiday, it is love and joy pure and simple.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
On more than one level Christmas Vacation could be seen as the dark side to the Christmas movie. It brings to the fore the teeth grinding irritations that the holiday season brings to our doorstep. The extended family roll in along with long-held grudges, senility, awkwardness and general toe-stepping. Trying to meet all the traditions such as finding the perfect tree and the perfect gifts is a foot dragging nuisance. Putting up the decorations is a life threatening endeavor The yuppyish gringes next door are determined to ruin your day. Even the tiny hope that you can provide your family with that perfect gift get dashed. Dark satire is hardly what people want to see on Christmas but that doesn’t matter because this movie is bloody funny. The jokes run thick and fast and barely a minute goes by with a solid gold cackle. It’s like an awesome stand-up comedy routine with the topic being Christmas and it’s the perfect way to lift your spirits.
Bad Santa (2003)
All it took was one viewing for me to see this film as a modern Christmas classic and that’s all it should take with you. Taking the traditional story of a sad, angry, lonely man and having him discover the true meaning of Christmas, Bad Santa adds it’s own brand of dirty humor, memorable characters and drunken antics to make this a memorable tale. While the film does have it’s R-Rated humor moments – and they are pretty damn funny, whether it’s the drunken antics of a perfectly cast Billy Bob Thornton, the put-downs of Marcus, the black midget dressed as an elf, or the weird but strangely adorable Santa fetish of a hot bartender – what makes this film work is the heart, it does have a sweet message hidden under all the cursing and toilet humor and it’s because of that dirty nature that the message sticks out more and means more to the audience and the characters. Filthy and sometimes depressing, Bad Santa is not a typical Christmas film but with it’s great characters, brilliant humor - I can’t begin to tell you about the boxing scene – and a Christmas message done right, it deserves to be remembered as one of the best.
Gremlins is the perfect movie for all occasions. You can put it on your birthday, leave your daughter in your cubicle while it’s playing in Bring your Kid to Work Day, it fits well during a Halloween movie marathon, Gizmo is cute enough to watch it alongside your significant other; my non-geek girlfriend wouldn’t mind popping it in during movie night (and yes I’m still speaking of the movie). In this occasion, it’s all about the holidays, Gremlins is pretty much a Christmas movie about a gift that literally keeps on giving (if you get it wet that is). For starters, if you ever need to tell your delusional 14 year old son that *SPOILER* Santa is not real, just make him watch Gremlins and let Phoebe Cate’s character tell her story. Gremlins plays upon the holiday spirit with sardonic droll, and the snow clad suburban setting, covered in Christmas lights and decorations provides a wonderful contrast to the mischief provided by the slimy and more menacing Gremlins, all the while providing us with some laughs and cheers for the season. During these cold wintery days, the first thing that pops into my head is a cup of cocoa, a blanket and Gremlins on the TV.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
by Slam Adams
Sometimes the best way to re-experience something as if its the first time is to see it from another person’s point of view. That is exactly what Tim Burton and Co. set out to do with The Nightmare Before Christmas.It’s star, Jack Skellington, is the closest thing that Halloween season has to a Santa Claus figure. He spends 364 days of the year planning for the next Halloween scare-a-thon, but he has gotten bored. Wandering around a part of the forest he has never wandered before while having an existential crisis, he ends up finding a door shaped like a Christmas Tree and finds himself in Christmas Town. He decides to try to do Christmas his way this year. In a way, it is like a re-imagining of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, except instead of a Grinch, its a skeleton. And instead of stealing it from the children, he steals it from Santa Claus. It is an interesting new take on the story. Mix it with a great, catchy soundtrack from Danny Elfman, and you have a gothic Christmas classic.