The holidays have inspired countless films. Here are some enduring classics that hold up year after year, improve on repeated viewing, and are guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.
There’s no longer a local video rental store, and it may be difficult to find these titles to stream, but keep an eye out: maybe you can pick them up on DVD.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Everyone’s seen this 1964 stop-motion animated classic, directed by Kizo Nagashima and Larry Roemer, and featuring the voices of Billie Mae Richards and Burl Ives.
Teased about his light-emitting nose, young Rudolph runs away from Santa’s workshop only to save the day when fog threatens to ruin Santa’s Christmas Eve flight.
It features such colourful characters as the pick axe-wielding Yukon Cornelius, the toothy Abominable Snowmonster and Hermey, the elf who’d rather be a dentist. It spawned several sequels, including Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1975) and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1975).
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Not to be confused with the feature-length film (2000), this favourite is animated and directed by Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame and features the voice of Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) as the narrator. Adapted for the small screen from the 1957 book, the mean Mr. Grinch plots to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville. Highlights include poor Max the Dog and little Cindy Lou Who, who is no more than two.
It’s a funny, thoughtful story – a true classic that captures the spirit of the season in a tidy 26 minutes. (1966)
It’s a Wonderful Life
Long-suffering savings and loan operator George Bailey finds out what life would be like if he’d never existed. Not a Christmas movie so much as a long, dark teatime of the soul. A box office dud when first released, the film gained cult-like status thanks to syndication on TV.
Much of it is quite bleak, even despairing and existential, but the story ends in a triumphant celebration of courage and sacrifice for the common good.
For those looking for catharsis. Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore, and directed by Frank Capra.
Best ending ever, eh Clarence? (1946)
Meet Me in St. Louis
Directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Judy Garland. A plot synopsis doesn’t capture the true magic of this delightful film, an MGM musical about a family living in St. Louis in 1903 and who is reluctantly planning to move to New York City. Features “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and the memorable “Trolley Song”. (1944)
A Christmas Carol (Scrooge)
There’s a lot of imitators out there, but this one, starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge, is the ultimate film adaptation of the Charles Dickens story. Scrooge is portrayed not as a miser but as a tormented, lost soul. Chilling, supernatural and heartwarming at the same time. (1951)
The Polar Express
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and featuring the voice of Tom Hanks. An animated story of how a boy’s faith is rewarded one Christmas Eve when a steam train pulls up outside his house and takes him on a mysterious, thrilling journey to the North Pole – home of Santa’s Workshop. Adapted from an illustrated children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. (2004)
Eight year-old Kevin MacAllister (Macaulay Culkin) is left behind to fend for himself in the family home when he’s accidentally left behind when everyone else goes on Christmas vacation.
A pair of burglars get more than they bargained for when Kevin inventively defends the home. It was so popular it spawned a sequel, set in New York City. (1990)
The Life of Brian
To call Monty Python’s Life of Brian a Christmas movie admittedly stretches the genre.
But from the nativity scene to the uplifting musical crucifixion, this irreverent (blasphemous to some) comedic romp, directed by Terry Jones and starring Graham Chapman and John Cleese, is arguably the Pythons’ immaculate conception.
Brian of Nazareth is born in a stable on the original Christmas, wise men show up but then move on to the real prophet next door.
Hilarity ensues for the rest of the mistaken messiah’s life as he gains unwanted followers and falls in with one of several resistance groups, seeking to outdo each other and topple their oppressive overlords, the Romans.
“What have the Romans ever done for us?” (A long list, as it turns out.)
Loaded with eternal social commentary, this is a movie that keeps on giving and offers a twisted antidote to the saccharine of the season, just when you’re on the verge of joining the Popular Front of Judea. Er, the People’s Front. (1979)
– What are your family’s favourites? Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll share your suggestions with our readers in an upcoming edition of The Reporter.